I cried in yoga class on Monday night

It’s true, I cried in the middle of my yoga class on Monday night! I have heard that this happens sometimes. Our body physically holds emotions and they can come pouring out when we’ve released those particular muscles. Well, half-way through class we rested in child’s pose and the tears began to flow. Luckily we were just about to start a floor sequence where we were on our stomachs for a while – just long enough to take a few breaths and wipe my eyes.

I’m not exactly sure what the tears were about, but I must have been holding on to some emotions unwittingly. I do have some suspects: the 2nd anniversary of my dad’s death, possible changes at work that have left me anxious, and relief that my husband got a new job that he is really excited about after nine long months of searching all come to mind. I’ve been experiencing little moments of anxiety lately as well.

I’m wondering if some of it has to do with my lack of consistent yoga practice these past few weeks. I’ve been hooked on barre and Pilates classes lately. My favorite teacher no longer teaches on Wednesday nights and I’m not so crazy about her replacement. I really like the teacher on Monday nights, but it’s tough getting there in time for a 6:00 class, so my yoga practice has been sporadic. I’ll be enjoying a “staycation” for most of July and I plan on getting my yoga groove back. We’ll see if that helps curb some of this anxiety that’s been building lately. It had been such a long time since I experience any episodes. I hope I can find my way back to that peace quickly!

Breaking Habits & Being Honest

This time of year I usually find myself craving all things Easter candy – Peeps (gross, but I love them!), Cadbury Creme Eggs, chocolate coconut eggs, etc. On St. Patrick’s Day I usually want to get a beer or two and eat some corned beef hash and soda bread. Of course, I usually give in to those cravings with the reasoning that a few pieces of candy or a few beers and some salty corned beef isn’t going to hurt me in the long run. I still stand by that rationalization, but on Sunday I made a drug store run for my poor sinus pain-filled husband and found myself eyeing the candy near the check out counter with barely a tinge of longing. It was rather amazing. I realized that St. Patrick’s Day had come and gone without one sip of beer or bite-full of beef and I hadn’t even thought about it. Instead I attended my Pilates class and had a delicious salad for dinner, never feeling as if anything was lacking.

I attribute this change to a lot of things. Physically I think eating mostly whole, unprocessed foods, and drinking lots of water has helped curb all kinds of cravings. Emotionally/spiritually, I see the support of my husband and regular meditation, Reiki, and yoga as having important roles in regulating my emotions and keeping my anxiety in check.

More and more, as I think back over my past I see how much of an emotional eater I have been. All those forbidden foods that I snuck into my room to eat with abandon provided temporary relief from whatever I was feeling: anxiety, loneliness, anger, lack of security, lack of love, just plain old lack. I was in such denial. I vividly remember watching Oprah one afternoon when I was in high school. She talked about emotional eating and how people use food to fill a void, and sometimes use their weight as a way to protect themselves. I scoffed at that and said to my mom, “Well, that’s not what my problem is. I just have a big bones and a slow metabolism. It’s so frustrating.” Twenty-some years later I realize that it is exactly my problem (or at least a big part of it).

I don’t think I’ve ever really binged. Not in the way that it’s been described by others anyway, but I did eat past the point of being full regularly. I didn’t even realize that until my past few visits with my family this year. Pretty much as soon as I entered my childhood home I would head to the kitchen to find snacks. I snacked until dinner, ate more than usual at dinner, and snacked some more. I should point out that no one else was doing this, just me. When I went to bed I was so full and uncomfortable. I actually woke up in the middle of the night with raging heart burn and once even coughed up a bit of vomit (sorry for the TMI, but I think it’s helpful to be honest).

As I tried to fall back to sleep I pondered a few key questions: Why did I feel this way? Why did I eat so much? Why did I feel like I couldn’t stop eating the whole evening? When I got really honest with myself I realized it was a combination of anxiety and sadness that I was trying to tamp down with whatever I could get my hands on. The sadness was from missing my dad. The anxiety was an old feeling that has permeated my life for as long as I can remember. I no longer blame my family for that, though. I had a pretty good childhood. I just wasn’t really equipped to handle my parents’ divorce and other changes, and I don’t think anyone knew how to help me with that. Still, the feelings return the minute I walk in the door and if I don’t acknowledge them and sit with them, I end up stuffing my face to the point of getting sick.

