I think it all started with a running injury. Then I noticed my hair was falling out. Later it was the tightening of my clothes. Sprinkled in there was the increase in debilitating headaches. Before I knew it, I was ending 2016 waiting for the results of my third cancer scare within six months and overwhelmed with stress.
Thankfully, none of those cancer scares resulted in a cancer diagnosis. But as I celebrated those medical results, I realized it was a wake-up call. The universe was telling me I needed to take better care of myself. And what better time for new goals than a new year, right?
I gave up on the idea of New Year’s Resolutions a long time ago. Those grand plans and bulleted lists I once wrote down and promised myself would come to fruition throughout the new year did nothing but leave me with a sense that those resolutions had set me up for failure. The specificity left me with an all-or-nothing mentality. The lack of wiggle room I unknowingly built into those resolutions ultimately led me to abandon the resolutions altogether.
That’s why the trend of one-word resolutions appeals to me. Instead of bulleted lists of precise resolutions, I could start with one general concept to trickle down and touch upon multiple areas of my life. All I needed to do was come up with one magical word to encompass how exactly I wanted to go about taking better care of myself.
Choosing one word is no easy task. In fact, a couple years ago I chose 50 words because I couldn’t settle on one. But when a word popped into my head clear as day at the end of a yoga session, I knew that word was the perfect theme for my 2017.
That word is...
Once the word found me, I immediately started working out a plan to apply it to as many areas of my life as possible.
So why am I writing about New Year’s resolutions in March? Because I’m pretty sure I’ve never made it this far with a New Year’s resolution. But more importantly, it's because my mindset has improved, I’ve created lifelong habits and I am healthier and happier in just a few short months because of that one little word.
So how has my word affected my life? I’ll break it down into 3 main categories: body, mind and space.
Unbalanced: I’m 40 years old. I am no longer at the point in my life when I can run nearly 30 miles a week with absolutely no cross training and expect to stay uninjured. My legs were overtrained and tired from doing all the work, while the rest of my body was undertrained and weak from doing none of the work.
I also have multiple autoimmune disorders that I’ve been pushing to the periphery for years. I take my meds, but I can no longer pretend they don’t exist, that stress and poor food and drink choices don’t affect my health.
Balanced: Physical therapy for bursitis in my hip stopped producing results, so I switched to massage therapy. It was when massage started working and I resumed running that I implemented my balance plan, cutting my mileage in half and giving some love to other muscles. Thanks to my boyfriend’s old P90X DVDs, I alternate workouts and muscle groups, including yoga and kickboxing. I joined our local rec center and swim laps, sweat it up on the rowing machine and lift weights. I’m finally losing some of the weight I gained from my thyroid issues -- my first 2016 cancer scare -- and my upper body is getting stronger while I remain injury-free.
My massage therapist also suggested I rethink my office chair. I work from home. I work a lot. In a chair, in front of a computer. So I took her advice and ditched my office chair for a balance ball (see, there’s that balance word again!). It was life changing. My pain is gone, and it works my core and posture. I will never sit in an office chair again.
As far as those autoimmune disorders, well, they will always be with me. However, I have finally listened to my rheumatologist and other doctors I have to see on a regular basis. No more three cups of coffee a day. As doctors have warned me, my body doesn’t like that. I now have one cup of coffee first thing in the morning, and the other two cups have been replaced with tea. And you know what? I don’t miss that coffee one bit. In fact, I LOVE tea.
You know what else I surprisingly love? Vegetables. Because balancing my body wouldn't be complete without the inclusion of a better balanced diet.
Unbalanced: Like most people I know, stress is a constant in my life. My most reliable stress relief has always been exercise. But when I got injured, I couldn’t rely on a long run to release the pressure valve. So the stress built up, and I found myself with headaches that rendered me nonfunctional, chronic fatigue and an inability to figure out how to relieve my stress in other ways.
Balanced: My body wasn’t cooperating, so I decided to let my mind take over. That’s when I discovered the joys of meditation.
I don’t claim to be a great meditator. In fact, I can’t sit still for more than about 15 minutes at a stretch, and I need the help of guided meditations. But my meditation practice has produced so many positive results with my stress management, both throughout the day and at night when I need to turn my brain off to sleep. I even set the alarm on my phone for various times throughout the day to remind myself to take a deep breath. Now, using breathing techniques, mantras and mindfulness, I have tools to not only relieve existing stress, but also to work toward stopping the stress where it starts to prevent snowballing.
My mind also needed something I had stopped making time for: books. I’m an avid reader, and for me, reading for fun is a mental break. So now, instead of spending too much time scrolling through Facebook, I use free time to read a book. Many afternoons when my work day is done, you can find me on my couch with calm music, a cup of tea and the latest on my Goodreads "Want To Read" shelf.
Unbalanced: Every area of my house I moved into last August was allocated for something or someone. Sure I had an entire room I could call my home office, but I never felt as if I had made it my own. I used it for work and storage. It screamed stress and clutter.
Balanced: As Thich Nhat Hanh wrote, “The key to creating a home meditation practice is to create a space where the busyness stops.”
So I created a space.
I moved all the furniture in my home office to create my Meditation Station. In one corner of the room sits my “Thinking Chair,” and next to my meditation cushion stands a little table with candles, stones and a chime. It’s not a big space, but it's filled with positive energy. Although I can still see my work area, no stress or to-do lists are allowed in that corner. It's where the busyness stops.
I have a long way to go before I feel the balance I’m hoping to ultimately achieve, but I’m thankful for the strides I’ve made so far and I’m confident I’ve laid down some pretty strong stepping stones to continue on my path toward a healthier, more balanced lifestyle.