Mental & Physical Preparation

This season has been a trying one for me, and God has guided me through ways to navigate it. Through His direction, I have turned to writing and exercise to manage my anxiety and depressive symptoms, both of which are far healthier than the alternatives.

I’ve talked about how running helps me get out of my head, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned that I signed up for the Disney Princess Half Marathon in February. In preparation for this, I’ve signed up for other races strategically between now and then. And Sunday is race 1: a 10K.

I ran 6.2 miles last Sunday as a practice run, so I’m toning down my running this week. Instead, I’m doing light exercises and some yoga–all from the comfort of my apartment. Nutrition is equally as important as the actual physical exercise, so I’m also being conscious of what I eat.

Only three days in to this “regimen”, and it hasn’t been easy. I’m tempted by cookies and Halloween candy every day. And, admittedly, I bought a pizza for dinner (though I didn’t finish all of it!). But having just completed Beachbody’s 80 Day Obsession, I am feeling confident that I can control myself…at least better than I used to be able to.

But physical preparation is only half the battle. Mental preparation is just as important. And as I’ve only ever run 5Ks before, my mind is doing it’s fair share of negative self talk: Why on earth did you sign up for this? You don’t have self control when it comes to food. You’re no different now. You’re never going to be able to do that half-marathon. 

Unlike the old me, this me isn’t going to give in to that nonsense. There are times on my runs when, even through the music blaring in my ears, that negative voice decides to be louder and I physically shake my head to shake it off or say a silent prayer. There have been times when, mid workout in the privacy of my apartment, I’ve actually said out loud “shut up!” to no one but that voice. There have been moments I have cried out loud “Jesus, please!” when the voice seems to be too much in control. The funny thing is, when I do that, I have this mental picture of, what I call, “bitch-me” making an angry face–lip curl, raised eyebrow, side eye–and giving me a doubting look while she fades back into the darkness. Because she knows she’s been defeated. It may only be for that moment, but she has been. And she will continue to be defeated one moment at a time.

Because that is how progress works. It doesn’t happen overnight. We won’t get rid of negative self talk in one day. We won’t cry out to Jesus and suddenly everything is better right then. We won’t because it’s those moments–the moments we need His grace and His strength the most–that help make us stronger.

Physical preparation means I eat right and do physical practices that will make me stronger but not wear me out or injure me. Mental preparation means I talk myself up this whole week, I excitedly tell others what I’m doing, and tell myself I will finish strong.

I don’t know what being prepared looks like for you, but it’s an important step in getting over any humps and in being prepared for when that negative voice creeps in. Being prepared doesn’t mean dwelling on the negativity; it means knowing what can trigger it and combating it accordingly.

I know my preparation journey–be it physical or spiritual–is far from over. And neither is yours. Stay in it in faith. It will get better, but only if you prepare.

Preparing to Write

Do you know what November is? NaNoWriMo!

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. I had never heard of it until last year, and, then, I wasn’t in a good enough place mentally to really devote energy to a novel. I signed up on the website, got about 500 words in, and felt complete despair, so I gave up. This year is different. As I mentioned, I’m working on a book, and I’m going to take NaNoWriMo as my opportunity to give it what I’ve got.

The goal of NaNoWriMo is to have written 50,000 words by the end of November, which means you have a complete (or near complete) draft of your novel. I’m going to remain hopeful.

I actually drew out a table for myself in my bullet journal with my daily word goal and the actual word count I get through:

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When it’s broken into pieces like this, it doesn’t seem as daunting.

The past few days have showed me I am supposed to write this book. As Christians, we know we are supposed to use our gifts to help others and move the kingdom of God forward. I’ve never felt like I could do that until now.

If you’re a writer and you’re interested in participating in NaNoWriMo, you can sign up here. If you do, be sure to find me (Ink & Parchment) and we can cheer each other on!

How Do You Feel?

“I don’t feel well.”

How many times have you said this? And how many times have you not meant physically well? There have been many times I haven’t felt well, but there have also been times I have felt “off” without really knowing why. But telling someone I didn’t feel well without a physical ailment to accompany it made me feel like I was lying, so I didn’t.

I struggle with telling others this, especially when it comes to work. I value honesty and openness, but how open and honest is appropriate in that context? So, I settle for “I don’t feel well” and hope the other person either understands the underlying context or doesn’t ask questions.

I’ve come to realize something, though, and that is this: you don’t owe anyone an explanation.

If you don’t feel well, simply say so and move on. Only explain as much as you’re comfortable or as much as is appropriate. When someone has a cold, we understand they aren’t at their best and we don’t ask questions, so why should it be any different with mental health?

Perhaps because depressive symptoms manifest differently in different people. I came across a very interesting article on my social media feed the other day about high-functioning depression, and I was a bit surprised to be able to relate to some of the points. (No, I’m not going to diagnose myself or make assumptions, but it may be worth a question to my mental health professional.) If someone doesn’t “seem” depressed, it may be more difficult for others to believe that person is struggling simply because our society takes only what we can see.

It’s important, then, to take gauge of yourself periodically during the day. If you’ve been struggling through an episode, give yourself some grace during the day and find gentle ways to bring yourself back. Maybe you need rest, be that physical rest in the form of sleep or spiritual rest or both. Maybe you need an outlet. Whatever it is, do what you need to do to take care of yourself.

So, in all honesty, how do you feel?

 

Rest

I was doing well. Then I had an episode.

I’d been trying to ignore an oncoming episode for a few days, which is something I should know by now that I shouldn’t do. By the end of that day, I was on the floor of my room in tears, Belle trying to console me with kisses and leaning on me. She knew the moment I walked in the door.

