A New Year….?

Almost two years into this pandemic, enjoying -30 weather right now, and trying to find a routine for this current normal. Just when it feels like we are pulling out of things, we have to roll right back again; these are the moments that feel really hard. The sacrifices we have all made to make it through things, the time we have given up with our friends and family, the events and social experiences we aren’t having anymore. It all feels really hard sometimes.

So what have I done with myself through all of this to keep my mental and physical health intact? I continue to workout 5-6 days a week, at home. I think this has been one of the main things I do every day to help myself so I can help others. I find my workout is what helps to relieve the daily stress so I am a happier person overall; that time in the morning when it’s just about me and what I am able to do is all that matters. I’ve had a couple of setbacks this year that has led me to make less progress than I would have liked; one sprained ankle, one sprained foot – one on each foot just to balance it out! My recovery from that took way longer than I expected it to – you are much more aware of what your feet do for you when you don’t have full use of them for a while. Even with the injuries, I’ve still stayed on top of it and my body is able to do moves and go further than I ever could before. This movement and growth is priceless for my mental and physical health.

I stepped away from other obligations and freed up my time a bit more so my personal time is just for me. I found myself really taxed for personal time due to other non-work obligations and finally realized I needed less of that so I could have more time for myself again. This was a hard decision because I like to be a part of my community but I suppose you really aren’t doing anyone a favour if you aren’t enjoying the time you are volunteering. My job switched up a bit this year as well, new role with a different region to support and that requires a lot more travel time. Stepping down from these other things is helping me find a new balance between home and work finally. These big life changes aren’t easy and they require a lot of resilience and strength; being able to fill my own cup is absolutely crucial for me and I have learned over the last couple of years that if I don’t put myself first nobody else will either.

And then I dove back into other hobbies that I enjoy doing. I still have some work to do with this – I haven’t done much photography this year and I have a deep urge to get into that more again. So that will be my focus for the new year, to learn some new skills and push myself out of my comfort zone. I need to remember that feeling when you get the perfect shot, when you compose that picture in the tiny little window, press that button, and capture that moment. I think it starts with doing a little bit every day, or at least during the week if that’s all I can fit in. So that’s a goal for 2022.

I hope for anyone reading this, that you have found some joy and some enjoyment in this really hard year. I keep reminding myself that this will be over one day and we will be able to do all the things we really miss and in the meantime I will keep doing my part to keep this world turning and put others needs before my own desires. Giving up a little more time isn’t going to hurt me but could make all the difference for someone else. Enjoy these last few days of 2021, think about the good things you want to create and be a part of for 2022, and jump in. We only get one life <3.

Jo

xxox

Finding My Way Back

The pace of life ebbs and flows – one minute everything is moving along just fine and you feel like nothing can stop you, the next you just hit a wall and can’t move forward any further. It’s been almost two years since I wrote anything on here and that gap seems to represent a lot of what was happening in my life. I have moments where I feel motivated and ready to contribute to the world and in those moments everything seems to hum along with an easy flow and then something happens, I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what it is, and that flow turns into a crawl. It could be motivation, it could be lack of self care, it could be just how life is. So today I am starting again. I have so many thoughts that flow through my mind, so many lessons that need a space to live, so many life lessons that I want to share so they can help someone else and I need to curate a space where I can leave those for others to use in a way that works for them, and perhaps I need to keep myself accountable for really committing to this space.

I always find I am most balanced when I have a space to lay out my thoughts, when I take time early in the day for a quiet moment that is just for me, and when I make space to work out. Journaling for me was something I didn’t start doing until I was in my mid-thirties – prior to that I didn’t find it useful because I didn’t know what that balance felt like. The catalyst for my journaling was the loss of my cousin which happened very suddenly where I didn’t have time to process what was happening and to be quite honest, I had been in denial about how sick she really was. After her passing I had so many emotions that had no way out and journaling was a space where I could lay out those feelings with no judgement. Expressing how I was feeling was so important for me to be able to move through that grief and learn how to forgive myself for not reaching out to her before it was too late.

I wake up at 5am every day (during the work-week) so I can have a couple of hours to myself before my family wakes up; I’m sure many mom’s can connect with that feeling where you just need a little time to yourself before the demands of everyone else take over your day. So often, as women, we put ourselves last instead of putting ourselves first – it’s what society has taught us to do and what we need to change the most to create more balance and be better able to be there for the people we love in our life. So I wake up early, I do a little journaling, and then I do my workout. I know when I tell people I wake up at 5 am I am usually met with shock and curiosity as to why I would “do that to myself”. I think it’s important to find a time during the day that works for you; for some that is early in the morning, for others it is late at night. In the end, as long as it works for you, it really doesn’t matter when it happens as long as it happens.

