Be Empowered; Be YOU; Be Enough

If you’re new here, or if you haven’t been following along over on the ‘gram, then you probably don’t know that in the latter half of last year, I fell head-over-heels in love with barre. More specifically, with barre3, a full-body workout that focuses on doing what you need to do for you.

Now, before you write this post off as a rambling love letter to a workout class, let me say one thing: it is, but it also isn’t.

What this post is intended to be is encouragement, more than anything. So I implore you, stick with me.

January, I often feel, can be overwhelming. There’s a lot of messaging out there during this time of year that essentially is telling you that you aren’t good enough as you are, that you should grab hold of this new year with a vengeance and make changes so that you become “better.” And, in one way, I understand it. I mean, I work in PR and messaging is my life, so of course I get it. But, in another way, I absolutely detest what this messaging is essentially saying.

This year is the first year that I’ve gone into without feeling even the slightest bit inclined to give in to that “you’re not good enough” messaging. I owe so much of that to barre3, and the confidence, strength, and empowerment that I have found since becoming a part of this community. Barre3 focuses on that idea that you ARE enough, exactly as you are. It emphasizes that you are in this workout class for you, not for anyone else.

And I absolutely love that mindset.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for taking steps towards a healthier you. But I’ve learned that the key is doing so in a healthy way, a balanced way, a way that is not reliant on anyone else’s approval. You already are enough – for yourself, for God, and for those who love you most deeply. Once you accept that as your primary mindset, the rest seems so much easier.

You want to eat better because you feel better… you alsowant to have a piece of that brownie because sometimes, the soul just needs some chocolate. You want to move because your muscles thank you when you do; you want to be a lazy bum and finish a book in a single sitting because our minds love that kind of adventure.

More importantly than fitting in that 30 minutes of cardio or eating only salad for a week – take the time for you. Whatever that may be.

Thanks in large part to barre3, I’ve started to look at workouts, and a lot of other things, as my time to fill up my own cup, and I’ve started to see a difference in how I approach the rest of my life as a result of it. For that, I am forever grateful.

Now, I’m not saying that you need to do this by going to a barre3 class… though there is a January challenge I’d be happy to help you sign up for ;). I’m not saying you need to do this by finding ANY specific workout class, actually. I’m not even saying you need a change in mindset.

I’m simply encouraging you to take a look at the goals you have set for yourself this year… the resolutions, for those of you who do that (I don’t). What motivated you to decide upon any one of those in particular? Was it because someone told you that you weren’t enough without striving for that particular achievement; was it because someone else said you need to do that to be better?

My wish for you, through any future goal-setting or effort to change, is to know that you are enough exactly as you are, and that the changes you make on behalf of your own self will be so much more significant, so much more meaningful, than anything you do because someone wrongfully told you that you aren’t good enough.

Trust me, you absolutely are.

Building Balance

I’ve been staring at the blank page of this blog post for a while, wondering where to begin. (Update: I wrote this post and then let it sit in my drafts for a while, that’s how unsure I was of posting it.)

When I dove back into the blogging Instagram world, I was quickly reminded of the effect that it can have on one’s psyche. There’s so many pretty pictures out there of pretty people doing pretty things, and it can, sometimes, be a bit overwhelming.

It has gotten me thinking a lot about balance. And, in honor of National Mental Health Awareness month, I thought it best to share a bit of my own story. Forgive me if this is rambling, or redundant, but this is also a little leap of faith as I open up about something I don’t often do: namely, my relationship (or, my previous one) with food.

Trigger warning: this post deals with eating habits, restrictions, and dieting.

Now, there’s obviously a lot of different types of balancing acts. It seems like these days, we have to juggle so much, whether it’s our health, our jobs, our social media usage. Where is it that you find the sweet spot of feeling like you’re doing enough, but not too much? How do you know when to take a break, without doing too little?

It’s taken me a while to figure it out, and I won’t even pretend like I’m an expert at it. I think that balance comes as you grow and get to know yourself better, and I also think that balance can mean different things at different stages in our lives.

