Mindfulness Mondays 3/16: To Love is to be Vulnerable (at least a little bit)

I’m going to share with you a bit of my day and the raw emotions that were part of it. It’s not entirely full of roses, but it’s human, so it’s real.

Today was harder than usual.

It wasn’t the kind of hard that is prominent and right in your face. It wasn’t loud, and it wasn’t somber. It was a class of it’s own. I didn’t realize how hard it actually was until my boyfriend came home.

All day I had been doing whatever I could to check in with my emotions and try to remediate them…yoga, healthy snacks, an afternoon walk, and even trying to get my work on my to-do list done. (Yes I know that may not sound so joyous to some) I’m going to tell you the truth here. Today was the first day in a while where it felt like I really needed to lean on someone, particularly him.

Today was the official start of my “spring break” and to a graduate student I suppose that doesn’t mean what it would to a stereotypical undergraduate. How did I spend today? Sucked into the couch heavily searching the internet for summer jobs and internships. I only awoke from the trance after three hours of searching to realize I hadn’t drank water or stood up! This was a trigger for me because I not only allowed myself to partake in mindless activity, but I didn’t have anything fruitful to show for all of my work- as in I really didn’t come out with many leads. I was disappointed and by that point hadn’t realized my burnout.

By the time my boyfriend got home and I began laying out what had happened today, I was spiraling. My emotions came to a head, and I began to weep in the comfort of his arms. It was if it was “Okay” to be exposed. He listened and let me have my moment, and proceeded to comfort me afterward. Then he sprung on me the option of spontaneity! He suggested we go out to eat and have it feel like a regular vacation, rather than a work overload day. We went out to eat and I ate things I normally would not, mostly of the fried kind.

I bet you’re like “How is this mindful at all?” You see, I waited to write today because I knew I wasn’t quite myself. All day I was trying so hard to be “My Best Self” and be as productive as possible. Again though, I was running from my true desires and feelings. I really just wanted to give myself a break but since I knew I would be traveling with friends to Niagara Falls later this week (YAY!) I tried to work and get ahead of the game. I’m not advocating here for breaking your rules or motifs, or “letting go” of your goals. I’m not giving reason to be a slacker and give up on any future initiative to work hard. I’m simply living in the moment with how I’m feeling, and allowing myself to be, with mistakes or “mistakes” and all.

Living mindfully does not mean living perfectly. That’s a constant struggle I have within myself. I tell myself that since I have the conscience to recognize my thoughts and choose how I want to react, that I have to always make the best choice. But that’s not true! Being mindful is simply just being able to allow yourself to recognize and then acknowledge your thoughts at all, and furthermore being active in choosing how to respond to those thoughts. Tonight I engaged in indulgence. Earlier today I engaged in yoga. It’s all in moderation and knowing yourself well enough on how to moderate (or be vulnerable enough to explore in moderation) is key.

Today during yoga, I cried. I didn’t know why I cried and it scared me. I knew at that moment there were some deeper things I needed to check in with, and that furthermore scared me since I’d been able to get through my work and responsibilities without as much emotional effort for the last few weeks. But I tried to run from what I was afraid of. I knew all day I just needed a hug and someone to let me feel safe in my emotions, someone that would let me cry or be whatever I wanted to be at that moment. All day I had been trying to maintain the strong version of myself just to simply show myself  I could do it… but then I unraveled. This is why I like mindfulness- because I have this space to reflect on my progress over time and my learning moments! And so my takeaway here is that I allowed myself to be vulnerable to someone I love deeply, and who I know loves me back just the same. I felt safe enough to unravel to my partner who also is my best friend. I allowed myself to not “be perfect”, but “be human”- I allowed myself to be vulnerable and accept the compassion and healing of someone else.

I think now about how fortunate I am to have him in my life. I think about those that suffer with mental health issues that don’t feel like they have anyone to share their feelings with or being truly vulnerable. I am extremely lucky to have many people in my life whom I feel safe to be open with and share my vulnerabilities, and I only hope that people feel the same towards me.  I’m going to challenge myself to check-in more with my emotions this week, and also allow myself to really say what I’m feeling in the moment (this means pushing myself to not shy away from asking people what I need from them). I want to challenge you to do the same, and also take time out to remind yourself who you’re thankful for. Let’s all be mindful and acknowledge who is there for us when we really need them to be (even when we think we don’t need anyone).

Happy Monday y’all!

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Mindfulness Check-In 2/23: Some Remedies for a case of the Work Mondays

Courtesy of mindful.org

I don’t want to talk at you, but just provide some tips for how to not just start The Monday, but also to progress through The Monday. I know for me on this Monday, though I woke up in an exceptionally pleasant mood, I was hurting from my workload yesterday. I spent almost the entire day (besides taking breaks to cook or prepare food) reading on the computer and then drawing a map for a class project by hand- I’m very proud of it. Though I kept taking breaks and reminding myself to stretch and sit mindfully, my neck and shoulders are still sore from hunching and being stuck in certain positions when I was drawing. So today, knowing it’s the official start of the work week for many I thought I would pass along this neat infographic I found on mindful.org– definitely read the post!

