“93… 86, 79, 70, 63….” I paused for what felt like an eternity, but the next number wasn’t there. I couldn’t find it. I was counting backward by seven in front of the psychiatrist as she silently judged me. My face flushed with anxiety and embarrassment. I immediately felt… inadequate.
I had a nervous breakdown at 30 years old.
That’s how I found myself sitting across from a psychiatrist who was trying to diagnose me with something (anything) to ease my suffering.
My backstory might sound similar to the one you know. I worked 30 hours a week in a government library, I just started my health coaching business on the side, I was entering my second year of volunteer mentoring at-risk youth, and I just transitioned from a community college to a private university in which they expected far more from me than I thought possible. Oh, and I was a new homeowner and newlywed.
Back then I didn’t have any self-love or self-care practices. I didn’t think I even had the time! When I wasn’t busy sitting in lectures, I was cramming for exams, working, or driving to and from work or school. And forget romance.
If I could go back and change things, I would have traded in the temporary comfort of my gin bottle for a few of the self-love practices I have today. So much suffering could have been avoided.
You live, you learn… you share!
If you find yourself getting overwhelmed when life gives you more than you can handle, try one of these 7 unexpected ways to practice self-love:
1- Give Yourself Time to Get Shit Done.
People say they work better under pressure and that work just expands to meet the time allotted. Maybe anxiety, guilt-tripping, and punishment works for some people, but not for me.
If you don’t already have them, set deadlines to work toward each day for each project. Respect your need for time. I had to learn to say no to last-minute business collaborations, acknowledge that practice is the biggest part of the work, and not give into the lure of being a weekend warrior when it comes to anything (including my fitness). Everything requires time, practice, and deadlines.
If this is one of your biggest sources of stress, stop ignoring it. You’ve got to formulate better plans for your work-life-balance so that you feel like you have some control over what happens to your time and energy. No, I don’t have the magic solution for you here. But here’s a hint: prioritize what’s important and cut out what isn’t (see #2 below).
2- Unplug from Triggers.
I used to work tech support for Directv. When a customer called to complain that their receiver wasn’t working, the first thing we told the customer to do was unplug and hit the reset button. It almost always works again after that.
Sometimes we have to give things up 100% before we can get back to a healthy dose of moderation. For me, this includes (but is not limited to): Netflix, following certain friends on Facebook, reading wellness articles, junk food of any kind, alcohol, and Pokemon Go.
It’s difficult at first and you start out feeling like a cranky customer who can’t get their Directv to work, but after a few days, we find that life is often better without our triggers. And when we plug back into them, we have to work on having a healthier relationship with them (instead of being co-dependent on them for our happiness).
3- Process Emotions in a Productive Way.
I’m all about productivity, so when some woo-woo guru tells me to meditate on a feeling, I get squeamish about wasting time. Instead, I process my emotions like this: What is that feeling? Bad. What is deeper than ‘bad’? Rejection. Why do I feel this way? Some stranger on the internet doesn’t think I’m awesome. Then… I whip out my magic question, “How can I make this an adventure?” Which is essentially asking yourself, “How can I use this?”
I’m of the firm belief that ALL emotions are information. They have something to tell us and to teach us if we are willing to pause and listen (and ask the right questions). And if we run away from ‘bad’ emotions, we’re essentially disowning a huge chunk of who we are. Ouch.
As Kristin Neff points out in her Self-Compassion book, “We can’t heal what we can’t feel.” When we choose a trigger (see #2 above) over and over again instead of processing an unpleasant emotion, it keeps coming back stronger and stronger. And sometimes, you have a nervous breakdown.
4- Forgive Yourself for Not Measuring Up Every Single Day.
Greasy hair. Worked from home all day in pajamas. Sink full of dishes and no idea what to cook for dinner.
Let’s face it, you are one person without all of the expert help and staff of Beyonce. Perfectionism and Wonder Woman Syndrome runs rampant in modern society. Everywhere we look we’re told to “Pull your shit together and go (insert workout or boss babe action here).” You know, the quotes your friend posts on social media… hoping it will motivate her to get off her own ass and do something.
We start to believe that our worth is based on proving we can do it all and do it better than anyone else at the same time. And the guilt trips? That’s extra motivation!
After going full-time with my health coaching business, I learned quickly that working from home every day was going to have its drawbacks. My husband even started to question what I spent my time doing when he arrived home from work to see me looking as if I had just rolled out of bed at 3pm. Not everything on my to-do list would get done for the day, and some days that was personal hygiene.
