The Struggle to Stay Happy & Healthy is Gettin' Realer Daily
You probably didn't notice, but I skipped a month of blog post writing. No big deal, really. It's just that time is standing still yet simultaneously whizzing by. It's srsly dislodging my sense of what and when. Know what I mean?
Anyway, this past week has recombobulated me a bit.
Last Friday was the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, and this Sunday evening kicks off Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. These high holidays are always a natural time for me to take stock, reflect and plan.
Plus, the autumnal equinox was on the 22nd. Changes of season are another obvious point at which to hit the pause button. I think that for the shift from summer to fall this is even more so because you're transitioning from long, light, warm days of fancy-freeness to shorter, cooler, darker days of back to school/work. We kind of revert from expansion and outwardliness back into our little cocoons of contraction and inwardliness.
My gist here is that these two nodes of introspection crammed into one tiny (ok, normal-sized) week really caught my attention. And throttled me a wee tad.
So I figured it'd be a nice time to dedicate some attention to what I'd like more of or to be better at.
Prioritizing the important stuff.
Focusing on positive (though, let's face it, probably still spiked with snarkiness) approaches and constructive uses of energy.
Ya, no, I'm not talking about binge watching Marie Kondo here. I'm referring to discovering or tapping into real, deep-seated joie de vivre.
I'm trying to let the sh*t slide away, like I'm coated with eco-friendly Teflon. When it works, it's bliss! But, in all honesty, the struggle really is real.
Anyway, when I'm not bogged down or distracted by things that I can't do anything about or that isn't truly important, I'm much more available to the good stuff. It's kind of akin to "happy people are luckier people" (which is actually proven out in various studies).
So, what has been bringing me joy? That's not necessarily so critical. But I'll list some happy-makers in the hopes that they inspire you to find or connect with what brings a smile to your lovely face.
Returning to real food. Ditching the early pandemic stuff-my-face-with-junk-food bit, I've gone back to buying, preparing and eating good and wholesome foods. I'm getting back to experimenting with new recipes, ingredients and cooking techniques. (Uh, not always successful but a fun experience!) I'm taking the time to consider my food (its physical attributes, its journey to my kitchen, etc.) and to eat mindfully (savor the sensory stimulations).
Finding movement daily. Again, at the beginning of "house arrest" I pretty much abandoned my exercise routine. Mostly because I couldn't do the things I was doing (all gym-/studio-based group ex). But also because I am LAZY. I am inertia personified, really. And the lousy weather sure didn't motivate. Eventually, though, when I realized what a long freakin' haul this was going to be, I knew in my heart of hearts (that I want to keep healthy!) that I needed to get my ass off the couch. Enough Netflix, YouTube, etc. already! I started finding ways to do exercise that were pleasant and meaningful to me. I found ways to make it challenging, in a good way. So, for me, this meant splurging on those TRX straps I'd been eyeing for a loooong time and creating my own workouts, exploring new ways to do yoga classes and meditation, and starting to teach yoga. I've found ways to do these activities socially-distanced in the park with friends, online, via apps, in small spaces, etc. Even days I don't exercise, I make sure I squeeze in some stretching to counteract all the hours of tapping at my computer....
Stopping and looking/listening. Typically, this is all about putting down the devices and just being. I tend to get caught up in the day's tasks and the ever-growing to-do list. So much so that I forget to just pause every once in a while. Take a beat to feel the breeze caress my skin. Watch the mondo earthworms conquer their grassy domain. Even acknowledging the recent bout of insane smoke we had here and the blood-orange sun caused by the wildfires. The effect is that I miss things; I miss out on things. Maybe you can relate?
Do things that make me smile and laugh. We have a ritual in our house that before bed we call a moratorium on "bad" news and just look at cute/funny animal pics and vids (love me some waddling corgi tushies!). My friends and I have an ongoing group text convo; it's not only a source of support and inspiration, it's a pipeline of funny memes and silliness.
Acquiring new knowledge and abilities. I try to learn something every. damn. day. This one I apply to both personal and professional spheres. On the personal side, I've been teaching myself to draw and do some other craft projects, trying to grow something (other than mildew in my bathtub...ewww!), and the aforementioned kitchen and exercise endeavors. On the work front, it's been all about becoming a better entrepreneur, marketer, communicator and biz manager. It's been a mix of theoretical and informational (e.g., SEO trends for 2020) with practical skill-building (e.g., how to use new features in MailChimp).
It's all about the simple pleasures, reducing friction and complication and just legit tuning in. It's been good. :-)
What does "joy" mean to you?
How do you find joy?
You're probably like, "Yah, I'm all over that Zoom!" And this is def a piece of the puzzle.
