THE BASICS | BODY: UPDATE #2

TL; DR: Workin' on my fitness; who's my witness?

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I've had a rocky relationship with exercise - from spending hours on cardio machines,  running a half-marathon, to being a stagnant couch potato, I've been all of these people.

Recently, however, I noticed some changes to my body that I was not happy about. While I am actively working on self-acceptance and self-love, I am also working on my confidence, which to me, includes loving and respecting my body so that I feel my absolute best. At the height of my work craziness, I felt drained and defeated.

It didn't start off this way - beyond a slow start in January, the month overall was a great one for me in terms of fitness. I got back into a schedule wherein I challenged myself on a daily basis in the gym, or at a spin class (thanks for the rides, SpinCo <3), and my mental clarity grew. Every morning leaving the gym, I let the cold winter air hit my face, and despite the frosty welcome, I couldn't help but smile. Work frustrations rolled off my back, without any terse exchanges. Funny how much a sweat session can affect your mood and outlook for hours to come.

However, the first day I missed a workout coincided with missed connections and lost luggage. After spending 48 hours in the same set of clothes, I stepped on another plane, having consumed my weight in free muffins, courtesy of an airline food voucher. To say I didn't feel like myself would be an understatement. Part of me wanted to wallow, to perpetuate the situation by comforting myself with delicious treats or unhealthy meal choices. But as I've worked my way through this first 100 day challenge, I've slowly been able to make better choices for myself. This includes indulging appropriately, but also putting my foot down and doing what's best for future me, even if current me is pouting over skipping dessert.

I haven't quite made it out the other side, but I'm looking forward to a sweaty workout after the madness of my trip. It's a reminder that there will be better days than others, and that ultimately it's the long-term goals that really count in the grand scheme of things.

THE BASICS | MIND: UPDATE #2

TL; DR: To say I still have all my wits about me would be a stretch. How reading is keeping me sane.

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This past month has been a whirlwind. Why so crazy in January? The start of the year makes everyone chomp at the bit, as we know. When that sentiment gets brought into the workplace, there are effects for oneself, and likely reverberates throughout the environment too. I really needed an outlet that would turn my mind off from the flurry of thoughts and worries that plagued me late into the night.

I've read two books so far in 2018, one that I featured in my first update, and The Year of Less by Cait Flanders. I've followed Cait's blog for many years, back when she was still Blonde on a Budget. To read her journey throughout her debt payoff and beyond, in book form, was helpful to my own sanity. 

As an avid reader, I relish the nights where I would stay up all night to read a book cover to cover. While I certainly don't have that stamina quite as much today, I still enjoy reading for long periods of time. This was achievable with a book like The Year of Less - I was able to read for chunks of time; even though there was a focus on Cait's financial journey, the book read as fluidly as any fiction novel I've feverishly read in the past.

What I realized after so much time away, not reading, was that reading will always be a priority for me, and one that provides an educational outlet away from the details of day-to-day.

 

THREE LITTLE WORDS | I ___ YOU

TL;DR: February, the month of love. Before you tell me about your bouquet order or Singles Awareness Day, I want you to consider telling someone how much they mean to you. Romantic or otherwise, it's an innate need for humans to feel loved in some capacity.

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February is often viewed as a divisive month between those who emphasize Valentine's Day, and those who don't. I find myself in a third category: those who shop the drugstore chocolate sales on February 15. My love of confectionery aside, I think that we can all benefit from some mid-winter appreciation.

This time of year, the weather is far from ideal, but rays of sunshine peep in on a near daily basis, providing a few moments of brightness before the darkness looms large again. It's the perfect time to emulate these slivers of sunshine; why not, since the weather is our go-to discussion topic with everyone anyway.

Doesn't matter if you're in a romantic relationship or not. There are certainly people who make your days better - your barista, for one, if you're truly at a loss of who you love. Your coworkers, your friends, any person who holds the door open when you're juggling your gym gear, lunch, coffee cup, and headphones... the list goes on. 

Fill in the blank with whatever you deem appropriate. I ___ you. 

