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Caring for Yourself by Pursuing Your Passion

As I watched a mesmerizing performance by Missouri Contemporary Ballet a couple of years ago, tears came to my eyes.  Tears?  Why tears?  I experienced the simultaneous feelings of total bliss and deep sadness.  The bliss was very easy to understand because I love dance.  I love watching dance, and I have always loved to dance (although performing, for me, has been mixed because of the anxiety that goes with it.)  On the flip side, the sadness was in response to the loss I felt from not having had any dance in my life for the previous few years.  I hadn’t been to any performances, and I hadn’t danced or taken any classes for a long time.  What grief I felt as I watched those dancers, yet I also felt uplifted and joyful.  No wonder I felt so strange as I watched them move their bodies in exquisite turns, leaps and contortions of strength and flexibility!  Such total immersion I felt in the experience of witnessing those dancers perform.

Ballet Classes For Adults!

The dear friend sitting next to me at the performance noticed how strongly I responded and showed me the back page of the program, which advertised ballet classes for adults.  BALLET CLASSES FOR ADULTS???  I nearly jumped with joy as much as I was in disbelief at the idea.  Really??  I could take a ballet class?  But, would they really let me in when they discovered that I wasn’t a young 20 or even 30-something?  I had to find out.

I called the number and got the information I needed and found myself taking ballet again — many, many years since I had last taken as a child.  After my first class, because I worked so hard to do everything as well as I could and because my body had only faint memories of my childhood classes, I was literally almost unable to walk out without my legs buckling because they were so sore.  I burst into tears when I got in my car and wondered if I would be able to continue.

Hope For The Journey

That was two years ago.  Not only am I now taking two ballet classes each week, I have also ventured into a tap class, which is delightfully fun yet also quite challenging for me, and I am considering adding a class in modern dance.  That last one might push my schedule to its limits, but time will tell.  I love each class.  Sometimes I leave feeling frustrated that I have not been able to learn steps more quickly or that I am not as strong or flexible as I want to be.  But I work with what I have — the age I am, the body I have, and whatever my physical gifts or limitations may be, not to mention the focus and memory that is required!

What Is Your Passion?

As is apparent, my passion is dance, and it is crystal clear to me that pursuing my passion has given me energy,  joy and confidence.  It has become such an essential part of my self-care, not only to go to performances, but also to participate in dance by dancing!  There is a life force and an engagement and a focus that comes from participating in what you love to do.  For me, it is dance.  What is it for you?  What is it that calls to you?  What is it that intrigues you?  What is it that makes you smile, or perhaps makes you cry because it has been missing?

Fitting In One More Thing

I wondered how I would find the time or the money to pursue dance classes.  As much as I wanted to try it out (although with a bit of nervousness about whether I could really do it), it felt rather indulgent and even frivolous to proceed.  It also seemed on the edge of overwhelming to add one more thing to my schedule.  But I also knew in my heart of hearts that it was the right thing to do.  I took the next step and made a phone call, even though I wasn’t really sure how it would all work out.

The amazing thing is that adding something that you are passionate about can create more joy.  And through that joy, the challenges and stress of life become a bit easier to handle.  Perhaps we gain a bit of perspective.  Perhaps we actually get better at coping with things.  I don’t really know.  What I do know is that life improves.

Put something joyful in your life.

Start small.  Make a phone call.  Do some research online to get more information.  Talk to someone who can tell you more.  Write down several ideas you have about it.  Let yourself dream, and also take some kind of action!  You may find that your life begins to improve in unexpected ways.  Your joy is an important part of self-care.  Taking care of ourselves is more than just eating well, exercising and sleeping enough.  It is also about including in your life the things that matter to you and that are important to you.

Let yourself matter enough to include joy!

Good Night?

Did you have a good night?  Are you having good nights?  Sleeping, that is.

When your nights are not good (or just too short…), your days tend not to be good either.  Up to a point you can exercise the old “mind over matter” strategy and affirm having a good day despite your sleep deprivation, then do all you can to engage yourself positively in the activities of your day.  However, night after night will catch up with you.  You might be getting through your days OK, but are you giving yourself and your body the sleep you need?  Do you feel rested and ready to go in the morning?  Do you have enough energy to sustain you throughout the day?  If not, it might be worth taking a look at your sleep and consider making some changes to get the sleep your body and mind may be craving.

