Break Down to Break Through: How to Unbusy Your Life
Have you ever experienced a wake-up call? Maybe the wake-up call involved your relationships, or perhaps the direction you were heading in your career, or maybe you became ill and it really shook you up. Over a year and a half ago I found myself dealing with my own wake-up call. At that time, I had considered myself fairly healthy, I ate a lot of veggies and very little meat. I exercised regularly and I even occasionally juiced or drank smoothie. I had a full time job while I was teaching 8 to 10 yoga classes per week running my own studio. I had a background in reflexology, Reiki, and intuitive bodywork. I thought of myself as someone who knew about wellness and health. However, I was also one of those people who had been taught that I could never do enough…ever! I thought that every single moment needed to be filled with something. I was busy!
I Could Not Say No
I found myself working longer hours than everyone else. I rarely said no to many work or volunteer requests that came my way. I would teach late night yoga classes, and I developed workshops while I tried to expand business at my yoga studio. I even lead community projects like organizing a donation box for our local women’s shelter through my yoga studio, running a mitten drive for our local food bank, and offering free karma yoga in the park! I was overworked, under-rested, hungry and tired. I would skid through the busyness of my days and when I would finally get home at the end of each day, I began to reach for a glass of wine (or two) to numb out. Too tired to cook a proper meal, I would make those quick fix meals from the freezer, or order takeout from restaurants. And weekends were not much different as they became an excuse to let my hair down and party, after all, I had worked hard long hours throughout the week. I was trying to justify it with the excuse that this is the norm, this was okay, this is just what we do.
The Price I Paid
Inevitably, every habit choice has its price. Eventually, my body began acting out with many different symptoms. First, there was swelling and pain in the joints for which the doctor wanted to send me for testing to the arthritis clinic, yet instinctively I knew it wasn’t arthritis. Next came the scare of swollen lymphs in my right underarm, and the development of a small lump in the breast tissue. This lead to a mammogram and a number of ultrasound check-ups over a period of several months. All bringing me to an overall feeling that I was headed down a terribly scary road…
A Little Voice Became a Scream
I began to hear a little voice inside telling me that I had to change things, that I couldn’t keep going this way, and that I deeply needed a rest. But how? I had so many commitments, maybe if just pushed through, maybe if I worked a little harder! I continued to ignore my real need for deeper nourishment. And soon that little voice started to become more like a scream. I was certain that I was on the edge of a complete and total break-down. Mentally I was in overload, I was cranky at the end of each day and I begrudged having to get up each morning, let alone go off to work at my day job at a local financial institution, where part of my duties each day were to be kind, supportive and understanding, while using my skills to diffuse people's frustrations, agitations and fears around their money issues. And I was held to a high standard. I couldn’t make any errors to the many varied transactions required of me each day, challenging to say the least. To top it all off, my workplace had been robbed several months earlier, my co-workers were traumatized, leaving us short-staffed. So those of us who stayed on didn’t even have the time to process it all. I worked 5 days per week without lunch breaks for many months while still running my yoga studio! What a mess! My stress levels were high and I kept holding up the facade that everything was okay was just too much… I decided the cost to my health wasn’t worth all the overload. I finally gave in and chose instead to honor and listen to my inner voice.
My Body Was Crying For Attention
I realized that all my health issues were my body’s way of giving me a wake-up call. And I decided I wasn’t having any part of it anymore. Nope! I was not going to have my body create a disease, or an illness or a breakdown as a design plan for getting out of my overly busy life! I was not going to eat & drink myself into an early grave, I was not willing to risk a heart attack like my grandmother had experienced in her early fifties, and I am not feeding cancer cells like both my parents had, nor diabetes, or arthritis or any of it! Not in this lifetime! I Quit my Job. I knew I had to make some serious life changes…I began to step out from it all. I made arrangements to leave my full-time job, slowly cutting my hours down until they could replace me, I scaled down the number of extra hours I was teaching at my yoga studio, I backed out of some of the volunteer positions that I wasn’t enjoying as much anymore… I stopped reaching for that glass of wine to cope and started reaching out to find healthier ways to move forward and leave stress behind.
