exercise

Lies. Truth. Gratefulness. This Exercise Can Help You Put Anxiety in Its Place

“Mom, I got in a car wreck.”

No one ever wants to get those phone calls or text messages.

My college-aged son was in a wreck last week, and his car was totaled. Thankfully he was not injured. He was rear-ended, but the car is older, and the repairs are going to exceed the worth of the car. The other driver was insured, so he gets money to buy a replacement car, and the other driver’s insurance has supplied him with a rental car. So between work and starting school next week, he is tasked with looking for and buying a car for the first time in his life, and he lives almost 1,000 miles from us. My first instinct is to fly or drive down there to help him – I’m great at research and negotiating. But I also want him empower him to do this on his own. It is stressful, both for us as parents and for him as the one looking for a car. His anxiety is ramping up with each obstacle – the ‘perfect car’ that was already sold when he called to schedule a test drive, issues with getting the check from the insurance money, issues with the bank, and trying to search for a car that is comparable to what he had within his limited price range.

He tends to be an all or nothing type of guy – it’s the best day ever, or the worst day ever. (I have NO IDEA where he learned that. I blame his father.)

Last week I was thinking about all of the exciting changes that have happened over the past year, and of all of the wonderful opportunities ahead of me. I am trying to practice starting my day with mindfulness and focus, but there were just too many thoughts swirling in my head. As the anxiety mounted, I wondered, “What in the heck is wrong with me? Each of these things I’m thinking about are GOOD things: new beginnings, open doors, a chance to start over, amazing opportunities to grow and change. WHY are they causing me such great anxiety?

We are almost a two weeks into the New Year. Maybe you’re the kind of person who sets a list of ten New Year’s resolutions, checks your progress each month, and at the end of the year checks off all that you have accomplished. New Year, New Me, and you mean it. Each year you set goals and at the end of the year you feel a great sense of accomplishment at your success and growth.

Good for you. *Cue slow clap.

I am more along the lines of New Year, Same Me. I used to be big on resolutions, but I have downgraded to just choosing one word for the year as a theme.This year I haven’t even thought of a word.

This past year has been full of new beginnings and great change. Our three adult sons are all living on their own, and one has moved to India. We moved from the Pacific Northwest, where I was born and raised, to Louisville, Kentucky for my husband’s job. My husband went from being a state employee to running a nonprofit. I quit my job as a hospice nurse when we moved, and after a short stint as a night shift nurse (I quickly found out I’m no longer cut out for night shift), I am currently unemployed, by choice. And I am finding that sometimes a blank slate is disconcerting. So after about a week of this anxiety slowing building and finally causing a slight freak out and melt down, I did something I should have done from the beginning.

I spent the morning journaling and praying. Why is it that in the midst of anxiety and chaos, we often forget to start at the basics? If you’re a praying person, why do we wait before we consult with the God of the universe? It seems like a no-brainer, but we just trudge along, on our own, and wonder why we feel so disconnected. 

Until we remember to connect. 

Writing in a journal has always helped me to process, I just need to commit to sitting down and doing it. 

There is truly something magical about writing down your thoughts and seeing them in black and white, on paper. 

I was so perplexed that how all of these things that should be causing me joy and peace could actually be causing me so much anxiety. So I wrote down each thing that was distressing me: not having to work, exercising and getting healthy, setting boundaries, my friend making healthy choices in different areas of her life, opportunities to travel, change in finances with my husband’s new job, writing, our new home, my husband’s new job, etc. You get the idea.

Then I did an exercise that totally changed my perspective.

Lies. Truth. Gratefulness.

After I wrote down each situation, one by one, I wrote this:

The lie I believe is:  A lie often includes words like Always, Never, Everyone. “This always happens to me.” “I will never get this solved.” “Everyone always treats me like this.”

The truth is: The truth is the REALITY of the situation. Step outside of your situation and try to be objective.

I am grateful because: In every situation, there is SOMETHING to be grateful for.