Getting Enough Sleep

Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep each night.  Some seem to do fine on six, and others need as many as nine.  To add to the challenge, the quality of your sleep is as important as getting enough of it.  It’s a little easier to start with the length because that’s often the easiest to do something about.  Most people need or want to wake up by a certain time in the morning, which means that, for most of us, the part we have to work with is what time we’re going to bed.  And, for many of us, we often stay up late on Facebook or Twitter, or we’re texting or surfing the web or playing computer games.

You have to be very committed to disconnecting from your day and letting yourself go to sleep.

And even then, if being on the computer or your cell phone or watching TV was the last thing you did before you went to bed, you might have difficulty falling asleep or might have difficulty sleeping well.

Wow!  There’s a lot to this whole area, isn’t there?  It’s generally recommended that you disconnect yourself from your cell phone, computer and TV at least an hour before you want to go to sleep, to give your brain a chance to wind down from that kind of visual stimuli and processing of information.  Perhaps you might consider reading a book you’re enjoying (but not on your Kindle…) or listening to some music or journaling or perhaps even doing a relaxation exercise during that time instead.  It is generally much easier to replace an old habit with a new one, instead of just trying to do nothing.

Stimulants and Sleep?

On to another sleep stealer — caffeine.  One of my favorite beverages.  There’s a lot of individual variability with caffeine, but the same kind of recommendation holds true.  Don’t drink coffee or caffeinated tea or soda too close to your hoped-for bedtime.  What is too close?  I’ve seen recommendations to stop drinking caffeinated beverages as early as 3:00, and some people know that they need to follow that advice, or they’re not able to fall asleep.  Caffeine does affect your body for several hours so you might consider backing up when you stop drinking it until you notice that you can more easily fall asleep.  Three to fours hours would be a good place to start.

Also, for those of us taking ADD meds, be very careful to take them as prescribed.  If you’re taking short-acting Adderall, for example, you want to make sure that you’re not taking your last dose too close to your bedtime!  Otherwise, you’re likely to lie in bed and want to go to sleep but not be able to!  It’s a yucky feeling.  I’ve tried it for naps.  Very frustrating!

A Relaxing Drink Can Backfire

On the other end of the spectrum is alcohol.  We usually drink it in the evening to wind down or enjoy time with friends, but it has a rebound effect that occurs several hours after we’ve imbibed that can wake us right up, sometimes making it hard to fall back to sleep!  If you do drink, please be moderate, and keep in mind both sides of the effects of alcohol, the initial relaxation and the delayed rebound effect.  When you’re aware of this, you’re in a better position to make a good decision for yourself about whether to drink that evening.

Checklist

* Am I getting seven to eight hours of sleep?

* Am I allowing some time before I go to bed to let my brain wind down from the computer, TV and cell phone?

* Am I doing something relaxing before bedtime that helps my brain and body wind down?

* Am I being careful to stop drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages a few hours before bedtime?

* Am I conscientious about taking my ADD meds as prescribed so they don’t interfere with my sleep?

* Am I remembering that even though drinking alcohol can be relaxing, drinking it in the evening can cause me to wake up in the middle of the night?

There are so many things that can affect our sleep, in either a helpful or a detrimental way.  By answering these questions, you have a good starting point to assess your own sleeping habits and see if you’d like to make any changes.  Sleep is something that can dramatically affect the quality of our days, and it is worth our time to do what we can to enjoy our days as much as possible!

Getting Things Done?

When it comes to getting things done, how do you proceed?  Do you take the “eat-the-biggest-frog-first” approach and do the biggest or most difficult thing first?  For some people, that approach can work very well.  The idea is that by tackling the “biggest frog” first, you not only get that project done, but you also free up the energy that you might have spent thinking or worrying about getting it done.  If this idea appeals to you or works for you, go for it.  Use it to get those items on your to-do list checked off!

Moving With The Flow

However, if that has not worked so well for you (or has not worked at all), there is another, completely opposite approach which can be equally effective for getting things done.  It’s the idea of “the path of least resistance.”  As the name implies, you move with the flow, not against it.  I have known about and appreciated this idea for some time now because it fits for me philosophically.  However, I attribute a better understanding and more practical use of it to Jennifer Hofmann of Inspired Home Office.  I participated in a class she offers called “The Wish Kit” in which she guided us to create not only a vision for, but also the initial steps to creating an office or studio or workspace that works for us and even nurtures and inspires us.  (Please check out the link if this sounds intriguing at all.  It’s very reasonably priced!)

