GET GOOD AT LIFE: Five Strategies for Making It Look Easy
A dear friend once remarked, after having heard that I’d recently gone through a divorce, started a new business on my own, and gotten pregnant with my first child, that I was so “good at life.” It stopped me dead in my tracks. What I’d just told her – about my failed marriage, the intimidating start of a new livelihood without backup financial support, and starting a family with a different partner, out of wedlock – seemed like a whole lot of rocky drama rather than an admirable dose of smooth sailing.
It was then that I realised the power of my own perspective.
Sure, from the outside it probably seemed that things had gone wrong. Most folks don’t remember the end of their marriages as a particular high point in life; others might not view an unwed pregnancy as something to strive towards. But the way in which I frame – and have always framed – the bumps in the road along my own journey is what makes my life seem, for lack of a better term, damn good.
I’ve spent a lifetime testing and refining strategies to ensure that I am constantly improving, moving forward, and getting better at life – no matter what life itself throws at me. I want to share a few of those strategies with you, fellow Crone Queens, as we all work our way toward our highest selves.
STAY FIT. If there is one identifiable thread that connects my tumultuous twenties through my trial-and-error thirties and will help me face my impending forties, it is physical fitness. In my twenties that looked like competitive triathlon and marathon running; in my thirties hot yoga and CrossFit – but if I look back over the past two decades of my adult life, I’ve never had a period when I was “unfit” or “took a break” from consistently (keyword!) moving my body. When your body is strong and powerful, your mind is unstoppable, and you develop the resilience and grit necessary to overcome life’s other challenges. The best part is, it doesn’t really matter the type of exercise you choose (though in future blogs I’ll be extoling the virtues of progressive weight training as a particularly helpful method) as long as it’s something you enjoy, have reliable access to, and can be consistent doing most days of the week.
EAT WELL. Notice I didn’t say “eat clean” or “eat healthy,” because in both cases, there’s a lot of room for error. At my lowest body weight, one might assume I was “eating healthy,” whereas in fact I was merely subsisting on coffee, alcohol, and the occasional meal. During a six-month period when a friend challenged me to try vegetarianism I was technically “eating clean,” but I had lower energy levels and lean muscle mass than at any other time in my adult life. When I advise you to eat well, I am asking you to consider a way of nourishing yourself that gives you sustainable energy, fills up your stomach as well as your spirit, and connects you to (rather than drives you away from) family, friends, and your own wellness goals. This way of eating is always mindful, rarely restrictive, and never guilt-inducing – and it looks different for each person.
SLEEP OFTEN. When I became a mother, the admonishments about sleep deprivation were near-constant: “Say goodbye to sleep!,” “get ready to function on less than you’re used to,” and “tired is your new state of being.” I remember thinking then, as I do now: nope, not me. I credit my own mother with establishing healthy sleep patterns for my brother and me when we were young; I didn’t realise until much later in life what a rare gift that was. My sleep and wake times (seven days a week!) are set to within a half-hour range and always span a minimum 7 hours, I don’t fall asleep with screens or lights in my bedroom, I limit caffeine to the AM hours to make sure I can fall asleep near-immediately once my head hits the pillow, and most importantly – I sleep trained my infant daughter so that she may enjoy the same quality of rest her whole life long. If any of this sounds out of reach for you, I assure you: it isn’t. Better sleep is free, readily available, and limitless in benefit if you just take the time and discipline to carve out better habits and stick to them (easier said than done, I know).
COPE BETTER. I’ve recently been reading a lot of meditations from the Stoics (think Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and the like) and a recurrent theme is this: separate what you can control from what you can’t, and don’t waste valuable emotional energy on the latter. Furthermore, when events out of your control do cause you distress, it’s up to you to figure out reliable, consistent ways of dealing with them. Kids throwing tantrums? Agree with your partner about how you’ll respond (time-outs, conversations, counting down from 3) and stick to it. Every. Time. Stuck in an emotional eating cycle? Get the trigger foods out of the house, forgive yourself, and move on. Planning rational, same-every-time responses to recurrent problems in your environment will make you happier, healthier, and less anxious, especially if you’re the type that gets thrown off track when a regular routine breaks down.
FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT. A recent Welsh study of Botox recipients suggested that when patients physically could not frown due to the injections, they actually reported feeling happier, too. There were plenty of times when going through my divorce that I woke up in the morning near- paralysed by the fact I actually had to get up, get ready, and go to work. There were also a lot of times when I spent ten minutes crying in the bathroom next to my work, composed myself, and returned to work with my game face on. Don’t get it twisted – I would never recommend covering up your problems or failing to work through your tough emotional issues, What I mean by “faking it” is simply to practice the consistent application of your desired emotional outcome, knowing that in time, it will become real. If you are working on making better food choices, for example, practice being someone who intentionally chooses whole foods – and eventually, that choice will become your automatic default.
When it comes to being “good at life,” the solutions aren’t easy, but they’re never out of reach. You have every tool you need to live your best possible life at this exact moment; right now. It doesn’t take money, power, or luck to take a walk outside, choose a salad instead of a burger, put down your phone and go to bed on time, take a deep breath instead of yelling, or put a smile on your face. You can do all of this, and you can do it today. Your journey toward your highest self starts now.