Staying afloat: My bag of tricks for staying buoyant

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

This time of year can be a mixed bag of emotions for many people. The holidays apply pressure to be jolly. To bake and shop. To wrap and invite. To consume. The cloudy skies and early setting of the sun can keep us inside and away from the things that feed our souls (like friends and exercise) and drive us to the things that feed our bodies (although not well), like snack foods and eggnog lattes.

I have experienced bouts of this too.

The dance of maintaining balance seems to have an increasingly complex choreography. Over the years, I’ve become pretty adept at self-renewal. I find inspiration in many places and I’ve developed a list of things that I have come to depend on for shaking loose the clingy fingers of the blahs. I call my list my "bag of tricks to stay buoyant". When I notice the cloud cover settling over me, I go through this list in my mind to figure out where I'm out of balance.

With the help of excerpts from a blog that I wrote from 2005-2009 allibrew), here is my list:

  1. Get some sleep. A minimum of seven hours a night (preferably eight).
  2. Move. I need to run, bike, swim, or otherwise get my heart rate up at least three times a week (preferably outside) to keep sane.
  3. Be social. Bond. Spending time in good conversations and laughing with friends and family is hugely energizing for me.
  4. Eat healthy food and drink water. When I eat well, I feel well (physically and mentally). Minimizing sugar keeps my immune system strong and my moods and appetite even-keel.
  5. Sunlight. I need to go outside and breath. To get fresh air and feel sunlight on my skin. To "commune with nature". Sometimes my backyard will do. Other times I must (MUST!) drive to the coast and watch the ocean for a little while. (One of my favorite blog posts from the past: "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood...")
  6. Write. Wax poetic or make lists on a napkin- whatever you need. This is an outlet for me. As I put it in a blog post almost six years ago: there are tiny seeds of contemplation dwelling in my soul. Holding onto these thoughts creates a quiet fear of losing them. It is as though they become something valuable and necessary as soon as they arise. Writing them down alleviates my subtle urgency to free them.
  7. Yoga. My yoga mat is more thorough than a doctor visit for a check up. I can so clearly gauge my heath and happiness from that vantage. When my balance is good in tree pose, it is a sign that life isn't overwhelming me at the moment. When I can breath freely while holding strong in a triangle, my anxiety is low. When my crocodile is smooth and slow, I feel strong and confident off the mat. When forward folds feel really good, I am happy and content. When I can hold and enjoy pigeon and crow, I am on top of the world.
This "bag of tricks" works really well for me but life still throws me curveballs on occasion. When things get overwhelming or I feel like I'm stuck in a rut, I take a timeout

When I yearn for days punctuated by pink and purple sunsets instead of the exhaustion of another routine completed, I schedule a spa day or maybe even get in the car (or a plane) and head for the beach.

Another excerpt from my past: When I’m on vacation, my brain shifts to a different frequency. It goes on brain vacation. I start to tune out the noise of the world and tune into my head space. I pause to ponder simple things in great detail. Like, do I really want waffles for breakfast or would an omelet taste better? Do I want to swim first or start the day by cracking open the first item on my summer reading list? Are gardenias more fragrant in the afternoon than in the morning? I don’t have to have brilliant ideas. I don’t have to ask thought-provoking questions. I don’t have to hurry.

How do you nurture yourself through the blahs?

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