ebb and F L O W
Tell me if you relate to this:
I’ve been going through a funk. I feel…off. Out of touch with others and myself. Not [as] connected to others or myself. Things don’t flow like they usually do.
This isn’t the first funk and it won’t be the last. And that right there…that’s a life lesson I’m continually learning: that life is cyclic. In every way: physically, emotionally, spiritually, biologically, professionally…all of it. There are ebbs and flows in all things. Flow is an operative word in multiple senses. It’s key to remember to go with the flow of life, and not resist it.
Easier said than done, right??
I may get a few “ME TOOs” from the following statement: I derive much of my value and worth from my accomplishments. Not just the big achievements (awards, degrees, etc) but also my daily doings. I measure the success of my day by my productivity. Not healthy, and something I acknowledge and work on daily.
Discipline is my default. As I keep learning throughout life, too much discipline can be as detrimental as too little. It’s about BALANCE: physically, mentally, emotionally…all of it. Going 100% all the time ain’t sustainable and ain’t healthy. I consider my drive/discipline my biggest strength(s) and my biggest downfall(s). Being driven + disciplined generates my accomplishments but also causes my issues (physical/spiritual/emotional).
Let’s take fitness and nutrition for an example (or exampleS, I guess, since they are two areas? You get what I mean!). It’s naturally much easier for me to restrict myself and push myself than it is for me to indulge/relax myself. And before your eyes roll out of the back of your head like, “Gag me! Get over yourself” let me note: This isn’t a humble brag, trust me. Your body needs ebbs and flows to thrive and operate optimally. It doesn’t do well when you’re stuck in one speed, whether that’s fast or slow - or even moderate. My go-to gear is turbo.
Not only that, but I go on kicks with certain foods that last for YEARS, y’all. I shit you not. My body craves the same dang thing(s) day in and out, multiple times a day. For example, I’ve been eating the same salad daily since 2016 (only breaking when I travel - and even then, if I have a kitchen, I grab ingredients to make it). I would have it for every meal (and occasionally do). My body legit craaaaves it. Yes, i’m a weirdo, but I have theories for why I crave it repeatedly: 1. The nutrients are what my body has shown to be deficient in/what my body needs to sustain my current lifestyle; 2. My palate prefers fresh, plant-based ingredients. Before this prompts another eye roll, here’s why: This is partly because I grew up eating healthy, wholesome foods, and partly because I focus on giving my body what it truly needs/wants, allowing me to eat intuitively. It just makes me FEEL better. This may sound obnoxious - I get it. But look: We all have our superpowers. Some can belt it like Beyonce, some can move it like Michael…I genuinely love eating like a bunny. It is what it is.
Okay, back to cycles and balance regarding fitness and nutrition: My go-to gear is hard and fast (that’s what she said. I HAD TO. I’m sorry. Yes, I’m secretly a 12-year-old boy). I get a high from powering through an insane workout and only eating a certain amount. Part of it is a control issue, sure - that’s a whole other conversation (if I feel frustrated/powerless in other areas of my life, I focus on the areas I can control, blah blah blah). But also: My body and mind both like routine. It'’s easy, it’s energy efficient, and it’s proven in the past to be effective. But just because something was previously effective doesn’t mean it will continue to be effective - and this is true for SO MANY ASPECTS of our lives, including eating and exercising.
If you haven’t been seeing/feeling the results you want, this next part may be your missing key:
Finding one approach and sticking with it ‘til the end of time is not only boring, it’s ineffective. Unrealistic. Life is not static, it’s dynamic, and requires us to be so as well (if we want to thrive and step into our power).
Nature itself is cyclic (eg seasons), and so therefore are our bodies. I mean, our sleep has cycles, so why wouldn’t our metabolism? No day is truly the same, with our energy input/output, hormone/stress levels, etc. Our energy intake/expenditure must keep pace accordingly. And moreover, our bodies are fascinatingly intelligent. It’ll soon realize it’s receiving a certain number of calories and adjust accordingly. For example, if it’s only getting 1000, it’ll slow down to accommodate. That’s why it’s important to change it up and keep it dynamic and guessing, regarding both content and amount. Same with our fitness regimen, on a macro and micro level. Sure, steady-state cardio (SSC) has its place (walking, for example, can be restorative in multiple ways) but HIIT workouts kick SSC’s booty when it comes to efficacy and efficiency.
Not only that: intense SSC - especially prolonged (for an hour+ without any breaks) - can actually be detrimental! As in it will actually do your body (metabolism) more harm than good. This is good news for your sanity, your size, and your schedule! Sure, movement is the most important thing, but a 15-minute HIIT/Tabata workout will yield faster and better results than going for an hour run at the same pace. Plus it’s more FUN. Way easier to stay engaged. And doing the same workout over and over (even if it’s an interval workout) ain’t good either. Gotta switch up the type, duration, and intensity of workouts. Fitness queen Chalene Johnson covers this on her podcast, The Chalene Johnson Show (Episode #403 Calorie Myths: The Problem with Eating Less and Moving More and Episode 414 Cross-Training Your Nutrition and Getting Honest About The Fitness Industry).
it’s important to work with our bodies and their natural flow. Same goes for our lives. Some of you are good at this. Some - like me - must learn this.
Play and downtime are JUST AS IMPORTANT as go time. Science is continually and progressively proving this. To be at the top of our game in any area, we require recovery. This is the same for our minds and muscles! A truly fit person knows this, and prioritizes recovery. There’s no glory in going hard 24/7 with no breaks. I used to be one of those who took pride in never “needing” a rest day and having a hard time relaxing - whether regarding my workout or my work. But now I know this indicates faulty thinking and unhealed areas. It’s working twice as hard for half the results. NO THANKS.
Relaxing our mind and body allows our body to restore itself. Letting our imagination run free sparks inspiration and innovation. It’s important to embrace - not resist - the fluctuations. When you’re feeling drained, just allow it. Don’t fight it. Defying it will just make you spin your wheels and delay your recovery. Sure, it can be tricky to know when to nudge yourself and when to back off, but keep at it. Eventually you’ll dial in and know what you need and when you need it.
One of my tricks is to just remove the pressure from myself. I stop telling myself I HAVE to do something, and tell myself I don’t have to do anything. I get to do what I want. I grant myself grace. And magically, somehow, whenever i remove that impetus, I usually reclaim my motivation. Not always, and when I don’t - that’s when I know I truly need rest.
And you may again get lost in the noise and need to recalibrate, and relearn this lesson of going with the flow. But c’est la vie. This only proves the point that life is cyclic, and we often revisit past lessons, and will continually do so.
For a truly balanced and fulfilled life, the lows are as important as the highs.