A few years ago, I wasn’t in a great place. My weight was up, my skin was breaking out from a bad diet and overwhelming stress, and I was emotionally fragile.
On the outside, everything looked fine. High performers can hide a lot of their darkness, but those closest to me were starting to see the tiny cracks in my facade. I had zero patience and was becoming alarmingly short-tempered.
There was a lot going on personally and professionally. I was feeling pretty banged up by life and starting to get depressed. I could feel myself slipping into it and didn’t know what to do.
It was the week between Christmas and New Years of 2016 that I stood on the scale in my bathroom and cried. Not just any kind of cry but an Oprah-style ugly cry.
I’ve always been thin, I can hide the normal weight fluctuations that comes with age thanks to my height, but this weight was way outside my norm and unhealthy.
But it wasn’t just the weight. It was everything that was happening around it. I had anxiety induced insomnia, and I was starting to catastrophize normal situations. Emotionally I was threadbare.
I could see the strain trickling into all areas of my life. It was like I was going through the motions but not really tuned into anything.
It was there, standing on the scale, that I heard a little voice in my head telling me I had to do something, anything to get back to myself.
2017 ended up being a year full of contention. One thing after another felt like it was piling on, and I could hear the voice grow louder over time.
Brene Brown’s quote was ringing in my ear:
“When we lose our tolerance for vulnerability, joy becomes foreboding.”
It wasn’t until I reached a point where I was unable to cope with mundane things that I fully committed to a level of self-care that radically changed my life.
I don’t share any of this with the intent to be holier-than-thou. I’m by no means an expert. I just honestly believe that as women, we need to take better care of ourselves and sometimes we need to hear the message over and again until it “lands.”
We don’t win a prize for sacrificing our wellbeing to care for others.
There’s no reward for dumbing ourselves down.
Compromising who we are, even if it’s for someone we love, doesn’t make a relationship better.
But there is a boatload of regret waiting for us at the end of a year, or two, or a decade if we keep ignoring what is best for us. Running around feeling like a shell of yourself serves no one.
By now you know I’m fairly intense, so when I commit to something I go all in. It took about two years, two long years of hard work and focus to get to a noticeably better place.
Instead of doing all of this at once, and getting overwhelmed, I phased in changes. Once I started to see the benefits of one action, I would feel comfortable working in something else.
I can’t begin to tell you how much better I feel. Lighter, in my body and mind, calmer, happier and infinitely healthier.
The 5 Things I Did That Made Me Healthier and Happier
I Better Manage My Energy and the Energy Around Me.
I’m a highly sensitive introvert. I feel all the feelings all the time. My buckets of empathy make me a great mom, wife, and friend (if I do say so myself!) but it’s also an enormous drain on my emotional resources. Other peoples energy effects me at a deep level.
In the movie Ghostbusters 2, a river of slime is running under New York. The slim is made up of negative energy, and as it grows, the negativity starts to affect the citizens, they become more and more angry and aggressive and the city begins to implode.
When I’m around unpleasant, uneasy or frenetic energy for too long, it starts to affect me in the same way. Now, when I feel it overwhelming me, I tell my husband, “I have to go shake off the slim.”
Because we’re children of the 80s, our primary form of communication is movie quotes and references.
Sometimes it’s fifteen minutes of quiet at the start of what I know will be an intense day or in the few moments I have by myself in the car, I’ll list everything that makes me grateful.
I don’t overthink it; I’m not sitting criss-cross-applesauce on a silk pillow in my meditation corner. No one has time for that.
It’s the simple practice of mindfulness. I try to visual who I want to be, especially in stressful moments and stay in alignment with those values.
Giving yourself a minute or two to breathe and clear your mind makes all the difference in how you handle yourself throughout your day.
If you experience similar feelings, the book “The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You” was a big help.
Sneak in Greens
My food choices weren’t outwardly terrible, but they weren’t great either. I realized I wasn’t eating enough during the day, sometimes straight up skipping meals. You can’t live on coffee until 4pm and then inhale your dinner, mindlessly snack all night and expect to function at a high level.
Educating myself on how the body responds to nutrients and starting to learn the science behind it was a game changer.
Kelly LeVeque of Be Well by Kelly, opened my eyes to an accessible path to getting healthy. Today, I swear by her philosophy and practical tips. My green smoothie every morning helps me start the day with a full belly and a clear mind.
Move Every Day
We all know the importance of physical exercise; that’s nothing new. Once I firmly committed to working out on a certain number of days a week, I looked and felt better.
More than that, every time I finished a workout I felt so confident and mentally strong.
You always hear experts talk about the non-physical benefits of exercise. What I never understood until recently is how completing a workout can help motivate you to go accomplish more in your day.
Once exercise became a habit I became incredibly productive.
I’m fortunate to have a lot of options when it comes to working out and a flexible enough schedule to pull it off. I prefer getting out of the house, but there are lots of days I can’t.
When that happens I turn to the Sweat app by Kayla Itsines. Her workouts are tough, but effective and take less than 30 minutes. I also follow her on Instagram, she’s amazing and super motivating.
Talk to Someone
Taking care of your mental health is just as important as your physical health. I had a lot of stuff to work through, we all do. Finding someone, in my case a therapist, who allows you to net out your feelings without allowing you to be a victim can work wonders.
Cut Back on the Booze
The biggest game changer, the thing that made the most impact on my health and happiness, was cutting down on alcohol. There wasn’t a problem, but it was getting to be too much. Social drinking adds up, age isn’t forgiving, and I was teetering too close to numbing.
Being pregnant last year taught me one big lesson: clean living pays off. Once I found out I was expecting and stopped drinking, I lost weight.
Not drinking for nine months completely changed my body, and defogged my brain. Now, I’m 11 weeks postpartum and already weigh 10 pounds less than I did before I was pregnant.
Pregnancy was like one really long detox. I’m not saying I’m cutting out my wine completely – that will never happen. I am drinking significantly less than I was before, and my clear mind, skin and leaner body are too grateful to turn back.