Thursday, April 13, 2017

Realistic Health Goals and Letting Go of Control

Hi, friends <3.  I'm more awake this morning than I usually am, which is saying a lot because I'm typically out of the apartment by 7:20 every weekday.  Don't think that's because I like getting out that early, though--if I had it my way, work wouldn't start until much later in the day, even though I'm much more of a "morning person" than I am a night owl.  I used to be a night owl, and I still really love TGIF movie nights, but work obligations have forced me to adapt to a morning-oriented routine. I've found that getting up and dancing on Saturday and Sunday mornings has helped me to adjust because it gives me a positive association with earliness.

dancing + chocolate + books = happiness

Anyway, with my increased energy this morning (which I assure you will likely fade before my first class, lol), I got to thinking about control and societal expectations and ideas surrounding control. There's no doubt in my mind that most people have some sort of innate desire to be in control. It's comforting to feel like you've got a grip on what's going on at all times, and that makes a lot of sense given evolution. I mean, when in survival mode, control can be beneficial. It provides reassurance that things will work out at least enough that you and your family will live another day. But, like everything, control has a "shadow side," and sometimes the very things you think you need to control/are controlling end up controlling you. 
I know I've definitely struggled with control.  I'm a "creature of comfort" and really, really like routine and predictability.  Chaos = anxiety = ugh, and, as I mentioned earlier, society really does like to amp up the whole "be in control and everything will be fine!" mentality.  I'm still just "seeing the light" with these messages, too, so I'm by no means immune to them, but it's been helpful to be more aware of them.  I mean, look around you . . . so many magazines, articles, ads, etc., feature actors and models talking about their rigid fitness regimes or diet plans or daily schedules.  Don't get me wrong--I'm all about feeling healthy and happy and making life a happy, relaxed place for yourself, but I've been slowly realizing over the years that sometimes giving into all these media messages is really unhealthy.  Everywhere we look, there is a celebrity describing her "typical day.":
She gets up around 7:00, immediately drinks warm water with lemon, oil pulls, stretches, and then hits the gym for an intense session--weights and cardio, five to six times a week, with one active recovery day thrown in for good measure. She avoids sugars, additives, and salt, and she limits her carbs to 1/4 c oatmeal at breakfast, a sweet potato at lunch, and 1/2 c cooked quinoa at dinner (which doesn't happen any later than 7:00 because #digestion, right?).  Oh, and then there's a piece of dark chocolate (JUST A PIECE) at night if it's a Friday or Saturday. 
Okay, so now that we've read this, it's time to examine our own lives.  Just like with everything, there's a light and shadow side to this.  On the light side, we can say, "Oh, okay, maybe instead of staying up till two AM and then getting up at six AM, I can try to go to bed earlier.  That will help me feel less exhausted, and maybe my skin will clear up.  And maybe I'll try lemon water in the morning and that dance/Pilates/etc. video I saw on YouTube when I have time after school.  That sort of thing might energize me."  But on the shadow side, we can say, "Okay. No more rice. Ever. And only a 1/4 c of oatmeal, even if I'm hungry.  And I need to incorporate weights into my training now, and I can only rest one day a week, and then I need to walk for 60 minutes to make up for it . . . " This sort of thinking might make us feel "in control" temporarily, but whenever something interferes with our plan, we feel like everything is falling apart.  We become dependent on our routines and our rules, and if we can't live up to our expectations of ourselves, we fall into negativity and self-criticism.  

Is this healthy?  Trust me, darling--it isn't.

Audrey Hepburn: "Happy girls are the prettiest." (Image from smooth.com.au)

One of the best pieces of advice that I've ever received (and I admit that I need to do a better job following it) is balance.  Balance and moderation.  This advice came from a loved one who has passed on recently, and I've been trying to focus on it more because of how true it is. Complete carelessness and excessive control haven't ever benefited anyone.  Find a happy medium for yourself--a place where you can just exist and lead a full, happy life with things that you look forward to, manageable responsibilities, and some sort of meaning. The best thing about this happy medium is that you can start striving for it RIGHT NOW. You don't need to order any fancy products or sign up for a service. All you need is yourself.

<3 Frances 

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