My old dog, Kodi <3
Continuing with my unintentional theme of “what I’ve learned in 2017”, I have to say “change your mind, change your life” is an incredibly powerful statement. It’s one of the most powerful things I’ve been doing as I’ve retreated into my home life and spent more time having lunch with friends, volunteering, and generally getting to know myself better.
And I can say without any equivocation: If you don’t like what’s going on in your life, look to your thoughts; look to your beliefs.
My theme for this year? “It’s all in your mind.”
From the mainstream media’s constant stream of not quite honest reporting to my own anxious worrying about every possible scenario up to and including horrific death, I’ve had to acknowledge that until something ACTUALLY happens, it’s well, all in my head.
My anxiety has often gotten the better of me, so much so that I’ve spent sleepless nights tossing and turning with outrageous “what ifs” playing out in my head. Years of yoga, meditation, and even medication at times have helped, but never completely solved the problem. But this year I had my “come to Jesus” moment: I either had to fully claim my power or nose dive into depression and anxiety attacks over and over again.
And I am so over feeling helpless.
Don’t underestimate the power of your thoughts. If you think it over and over and over again, it will become a belief. And belief’s are dangerous things. Be very, very, very, super-duper careful what you believe. For example, if like me you believe/d that bad things happen when you’re happy and carefree, bad things will tend to appear to happen when you’re happy and carefree. And you will make yourself miserable to avoid bad things.
The truth is, bad things happen NO MATTER what we believe or think so why not just be happy anyway?
Did worry and misery keep the bad things away the past couple of years? No. So why was I devoting so much of my brain capacity to worry? I’m not talking about constructive thought, like making well-thought-out choices that take into consideration the consequences of my actions. I’m talking about worrying needlessly, believing that I’m a victim without any power to change my life, and otherwise swallowing the idea that anyone or anything has any power over me.
Many ideas were programmed into us from a very young age, ones we had no say over. Parents, teachers, family, the government, and our culture have drilled certain things into us: about how weak or strong we are, how the world works, and even whether or not we stood/stand a chance to be happy in this life…or even survive.
But we have a choice NOW.
Note: No one in this scenario is necessarily Simon Legree or Lord Voldemort (for those who have no clue who Simon Legree is). Let’s just say that we teach more by what we do than what we say AND we can only teach what we have learned. I’m not pointing fingers; I’m explaining WHY we are where we are and how that actually gives us options, and power.
When we know better, I tend to believe we do better.
We are not stuck with our current programming. We can change it. We can change our minds, thus our thoughts, and thus our lives.
We can rewrite our beliefs and feelings and change the course of our lives one single thought at a time. And this is not some “new age mumbo-jumbo” as Sheldon Cooper might say. This is science.
Neuroplasticity is the scientific term for the malleable nature of the brain…even in old age.
“Whatever you hold in your mind will tend to occur in your life. If you continue to believe as you have always believed, you will continue to get what you have always gotten. If you want different results in your life or your work, all you have to do is change your mind.”
This is not to say its an easy task, this changing our minds. You already know if you try to stop thinking about certain things, it has the reverse effect, right? If you say, “I won’t think about purple parrots” now all you can think about is purple parrots. Try not to laugh in church and you struggle harder not to laugh. Maddening, right?
So how in the hell does one change their beliefs? By NOT suppressing thoughts that arise from those beliefs. Let them float up from the subconscious, then let them go. Don’t fight them. Here’s what I’ve been doing instead: I’ve devoted time every day to identifying old beliefs that don’t serve me and, here’s the important stuff: crafting new thoughts and beliefs, and creating mini-rituals to replace the old with the new.
Like, whenever I catch myself being negative or spiraling down I picture a big, red STOP sign and even say out loud, “Stop!” This isn’t to suppress the thought, but to make me stop what I’m doing and pay attention to the habitual generation of thought. Then I picture that thought floating away like a cloud caught in the wind. Then I give my Monkey Mind something new to focus on: my new, positive thought/belief. And over time, with repeated practice, the new thought starts to become habitual.
I kid you not.
Sounds crazy? I tell you it works. It’s worked best if I focus on one belief at a time until I break that sucker, sweep it away, and methodically reinforce the new belief. Depending on how deeply ingrained a particular belief is, this process can take months. There are shortcuts, however.
Like essential oils. Wild Orange is fantastic for helping bust the shackles of fear. Inhaling the aroma of Wild Orange essential oil WHILE replacing beliefs that generate fear-inducing thoughts was super effective for me. I still diffuse Wild Orange when I sleep.