For example, once upon a time (aka, my freshman year of college) I decided to go “healthy.” I was determined to avoid the Freshman 15, so I rerouted that determination towards only eating healthy foods, work out regularly, etc. The only problem is, I went way the other direction. I skipped eating mindfully and started to pay too much attention to what I was eating, and working out regularly became like a drug: if I didn’t get my run in that day, I felt miserable, and not due to lack of exercise. If I didn’t get to work out and I ate something “bad for me,” I felt worse than miserable. Granted, I did indeed save myself from gaining the Freshman 15… I lost it, instead. And then some.

Needless to say, I wasn’t so healthy, even though, in my mind, that’s all that I was. Ironically, it was my mind that wasn’t.

I remember coming home from school that summer and my mother reminding me, gently, to be careful. I knew what she meant, and though I was stubborn at first, I eventually eased up a bit. I started being okay with the extra slice of cheese on my sandwich, with not knowing what I was going to eat for dinner until I ate it, with skipping a day or two at the gym. Eventually, I found my true balance again, and by the time I went back to school, I regained my balance with food again.

Besides, that sophomore semester, I had a goal, one I needed to be happy and healthy for: I was going to England.

I left for England the January of my sophomore year of college, and I spent the next seven months having the literal time of my life. (I’ve written, talked, and reminisced on that time more often than not, so there’s no need to rehash the wonderfulness of it now, just know that it was incredible.) It was the first time in a long time that I literally did not think about food or worry about how I looked. I just wanted to experience everything, and experience I certainly did.

I came back from being abroad heartbroken to be home, and upset with the number on the scale. But I was so afraid to fall back into my freshman year habits, so I took it one step at a time. I started junior year with a resolve to be better about exercise, but maintain my England-driven attitude towards food. And it worked, at first, but as all exercise-only diets do, I plateaued after a while. Then I dropped the exercise and started to only eat “healthy foods.” That, again, worked for a bit but stalled after some time. I couldn’t seem to get back into healthy habits I had once had.

The rest of college was a struggle to get that balance back. I’m not saying it was an unhappy struggle, though there were times where I would get discouraged or upset. But who doesn’t? I tried to make the most of my junior and senior year, because if England taught me anything, it was that the time spent in that atmosphere was short, and I didn’t want to take it for granted.

The idea of true “balance” came when I was out of college, as I think it does for many of us. Suddenly, I no longer had the excuse of too many classes or a looming thesis deadline. At the same time, I was living completely on my own, for the first time ever, and learning so much about myself in the process.

And of course, lot of my story is, of course, so strongly about faith. Don’t think for a second that I think I could have gotten to where I am today had I not unrelentingly turned to God for guidance. I have Him to thank for the courage to get through it, the support He put in my life, and the strength to find that balance. In fact, I can honestly say that I didn’t feel the full power of regaining my own balance until I fully pulled Him into the equation, and for that, I am incredibly grateful. He showed the true force of His stable, loving hand as he guided me through this journey.

This journey that, in time, helped me figure out what balance means to me.

Balance, to me, is working out 4 days a week and being an utter slug the other 3. Balance, to me, is eating eggs for breakfast and a salad for lunch, and pizza for dinner. Balance, to me, is a hard workout followed by a bagel breakfast. It’s running 3 miles one day and just weight lifting the next. It’s having a wine night only to wake up and hike the next day. It’s putting a stone in the “healthy” side and a stone in the “happy” side at the same time. It’s making sure the scale stays even.

That said, I’m not saying that this is what balance looks like for everyone. For some, maybe it’s a daily workout and a strict vegan diet, because that’s what makes them feel their best. Because, really, that’s what it’s all about. Once you figure out what makes you feel happiest, and feel healthiest, then you’ll be able to get into that cadence more easily. If I’ve learned anything as I built my own structure for balance, it’s that there’s no one way to do it.

Balance looks different for everyone, and everyone has their own story for getting there.

