What’s in Your Toolbox?
One of the most common questions I get, is how do you manage stress? how do you “self-care”? how do you juggle everything?
Short answer is I don’t 😉
But I’m going to attempt to address some of these concepts and ideas in this post.
All of this is an ongoing discussion that I constantly have with my therapist, and it’s always evolving. I have learned so much, and I will try to share some of it with you.
What does it mean to juggle? what does it mean to balance it all? How do you prioritize when everything feels so important? like what should I not do, make dinner or go to work? These questions are always on a loop in my brain. Here is my take, my humble, non-professional, don’t-hold-me-accountable, opinion 😉
There is no way that we are not going to drop the ball. Finding balance may be an elusive goal, that may not be practical; I know that for me, it isn’t. Ok, great you say, what’s the alternative? A better question I’ve trained myself to ask is, what needs my attention right now? I know that it sounds oversimplified and obvious, but usually the best advice is 🙂 this simple question has gotten me out if some serious spiraling situations. Try it! You might be pleasantly surprised.
I do believe that having a toolbox of skills at the ready, is a very positive thing. Everyone’s box will, and should, look different, but must consist of a variety of tools as different circumstances and experiences will require different skills. Sometimes things that have always worked for you, won’t, and you will need to try something else. These are some of the things that I have in my toolbox that has been lovingly curated throughout the years. I do not use all of these at once, usually only a few at a time, depending on what’s effective and feels right for the place I am in.
- Therapy – I go once a week pretty consistently. Therapy for me is long term, something I use to constantly grow and push me out of my comfort zone.
- Exercise – I go to the gym x2 a week and it’s a lifeline. I work out with a trainer and people I love. I used to hate exercising; it took years for me to find the exact combo I love. Don’t be afraid to change it up, we change, so we need different things as we move through life.
- Meditation – This is not something I have mastered in the least bit, but I keep trying, as there are many ways to meditate, and I know the tremendous value it holds. So, I will continue to explore and keep at it.
- Journaling – The type of journaling I’m talking about isn’t like keeping a diary. This is more like a brain dump. Writing down all the horrible things you would never say out loud. Get it onto that paper and then rip it up. It’s not something you need to see again and look back on. It’s very therapeutic to put those thoughts on paper and out of our body. Remember our body keeps the score, and when we hold all those intense emotions in us, it can lead to chronic pain and illness. Nicole Sachs is a great resource for this if you want to learn more
- Energy work – This is huge and has many different facets to it. Some people might be resistant to this and that’s ok. I’m just here to share with you my experiences, and I think it’s safe to say that this one of the most important tools in my toolbox. The more I learn, the more I realize how much more there is to know. This world is made up of energy and vibrations, how can we not use it as a tool for healing? I have been very open about my work with Moishe Weinbaum who uses a host of different energy tools. There is also so much you can do your own, Kate Murphy from Kates clean life is another amazing resource and close friend who I have learned so much from over the years! I can say unequivocally, hands-down, the biggest source of our negative state and health comes from an unhealthy brain/emotional state and the biggest source of healing will come from a conscious shift in how we think, what we say, how we feel, how we act. How do you talk to yourself?! Guys this is huge! I have recently started learning more about Bach flower remedies and I am fascinated and excited to bring this into my life. I’ll keep you posted.
- Cold therapy – I have found this to be extremely helpful. I fought doing this till the bitter end, I hate cold water and I live In Montana!! But I must admit it’s powerful. There are many ways to do this. You can fill your tub with cold water and plunge. You can end your shower with 30 seconds of cold water and gradually increase the time. Don’t knock it, like my husband does, until you try it 🙂
- Breath work – There are many ways to do this too. Google or YouTube are great resources to get some tutorials on breathing tools.
- Pause – What I mean by this is, if you’re in the middle of a real challenging moment, just stop and tell yourself this is hard. It’s amazing how much your body will relax when you lean in and acknowledge the situation, instead of pushing it away or beating yourself up for having a hard time.
- Cry- “The organs weep the tears the eyes refuse to shed” -Sir William Osler. Crying is a physical and emotional release. We almost always feel better once we do. I am not a crier but have been getting more practice lately 😉
- Be open to the world – You’ll never know when you will come across or learn something that will change your life. If you are set in your ways and closed off to anyone who doesn’t think like you, you are missing out! The more open you are, the more the world will have to offer. It doesn’t mean you compromise on your values, not at all, it means you understand there is something to learn from every experience and every person. You can appreciate something about someone and disagree about something else. I was raised, and love living, with the beautiful Chabad Chassidic culture, I cherish it deeply, yet, always find that perspective comes from every human interaction.
- Its ok not to be ok – The way I internalize this is, is recognizing that life is fluid, life has ups and downs. Sometimes our marriage is suffering, sometimes our children are struggling, sometimes we are financially in the dumps, sometimes our social life stinks. If we can know that it’s not going to be like this forever, and we give ourselves permission not to be ok, it can feel like a big burden has been lifted.
That’s a pretty great toolbox right there if I may say so myself 🙂 I urge you to start building your toolbox. It won’t happen overnight, and it will constantly change and evolve as you constantly change and evolve. It’s worth the investment.
To be clear: there have been times when I come up dry, nothing in my toolbox is effective, and that can be pretty scary. That has taught me something invaluable. At the bottom of our toolbox, more like the foundation of it all, is faith. We must know, that at the end and beginning of it all is G-d. We can do everything in our power, which is required of us, and then we let go and let G-d. The past two years have taught us what is in and isn’t in our control. I’m aware that a lot of us struggle with our relationship with G-d and I venture to say this is a valuable place to put some energy and effort.
I am sitting here and writing this right after a huge holiday season. Seems very appropriate as most of us have been stretched to the limit. As we try to ease back into a more consistent routine, I hope you find something I’ve shared to be helpful.
I want to leave you with something my therapist shared with me over this holiday month, words that had a profound impact on me and will stick with me, becoming part of my toolbox.
He said to me: Chavie, here is what I hope for you, that amidst the crazy (and trust me, we are talking crazy), when you notice something beautiful like a smile on your child’s face, your guests enjoying your food that you worked so hard to prepare, even something like the sun shining on your face as you walk to Shul (Synagogue), stop and absorb, really feel it, even for 5 seconds. This will make all the difference in your body. We work so hard and often forget to enjoy the fruits if our labor, so we can’t squander opportunities to acknowledge that for which we have gratitude.
So here is my hope for you:
Life is joy, life is pain, and life is everything in between. Feel it all, acknowledge the hard, feel the beautiful. Don’t give up on this amazing life that Hashem has gifted us. Keep learning, keep evolving, keep growing and don’t forget, you are never alone.
With all my love,