“I just want to be healthy about it,”I told my writing partner, Amy, as I scribbled my goals on a piece of notebook paper:
– Exercise five days a week
– No alcohol
Amy looked at me from across the table through her turquoise circular glasses, the bottom half of her face covered in a light blue mask. We’ve been meeting at coffee shops for years, minus the one year we were confined to our homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Part of our ritual is to check in about our writing goals for the week. But first, we update each other on our lives. Sometimes we celebrate little achievements, but mostly, we help each other sort out the grit.
That week, my grit centered around letting go. My youngest, Emma, was days away from leaving for her freshman year of college. Emma had been my shadow since we adopted her as a toddler from China.
Amy looked at me with gentle concern. “You know when you’re going down rapids in a boat, if you try to control it too tightly, you can tip over?”
“Uh huh”, I nodded, massaging my jaw.
“You’ve got to flow with it. Let the flow be your medicine. You don’t have to force things,” she said.
I sat back in the booth and took in Amy’s comments, relieved to have a friend who talked straight. We all have our blind spots. You’d think that mine would be smaller given my job as a child psychologist. But alas, I’m human. When the going gets tough, I tend to resort to old coping strategies, aka gripping the heck out of life, instead of lightly stearing my boat, trusting it will guide me through the rapids safely.
The good news is that even though I have this tendency, I’m pretty good at calming the waters once I can see around my blind-spots.
Here are Five Things I Do to Flow With it To Calm the Waters and See Clearly:
- Practice yoga – A Vinyasa yoga practice connects individual poses or “asanas” with deep breaths or “pranayama” in a series of flowing sequences of movement. As a yogi, I have experienced increased flexibility, strength, stability, and overall calmness and clarity in my life. I try to practice yoga five days a week.
- Avoid Alcohol – I quit drinking alcohol over five months ago. My husband was leaving to hike a section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and I wanted to get healthier, too. My biggest surprise as an alcohol-free person has been how much calmer I feel. If you’re interested in cutting back on your own alcohol intake, here’s a link to the alcohol experiment, a 30-day free experiment, that helped me quit drinking. FYI: I have no affiliation with the founders of this experiment. However, a really good read by Annie Grace, the woman who developed this program is This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness, and Change Your Life.
- Connect with Nature– Going on walks helps me reset whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed. I try to get outside daily, even when it’s raining. I love digging around in my gardens, watering plants, and listening to birds flutter in their birdbaths. My older sister recently sent me a copy of the book, The Healing Magic of Forest Bathing, by Julia Pelvin, which has given me an even greater appreciation of nature.
- Breathe – I’ve been to a handful of trainings for psychologists on how to teach clients breathing strategies, but I didn’t really learn breathing techniques until I began practicing yoga. In yoga, I was forced to slow down and thus pay attention to my inhales and exhales, and breathe into areas of discomfort in my body.
- Create a Calm Environment – I am a firm believer in the importance of creating a calm home environment. Home should be a place where we can recharge and relax. Our minds and bodies need environmental cues that it’s time to calm down. Some of my calming rituals are: burning candles
- diffusing essential oils
- dimming lights
- playing calming music
- drinking hot tea
- petting my dogs :)In closing, here’s a favorite African proverbs that seems to fit this post:“ Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.”
Just remember, you are never alone. We’re all trying to figure out how to flow with it and calm the waters in our lives.
Your friend and support,
p.s. Keep reaching for the stars. You’re worth it:)