I find that lately I’m losing my grip on any kind of self-discipline. I’m eating more, exercising less, and fluctuating between intense spurts of hard work and periods where I just stare at my computer. It’s probably just the busy holiday season, right?
The most balanced person feels out of whack during the holidays, and understandably so. You are adding hours of to-do’s to your already jam-packed life. There is no downtime on the weekend during which to recover from a long work week because you’re at one holiday function or another, in between decking the halls, wrapping the presents, and calculating the last possible second you can get to the post office in order to ship gifts to the cousins in Boise.
It’s also colder and darker during this time of year, so we tend to slip into “comfort food” mode, bag the gym bag and contemplate the wise bear that has the intelligence to simply find a cave and hibernate.
And we’ve got more on our minds this year. We’re watching the gift budget more closely. We’re concerned about keeping our jobs or finding new ones due to layoffs. We’re tired of the scary financial news.
While all of the above is true, what we’re really talking about is being drained. We all lose our grip on self-discipline when we’re in a depleted state because we’re out of balance and therefore more susceptible to the condition.
Oprah really came down on herself this week for gaining weight, and wondering how she let it happen. Well, let’s think about her life for a second. When you consider all of the people and projects that drain her daily, she has to fill herself back up somehow. In a perfect world, she would fill herself up with consistent exercise, good conversation and thoughtful meditation. In the real world, she fills herself up with food.
He drinks. She smokes. He gambles. She dramatizes. When we human beings are drained, we fill ourselves up with whatever is handy. When I am feeling healthy and strong, I grab a bowl of sugar snap peas for some crunch. When I am tired, I grab a bag of potato chips.
While there are times when you will inevitably feel depleted by work, people and life in general, there are ways to combat a constant state of drained being:
D is for Don’t Circle the Drain. Break out your calendar and take a look at your schedule. Is there any white space to be found? If not, why not? Many people habitually over-commit themselves because the only way they know how to “be” is to “do.” By keeping yourself on the go constantly, however, you never have time to replenish your energy, body or spirit.
You essentially “circle the drain” daily because you have overscheduled yourself to the point where there’s no recovery time. Those periods at work when you’re zoning out at your computer? That’s “drain time,” my friend.
R is for Review Your Priorities. What is it that matters to you most? If you’re concerned about losing your job and want to ramp up your work performance, then you’ll have to get some rest when you’re not at the office. This may mean skipping a few holiday get-togethers or choosing not to travel this month. If being your kids’ mom is your top priority, don’t take on yet another volunteer commitment; string popcorn with the little ones instead.
Line up your actions with your intentions. If Oprah’s intention is to be balanced and well, she’ll have to delegate more or take on less. If your intention is to be balanced and well, you’ll have to do the same.
A is for Active Recovery. After I lift (what I perceive to be) very heavy weights with my trainer, Beth, I would like to put the weights down and then lay down on the floor. While I can put the weights down in between sets, I don’t get to lie down. She uses this time to show me less intense exercises which she calls “active recovery” and I call “overkill.” She does this to keep the momentum of our workout going and to get maximum results from the hour we have allotted to the task of keeping me strong and well.
This concept works in life, too. You can dial back the intensity of your to-do’s by incorporating some rest and recovery. Need two carts’ worth at the grocery store for the holiday dinner? Grab a latte first and sip as you stroll. Have to write out way too many holiday cards? Your best friend has to do the same. Get together, throw a hunk of cheese on a plate, open a bottle of wine and have at it. Have to get your files in order or clear out your email folders? Close your office door, get some free Internet radio tunes going and knock it out.
I is for Me, Myself & I. Taking care of you is your job. No one else is going to sub for you on this one. We pay lip-service to the concept of “self-care,” but in reality few people commit to the practice. Perhaps we think taking time for self-care is selfish, and something for which we’ll eventually have to apologize. Maybe we fear being judged by others or that everything will fall apart if we’re not at the helm for 10 minutes. Or, as is the case with many, we just think we’ll get to self-care after we check off everything else on the list.
The formula is simple. To avoid feeling drained all the time, take better care of yourself. There should be some element of self-care every day of your life, so commit to one right now…not “later when you get around to it.”
N is for NO is a complete sentence. A colleague of mine once told me that when she was in her 20s and 30s, she would immediately say “yes” to anyone in her life that would ask her to do something or go somewhere, while simultaneously thinking up an excuse to get out of it later.
If you’re a Yes Man, and the idea of saying no gives you an upset stomach, try this: “I’m not sure; let me check my schedule and get back to you.” If the asker is particularly relentless and demands an answer on the spot, my Aunt Pat says the response is easy: “If you need an answer right now, then it would have to be no.”
By saying yes to everyone and everything, you eventually say no to balance, wellness and ultimate work and life success.