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  • Writer's pictureErin

How to wake up

I don't know about you, but this time of year always seems to be the busiest for me. Between my students gearing up for their AP exams and my needing to coach them through it, events happening left and right every weekend, friends coming to town to visit, other friends hoping I could travel to visit them, chaperoning prom, Mother's Day, mom's birthday, needing to see my grandparents or call my brother more often, needing to get the garden started, and all of the other tiny to-do list items that never quite seem to get done, I start to get lost in the chaos rather than being able to enjoy the excitement of it.

What's probably more accurate is that I lose myself while trying to enjoy it. Sound familiar?

If so, I want to ground us all together and lend us a few strategies for coming back into the body, maintaining clarity, and recalibrating to a sense of balance that will allow us full enjoyment and full immersion of whatever our lives call us to be present for. It's not exactly an easy thing to do, but if we can practice even just one of these strategies a few times a week, it will be for the better.

But before we get into the strategies themselves, I want us to ask: why isn't it easy? I often get frustrated with myself when instead of participating in those activities or practices that will actually ground and revitalize my spirit, like taking solo walks without music or doing gentle yoga in front of my altar, I instead sleep in until the sun is high or spend hours of the precious day scrolling on social media. The other night when I should have been finishing grading the final essays of the school year, I treated myself to a lovely herbal bath of chamomile, lavender and honey as a break - that would have served me beautifully on its own - but that break turned into binging Instagram Reels in bed until I fell asleep.

Guess who still isn't done with grading?

I think the answer to the initial question of why this is so difficult is because setting up those intentional spaces and practices can be difficult in and of themselves, especially if we aren't used to providing ourselves with them. I would love to say that I have a solid yoga routine set for every Sunday night, but the problem is that I haven't made it a non-negotiable, so it doesn't happen every Sunday. Maybe once a month, if I'm lucky. If there is more cleaning to do, or more schoolwork to prep for the week, or I feel I haven't spent enough time with my partner, the yoga doesn't happen. The practice that truly puts me on the right trajectory to get through my work week doesn't happen, and therefore, the rest of the week, the rest of the practices become optional too.

By Tuesday, I'm too tired to take a solo walk after work (let alone before - unthinkable!). By Wednesday, the idea of adding anything extra to my routine is a complete turn-off. Taking a nap is easier on my body than tending to the garden. Watching brainless internet content is easier on my mental faculties than painting. Even though I've wanted to do both of those things for months.

So how do we make these grounding practices easier to access when we find ourselves depleted and worn out?

Low gray clouds lifting after rain on a green mountain landscape

Acknowledge your lived reality

The first step to any real, sustainable change is acknowledging that something needs to change. In this case, it would likely be that that you're finding yourself stuck in a rut. Own it and accept how you're feeling. It's one of the most universal experiences. Take some time to reflect on what might be causing you to feel this way. Is it stress, burnout, boredom? Is it triggered by a temporary situation, or is there an entire chunk of your life begging for review?

This may take some time, and depending on the origin of the "stuckness," it may even be a painful process. Still, it's important to sit with the feelings that arise and come to a natural conclusion for what to do about it. Once we know what we're up against, we can actually do something to combat it and move forward.

Good change

Here's another reason why getting unstuck isn't easy: It requires us to change. It requires us to demand better of ourselves, our routines and our behaviors. I may be tired at 5pm after a stressful school day, but I don't need a nap the way my mind convinces me I do. We know the age-old advice of slowly changing our habits day-by-day, making small tweaks to our patterns until we form entire new ones. This is nothing new, but the act of following through on it might be. If you find yourself burnt-out and frustrated to the point of feeling utterly lazy, it's likely time to override your usual line of thinking and do something different. Take the walk, not the nap. Put pen to paper instead of fingers to the keyboard. Wear the lens of your inner child and try seeing the world around you for the first time. You might be surprised by what you find.

This is truly the hardest part, I think. Once we hack the system we've put in place for our routine for so long, the fun stuff has room to spread out and take root.

Dream & scheme

So much of the process is allowing ourselves the opportunity to imagine what our life could look like if we change course, even just slightly, toward what we truly want. I envision an entire summer by the river, eating fresh fruit, reading books, drinking coffee, and painting during the day. I embrace the outdoors in all forms and force myself out the door each morning, not to return until the skies get dusky. I crave movement and learning and observation. I want to adorn myself with clothes that match how I feel about myself, that show the world that I am a fun, colorful, nature-centered person and that I care about how I present myself. I take more photos of the world around me, more videos of my sweet friends, and I create more out of the magic I collect from life each day.

Sounds lovely - and though I won't achieve it constantly, it's certainly within reason to make space for more of this vision. Taking that vision and lining it up with our action - our new routines - can help us create just a bit more space for it to become a lived reality. No longer will we feel stagnant by what we're living - at least not all the time. If we are able to channel enthusiastic action through our intentional choices, we'll begin to see more of the world exactly how we've dreamt it.

Be gentle with yourself

Of course, the journey won't always be flawless. We will fall short, we will make mistakes, and every day will not match our highest hope. Through this, ensure that you surround yourself with positivity and calm, and limit exposure to negative influences - whether it's people, media, or environments that contribute to your old habits that got you here in the first place. Don't hesitate to lean on friends, family, or a therapist for support and guidance. Talking through your present feelings and your desires can provide clarity and perspective.

And in the meantime, as you work slowly to change those habits, take care of your physical and mental bodies by getting enough sleep, eating as well as you can provide for yourself, and practicing the simplest self-care through gentle movement and presence. When even the smallest thing goes right - i.e. you only napped for 45 minutes versus two hours - acknowledge and celebrate it. This, too, is a part of that small trajectory change.

Lastly, remember that truly waking up takes time and effort. It will not happen overnight, no matter how much we wish it would. Be patient with yourself and stay committed to making positive changes, even if progress feels slow. Something that always helps me to see this in perspective is remembering what frustrations I held for myself two years ago, and how few of them still exist today. I made the important change, often times without even realizing. It is possible! And it has happened!

So watch as the clouds clear, and enjoy the slow change. As it all passes by, hold space for self-gratitude and remember how far you've come. Know that I am so proud of you, no matter where you are. 🖤

A sunny mountain landscape in spring


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