Being honest about my feelings, particularly the “bad” ones, is a constant struggle. As a highly sensitive child I learned to keep a lot of my emotions to myself. I continued that habit into adulthood, only revealing my true feelings to a handful of close friends and my mom. Writing – fiction, journal entries, free-writing – was my steadfast refuge, but even that began to feel unsafe after I graduated from college. I worried that spending all my free time writing was keeping me from living my real life and so I slowly evicted myself from my one safe haven.

Luckily, after a bunch of failed relationships – some self-destructive and emotionally wrought – I met my husband. Even that relationship had a rocky start, but here we are in our fourth year of marriage. R has helped me in so many ways, but especially by not letting me shut down and hide from my feelings. He pushes me to have conversations that I would otherwise run from and to acknowledge not only what I feel, but also how I let those feelings overcome and undermine me. It’s not easy work, but it’s necessary work and I am so grateful for his patience and love. For the first time I can remember, I feel seen and loved for who I am, not who I’m trying to be.

So while I’m working on breaking habits like turning to food for comfort, and denying my emotions, I hope to re-ignite my old writing habit by posting here more often and keeping a journal again. Words can help us sit with uncomfortable things and see a way past them. If any of this resonates with you, I hope you’ll come sit with me from time to time.

Holiday Sanity and Sadness

These past few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity – celebrating Thanksgiving, getting ready for Christmas, closing out 2014.

Yoga, meditation, and Reiki have been at the top of my priority list during my free time. I have to say they’ve really helped this busy season feel relatively stress-free! Let’s see if I can still say that after spending time with my extended family over the next few days. đŸ˜‰

I have to admit that today I’m feeling a bit down and missing my dad. This time last year it felt like such an accomplishment to get to the holidays in one piece that I didn’t really allow myself to feel much of anything. This year, the sadness is there. It’s not such a heavy sorrow anymore. Rather, it’s a dull ache that makes itself felt a little bit stronger from time to time. There’s so much more I could write, but I think I’d rather hold it all in my heart a little while longer.

I hope you all have a great holiday with your loved ones! See you in 2015!

Self Care or Selfish?

self-care-survival

 

Isn’t it interesting how so many of us put ourselves last on our list of priorities? How many times a day, a week, a month do we put off doing something that would make us feel better or help us relax? We get the message from some many different places (family, society, religion) that we should sacrifice, put others first, and ignore our own needs or else we’ll appear selfish, self-centered, greedy, etc.

But I’d like to argue that it’s not true. We can best give of ourselves, help others, and be of service only after we’ve taken care of ourselves. How can we positively contribute to anything or anyone if we’re exhausted, burnt-out, sick, or even feeling resentful of the fact that we’re sacrificing our needs? We can’t.

Now, I’m not saying that we should all drop everything and only focus on ourselves, everyone and everything else be damned. And I’m well aware that there are people out there who are currently over-extended and have so many responsibilities, and people to care for that the thought of self care is laughable. Sadly, that is reality for a whole lot of people because we’ve all bought into the ideas mentioned above. But what if even those folks found a way to take five or ten minutes for themselves to relax or recharge in whatever way they pleased? Maybe that would mean sitting down with a cup of tea, or reading a chapter in a book, or just really paying attention to breath for a few minutes. The little bit of pleasure we can get in those five minutes can lead to finding a few more five minute breaks throughout the day, which might lead to ten, which might lead to twenty. You see where I’m going here.

I see too many people who have spent their entire lives putting others before themselves (consciously or unconsciously) and now, when their health is compromised and they need to be taking care of themselves, they don’t. They don’t know to make themselves a priority and they’re uncomfortable with it because it goes against the way they lived their lives up until this point. It’s heartbreaking, frustrating, and unnecessary.

I encourage all of you to take some time for yourself EVERY DAY and do something to help you relax or make you happy. It’s such a simple act and can have such a profound affect!

Today, I took a nice little tea break and sat in the afternoon sun for twenty minutes. It was a wonderful way to relax and recharge. I returned to my office with renewed focus and a desire to get things done.

How are you going to care for yourself today?