Mama M: Staying Healthy

Monday, November 9, 2015

Dear Mama M,

I got really overwhelmed with my first year of school, and school completely took over my life. I stopped doing regular life things like exercising, eating well, and even doing most fun things like hanging out with my friends. As this new school year starts, do you have any advice for how I can maintain a better school-life balance in the next year?

- Wanting to stay mentally healthy


Dear Healthy,

I think the idea of “balance” is a bit of a trap. Balance is an illusion that we chase but never seem to achieve. I am worried, sugar, that you will get caught in the human loop of making promises to yourself about being healthy and then find yourself “out of balance”, and then feel shitty and disappointed and blame yourself, and then make yet another round of promises about staying healthy and going round and round again. This will not lead to balance sweetie.

I hear that you were overwhelmed and that didn’t feel good. But, another spin on it, is that you were completely immersed in a new world. Like a traveler, everything is wild and new and your mind is spinning with no reference points. Many people would envy your passion to be caught up in your work, leaving all other things to the side. So, don’t discount the power and energy it takes to be that overwhelmed with something new. It was your first year, and like first love and all other firsts-it will naturally calm down as you adjust.

That said, I think making commitments to oneself is a useful key.

I once had a Zen mentor. She guided me to make one small commitment to myself every day. Of course, I wanted a grandiose commitment. How about meditating one hour a day, I offered? She said, how ‘bout one minute a day? One minute? What can happen in one minute? “That’s not enough!”

But it is. What can happen in one minute is that it was a commitment that I could keep.

And keeping the commitment was the point, not the length of the meditation. It turns out that when you decide to meditate one minute a day, it often leads to more minutes, but if it doesn’t you don’t have to feel bad. And honey, feeling bad is not what you need right now.

What small thing can you bring back into your life? A one-minute meditation? A 10- minute walk around the neighborhood? Making you a delicious meal once a week? Meeting a friend once a month for some fun? What can you do to feed you inner world in service to your overall mental health? It is my experience that the world changes inside you first and then radiates out to manifest changes in your environment. Choose you. Choose something small that you can do for yourself to minimize your overwhelm. Keep in mind that there might also be some gifts hidden in your feelings of overwhelm. Is it passion in disguise? If it is, then how can you keep the passion without neglecting your health?

Choose you. Choose something small for you. Keep it simple. Watch it grow.


Mama M