Learn how to access your innate well-being.
Throughout my twenties and early thirties, I can honestly say most of the time I was walking around with low grade anxiety. I just never knew it.
I thought feeling not good enough at work (even though I was exhibiting extreme outward success); succumbing daily to should’s; agreeing to take on volunteer tasks and outside requests I didn’t truly have the bandwidth for; tolerating relationships and friendships that didn’t feed me; frequently having tight shoulders and an upset stomach; and flying through my days often feeling tired, unsettled and restless—was normal. In retrospect, I see now that my “busy-ness” was a way to indulge and distract myself from what I was really feeling below the surface.
I assumed this was what we call life. You celebrated when the sun shined and ran for cover when storms came, but overall, your daily experience of life was beyond your control.
Yesterday I spoke to a management executive about presenting a work/life balance workshop to his employees. We talked for a while about the concept of well-being and he chuckled when I asked how he defined self-care. “Oh yeah, I try to eat my apple a day and jog a couple of times a week.” But, he looked at me quizzically when I persisted and asked if he was familiar with the concept of emotional self-care (read more about self-care).
My life now is vastly different from 20 years ago that I need these reality checks. These reminders that all the baby steps, conscious choices and daily pivotal life/career decisions I’ve made—and continue to make—to enhance my sense of inner and outer harmony, have deeply impacted how I experience being on the planet on a day-to-day basis.
If this conversation has you thinking, I challenge you to consider:
On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being I’m about to have a nervous breakdown and 10 being I’m feeling pretty blissed out), how would you rate your current state of emotional health on most days?
On an average day, how do you feel physically (pause, close your eyes for a minute, breathe and put your hands on your chest)? Do you habitually have tight shoulders, discomfort in your chest or feel unease in your belly?
How connected do you feel to yourself and others? Do you feel like you’re seen, heard and belong?
Has life become one big to-do list? Do you feel like a robot mechanically moving from task to task? Be honest with yourself.
What gives your life meaning; from where do you derive your sense of purpose? Do you feel like you can trust the “flow of life?”
As you explore these questions, please do so with a huge dose of compassion and curiosity. I often suggest clients don a pretend lab coat and observe their responses as if they’re conducting a science experiment. Twenty lashes never helps bring about positive change, but a gentle, inquisitive approach towards self often unlocks doors with ease.
In 25 years of working with clients around work-life balance and self-care, I’ve never met anyone who didn’t ultimately discover that the answers they sought were as close as their breath–they just had to slow down and get quiet enough to hear them.