When I first started out on this journey towards living a more intentional, calm lifestyle – it was because I was doing the opposite, and it was starting to chip away at my quality of life. I had spent the last half of my 20’s in constant stress as my dad went through chemo and radiation, operations, remission and back again. I was glued to my phone, and anytime it rang I’d age about a year and get at least 5 gray hairs. I was a mess, and though it was all out of love, it was killing me slowly. My face was infused with painful acne, I would go through spurts where I would be losing weight rapidly, and then gaining it back sans muscle. I’d have phases where I couldn’t sleep a wink and I’d be delirious throughout my days – always staying on high alert and living in fear, and then I would sleep for what felt like 22 hours a day. There was no real balance.
After he passed away in 2013, the same sort of behaviors continued except this time I was in deep mourning. The sleeping was still off, I was losing weight fast, I was frazzled and sensitive and broken. I didn’t know which way was up, I had zero motivation to fix anything in my life, and quite honestly all I wanted to do was crawl up in a ball and sleep. So for a while there, that’s what I did. And then you reach a point, as we all do as humans, where you’re tired of being tired. You decide that even amongst the pain, even though it hurts like fucking hell to go outside and interact with strangers who are oblivious to what’s happening in your world, you choose to make a change. Mine stemmed from thinking about my future and knowing in my heart of hearts, I wanted to be happy. I wanted my old self back – the one that came before cancer. I was care free, organized, artistic, funny. These were the things I loved most about myself (and still do!) So I started there.
Each day I would work on bringing these qualities back into my life – whether it was taking a day to read outside (sans guilt), painting (even though my medium is photography and writing – I’d do that, too), decluttering my space, and watching shows like Ellen and passing along her witty one liner jokes to family and friends. It all seemed simple enough, but slowly and surely it was making an impact. My relationship at the time was toxic at best – a social media show for everyone else to convince myself that it’s where I was supposed to be, but in fact, it was one of the main reasons I wasn’t able to reach my desired happiness for quite some time. Once that ended, I soared almost immediately. It just goes to show us that the relationships in our lives are so crucial to our mental health, well being and overall happiness. Which is why I abide by the “quality over quantity” rule when it comes to my friendships and those in my life.
Fast forward to today and I’ve never felt better. But a couple of weeks ago? I (temporarily) took a few steps back.
It’s important that when you’re making a lifestyle change, you understand your triggers. The things that can whip you back into hold habits and feelings.
For me those triggers are:
- An overpacked schedule
- An overwhelm of energy
- No downtime for myself
- Not enough exercise
- Not enough routine
- Not enough solid sleep
That may seem like a lot, but when you break down my day to day schedule, it’s actually quite simple.
My day to day looks something like this:
- Wake up around 7:30
- Journal/blog/read (I write best in the morning)
- Pilates at 9am or 10am
- Emails (preferably outside on the balcony if it’s nice)
- Either see friends or lay low and read/watch a TV show
- Cook dinner around 7 with a glass of wine
- Bed by 10pm or so
My rule of thumb is to only make 1 plan per day and to always have a day in between (or a solid 10 hours or so) where I have enough downtime to process the energy. That’s not to say I don’t like being around people – quite the opposite actually! It’s just that since I’m partially introverted, in order for me to feel re-charged and able to be good company, I need to have time to decompress and be with myself for a while. The same goes for when I’m not active. If I don’t go for a long walk or do something active (bike ride, paddle boarding, pilates – my go to..) I feel a little more tense than usual, and can actually get into a pretty negative headspace when it comes to my body. The surefire way to avoid this is to do it before my day even really begins.
So when I crashed and burned last week, I felt so defeated. Had I just ruined everything I worked so hard on? Was I back into old patterns again? I let my brain get the best of me and started crying. Getting so down on myself that it had all been for nothing. That the sweetness I tasted was as good as gone. That was a little dramatic ;) and after a really lovely chat with my boyfriend and my sister, I was feeling back on my feet again. I “let that shit go” (my favorite mantra), I woke up fresh, and made the decision to be joyful and calm. That’s the thing I think we all forget – it’s a choice, how we feel each day. Give yourself the strength to have control over your outcome. You might surprise yourself.
Here are some tips for creating calm amongst the chaos:
Your situation could be:
- Family & friends are in town
- Local festival over running your neighborhood
- Overpacked work schedule
- A lot of travel, not much time at home
Your solution could be:
- Family & friends are in town: Go to bed earlier, wake up earlier to have some crucial alone time. Read a book that soothes you, listen to a calming podcast, write in your journal, float through Instagram (just be careful of the comparison game) This will give you the opportunity to decompress from the day, and set your intentions upon waking up. The Five Minute Journal is my favorite thing to do in the morning and my favorite thing to do right before falling asleep.
- Local festival over running your neighborhood: Plan your day around what’s happening in your neighborhood. If you know the energy really picks up mid-day, try to avoid being out and about around that time. Maybe slip away to a friend’s who lives outside of the city, take yourself out for a little date to a town you’ve been wanting to seek out, stay at home and bake/cook up a new recipe. If you need to get something done that day, plan it for the early morning.
- The Holidays: Start with keeping your shopping super organized, and getting it done early. I do most of my Christmas shopping around September and October (yes, really! It’s the running joke in my family) and I also keep a spreadsheet. I list each person that I’m buying for, the dollar amount, and I track what they’re getting and how much it was in the document. Once I’m finished buying for them, I highlight their line. (I’ll share the template with you guys when we get a bit closer to that time of year ;) Lastly, the same as the first situation – make time to decompress. Holidays involve a lot of energy and planning, so ensure that you’re getting proper sleep and room to breathe. Go for a walk by yourself after one of your family meals or opening gifts, take in the fresh air and the scenery. No one will be offended that you’ve taken time to be alone as long as it’s appropriate timing (aka: not when your grandma is giving her traditional toast)
- Overpacked work schedule: I generally look at my schedule one week ahead. How many shoots and meetings do I have planned? I almost never book two shoots in a day, because one alone takes a lot of energy out of me. I also like to edit and deliver within the same day if I can (I don’t like sitting on shoots for too long – it makes me anxious), so having the rest of the day to work on what I just created is super beneficial for my creative head space. If I have to book 2-3 shoots in a day, I always make sure I have room in between. Whether that’s to grab a snack, maybe hop into a store to decompress and look at some home items (my favorite store to unwind), or maybe even pop back home for a quick nap. I can become the worst version of myself if I’m too overbooked, and I for one don’t believe in the glorification of busy.
- A lot of travel: This one can be tough since when you’re feeling exhausted or run down, you generally just want to retreat to your cozy bed and homestead that you’ve created for yourself. When I know I’ll be traveling for a while (that was my life in May-June!), I bring a notebook for journaling, something familiar from home (my favorite candle for example), a pair of comfy clothes (like my favorite sweats or sweatshirt) and try to stick to any kind of routine that I have when I’m home. Just because you’re on the road doesn’t mean you can’t implement your morning ritual, exercise or go to sleep at a decent hour.