How to Make Your Life More OK, Even When Not Always ‘OK’.
I often worry when people read my posts that they will think choosing to live a healthy lifestyle is easy, that my life is perfect, and that I never have doubts or stress, nor make unhealthy choices. We all have a persona that we project to the world, and for those of us in the health and wellness space, our passion, and maybe even our business, is to make the hard choices seem easy, because we truly want everyone living a healthy lifestyle and leading their best life. Sure, I have a big smile on my face when I wake up in the morning to do my weight training. Sure, it is so easy for me to turn down an old-fashioned when socializing (I am from Kentucky, bourbon is my drink of choice). Just to be clear, those last 2 sentences were dripping with sarcasm.
In reality, though, healthy choices are not easy, because our brains have not evolved to cope with today's world. Our brains are programmed for survival and feeling good. That sugary, alcoholic old fashioned gives my brain a hit it wants on repeat. My brain tries to convince me that sleeping in would feel so much better than getting up and exercising.
But I assure you I often fall off the wagon. I skip a workout. I have an alcoholic drink. I eat a piece of chocolate (or 5). When I notice poor choices creeping in, I know that I am not OK. Interestingly, it is when I most need to be practicing a healthy lifestyle that I am more likely to fail. It could be job stress or life stress. It is just so easy for our brains to go into survival mode and start telling us we do not have time for the self-care we so badly need.
"It is when I most need to be practicing a healthy lifestyle that I am more likely to fail... It is just so easy for our brains to go into survival mode and start telling us we do not have time for the self-care we so badly need."
Judson Brewer, MD, in his book entitled Unwinding Anxiety, suggests that being curious about our thoughts, feelings, and choices is the key to understanding them and helping us make different choices. So what I try to do is be curious about and pay attention to the decisions I am making. If I am leaning toward healthy choices, I am generally taking care of my body and mind. If I notice I am not making the choices that align with my general desire for a healthy body and mind, I take stock of what is going on with my life. In doing that, I am able to more consciously make the healthy choices, which in turn help me identify and deal with the stressor that is making me not OK. I am constantly in awe of this connection between our circumstances, minds, and bodies.
It is OK to not be OK. Unfair, sad, stressful, and frustrating situations and events happen. Bruce Feiler points out in his book, Life Is In The Transitions, that we spend a significant chunk of our lives in periods of upheaval, sadness, or change. These periods turn out to be life. Life is not just the easy parts in between the hard parts.
I am currently not OK. I am trying to hold on through what Bruce Feller calls a ‘lifequake’. He defines a ‘lifequake’ as “a forceful burst of change in one’s life that leads to a period of upheaval, transition, and renewal.” This lifequake started with some changes in values, continued with the recent loss of a parent, and continues with career stress and uncertainty. Focusing on living a healthy lifestyle by eating healthy, minimizing alcohol, exercising, meditating, and relying on close relationships is what has helped me weather the quake. I try to be grateful for the quake for further strengthening my commitment to living a healthy lifestyle.