It takes a lot of trust and gentle pats on the back daily to get through this shit when you’re doing it all alone. Whether you’re a solopreneur or a stay-at-home mom, you’ve got your work cut out for you.
Some days, it’s all about the small wins. You got out of bed. You made the deadline on your project. And you had a real lunch. Go you!
5- Participate in Social Nudism.
Admittedly, this may be the most unexpected and uncomfortable way to practice self-love. This isn’t to be confused with voyeurism or being a swinger, by the way.
My husband and I discovered the culture of social nudism two years ago when we awkwardly stripped down and ran a naked 5k race (Bare Buns Fun Run at Kaniksu Family Nudist Resort). We’ve been back five times since then.
The biggest benefit of social nudism is for those of us who have body image issues or struggle with ego. Both of which get in the way of engaging with others and creating genuine friendships because in the back of our minds we’re always comparing ourselves to others.
When everyone is naked, you see that your body isn’t much different from anyone else’s and you don’t need to try to inflate your ego to prove you’re better than anyone else (or worthy). Through social nudism, I feel more connected to others in our shared experience of life rather than isolated and alienated by social comparison. There’s nothing to prove when you’re naked. And man, that’s a liberated feeling!
6- Nature. Trails. And Sometimes, Running.
This is my meditation. This is my source of creative energy. This is usually where my breakthroughs happen. And it’s so simple.
Need to process why you feel like caca? Hit the trails. Need to think through a concept for a project you’re working on? Nature has ideas for you. Need to just be alone and shut out the noise? Go for a run outside. Don’t want to shut out ALL of the noise? Bring an audiobook.
The point is, nature and movement work together to create magic. It’s a major change in your normal environment and when the body is in motion, it functions better. Period. It’s a peaceful way to practice self-love. Just be careful of the moose watching you from behind the trees.
7- Write and Write and Write Some More.
I used to laugh at the idea of journaling. Mainly because I only used it as a way to recall the day’s events. I never used it to recall my FEELINGS about those events.
Now, as someone who runs her own online business, a huge part of my marketing comes from emotion-charged writing. Writing articles (like this), typing out social media posts, and engaging through email marketing content.
What started out as a way to grab the attention of a potential customer has morphed into a way for me to be vulnerable with my audience and actually work through some events of my past that I had not forgiven myself for. Business gurus of the woo-woo nature would call these “blocks” that prevent me from being more successful than I am. Because a small part of me believes I don’t deserve the life I want, so I will find ways to sabotage my success.
Dang. That cuts deep. Because it’s true.
We all hang on to beliefs or meanings from past events that act as proof that we don’t deserve something good in our lives.
For years, I hid the fact that my dad’s alcoholism wrecked my childhood, that I was in a failed marriage when I was 20 years old, that I dropped out of high school, that I stole food from a place I worked at, that I dumpster dived behind grocery stores for food, that I had an abortion at the age of 25, and that I was diagnosed with PTSD, depression, and anxiety disorder by the psychiatrist whom I had regular appointments with after my nervous breakdown at 30.
As I started sharing these parts of my life, anxiety hit. Will people pity me? Will they be disgusted? Will this hurt my business?
What ultimately happened:
When my truth spilled out onto my computer screen and made it’s way to the public, it no longer had control over me. It wasn’t a daily burden to carry around… trying to protect my dirty little secrets from predators.
Spending decades hiding my true self from others only made me feel more isolated and alone. Jerome K. Jerome says, “It is in our faults and failings, not in our virtues, that we touch others, and find sympathy. It is in our follies that we are one.”
Through sharing my stories of vulnerability, I was healing myself and connecting more with others. I built more trust with my audience by being honest rather than pretending to be some wellness expert who had all of her ducks in a row to admire.
This has been my greatest act of self-love: writing, sharing, and owning my story.
If you want to explore the power of healing through writing, join me in my 10-Day Self-Love Writing Challenge, #HowILearnedToLoveMyself. We go live October 10th and each day we will write on a pre-selected topic to share. Through spending just 30 short minutes a day using my 10-10-10 framework, you’ll start releasing any shame that is keeping you stuck and develop self-compassion to trust for your life’s journey as we enter the fall and winter months. This challenge is all about self-love and you’ll have a tribe of inspirational babes to help hold you accountable and have fun along the way.
You can learn more about this free 10-day challenge by clicking here.
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