Hanging up my cape

ImageWhat do you do when almost everything about your life changes within a couple months? You live through it.

Some days you feel like a zombie. Others, you feel like an over-emotional lunatic. Sometimes you’re angry all day. And sometimes, you feel clear-headed, grateful for all that you have, serene, despite how crazy things are. But no matter what, you just keep going. Because if you stop, you may never get up again.

This post is me continuing on. It’s been six months since I blogged. But I have a good reason. Or 20. The in-a-nutshell, whirlwind version: my husband was offered a relocation package to Charlotte, N.C., we spent the summer preparing, we moved in August, his grandmother passed away in mid-August, we went back to Connecticut for a few days, we fell into a lot of sudden responsibilities (my husband is the executor of her will), we came back to Charlotte, his mother passed away in early September, we went back to Connecticut for a week, and now we’re back in Charlotte. Throw into that mix my working full-time remotely while trying to find a new job, getting settled in a new place – oh and thinking about trying to get pregnant.

I’m mentally exhausted. Grieving. Shell-shocked. Excited. Freaking overwhelmed. But I’m still going.

Last week, I was beating myself up a little for not being my typical 100 percent self. I struggled to focus on work. I only made it to the gym once. I hadn’t blogged in six months. The refrigerator needed to be cleaned. The to-do list hadn’t been touched in a few days. Blah. Blah. Blah.

Then, on Friday, I went to a local marketing agency for an informational interview. And as I heard myself talking about my many accomplishments, I was reminded of how hard I’ve worked to get where I am today. Talking to a friend later, she commented on how much I’d already settled into Charlotte and how, of everyone she knows, she would be the least concerned about me moving anywhere and finding my place.

They were little, but much-needed, reminders that I’m tough – that, no matter what, I’ll be okay. If that means having an off day or an off week, then that’s what I need.

As of yesterday, I’ve decided to go against my nature. Rather than try to be an overachieving Superwoman, I’m going to listen to myself. If I need a run to clear my head, I’m lacing up my sneakers. If I’m feeling run-down, I’m grabbing a pillow and blanket. If my head is spinning, I’m going to empty it into my journal.

Today, I had an Orange is the New Black mini-marathon (If you haven’t yet, check it out. Seriously awesome). I’m about to pick up my long-forgotten book and dig into it again. Every inch of my body feels confused and twitchy, because it’s not used to this type of relaxation. But my brain is telling me this is what I need. Sorry, refrigerator. You’ll have to wait another day.

Fading fast

Photo: pastoralyn.wordpress.com

Photo: pastoralyn.wordpress.com

Last month, Energy Project CEO and Founder Tony Schwartz appeared on seemingly every news station after publishing his article, “Relax! You’ll be more productive” in the Opinion section of the New York Times. His hypothesis: we can’t work like computers, quickly, for long periods of time, juggling multiple functions, and still be effective and engaged. Instead, we’re most productive when we alternate between expending and renewing four types of energy: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.

So rather than try to squeeze all the work out of us that they can, employers should be striving to meet our four areas of need so that we are inspired, focused and, ultimately, producing better-quality work.

As someone who experiences the former on a day-to-day basis, I liked what I was hearing.

I visited the Energy Project website to learn more and decided to take the energy audit – a 20-question assessment that helps determine how effectively you’re managing your four sources of energy.

Survey says? I’m 30 percent energized (a.k.a. burned out). My four types of energy are all “fading.” As a former straight-A student, this did not bode well with me. I’ve flunked… in life?

The assessment includes suggestions for re-energizing my life, recommending I start at the physical level, which is the “foundation for the other dimensions of energy, and where it is easiest to make concrete changes.”

I’ve increased my workouts, and, unsurprisingly, they’ve helped lift my energy levels and keep stress and anxiety at bay.

But they haven’t magically changed my workplace.

Luckily, I currently happen to be reading Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, another written work generating major conversations. Sandberg discusses setting limits in her book, telling the story of a colleague who once told her that her boss “would never stop making demands on our time, so it was up to us to decide what we were willing to do. It was our responsibility to draw the line.”

Later, she says, “…long-term success at work often depends on not trying to meet every demand placed on us. The best way to make room for both life and career is to make choices deliberately – to set limits and stick to them.”

As a person of extremes, setting limits and achieving balance have never been a natural strength for me.

