MBP Daily Three: When Life Gets Messy


MindBodyPlate Salt Spill

Life gets messy. We make mistakes. Things go wrong, and it’s not always possible to make them right. But no matter how hopeless a situation may seem, there is one thing that is always in our control: the extent to which we have our own back.

If you’re a sensitive soul, it’s all too easy to take everything that’s gone wrong and use it to punish yourself. Depending on how many years of practice you’ve had beating yourself up, having your own back in the midst of conflict might seem like an impossibility. So it’s important to start small. Little acts of self-care go a long way in getting you through the mess.

The next time you’re struggling to uplift yourself, remember the MBP Daily Three. Relentless self-care in the form of tiny but deliberate acts of self-kindness will give you something to grasp onto when you feel like falling down.

Mind Seek out emotional scaffolding.

When I’m faced with highly emotional conflict, my tender heart takes my physical body for a ride: nausea, elevated heart rate, dry mouth, the works. And since I’m still learning to have my own back, my mental health feels similarly precarious. I liken my state to a tower of jello: the form is there, but the structure is shaky. So I reach out for what I call emotional scaffolding (emotional buttressing might have been more appropriate, but it just doesn’t have the same ring to it). I reach out to my loved ones and picture building an all-encompassing scaffold up and around my shaky tower, plank by plank. With each phone call, text message, or lunch date my scaffolding grows higher. I reach out to others like it’s my job, even if I want to hide at home under the covers. I reach out not so much to commiserate as to remind myself that I am surrounded by people who know me and love for for who I am, as I am.

Body Get outside and get moving.

When your body feels like a shaky tower of jello, running a 5k doesn’t make a ton of sense. So go easy on yourself, but do get moving. A walk to the mailbox or the local coffee shop might be all you can muster, and that’s just fine. When last I felt this way, I met a friend near Bryant Park and asked her to peruse the Alice + Olivia showroom with me. Window shopping may not be an Olympic sport (yet), but it gets the blood flowing, and in my case, it felt therapeutic and safe. Simple upper body strength training is another great option, as weight lifting tends to inspire more than just physical strength. And if your nerves are steady enough to hit up a restorative yoga class, do it. Any activity that gets you moving and stills the mind is really where it’s at.

Plate Keep it simple. 

If you’ve ever struggled with anxiety, you know the curse of the anxious stomach. You feel too queasy to eat yet become increasingly weak as your blood sugar wanes. You’re not doing yourself any favors. But I have some surprising and delightful news for you: you know all those refined grains and simple carbohydrates we’re supposed to steer clear of? Now’s their time to shine. Refined carbs are much more gentle on the digestive tract than whole grains and most other foods, so when your nerves have got you queasy, feel free to bust out the white rice, saltine crackers, and French bread. At this point, providing your body with the energy it needs to function is far more important than achieving some kind of arbitrary dietary perfection. If your nervous stomach wreaks havoc on your intestines as well, you might be interested in congee, a Chinese porridge that is super gentle on the stomach and has, ahem, a binding effect on elimination. Warm, non-caffeinated herbal tea and broth are also good choices that will help you to feel more grounded and calm.

I hope it’s clear that one or two small acts of self-kindness can go a long way in bolstering your spirits when things go awry. While it’s important to admit when you’ve made a mistake, you don’t earn bonus points for torturing yourself about it for days, weeks, or years to come. Self-awareness must be tempered with self-forgiveness. If you’re struggling with that, then follow the MBP Daily Three like it’s a prescription, and you’ll find it gets easier. Because cultivating self-care, having your own back, and putting yourself first actually feels pretty damn good. Even and especially when life gets messy.

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