PS: If you’re struggling, please don’t be afraid to reach out for help. The National Eating Disorder Awareness Helpline is a wonderful, life saving resource.

Staying Healthy When Things Get Hectic

I really like being healthy. That’s probably a silly thing to say, but I just genuinely enjoy how my body feels when I’ve been giving it the love, attention, and movement that it needs. That said, I’m also totally that person who will let stress drive me to the edge, particularly the work-related kind. It’s so easy to do, especially when you’re in that phase of your career where “proving yourself” can often feel like the most important thing.

When that happens, I either go one way or the other: I either can’t stop working out and obsessing over eating “healthy,” or I decided to say forget it, and sit on my couch with a glass of wine and something delectably indulgent. Needless to say, neither one of those things are necessarily good for me if they happen too often.

Now, I’m a huge advocate for exercise being a great stress relief, but I also know that sometimes it can become something else to focus on and obsess over. I’m also a big believer that chocolate solves everything, but I’m also incredibly aware of how totally neglecting the nutrients I need makes me feel even worse than before.

Through all of this, I’ve learned one thing: balance is key to staying healthy. And health goes beyond just making sure you’re working out at the right times… it goes into ensuring you can keep a good balance of work life and personal life, for sanity’s sake. Too many young people seem on the road to burnout in their early twenties, which is the unfortunate nature of the fast paced world we live in. I’m all for grinding it out in the early years of your career, but I also think this is an important time for all of us to establish what is important in life, and for me, balance is at the top of the list.

Generally striking a healthy work/life balance can be difficult, but I think it’s the key to maintaining a good mindset. I’ve rounded up a few things that help me stay healthy in my mind and body when things get hectic:

  • Make a workout schedule. Like I said, exercise is stress relief for me, so I try to do it regularly. I have a little “weekly to-do’s” section at the top of every week in my planner. Depending on what my week looks like, I figure out how many times I can reasonably expect to go to the gym and I write in when I plan to go, making it clear that it’s a set plan. If I schedule the time, 9 times out of 10 I’m way more likely to actually go. I usually set out how many time I’ll workout during the work week, and then, if I do miss one, I can always squeeze in an extra workout in over the weekend… or I can do that anyway and feel really good about myself.
  • Take breaks. Sure, there are nights when I end up working until 8 or later, but I’ve learned that I can’t do that straight through. I go crazy, and I get unproductive. Once the 9-to-5 workday is done, and if I feel I’ve hit a bit of a lull, I take a breather… sometimes it’s to drive home, other times it’s to get that workout in, and even more often, it’s a chance to sit and sip some wine and recharge before diving back into whatever I’m doing.
  • Set boundaries. Now, this could just be the nature of my business, but I’ve learned that it’s incredibly important to set boundaries of when I’m “working” and when I’m “client-facing.” With the exception, of course, of major things like emergencies or big projects, I try not to email clients after 6 pm. First of all, nothing is that urgent (unless, of course, it really is… then make an exception) and secondly, most of the time my head is not quite clear enough to send that over after 10 hours of work.
  • Turn off notifications. It didn’t take me long in the working world at all to realize my number one cause of unnecessary anxiety was that little red number on my email app. I turned off my notifications early on, and I haven’t turned them back on. Granted, this does mean that when I’m out and about for work events, I have to check the app more regularly. But it also means I’m not distracted during those events, and it means that the times when I’m not working, going into “work mode” and perusing my inbox is a deliberate action. That makes it much easier to switch “off” when I need to, because otherwise, I’d watch that little red number creep up and it would make me so stressed out on Sunday that I’d spend time catching up that should have been spent sleeping.
  • Treat yourself. Whether it’s a Starbucks on Friday, or a pint of Ben & Jerry’s after a long day, or even a fresh new set of pens (does anyone else get as excited about office supplies as I do?!)… sometimes, rewarding yourself for your hard work is 100% deserved.

We live in a world of always-on communications, which can be both good and bad. I’ve learned that forcing myself to switch off, take a break, and get my blood moving can be the number one key to staying healthy when things get hectic.