By Chloe Babauta
Today, for the first time ever, I did yoga on my own and was actually able to be present. (Of course, as soon as I realized I was being present, I took myself out of the moment but oh well)
This might not sound like a huge accomplishment, but if you’ve ever tried to stay mentally present during yoga (or meditation, or in general) you know this feels nearly impossible.
I’ve been doing yoga on and off for the past couple of years, because it’s literally the only thing I’ve found that can give me inner peace. It doesn’t last longer than a few seconds at a time, but it’s the most healing, rejuvenating feeling in the world to me.
For years I’ve struggled with anxiety, depression, and an eating disorder (and ADHD too, which I only got diagnosed with less than a year ago). My head is always swarming with worries and self-criticism, so inner peace is a rare thing for me.
While I was on Guam, I worked on healing when I could, but I was always swamped with work and a full social life with family and friends. I got sick a lot, drank a lot, didn’t get enough sleep, ate ramen for dinner every night, and other unhealthy things you do in your 20s. I burned out badly and was having panic attacks and other mental health issues after two years of living like this.
This year, my main focus has been healing. I just turned 26 and I’m getting too old to live like I’m never getting older.
Now that I work from home in California, I have long chunks of the day when I am alone with my thoughts. Of course this is a dream and a luxury, but it was hard for me at first because I wasn’t used to rest anymore. I was used to working long hours, barely eating (or binge eating junk food), and hardly ever exercised.
I’ve spent the past several months sitting uncomfortably with my own thoughts and insecurities, and let me tell you, this has been one of the most humbling experiences of my life. At first I felt like I was going crazy, and my anxiety was at a high because I’m out of my comfort zone, getting used to living with my partner’s family, and away from all my family and friends. But I chose to use this opportunity to finally take care of myself, heal my past wounds, start my business and passion work, and just … feel okay for once.
I’m probably going to have some form of depression or anxiety throughout my life, but I’m learning how to live with it in a healthy way by listening to my body and inner voice. (Cue “Inner Voices” by Marianas Homegrown, or Micah Manaitai ayyy)
I’ve been working on listening to my body and thoughts in small ways lately:
- Instead of eating things I know make my body hurt, I try to just not eat it. I am guilty of always eating things I know my body can’t handle: cheese, ice cream, every type of cheese Pieology offers on a build-your-own pizza, burgers, five bags of candy in one sitting. I’m lactose intolerant (to the point where I get really bad pains and indigestion), but I love dairy. I also have the biggest sweet tooth, and the cavities to prove it. Now I turn down my kryptonite foods 1 out of every 5 times I get a craving, but a little bit of progress is better than nothing. Give me a few more years and maybe I’ll be vegan 😉 I’m not doing this for weight, I’m doing it because I don’t want my organs to hurt all the time anymore.
- I use my skin as a measure of what is good and bad for me. I’m still figuring out what foods trigger my acne, oil, hives, and other skin changes — so when I notice my skin is having a bad reaction, I think about what I ate or did that day that might have affected me and make a note of it. I started tracking what I eat during the day in my bullet journal and how it makes my body and skin feel, so I know what works for me and doesn’t. Some days I know I just need to drink more water, other days it’s a lesson to me not to keep eating junk food (when will I learn??).
- I think before I speak. It’s funny how simple (and kind of silly) this all sounds, but honestly I can be selfish and immature, and I don’t always consider how my words affect others. Instead of just talking to fill uncomfortable silence or saying whatever comes to mind, I think about how my words will affect others. When I speak more intentionally, I feel more confident (and am less likely to lose sleep thinking about things I regret saying — which happens a lot).
- I don’t take it as personally when people don’t respond to me. I am a very insecure person (although I think I’m good at hiding this around people) and I used to get so personally offended if a friend or family member didn’t respond to my messages but responded to group chats I was in or posted/liked posts on social media. I thought, how could they do this to me?? Now that I’m older, I know it’s usually not personal and we all have real lives. It’s also not fair to expect people to be available to us 24/7, which is another effect of social media and how much we use our phones. I don’t think it’s healthy to feel the need to respond right away either if it’s not urgent.
- I post on Instagram less. I mean I still post on Instagram fairly often, but I don’t constantly share what I’m doing on my story. I’ve gotten sucked up into that cycle before, and it got to the point where I started planning everything in my life around what I could post on social media. It’s not healthy, and I’m working on setting boundaries for the importance I place on social media so I don’t keep thinking that way. It’s not how I want to live my life.
I’m learning that changing your life unfortunately doesn’t happen immediately. It’s trying hard every day, and messing up a lot. I’ve had many days where I feel like a failure because I am not the person I wish I could be (and I probably never will be).
I’m always going to want to be better, but I’m learning to celebrate the little successes. Maybe someday I’ll be able to make it through a day without craving sugar and dairy. Someday I’ll be able to do yoga on my own for longer than 15 minutes. But for now, I’m proud of myself for getting on the mat and having even a few moments of peace.