On this meandering river of life, I recently hit some Class IV rapids. Two months ago I had emergency surgery to remove my gallbladder, and ten days after that I was blasted with an acute episode of Bell’s palsy so severe it obliterated my ability to talk, and then to even think straight. I wrote a few newsletters to my subscriber list within this timeframe, but could not gather the internal resources sufficient to post a blog entry. (I hope you’re on my subscriber list!)
I consider myself a healthy person.
I frequently hike ten to fifteen miles in and out of thousand-foot rugged, impossibly steep, desert canyons. I routinely ascend mountain peaks of around ten to twelve thousand feet. I mean, I’m no ultra marathoner (in fact, don’t ask me to run a block) but the kind of hiking my husband and I do, not many people can follow along.
My wellness is a complicated thing.
I’m more dedicated than the average person, but like many Highly Sensitive People, I struggle with immune-mediated issues, more food sensitivities than you could possibly believe, and chronic fatigue. To find the right energy combination of tranquility and stimulation for me is like a real-world Jenga game. One wrong block placement and it all comes tumbling down.
The good news is that through the past six weeks I found a new (to me) integrative medicine doctor, and I am finally finding answers to the baffling energy questions that have complicated my entire adult life. Already, with a number of supplements, electrical acupuncture, elimination of food allergins, no caffeine or alcohol, B12/MIC shots, osteopathic massage, & micronutrient testing…not only is my Bell’s palsy 99% improved by now, but I am feeling more energized than I have, perhaps, ever.
I realized I wasn’t doing my Wellness well. At all.
I thought I was. I really did.
But I have one speed setting, and that’s full throttle. Yes, I’m devoted to a peaceful atmosphere. I listen to quiet, tranquil music. I meditate, and watch the birds in my backyard. But when I’m *on* I’m on full blast. I fill all of my time with what feels most productive. Like every other Highly Sensitive business owner and/or entrepreneur, I have a hard time understanding that just because I love my work does not mean I’m supposed to be doing it 24/7 with no breaks in-between.
I was forgetting the importance of the small things.
Which aren’t so small, at all. The essential oil baths. The somatic movements. The moments of intentional breath. The tea, poured from an adorable pot. The glorious fiction books (because 99% of the time my inner drill sergeant wants me to read psychology, spirit, and science non-fiction).
After a year of the best kind of stress–so many good things happened with my business in 2022–my body finally said, hell no. Suddenly I was left to clean up the mess my nervous system had purposely made (to get my attention). Meanwhile, my mind had been so dominant it wasn’t even aware my body was unhappy! Like an oblivious parter who consistently misses every single sign, my mind watched my body descend into dysfunction while stammering, “Why didn’t you say something?”
I asked my body and my spirit how much time a day they needed.
And their answer was an unequivocal “Three hours”.
I thought back to how my unscheduled time is usually spent. It’s not uncommon for me to take a three hour hike on the weekends. But what am I doing every single day? How am I spending most of my down time? Reading psychology books, working through continuing education classes, allotting way more time than I care to admit creating Reels to inspire on Instagram. I’m always writing– blogs, newsletters, books. (I wrote an entire book during the forced break I just had over the past six weeks.) I realized that I had slipped into a dangerous pattern. Everything I was doing was dominated by my mind.
My body and spirit were receiving table scraps of time, while my mind insisted on twelve-course dinners. More, more, more.
Three hours felt impossible. Unreasonable. Insane.
Until I realized it wasn’t. In fact, it wasn’t unreasonable at all. I just forgot to bring in the intention. There is a simple factor that is so easily overlooked: It doesn’t have to be all at once. Three hours isn’t all that much when it’s broken into small time increments throughout the day. Simplifying wellness is truly about managing those small blocks of time.
And this is where it got fun.
I broke down some of the things I wanted to center in my life. I made a list of the small, everyday habits that I knew would move the needle forward on my wellness in a deeply meaningful way. Then I gave them random blocks of time, based on how long I usually spend doing them.
My list looked something like this…
Essential oil baths ~ 30 min
Meditation ~ 20 min
Canyon walk ~ 30 min/ 60 min
Altar ritual ~ 10 min
Restorative Yoga ~ 30 min
Facial Qigong ~ 10 min
Sitting outside, watching nature ~ 20 min
Organizing/Purging clutter ~ 15 min
Mini-trampoline (for lymphatic health) ~ 10 min
Tea ritual ~ 10 min
Energy clearing ~ 5 min
Journaling ~ 30 min/ 60min
Grounding ~ 5 min
This is where the intention comes in…
I started to notice that when I do some of the things that bring me simple, quiet joy–like drinking tea from the cutest Japanese pot with a matching cup–it counts. It counts toward my body’s and spirit’s three hour requirement. On most days I walk, meditate, and journal because I learned years ago that this is my minimum requirement to keep my energy knots untangled.