My workouts really started as a way to have more energy and be able to do everyday things without being out of breath and feeling tired all the time. I know it can seem counter-intuitive to expend energy in order to have more of it but I have always found I feel better overall when I workout regularly. One of the things it helps me with is stress management – having that time to focus and put all of my pent up frustration or anger into my workout and getting rid of that energy completely allows me to be a better person during the day. The reality is we all have frustrations or things that we carry with us and finding a way to expend that and toss it aside makes us more effective in our interactions with other people. We owe it to our community to not force them to carry our negative energy – this is one of the ways we leave the world a better place when we pass through a space. With everything we are traveling through right now, COVID-19 fatigue anyone?? – we have to work harder at this than we did before.

Not everyday is going to be a good day, and not every week is going to be easy, but with a little bit of time spent on myself the rest of world feels easier to handle. So I am going to leave this post with a few thoughts for you to carry with you if you find them helpful:

  1. It’s ok to put yourself first – don’t ever feel guilty for that. Just as in a relationship where you need to nurture the connection with your partner, you need to nurture the relationship with yourself.
  2. It doesn’t matter what putting yourself first looks like, as long as it resonates with you. This is going to be different for every single person and it can take some time to find what feels right. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and ask yourself what things you enjoy doing in your spare time. Try different activities until you find ones that leave you feeling happy when you are finished.
  3. Find some way to move your body during the day. I want to emphasize here that it doesn’t have to be a typical workout, it can be anything. I don’t believe in diets and working out to lose weight – my personal belief is that these things are not healthy or necessary for you to live in this world. But find any way that you enjoy to create movement in your day, that helps you to manage the daily stresses. It can be dancing in the kitchen through a song, or walking to the mailbox to get the mail. Just remember that your connection between your body and mind is important and figuring out how to keep the two connected with help you find that balance.

Go into your day with intention and love for yourself. Jo xxox

My Road

This morning I have been thinking of where I am in life, and what my road has looked like over the past several years. I don’t know that I could have predicted how far I would actually come if someone had asked me years ago “where do you see yourself in 10 years”.

Right about my mid twenties is when I went through one of the most difficult experiences I have ever had, even to this day. I had been progressing in my role and the opportunity came up to run my own store. Everyone around me kept telling me “you can do this, you are ready for this”, and I believed them. Even when I had some hesitations, I believed what they were saying and so I went for it. And it was disastrous. The store I went to did not want me in that role. The staff were not happy to have me there, having been together for years with the same Manager in place. One of the people on the staff made it her mission to make my time there absolutely miserable; she would go to my boss and tell him that I had already left for the day but she was still there. Never mind that I had been there since 6am. Slowly, she helped to erode his confidence in me. I didn’t really help myself either though. I didn’t have regular meetings with him to see how he was feeling about how I was doing. I didn’t have meetings with the staff to ask for their feedback and what they needed from me. I didn’t ask for help when I needed it. I just kept going, thinking everything was fine.

I went on a small vacation for a week and two days after I got back, my boss asked to meet with me before I left for the day. No problem, nothing seemed out of place. I walked into his office and sitting there was the head of HR. Now if you have never experienced this, it isn’t a good thing to see that person sitting there for a meeting that you have no idea about. My heart sank into my stomach and I knew I was getting fired. I was given two options for different positions in different stores, both well below my capabilities. If I chose neither of them, I was on my own. I called my old boss to tell her what happened and she immediately told me to come back to the store, she would find a position for me.

Let me tell you this, walking back into that store after being fired from my other job was the HARDEST THING I HAVE EVER DONE. Period. I had to give myself a 20 minute pep talk before I could even get out of my car. I had failed. I felt worthless. I felt ashamed. Defeated. But I eventually got out of my car, walked in, and got to work. Eventually those feelings started to fade but they were replaced with anger. I was so angry about what had happened TO me. Not really taking any responsibility for my role in the entire thing. I know it wasn’t all my fault, but with every experience there is a role that you play and you have to take responsibility for the actions you took or didn’t take that helped to lead you there. That’s when you really learn and grow. I happened across a book that really helped me through this time: A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. It was the one thing I needed to read to help me get over my anger. The thing with holding on to resentment and anger is that it will change who you are, the core of your being, if you let it. I didn’t like who I was becoming. So I did a lot of self reflection and working through my emotions, and I came out the other side a much wiser, and happier person.

Walking back into that store was the smartest thing I ever did. It led me to my current role where I get to support the entire region, do training, and work one-on-one with people to help them grow in their roles. This is my happy place. This is what I truly love doing. If had not had the courage to walk back into that store, I don’t know where I would be. Sometimes the hardest thing you will ever do, can be the one thing that will help you to grow the most. It can be the thing that takes you down a path you weren’t sure you would ever find. It can change your life.

If you are going through a hard time right now, hang in there. Reflect on what you need to learn, what this experience is teaching you. Take that power back, put yourself back in charge of your life and your destiny. It isn’t an easy thing to do, but the rewards can be absolutely amazing. And don’t forget to ask for help when you need it. There are people all around you that will jump in to help when you ask for it.

Until next time.