But now, after seeing how my extremes are affecting my energy levels, health, performance – my overall life – and understanding that limits are necessary, rather than an admission of incompetence, I’m going to attempt to pull back a bit and take the time to replenish my energies.

What about you? How do you set limits and re-energize?

Finding peace, 45 minutes at a time

Photo: reiki-energy.info

It was serendipity when a Groupon for a Reiki treatment landed in my inbox late this summer. Emotionally and physically exhausted by recent life events, I snapped up the deal and scheduled my appointment immediately. I didn’t know if it would do anything for me (it was my first treatment), but I was desperate to relax and feel peace again.

I walked into the center and was greeted by a sweet, soft-spoken woman, who led me to a table to lie down. She began by holding a pendulum over each of my seven chakras to see which – if any – were blocked. Given my stress level, I expected them all to be, but surprisingly, just my throat chakra was.

“Have you been having trouble with your throat?” she asked. “A sore throat, coughing, or maybe feeling like you can’t say what you want? Anything with your jaw or ears?”

I thought for a second. “Nope.”

“Hmm. It’s really blocked. Let’s see what we can do.”

She then began the session, placing her hands on or hovering over my head, then working her way down to my neck, shoulders, arms, abdomen, knees and feet. I closed my eyes and focused on my breathing, relishing the quiet, serene environment. Occasionally, I’d feel vibrations in the areas she was working on and – one time – a jolt of energy. But mostly, I felt just her hands.

Forty-five short minutes later, the session was over.  The practitioner held the pendulum over my chakras again. “You’re unblocked,” she announced.

I didn’t feel any noticeable difference, though a general sense of peacefulness had spread throughout my body. That was enough for me.

I booked another session.

A few days later, I realized that the annoying feeling I had been getting in my ears – almost as though they needed to pop – was gone. And it hasn’t returned.

During my second session a couple weeks ago, I mentioned to the practitioner that my “stuffy ears feeling” had disappeared following the first session. She nodded knowingly. “It makes sense. Your throat chakra was pretty blocked up.”

This time around, my third eye chakra was blocked. “Have you had headaches lately?”


“A blocked third eye chakra could also mean you’re doubting or distrusting yourself. Do you feel like you’re having trouble seeing whole situations clearly?”

I thought about how burnt out I felt at work. And how I’d begun to wonder if I just wasn’t cut out to manage a team. “Wow. Yeah.”

“Let’s work on that,” she said smiling.

After the session, I felt peaceful again, and my chakras were all open. The self-doubt is still a little there, but I’ve felt a stronger sense of clarity at the office, an ability to see more of the big picture. Coincidence? Maybe. But I’m looking forward to my third session. The peacefulness I get during the sessions is enough to keep me going back.

Have you tried Reiki? I’d love to hear how it’s impacted you! 

Why you gotta check yourself before you wreck yourself*

This summer was tough. I lost two women very close to me. And while the initial sting and pain of their loss has eased up a bit, fall has been an insanely busy time at the office. Trying to balance my unwieldy workload with fun-packed weekends has resulted in sheer exhaustion – and a serious loss of balance. I feel drained, like I’m in a Frida Kahlo painting, bleeding out everywhere.

On top of the run-down feeling, I was beginning to get unexplicably angry and sad. Becoming annoyed with co-workers and short with my husband. Noticing I was becoming more critical of myself and my work, along with letting my Type A-ness get out of control when it came to cleaning (I clean when stressed).

Needless to say, this past weekend was a time to check myself. Okay, to be honest, I didn’t plan to check myself; I crashed. I napped on Saturday afternoon in my PJs and zoned out like a zombie, watching football all day Sunday.

The good part? I remembered why it’s so important to give yourself time to just be – time to forget deadlines, tuck the to-do list away, catch up on some reading, take a yoga class or go for a run and get back in tune with myself.

Inspired by my two days of relaxing, I turned a critical eye to my calendar and began moving back plans, spacing them out a bit so that I can build in “check yourself” weekends between busy ones. I made sure I got to the gym a few times this week, and carved out time to blog (hence, this post). I’m already feeling lighter and back to my usual self, rather than the crazed maniac I was becoming.

Can you relate? Do you have to check yourself, or have you mastered balance? I’m always looking for tips!

*Ice Cube is so wise!