I thought that I would begin 2014 with developing a roadmap to help you become a Soulfull Woman. That's S-O-U-L-F-U-L-L. This month the focus is on "S" for slowing down. No matter how busy we are with the "busy-ness" of life, this is where we, as women, need to begin to return to our core: our soulfull nature.
People probably tell you all the time to "slow down." But I think we all feel a bit of pride in our ability to multitask, without regard for the spiritual, emotional and physical cost to ourselves. It can become a game, a challenge, to see how much we can get done in one day. But the game can begin to take on a life of its own and turn into a driving force to our detriment.
In my late 20s, while holding the position of a paid firefighter and emergency medical technician in a very small rural community (about 1,259 square miles), my body sent me a message that my mind and soul could no longer ignore. The department had been losing money with its ambulance service for a number of reasons including not processing insurance claims properly, underutilization of equipment, and outdated supplies and equipment. My first task was to figure out all this mess, with the help of some great colleagues.
At the same time, I had to learn "on-the-job" to fight fires: house fires, oil well fires and grass fires. In this rural area we had many grass fires including one we fought for three days. But I can do it all, right? It's no big deal to work 80+ hours a week to make it all happen. (You're familiar with this thinking, aren't you?)
Long days stretched into long weeks, months, a year. One day, my body gave up and I went down in one of the grass fires we were fighting. As I lay on the ground with this big container of water attached to my back, smoking drifting over me, I could see the blue sky and white cotton candy clouds floating by. But my body would not move.
Later in the hospital, I learned I had carbon monoxide poisoning, smoke inhalation and extreme exhaustion and fatigue. I was there for two weeks and ordered recovery at home. I should have rested longer, but pushed myself into going back to work. Another big fire: more exhaustion, more problems with my breathing and lungs. This time, recovery would take a lot longer and my fire-fighting days were over. My health cratered, I was an emotional wreck full of self-criticism for not being able "to take it."
Thus began my journey to connect with myself and my soul. I wish I could say that the heavens opened and I had a revelation but it would take many more experiences before I found out that s-l-o-w-i-n-g down is a blessing and brings us one step closer to our soulfull selves.
So, how do we begin to slow down and start caring for ourselves?
- Make a decision you are going to do it. Accept that slowing down is a good step for you and give yourself permission to do this. Are you ready to begin this journey?
- For one week, observe what you are doing, how your body feels when you are doing it and, at the end of the day, how you feel about what you have done. Do you look back at the day with a sense of accomplishment?
- Notice how what you are doing impacts your moods and your interactions with the people in your life. Do you like how that is going?
- Recognize that self-care is important in order to other-care. Saying this out loud and writing it down in a prominent place will help reinforce this new thought pattern. Can you accept this statement as fact?
- Stop and take a couple of deep breaths at various times throughout the day.
Research shows that breathing can interrupt the stress response. Set your phone's alarm or use a visual reminder like a colored sticker on your computer screen or rearview mirror. Each time you see the sticker or hear the bell, breathe. Easy, right?
Your mind will begin to clear as you consistently take these pausing moments. You will begin to question some of what you are doing:
- Does this really need me to do it? Could someone else help me?
- If this is so important to me, why is it at the end of my list?
- How can I better organize some of the little tasks, so that they don't take as much time? For example, running errands weekly will take less time in the long run than making a separate stop each day.
- Is it really an emergency to answer the phone, text, or email every time it rings, buzzes, or beeps? Challenge yourself to silence your phone for a set period of time each day. Start with 10 minutes and work up to one hour.
- Am I budgeting my time realistically? Give each task enough time, allowing for a little extra in case there is a bump in the road so that you are not feeling constant pressure to move to the next item.
These and other questions will help you to begin to think more clearly and begin the process of reclaiming yourself. I did it. I know you can, too. 'Til next time. Blessings and let this be the year you recover your connection to your heart and a more soulfull you.
Soulfull Woman Deborah Chelette-Wilson is a Licensed Professional Counselor, speaker and life coach who has helped many women find that elusive "something missing" in their lives. She has been where you are: waking up in the morning feeling unfulfilled, untethered, uninspired—and her journey will inspire you. Woman on the Edge: Harnessing Your Personal Power and Finding Inner Peace is Deborah’s blueprint to moving from who we are to who we want to be. Order your copy today to take that first step on the journey to discovering a more soulfull You?
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