Often times when we enter the workplace, we’re all coming from our own whirlwind of adventures/stresses/tasks from the weekend. It’s like a crock pot that you fill with everything in your fridge, but only it’s people’s lives and emotions that putting in a place to all work “together”. It can be a bit messy or create some tensions that may start to toll on you or others throughout the day. This infographic is a nice way to think about trying a different approach when you find yourself or another coworker at work struggling. We’re all under our own pressures, so why not do your part in practicing self-care and mindfulness at work? You may even reach out to another coworker and help them shed some positivity on their day and workload too! The ending of the article references a quote that tells of how the mind manages emotions based on what the person chooses to focus on, and how they focus on it:

Think of the mind’s eye as a flashlight. This flashlight can always search for something positive or negative. The secret is being able to control that flashlight—to look for the opportunity and the positive. When you do that, you’re playing to win. You’re able to focus on the right things and maintain that positive self.

And keep in mind that a leader not only has to focus her mind’s eye, but help others focus their minds’ eyes as well.

What are you going to use your flashlight for? What are some things you do throughout the day or work week to stay focused, mindful, or positive?

Lastly, here’s a great 6 minute video from Adriene to do yoga at your desk- a short but energizing break!

Mindfulness Check-In 1/13/15

Today has been my third day at completing some sort of yoga sequence in the morning. I’ve decided I really enjoy doing yoga in the morning because it’s not full on “exercise” that involves lots of vigorous movement, but still lengthens my muscles enough that I feel ready to move through the day and gets my mind and breath in tune. On Sunday I began Neila Rey’s ‘90 Days of Action‘ exercise routine, as a way to slowly work up my body’s tolerance for more vigorous exercise and still allowing me to check in with how it feels. Her workouts are short but tough and so just after 2 days, it was extremely hard to get out of bed today. To be clear as we move forward in my posts, I want to put it out there that I’ve been living with fibromyalgia for some time now. Though it can be extremely difficult at times to live with, especially when trying to pursue health and fitness goals, I’ve been working on feeling kindness towards my fibromyalgia. 2014 was the year where I used many ‘issues’ in my life to be reasons to fuel my negative emotions, and basically justify the emotions and the often unhealthy behaviors that came with them. After some reading and talking with others in a support group for mindful awareness, I decided that I was not going to let my fibromyalgia or any other health issues stand in the way of me being the best person I could be.

I remember one day whilst showering, I just broke down. My body was in so much pain, my head was just so foggy. My mind was racing and I was feeling so bad for myself. I thought, “How am I supposed to live a healthy life if my fibromyalgia prevents so much?” But in this moment when water was rushing over my body, I breathed deep. I noticed the water and the steam, and just took it all in. I realized that I have a long life to live and that I don’t have to face my ‘issues’ alone. I didn’t have to feel sorry for myself and treat my fibromyalgia as my enemy. I needed to accept it as a part of me, not something that was working against me, but just something that makes me who I am.  It doesn’t define me, it’s just one of the many pieces that make up who I am! This first step was really what motivated me to change how I approached my fitness and health for 2015, and how I wanted to approach it all through mindfulness and meditation practice. Instead of feeling jealousy or resentment towards others and their ability to just work out and eat clean without the feelings that I felt because of my fibro, I needed to just accept it as a part of me and work with it. I needed to believe that I can get healthy and fit, both in body and mind, but I just need to work with what I’ve got and make appropriate decisions based on that acceptance.

This is what brings me to my yoga and mindfulness practices in 2015, and this special place on my blog that will give a more personal side of me. I’m still learning everyday within my practice, and just hope to pass on bits of advice and things that worked (or haven’t) for me. It’s gonna get real, sometimes raw, but will always come from a place of kindness and forgiveness. The other day at the end of my yoga sequence during savasana, I cried. Just listening to Adriene reminding me of gratitude and to be thankful for the Earth underneath my body, allowing me to rest, just really was a “grounding” experience. I felt so compassionate and appreciate that I had that time to just rest, and be with my thoughts- whatever they were. I felt proud that I allowed myself to be so vulnerable, and give myself time to practice despite however my body or emotions were feeling. Today, when I awoke, I felt how I haven’t felt in a few weeks- that tired, sluggish, swollen-all-over feeling that just makes you want to get back into bed and say “Do-Over!”. But I slowly got out of bed, made myself smile to the day with cheer, and got on my carpet with Adriene. I’m not going to lie, some of the movements were really painful, but I also felt extremely empowered during that time because I had control over my body and how I wanted it to feel. I appreciated that I worked through my pain through compassionate mindfulness, by noticing how my body felt and not judging it but just noticing and making adjustments through my yoga and breathing. I left feeling more awake, flexible, and honestly my legs did not feel as sore as they did 20 minutes prior. I was thankful that I got up and would have today to make it what I wanted. ‘Til next post!