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I’m writing about something today that’s going to seem really obvious in hindsight, but that never actually occurred to me for most of my life.
I used to (still do, but I’m working on it!) go down these absolute spirals of existential angst.
I wasn’t always sure what triggered them. All I knew was that I’d start the day out feeling ticked off or moody, and by the end of the day I’d be in a heap of tears or pulling my hair out while dramatically declaring, “What’s the point!?”
And by “the point,” I generally meant of anything. Having a business. Trying to be nice to other humans. Dating. Attempting to be healthy.
I’ve written before about the futility of questioning how your life is going when you’re in a crap mood. And I stand by that.
But what if you could prevent the crap mood from happening in the first place? (Sometimes, at least. 100% prevention of crap moods is not only unrealistic, it’s inhuman.)
And what if what triggers a lot of our daily angst is actually the most basic, obvious stuff that we’re taking for granted?
ARE YOU DEPRESSED, OR JUST THIRSTY?
Liz Gilbert, one of my favorite authors and self-appointed mentors, shared a similar thought in her podcast Magic Lessons.
She said, and I paraphrase:
“Sometimes I find myself so miserable, questioning the point of everything, cynical about the world, convinced nothing’s ever going to work out for me … and then I realize, ‘Oh. I’m just thirsty.’”
The point being: Sometimes misery isn’t actually misery. You’re just running on a low tank, in one way or another, and you can’t physically or mentally handle even the slightest strain to your system.
Liz calls the system that needs taking care of your “Human Animal,” which is an idea that’s so basic, and obvious, that I’m a little embarrassed it took me so long to realize how important it is.
But nevertheless! How true is this?!
I don’t know about you, but I have historically set aside my basic human needs for more “pressing” things. It usually went something like:
- Not getting up to refill my water because I was trying to finish writing a blog.
- Putting off exercise until the next day (and the next day, and the next day) because I had too many projects going on at once.
- Not taking a shower when I felt like it because it wasn’t the most organized and structured use of my time.
- Ordering take out too many times in one week because I “didn’t have time” to cook.
- Scheduling back-to-back meetings and not giving myself any breaks.
- Doing work on the weekends, when I could have been relaxing.
THE HUMAN ANIMAL IS LIKE A TODDLER, OR A PUPPY
I’m going to go with the puppy analogy, because I’m a dog-mom, not a real-mom.
If I feed my dog two square meals a day (healthy, organic dog food I might add!), make sure she always has plenty of fresh water, take her on 3-4 exercise outings per day (walks or ball throwing sessions), and give her plenty of my love and affection, she’s a happy, mostly-well-adjusted creature.
If, however, I were to feed her at erratic times, forget to replenish her water bowl sometimes, give her junk table scraps, take her on walks only when I felt like it, and ignore her need for attention in favor of more “urgent” things I had going on … she’d be a pretty stressed out, anxious, sad dog indeed.
Somehow, we expect ourselves to be immune to having basic needs. And quite obviously, we’re not.
If you care for your Human Animal, your Animal is going to be WAY more likely to be calm and at ease. It’s going to be infinitely more able to be energetic, productive, creative, and inspired on a regular basis.
If treated with love and respect, your Animal will be resilient and well adjusted. It, and you, won’t fall to pieces at the slightest provocation.
Basically, it’s not going to act like the world is ending and that everything is a Big. Freaking. Deal.
LET’S MAKE SOME RULES FOR SANE LIVING
So, if you want to take immaculate care of your Human Animal, I suggest starting with something I learned from another favorite author, business person, and self-appointed mentor of mine, Kate Northrup.
A couple years back, she introduced me to the idea of Rules for Sane Living. To this day, it’s an exercise I still ask many of my clients to do, always with great results.
The idea is simple:
Write down a list (at least 5, but I think around 10 is great) of rules that, when adhered to, help you be the sanest, most grounded version of yourself.
Some of Kate’s were things like: “Don’t schedule anything the day before a trip,” and “Start the day with 10 minutes of silence,” and “Take 3 deep breaths before eating.”
They’re clearly not world-shaking, which is exactly the point. Because they seem like “no big deal,” it’s tempting to forget how important they are to your sanity. And when you do forget to live by them, life gets out of hand pretty quickly.
So, in no particular order, here are my Rules for Sane Living:
- Never schedule any calls on Mondays (I hate Mondays, so I stopped trying to be a good coach on those days. It’s infinitely better for me and my clients.)
- Never schedule more than 4 coaching calls in 1 day, and NEVER repeat that volume of calls more than 3 days in a row.
- Don’t have more than 10 clients at a time. It’s way too many people to be accountable for, and I’m way better at my job when I can deeply focus on each individual.
- Drink at least 70 ounces of water per day. Or tea, or pressed juice. You get the idea. Stay hydrated!
- Always eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And usually two snacks, as well.
- Don’t schedule more than two social engagements in one weekend. This is critical for me, as an introvert.
- Have at least one weekend per month that has literally no plans. Again, crucial for taking care of my introverted-ness.
- Go to sleep at 10:30pm, and get at least 8 hours of sleep per night. Any less than 8, and I’m cranky as hell.
- Do as little as humanly possible on Sundays. I don’t know what it is, but if I try to do almost anything on Sunday, I get resentful and close to having a tantrum. Sundays are for doing nothing, and I must respect that.
- Don’t go more than a couple days in a row without putting on makeup, doing your hair, and wearing real clothes. It’s all too easy to be slovenly when you work for yourself, but it starts to make me feel apathetic after a while, which is lethal to motivation.
- Get outside and walk for close to an hour per day. Bonus points if I walk without any music or podcasts … just me and the silence.
NOW, MAKE YOUR OWN RULES
One last word to the wise about making these rules and caring for your Human Animal:
Yes, we need to get quality food, plenty of liquids, exercise, and a significant amount of sleep. That’s the physical foundation, and it’s critical.
But nourishment, especially the mental, emotional, and spiritual variety can also mean … not over-committing yourself. Disconnecting from technology. Being alone. Deep conversation with best friends. Exploring new places.
As you ponder what your Human Animal needs to stay sane, grounded, and happy, think about what being nourished at every level would mean to you.
And I promise, when you’re well cared for, everything else is going to look a lot more rosy and a lot less miserable.
I want to hear your Rules for Sane Living! So come share them with me, in the comments.
Rachel (& Kristen)
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