If you are too overwhelmed and can’t discern the lies and truth of the situation, ask a friend to help. Sometimes someone else’s perspective will see thing that we can’t because we’re so close.

Here is how the exercise works, I’ll share some examples, straight from my journal, my heart to yours:

ANXIETY ABOUT NOT WORKING
LIE: My worth/value are in my job as a nurse. If I’m not contributing to income, I am worth less than my spouse.
TRUTH: My value is in who I am, not what I do as a job. I am complete in Christ. 
GRATEFULNESS: I am grateful for a partner who is supportive of my not working at this time. 

GETTING HEALTHY
LIE: I can’t do it. I’ve tried and failed over and over. I will never succeed. I will always be lazy. 
TRUTH: I have been lazy but I can make different choices. Never before have I had the time and resources to focus solely on getting healthy. 
GRATEFULNESS: I am grateful for a supportive and understanding spouse who does not shame me. 

SETTING BOUNDARIES
LIE: When I set boundaries, I am mean. I shouldn’t rock the boat. I should try to keep the peace, and if I have upset it, I should try to fix it even if it means not keeping the boundaries I set. 
TRUTH: It is not wrong to set healthy boundaries. I am not mean to set boundaries. Setting boundaries is a loving thing to do for myself and for others. To have healthy relationships, one must have healthy boundaries. Unhealthy people are made uncomfortable by healthy boundaries, but that is their issue. 
GRATEFULNESS: I am grateful for a partner who understands and supports me, and for friends and family members who are working at being healthy in their relationships.

MY FRIEND’S HEALTHY CHOICES: 
LIE: My friend’s growth threatens our relationship. If she grows then she will judge where I am at and no longer accept me. 
TRUTH: I am happy for my friend’s growth and healing. Becoming physically, emotionally, and spiritual healthy is a good thing. My friend loves me and won’t judge me. As my friend becomes more healthy, it will also serve to make our friendship more healthy. 
GRATEFULNESS: I love my friend and am grateful to have someone with whom I can share my heart, who inspires me by her brave spirit and willingness to do the hard work of change and growth. 

Here is how this exercise might look for my son as he is stressed about having to buy a car:

BUYING A CAR
LIE: I’ll never find a car. There are no options. I can’t do this on my own. This is the most horrible thing that has happened.
TRUTH:It sucks that I don’t have access to the money right this second,  but I will have the money available Monday so I can buy a car. I can look at cars now and explain my situation. If I find a car, I can ask if they will hold it until the insurance check goes through.
GRATEFULNESS: I am grateful that I have had a car to drive the past couple of years. I am thankful that I was not injured. I am grateful that the accident was not my fault and that I will have money to get a replacement. I am grateful that I am learning survival tools that will help me later in life.

I hope you found this helpful. If you decide to try this exercise, I would love to hear from you! Please send me your examples by using the form below, or email me at kkmeador@gmail.com with the subject line LIES TRUTH GRATEFULNESS

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THIS Can Stop Your Dream in Its Tracks

“Look for the signs that your life is out of balance. This can stop your dream in its tracks.”

Yesterday I had an “I hate everything” day. If you’re honest, you might admit that you have those days, too.

Feeling like that can be a signpost. It’s normal to feel down or discouraged once in a while. But these days can also mean that something is stopping us from living a meaningful story. It is sometimes a sign that life is out of balance, and that can stop our dream in its tracks. Especially if finding your dream and living a better story involves loving other people (and isn’t that the core of the best stories?). It’s hard to love others when we are not loving and caring for ourselves.

Life out of balance can look different for everyone, but here is what is looks like for me. I often see the negative results before I even realize that things have gotten out of balance.

  • I feel down
  • I sleep a lot
  • I swear in traffic
  • I have a short fuse and little patience
  • I feel that ‘something is not right’ in the pit of my stomach (could be anxiety, melancholy, guilt, loneliness)
  • I am not eating healthy, and I don’t care
  • I isolate myself from the world
  • I blame others
  • I eat a bunch of  crap (mostly sugar)
  • I snap at those closest to me

The signs that life is out of balance are different for everyone.