Rewiring my brain has taken time, and I’m not done. I have some more beliefs I want to change, but I’m on the right path and the proof is in my everyday experiences. This time of year? I’m usually just barely keepin’ my nose above the S.A.D. waters, but not this year. Two new things I’ve added to my yoga, meditation, exercise, and good nutrition regimen are my new, shiny beliefs and a methylated B12 and folate supplement.
So, turns out, you can teach an old dog new tricks.
What Balance Looks Like
I read a lot–and I mean a LOT–about health, wellness, fitness, nutrition, and striking that all-important balance. After 15 years of teaching yoga and fitness AND 46 years of dealing with, well, life, I’m here to tell you that balance does not look like what so many articles and blog posts tell you it looks like.
Balance is kind of like the mathematical average I talked about in my last post. It means almost nothing except its the middle of something. It means we’ve added up a lot of stuff (housework, relationships, career, hobbies, spiritual practice) and come up with a number that translates to…too much on our plate and not only being unsatisfied but feeling like an abysmal failure.
Or is that just me? *side eyes everyone*
Balance, as I’ve read, is about allocating time and resources, including your precious energy, evenly or according to priorities. So, if family is number one, for example, and work is number two, you split your time and resources 50-50. Or you could split them be percentage, weighting the more important things, say family gets 60% and work 40%.
But in the real world, it rarely works out that way, does it? And we spend a lot of energy feeling bad about that. So, when my kids took a break from sports and extra-curricular activities this past semester, we found ourselves with some down time. Life was definitely less hectic around here and believe me, this family needed it. With all this time to spare, neglected things could get take care of.
But you all know what I’m about to tell you: it didn’t happen. We found ourselves hanging out at home with our feet up a lot more than normal. And there were times when I thought, whoa, wait a second, there’s lots of things we could be getting done around the house, in the garage, in the family room downstairs, outside in the yard. So I thought I should come up with a chores list so we could make the most of this unproductive time.
Yeah, no. That didn’t happen. Well, a few things did get done, but mostly we caught up on all the rest we weren’t getting when life was dragging us around by the scruff of our necks. But you know what? The kids ended up getting bored of all that rest time and came up with some things for themselves to do. I guess that video games and YouTubers getting boring after long enough, after all.
Next thing I know I’m on an after-dinner run to Joann’s with my son for balsa wood, glue gun, exacto knives, paint, brushes, and string. He’s told me several times what he’s making, but I still only know that one, it’s for Latin Convention and two…uh, Latin Convention is next weekend. *shrugs shoulders sheepishly* I suppose I will get to see the finished project(s) by then…or in pictures.
Over the last year I’ve been beating myself up trying to strike semblance of balance in my life, but instead, I have often found myself on the couch with a cup of tea and a book or the Audible app and a lap full of knitting. I should be writing or planning and preparing for an essential oils class. I should be working on the guest room or updating the hardware on the kitchen cabinets. If I’m not going to write and publish, I should fill that spot, that allocated time with something, anything productive.
I’ve beat myself up for not working out more as I try everything under the sun to heal this plantar fasciitis faster, damn it. But to no avail. Turns out healing can’t be rushed. Imagine! And it’s not going to fit neatly inot a balanced schedule or even a logical routine. I block out time for it, but the Universe and my body laughs and laughs. They have had a good chuckle over that nonsense.
So here’s what my kids have taught me: there is a time for everything under the sun and sometimes it’s time to rest. And sometimes, that’s not going to jive with all your obligations and activities and plans and goals and dreams. Or maybe it does. Maybe, just maybe, your body and whatever powers that Be are wiser than our little human Monkey Minds.
Some days, its going to be “time to do nothing”, as a thru-hiker buddy once declared as he flopped on the hotel room bed in Massachusets with the Gilligan’s Island theme song playing on the TV.
What then, is balance, if it’s not the execution of carefully constructed to do lists and planners?
Maybe it looks like this: throwing your goa mat on the floor, standing on it for 60 seconds breathing, then rolling it up and getting on with your day. Maybe it’s walking in the park for 6 miles instead of running those miles. Maybe it’s pulling out the TRX gizmo and getting same lat pulls in after executing the 5 Tibetans. Maybe it’s taking a friggin’ nap in the afternoon because *gasp!* tired.
Sooooo, maybe I had a lot of rest to catch up on the past few months. Maybe, just maybe, in order to heal my heel, my heart, and my mind, I needed to read and sip tea, read the Tarot, knit, and spin a little yarn.
Are you starting to see what I’m getting at here? Are you starting to appreciate maybe what balance REALLY looks like?
