I love this time of year. Fall brings such gorgeous colors and now that I’m on the East Coast, I’m seeing even more ridiculously gorgeous color! Fall also represents change to me. And this year, more than ever, Fall is bringing on change.
Which brings me to my big news. Ok, some of you may already know this, but bear with me as I share again — I’m pretty excited about it! I just got married to a very awesome man, Matthew. We held the wedding at our home in New Orleans that we just (and I mean “just”) got finished building before the wedding. And I also just finished my coaching certification program and business website. Wedding, House, Certification, Website — Whew!
I’ve been working on these projects for over a year, and pretty intensely for the past 10 months, so I’m pretty happy to be done and super relieved they all went so well.
And yet, as the excitement is starting to wear off, I’m also feeling a little melancholy. And I’ve been reflecting quite a bit trying to work it out. Is it coming down from months of adrenaline? Is it the shorter days? Am I bummed the projects are over? Am I anxious about the new projects in the coming year? Is it the election? Yes. I think it’s a bit of a mix of all of the above and probably a few more things tossed in.
I’ve also been reflecting on what helped me over the past year to be successful in my projects, and most importantly to really be present when it mattered (the last thing I wanted to be thinking while saying my vows was if the bartender found the bottles of vodka stashed in the freezer).
I thought I’d share a few tips I’ve learned over the past year to help take care of myself at times of insanity to increase my resiliency. Because at the height of intensity during these projects, life happened and I was given some stomach punches (our dog passing and heavy family stuff) that I had to get back up from and keep moving forward. I don’t think I’m the only one that gets the feeling of being completely thrown off, so I hope these tips help you. These tips also help me when I get that “stuck” feeling.
1. Take care of your body and your mind will shift.
My cornerstones are sleep, exercise, healthy food/water, and mindfulness. If I don’t exercise, I can’t sleep. If I can’t sleep, I don’t exercise. This is definitely a chicken or the egg thing. So my go-to is to start with exercise and when my insomnia really kicks to an unmanageable state, I’ll take a sleeping pill. Am I suggesting for you to take a pill to sleep, no. But I’m learning to remove the judgment of myself around taking this little pill that gives me what I need when I just can’t seem to figure out how to find it for myself naturally. (I have lots of tips to try before going to the medication that I’m happy to share — just reach out.)
Eating healthy food and drinking LOTS and LOTS of water are essential to me. If I don’t drink enough water my body screams out with a migraine. If I don’t eat healthy food my body quickly tells me. In a way I’m lucky to have such immediate reminders to change my behavior before a more serious thing starts up.
When I have the physical cornerstones squared away my mind shifts. As I start to feel strong and energized this starts to shift how I see the world. There is real science happening here (won’t bore you but happy to share) as lots of good chemicals are being released into my brain and body. So it does work! (If you’re having a tough time with the first step or sticking with it, reach out — I have some ideas).
2. Create a new story.
I had lunch with a friend the other day that is exceptionally knowledgeable about neurology. We were talking about the importance of feeling emotions deeply, in order to connect them to our values and needs, in order to shift our perspective on a really difficult event or memory. Basically we were talking about changing the story we tell ourselves.
When something bad happens, we often relive the event over and over in our heads, rehashing it. Typically, because our brain is wired to hold onto the painful stuff more. And reliving it is the equivalent of mentally spinning our wheels. We don’t make progress and we don’t shift our mindset.
But we CAN tell ourselves a new story. This can be done in several ways. One way is by writing about it, say for 20 minutes each day for 4 consecutive days. Writing helps to explore your thoughts and feelings, even the things you are embarrassed to share; just write it all down. Don’t worry about spelling or typos, just write. By doing this you’ll create new ideas, which may lead to a shift in how you think and feel about the event. Once you’ve done this, you may want to go to the next step and find the silver linings — What did you learn? How did this create who you are today? What could you gain from this experience?
3. Face it.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was right when he said “The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself.”
Yes, it can be easier said than done. There are real emotions surrounding our fears and yet, we CAN talk ourselves out of the fear. This takes practice and preparation. Start slowly exposing yourself to the fear — a little at a time. As the fears come up, acknowledge and name them. But don’t let them be in the driver seat — you’re in control. Then congratulate yourself on what you accomplished. Repeat this and slowly increase the exposure to the fear each time.
Your fear may never completely go away, but you can work on increasing your exposure so it doesn’t get in your way with living your life the way you want.
4. Be Kind To Yourself.
NO ONE IS PERFECT. We all know this. So why do we beat ourselves up when we make a mistake? To have a growth mindset and to learn from our mistakes or mishaps we need to know that “messing up” IS part of the learning process. Also, it’s just a nicer way to be to yourself (and if you need motivation from others… other people will have an easier time being around you).
If this concept is hard for you, try thinking about how you would treat a friend, a really good friend, in the same situation. What would you say? What would you do? How would you be? Then do that for yourself. Or you can start by writing down 100 things you are good at or appreciate about yourself. Recognize all the awesomeness you bring to the world — and don’t forget the small stuff, because big stuff is really just a collection of small stuff!
5. Practice Forgiveness.
Grudges only hurt the grudge holder. Do you have an ax to grind with someone? Well, if you want to free that energy for more productive places in your life, give this a try and practice the art of letting it go in order to free yourself.
Fully acknowledge what happened, how it feels, what values and needs you had that got stomped on and how it affects you today. Write it all down. And write for as long as it takes to get it all out. Then write down what the other person was feeling, what needs or values they were trying to satisfy by doing what they did. Really stretch to see their perspective (you don’t have to be right, its about really trying to figure out their perspective as a human). Repeat if necessary. Then decide to forgive. Yup, it’s really that easy… if you actually make the decision and commit to it. This doesn’t mean the person is “off the hook,” it means reconciling. Even if you don’t let the person know (although this is a good step to truly let go), you just got back all the energy you’ve been spending on holding the grudge.
I know what some of you are thinking, “Ya, ya… everyone’s on this bandwagon lately. But I just don’t get it and I definitely don’t have time.” And I get it; I used to say the same thing, and then I got a few tips that really helped me.
First, connect to the why of mediation. For me meditation is a practice of getting my head out of the past, out of the future, out of my to do list and into the right now. The present moment is all we really have. If I’m not living in the present, life is passing me by without me noticing, and I’m not actually living. Ok, that may sound a bit dramatic (but its true). So meditation is the practice of seeing the distractions of the past, the future and the silly stuff so I can center myself into the moment when I want/need to. If that wasn’t enough, then go for the health benefits. Many people who mediate regularly experience less “negative” emotion, lower their blood pressure, sleep better, and feel less anxiety (really, lots of studies are out there, just Google it).
But here’s the scoop people forget to tell you… you don’t have to mediate very long to get the benefits. Just a few minutes can work wonders. And you don’t have to do it sitting — you can walk, you can stretch, you can bike, you can lay on the floor, you can even stand on your head (if you don’t pass out easily like I would).
And it’s not about trying to empty your head completely, if you could do that, you’d be dead. It’s about practicing to not engage with the thoughts. The act of seeing them as a thought and not be “in” it is what mindfulness is about. So what I do is practice labeling thoughts: that was a thought about my to do list; that was a thought about a conversation I had yesterday; that was a thought about what I want to eat for lunch… you get the idea.
I’m not the expert on this (lots of books and experts out there) but I do know it works! Albeit slowly, but I’ll take it.
Well, this was a long one. If you made it this far, thanks for sticking with me!
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Originally published at www.nataliebybee.com on November 15, 2016.