The Teacher Appears
Remember that saying, when the student is ready, the teacher appears? Well, I believe it’s true. When we listen to that inner voice and begin to follow those messages, we are lead to situations, people, places and things that help us along in our journey. I began to listen more deeply and feel in to which direction I wanted to head in next, I had the distinct feeling that I needed to somehow go deeper into my yoga and wellness career. Perhaps I needed a mentor or a program with like-minded people who understood my passion for wellness and health or to find a tribe who could nurture and support me in the direction that my soul was calling out for. I considered taking an advanced yoga teacher training but nothing seemed to be the right fit. Then by chance, I began to notice a few posts on Facebook by Cate Stillman of Yogahealer. I felt drawn to watch some of Cate’s videos and became more curious about what she was talking about. I liked what she was sharing about optimizing your health and shifting your identity towards thriving. I wanted to know more. So I followed the thread and found Cate’s program, Body Thrive. Instinctively I knew this was the program for me and I signed up! Through the Body Thrive program, I learned how to incorporate daily healthy habits into my own life in ways that helped simplify the structure of my day and give it a routine that actually creates more space for me each day. I also found a wonderful mentor in Cate Stillman, whose knowledge is vast and whose vision is in line with my goals as a wellness practitioner. I also found a supportive and nurturing group, a tribe of people who understand my passion for yoga and wellness, and my personal evolution. Because I listened to my inner voice and began to follow the steps that I was guided to take, I removed the stress from my life. I now take time to honor my body, eat healthy, sleep more, and nurture myself with the habits of Body Thrive. As a result, I no longer suffer any symptoms of swelling in the joints, and the lumps in my breast and underarm have disappeared and are no longer of concern. I knew it was stress acting out in my body, trying to get my attention. Now, I awaken each day feeling refreshed and happy about life. I have an ease of living throughout my day and I feel more like myself again. I am now working for myself full-time. Both my yoga business and Yoga Health Coaching business are growing organically from a place of ease rather than from me trying to push or force things. And, I have begun to slowly un-schedule more of the unnecessary things from my day-to-day life.
Pause and Check In
Before I choose to add anything new to my daily schedule or say yes to any request for my time, I pause to feel in and determine whether or not it belongs on my calendar. I check to see if it is inline with my goals and intentions. If it is not a good fit, I have learned to say a polite “no thanks” and move on. I also now make it a priority to schedule-in playtime and me-time to simply be still and fill up! And to listen to that inner wisdom and guidance. I am truly surprised by the changes that have occurred to me in the last year. My outlook on life is improved, my body’s health is vibrant and my business is growing at a steady rate. I can’t wait to see how I will evolve over the next year, or two, or three and beyond.…And, of course, I am leaving lots of room in my schedule for that!
How to Listen to That Little Voice
When that little voice inside starts trying to get your attention to tell you that you are overscheduled, stressed and out of alignment with your own integrity, stop and listen.
Here are a few suggestions to help you get started:
- Begin by taking a rest! Even when you are incredibly busy, you can still find a few minutes to pause. Try taking a nice long bath with some epsom salts, maybe drop in a few flower petals. Make it special… If baths are not your thing, then find a comfy chair to sit in or lay on your bed and try some slow breathing gently counting your breaths in out. Light a candle or set out some flowers to help create a relaxed mood. Give yourself 20 minutes or more to focus on relaxing the muscles of your body from head to toe. Let go of any thoughts that keep you from relaxing. If you find yourself going into worry or guilt, tell yourself that you are only taking 20 minutes, and that you can worry or stress if you must later! But for now you are resting and nurturing your body and your mind. Keep coming back to your breath, relax and let go.
- In this relaxed state ask yourself what changes you’d like to make in your life. Be honest with yourself and really listen to that inner voice. Jot down any messages that come to you in a private journal or notebook. Keep these thoughts safe if you need to. Sometimes, it can be better to keep new steps you are taking safe and sacred, only sharing with those who we know will support our growth.
- If nothing comes at first, that is okay, you can try again later. You may need to practice this a few times. Set up another rest and relaxation appointment with yourself for the next day and keep trying. Eventually something will come, sometimes it just takes some practice listening in.
- Next, take some time to grab a calendar or print a few blank calendar pages that you can write in. Grab some colored markers or pens. Give yourself about 15 minutes for this. Write everything you currently do each week/month down on the calendar in one color. Be sure to get it all. For example; write down when you exercise, your work schedule, and meetings or volunteer events. Include driving kids to sports or making pies for the PTA or teaching yoga in the evening. Get it all down.
- From here take a moment to look over your calendar, grab a different colored marker and begin to draw a line through the tasks or events that you really don’t enjoy anymore or that bring you stress. Some of these may or may not be things that you can take off your list right away, that’s okay. Remember this is only a first draft. Next, circle the tasks or events that you could possibly let go of. And make some small changes where you can by eliminating those tasks that you have circled.
It’s okay to take your time with this process. For some, changing the calendar may take longer. Be patient with yourself, make small changes that you can stick to and make more changes when you can. Make sure you add some free time to your calendar a few times each week and don’t fill those free-time moments with appointments, use them to relax or play, or dance, or read or sit out in nature under a tree. Guard them with as much conviction as you do your work schedule or your doctor appointments, or anything else that is important to you. Your time must begin to become valuable. Keep listening to that inner voice and keep fine-tuning your work/play/life balance and eventually, you will get there. Be patient, loving and kind, you got this!