Perhaps your journey in isolation has had similar emotional twists and turns as mine. Back in March of 2020 it started out fine. I was feeling really motivated and thinking this was only going to last a couple of weeks. I was really happy to not be commuting 90 minutes each way to the World Trade Center each day. Working from home was awesome and I loved getting eight hours of sleep each night. It was like a wonderful gift.
Then as the weeks progressed, I found myself being the inspiring one – the extra cheerful one for my family, clients and friends, never showing any of my own fears or doubts. One day it all came crashing in on me and I had an all-day ugly cry session because my fears and the stress of it all had been building up like a pressure cooker. The all-day cry session was exhausting but the reality was that it felt really good to let it all out. My normal stress relief had always been going to the gym 3-4 days a week; but I no longer had that option.
While I was desperately missing the gym, I wasn’t exercising very much because I thought this “social isolating thing” would all be over quickly and I’d be back at the gym soon enough. Except it wasn’t over soon. When I had that harsh realization, I decided that I needed something gentle and relaxing. So, I added 2 gentle virtual yoga classes a week to my schedule and a couple of 4 to 5 mile walks a week when the weather permitted.
And then something awful happened. I got a glimpse of my body in my full-length mirror. For the first time in my entire life, my boobs were starting to sag. It was absolutely horrifying! A silent scream was trapped in the back of my throat. I had always prided myself (even though I never told anyone – alright maybe I told a couple of people) that I have fabulous perky boobs. My secret was all the upper body work I had done over the years – beautiful strong pecks holding them afloat, completely resistant to gravity. Until now. Until several weeks into an effing pandemic. Suddenly gravity was winning after years of glorious victory.
Enough was enough. This was ridiculous – I needed to start doing more than gentle yoga. Except now I was feeling lazy, unmotivated. The gym had motivated me – the energy and vitality of the other people gave me a buzz. But I didn’t have that option. As a result, I had all these different feelings going on inside of me. I was desiring to be back in shape, but feeling lazy, and feeling frustrated with myself for being out of shape…and for feeling lazy. Gah.
I signed up for a more difficult virtual yoga class and it kicked my butt. I had to stop a couple of times to catch my breath. Then I felt utterly defeated. I started to cry in the middle of my advanced virtual yoga class. I literally hung my head and wept while in Lizard pose because it was so difficult after just a couple of months of not working out. I thought, “I will never get back to where I was before this pandemic. My boobs are going to sag forever. Oh God.”
And then something happened. Halfway through that 75-minute yoga class my muscle memory started to kick in. Sweating and out of breath, my muscles started to remember what I have been practicing for years. While it was still difficult, it wasn’t impossible. I powered through that class and the next day I signed up for another more difficult class. I made a commitment to myself to sign up for another and another. I felt motivated again and I knew this tragic time would come to an end…eventually. I also knew it was OK to be kind and gentle to myself and that it was OK that I let myself “go;” but now it was time to focus again and get serious about my fitness regime.
Our minds are like this, too. When we begin the journey to master our mind, we will have setbacks and there will be times where we need to have compassion for ourselves and be gentle with ourselves. The journey is just like building a muscle. You cannot unlearn the muscle of mastering your mind, once you learn it – it is part of you – forever. You cannot go backwards. The journey is not always easy, but it is worth it and it is powerful. Mastering your mind is knowing that when you feel lazy, you can let yourself feel lazy for a bit and then continue on your journey. You will not forget it all.
So, what do you do? How does this help you? First you have to be aware that you are feeling lazy, unmotivated and that it is actually becoming a problem. It’s totally fine to have compassion for yourself and be kind to yourself especially under times of duress like we are in today; but you will begin to be aware that you have passed the point of kindness and crossing the threshold to laziness.
Once you recognize this, observe where you can take things to the next level. Is it fitness, health, eating habits or is it putting your career growth or creative endeavors on the back burner? Is it a project that you promised yourself you would do that sits idle? Make a commitment to yourself that you will do ONE thing really well. Just one thing, not ten things. Push yourself to the next level on just that one thing. Commit to it every single week, in fact every single day if possible.
So, what else did I do? I made two goals for myself:
1) To start working out in front of my laptop 4-5 times a week (in addition to yoga, I found some great workouts on YouTube and on Facebook with some of my regular gym class instructors who were teaching virtually).
2) To be able to hold a 1-minute plank. I had NEVER been able to do that even pre-pandemic.
I made a commitment to myself. I started working out in front of my laptop every day which made me feel sad and angry at first – I felt angry for what we were all going through and sad for the loss of the healthy, strong body I had before the pandemic. But I kept at it – waking up extra early and getting my workout in. It wasn’t nearly the same as going to the gym, but it was all I had.
I lost the few pounds I had gained from eating chips and mac and cheese regularly. When the gym opened up again and I went back to class…guess what? For the first time in my LIFE, I held my plank for 1 minute straight. I felt joy, elation and I wanted to scream from the rooftops to everyone about what I had accomplished…and during a pandemic. And my boobs? Well, we are fighting gravity together on a daily basis – I’ll get there again.
What are you committing to?