So what I’ve adopted over the past six weeks is the practice of being intentional with those small, seemingly insignificant spaces of time that are easy to stuff with useless fillers that don’t actually add value to my life. In fact, they can easily drain me if we’re talking about five minutes of an energy-clearing ritual vs. five minutes spent scrolling Instagram.
“I really wish I had scrolled more!” said no recently transitioned spirit, ever.
The formula became extremely simple. If I had five minutes, I looked on my list for a five-minute something that my spirit loved. If I had ten minutes, I chose something for ten. The list helped me to remind myself how well-spent ten minutes can be when navigated with intention. It took no time at all to shift my mindset to the full realization that I could either spend three hours a day overworking, or doing garbage stuff that adds no value to my spirit or my body. Or I could choose the things that restore my body and spirit (which literally power my mind), and add value to my life.
The feeling at the end of the day, after I’ve done my best to reach those three hours (it won’t happen every day–perfectionism isn’t the goal) makes my body resourceful and my heart full.
For 2023, may you never forget the balance.
“Body, mind, and spirit” is not just a tagline for a Yoga magazine. “Wellness” isn’t just an overused cliche. These factors are the measurements by which we keep our life meaningfully aligned. The persona in the Body/Mind/Spirit triad that has a tendency to insidiously dominate my life is my mind. For you it could be different.
As you walk toward this magical New Year portal, this in-between space, the doorway between two years, ask each of these three life forces–Body, Mind, and Spirit–what they are asking for. How are they being suppressed or denied? Which one might be taking up all the oxygen in the room? How might they find a better balance?
Leave me a comment if this article has triggered any flashes of insight into your own wellness, or if you need help working through these questions. After hitting a brick wall with my own body recently, I can honestly say that though this is a simple concept, it’s not always easy. (My mind threw a few tantrums when it realized I was no longer allowing it to dominate all my time.)
So Happy New Year, dear reader.
May 2023 be loving, abundant, beautiful, and generous with you.
Joanne Sprott says
Got some lovely chuckles and a lot of resonance from this article, Kristy. Watching you go through Bell’s palsy really got my attention. I often take my body for granted. And my mind rules all, or tries to. Perfect message for me right now. I need to make that list of time-out things for me.
I have always been curious about your Reels, whether you made them by yourself all the time (seemed like it, but production value is very high, so I wondered how much work was involved). I have enjoyed your IG material tremendously, but if you ever want to reduce the frequency, you definitely won’t lose me. 😊
Kristy Sweetland says
Thank you, Joanne! I have had some help with IG production, but I will be hiring more help in 2023. I’ve spent too much time trying to meet IG’s insanity-producing requirements. 😑 Since Bell’s Palsy struck, you might notice my production is about 80% down. It will likely remain that way. Thank you for your unconditional support. That means so much to me. ☺️
Kristina Tall says
I agree wholeheartedly with Joanne…. I rely on your newsletters, not social media for your invaluable musings and sharings. This post deeply moved me… And what a great tool in asking those essential foundational questions to seek balance and wholeness. Ever grateful for your insight and wisdom, dear Kristy!
Kristy Sweetland says
Kristina, thank you, angel! You have no idea how important it is for me to hear this feedback. If there is one thing I learned from my Bell’s palsy it is that my writing is a creative torrent inside of me, and when that torrent gets blocked or diverted (through useless competitors of my energy) it will do whatever it has to in order to get my attention. Including paralyzing my face. I am so grateful for that teaching that I was so clearly granted. And my writing (including blogs and newsletters) will forever remain my number one creative priority. Thank you so much for your love and support!
Annette LeSueur says
Glad to see you smile again
Kristy Sweetland says
So nice to be able to smile again, Annette! 🙂 Thank you!
Jeannine Frazier Boone says
I must agree with the other comments – and say too that this article really came at the perfect time. My mind (like the one ring) definitely wants to rule them all 🙂 . I do try to balance my day with self care – but I find that it’s so easy for anxiety, overthinking and doubt to creep in even when I am taking care of myself. That usually means that I am going through the motions while my mind happily sabotages all of my supposed replenishing activities. Your journey and your posts here are so insightful and I am so grateful that you share it all with us. As far as IG goes – I feel somehow that it is a cleverly disguised energy vampire even with little use – the amount of interaction you have on there is of little consequence to me, (I do like seeing them) but I am a die hard follower :). You are brave, courageous and generous for sharing your wisdom and thoughts. Thank you! Happy New Year!
Kristy Sweetland says
Jeannine, I think you are completely correct. Even as I try to navigate IG with the slightest toe-in-the-water approach, I feel an odd “contamination” (is that the right word…?) that I can’t quite put words too. I’m evolving toward a more and more intimate relationship with the tribe of soul-sisters and brothers through my in-depth writing, than catering to the masses through social media. I had no idea that this post would generate such affirmation for me in this regard. I am so humbled and grateful for all of you who take the time to share your heart with me here. So, so blessed. Love you Jeannine! Happy New Year!