Path Of Least Resistance

In “the path of least resistance” approach, the idea is to generate energy and build momentum for what you want to accomplish.  Instead of going for the “big frog,” you begin with the task or project that has the most appeal, that sounds like the most fun and/or is the easiest.

“What?”  You may say, “That won’t work!  I’ll just do easy stuff and won’t get the hard stuff done.”  Perhaps.  However, the brilliance behind this approach is that it tends to clear the way so that you can get stuff done!  Doing the easy or even the fun task has a way of lightening our mood and increasing our energy, thus creating a better environment to do those very tasks that we may be putting off or even dreading.  This approach is like oiling a rusty or squeaky part in our home.  The part becomes smoother and easier to move.  And we often feel an “Ahhhhh” sense of relief.  Using the path of least resistance allows our own process to move more smoothly and easily.

Let It Be Easy!

Next time, instead of gritting your teeth and pushing through something, why not give this approach a try?  Purposefully decide to experiment with this way of getting things done.  Pick something that you’d like to do, something that you want to do, something that is easy to do, then notice if you feel less stuck or if you have more energy or your thinking becomes clearer.  Any and all of those results are possible.  It is a tried-and-true approach!

Kiss Your Monster On The Nose

Then you are in a more effective position to “kiss your monster on the nose.”  (Doesn’t that sound preferable to eating a big frog????)  If you think about “kissing your monster on the nose,” it has a sense of peace and resolution to it, not a sense of having to “gear yourself up for battle.”  Kissing your monster on the nose may just be a matter of breaking down the project in front of you into the tasks or steps that will allow you to accomplish it.  It may be that you just haven’t stopped to take the time to think through what may be involved or that you need to do some research to get more information for what’s in front of you.  You want to make sure that you have the necessary information and resources you need to accomplish your task or project!

If you think about being your own best friend, you want to encourage yourself with positive motivation as much as you can instead of forcing yourself or giving yourself grief when what you’re doing isn’t working!  And, aside from being a “kinder, gentler way,” the path of least resistance is very effective!  You do get done what you’re wanting to get done, but you go about it in perhaps a very different way.

If you’ve been looking for an approach to increase your productivity without being mean to yourself, give this one a try.  You may very well be surprised at how incredibly effective it is!

Drained, Dry and Devoid of Ideas

Oooo!  How inspiring!  “Drained, dry and devoid of ideas”!

As I went about the process of writing my article, I stumbled a bit.  Well, I stumbled a LOT!  I didn’t feel well on the day that I had picked to write it, nor the next day.  I had some ideas that I could have certainly developed, but I didn’t even feel like I had any thoughts about those ideas.  Uh-oh.  Kind of makes the process of writing a bit tricky, to say the least.

Instead of completely panicking, which used to be my response, I had learned enough to step back and practice at least a little bit of TLC, good ole’ tender loving care.  Instead of criticizing myself or attempting to push the issue, I backed off.  Instead I went for a short walk and attempted to be kind to myself.  The walk definitely helped, but I found myself in limbo, not quite able to really relax and take it easy, but not able to think clearly enough to write.  Yuck.

The Power of Wondering  

I had enough awareness to wonder, “What was going on, and what had happened?”  How did I get to this place of feeling drained, dry and devoid of ideas?  Ohhhhhhh.  Intuitive flash.  (The intuitive flash could come through because I finally slowed down and stepped back a little.)  I realized that I had not been stopping to do fun things or take a break.  I had been going from taking care of my aging diabetic body (checking blood sugars, taking the prescribed three-times-per-week walks, doing a reasonable job of eating nutritious foods) to coordinating my 13-year-old’s schedule to caring for my home to running my business to occasionally checking in with my husband to see how he was doing.  And, I had not connected with any friends for more than a “Hi, how are you?”-in-passing, kind of connection.

Taking Breaks and Having Fun

When I look at it, it’s easy to understand why I hadn’t taken the time for breaks or fun.  And I bet the same is true of your life, if you really stop to see what all you do in a day or a week!  Nevertheless, when we push and push and push, and we don’t take breaks or let ourselves have any fun, how can we expect to be full of life and ideas????  It’s almost like factory work, in that you need to do the same kinds of things over and over, then you fall into bed exhausted!

