Designing a life optimized for health isn’t always easy. On the best, shiniest, happiest days, things feel in balance – we get a workout in, fill our plates with lively greens, smooch our loved ones, and connect to a purpose beyond ourselves. And on the worst days, things feel wholly out of whack – we miss a few hours of sleep, eat junk while we’re driving in our cars, sit still, and feel scattered and maybe even a little bit frantic. It can be so easy to throw off the delicate balance of our bodies and our lives, and it can be so hard to restore a sense of peace. When we’re spinning, we need to work to regain our center.
When I was younger, whenever I felt out of whack, I used to try to hit “reset” all at once and make insanely long lists of all the things I was going to start doing the next day to get back on track. This commitment went something like “Tomorrow I’m going to rise at 6am and get a workout in…I will avoid all sugar…I will sleep 8 hours…I will stay focused at work…I will write a letter to an old friend…I will paint and daydream and meditate.” Including everything but training to be a Buddhist monk, these lists were long, lofty, and entirely impossible to check off, leaving me feeling deflated and causing the spinning to continue and sometimes accelerate.
Over time, I’ve learned that hitting “reset” is about finding and knowing what 1-2 things truly center me, without fail. It’s about going toward those things when I find myself spinning into a cycle of too much doing and not enough being. I go to one of these three places to re-center:
- Sleep. For most of us, sleep is the foundation of our well-being and the gateway to be able to manage our energy and increase our vitality. For me, getting 8-9 hours of sleep steadily for a few days straight is the first step toward getting back on track.
- Time in Nature. Thoreau said, “how important is a constant intercourse with nature and the contemplation of natural phenomena to the preservation of moral and intellectual health.” I’d add physical and emotional and spiritual health to that. Time in nature – on trails and along shores and atop mountains – can provides restoration in a way that can put life’s struggles and beauties firmly in perspective.
- A Good Long Sweat. When I’m overwhelmed and off kilter, I find refuge in feeling my heart race and beads of sweat form on my forehead. In the realm of wellness, exercise is my gateway to taking better care of myself in other parts of my life.
Articles abound telling us how to write bucket lists and set goals and clarify intentions, and I love them. Hey, I write them myself sometimes. But what these articles don’t tell us is that it’s damn hard to do this if we’re not operating from a place of strength, peace, and clarity. It’s hard to move forward when we’re spinning around in circles.
So whether you’re in beautifully in balance today, or out of whack and overwhelmed, take a few minutes to reflect on what 1-2 things are your gatekeepers to getting back on track. What helps you reset? What helps you break the spin cycle? And next time you need those things, you’ll know what they are and how to find them. From a firm and clear foundation, the intentions, the goals, and the wellfestos will follow.