Wellness Wednesday | 19.07.17

Let’s talk about high standards and pressures for a second.

Everyday I find I’m inundated with pressures from various people and places, whether it’s my boss’s high standard of my work ethic, my scheduling managers high standard of my punctuality, my dog’s high standard of my attention and affection, my parents high standard of my general being,..

And then there’s my own standards and pressures. The pressure I feel to have a high standard of cleanliness in my apartment because God forbid someone come by and see how much dog hair floats around the floor on any given day. My high standard of cooking healthy, well rounded dinners for my fiance and I because we don’t want to be lethargic gluttons. My high standard of being active and keeping up with my workout regime because gaining a pound or two is apparently noticeable and unacceptable. My high standard of starting business ventures that have both meaning and high functionality. My high standard simply, of being a well-rounded citizen of the world.

As a woman, society places further pressures and standards onto me. To be beautiful, to be fit, to be witty and smart, to have children, to be the family chef and grocery list maker, to do the household laundry and dishes, to be the maid… well, you get the picture.

That’s a lot of pressure.

“Let us be about setting high standards for life, love, creativity, and wisdom. If our expectations in these areas are low, we are not likely to experience wellness. Setting high standards makes every day and every decade worth looking forward to.” – Greg Anderson

How, with all of these pressures, is anyone supposed to find wellness? You may have noticed a quote on my last Wellness Wednesday post that stated, “Health is a state of body, wellness is a state of being.” Now what does that mean exactly? It means you’re in a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

Now why am I bringing this up?

When I was in my early 20’s (I’m on the brink of late 20’s now, God help me.) I, like most my age, was constantly out and about, trying new things, meeting new people, staying out late and abusing my liver. I can look back on that now and see that then, my focus was not my health – but I felt a certain degree of wellness. I was working a job I loved, I was confident, adventurous, eager to learn and nothing could stop me.

A few years pass and I started to realize, despite the fact that it was fun and interesting, it wasn’t healthy. So I stopped doing those things, and found myself focusing at length on my health. Almost obsessively. No, definitely obsessively. I lost a bunch of weight, hit the gym hard, and people noticed. But I wasn’t confident. I wasn’t eager to do things I loved because they didn’t fit the greater good of health. I lost my sense of adventure, to some degree. Many things stopped me from doing what my heart wanted. I was working a job I hated. I was now healthy, but I wasn’t well.

I consider that moment my quarter life crisis.

It was at that realization that I started to seek guidance. I needed to figure out what I was doing and how to get to where I wanted to go. Heck, I had to figure out where I wanted to go.

So I thought about it.

I didn’t want to be obsessive about being healthy, but I still wanted to be healthy.
I wanted a job I loved, but I wasn’t in a position to leave the one I hated. (Being a responsible adult is such a bore.)
I wanted to be active, but I needed to learn to be comfortable with stillness, too.
It became clear pretty quickly that I was seeking balance, and up until that point I obviously hadn’t been able to find it myself.

I had rushed through school so quickly I didn’t have the time to consider all of these things when I was younger. But, as a firm believer that it’s never too late to start anything and feeling ready to tackle these things, I sought that guidance via a therapist.

Through my semi-regular visits, I learned I had a problem with binge eating; I was an emotional eater, to the point of self destruction. I hadn’t learned to deal with my feelings from a young age, and it had spawned this awful version of myself I couldn’t stand. I knew I overate, but I couldn’t stop myself until I learned how to sit with my emotions. Literally, sit with them. Sounds foolish, probably, but a lot of aspects of my core personality reflect this inability, like the fact that I’m workaholic because it doesn’t leave me enough time or energy to dwell on the things I am worried or scared about. This was a revelation.

My therapist told me to try meditation. Long story short I sort of fell in love with it. It helped me learn how to be still and helps me manage my ever looming anxiety and sneaky depression. It took months for this to start helping me curb my emotional eating, but I’m happy to say I haven’t overeaten in so long that I can’t actually pin a date to it. It’ll be a long time before I am “recovered” but, I’m finally feeling confident again and I don’t get stressed out thinking about upcoming social functions where god forbid there be tempting food available.

I’m still working a job I am less than thrilled about, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that right now, I need it, and I can work with it to get to where I want to be. Since my hours are relatively consistent, it gives me ample time to work on the Live Like Wolves apparel line, something that has given me meaning and fulfillment again. I hope one day to turn it into a more full time job, in addition to writing, because what I realized I want more than anything is more flexibility in my work schedule, to be in a creative field (mine is currently too much on the technical side), and be able to work remotely in order to spend more quality time with my friends, family, and Dakota. All in due time, though – I’ve also learned to be more patient.

Finally, to help me find balance in my active life, I’ve eased up my workout regime, and altered it significantly. Biking to work gives me peace of mind before starting my day and helps me decompress on the route home. Dakota and I have started doing early morning walks, which feeds his need for attention and activity and brings me further fulfillment, because I love hanging out with that little bugger! We do post-work walks, too, which again helps me find clarity, particularly on stressful work days. I had taken a break from running a bit after my half-marathon, but I’m eager to get back to a more consistent run schedule because running for me acts a lot like meditation in that I get some me-time, without any expectations or social pressures.  The difference now is I don’t say to myself “you have to run Wednesday, Fridays and Sunday.” but rather, I want to run on the weekends when I have more time to really enjoy it. I want to swim because I love the feel of the water. I want to feel well.

So I know this was a long one, so if you made it all the way to the end here, you must be super bored at work so I hope you get some e-mails coming in soon or some phone calls.

The takeaway here is that we need to spend more time considering what makes us well. Health and wellness are not one in the same and it can be easy to lose wellness when you’re focused too much on being healthy, and vice versa, as I experienced.

Also, stop focusing so much on what other people’s or society’s expectations are of you – until you do that, you wont be able to find a true state of wellness.

‘Til next time.