Style Your Life For Wellbeing
It’s funny how words change the more you look at them. I remember when it suddenly dawned on me that passport came from ‘pass through a port’. The same thing happened with lifestyle the other day: lifestyle. Life-style. life-Style. And it got me wondering how many of us actually style our life for wellbeing?
Most people I work with come with have one of two issues. Firstly, either a physical issue of clutter (if they find me as a decluttering expert). Or secondly, it’s stress/anxiety/sleep/injury issues (if they find me as a yoga teacher). Broad brushstrokes but you get the idea – there is a tangible issue and they are looking to me for solutions. Luckily, I have a few up my sleeve!
A while ago when I was still testing the water with business ideas, I found myself having two opposite conversations:
The women that loyally rolled out their mats in front of me every week, would hang back at the end to eagerly chat about decluttering. And the women who welcomed me into their homes to create order and calm, would quickly bring the conversation around to what I would call ‘applied yoga’. Which is how I use yoga in my day to day life – off the mat.
These conversations were the germinating seed of The Simple Life. And it made me realise that, as humans, we tend to solve problems as they arise instead of preventing them in the first place. We don’t consciously craft our lives to enable us to live feeling healthy and in harmony. We don’t style our life, we end up with our lifestyle.
So I thought I’d share some things I’ve tried in the hope that you will be able to style your life for wellbeing:
I Make Time For Me
I resisted this for soooooo long. Honestly, I was a fully signed up badge wearing member of the martyr club. I’d take on more and more, keep all those plates spinning; determined I could do it all. And still invite friends over for a 7-course gourmet meal despite the fact that it meant I’d have two hours sleep.
Now it’s a different story. But I started with baby steps, here’s what I did first:
- Went to bed 30 minutes before my husband and listened to a guided relaxation.
- Took my morning drink outside instead of being glued to my computer.
- Stopped being first to volunteer to help with e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.
You get the picture, small gestures of looking after my wellbeing and my time. Nothing too big, little things to test the water.
And it worked. That 30 minute bedtime routine gifted me space to myself, I slept brilliantly, and woke up feeling refreshed. My morning drink became a reset button where I could see how things were going and make sure I was getting my priority jobs done. And not volunteering first for everything? Well, I was still coming second in this quite a bit but it lessened the load.
I Got Realistic About Time
Old habits die hard! This took a while but eventually it dawned on me that no matter how optimistic I was, it turns out you can’t fit 36 hours worth of a ‘to do’ list into 24 hours. The ‘to do’ list that meant I had zero chance of styling my life for my wellbeing because it was full of: ‘I need to do… should be… have to…’.
The final tipping point on this came when I caught myself thinking:
Can I manage on four hours sleep a night?
It sounds so ridiculous now but I seriously contemplated it at one point!
Here’s what I did:
I did a time audit that I now go through with all my Simple Life clients. I scrutinised exactly how I was using my time. Listing all my jobs and duties for the family, the household, my businesses, my husband’s businesses, grown up stuff like bills and utilities, DIY, projects, studying, and so on.
This process of documenting everything little thing you do, whether it’s a one-off or a daily occurrence, whether you like doing it or hate it, is vital. It is crucial so you can see where you are now and what isn’t working. And it’s always illuminating how many things we carry in our head and do without even thinking about it.
Except we are thinking about it. We are using brain power and energy and resources and it is particularly prevalent in mothers. There was an interesting article on BBC.com about what I call the Maternal Load (have a read and try not to dwell on the stark stereotyping).
And in my experience it’s the build up of the hundreds of little things that become overwhelming.
Once I had it all down in black and white on a heap of post-it notes, I worked through one – large or small – and figured out if I needed to do it, could I do it differently, was I the only person in the whole world that could do it? I was critical of my choices and worked out a way forward.
And afterwards? I felt lighter, optimistic that I was making progress, hopeful that the overwhelm and overload didn’t need to continue. My existing lifestyle wasn’t serving my wellbeing or my family’s but I could see changes I could manage to put in place.
Recognising what I think I want vs what I actually want
Here’s an example. For me it was yoga, but it could be anything you’re longing for. It’s the concept I want to talk about, so use your imagination to make it applicable for you and how you want to style your life for your wellbeing.
So, you know, I love yoga. And I’ve always felt I needed a teacher to guide me through a class rather than doing my own thing or following a video. But despite being totally aware of how good it made me feel, I could never stick at a class once I got past the initial enthusiastic flush of commitment. Why couldn’t I commit to it?
Quite simply, I was making it too difficult.
Here’s what I wanted:
- To feel calm and balanced and in control of my anxiety
- Be fitter, stronger, more supple, healthier
- Be a better person.
Here’s what I thought I needed
- A slow class that would look after my mental health, with meditation, a long relaxation and possibly some chanting. (2+ hours a week door-to-door)
- A more physical class to make me fitter, stronger etc. (2+ hours)
- A philosophy / theory class (I never found one near me but let’s say 1.5 hours).
- Not to mention, the right kit, clothes, props, etc.
- Oh, and I wanted to be able to do all the postures perfectly before I stepped on the mat.
I’ll gloss over the last two points, that’s for a different post – suffice to say, I got over myself on both counts, because they are totally pointless.
Hello, how am I going to find another 5-6 hours each week?
