I recently read an article from one of my favorite newsletters, MindBodyGreen, titled "How Rigid Diets Threaten True Digestive Healing." The title of the article immediately drew me. As someone who is in the midst of trying to heal my own digestive system, I was curious if the author would shed light on how to break away from routine by allowing yourself to listen to what your body REALLY needs. After reading the article in its entirety, I felt as if the author took the words out of my mouth and was actually writing about me (minus cuddling with her baby!).
When I started to first experience digestive health issues (IBS, severe bloating & cramping after eating, distention, SIBO & the list goes on) I became extremely panicky and anxious in all social gatherings with friends and family. If asked to meet friends for lunch, coffee, drinks, or attend an event, I needed to know exactly what types of food was being served or what was on the menu. My mind would race one hundred miles a minute wondering- what if there was nothing I could eat? What if I ate one of my trigger foods on accident? How will I recover from this? Should I bring my own almond milk? (Yes, I've gone that far) Can I fit a yoga class in before to soothe my stomach pain? These thoughts ultimately would be too much to handle causing me to conclude that it would be better off if I stayed home and not risk straying off routine, making my symptoms worse. Someone who was once up for anything, I soon became an introvert.
One part of the article stood out- "Although it's hard for me to admit, this was becoming my reality. I had become so rigid, so ensconced in "rules" around my food and routines (all of which were meant to be health and happiness inducing) that they had become a cage and ultimately were NOT serving my mind, body, or spirit." Can you relate? I was becoming too rigid. There was no room for flexibility. I couldn't enjoy a Friday night out with friends, because I needed to be awake for that 6 AM Saturday morning yoga class. I didn't allow myself to meet my girlfriends for dinner because there was "nothing" on the menu that I could eat.
It was only until recently, when I started to realize that my mind, body, and soul were not truly in balance and harmony with each other. When I started to free my mind of rigidness, I actually felt better (happier!) and my symptoms seemed to subside. Before, I was unable to cope and handle the added stress of stomach pain that could have been prevented if I didn't have that 1 glass or wine or that coffee. Now, I am starting to realize that there is a way to balance all of this together. Sitting at home, alone, constantly stewing in my thoughts on how to rid myself of my digestive problems, was and is not going to solve any of them- BUT spending time with friends, family, and not missing out on building important and real relationships in my life- can lead to a "healthy breakthrough." I am now working on how to balance all of this: health, yoga, friends, family, work & life in general.
After putting myself back out there, reaching out to friends, not saying no to a coffee date or the occasional happy hour has not only helped my mental health but my overall well-being. It makes me appreciate the friendships I've developed, the time I get to spend on my yoga mat and most importantly has taught me to really be present in the moment.
Balancing all aspects of life and living in the moment is always something that will be a work in progress. Yes, there are times when you will need to (myself included) take a step back and allow yourself to recenter and regather your thoughts. Much like taking a child's pose in yoga- a brief moment of rest where you can steady your breath until you feel ready to join the rest of the class. In order to live fully and freely it is important that we are open to unpredictability of life and to tune in to what our bodies are truly asking for- whether is be rest and more sleep, enjoying an indulgent night, or taking a few days for self-care.
"Just like in any long-term relationship, flexibility is important. Don't allow your mind to subject your body to relentless, unbending rules even if you only have its "good" in mind. Sometimes breaking the rules can contribute to a healthy breakthrough"
My advice to you (that I always have to remind myself) is that the most important thing is you have to do what makes you feel the best. Spend time with friends when you need the social connection but do not feel selfish or guilty when you need take care of yourself and your body. Our bodies are all different but if you feel healthy and happy, you’ll be much better company!
What are your thoughts? How do you break free from the rigidness of life? You can find the article at mindbodygreen.com or click on the title!