Friends FALL is here and I for one am super excited because I just love FALL- the weather, the colors, the warm beverages, all of it. But also because it has been a bit of a challenging time these past few weeks and I’m ready for a change of season.
Just a few weeks ago my closest friend passed away after a battle with brain cancer. She’s the second friend I’ve lost in the past year.
And honestly, the grief comes in waves, some day I’m busy with life and it’s fine. I’m fine. Everything is FINE.
Others I’m overwhelmed at the thought that we won’t be doing life together. Worse that we won’t make any more memories together. That’s that one that gets me the most. It’s so final. I won’t get any more texts or messages from her.
I’m well acquainted with the stages of grief and I’m not trying to rush through them it’s just that when someone you love is so sick for a long period of time I think you start the grieving process during the sickness.
But in any case, personally as a trained mental health professional my default coping mechanism is usually numbing of course. Numbing through busyness, social media, cookies, distractions.
Actually I’m not numbing so much with food these days as I decided to do the September Whole 30 program several weeks ago before I knew there would be so much grief this month.
Many of you know I struggle with food. I grew up on fast food and sweets and have difficulty sticking to healthy eating. But I’d been extra fatigued lately and my pants were fitting just a bit tighter than I’d like so I knew my body needed a re-set. I decided to give Whole 30 a try.
From their web site Whole 30 is:
a short-term nutritional reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system.
Basically it’s a 30 day eating plan, mostly like to going paleo but with a few differences.
I’ll admit, I was a little nervous, I mean 30 days without sugar, bread, CHEESE!?!?
But if you’ll recall I did the Daniel Fast a while back and survived so I thought hey at least I can have “meat” and being the carnivore that I am I figured I could maybe actually do it.
So I’m just about half way done and I have to say I’m pretty proud of myself for not cheating. Especially because this month I’ve been 1) traveling and 2) grieving, both of which would normally find me sitting with fries or a bag of Pepperidge Farm Mint Milano cookies.
Yes, believe me I would rather be numbing my grief over a pint of Mitchell’s Ice Cream or a glass of wine. But instead, I’ve stuck to my eating plan and having been filling up with grilled veggies and chicken apple sausage.
The thing is yes eating healthy for me is hard but not really. I mean it’s uncomfortable and kind of annoying but going through cancer is hard. Not having my favorite treat is just self-discipline. But maybe nowadays self-discipline is actually hard or at least counter-cultural.
I’m learning that I can do hard things. But mostly that some hard things are really not that hard; I just haven’t had to practice denying myself or making different choices because I’m a grown up and can just pretty much have what I want when I want.
Hungry? Drive through, delivery service, last minute candy bars at the check-out are all at my disposal.
But now I’m intentionally rejecting them and choosing to prepare meals at home with ingredients I can actually pronounce.
You know what’s hard but empowering? Saying no.
You know what’s really hard but REALLY empowering? Saying no to myself.
Not being controlled by my feelings, circumstances or emotions.
And I’ve been sitting with 1 Corinthians 6:12 (NLT)
You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything.
Preach it Paul!
We can do hard things. We don’t need to become slaves to anything whether it’s food or anger.
Yesterday I woke up at 5am and I would have again today if my alarm had gone off. Not because I love waking up early (I promise I really don’t) but because I really needed those extra hours of quiet before the rest of the house was up. It wasn’t easy but it was a price I was willing to pay.
Other things that are hard; forgiveness, loving people who act unlovingly, doing what it right even when others judge or disagree, breaking an unhealthy habit, sitting down and writing that book or blog post or having a difficult conversation.
Here are a few tips I’ve found helpful when doing hard things:
Invite others in (accountability): Let a trusted friend or loved one in on what’s going on. I’ve told my husband and kids (and now all of you!) that I’m doing whole 30 so they’re holding me accountable. Accountability is literally what got me up in the morning since I actually have a 5am wake up accountability friend who texts me in the morning to check in and make sure I’m up. I know I’m going to get her text so I want to be up and ready when I do.
Practice saying no: You guys, I know it feels weird to deny ourselves the things we want. But in our culture of distractions and instant gratification, it might be helpful to exercise our self-control/self-discipline muscles. And we can strengthen our resolve by practicing small nos. No, I’ll pass on dessert, no I don’t “need” 7 extra things from Target, no I don’t actually need to check my phone AGAIN (OK that one’s hard, I KNOW). Then when the bigger nos come, it won’t seem “quite” so foreign.
Focus on the yes that comes from your not now: No does not have to mean NOT EVER. I promise you I will have cake and cookies again just not now. But rather than focusing on what I’m saying no to now, it’s helpful to think about what I’m saying yes to. Waking up early meant saying no to extra sleep but I was so excited to say YES to having a few extra hours of quiet in the morning that it was totally worth it.
Mindfulness: Numbing is easy, it’s comfortable but toxic. But numbing over time gets us functioning like robots. Avoiding our feelings will eventually harden us not only to difficult emotions but to good ones like joy, hope, kindness. Practicing mindfulness and allowing ourselves to feel our feelings though uncomfortable actually gets us through those dark times more quickly.
Changing negative self-talk: Hard is hard and there are definitely challenging situations beyond our control. I get it. But sometimes we don’t do ourselves any favors by convincing ourselves that we just can’t do IT (whatever “it” is) before we even try. What if instead we went into challenges with the expectation, that yes I may do this imperfectly but I am willing to give it a try?