And not it’s time to take out that journal again.

Write down five signs that your observe when your life is out of balance.

The best thing I can do when I see these signs is STOP and PAY ATTENTION.

And then start with what I know. Am I practicing the habits that I know are healthy and beneficial and  bring balance to my life? Those habits can be different for everyone, but many are common to all. Here is my checklist:

  • Am I sleeping at least 7 hours each night?
  • Am I eating healthy foods, or am I eating a lot of sugar and carbs?
  • Am I exercising? Am I even getting out of the house?
  • Am I talking about my feelings, or am I ignoring them?
  • Am I practicing mindful breathing when I feel anxious?
  • If I am lonely, am I withdrawing or am I making a conscious effort to connect with my loved ones?
  • Is there something I feel I should be doing that I am avoiding?
  • Am I practicing self-care?
  • Am I spending time sharing my heart with my tribe, the people who ‘get’ me? (for me, this is one of the most crucial pieces)
  • And most importantly for me, am I journaling and/or spending time in prayer and meditation? Am I connecting with God or avoiding him?

Most of the time, just being aware can set our path straight again. Often looking at those healthy habits and being reminded that they are vital to living a meaningful life and moving toward any dream helps us get things in balance again.

However, sometimes we can do all those things and still feel out of balance. Or we are in such a dark place that we cannot do all of those things. In my life, that is a sign of greater imbalance – depression, chemical imbalance, physical imbalance such as an autoimmune flare or an illness. If that is the case, that is an important signpost on the road to a meaningful life that we might need some extra help to get things back on track. That may be a signal that we need to seek professional help from a doctor or a counselor. 

What are the signs that tell  you that your life is out of balance? What healthy habits are on your checklist?

Adventures In Yoga and Healthy Habits

Today’s adventure into the awkward and uncomfortable is yoga with my neighbor. My neighbor, sweet Anne. She invited me yesterday to one hour of chair yoga and one hour of mild yoga. Which is good, because I’m a beginner. Unlike my son Jordan, who can twist himself into a pretzel, I’ve never been flexible. (Yes, I know the cigarette is unhealthy, but LOOK AT THAT POSE).

jordan habits

I’m the girl who could NEVER do a backbend or the splits. Hours and hours of practice as a child only brought numerous bruises on my head from the basement floor, and shunning from my gymnast peers. My greatest athletic accomplishment as a child was the routine I did during a summer fitness class, skipping to “Up, up, and away in my beautiful, my beautiful balloooooon!” while frantically waving ribbons tied to the ends of long sticks. I guess maybe the awkward and uncomfortable aren’t so new to me after all.

Exercise was never that important to me when I was younger. I was thin and hyper and had a fast metabolism, and I ate like a horse but never gained weight. Until I was about 20. My metabolism stopped in its tracks and I grew out of the ultra-hyperness, and all I was left with were horrible eating habits and a now sedentary lifestyle.

So here I am – after years of gaining and losing more pounds than I can count – at age 51, over 100 pounds overweight, and still with poor eating habits. But once again, I’m starting over. The difference this time is that I have a leader who has been through the trenches (she’s lost 200lbs and is still losing) and a group of women to walk the path with. We’re learning together about meal prep and nutrition and activity.  I’m learning and enjoying and actually working out for the first time in my life. Not just walking or circuit fitness, but a variety of exercise and activites. Normally I would give up because, well, I didn’t want to work that hard. But keeping up with my fitness sisters – it keeps me going. Last night we did flights of stairs – FLIGHTS – then lunged up the stairs, then did push ups on each stair. This does not include the other arm and ab work that we did. I couldn’t keep up and I had to be careful not to reinjure my knee, but I did more than I’ve ever done before. My arms and legs are still noodles. I could barely lift my arms to wash my hair this morning. But it’s a good sore.

