Over the years, people have often approached me with comments like “I tried yoga [or meditation or journaling or exercise or some other wellness technique], but it didn’t work. What am I doing wrong?” Often, these people mistakenly believe that they’re a lost cause. They’ve tried everything, and none of it worked. They still feel stressed, sad, and generally unwell.
My answer for these people is twofold. On the one hand, they might have chosen a technique that just isn’t right for them. For example, if you’re already high strung and anxious, a vigorous exercise program can sometimes make you feel more on edge. This is because intense exercise creates the same physiological effects (i.e. increased heart rate, sweating, etc.) as anxiety.
But most often, the main reason why techniques like yoga and meditation don’t seem to be working is because the person hasn’t embraced wellness as a lifestyle. They go to yoga once a week and expect their problems to be solved. Or they see a therapist for five sessions and prematurely decide that therapy isn’t for them.
If this sounds like you, please take heart and know it’s not your fault.
In modern society, we’ve been ingrained with a “quick fix” mentality.
We want results, and we want them now. This is one of the reasons antidepressants are so popular—we’re often looking for a Band-Aid that will cover up our problems without us having to go through the sometimes challenging and painful inner work that’s so often required of deep personal growth.
I’ve fallen into this trap myself.
I took antidepressants for six years because I wanted to feel better fast. I was a busy university student, and I believed that I didn’t have the time or money to invest in frivolous things like yoga or exercise. After much trial and error, I finally realized that I was never going to feel better unless I made my well-being my number one priority.
So I started small. First, I bought a yoga DVD that I practiced a few times per week in my living room. Over the next ten years, this initial step blossomed into seeing a therapist and naturopath regularly, practicing yoga at least twice a week, and eventually becoming a yoga teacher and meditating for an hour every day.
Today, my colleagues and students often look at me and think I have it all together. What they don’t see are the many years of soul wrenching, heart opening work that went into creating the solid foundation that supports my current state of being.
People also don’t often see the fact that I still struggle to make my well-being a priority. My natural tendency is to gravitate toward workaholism. I still wrestle with the reality that it takes me almost three hours to get ready every morning because I’ve committed to taking time to make a healthy breakfast and meditate every day. My ego often jumps in and screams, “You should be working by now!”
But I breathe through it because deep down inside I know that the hours that I spend on my self-care are the most precious and important hours of my day.
We need to start making our well-being a priority. How can you expect yourself to be there for your partner, children, friends, and coworkers if your energy is constantly depleted?
This is where adopting wellness as a lifestyle can help.
Please don’t let this idea frighten you. It’s not like you have to drop everything and start meditating for five hours every day. Start small.
Pick one thing that you believe would support your well-being and commit to doing it at least two to three times a week for a month.
You might be thinking, “Easy for her to say. She doesn’t have kids or a full-time nine to five job, so she has all the time in the world to devote to herself.”
But this simply isn’t true.
I’ve often had to fight to make my well-being a priority. There have been times when I’ve disappointed friends, family members, and even my husband because I’ve chosen my needs over theirs. And I’ve cut many things out of my schedule that I thought were important so that I could carve out space for my self-care.
I started with a yoga DVD. You might start with five minutes of meditation every morning. The key is to shift your priorities so that you start putting yourself first.
The most important thing to remember is that true change happens slowly over time. When you first learn to play the piano, it’s not like you wake up the next morning to find that you’re suddenly a master pianist. Studies show that our bodies and brains integrate changes gradually and incrementally over long periods of time.
It’s often said that it takes ten years to create an overnight success. Personally, it’s taken me almost ten years to get to the state of wellness that I experience today. It took me twenty-one years before that to create the issues and thought patterns that put me on antidepressants in the first place.
It’s all part of the journey, and there is no final destination. Just like you, I’m still on my own path toward wellness.
Today, I urge you to embrace the uniqueness of your journey and know that everything is happening exactly as it should be. It’s ok if you aren’t 100-percent cured by tomorrow. There is immense learning and growth that happens during the darker periods of our lives. A new version of you is being born—it just might take some growing pains to get there.
So give yourself permission to take your time.
In the comments below, share one small thing that you believe would support your well-being, and commit to doing it two to three times per week for the next month.
You never know where this one small step might lead!
Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. is an author, speaker, researcher, and yoga teacher who helps people create a life they love. Check out her book, The Antidepressant Antidote, follow her on Facebook and Twitter, and join her whole-self health revolution.
If you’d like tips on the topic of manifesting your dream job, plus some personal instruction from Bethany, check out her online course, Creating A Life You Love: Find Your Passion, Live Your Purpose and Create Financial Freedom.
*Photo Credit: Fusion Wellness.February 10, 2013