Nourish and Forge Wellness

taking wellness beyond the physical

Month: October 2016

Numbing Works

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I first learned how to numb when my mom became ill and was hospitalized when I was 13.

She went to the hospital and we went into survival mode—part of which involved numbing things to the “not-going-to-consume-me-with-raging-fire-of-the-miserable-unfairness-of-it-all” level.

So, while my mom was in the hospital, my dad, two siblings, and I watched TV. Like a lot of it. Anything to forget and distract and feel better. At least for an hour or two. We ate comfort food. All the comfort food. Ice cream, pizza, tacos, candy. When I wasn’t comfort eating or watching TV with my two siblings and dad, I was escaping into every book I could put my hands on. And let me tell you. Numbing worked.

Fast forward 23 years. A lot of shit has gone down—as it does. I have weathered soul-sucking jobs, heart-crushing breakups, leaving my entire life behind and rebuilding it overseas, my mom’s continued health issues, my dad’s more recent terminal cancer, the list goes on.

It’s both devastating and completely normal. We all weather horrible ordeals that eff up our lives; we all experience wonderful moments that make life worth living. The degree of these experiences varies from person to person, but the existence of them in each life does not.

I haven’t always navigated the hard times in healthy ways. It could be said I’ve become a master of numbing life’s pain. (I probably should make myself a certificate. Haha.) Throughout my teens, twenties, and now my thirties, numbing has been a constant companion in many hard ordeals. TV and food are still old anesthetizing friends, but I’ve added to my speed dial—alcohol, Internet, social media, and when I’m being a bit healthier, 1000 piece puzzles and podcasts (this offers literally hours of zoning out and forgeting about any crappy crap I’m trying to get through). They have always been there to distract me and take away the discomfort—at least for a little while. Numbing works.

Until…it doesn’t. Because at some point all that discomfort and yuck you’ve been avoiding is going to explode all over everywhere. It will demand your attention. It will leave voicemails and comment on your fb wall and show up at work. Because numbing works, but only in small doses and in the short term. 

When numbing is your one and only strategy to getting through discomfort and difficulty and devastation, you end up half-living. Numbing the bad feelings also numbs the good ones. It limits your ability to grow, learn, and connect with others. It leaves you feeling empty and alone.

I know this; I’ve lived it.

I’ve also come to learn that strictly cutting out my anesthetizing helpers isn’t realistic for me; there are times I need to check out for a little while. But I now know I must couple a great deal of awareness and mindfulness with any sort of numbing behaviors I take into my life. I have to do this during times of difficulty to be sure I’m not getting sucked into the “I’m-checking-out-for-a week/month/year-cuz-this-feels-awful” black hole. So, I force myself to notice when my moods and energy and healthy behaviors are decreasing and reevaluate my choices.

This has come into play during my repatriation to the US. I have had a great deal of time and a great deal of stress on my hands. Recently, I’ve noticed that my TV watching has increased as has my alcohol and shitty fake-food consumption. Not anything drastic, but enough for me to feel thoroughly like C-R-A-P. I know from experience that it’s a slippery slope, so in recent years, I’ve done my best to recognize and face those realities early on.

Here’s what I did: I decided to eliminate one thing. I stopped watching television; I know from experience that it is one of the most needy behaviors—always wanting to be paired up with a boozy bev or a crappy snack. After I stopped, I immediately found a decrease in my other unhealthy cravings. It’s also given me inertia to do other positive things for myself. I’ve spent more time outside, even when I don’t feel like it. I’ve found a gym that I love and go regularly. I’ve meditated. It all started with that one change.

 

Let me break down what I’ve learned during my serious work in this area for the last seven years or so—first, decide that you want to be more present and be willing to sit in the discomfort, face it, and decide what to do with it. Then—know your triggers, bring awareness and honesty to your behaviors, pick ONE thing you want to eliminate, substitute or shift. Do it and then notice what happens. Reevaluate and revise as needed.

It takes bravery and vulnerability and perseverance to sit in discomfort instead of distract, to face hardships instead of avoid, to have moments all over life’s spectrum, fully feeling both joy and sorrow, instead of staying only in the middle and chopping off the ends with numbing agents. It’s hard work, but worthy work. Let numbing be a tool used sparingly and notice what happens.

Does this resonate with you? Do you have times you’d like to navigate stress or pain better? Are you not fully feeling the joy and the sorrow in your life?  If you said yes to any of these, give this idea a shot and let me know how it goes!

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The Gym Is NOT the Answer – Part 1

Even typing this title seems like a betrayal.

My family and friends know how happy the gym makes me. How I talked about CrossFit and my gym for the first two years straight, regardless of if the listening party was interested. How my gym was my self-professed “church”, my rock through some of the stormiest times of my life.

The gym used to be my answer. To everything. Stressed? Gym. Sad? Gym. Feel pudgy and unworthy and unsexy? Gym.

In the midst of expatness (four years in South Korea), I didn’t always have my gym and community that I thrived in. Now, in the midst of repatting (moving back to the U.S. after four years in South Korea), I haven’t yet found a gym and community that I call home. I’ve been forced to reconsider.

And here’s the thing: the gym is not the answer.

Let’s zoom out. Why do people go to the gym? Health. Stress relief.  To get smaller (women), to get bigger (men), to get sexier (everyone).

Again, here’s the thing: the gym is not the answer.

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Before we talk about what is the answer, let’s examine the question. What are we seeking in the gym? Truly? What is lying under our desire for that killer workout?

My list looks like this:

  • mental/emotional stress relief through exercise
  • community
  • challenge and growth (learning new movements, mastering new skills)
  • physical health and longevity
  • lose body fat (something I think about far more than I’d like to admit)
  • balance out poor food/drink choices
  • be as attractive as possible to attract a romantic partner and be accepted and successful in society

The second half of my list has more to do with self-acceptance and mindfulness work than with the gym and exercise (a whole different blog post). The first half of the list are in fact things I can accomplish at the gym (bolded). And the bottom line is, I feel better about myself and my body AND I function better as a human when I’m going to the gym often.

However, my recent transition has forced upon me an important realization: the gym is not the answer; movement is.

This means that just because I don’t have a gym right now, I don’t have to fall apart. I don’t have to flounder. I simply need to move. Every day.

This also means more freedom—I might go for a long walk one day, and ride horses the next. I might go on a hike with a Meetup group or play around with handstands and backbends in the park. The possibilities are endless.

I’ve also noticed some shifts that have resonated with me when movement (not the gym) is the answer.

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For me, the gym is still one of my happy places. When I find that home gym, it will be one of the places I get to challenge myself, be surrounded by like-minded people, relieve stress, and maintain or improve physical health. However, it is not the only place or way these needs can be fulfilled.

Whether I am traveling, settling in to a new country or my home country, insanely busy or with lots of free time, I can honor my body by moving every day. And you can too!

Join me on Instagram and post in what ways you #moveeveryday. The gym is not the answer, but delicious movement is.

 

 

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