I don’t think that I’m particularly unusual.  We all have schedules or lives that tend to be very full and seem to lead us, rather than us leading them!  It is so important that we periodically assess HOW our days and weeks are going.  Yes, of course there are plenty of things that need to be taken care of.  However, when we slow down enough to stop and take a few moments to reflect, here’s a powerful question to ask.

Can any of it be:

1) Let go?

2) Delegated?

3) Done differently?

I’m the first to offer a quick “No!”  Obviously, no one else will be checking my blood sugars or figuring out how many carbs I’m about to eat so I can match my insulin to that.  Nevertheless, there must be some ways that I could go about my days a bit differently.  Delegating?  Perhaps I could find a playful way to gather my family and do some brainstorming or mind-mapping of all that needs to be done in our home.  Perhaps there are some routines that can be shared.  Perhaps there are some jobs that one of us finds really distasteful but that another doesn’t mind at all.

What about done differently?  Probably room for that as well.  For most of us with ADD, there is usually room for backing things us and doing them earlier so we’re not so rushed and frantic.  Or perhaps there’s room for doing a bit more planning.  It might be planning out which days you’ll exercise, or it might be planning out what meals you’ll have for dinner and then getting the ingredients all at once, instead of making several trips to the grocery store.

One Small Change

With even some small changes, I then have the opportunity to slow down and take some breaks and even find time for some fun activities.  Making these changes is NOT meant to create the way to get more stuff done, but to create some balance in my life to slow down and enjoy it more.

How about you?  What is ONE SMALL CHANGE you can make to 

  • slow down?
  • take some breaks?
  • put more fun into your weeks (and even days!)?

Is there something that you can let go of?  It might be an unneeded or unused item, or it might be an activity that is taking up time without really being necessary or nurturing.  Is there a task that someone else could do or someone else could share doing?  Or what about a way that you could do something differently?  Taking the time to reflect on your schedule or perhaps planning meals for the week?

What might it be for you?  I bet there is something.  And if there is something, then you have a chance to create some balance in your life by slowing things down a bit and putting in something joyful.  We all cope better with rest and with joy to break up the routine of our days.  When we’re also managing ADD, the balance of enough structure (but not too much) is even more important.  Making sure there is joy in our lives can give us the energy we need to manage the rest of our lives!


Motivation for Change: Part 3

No discussion of change would be complete without your vision for change.  Your vision for change is what pulls you forward, is what motivates and inspires you to make the changes needed for that vision to become reality.  If your vision is lackluster or ho-hum or just not that compelling, what is there to pull you forward?  There isn’t anything to pull you forward!  That’s why having a powerful vision is so essential to the process of change!  If your goal is “I want to lose some weight,” and your vision doesn’t include how wonderful you will look and feel in your “new” body, then how do you expect yourself to make the changes needed to accomplish this?

Our brain LOVES pictures and is very sensory.  The more you can use your senses to determine how this change will look, feel, sound, taste, or even smell, the better because you are solidifying what it IS that you want for your brain to go to work on, in essence to be your ally!  You want to have as clear a mental picture as possible about what that change will be like!  You want to have a feeling of excitement and energy about this change.  Create a picture (in your mind or on paper) that stirs some energy and excitement for you.  Doing a collage or a “dream board” or something that helps you see and feel the change you want can create the energy and excitement that you want to have for your goal.

However, what we inadvertently tend to do is focus on how much we don’t like the way it is now, perhaps thinking that we will goad ourselves into doing “better”.  As human and as understandable as that is, it backfires on us because our focus is on the wrong picture!  Be really conscientious about redirecting your focus when you notice yourself heading down that path.  Refocus on what you DO want and where you DO want to be and how you DO want this part of your life to be!  That’s where the mental picture or collage you have created become so important.  It is very difficult to “just say no” when there is nothing to say, “YES!” to.  Because we’re human, we do head down the path of what we don’t want.  That’s OK.  Don’t berate yourself.  Just gently say, “Oh, there I go again heading down that path I don’t want to go down.”  Then you can turn yourself toward the vision that you DO have for yourself, your mental picture and/or your collage, and really let yourself soak that in.  By doing so, you effectively add power and energy to what you DO want because you are consciously choosing that and reinforcing that for your brain and for yourself.

Give yourself one of the resources you need for change, a vision that pulls you forward with a clear mental picture that you just might want to create a collage for.  Why not?  What do you have to lose (except some extra pounds or clutter or too much of whatever you may have!)

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