Prioritizing myself. This comes first because it is the prerequisite for everything else. It lies in the smallest of concrete decisions I make. Do I take an extra half hour before work to eat a nice breakfast? Do I take a water and pee break in the middle of class? Do I skip a social occasion to get some sleep? Do I skip out on some sleep to feed my friendships? I actually have many more choices than I thought. Behaving like everything is my choice is liberating.
NOT sticking to a routine. I’ve found that my “routine” has to be adaptable. Some days I wake up in the morning and I don’t feel like doing yoga; I feel like journaling. Sometimes I don’t feel like waking up and I stay in bed an extra half hour. Some days I make an on-the-go breakfast and other days I sit down with myself for a while. When I’ve tried to force myself to do the same thing every day, it has started to feel like a chore, enslaving me instead of freeing me to be myself. It’s important to remember that anything you do for your health should ultimately be more reward than punishment. If you don’t enjoy it, it won’t last.
Being prepared. I’ve almost forgotten what it feels like to have nothing in the fridge for dinner. I make plans, but I make my plans flexible; I’ll shop for a certain set of recipes or ideas but switch them around depending on what I feel like eating on a given day. I pack my lunches as I’m putting away my dinner leftovers. I started craving food every evening during class, so now I make myself a smoothie before I leave the house and sip on it when I feel hungry.
Snacking. I think my natural rhythm is to eat 6 small meals a day. When I eat a normal three-meals-a-day meal, I feel super bloated and uncomfortable. And, no matter how much I eat at breakfast, I am always hungry by 10:30! At first I fought this, now I listen to myself and just pack snacks that I munch on throughout the day.
(Trying to) sleep. I say trying to because I still can’t really figure out how to sleep through the night. I’ve been waking up at 2:30AM consistently, and it’s not super fun. I think the key is to cut caffeine and take all my supplements, but it’s hard to cut caffeine when I’m tired! Regardless, I go to bed around 9/9:30 every night that I can. That has helped immensely.
Mindful technology use. I don’t keep my phone in my bedroom anymore. Every night, I plug it in in the living room around 9 and go to bed. I read or chat with my boyfriend, usually, and then it’s easy to wind down. Similarly, my mornings are my sacred tech-free space. I never usually check my phone until I get to work, and the extra time has become so special that I don’t even want to spend those quiet AM hours checking InstaStories anymore.
Paying attention to my emotional state. Notice, I just pay attention; I don’t try to change my emotional states from negative to positive. I don’t really believe in this. If I try to change how I feel, it’s generally in ways that don’t actually serve me. If I feel what I feel, I’m more likely to be accepting toward myself – no need for modification, just some kind attention to my status. If I’m dwelling or unable to emerge from a negative state, I have an arsenal of things that help me feel better.
Listening to my own voice. Again, this feels vague – it’s not. I concretely try to listen to my own voice. I have the voice in my head that narrates my thoughts and tries to process my days. I have the voice in my journal, who usually starts to sound very wise and grounded if I pay attention to her. I have my blog voice, my voice in class, my teacher voice, my therapist voice, my daughter voice, my sister voice, my friend voice. All of us communicate in such a huge variety of contexts. Becoming familiar with my voice has helped me navigate all of this “health” stuff from a grounded place.
Asking for support. I recently decided not to worry if I need support. My coworkers are kind, my friends are great, my boyfriend is steady and reliable, and my parents are in town. There is a large support network to be leaned on if ever I need it. Knowing that it’s okay to ask for help has actually made me need help less. I am secure in just knowing that it’s there.
Not giving up on myself. I was listening to a podcast this morning (School of Greatness by Lewis Howes, with guest Chen Lizra) and one of my favorite parts was her talking about her perseverance in dealing with her own mental illness. It took her ten years of hard, engaged work, of putting it all together and it all falling apart. It reminded me of my now more than a year of trying to figure out how to feed and love myself, how to heal my physical illness. She said that it’s a tremendously hard thing to keep your vision of how things could be alive in spite of all the evidence trying to break that vision down. It would be easy for me to give up on trying to be healthy because I can’t be perfect, because sometimes things fall apart. It takes a lot of perseverance and it’s hard to get adequate support.
But, not giving up is one of the most important and hardest things I’ve done. I’m living on faith that I won’t have to try so hard one day. Or, even if I do have to try my entire life, feeling my best is worth it.
Oh, and one last thing: TREAT YOSELF! I would not be very happy without the occasional Friday night pizza delivery.