And my eating habits are changing. I didn’t notice how horrible my eating was until I started to change. I am an emotional eater. Baked good are my comfort food. But I’m establishing better eating habits – setting goals, planning ahead, implementing meal prep, trying new recipes, eating more fruits and vegetables. All of the things that I KNOW to do but have not consistently practiced. I am not a fan of green food, except pickles and M&Ms, but I am learning. And so far I have only gagged on the vegetables once. (But if I find peas in ANYTHING, it’s a deal breaker.)

So today I’m off to yoga with Anne. Two hours of yoga with strangers. I’m sure the stretching will be very good for me. And I’ve been wanting to try yoga for a while. I already know the importance of breathing for stress reduction.

Now I just need to figure out how to not talk for TWO HOURS. For me, this may be the biggest stretch of all.

Hope For the Hopelessly Undisciplined: We Are Seasonal People

I sat across from my counselor and I took a deep breath. My throat tightened, like a hand was reaching around my windpipe and slowly squeezing.

“I don’t know how to do life.”

“I can see where I am, and in my mind’s eye, I can see where I want to be, but I have no idea who to get there. It seems like I try and I try and nothing ever changes. I never change. I’m so tired of trying. I can’t do it any more.”

He stared at me for a while. (He is one of those people to whom discipline comes more easily. I am pretty sure at this point I am beyond hope, especially from someone who doesn’t seem to struggle with daily disciplines.)

Counselor: Do you really think that you have never changed? Are you the same person you were in your 20’s?

Me: (I turned 50 this year.) Oh, heck, no! Thank God I’m not the person I was in my 20’s! I learn a little with each cycle, but it just seems like I’m struggling with the same things over and over and over again.

Counselor: What is it you think you need to do?

Me: (sigh) Stop eating sugar. Eat healthy. Exercise. Drink water. Be organized. Manage my time.  The list is endless. I’ve been like this as long as I can remember, even as a little girl. I make lists, I make plans, I start out great – for a while. Then I slowly lose steam, and finally everything comes crashing down around me, only to remind me that I’ve failed at life once again. (and now my throat has a lump the size of a tennis ball and the tears are stinging my eyes).

photo credit: Kristin Meador

photo credit: Kristin Meador

It doesn’t help that I am married to a man who is the perfect example of discipline. He exercises and has his morning quiet time regularly – he rarely misses a day of either. He is the kind of person who exercises when they are sick. What is wrong with this guy? He exercises faithfully every day, while I will make a check list for myself with exercise and weight loss goals, and give myself gold stars when I make the smallest step towards those goals. He picks up his socks and puts his clothes away, while mine find themselves in piles at the end of the bed, and I am smelling them to see if I can wear them for one more day.

What kind of life is this? And why can’t I be more disciplined? I try, I really do. And I do well for days, weeks, sometimes even months. But then I get sidetracked, or bored, or something more shiny comes along . . .

Counselor: No – what is it that you REALLY NEED TO DO? None of the things you mentioned are moral issues.

When it comes down to the very core of your life, what is important? What do you need to do?

Me: Love God, and love people.

Counselor: And are you doing those things?

Me: Yes. I am. (I really am. Not perfectly, but I am loving God and people.)

But I feel like I should be doing all of these other things . . .

And therein lies the problem. That pressure of the ‘shoulds’. Those things we feel like we ‘should’ be doing. Who told us we should be doing those things? And why do we feel pressure, guilt, even shame if we don’t?

Counselor: What if you look at it another way? What if you set aside the should’s that are imposed on you, and look at how God made you unique.

You are like Old Faithful – you start with a dream or a goal, and you build up and up and then have this beautiful, creative explosion – for a while. Then the water subsides, and there is a time of quiet until it begins to build up again.

photo credit: Old Faithful by Greg Willis flickr

photo credit: Old Faithful by Greg Willis flickr

Me: Hmmmmm. That’s true. But I like the explosion part. It’s beautiful and wonderous, and people are watching and cheering. I don’t like the part when the water subsides, though. The ground is broken and cracked and the air smells like sulfur. And the people walk away.

photo credit: wikimedia commons, Chromatic Pool Matthew Kaibel

photo credit: wikimedia commons, Chromatic Pool Matthew Kaibel

Counselor: What if you reframe it?

