I was not always as even keel as I am now. In my 20s, I scheduled every moment of my day. I had everything timed so that I would go from one thing to the next without time in between. If the train was late or someone needed to talk, my whole day was thrown off.
Introducing my young, perfectionist, avoidant self.
Busy was my default. If I kept moving, I didn’t have to feel. Anything. I packed a lot into my day (teaching swimming, dancing, yoga, working out, babysitting, taking classes) but I didn’t really have much time to feel. I ran around New York City, zooming from one place to the next. Eventually I got roller blades to get around because the trains were unreliable and didn’t fully get me where I needed to go.
Years later, I realized that my busy was a form of numbing. Some people numb by drinking alcohol, doing drugs, gambling, eating, having sex, online shopping, but my drug was “busy.” I moved until I dropped, then did it all again tomorrow.
I was trying to figure out who I was as an adult.
My mother had ideas about who I should be and what I should do, and I wanted none of it. I rebelled. Now that I was on my own, I needed to figure things out. But I was so excited about being free that I didn’t give myself time to pause, breathe and notice.
Yoga left me calm and centered after. This was a new feeling for me, as I usually ran on adrenaline and the frenetic energy of the city. Of course I zoomed into class then zoomed back out, but I started to crave that calm. I was taking yoga classes 6-8 times per week. I started going on weekend retreats in nearby Monroe, NY because I knew I was onto something.
This “yoga stuff” made me feel more expansive, more alive, more present. I was usually anything but present. My mind was always ahead of where I was, thinking about my next task, the next place I had to be, racing to get there, and never once slowing down to let my heart catch up. There wasn’t time.
I’m exhausted just thinking about my life and who I was back then.
When I moved to Massachusetts, I spent my 30s finishing graduate school for acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, and raising 2 kids. The breakneck speed at which I moved was no longer working for me. I felt depressed, frustrated, and so tired. When I got parenting support I realized that this pace wasn’t sustainable if I wanted to show up for my kids in the way that I wanted to. I didn’t want to yell at them. I wanted a peaceful home.
The first thing I implemented was care for myself. A predictable pause in my day where I scheduled nothing. It was so awful and uncomfortable at first. The time was empty and I didn’t know what to do with myself. I kept trying to fill it but knew the point was not to.
I needed to sit with myself during that time and feel. And rest. And take a friggin break.
As I slowed down, I started to feel how tired, depressed, and unhappy I was. My marriage wasn’t working for me anymore. My perfectionism wasn’t working for me anymore. I needed change, but I felt scared, and I definitely didn’t feel ready.
Putting a pause in my day allowed me to stop running, stop living on autopilot, and take stock of my life and how I felt. I started to crave that space, and fill it not with endless activities, but with self-care. Yoga, swimming, and walking felt good in my body. I started to reconnect to myself and who I truly was, versus the shell of a person I had become.
But old habits die hard. Although I kept the time for self-care, I jammed everything else in around it. I worked 6-7 days a week, glued to my emails, letting them steal my peace and time. It was better, but I still felt at the mercy of my schedule, and my lack of boundaries didn’t support what I needed.
Sometimes when you are truly stubborn, the Universe needs to step in
For me, the pandemic was a blessing in disguise. When the pandemic forced me to stop moving, I realized how deeply tired I was, down to my soul. This was my opportunity to retake control over my schedule and build it in a way that was sustainable. I could teach yoga, see my patients, and have daily time for my self care. Coming out of quarantine I had a new outlook on life. I prioritized what I needed, and made my schedule around what worked for me. I decided to see patients 4 days a week instead of 5, teach classes 5 days a week instead of 7, and give myself time on the weekends for me.
Pausing, forced or otherwise, is the key to maintaining your sanity. If you feel like you have too much to do and not enough time to do it, pause. Breathe. Notice what your priorities are and if they are serving you. So many of us learn to prioritize others over ourselves, and we become martyrs. We sacrifice our own sanity, energy, and functionality for our kids, our partners, our jobs, and all of them suffer when we do.
My kids suffered when I didn’t take care of my own needs first. I suffered too. The pause is such a powerful way to check in with yourself and notice what you need. When you don’t know, you can’t help yourself. You also can’t ask for help when your own exhaustion keeps you stuck.
Yoga, meditation, journaling, and breathing
There is a famous fable, that a student went to his teacher who told him he needed to meditate for 20 minutes every day. The student said, “I’m too busy, I don’t have time to meditate for 20 minutes a day.” The teacher responded, “then you need to meditate for an hour every day.”
The point is, if you can’t find even a few minutes for yourself every day, you are not prioritizing yourself and your needs and you require even more self care. I’m not saying that meditating an hour or even 20 minutes daily will fix all your problems, but if you start with 3-5 minutes daily, you will notice a change in how your operate in the world.
Yoga, meditation, journaling, and breathing are all practices that bring you into the present. Anxiety lives in the future, resentment and depression live in the past. In the present there is only what’s here. Stillness, calm, and breath. You might notice emotions rising that you’ve been suppressing, and you have the opportunity to feel them and let them go.
Pausing to notice your feelings gives you power over them. That’s why talk therapy can be so helpful. Noticing what is happening in your body and mind gives you the chance to do something. Step 1 is awareness. Nothing changes without awareness first. And it all starts with a pause.
Meditation in March is a 1 month program of guided meditation practices and journal prompts to help you feel more peace with less stress in your day to day. If you’ve ever wanted to start a regular meditation practice but didn’t know how to do it, you have come to the right place. Whether you have been practicing meditation for years or are a brand new beginner, you are welcome to join Meditation in March. Click here for more information or to sign up. We begin March 1st!
Take Movement and Meditation every Monday at 8am EST or on demand whenever you like! 20 minutes of gentle movement and stretching to warm up the body and shake off the stiffness, followed by 20 minutes of both guided and silent meditation. Purple Room Yoga students say it’s the best way to start the week! Click here to sign up, and here to see the Video Library with tons of recorded classes to choose from.
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