August, the eighth month of the year, is full of new beginnings. This year, I am fully embracing the opportunity to start over. As I mentioned previously, as part of my road to recovery from all my recent life changes, I have changed my life strategy. I am employing some tangible methods to make positive changes, reducing my stress, and improving my mood.
The Road to Recovery
I must admit I really fell off the self-care wagon this past year. I had been exceptionally stressed and struggling with my self-image. I found myself eating all kinds of junk in large quantities as a coping mechanism. My morning routine consisted of rolling out of bed just in time to drink my breakfast and respond to whatever fires were on my desk at work. I haven’t seen a gym since last September. I looked up one day and was 20 lbs heavier – the heaviest I had been in my life, to be exact.
About a month ago, I got the gumption to do something about it. Hubby and I tried the keto diet for a week, and I lost about seven pounds. Now, I can’t personally sustain life without any carbs permanently, but it did help me in an unexpected way. Seeing that change inspired me to seek change in other areas.
Consistency has been hard to come by lately. I work the kind of job where nothing is the same day-to-day. My personal schedule has always been a bit wonky, but working around my husband’s life has really made things challenging. He travels for work most weeks, in addition to pastoring full-time and running a summer lawn care service during the slow season. I also must consider the needs of my bonus daughter when she is with us. I wear many hats at church as well.
At some point, I just gave up on any type of routine or steadiness. Instead of me managing my life, it was managing me – and not very well, might I add. I also found myself not even attempting to meet my personal goals, like blogging once a week. I felt defeated. Being able to stick to a diet for just seven days reminded me that could set a goal and meet it. It was a shot in the arm for my confidence. The lack of a sugar crash admittedly helped my mental clarity as well.
The forward propulsion I experienced inspired me to take two steps in the right direction: compartmentalize my life and start my wellness journal.
Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.Matthew 6:34
I realized that I had been grasping at straws or chasing rabbits and not catching any of them. I had a light bulb revelation that I was putting too much pressure on myself to meet unrealistic goals each day. I would sit down to plan my week, and feel guilty if I had any white space. I decided instead moving forward to set aside a core focus for each day of the week:
- Monday – Catch-up
- Tuesday – Bible Study
- Wednesday – Music
- Thursday – Blog Stuff
- Friday – Rest
- Saturday – Creative Arts/Crafting
- Sunday – Church and Planning
Now, I do other things on these days, like cooking, running errands, etc., but I only set a goal in the specific area for that day. I don’t commit to anything else where I can help it, and I don’t guilt myself for not doing other things. Granted, I do have to rearrange things sometimes, but so far it is working well. I am actually accomplishing more and I’m slightly less stressed. I’m starting to see that stability and forward movement I long for.
The next thing I did was start my wellness journal. I purchased a Classic Happy Planner to plan my wedding that I didn’t really use. I thought it ran out in December 2019, but I realized it ends in July 2020. Since I use my diary for long-form vents and I use my planners to actually plan stuff, I decided to use the extra planner to track my personal wellness. The vertical layout allows me to track three separate areas:
- Physical Health – Accountability
- Mental Health – Reflection
- Spiritual Health – Edification
Since this journal is very much functional, I don’t really decorate it. I do use markers and colored pens for emphasis, and functional stickers, but not much else. Space is at a premium, and I’d rather have the space for writing. I do sometimes make a fun corner or mount and inspirational quote to anchor my week in the list area.
Given that I started this journal during a diet, tracking my physical health was a logical place to start. I started a food diary in one row, then I started tracking my weight week to week. For the month of August, I am challenging myself to wake up earlier, start working out again and discipline my eating.
I have always struggled with my relationship with food. I misuse and abuse it as a source of fulfillment, and it is catching up with me. Forget about weight; I am starting to FEEL it healthwise. Denying myself certain foods during this revealed how much better I could feel if I would moderate my eating and find other ways to soothe myself.
I am now tracking at the very least what I eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day. Also, eating at home seems to be significantly better for my body and my wallet. In two weeks, I will challenge myself to revisit an old habit – eating at home Monday through Friday. I can control my calories better, and save $7-$10 per meal. This will be especially handy in saving money prior to my upcoming vacation.
I got into a rut waking up late during the week. I love getting up early on the weekends, so I know it’s all in my mindset. Over the years, working in corporate America has made me feel like the company owns my time during the week, especially now that I work from home. It’s an underlying thought that once I get up, I’m “on the clock.” I get discouraged sometimes that I only have a handful of hours each day to do things that make my life full and meaningful. I also find it hard to stay awake and focused past a certain point in the day. So I’ve caught myself waking up later and later as if I subconsciously need to hoard as much energy and time as possible.
I set out to break this pattern last week by committing to wake up earlier and utilize that time for my spiritual health. For the next month, I will be attempting to back that time up by at least 15 minutes a week to create even more time for myself. I’m even breaking out the habit tracking stickers I have that I thought I’d never use!
Each week, I am adding on a new wellness goal or habit. Next week, I’m setting out to work out at least three times a week, even if it means doing a video at home. I have a gym membership that I am paying for and not using, as well as access to thousands of workouts via internet and streaming. I’m literally calling myself to the carpet – to get these crunches and push-ups in. LOL
I have been woefully neglectful in expressing my true feelings. I’ve never been great at doing this verbally, but I at least have been able to do it with a pen. Time has not been on my side in terms of keeping my diary. I usually have the urge, but not the energy; I have even fallen asleep in it! A small box on a page doesn’t have the capacity for all the issues of my heart, but it does allow me to do micro-reflections. I can at least put a word in the box to capture my emotions that day. Sometimes, it’s a vent, sometimes it’s a win I need to celebrate. Other days it’s just gratitude. Hopefully, I’ll be able to tune in and see patterns in a week, or look back later and see how my story has evolved.
My second motivation for getting up earlier is to improve my prayer and bible study life. My days have always gone better when I start them with the Lord. When I was a teenager I always studied at night. I had developed a solid consistent study regimen. When I left for college and started having more evening activities, my study habits changed. As an adult, I realize night meditation equals early bedtime for me, LOL. I have always known that setting aside time in the morning was going be better for me, I just never implemented it.
I began using scriptures to fill white space in my planners a few months ago. With my wellness journal, I can take that approach every day. I get up in the morning, pray, and find a passage of scripture to study. I pull one key verse to focus on, a Scripture of the Day, and record it in its entirety. Writing the verses out also helps me remember them, too.
The Beginning of a Bright Future
So far, my new routine has really had a positive impact on my life. I am so much more motivated and less pessimistic about my direction. I have hope that I can actually achieve my goals and become the person God showed me I am. Giving up is not an option, and I think having a solid plan will push me closer to the finish line.
Do you have any tools and strategies to stay in touch with your personal wellness? Share your thoughts below!