Jo xxox

Unbalanced

Unbalanced. That’s how I’ve been feeling lately. Often I don’t realize that’s what I’m feeling right away, I just know I feel “off”. When I finally sit down and think about it, or talk it out with someone, it will hit me; I feel unbalanced.

I’m lucky, I don’t feel like this all the time – maybe once a year. It’s usually a result of being pulled in 20 different directions and feeling like I need to be everything to everyone and make everyone around me happy. It’s a gradual thing, moving in so slowly that I don’t even know it’s there at first; lurking in the corner and waiting until I am at my weakest before it pounces.

I have a sister-in-law that I can talk to when I start feeling this way – I find it helps when I just vent a little bit and get things off my chest first. She’s great at giving advice and helping me to see where I can start the journey back to a more balanced life. Once I’ve had time to absorb what she has said, I get up and I start making things happen. One little thing at a time, I just start with the easiest changes first. Seeing progress, even if it’s just a small change, is motivating for me.

If you are feeling “off” and you can’t figure out why, take some time to talk to someone you trust. An outside perspective can help you to see things that you probably won’t see on your own. You have to be open to the feedback and willing to just listen to what the person is saying but I have always found it to be worth the time and it has helped me grow as a person. If we don’t take care of ourself, we won’t be able to take care of anyone else.

Love xxox

What Happens Next?

By September of 2017 I felt more like myself again…feeling no more pain, able to finally walk, run, sit, do whatever I wanted without having to think about how long I could stand it for. Back to normal, so it would seem. The thing was, I was still taking a nerve blocker to help manage the pain. I started to wonder if now was the time to talk to my Doctor about weaning myself off of this drug; I remembered when I started taking it I was told I would have to slowly wean myself off of it, it would not be an overnight change. I wasn’t told much more about it, just that this was something that would help me get back to my life when I was in such intense pain. In that moment, if someone tells you this will work, you don’t hesitate to take it. Anything to make the constant pain disappear.

I started to cut back my dose in October, lowering the amount each month a little at a time. To be completely honest, I had a lot of anxiety around this; I didn’t realize I had become so dependent on this medication to get through my daily life. I’m not normally one to feel anxious or unsure about things so this was a surprising feeling for me. The first few days of my first adjustment were really tough days for me. Every twinge I felt had me afraid that this pain was coming back. Wondering if maybe I hadn’t healed as much as I thought I had….and I did feel some residual pain for that first week. Looking back I know now this was just because my nerves were starting to fire again and it takes a bit for your body to adjust to any kind of change like that. But the anxiety was a lot for me to manage and I started to wonder if I had made a mistake taking this medication in the first place. I was also a little bit angry that my Doctor hadn’t properly explained what it would be like to come off of the medication.

By December I was medication free, and all of a sudden it felt like I had never been taking it. I started to realize my body still had healing to do….I had muscles I had used very little over the past several months and all of a sudden I was trying to use them on a daily basis. My body would protest in small ways – short shots of pain running down my leg if I over did things, tenderness in my back if I spent too much time on my feet, muscles spasms in my left leg from my knee and all the way down my calf (at really random times like when I was sleeping at night), small reminders that I still had some work to do. Exercise was scary for me because of what it had led to last time so I was hesitant to add it back into my daily life and really took my time getting back into things.

Today, I am now able to do my daily walks again (usually they are about 3-3.5km), I can do lower body workouts without having leg spasms, I can do weights, I can use the elliptical, I can run, kneel, jog, really whatever I need to do. This healing took way longer than I expected it too and perhaps I would have recovered sooner if I had pushed myself a bit more but I really felt I needed to honour how I was feeling inside and not push myself too fast.

The final side-effect of this entire journey is that I lost a lot of ground with my physical health. My muscle mass really decreased and as a result I gained some weight. It’s a little strange when you can’t do anything about it for the better course of a year – really does teach you to let go of control and just let things happen, something that can be really hard for a lot of people. I have been learning to accept my body as it is, be okay with where I am right now, wear clothing that I feel good in, and have patience with myself as I learn all of this. I am by no means perfect but I’m working on loving myself a little more every single day – I don’t see how that can ever be a bad thing.

Lesson #5 – Don’t be afraid to ask questions, no matter what the situation is. Even is the person telling you to do something is highly educated, it doesn’t mean you can’t still question things. You are sometimes the only advocate for your life and the experiences you have – the more you know, the better prepared you can be.

Lesson #6 – Have compassion for other people. You don’t ever know what someone else is going through in their life. Chronic pain can really change how you are and how you behave; this really opened my eyes to the reality that people live like this ever day. There is no pill they can take to take the pain away….it has made me incredibly grateful for the life that I live and the freedom that I experience every single day.

Remember to have patience with yourself, whatever journey you are traveling in that moment. Everything will come together as it is supposed to, just have patience and trust in yourself. Everyone is worthy of self-love, and that is an important message to remember when you have people pushing you down every day. Remember who you are and always assume positive intent.

Until next time.

Jo xxox.