Nourish and Forge Wellness

health and life coaching for those experiencing stress, transition, and overwhelm

Category: lifestyle

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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Lessons from My Expat Life: Say No

It’s ok to be a party-pooper.

For reals. After several months of saying yes to, legit, everything in my first expat experience in Seoul, I had to learn the next big lesson: saying no. (A lesson I continue to work on refining in my life four years later.)

Upon arriving in a new country and home, it’s of the utmost importance to start making connections, exploring, trying new foods, places, and experiences. And the way you do that is by saying yes. Yes, yes, YES! It’s a totally normal and super-fun part of the process. The downside is that at some point, saying yes to every opportunity (going out, traveling, socializing, joining a committee/book club/sports team, etc.), becomes utterly exhausting.

Our social (not to mention financial) gas tanks are finite; eventually, they require more discernment. 

The surprising part for me was how difficult it was to start saying no.

The biggest reason? FOMO. The struggle is real. Secondly, my behaviors up to that point had built expectations—expectations that would be consistently challenged as I began to be more picky with my yesses.

fomoLet’s have a real moment here.

I didn’t choose this lesson; it was forced upon me. I loved saying yes to everything, but at a certain point I found myself so depleted that I had to change what I was doing. That’s when I had to start thinking about which relationships were important to me to build, which activities fed me in some way—I had to select my yesses and learn to say no to everything else.

Let me tell you, that sh*% is tough. People hate hearing no. And eventually, when you say no enough times, you stop getting the invites, and your insides squeeze a little each time you hear about things you used to be a part of. Ugh.

But, here’s the thing: the relationships you put more time and energy into deepen; the activities you focus on become more meaningful; your bank account, social gas tank, and zen quotient grow.

Four years in, I go out infrequently (and still experience FOMO often). I usually go to bed early and get up with the sun (grandma status and proud). I spend time reading and writing and walking outside. I have dinners with dear friends. I drink when it’s special. I workout a LOT. I rarely get stressed about teaching because I have time and energy to stay caught up and balanced. I sometimes teach fitness classes. I build a lot of puzzles. I take weekend trips, but not too many. I am more aware of myself and my limits than I’ve ever been.

I say yes as often as I can (because I love my community here).

But, I still must frequently say no because I am keenly aware of my energy gas tank, and I know that driving that thing past ‘E’ takes about three times as long for me to recover from. I try to be clear and honest and gracious when I say no.

Saying no is definitely not as sparkly and joyful as saying yes. But it’s just as important.

As an expat, I’ve become practiced at and grateful for this lesson. Saying no ain’t for sissies.

And it’s ok to be a party-pooper.

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What I’ve Learned about Movement

Movement is something I often take for granted. But then there are times like today, seeing a post from my friend (paralyzed by a freak accident a couple years ago, and continuing to thrive in life: coaching, opening a new gym, breaking new ground) slide into view on facebook, when I stop and acknowledge the true wonder of my body and all it’s able to do. In those moments, I look up or close my eyes, look within and whisper, thanks.

These bodies of ours are pretty miraculous things. They serve us well. And the better we serve them, the better they will serve us. One way that we can treat our bodies with the respect and love they deserve is with movement.

wallballMovement can come in all shapes and forms: walking (functional, meditative, restorative), running, stretching, swimming, lifting weights, playing sports, yoga, chores, gardening…the list goes on and on. I find that my 35 year old body thrives on a balance of intense and restorative movements. I like to do CrossFit or strength training 3-4 times a week, 1-2 of those being very high intensity. The other days, I’ve committed to moving my body in restorative ways, most often gentle yoga, long walks along the river or hiking. What I’ve found is that I recover more quickly from soreness and have far fewer tweaks and injuries when planning my movement this way.

Movement does more for me than just keep my body healthy; it keeps my tornado-brain at bay. Most of us spend our days in our heads—thinking, reflecting, planning, worrying, remembering, to-do lists, paperwork, what’s for dinner…ahhhhh!!! What a relief to move out of your head and into your body—intentionally and daily—through movement.

CrossFit is meditative to me, because my energy is fully engaged in the task at hand. There is no room in my head for past or future or worry—only room for the present: the next rep, the next breath. It is a rock during tumultuous times that I know will ground me (even for an hour of my day) in the now. It will move me from the tangled mess of my mind to the purposeful movement of my body.

Walking, swimming, and hiking are the times my mind gets to wander like clouds through the sky, hopping from one thought to the next. Or focus in on the wonder around me—the dust on the leaves on the trees or the feeling of rough bark under my fingertips.

Movement serves me if I make it a priority—it makes my life better; it makes my body stronger and healthier; it gives my mind a rest.

What purpose does movement fulfill for you? How does movement serve you in your journey? 


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Dear Alcohol, I Need Some Space…

To My (ex)Love,

How do I begin? I’m sure you’ve noticed I’ve been avoiding you for a few weeks. It’s true, I ignore you in social settings. I haven’t brought you home with me. I haven’t even touched you in days. The air between us has been wrought with tension, unfulfilled longing, unearthed wrongs, and unspoken broken promises. I know you deserve an explanation, and so I will do my best here and now to give it to you.

The time has come. I’m making it official: we are overmartinis

This may come as a shock since less than a month ago we were spending nearly every day together. We were side by side on top of mountains, in rivers and hot springs, at various restaurants and bars. You accompanied me to family gatherings, and you were definitely at my goodbye party before I flew back to Korea. You’ve been with me during the good times and the bad. If I was sad, angry, lonely, bored—you were there to put a bandaid on my discomfort. I understand you might be reeling from the news. So let me explain.

First off, you drain my bank account like a booby-licious gold-digger. Money I need for other things somehow gets spent on you. I’m the sailor and you’re the Siren—I am defenseless against your call. It stops now. I am not your sugar momma, and I refuse to keep spending money on you. Because you make me poor, we are over.

Something you may not realize is that no matter how good you make me feel when you’re around, as soon as you leave, I feel like crap. You take my energy and good moods with you like some sort of a good-vibes-debt-collector. Sure, we have fantastic times, occasionally. But the bottom line is — it’s not worth the price I pay. Because you make me lazy and “bleh”, we are over.

I know it’s common in relationships for habits to shift. You’re comfortable together; you enjoy eating delicious meals and yummy desserts; you watch a few more movies and exercise a bit less. However, your influence on my habits is over the line. Somehow you convince me to skip the gym, to watch a bit more tv, to order a pizza or buy another ice cream. Your presence is laced with salt/fat/sugar cravings. Around you, my self-discipline is depleted. More junk food and less lifting-heavy-stuff makes me bummed out, broken out, and chubbed out. Because you mess up my healthy routines, we are over.

We are over, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss you. I think about you a lot. Sometimes daily. When I’m out with friends, I’m longing to feel you in my hand, to taste you on my lips. If we weren’t broken up, I could almost guarantee you’d be getting drunk texts from me, asking you if you want to come over and “talk”.

But, here’s the thing. As time goes on, I’m thinking of you less and less. I’m realizing that life isn’t as hard without you as it seemed a few weeks ago. I’m sure I’ll still think about you and the good times we had. Even so, I know I’m better off without you, at least for now. Maybe in the future, if I’ve grown a little and you can be less needy, we could try this thing again. Until then, my boozy babe, be well.

Love From,

Tiffany

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