After a highly productive day yesterday, the night ended with a huge bummer and a lot of irritation. I’ll save you the suspense, but I had a sty in my right eye. It was red, swollen, leaking and so painful. The drops helped, but I knew I just needed to wait it out. So my evening was not very productive at all. It’s difficult to do much of anything when you’re holding a compress to your eye with one hand. In the grand scheme of things, this wasn’t major. It wasn’t a car crash, or death…it was a sty. But to my schedule, it was a huge disaster. All of the things I had planned to do, I simply couldn’t do one handed. I was sorely disappointed and with Christmas coming so quickly, I have so much still to do!
Now, you may have guessed by now, I’m very much a type-A personality. I am a classic over-achiever and a perfectionist. And I absolutely hate it when my body (or in this case, my eye) is the reason my accomplishment is delayed (or denied in some cases). I work through illness, pushing myself harder and harder as if to prove to my body that it doesn’t control me. As I’m getting older, however, I’ve had to learn the hard lesson that sometimes, my body will not cooperate with me.
About 8 months ago, I was killing it at the gym. I dead-lifted 195lbs, bar-squatted 135. Not bad for someone who was a good 75 pounds overweight and only 5’4″. I had been working out with a trainer for a several months and had worked my way up to those lifting weights. It was a lot of hard work and dedication. That week, I also decided to start running. I decided that I was going to lose the damn weight no matter what. I ran 2.5 miles. I was so freaking proud of myself! And then a few days later, I had pain in both knees. One MRI later, and my orthopedic sat me down to explain something:
“You’re old. Your body can’t do the things it used to be able to do. You can’t just decide to go for a run. In fact, you shouldn’t be running at all. Lay off the weights. Do body-weight or light weights only. Increase reps and intensity instead. You have arthritis in your knees and stress fractures. Why don’t you try yoga?”
I was shocked. I wasn’t OLD! I mean, I’m 42. It’s middle-aged, right? But the fact is, another doctor told me something similar a few months later when we were talking about stress. He explained that we adjust to stress, so if the stress doesn’t go away, we adapt and it becomes our new normal. After he learned about my life, he asked me, “On a scale of 1-10, how much stress do you feel on a regular basis?” I thought about it.
“Unless something crazy happens, my stress level is usually about a 3 most of the time.” Because that was how it felt.
He actually laughed, right in my face. He said, “So, you own your own business, do the books for another business, you sleep 4-5 hours a night, you volunteer, you teach, you have a boyfriend, you’re a single-mom with a daughter and now a grandson, you have at least one doctor appointment per week, exercise 3 times a week, and have a medical condition that requires a special diet and regular maintenance…Oh, and you have three dogs.” He let the silence descend as I considered what he said. “You don’t know what stress is, but if you don’t manage it now and decrease it, you will end up giving yourself a heart attack.”
He was absolutely right. When I heard him say it, I realized that I do so much and it’s just my new normal. So we worked on it, for several months, getting everything in order within me. And I started to notice that my stress levels, my anxiety, my worries, and my racing thoughts, not to mention my symptoms, started to calm down. I was able to sleep longer, woke up more refreshed, had a more positive outlook, and more energy.
Now, I still do plenty of things and I’m always busy, but the difference is now, I’m taking time for myself each day doing things that bring me happiness, contentment, and fulfillment. Sometimes, it’s taking two hours on a rainy day to watch an old movie that I love. Other times, it’s painting a wall in my house or refinishing a piece of furniture that I picked up at Good Will. I know that doesn’t sound like “me-time,” but I love making my home beautiful.
It’s a challenge to find time every day to do something that I love, just for me, but I schedule it in daily. I made a list of all the things that bring me joy, help me relax, or help me feel good about me. Some things take almost no time at all, like have a cup of tea and listen to some music for 5-10 minutes while doing nothing else. When I made my list, I tried to put things on there that varied in time so that even on a really busy day, I can squeeze in the Me-time regardless of how busy I am.
I challenge you to make your own list and schedule time daily to do something just for you. If you’re looking for ideas, see my list at the end of the article.
This morning, after an unproductive evening last night, my to-do list hadn’t magically shrunken overnight, and I was feeling rather stressed. While some of my deadlines are self-imposed, some of them are not. I quickly went through my list and prioritized the things that absolutely had to be done today. I did those first, as quickly as possible. I finished up around 11am (I started at 4am). As I went to grab my list to see what I should do next, I realized that I had a headache and my heart rate was a little too high for the activities I was doing. Before I continued, I really needed to take a small break for some Me-time.
As I’m working from home today, and it was almost lunch time, I decided to try out a new recipe for home-made mayonnaise that is SIBO friendly. Cooking, trying out new recipes, is definitely something I love to do and I find it relaxing to just play around in the kitchen. I told Alexa to play spa music and got to blending. I combined my Me-time with lunch and sat listening to relaxing music as I cooked and then ate. Not only does this help my digestion, but it was exactly what I needed to refresh myself for the rest of the day.
We don’t think of our lives as stressful until something unexpected or out of the ordinary happens, but with the constant bombardment of technology and information, with the multi-tasking, rushing from one place to the next, sitting in traffic, not to mention all the little things that seem to fill up our day without us even noticing, stress can easily take over. In order to be more productive, I’ve found that taking a time-out during my day is essential. I get more done, have more energy, and feel much more positive when something unexpected does occur. I can handle these bumps with grace now, most of the time, anyway.
Reducing stress is different for everyone, but doing this one thing will help you get started. Remember, if you find yourself thinking that you just don’t have time for this…aren’t you worth 15 minutes of your time?
You will spend your entire life, from first breath to last, with only one person…You. Give yourself the love, care, compassion, and attention you need on a daily basis. Learn to forgive yourself for mistakes and misjudgments. Learn to treat yourself with the same compassion and patience that you give to others. Learn to accept that you are doing your very best and that is all you can ask of yourself. Lastly, remember to pay attention to your body and what it’s telling you. When it’s telling you to slow down, take the advice and give yourself a little break!
What ways do you reduce the stress in your life?
Wishing you peace and rejuvenation,
Mental Activities: Read a book, write, journal, Sudoku, meditation, yoga, listen to music, watch a movie, play games on tablet
Crafty Activities: Color, paint, craft, DIY projects, make bath products & lotions, try new recipes
Self-care: Pedicure, manicure, bath, body scrub, hair treatment, massage
Learning: YouTube videos or articles on new topics, self-help books, motivational videos and books, attend a class,
Physical Activities: exercise, yoga, take the dog for a walk, garden, ride a bike, clean, organize, rearrange furniture