Given that I was already stretched far too thinly, it wasn’t all going to happen – so none of it did. What I needed was a practice that worked around me, rather than trying to squeeze myself into a predetermined class-size hole. I was aiming for this perfect idea of what I thought I needed without ever sitting down and asking myself if that’s what I wanted. I mean, I couldn’t stick at one class, let alone three!
The only unused time I could find in my day was early morning. So I merrily rose at 5.30am to do an hour and a half practice and it was really hard work and I enjoyed precisely none of it.
I was still stuck thinking that I had to do a full ‘proper’ class. I’ll skip through the trial and error and tell you what works for me now:
I split my practice up and did it at home:
- 12 rounds of sun salutations to chanting – here’s the one I use on YouTube at 5.30am (21 mins)
- a short breathing or pranayama practice and meditation before bed (15 mins)
- a guided relaxation at bedtime (15-20 mins).
I don’t always manage all three but mostly it’s achievable. And I can adapt it depending on how I’m feeling on any particular day. Those short sections can be fitted in and are flexible enough to move if I need to. They are at times that suit me and what I want during the day. I don’t want 20 minutes’ relaxation at 6am, that’s when I need to feel energised!
Did it work?
I still use this structure. And, now that my days are optimised to get everything done for the various roles I play, I have space for more. So, now I also attend a strong physical class and a chanting class once a week – online – for my personal teaching development. I can do this because I have structured my days and weeks to work for me and my wellbeing – I’ve styled my life.
Here are some other things I use that ensure my life is styled for wellbeing:
I’m not saying these are right for you but they might give you some inspiration. If you need validation or permission that it’s OK to do these things, here, I’m giving it to you now.
- Morning Routine – I get up early. If you haven’t read ‘The Miracle Morning’, there’s a book, audio book, website, and whole community about it – I’d highly recommend it. Try it for a month and see if it helps you.
- I have a cleaner. Oh goodness it took me ages to take this step. I felt all the guilt about not managing it on my own. Eventually I took the plunge and it is the best thing I ever did. I know everyone doesn’t have spare money for this but I dropped a luxury in order to do it. And it doesn’t have to be weekly. Could it be a monthly deep clean of one area and rotate the areas each time? Can someone do just the ironing? Could you do a skills swap? If you get a payrise, can some of that go towards help around the house?
- I backed off. During my time audit, I looked at the hundreds of things I did and just stopped doing some of them. There were 7 or 8 I instantly dropped, if I remember correctly, but the interesting thing is: I can’t remember for the life of me what they were. They were that important! Yet I previously was convinced I ‘had’ to do them.
- Made sure my priorities were prioritised. For me it’s my children. Yet they were always hearing: I just need to finish this and I’ll come and play / Can you please be quiet so I can do this work? etc. So I did two things: I made sure I focussed on one thing at a time (work or children) and put my priorities in my schedule first. I always set my three main goals for the week and each day I decide what my most important tasks are and do those first. And guess what? It’s never ‘check my emails’.
- My environment supports my wellbeing. My home is free of clutter and excess. Everything in our home is there because we love it, use it or need it. It is certainly not minimalist, I keep my children’s artwork, we have candles and photos and I don’t have a capsule wardrobe. However, when I walk in my front door, there is a sense of calm and flow and space. But we also live there – it’s not a show home. So because it’s organised and we don’t have excess stuff, it doesn’t take much to keep on top of everything.
- I don’t keep everything in my head. Everything is written down digitally. I have a Google calendar and everything goes in there. Anything I need to remember goes in there. So I’m not carrying it all. Birthdays are on annual repeat with a week’s warning so I can get cards and presents sorted. Appointments are in red so I know they can’t move. I allow time between everything I schedule so I don’t feel under pressure all the time and I add notes if I need to remember to take something to a meeting, or directions if I haven’t been somewhere before. It’s all in one place and it’s all out of my head.
I’ll cut to the chase
Deep down, what is the one thing you really want to change? What’s stopping you? From my experience, the answer to this question is always: you. And if you can be objective there is always a way to make it happen.
Most of us are aware of what isn’t working and what we would like to change or at least try and see if it works. But we don’t do it. Our brains are hard-wired to resist change, no matter if it is for the better. So what can you do? Well I find the best thing is to take one change at a time. Try it on for size, get comfy with it, adjust where necessary. Let it become a habit and part of your routine. Then introduce something else.
Sometimes looking out for our wellbeing is removing things, like unhealthy relationships, too much screen time, unbalanced boundaries between work and home life, food and drink that don’t support our health, social media.
What you try is entirely down to you but here are some suggestions for bringing life to your life: anything that involves laughter, friendship, human contact and interaction, music, excitement, dance, love, peace. I bet if you listen real hard there’s a little voice inside you that’s saying: I’d love to…[insert idea here].
I haven’t listed everything I do because we are all different and this blog is getting really long! I just wanted to show you that there are small steps you can take to improve your life and make changes that make you feel better. You can style your life for wellbeing.
The key is knowing where you are now – and I mean really know. Do a time audit or come find me and I’ll take you through my system. Set your boundaries and stick to them. Protect some time each week just for you but make sure you know what you’re going to do that will really benefit you. Not what a magazine says you should or what a friend does. What is going to help you?
How are you going to style your life for your wellbeing?