Just Breathe

Sometimes it just feels good to breathe. And sometimes I need a reminder to do that!

It’s funny how we seem to need to be reminded to slow down, not speed up. You’d think that it would be the opposite. But at least in my world, if one is good ten is better. With all of the striving and dreams and goals and desires I find that when left to my own devices I’m more inclined to move faster and pile on the activity than to slow down and rest.

Lately I’ve felt myself enter that uncomfortable in-between. Change is on the horizon; not a big change, but enough to shake some stuff up. But it’s not here yet. And I hate that. As soon as I’m ready for change, I want it NOW. I want to know exactly what’s going to happen and have everything all planned out. I have no patience, no chill, and I hate feeling underprepared. When I’m stuck in this “just wait” mode I find myself getting restless, edgy, and bratty. And there’s nothing I can do about it. The more I spin and try to predict the future, the more I miss the present. And the present is pretty damn good and would be a shame to miss.

The only action in this space is just to breathe. Just breathe and allow it to be. It’s kind of the worst. But in those little slices of moments where I find myself being present and forgetting about all of my stress and unknowing, it’s a pretty peaceful place.

So here is your daily reminder to breathe, let life do its thing, and find peace in the in-between.

Go make it a great day!

xoxo Emily

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Balance is a Myth

I had the honor to speak on a panel last week for a local women’s group. The even was hosted at Sephora University, which my colleagues and I all agreed had the best bathroom mirrors.

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So stylish.

The topic for the panel was “work/life balance”. And I was like, oh, I am SO qualified to talk to that! I have been juggling work, single mom life, friends and family, health and fitness, and me-time for so long, and while I am by no means perfect I think I’ve earned a few kernels of wisdom that I am happy to share if it helps someone.

First off, I dislike the term “balance” (almost as much as I dislike “moderation”, but that’s for another post!) because it assumes equality. It assumes that there is some point where all aspects will be perfectly centered and reach homeostasis. I don’t know about you, but I have yet to wake up in the morning and realize, “Oh, joy! Everything I need to do just fists perfectly into my day!” No, that’s because it’s not a balance, it’s a juggling act.

And I have to take a moment to recognize a bit of the privilege I have in this area. I have an employer that 1) values employee health and well-being, and 2) trusts me allows me (for the most part) able to work remote or adjust my schedule when Life happens. I also have reliable childcare in the form of a great babysitter and a good relationship with my kids’ dad, so when duty calls I’m able to make it work. Not everyone has a flexible schedule or the general ability to find someone to pick up the kids from school in a pinch. And I find these are some of the biggest challenges in the working mom life to manage.

But back to juggling. Imagine a pile of balloons. And these balloons are just blown up with air and not helium so they’re just laying on the floor. Got that image?

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Okay, now toss all of those balloons up and don’t let them touch the floor. Remember that party game? My kids always play it when we have balloons in the house, but that fact aside that’s literally what it feels like to keep everything going. All of the responsibilities and goals in my life are balloons – work, kids, chores, health commitments, friends, service commitments – and I’m just constantly trying to keep them all floating. Sometimes I ignore a balloon for a while and it *almost* hits the floor. Sometimes I just get tired of bopping balloons back up and quite a few hit the floor. When they hit the floor, I have to choose if I’m going to leave them there, or if I want to spend the energy picking them up and putting them back in flight.

Does that sound exhausting? It can be, especially when you’re out of shape (I speak from experience, literally and metaphorically!) or having a rough time of it. Or if you have too many balloons to keep up there. Or if one balloon is losing air, and it’s falling to the ground a lot faster than the other balloons (this is what I call a “crisis balloon”) so you have to spend more time and energy watching for and catching that balloon at the sacrifice of other balloons.

So what can you do to win at the Balloon Game?

First, you have to get over whatever negative feelings you have about the Balloon Game, about how unfair it might feel or how tired you are or how impossible it seems. Because, yes, it does last forever. Literally. But as anyone that’s run a race or done a hard thing for a long time can tell you, if you think about how long you have to keep doing a task, it feels impossible. But if you focus on just this balloon, just this day, it’s so much more manageable. You can do something hard for one day that would be appalling to keep up for a lifetime. So look at it differently. Just tackle it for right now. Maybe make a game out of it (because it is a game!) and see how many or how few balloons you can juggle, find gratitude in each balloon you have, or see if you can get help with juggling a particular balloon.

Second, you have to make sure your balloon for “taking care of myself” is always, always the first one you hit. To take the best care of others, you have to take care of yourself first. You have to, at a minimum, eat in a way that gives you nourishment and energy, get in enough sleep, and move your body regularly. And I know, you’re like, duh. I’ve heard this before. This is probably eye-roll-worthy old news. But if you’ve heard it all before but still aren’t doing the things to take care of yourself, why? Why do you put the importance of all these other things in life before the importance of you? And these things are still scratching the surface of self-care. There’s also positive social interactions, making time for things that make us look or feel good like scheduling that dentist appointment or getting a haircut, and cultivating a hobbies or activities that we do just for ourselves because it’s fun and creativity is so underrated. So if you struggle with getting in the proper amount of “me-time” to care for yourself, that might be something to ponder.