In many ways, though, Zoom-aplooza 2020 feels kinda superficial to me. This may be partly because many people use the free version and therefore bend their purposes to fit the 40-minute limit. (If the goal was true connection for a meaningful purpose, wouldn't you either pay for the communication service that really enables it or meet for the amount of time your purpose actually needs?) Another part may be that it's such an easy, accessible path — it doesn't necessarily require a lot of effort or forethought to spin up a web call.
So I've been trying to think of ways to stay more deeply and meaningfully tied in to my peeps. Here are a few I've come up with:
Taking an interest in an interest of your partner/friend/?. What better way to show the love than by learning about something the person you care for is into? If your bf is into vintage cars, maybe you could watch some YouTube videos on some cool classics. Explore ways to join your interests with theirs. For example, if your best bud is into comic books and you enjoy writing, maybe create a little graphic short story for him. Best of all, see if there are ways to delve into this interest together. Like watch those vids or dream up that story together. Fun! And sweet and lovely. :-)
Going analog — sending snail mail. Back in the day folks used to write letters and send cards. Now that whole process seems so old-timey. And who even has stationary on hand?! Make the effort to buy or make some nice letterhead or a card. Jot down something poignant or witty or whatever strikes a chord between you and the recipient. This is a great connecting method because it can be so personal and everyone loves getting something besides bills/political fliers/junk in the post.
Planning a trip. Or a party or a project. I've passed a lot of blissful time dreaming up adventures to go on with my friends and family. We can't go a-galavanting right now, but someday things will loosen up and feel safe again. So we've conjured up vacas through the end of the decade at least. The ideating and pseudo-planning has been an uplifting and invigorating bonding experience for us. If travel isn't your jam, maybe you could rally around some other kind of event or endeavor. It's really less about the end result and more about the shared and imaginative journey.
Giving a token gift. Read: Go long on thought and intent, not deep into the pocketbook. What's this look like? I gave apples to a friend on Rosh Hashana and cloth to a friend who's making face masks. You could make a custom playlist for that music or video enthusiast in your life. Or cook your spouse's favorite meal. Offer to run an errand for your stressed-out neighbor who's trying to work from home while managing a tween on Zoom school. It doesn't really matter what the present is. It just matters that you're thinking of the other person and really endeavoring to understand what's important to them or what's going on in their world right now.
What does "connected" mean to you?
How do you stay connected?
Keeping Your Sh*t Together
This is prob the trickiest one. How the Frick-and-Frack does one stay sane in this centrifuge of cray-cray we're living in?!?! There are any number of stay-sane strategies out there. I've been having luck with these:
Maintaining a focus on self-care. Not going to belabor this too much. This is just making sure that I understand the importance and effect of my personal wellness practices on my own wellbeing, and by extension, the broader world around me. (Can't pour from an empty cup....) In practice, this is the mindful pursuit of joy and conectedness discuss above.
Creating sensible routines. Raise your hand if you're also a total creature of habit. You can't see it but I have both hands and a foot held up. Organization brings order and control to chaos and uncertainty. Systems and frameworks beget streamlined processes. Unnecessary and unhelpful crap starts to fall to the wayside. This enables you to concentrate on productive or value-add activities.
Always finding purpose. Generally speaking, I like to know there's a point to what I'm doing. (To clarify, it's ok for the reason for doing something to be nothing, as long as you're going into it eyes wide open.) Having goals keeps me heading in a prosperous direction. They're like guide stars. The idea here is to conduct yourself with intent so that your actions match your why and will help you reach your objectives.
Keeping perspective. Each of us needs to take stock and have a realistic, well-rounded view of our own existence. Like sit yourself down in a chair and have an honest talking to yourself. I try to remind myself on the reg that the present is temporary and that, ahhhlllllll things considered, I'm doing fine. I try to check myself when a deluge of only untempered negative thoughts starts flooding me. A fair self-assessment of my life shows tons of amazing positives! (Hopefully, you'll see this in your life, too!) There are plenty of good things happening these days. And the future holds lots of wonderful prospects. Perspective also lets me jimmy some levity into even the dimmest moments.
What does "keeping it together" mean to you?
How do you keep your sh*t together?
It Takes a Village
With all that's going on, it's critical to do what you need to do to stay as healthy and happy as possible. This will probably be a multi-pronged offensive maneuver with plenty of defensive tactics thrown in. Now — before the craziness of the holidays set in — is an ideal time to consider what, exactly, wellness means to you and how to achieve it.
But enough of my ramblings. Hearing from others is interesting and valuable! Feel free to share your support and constructive ideas to the masses. Let us know:
What kind of wellness routines do you have luck with?
How do you go about reflecting on your life and well being?
Anything else that can help us find joy, stay connected and keep our sh*t together?
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Please note: I'm not a doctor, therapist or other certified medical professional who's qualified to assess, diagnose, treat or otherwise advise on any health issues. If you're concerned that you might have a medical condition, consult your healthcare provider. The content in this post is intended for informational purposes only. It is not medical advice.