“Learn how to cope, sweet friend. There will always be dark days ahead.” ~Kris Carr
Around this time four years ago, my life was a mess.
Work-wise, I felt like I had hit a wall. The ‘relationship’ I was in (or so I thought I was) was turning out to be a one-way street on which I was being taken for a long, long, painful ride.
Taking care of myself was something I did only when I remembered to, or during unpredictable moments of clarity or calm within the little emotional tornado I was spinning around and around in.
Just surviving each day was my priority.
The cumulative toxicity of all these ‘wrongs’ were making me feel jaded, physically ill, and almost on the brink of despair.
Luckily for me (although I didn’t consider myself lucky at the time), things came to a head just before Christmas of 2013, thanks to one small step I decided to take.
I decided that I’d had enough, and walked away—for good.
Despite the pain, my life changed for the better that very instant. I felt lighter. Relieved. Free. As if I could finally rest my head on my pillow and sleep like baby.
By then, I had also left my full-time job and started out on my own.
I was ready to move on.
But before that, I spent months in a self-imposed ‘rehab’ period, analyzing everything that went wrong in the last couple of years, why I let them happen, and what I was going to do to move not just forward, but upward.
So where did I go wrong?
I was a “yes” person.
Whenever someone asked something of me, I never said no.
Because I wanted to be liked and accepted by everyone. “If I say no, maybe this person wouldn’t love me,” I thought to myself.
Looking back, it became clear how ridiculous and dangerous this mindset was. No matter how hard I tried or what I did, there was always someone who would get offended, or upset with me. Being a “yes” person was leaving me drained, resentful, and angry.
The more I said yes, the more I got myself into situations I would later regret, and the more I let myself be used.
When I reached my breaking point, I finally said no for the first time, and it left me feeling liberated. So I kept doing it, as much as I needed to.
Life began to feel easier. I had fewer obligations and more time on my hands to focus on re-grouping, healing, and the people I truly wanted to spend time with.
Your “yes” makeover: Start practicing saying no. You will never be able to—nor should you be obligated to—make everyone happy, even if you tried. And by doing this, you’ll learn how to say yes only when you truly mean it. You’ll start to make better decisions from your gut, not social pressure or a chronic need for validation or approval.
Nourishing my body was not my priority.
When everything seems to be going wrong, you’re anxious, sad, confused, and lost, the last thing you’ll want to do is have to choose between that extra large pizza and salad for lunch.
Eating might not even be on your radar if you’re going through a rough, traumatic patch.
But here’s the thing—I’d been on both ends of the spectrum, eating too much and then not eating at all for days when life got overwhelming. Both options left me feeling and looking worse off than I already was.
Unwanted weight gain sapped my self-confidence and added to my daily stressors, while too little nourishment left me feeling weak and unable to cope with life.
I adapted by simplifying my meals—I ate more fruit and salads, which didn’t require much cooking and minimal preparation. I let people cook for me and bring me food.
I took a multivitamin every day. I snacked whenever I could. I scheduled my meals as much as possible so that I was constantly reminded to eat. I knew that if I didn’t eat, I wouldn’t be able to get through this storm. As I healed, so did my eating habits.
Your diet makeover: When you’re struggling to take care of yourself, know that it’s okay to make imperfect food choices. It’s okay let others help you.
Add more structure to your meal times so you make a conscious effort to nourish your body. Eat with friends to lift your spirits. The joy will come back. The better you get at this, the better you’ll be able take care of yourself the next time life knocks you down.
I let toxic people enter and stay in my life.
Whenever I was around the wrong people, I’d feel one or a combination of these emotions: doubtful, sad, agitated, uneasy, or just plain tired, as if the wind had been knocked out of my sails. In contrast, the right people made me feel light, playful, at ease, uplifted, motivated, and supported.
As I got stronger and started making clear-cut decision about who could stay in my life and who would get the boot, I came up with guidelines that would make the weeding out process easier.
- Continuously took without ever giving back to me (or anyone else)
- Turned every disagreement around to make it look like it was my fault
- Belittled my hopes and feelings
- Verbally abused me
- Lied to me
- Was unable to take responsibility for their mistakes and prefers to play the blame game
I walked away. No exceptions. Life is way too short to spend with the wrong people.
Your toxic relationship makeover: Give everyone in your life three chances to make things right when they do something to hurt you. Three strikes later, if nothing changes, don’t just walk away—run. I know this sounds harsh, but doing this has allowed me to regain control over who I want in my life, and who I don’t, and my peace of mind.
I stopped dreaming.
It takes faith and determination to keep the fires within your soul burning, even more so when you’re running on empty with a bruised heart and spirit.
I went on this way for years until I eventually stopped hoping and dreaming, because I felt so trapped.
My self-imposed ‘rehab’ time was perfect for giving this part of my soul much needed TLC.
I re-started my fires by devouring as many books as I could. Danielle LaPorte’s The Fire Starter Sessions, Jonathan Fields’ Uncertainty, Napoleon Hill’s Think And Grow Rich, and Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth were instrumental in helping me piece back my spirit, world and dreams.
I spent a lot of time excavating, exploring, tweaking, re-discovering, and building.
I opened myself up to deeper conversations, made peace with my mistakes and weak decisions, and started connecting instead of avoiding.
Baby sparks eventually grew into larger-than-life flames.
Your dream makeover Your dreams didn’t die overnight, so take your time getting them back. Getting clarity about what you really want will help you decide the first steps you’ll need to take.
Try doing this simple, but powerful exercise: Ask yourself, “What do I want to accomplish?” Then with whatever answer you come up with, ask why to that, and so on, five times.
Start re-kindling your flame from here.
Too much stillness crept into my life.
The darker and bigger the grey clouds around me got, the heavier I started to feel, physically and emotionally. I dragged my feet wherever I went. The thought of exercising felt like a chore, using up energy I felt I no longer had.
So I gradually stopped.
As a result, I started to feel stagnant, sluggish, and unhealthy. I loved getting my regular flush of adrenaline and post-workout endorphins, but I just couldn’t get going.
There were, however, two things I could do that I found therapeutic and beneficial to my physical health: walking and yoga. I wasn’t in the right frame of mind for high-speed, high-intensity, as-many-rounds-as-possible circuits just yet. And that, too, was okay.
Long, head space-clearing walks, rhythmic, breath-centered sun salutations, and gentle stretches became my salvation, so I did more of those.
Your movement makeover: When it comes to exercise, do what is right for you when it is right for you. If hard and fast is your usual routine, it doesn’t mean that you need to force yourself to keep up with it despite not being in the right mental space for it.
Not listening to your gut (and body) could leave you vulnerable to injury and unable to make the most of your training. If you’ve never exercised, just getting out and moving could make a world of difference.
But whatever you do, don’t stay still.
Be gentle on yourself, and learn to bend as the wind blows—you’ll gain a deeper kind of strength from within.
Are you going through dark patch or on the mend from one right now?
I’d love to know which toxic habit makeover resonates with you the most, and what you plan to do to turn things around.
Happy woman jumping image via Shutterstock
About Michele Lian
Michele Lian is a food coach, group exercise trainer, author and all-round science geek who’s on a mission to empower people all over the world with healthy-eating and strength-building superpowers. Connect with her onmichelelian.com, where she teaches foodies how to eat what they want, lose weight and conquer their cravings, or follow her on Facebook andInstagram.