My Wellness Journey: January 2018

 Photo credit:  Breather via Unsplash

Photo credit: Breather via Unsplash

This year, I'm looking forward to sharing more about my wellness journey. It's something that I'm passionate about, and having the space to write it all out not only helps to hold me accountable, but it also helps me process my own thoughts and feelings around each of these endeavors. I'm not sure what format these will take. Some months, it may be lists of things I'm loving/reading/thinking about, and other months I may want to focus on one thing (like this one). So with that—here we go! 

We're getting back into the swing of things after the holiday season, and this break was truly transformative for me.

I told the story recently, but last year (summer 2017) my husband and I took our first vacation in over two years. We had a holiday break in 2015 and 2016, but it was the holiday break in 2015 when I decided to start my own business, so that entire time was spent planning for how to leave my job. Then holiday break 2016 was the first time I could really stop to plan ahead, so I worked through that time, too.

Heading into the summer 2017 vacation, I was so excited to finally have time off. I kept seeing biz friends who had gone on vacation, and came back with a brilliant business epiphany! They shared their stories about needing to have time away to finally let their brain relax, and then they were hit with mega inspiration. 

As we were gearing up to leave, I was so excited to have my own time away so that I could have my own business epiphany. The crazy part is... I had put conditions and expectations on the trip before we even left Austin. 

I didn't realize it at the time, but for the entire trip, I wasn't fully present. Subconsciously, my wheels were spinning—waiting, impatiently, for my next big business idea. And yes, there was some rest involved. We caught up with great friends, had some great adventures, ate great food, and I didn't check my email once, but I came back feeling not fully rejuvenated. That feeling lingered, and put me into a grand ol' funk for quite a while after.

After doing a little bit of internal exploration, I realized how I had sabotaged the vacation, and how I was in dire need of real, true, honest-to-goodness REST.

So this holiday season, I did exactly that. I slept a lot. I read. I took walks. I went to yoga. Those were my daily goals. If I could hit all three (yoga, walk, and read) then it was a 5-star day in my book. And you know what, focusing on those activities that are truly restorative for me left me feeling truly replenished. It's remarkable! We hear about it over and over, and I've even mentioned how I was going to take more time rest, but I had not honestly experienced what it was like to fully unplug until a few weeks ago, and it was pure magic.

As I head into 2018, my goal is to find ways to build in more of this strategic rest into my everyday routine.

I have a tendency to push through and force things to meet strict internal deadlines I've created for myself, when I realistically could give myself some slack, go to a class/walk, and come back refreshed and more productive the next day. I am working on shifting my mindset to allow for more trust (it's also my word of the year), and to allow myself to operate from a place of motivation that is fueled by love, patience, and ease, rather than from fear and scarcity.

With that said, the main thing I'm working on this month for my wellness journey is to take notice of each "should" that pops into my thoughts.

Of the handful of books I read over the break, most were wonderfully escapist fiction, but the two that were not were Loving What Is by Byron Katie and You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay. Both of these books, combined with the work I've been doing with my emotional wellness coach, have deeply impacted my internal dialogue. 

As someone who has been an incessant worrier for most of my life, I am finally starting to understand that the worry I am putting on myself is a direct result of the story I'm making up about my circumstances, events, environment, etc. I've heard the phrases, "Don't should on yourself" and, "Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional." However, other than recognizing that I've heard it before, I never really did anything with that information or explored it further. Until now...

The most profound insight I took away from Louise Hay's You Can Heal Your Life is an exercise that asks you to write "I should..." at the top of a blank piece of paper. From there, you complete that sentence with as many phrases as you can think of: 

  • I should... lose 10 pounds. 
  • I should... call my best friend more often. 
  • I should... plan my Instagram a month in advance. 

Step 2 is to start on a new sheet of paper, and write "If I really wanted to, I could... ", and then complete that phrase for each of the I Should statements you previously wrote. For the examples above, it might look like: 

  • If I really wanted to, I could... download a fitness app, start doing daily workouts, or at the very least, start using the FitBit I have just lying around.
  • If I really wanted to, I could... reach out to her and ask about setting aside a time to have a standing phone date with her.
  • If I really wanted to, I could... make this a priority for my business, and make the time to do it.

Then you review, and decide. 

Hay explains that when we allow the "shoulds" to take over our thought patterns, we are allowing a passive force to take root. Should places us in the role of being the victim. These events are happening to us, and even though we feel they should be different, we aren't actively taking any steps to find a different outcome. Shoulds keep us swirling around in our head, fuming at all of the ways reality is different from our perceived notion of what reality is supposed to be.

On the flip side, introducing "coulds" returns the power of decision back to ourselves. We can decide if that thing we've been worried about is important enough to us right now for it to take priority. If we deem one thing is important enough to focus on, then we take responsibility, take action, and make a change. If we write a statement, and don't feel that it's a priority right now, then we acknowledge that, and let that corresponding should thought go with it.

By releasing the should, we can let go of the worry.

Shifting now over to Loving What Is by Byron Katie, here is one of my favorite passages from the book:

"Reality for me, is what is true. The truth is whatever is in front of you, whatever is really happening. Whether you like it or not, it's raining now. "It shouldn't be raining" is just a thought. In reality, there is no such thing as a "should" or a "shouldn't." These are only thoughts that we impose onto reality. The mind is like a carpenter's level. When the bubble is off to one side—"It shouldn't be raining"—we can know that the mind is caught in its thinking. When the bubble is right in the middle—"It's raining"—we can know that the surface is level and the mind is accepting reality as it is. Without the "should" and "shouldn't," we can see reality as it is, and this leaves us free to act efficiently, clearly, and sanely. Asking "What's the reality of it?" can help bring the mind out of its story, back into the real world."

She goes on to share more about what she calls The Work, a series of questions you ask yourself when you find your thoughts are the bubble off to one side of the level. What I find most helpful with both of these examples is that I can now use the occurrence of each "should" as a flag. Whenever I hear myself speak aloud, or to myself, "I should..." then I take that as a moment to pause, and investigate that thought further.

I ask myself, "What do I know to be true? What is reality?" Already, that has helped me tremendously in knowing when to say no, when to keep my personal boundaries in tact, and when to stop myself from losing control in a shame spiral.

Clearly, this will be a lifelong process, but so far, I'm happy to report that I have already had a few small wins by simply noticing the "shoulds" and spending some time investigating my thoughts around them. I've said no to a business opportunity that could have been great for exposure, but ultimately, it was taking my time and attention away from other projects that have me utterly giddy with excitement. I didn't want to say yes because I feel a lack of exposure and a fear that I can't reach that audience growth in another way. I want to say yes to the projects that light me up from deep down in my belly, and that's exactly what I did.

I'd love to hear more about how you catch yourself in negative thought patterns! What techniques do you have to course-correct? Do you have any small wins in protecting your boundaries that you'd like to share? I would love to celebrate those with you! Tell me in the comments below, or send me an email at hello@maggiegentry.com.

xo, 
M.