Oh man you guys, I have so much to unpack here. But I hope this gets your gears going on realizing your own Balloon Game, and how to start approaching it with a bit more positivity and purpose.

That’s all for now, go make it a great day!

So Done: Rewriting Unhelpful Patterns

So, I treadmilled last night.

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I didn’t really want to. I mean, who wants to run on a treadmill when there’s the whole outside to run in? But I really, really felt like moving my body in some way, and I had Buttercup with me so running outside wasn’t an option. I also didn’t really want to pay the $5 for childcare at the gym, and it was getting late in the evening and I knew we wouldn’t make it to CrossFit in time. So, I put on my run gear, handed Buttercup her tablet to keep her occupied, and did my run on the treadmill in the apartment gym. We got it done, and treated ourselves to sushi afterwords.

Honestly, I was sort of surprised at myself. Who is this woman?!? Normally I would look at the clock and say, “Whelp, I guess a workout isn’t happening tonight!” and go watch Netflix. But I’m sort of tired of being that person. To be clear, there’s certainly nothing wrong with foregoing a workout for downtime, and I do enjoy those nights where I spontaneously clear my calendar and turn my to-do list over so I can veg out and stop thinking about responsible things for awhile. But I found that “Ignore All the Things” has been becoming less about de-stressing and more about an unhealthy coping mechanism for me. And I don’t like it.

So I’ve been noticing all the reasons that inspire me to let my healthy habits slide – a late night, a grumpy mood, an unexpected engagement that throws my schedule off – and how I choose to respond to those stimuli. And so much of it is about just not being prepared. So I’m slowly figuring out what systems no longer serve me, and rewriting them. I mean, this is what I do for a living, guys – process engineering. And yesterday, the first thought system to be rewritten is “It’s too hard to work out when I have the kids home.” Because I totally figured out how to get a decent run in, spend time with my kiddo, and still have a great evening together.

What patterns in your behavior are you so done with? Any thought systems or other systems in your life you want to set out to rewrite?

Go make it a great day, friends!

A Worthy Opponent

(Edit: don’t worry, Mom, everything is fine!)

Just for Today, I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle my whole life-problem at once. I can do some things for twelve hours that would appall me if I felt I had to keep them up for a lifetime.

– Frank Crane

Last week, I recognized that I had slowly sank into a depressive state. It was nothing scary, dramatic, or cause for alarm. I was simply noticing that every morning it was increasingly harder to get out of bed, every day it was tougher to focus at work and to stay on task, and I found myself avoiding texts and calls and flaking on events, preferring to sit alone in silence. As much as I love my alone-time, I could tell that this particular alone-time wasn’t restorative. If you were to talk to me during this time, you would probably have no idea. I’m able to be exuberant and engaging in front of people, then close the door and allow everything to shut down.

It took me a while to recognize this as depression. It feels so different than what I had experienced in the past. Instead of the dark cloud of hopelessness that told me to just give up, this is sort of a blanket of fatigue and fuzziness. It’s warm and comforting but at the same time wholly unnatural. I should want to do things I enjoy doing. I should want to get up and enjoy my peaceful mornings during these long summer days. I should want to call and meet up with my friends. But I simply kept saying “no” to myself. That I was too tired. That it wasn’t the right time. That what I need is to be alone right now. When in all actuality, being alone is the absolute worst thing for depression.

The hardest thing in the world to do when you’re in a depressed state is to reach out. The phone weighs a million pounds, and coffee with a friend is far too daunting of an operation to try and coordinate. You battle the demons that tell you that you’re really okay, and you don’t want to burden anyone else with your troubles, and all your friends are super busy and you’d had to interrupt them. But I know if it were me that my friend is calling and telling me they’re having a rough time, I will drop everything to be there. I know now how important it is. So I made the call, my friend and I had a gorgeous hike as we talked stuff out, and my load feels so much lighter now. I was able to clear some of the space to “do the next right thing,” as Glennon Doyle says.

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And this new-to-me trail we discovered did not suck.

I still have work to do. We always will. And sometimes just picking up the phone and taking that first step to say, “this is really hard right now” is the hardest.

If you suffer from depression, or even from something and you don’t even know (or want to know) what to call it, you’re not alone. It’s a frustrating, deceptive disease that I will probably spend the rest of my life trying to get on top of. I gladly accept this challenge, because I know I am a worthy opponent.

Go make it a great day, kids!

If you are struggling with thoughts of self-harm or suicide, do not hesitate to call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.