If we run around like crazy keeping up with our kids’ schedules and all our obligations, be they personal or professional, fun or drudgery, and don’t insert rest breaks on the fly as needed, then we’re going to have to catch up on all that rest. And maybe all at once. And our bodies might insist on it, like my shoulder getting all jacked up with an oveuse injury because I did too much yoga, personal training, TRX, and other assundry work-related activities.
This month I brought TRX back into my life after a looooooong time (almost 4 yeas) because I’ve almost exclusively been practicing yoga. Guess what? There’s a lot of pushing in yoga (down dog, up dog, plank, Sun Salutations) but no pulling. My shoulder’s been acting up again.
Enter TRX. Gentle lat pulls and my shoulder is much happier.
Balance is about adjusting to the waves, riding them out. You never know exaclty how it’s all going to pan out, so be prepared to make changes. Balance isn’t about maintaing a particualr stance all the time, or standing still, or even making time every single for every single thing.
It’s about going with the flow without losing your way. It’s okay to fall; it’s okay to go flying ass over teacup.
Balance is about being honest with yourself and taking the day off when you need it or to make room for a new priority that’s suddenly arrived at your door step. It’s about maybe going into your hermit cave, Amy, to take a break from the world. It’s about switching from “supposed” to to “need” to.
It’s about being okay with life the way it is, and making time to rest, play, and work within the state of constant change.
And just as my kids have taught me, eventually all that rest or downtime will lead you forward, not back to what was, but forward to what can be. After all these rest days I am now writing again. I’ve brought TRX back into my workouts after years of being away and a little afraid. My energy is the best its been in years. I’m actually motivated again and seeking out all the projects and opportunities that I once lamented I would never be able to talk on ever again.
And I am finding it easier to be happy with myself these days! When I’m not insisting that my life be balanced.
Balance is meeting your needs in the moment, being flexible, and adjusting to life. It’s not perfect and it sometimes looks messy, unproductive, and lazy.
But it’s not.
It’s the way to greater happiness and satsifcation.
And isnt’ that our ultimate goal anyway?
So go make some happy for yourself right now! What do you need? Take care of it!
Much love and light!
Did you know stress can build up over time? Like plaque on teeth???? *gasp*
Yeah, well, this past year has taught me the dangers of not sticking to a regular stress management routine, much like not brushing and flossing your teeth regularly can lead to some pain-filled moments. Oh, like after two months of non-stop road trips back and forth to my parents, to yoga continuing ed workshops, certification classes, and the daily running around of family life I collapsed in a heap last February with the dreaded flu.
I’d run over my de-stressing routine and left it on the side of the highway like roadkill.
While I laid in bed feeling sorry for myself, I got angry. What the fudge??? Why meeeee? Wah wah wah. Pffft. So pathetic. But when I was done being a baby, it became clear what I had done…or to be more accurate what I wasn’t doing: taking care of myself.
According to WebMD, 75 to 90 percent of doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints. And while stress won’t directly cause you to come down with the flu, it will weaken your immune system response, which will, in turn, make it easier for the flu virus to take hold.
Basically, I’d let years of a regular routine get derailed when the unthinkable happened: my mom was diagnosed out of the clear blue sky with Stage IV breast cancer. Stage IV. Out of the blue! That’s a big deal and I’m not beating myself up over getting derailed, really. What I am doing is pointing out that no matter how solid you think you’re healthy routines are, there are waves big enough to knock you off your feet.
We’re not tsunami-proof, no matter what.
After years of healthy eating, exercise, yoga, and meditation, my built-in routines were waylaid by the big C word. 15 years of steady growth and work, weight loss and maintenance–wiped out. Bottom line: healthy habits are not immune to the dreaded stressors of life.
While they do tend to make you more resilient, be careful about thinking you’ve got it all figured out. I’m here to tell you that is not your best defense.
What I learned is this: I’m human. Even though I knew exactly how to maintain a healthy lifestyle, I succumbed to the baser human desire for comfort. I dined on comfort foods I hadn’t turned to in years. I ignored the urge for my regular bedtime routine in favor of staying up late watching movies and zoning out. Don’t do that. At least, not for as long as I did.
I ran around like crazy trying to keep up with my commitments even though that little voice inside my head was crying “Mercy!”. I should have canceled some things. I should have, but I didn’t. Don’t do that.
And it took a raging case of the flu to pull my head out of my arse. But did I learn my lesson then? OH no.
It wasn’t until June at my regular checkup when I discovered I’d gained 15 lbs and my cholesterol was high that I really woke up. Mother bleeper! What the hell????? What had I done to myself?