What if you are a seasonal person? You have Spring when the buds begin to blossom, and Summer when you grow and thrive, then Autumn when the growth slows and you prepare for Winter,  your season of rest, so you can grow and blossom again.

Old Faithful would run out of steam (literally!) if it were going 100% of the time.”

I thought about that for a long time. It didn’t set well with me, not at first. I didn’t like it. I would much rather be slow and steady.

Or would I?

Actually, I think that might be rather boring. But then that internal argument started. I am so tired of starting strong and usually not finishing well. I have always been that way, and I have learned my limits. After a big project, I need down time. After a busy week at work, I need at least half a day just lounging around, recharging.

I told my counselor I thought he was right, but I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not.

The next day I had lunch with my friend who is wired very much like me. I told her what my counselor said about being a seasonal person. She said, “That is the most beautiful thing I have ever heard! Doesn’t that just give you a release, a sense of freedom, that it’s okay to just be who you are?”

I had to agree, and as I let it sink in that I am who I am, I began to appreciate that I am uniquely made. I am not saying that I should not strive to be more disciplined, more organized, more structured. But I am not going to beat myself up for not meeting a standard of performance that does just not fit me.

When I am focused, I am very focused, and can accomplish more in a week than many people will in one month. And that is why I need to time to rest and recharge, to get ready for the next burst. The next season. The next eruption. And I am learning to appreciate the winters. I am learning that they are not dark and barren, but they are peaceful and regenerating, and that without those times of rest I would not survive. It’s also very freeing to know that those down times are a necessary part of how I’m wired, and I don’t have to feel guilty, as long as I don’t wallow in them. And I’m going to treasure my seasons of focus and not waste a moment.

I am a seasonal person, and that’s not just okay – it’s beautiful.

I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14 (NASB)

Photo credit: Pixabay

 

 

 

 

BABY STEPS

 

 

 

photo credit: Sean Drillinger Creative Commons

photo credit: Sean Drillinger Creative Commons

Apparently my search for balance is out of balance. (What a shocker, I know). So much has been processing in the back of my mind, sometimes I feel like I am paralyzed. On the outside, I just keep try to keep on going. I haven’t journaled in so many days that I can’t even find my journal under the pile of clean laundry overflowing at the end of my bed, the laundry that silently mocks as it wonders if it will ever find its way home to the closet again. The other day the mind swirling almost became an anxiety attack. My most effective processing seems to be a stream of consciousness, so here is where I am at, in no particular order.

I could go on and on about my search for balance. For instance, stopping all sugar, caffeine, and alcohol, and then stress/comfort eating when I was overwhelmed. (Tip: Weight Watchers desserts do not mean they are sugar-free. But red velvet ice cream sandwiches are damn good.) Deep breathing has been a great tool, and setting an alarm and deep breathing before I ever get out of bed has been helpful. There are good habits I have started, and other habits that I have held onto. But it all comes down to this:

Where am I heading? What is my goal?

In my quest to free myself from the all-or-nothing tendency, I have paved an unmarked path for myself.

I thought that if I only focused on the end goal, I would fall into that black-white thinking and not be able to focus on the baby steps needed to get there. But when  you have no clearly marked path, it is easier to get off track.

Have you ever been so foolish that you have forgotten the very basics? Like if you have no goal, you will certainly reach it. How can you run a race without a finish line in sight? DUH. I was reminded this week that I cannot keep my eye on the prize if I haven’t defined the prize.

So I’m processing this through differently. How can I look at things with BOTH important pieces in mind: the final goal, and the baby steps needed to get there?

So here I go (and truly, this is just me processing.You can come along for the ride if you like):

GOAL:  Eat healthy.

