Un-slumping Yourself

Next episode in 10, 9, 8…

I hit the play arrow quivered in its red target, committing to another 48 minutes of living my life through the eyes of an internet detective while my own is placed on pause. How did I get here and how long will I stay?

My journal hasn’t seen an entry in a few weeks, my running shoes sit discarded by the door, and a layer of dust encases the kettle bells on the floor at the foot of my bed.

To be sedentary in thought or action is my Achilles heel.

“It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than it is to think your way into a new way of acting.”

I find the ‘x’ in the upper right hand corner of my screen, and click my way through the fog. Scowling, I shove reluctant feet into my well worn pair of Brooks and lace up for liberation.

My legs move hesitantly at first, complaining of their sudden jolt back into motion. But a few blocks later I find my stride, and with it a smile. The cold, winter wind bites at my cheeks as my feet pound the pavement. Once again, I am alive.

Today’s lesson is an important reminder of what it takes to maintain my mindset and ambition. Indeed, there is no such thing as a free lunch. To gain energy, I have to expend energy. Just as to be efficient and useful to others, I have to first care for myself.

The times when I am at my drowsiest and most hopeless are when I have come to a stop. The best evidence for this is Friday nights. After one of the hardest days teaching, I am exhausted. It would be “easy” to go home and crawl into bed, or mull over my day with a glass of wine. However, when I give into that urge I end my day on empty.

My usual Friday routine, no matter how tired I think I am, is to head to Jiu Jitsu. After time spent on the mats exercising my body and brain by doing what I love, I am energized. I go home feeling fresh and awake, having shaken off the buildup of tension from the day.

When I am in a slump, it is because I’ve stopped some aspect of self-care. I am stuck, and the key to bringing myself back is to act as though I were already there.

It sounds easy, but only if I can get out of my way. Self doubt has to be ignored, and I have to recognize my own intelligent, yet damaging, ways of rationalizing staying put.

“I’ll start running again tomorrow.”

“Nothing I write today will be worth reading.”

“Everyone needs rest. Why shouldn’t I?”

“Some people sit and watch Netflix every day. I do too much.”

This kind of self talk is dangerous, because of its endurance. One Netflix episode can easily turn into five. A month could pass before I’d accidentally stumble upon something about which to write. Rest makes me crave more rest. Laying around is what makes me feel most tired.

When in a slump, fighting these thoughts feels nearly impossible, and frankly I’ve learned that it isn’t a battle worth fighting. The thoughts will be there — what matters is what I do about them.

“When you’re in a Slump,
you’re not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.” – Dr. Seuss

The battle worth fighting is one toward action — getting out my journal, swinging  a kettle bell, or sprinting until life catches up with me. That self talk may be there at the onset, but it is to be ignored. Action is the enemy of fear.

With 2017 just around the corner, I move another step closer to a happier, healthier me. I have all the knowledge and skills I need to make the choices necessary to live out my dreams. Happiness is a decision, but motion is needed to secure it as a destination.

My New Year’s Resolution is to spend less time “un-slumping” myself, and allow myself to be happy. I’ve already discovered what makes me happy, but after years of building up bad habits, sometimes I keep my  happiness at bay. The old, familiar path is more defined after years of wear, and I am skilled at tricking myself into taking the “easy” way out. Unfortunately, the path isn’t a way out. It is a way further into self denial and destructive patterns.

The path I now choose to create is one of self respect and growth. I choose to eat healthily, exercise daily, minimize distraction, and close out each day with writing.

How I eat defines my lifestyle. Fresh vegetables, low levels of carbs, and plant protein guarantee me the energy I need to do the things I love, like running or Jiu Jitsu. Avoiding too much sugar helps me to maintain a stable mood and avoid energy crashes. Staying away from meat and dairy, while filling up on healthy greens helps me to diminish the effects of asthma and arthritis. Maintaining my hydration and minimizing alcohol intake ensures productive nights of sleep that leave me feeling rested.

Choices about how to spend my downtime impact my clarity and peace of mind. Social media, television series, and text messages create mental clutter. My mind is skipping from one topic to the next, never really resting on anything of value. Replacing an hour on the computer with time spent reading a book trains my mind to attend to a task emphasizing depth, not breadth.

Writing is in this same vein. Nighttime journaling is a healthy way to end my day. Based on recommendations from Tim Ferriss’ review of the “Five Minute Journal,” I choose to keep my journal positive. Each entry includes three items for which I am grateful, an affirmation, three awesome things that happened that day, something I would change if I could do the day over again, and goals to make tomorrow even better.

I am not limited by the format; I frequently add random musings, provocative quotes, and a dash of humor. But what is most important is to train my brain to find the positive in each day and always move toward growth.

To make this happen in 2017, I will become more aware of when the negative self-talk seeps in and breaks up the routines that keep me mindful. Recognizing that they are there, I resolve to “fake it until I make it.”

I shall never again be my own oppressor.

When that voice says to stay in bed, I will rip the blankets away and plant my feet firmly on the floor. This forward motion gets me out of my head and into my healthy routine.

I will remember that the days when the gym seems the farthest away are the days I need it the most.

And if my day feels too long, too busy, or too frantic to write, I will clutch my pen like a lifeline and use it as a tool to expel the clutter from my mind.

I will keep myself moving forward, always.

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