So I’ve learned what not to do: don’t let one night of pizza and wine and Ho-hos turn into a long, dark pig-out fest of the soul. Don’t run yourself ragged; don’t skip healthy meals; and don’t stay up all night, or at least don’t make it any harder for yourself to get the rest you need.
Do allow yourself treats once in awhile, but reinforce healthy eating habits by keeping herbal teas, and other healthy but comforting treats around for those times when you need something comforting but don’t want to overindulge. But don’t beat yourself up if nothing but warm chocolate chip cookies will do. It’s okay.
Don’t rely on caffeine and energy drinks to keep you going. You’re living on borrowed time, my dear. Have a cup of coffee in the morning, but not a pot. Those energy drinks and too much coffee have a way of depleting your reserves while making you think they’re refueling you.
Do take breaks throughout the day. No matter how busy you are, there’s time for a few minutes sitting still drinking a glass of cold water, maybe with a drop of Wild Orange or Peppermint essential oil for that pick me up effect.
Do cancel plans. Seriously, when there’s a crisis in your life, people will understand. Or not. But it doesn’t matter. What matters most is your health and sanity. Clear your calendar and make more time for the much-needed rest and recuperation you need.
Do keep healthy ingredients on hand for quick meals and nourishing drinks like a frozen fruit and protein powder smoothie or the Trim Healthy Mama’s Good Girl Moonshine. These are my favorites, but it doesn’t matter what recipes they are as long as you love them and they are good for you.
Do use aromatherapy. Diffuse some Frankincense, lavender, lemon, or any peaceful blend to help your mind and body settle down. Essential oils, when used aromatically, have a direct link to the amygdala, the place where emotions are processed, especially fear. This is where the fight or flight response originates. And what is stress? You guessed it: the triggering of the flight or fight response.
Do maintain a healthy bedtime routine. Diffuse Cedarwood and Vetiver in your bedroom to prime your body for rest. Whether you actually fall asleep or not, helping your mind calm down will help.
My bedtime diffuser blend:
- 1 drop Cedarwood
- 1 drop Wild Orange
- 1 drop Vetiver
- 2 drops Breathe
Some people use Lavender as well to help promote a restful night’s sleep.
Some other destressing activities I’ve gotten back into: exercise, daily short yoga routines (as short as 5 minutes), going for walks, knitting, reading, daily mediation (even 60 seconds in a pinch helps), and downtime with friends and family. Much downtown with friends and family.
I feel better AND I’ve lost 10 lbs.
And a few words on wine or any alcohol as a way to de-stress: use it sparingly and time it right. Now, if you follow me on Facebook, you know I love me some wine. I will have a glass a couple nights a week, but I have learned some valuable things like don’t drink it right before you go to bed. Best case scenario: be done drinking your wine 3-4 hours before bedtime.
Why? Because if you drink it too close to bedtime, you may fall asleep quicker, but you will wake up around 3 am feeling pretty crappy, maybe even anxious like me. Which kind of puts the kabash on the whole relaxing and detressing thing, right? Why does that happen? Blood sugar crash. Alcohol is a sugar, and one that is quickly abosorbed into the bloodstream. And it can also be processed just as quickly, leaving you suddenly very low on blood sugar.
Your body respons to low blood sugar by cranking up the adrenals. Not exaclty what we want when we want to destress.
Most importantly, I’m taking a few minutes every day to something fun, healthy, comforting, and/or soothing. It’s taken me months, but I’m finally on track, again.
And wiser than I was before all this happened.
Life is meant to be enjoyed.
And it doesn’t matter how bad the situation is, a little fun and relaxation is always, always a good idea.
Like brushing your teeth.
Much love and light!
I’m in the midst of designing a new layout and look for my webisite, and also am moving all my blogging to the front page.
Much love and light,
It’s giveaway time again and this one is a doozy! A grand prize of $180 PayPal cash, as well as tons of ebooks, audio books, gift cards, swag, and paperbacks.
There’s only 17 days left to enter so click click click away and enter as many times as you like. Grab a glass of wine while you’re at it and take your time browsing through the entries to check out new-to-you authors and maybe some old favorites.
Good luck and happy clicking!
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It’s been a long time in the making, but I finally have my new website up and running! Woot! Please take a moment to poke around and see what’s new. My old site was actually a blog site that had reached its capacity. It still exists as www.melissalummis.blogspot.com for the time being, if you want to see any old posts. I will be updating it in the future to a whole new blog for a whole new purpose. I’ll post more on that later.
In the meantime, take a stroll around my new website and let me know what you think.