  • I appreciate you, for all the patience you give me when I'm not responding because I'm feeling anxious.
  • I love you, because you remember my personal preferences for a number of items.
  • I respect you, for always acting with integrity.
  • I thank you, for listening to my opinion, even if we don't agree.
  • I like you, because you share my sense of humor.

If none of those explanations resonate with you, let's go back to the barista example and sub in I appreciate/love/respect/thank/like you, for bringing me to life with my morning beverage of choice.

Let someone know how you really feel. They may surprise you with their response!

FREE YOURSELF | SHAME PT. 1

TL; DR: The feelings of shame can long outlive the moment itself. Keeping chipping away at your answers, by continuing to ask, "Why?" until you get to the heart of the matter.

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Shame: one syllable that conveys a range of physical reactions - flushed cheeks, stammered words, downward stares. My earliest recollection of shame was baking muffins with my mother, and insisting on cracking an egg at her reluctance. My grubby fingers lost their grip on the egg, and the entire yolk fell on my Barney sock. Tears and egg yolk streamed down my face and the side of the counter, respectively. 

Since that moment, shame has pervaded my life in many other forms. Unfortunately, those scenarios are not as easily forgotten nor cleaned up as a raw egg. Despite the different, haunting forms that shame takes on, the physical reactions remain similar. What I've since tacked on is the allowance of intrusive thoughts, replaying the situations on repeat in my head. My defence mechanism is to physically shake my head, as if the motion would rid me of the memory and residual shame.

Shame is also at the root of many personal demons with which we contend. Vices we wish we didn't have, habits we wish we could change; at the core of these issues, is there an element of shame? Work past the one question that makes you squirm and want to close off that compartment in your mind. Really prod and examine the heart of the matter. Ask yourself, "Why?" in response to each answer, until you've drilled down to the neat little sentence. Most times, it comes down to an element of shame.

Given the stimuli that surround us every day, it is easy to shove down any discomfort we have, rather than open Pandora's box and revisit what makes us feel shameful. And yet, without this introspection, it is impossible to fully move forward and distance ourselves from these memories.

MORE PLEASE | CHANGING TACK

TL; DR: If you're white-knuckling through a habit to get to an end goal, but you don't care about it personally, try replacing that habit with something else that will facilitate reaching the goal. Preferably, you'd enjoy the new habit, but even if you don't love it, if you hate it less than the first way, you've won.

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This first month of 100 Days of the Basics has strayed from my original vision of reading, yoga, and meditation. For me, it took a while to settle into a reading practice that worked for me, and an alternative workout strategy that replaced yoga. What both sets of changes taught me however, is the importance of not overcorrecting the issues by stopping the pursuit of self-improvement in those domains, but rather replacing the issues with something else. A V1.0.1 of the challenge, if you will. I was able to do so because I knew that my end goal for this challenge was to instil baseline habits for mind, body, and soul. The form that the habits took had less to do with the overall achievement of creating a foundation in holistic well-being. In looking at my intention for the challenge, instead of scrutinizing the path taken, I was able to try something else without abandoning the entire endeavor.

It hasn't always been this way for me. A perfectionist by nature, I've often adopted an "all or nothing" approach to my life. This stifled any movement or progress I could hope for in my life; when I did make changes, they were immersive but misaligned with my personal vision, which would send me ricocheting back into the inaction side of things. This rollercoaster left me between a rock and a hard place - the fears of failure and of success. I often thought of these misgivings as the roadblocks impeding me from taking the "all" approach, and simultaneously causing me to recede into the downy comfort of my cozy bed.

As I explained in an earlier post, failure can be due to the equation of process with end result. When these two items are conflated, they become difficult to disentangle, and giving up on the process may lead to giving up on the end result. This reality is further distorted from a narrative wherein we only allow ourselves the "all" or "nothing" options as the path forward. What I find most helpful in modifying this mindset is writing down the steps of getting from A to B, listing out all actions between both points.

In doing so, it becomes clear that it is inconceivable to move from a baseline of nothingness to the attainment of a lofty goal, without well-defined steps along the way. For me, this focuses the end result into a manageable set of actions that I can dutifully tick off a list along the way to success.