How healthy living includes dragonslaying

 

fire-dragonAfter 33 years of living life, I’ve learned that being and staying healthy in mind and body is a never-ending balancing act.

This is a moment that I get off my soapbox as a wellness mentor and talk to you, woman-to-woman and tell you something I’ve learned recently. I have a very personal example.

Hello world, I am a school-a-holic. Okay, well, that’s not the problem. I love to learn! The problem arises when there is a grade attached to it. I become award-winningly anal about the integrity of my grade point average. I am so anal about my grades to the point of arguing with teachers on many occasions over a handful of points (not my most shining moments, I assure you). I wouldn’t accepting anything but a 4.0.  

“If other people can go to school days, work nights, AND have kids (which I do not) among other standing obligations, I should be able to ace school with a 4.0 no problem,” I insisted internally.

Should. Evil word. It’s the undoing of many a well-intentioned, industrious woman.

And that’s been a problem for the past five years, during which I’ve made the part-time journey to earning my second degree. On top of that, though, I was trying to earn another certificate, run a business, and plan a wedding last year.

With so much on my plate, so to speak, and the added weight of what I thought should (there’s that word again!) be able to accomplish, I found myself with more stress than ever. I stopped going to yoga class or exercising, sitting down to a crochet project, or reading – all things I love to do. All work and no play led to crying fits, weight gain, and constant exhaustion. Sure. That’s natural. Everyone should go through that. Right?

It’s been a struggle, a dragon that I’ve slayed many times over the past few bouts of school I’ve undertaken. And when under pressure, it’s so easy to see your fire-breathing beast as a comforting, old and familiar friend and fall victim to its fork-tongued charms.

The turning point for me was when I suddenly burst into violent sobs one evening this past summer after realizing that I had missed an assignment. It was the first time I had ever missed an assignment. The sad part was I had completed it weeks earlier. But with everything else going on in my life, I just forgot to pass it in.

First of all, it wasn’t going to affect my grade much – not even a tenth of a percent. But that didn’t stop me from completely freaking out, and begging the instructor to accept the assignment. My instructor rightfully stuck to her guns about college policy, and I earned my first Zero. At first I was devastated. My reputation, my self-image, was at stake. I felt like that one zero had completely invalidated five years of hard work.My entire existence and self worth was defined by this transgression.

But then I realized how ridiculous that thought was. I had turned into someone I didn’t even recognize, and didn’t like it.

I had exchanged all my joys in life to stress out about a small number that only matters to the tiny microcosm of life called academia. I knew I had to change something about my beliefs. No one was forcing my feet to the fire to attain 4.0 status other than me. And I had to stop inviting that dragon in.

So one day, I decided to finally slay that old dragon, and let go of those shoulds.

And as I begin counting down in days (not months or weeks anymore!) to my graduation date and the end of a five-year journey for a diet tech certification sans shoulds, I have been noticing a lot of changes in me.

For one, my nearly constant, insatiable hunger that would plague me day in and day out for the last couple of years has since abated. I no longer feel the need to gorge myself. And because of that, the weight has been dripping off of me. I literally feel lighter both mentally and physically. And I have an upsurge in my energy. I’ve completed a crochet project in the last month, am halfway through a new book, and started experimenting in the kitchen again. I’ve even taken up yoga again, too, though it’s been slow going getting it to become a daily habit. And I’ve noticed that I have stopped having frequent emotional breakdowns, or fits of rage or fear. I’ve become “me” again – the person that’s ok with things as they are, and not as they “should” be.

Sounds a lot healthier, doesn’t it?dragon-dead

This experience taught me a lot about the nature of following our wellness path. Even if we are on the right path, there will be those times in our lives that will test us. And while knowledge is power, it’s good to keep in mind that living a fulfilled, balanced life is not like getting into a google self-driving car, setting the coordinates and falling asleep at the wheel. We have to stay awake and aware – and watch for those warning signs that we are veering off-road into bumpy territory.

At its core, complete whole mind-body wellness is not a stable state. We don’t live in a bubble.  It still takes a lifetime of vigilance, recognizing and changing course to keep ourselves on the right path, and not be led astray by our dragons.

And these difficult moments that test us will appear often – not to torture us and make us feel small and weak – but so that we can practice that power of recognition and
conscious change, and gain inner strength and confidence.

We need to constantly check in with ourselves and ask: Is our lifestyle or are our habits still sustainable? Are our thoughts and beliefs in line with our happiness? If not, we need to get rid of the shoulds and turn them into coulds.

So ladies, even if you veer off the path a few times trying to keep your life in balance, it’s ok. It’s a natural process to get off on the wrong exit here and there. But each time, you’ll recognize your dragon(s) faster and faster.

So grow strong, Madame Warriors, and slay on.

 


 

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