As I recovered–washed my face, did my bedtime routine–I realized I had allowed life to get in the way of spending alone time with God. I’ve been waking up every morning to exercise, but in my groggy state, I haven’t been thanking Him for giving me the ability to workout. I haven’t been spending time with Him in the middle of the day or in the evening. I haven’t allowed myself real rest. Not sleep, but the rest that is found in Christ.

This is what happens when we don’t give our souls rest.

We need to take time out of our day to spend with the Lord. When we feel weakest, He can provide the strength we seek. When we feel mentally, emotionally, spiritually exhausted, He can provide the rest we so desperately need.

What does this look like? It looks different for everyone. But it’s something we all need.

I’ve struggled with the idea of rest for a long time. I thought if I rested in any way, it was just laziness and I wasn’t being a productive member of society. Ya know what I mean? Do you struggle with that? But God actually tells us to rest.

The next time you’re feeling on the edge of a breakdown, ask yourself how much time you have spent with the Lord recently. If you’re like me and you’ve been going on stop, you may not have allowed yourself an opportunity to breathe. Your spirit may be exhausted and need rest.

So, I’m taking advice. How do we set aside time to rest our spirits? What do you do to rest in His presence?

Family Photos

I reached a new level of crazy dog mom. I did a breed reveal photoshoot with Belle.

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Photos courtesy of Elle Photography

And you know what? I don’t care. I don’t care if others think I’m crazy or laugh. I don’t really care if other people think I’m “obsessed” with her. Because they don’t know what this beautiful being has helped me through. They don’t know my story.

But now I know a bit more of Belle’s.IMG_3300

It doesn’t really matter what her breeds are. It doesn’t change how much I love her or her training. It doesn’t change that I knew she was the one for me the minute I sat in her kennel at that shelter.

But what it does do is remind me that our mixtures are what make us. Our pasts, our weaknesses, our stories don’t define us, but they do help to shape us. They are our background, for better or worse, and knowing how they have shaped us makes it easier for us to navigate our future.

I don’t know what my family photos will look like from here on out, and I hope that one day my family photos look a bit more like the ones of a few years ago. But this one is perfect for me and fills my heart with joy.

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It’s (Not) Too Late To Apologize

“I’m sorry for the person I became. I’m sorry that it took so long for me to change. I’m ready to and never become that way again. ‘Cause who I am hates who I’ve been.” — Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been, Reliant K

I’ve struggled with the fine line between “I don’t like who I was and I’m going to change for the better” and “I don’t like who I was and I wish I could take it all back so I’m going to beat myself up for it.” This song, specifically the line “who I am hates who I’ve been,” keeps playing on repeat in my head.

I wish that apologies could fix everything, and I wish apologies could be taken as genuine all the time. But they can’t. Because apologies are sometimes not genuine. Sometimes we apologize just to forget the issue, just to move forward, but we aren’t really sorry. So when we do mean that apology, it isn’t taken.

Even if our verbal apology isn’t taken, we can still find ways to apologize. The best type of apology is changed behavior. Verbally apologize, but then have your behavior reflect that apology. It may take time, especially if what you’re apologizing for has become a habit (like rolling your eyes), but make that conscious effort.

So I’m saying sorry, but I’m going to make sure my behavior is different. I would like to think I’ve changed. I would like to think I am better than I was. And I can bring that with me moving forward. Because no matter what happens next, I have to be satisfied with myself and how I behave.

It’s never too late to apologize. But make sure it’s genuine, and make sure your behavior reflects a true apology.

. . . . . .

Are you guilty of apologizing but not changing your behavior?

What behavior do you need to change to reflect an apology?

What apologies do you need to make?

The Connection Between Confidence & Independence

Independence changes you.

I’ve had the opportunity to become more independent in both work and outside endeavors, and it has really changed me. I go to work early in the morning, I go home to two cats and a dog, I do some form of exercise–whether it be Beachbody or running–and I prepare my dinner and give the animals theirs. It’s made me see that I haven’t been solely responsible for me in a very long time–if ever. It’s been an adjustment, but I think one that was needed in order for me to get back on track with myself and God.

I’ve said before that I feel I lost myself in my marriage. I had unconsciously replaced God with my husband, and it meant I couldn’t be the woman he had married. This has become my opportunity to find myself–and God–again.

. . . . . .

I feel more confident at work because I am confident in my knowledge and my abilities, something I was lacking in my first job. I know I can do what I’m doing and that I have the tools and the skills to do it well. I think that’s the first sign that I am doing what God has intended for my life. I’m not turning to work for my meaning anymore, but instead turning to my faith.

But independence has also made me more confident in who I am as an individual. I’ve found I can do things I didn’t think I could…and things I didn’t want to. I can save money on my own. I can cook for myself. I am working on making sure I don’t rely on anyone but God to fill a space in my heart.

It was once insisted that there must be something I like about being on my own. The truth is, there is. But it’s nothing about the tangible–it’s the mental. I like that I have gained my mental strength back. I like that I have a bit more confidence in who I am. I like that I have a better idea of what I want to do with my life. And I’m even more confident that my heart hasn’t changed.

For me, independence has boosted my confidence, and my confidence boost has made independence a little easier. It doesn’t mean I don’t still have bad days, that I’ve suddenly changed my mind, or that I’m an entirely different person. It just means I am working to get back to who I am.

God uses our weakest moments, the things that didn’t go “according to plan,” for His glory and to draw us nearer to Him. I never believed that until this storm, and it’s truth I am clinging to.

. . . . . .

Have you gone through something that has shaken you to the core? How did God use that?

Are confidence and independence linked for you? What has made you more confident or more independent?