work your body, calm your mind
Phew-it's WEDNESDAY! We are officially halfway through the week y'all! I never used to get excited about humpday, but I've created a little midweek routine and it's really changing the game. For so many of us, our energy levels trend downward as the week progresses. In the beginning, we start fresh as a daisy; bright, strong and ready to take on the world. I don't know about you, but usually by Thursday night, my daisy is flaccid and wilty and generally over it. I find myself stressed about what I have left to do, worried about what I didn't do yet, and desperately trying to make it all come together. It doesn't have to be this way though. If you are looking for more energy and a "less sucky" end of the week, I've got the plan for you. Working your body can actually calm your mind-using the energy you have inside will release stress, bring stillness, and create even more positive energy for the rest of the week.
The first part is an easy sell. It's not uncommon for people to exercise as a way to relieve stress. While physical activity is a great way to take your mind off the things that are giving you grief, it can be just a brief distraction. Exercise becomes an outlet when you combine it with intention. If you have ever heard someone say they are going to "leave it all on the table," you can assume he or she is delivering their very best and walking away knowing they couldn't have given more. This is a powerful concept-entering a situation when you're prepared, confident, and ready for a challenge is inspiring. When you "leave it all on the table," the outcome doesn't matter. The growth is in the journey, you've done the work and proved something to yourself. You can let go of the pressure and fear of judgment and appreciate your efforts.
The second part probably seems counter-intuitive. Using energy to create energy? It's true that if I have $5 and then spend $5, I no longer have $5. Strangely your physical energy stores work the opposite way. Believe it or not, going for a brisk walk can refresh you the same as would a power nap. Next time you feel that I-ate-too-much-lunch heavy eyelid feeling, give it a try! Hop up and take a brisk 5 minute walk, you will feel better and more alert...Kinda cool, no?
So that's the theory; using exercise to let go of stress and create energy. Why and how exactly do we need to apply it?
Let's suppose we missed a whole week of work/life/etc. due to a vacation, illness, business travel, or some other reason. Upon return we usually scavenge for the critical points we missed and the rest is history. In a situation like this, it's so much easier to let go of the past. We understand that the world kept turning while we were away and it would be fruitless to rehash every detail of our absence. It's not like someone told us not to give a fig , but for some odd reason we are able to give ourselves a break and let it go.
Why can't we extend this same forgiving attitude to our weekly to-do list? The stress we feel on Thursday about the stuff we didn't get to on Tuesday seems justified and most of us keep trying to add a little extra here or there to stay on track. Maybe we don't get enough sleep one night, skip a workout, or cancel something we were really looking forward to; either way we end up paying for it later on. We trudge onward losing steam all the while, and by the week's end we are completely pooped. Raise your hand if you habitually make and then cancel post-work plans on Friday night because you literally can't even!
We forget that robbing Peter to pay Paul still leaves somebody broke; trying to make up for lost time is the exact same flawed logic. The key to avoiding the end-of-the-week slump lies in cleaning the slate. Celebrating all you've accomplished so far and forgiving the things you haven't can help you look forward with a sense or purpose instead of dread or defeat.
Step 1 - divide your week into two parts, the BEGINNING and the END. I work Monday through Friday so Wednesday is the middle for me. My friend Cait is a security guard and she works Wednesday through Sunday so Friday is midweek for her, you get the idea. Set your intentions on getting to the midpoint and get excited about tapping into your "happy." Don't worry about getting through the whole week, you're journey is to the middle.
Step 2 - get "happy" with a fun activity. This should be something you look forward to, but something that's also challenging. The key is to choose something that makes you feel good about YOU! This is a great time to leave it all out there as we discussed earlier, but it can be anything. Time, intensity, variety are all up to you. Some examples are squats for the duration of your favorite song, holding a plank, taking a bike ride with a friend, a pilates class. Not feeling physical? Try meditating, coloring, or preparing a new recipe. We are taking time to be present in our activity and celebrate our awesomeness, so feel free to give your body whatever it needs.
Think of each week as a road trip with the "middle" as your destination. This approach gives you two chances to get it right. You have the way there AND the way back with a checkpoint in the middle; a chance to learn, evaluate and make adjustments along the way. Reaching your halfway point destination is a big deal. You've done it! Your midweek "happy" time should celebrate you. A little time to say "thank you, me, for being so good to me," to recharge before you start again. Once you get where you're going, reflect on where you've been, you might need to change things up. The beauty of the road trip is that the way there can be completely different than the way back; the best part is that you have the freedom to decide what you need.