WHAT WILL THAT LOOK LIKE: Drinking 8-10 glasses of water each day, no soda or caffeine. Alcohol limited to no more than one drink each day on weekends only. Eating at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily (at least two of those vegetables), eating fish or seafood twice a week, vegetarian dishes twice a week, and red meat no more than once a week. Eliminate simple carbs (no white rice, white bread, white flour, etc) and eat complex carbs sparingly, focusing on whole grains. Eating snacks or small meals every 2-3 hours with one main meal each day (lunch or dinner, depending on the day). Do not after 7:30pm (or within three hours of bedtime.

BABY STEPS: Stop all sugar (baked good and sweets), caffeine, and alcohol (except as mentioned above). Increase water intake. Eat more fruits and particularly vegetables. It’s hard for me to think in any other baby steps, but having the goal set clearly above me helps me have a structure for my daily decisions.

GOAL: Get active.

(A couple of years ago, I had started ‘running’ (walk/jogging intervals, actually) and I really loved it. I mean REALLY. Until I injured my knee and was diagnosed with arthritis in that knee and was told I was not allowed to run ever again and would eventually need a knee replacement.)

WHAT THAT WILL LOOK LIKE: At least 30-45 minutes of structured activity at least 5 days each week.This can include fast walking, water running, hiking, yoga, cardio at the gym, walking on the treadmill, etc

BABY STEPS: Structure and reserve time in my day to commit to activity. I am still trying to figure this out. Ideally, I would like to do this in the morning, but I am NOT a morning person. If I wait until after work, I am more tired and less likely to commit. I need to start with 20 minutes each day and work up from there (starting with 15 minutes seems too lame). I have made an appointment to have gel injections in my knee to see if that decreases the pain. (I did have a meniscus repair surgery and some scarring removed, but it did not help as much as I had hoped). I also need to find a routine that works for me.

GOAL: Lose at least 6 pounds a month until I reach my weight loss goal of 80 pounds.

WHAT THIS WILL LOOK LIKE: I will be comfortable in my skin as a result of healthy eating and increased activity. I will have worked through the 12 steps (again) for my food addiction, and will not look to food for comfort in times of stress or pain. I will not be freaked out by not having my comfortable wall of weight around me.

BABY STEPS: To be truthful, losing the weight is not the issue. I have gained and lost this weight more times than I care to count. This issue is how I use food, and the emotional baggage that comes with being thin. This goes back to a history of physical and sexual abuse, and the unhealthy lesson I held onto of protecting myself by being heavy. So along with the eating and activity, I have some emotional work still to do.

GOAL: Daily structure

WHAT THIS WILL LOOK LIKE: Okay, this one is much harder. I am NOT a morning person. I have always been a night person, rarely ever going to bed before midnight. But in my mind’s eye I have a vision of what I want it to look like. I just don’t know if it’s practical, or even possible. It would basically mean changing my circadian rhythms, and is that going against how I was made? I don’t know, but I think I’m going to try. Here is my ideal: Get up at ____ o’clock and do a morning ritual: deep breathing, read my bible or something like Oswald Chambers, then journal my morning prayer. At the most this should take 30 minutes (5-7 deep breathing, 10 minutes reading, the rest journaling my prayers); then 30-45 minutes of physical activity (sometimes I also like to continue my contemplative prayer during this time). Then have breakfast and get ready for work or for the rest of the day, if not a work day.

BABY STEPS: I guess I can just try this schedule. The tough part will be training myself to go to bed early, or earlier. As the time change catches up with me, I’m sure it will be easier. I will just have to put my phone or computer down at night and turn off the television. And develop a more structured bedtime routine that should not include screen time, but reading and journaling. Which brings me to my next goal . . .

Tune in tomorrow for the rest of my goals on the path to balance, which may or may not include: decreasing distractions, getting my house in order, finding a spiritual tribe/community, becoming as a minimalist, and progressing as a writer (including monetizing my hospice blog)