That particular week seemed more difficult than others. I felt angrier and my patience was pretty much nonexistent. I remember sitting in a team meeting and, for no reason, tears started to well up and I discreetly left the room so that no one would notice.
I was leading a very big project at work, and things were running as smoothly as one would expect, but I was literally on 24/7. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d taken a day off. A year or two maybe, with the exception of Christmas day. For about two years, I had dreamed of going to a destination spa I’d discovered online. I could practically feel the tranquility through the photos on the website. In a minute of desperation, I called the spa & was told they had availability for the next week.
1) TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF
The spa was usually booked weeks in advance, so I took their availability as a sign, booked the trip, and committed to taking the next week off.
The timing wasn’t great from a work perspective…in two week’s time, I was going to be hosting a conference with over 100 guests flying in from around the world.
But some crisis or extremely urgent work matter was always on the horizon…there was never a good time to take a day off, much less an entire week.
My colleague swore that she’d get in touch with me if there was any out-of-control emergency that should couldn’t handle herself. I let out a big exhale, and a few days later I was off! And you know what? The office didn’t fall apart, the conference was a huge success, and I did a better job hosting because I was able to relax and recharge. Anxiety gone.
Take time for yourself. You deserve it. Jobs come and go. Bosses you admire move on to other jobs. You are with yourself for the long haul … so give yourself the down time you need.
2) NURTURE YOURSELF
We’re all grown-ups with jobs, relationships, and maybe kids of our own, but there is an inner child in all of us that needs nurturing. Instead of nurturing that inner child, we busy ourselves and/or pick up bad habits to avoid feeling alone, sad, or inadequate.
I used to be the queen of negative self-talk. My diet was awful, I didn’t exercise, I drank coffee or soda all day, and I didn’t get enough sleep. I was even going to therapy, but I wasn’t doing the work I needed to do outside of that hour/week, so it took a really long time to get where I needed to be. That was my path. I made it, but I wish I hadn’t suffered as long as I did for no good reason.
Take the time to take care of yourself physically. Get a physical every year. Have you blood drawn and check for things like high cholesterol on a regular basis. Drink water, eat healthy foods, and get the amount of sleep that you need. No job in the world is worth feeling miserable every single day. If you don’t take care of yourself, who else will? And what about the people you take care of? If you can’t take care of them, who’s going to do that?
3) LET GO OF YOUR CONTROL OBSESSION
When I arrived at the spa, the control freak in me was delighted to find that someone had carefully selected a full day of yoga & exercises classes, short wellness seminars, and body treatments for me based on my “pre-arrival interview,” and I had schedule waiting telling me what I’d be doing the next day.
Desperate for soul-nourishing, I had decided in advance that I was going to become a yoga devotee during my week away. On my first morning at the spa, I showed up to the first yoga class on the schedule, just before 8 a.m. I found myself a spot at the front of the class, little overachiever that I was.
Then something happened, instead of the instant bliss-fix that I had planned, all I could feel was the pain and tightness of my hamstrings and my hunched shoulders. I started to feel defeated, like I had failed before I had started, and I couldn’t stop the negative thoughts spiraling in my mind.
The teacher invited the class to “open our hearts.” (OK … I’m actually embarrassed to admit the first thought that popped into my mind, but if one person can resonate with this, then it’s worth it!) The first thought I had when this teacher said “Open Your Heart” was “F-YOU!” I was actually angered by this complete stranger’s suggestion that I trust her and allow myself to become vulnerable. Inside I was screaming, “I’m here, aren’t I? I’m trying!!! What else do you want from me?” Somehow I viewed her kindness as an intrusion — a criticism that I wasn’t trying hard enough.
I couldn’t get past it that week. I wasn’t ready to give up control. I toughed out that class until the end, but I never went to another yoga class the entire week.
Luckily, there was more than yoga planned to improve my wellness that week. A couple of days later, I met with Sarah, my assigned personal trainer. I was in my early thirties at the time, but I felt like I had the body of an 83-year-old! Like on The Biggest Loser when they tell the contestants “Your body age is actually 79!” That was what I felt like.
Sarah was nice, but she was there to prove a point. She challenged me with “heavy” 10-lb hand weights and encouraged me during the interval training she had designed for my session.
That 1:1 experience was what I needed, along with a little positive reinforcement. I was able to let go and be vulnerable. I started running outside after that meeting with Sarah, and it was during those runs that I was able to feel a certain freedom. Once I let go of the need to control any and every situation (which is impossible, by the way), I finally felt like the universe was on my side.
My advice here? Just let go. Sounds easier said than done, but it is incredibly powerful. If you need to talk to a professional or a friend, coach, or mentor to get there, do it! Once you stop fighting, it gets so much easier. And you’ll be so much happier.
4) BE GRATEFUL.
One of the most popular items on the schedule that week was a one-hour wellness seminar called “How To Be Happy.” I think every single person in attendance that week was packed in to the room for that message!
One of the big takeaways from that session was practicing gratitude. We were asked to keep a gratitude journal for the rest of our stay. Before bed each night, we were to write down five things that we were grateful for each day. In doing so, we were creating a scenario where we were looking for positive things that happened during the day. It could be something big like, “I’m grateful for the amazing personal trainer I met today and the way she encouraged me” or something as small as, “I’m grateful that we had cheesecake for dessert tonight — I love cheesecake!”
Keep a gratitude journal. You’ll spend the day looking for things you can write about, making it harder to focus on negativity or problems!
5) TRUST YOURSELF
A few years later, I was rummaging through a closet and found the binder of resources I had taken home with me from the spa to continue working on my goals. I found a little note that read:
“Great job this week! You can tell you feel refreshed. Keep this feeling going by exercising daily. You have to make yourself a priority — you deserve it!”
Wise words! I made a risky decision and started a whole new career and chapter in my life. Today I make my living writing about health, wellness, and self-care. I also coach women who are looking to make healthy changes to their lives and improve their level of happiness. I eat healthier, I get more rest, and I make exercise and my personal relationships a priority. I’m happy to say that once I was able to silence my inner-critic, I also came to enjoy yoga and its many benefits!! 🙂
Trust yourself. We deserve much more care and kindness than we tend to give ourselves. And really, the only validation we need is our own.