I received an email last week with the question whether I was interested in a free massage. Me, interested in a massage? Of course I am – anytime! The person who sent me the email needed to perform 30 hours of massage as part of her course to become a massage therapist, so she needed volunteers. Naturally, I was happy to help her out.
More than anything else, the massage made me realize how tired I was. I took a nap when I came home, but I kept feeling drowsy the entire day. The next day I still felt sleepy. And the day after, which featured another 30-minute nap, I was so exhausted that I went to bed at 9:30 p.m.
I have been on iron pills for a month now, and while I definitely notice a big improvement compared to how I felt a month ago I still get those enormous afternoon dips, headaches, and dizziness spells accompanied by giant sugar cravings. I know something has to change.
While it is easy to blame this fatigue on having a baby – and although the sleep deprivation that comes with it certainly plays a role – I know there is something else I need to work on: my perfectionism and incredible ability to make myself busy. Too busy. You see, despite being a full-time mom at the moment I manage to create a ToDo list larger than that of the average CEO. Don’t ask me how, I just do it Every Single Day. No weekends, no vacations. Activities that are supposed to be fun, like running, meeting friends or reading a book, end up giving me stress, because, well, how do I fit it all in? I feel like I’m racing against time the entire day, and I am always 10 minutes behind schedule.
There is no need to live this way, but somehow I am scared to death of being unproductive. Apparently, this is how I get my self-worth. A little voice inside me tells me that if I let go a little I will never achieve anything. Isn’t this mentality what made me finish my studies with flying colors? Isn’t this what got me to my current running level? Do I want to be average? The word alone makes me shiver.
But I also know I am ruining my health by being so tight with myself. It doesn’t make me a better person, nor does it make me a better mother. I don’t want Maria to grow up with a mom who is stressed out all the time.
That’s why I decided I need to change this attitude. And although I have realized this several times before, this time I want to make a lasting change. I want to be a good role model for Maria. I want to be a more balanced person.
During my pregnancy I carried out relaxation exercises several times a week, and arguably, those nine months were the most balanced of my life. I felt strong, healthy, happy, and my running did not even suffer from the decreased training load or the extra pounds I was carrying!
Yesterday, I made a promise: to tune in with myself and work on becoming a more balanced person. Let’s say it’s my goal for the last 2.5 months of this year. While I may not be able to do all the points listed below, I know even if I did just a few of them I would become a more balanced person.
1. Ensure plenty of sleep: I know this one is of utmost importance. Being rested simply changes everything. Period.
2. Limit consumption of stimulants and sugar: Usually, I limit my consumption of coffee to one cup a day in the morning, and I will continue to do so. Sugar cravings, on the other hand, are a whole different story. Lately, I have been getting them frequently (which is totally not me), and I know giving in only creates a vicious cycle. If a sugar craving comes up, I will try to do some breathing exercise or take a nap if the craving is due to sleep deprivation.
3. Practice yoga more often: I love hard-core exercise. Workouts that leave me all sweaty and exhausted. However, I had attended yoga classes during my pregnancy and after giving birth I decided to keep practicing it. I have, but only once or twice a week. I will try to practice yoga more often and cut back a bit on strength training whenever I feel I need the relaxation more than anything.
4. Eat small, frequent meals: I tend to eat three big meals (especially a big dinner) rather than smaller meals spread out over the day. However, I believe the afternoon crash I often experience could be partly due to having a rather big lunch.
5. Switch off my phone by 10 p.m.: A difficult but necessary one. Being online late at night makes it hard to wind down, so I will make an effort to turn off my phone (or at least WiFi) by 10 p.m. Hopefully, this will reinforce step 1.
6. Focus on my breath several times a day: Whenever I feel stressed I will breathe in and out deeply and count my breaths. I believe mindfulness is the single most successful way to reduce stress and anxiety and become a more balanced person.
7. Make time for spontaneous activities: This won’t be possible every single day, but at least on the weekend there should be time for unplanned activities, right? It’s all about priorities.
8. Go with the flow: I like to be in control, but since having a baby this is not always possible anymore. I have written before how hard I find this part of being a parent, and I keep struggling with it. Yes, Maria does not always sleep when (and how long) I want her to, and sometimes this wrecks my entire planning for the day. The only thing to do, however, is accept being out of control and just go with the flow. I can’t promise I will succeed on this one, but I can try to improve a little, at least.
9. Put less on my ToDo list: As said, I am a genius in creating endless ToDo lists. I sometimes show them to Ahmed and he laughs about my ambition. Perhaps I should ask myself every day what are the three most important things I would like to get done and focus on those. If I end up doing more that’s great, but if I don’t then that’s fine as well.
10. Ditch the perfectionism: Probably the most important and certainly the most difficult step is to ditch my hard-core perfectionism. The danger of creating this 10-step plan is that it may put even more pressure on myself, because I don’t want to fail. So let me just remind myself that these 10 points are supposed to help me become a more balanced person and not create more anxiety. I better tell myself before I start that I will fail – over and over. I will be stressed; I will eat too much sugar; I will get my phone after 10 just to answer that one message… And that’s okay, as long as they are exceptions. I will look at myself, smile and get back on track. If I don’t do it this way, there’s no point in this whole plan. As long as I cannot let go of perfectionism, I won’t become a more balanced person.
And now it’s time to hit the “publish” bottom and turn off my laptop. Good luck in your own journey.