I’ve recently finished reading ‘Quit Like a Woman‘ by Holly Whitaker and I can highly recommend reading it.
It’s primarily about quitting alcohol and although I don’t drink a vast amount, I have struggled to knock drinking on the head altogether, there are moments where I still get sucked in. Beyond that there were several recommendations that I felt would work in my life in general, one of which was to identify my three non-negotiables. Those 3 things that I will do every day, even the worst of days, no matter what.
1. Exercise. For me this is huge. Even if all I can manage is a walk. We were sitting at home recently and I was feeling guilty about leaving husband to do decorating on his own, again. But he said he’d realised how much difference exercise does make to my overall well-being and so missing out on my Nordic Walking in this instance was non-negotiable. That had to happen. Exercise is the one thing that I prioritise in my diary. No matter what.
2. No alcohol. This ties in with #1 and it absolutely has to be a non-negotiable. If I drink I feel dreadful. Even the tiniest bit makes me feel dreadful. Just this past weekend I had a couple of classes of wine with dinner. During the night the crushing headache arrived. At one point as the headache moved down my face, into my sinuses and my teeth I began to wonder if I was actually having a stroke. As a consequence, I missed my Monday morning exercise class. Instead I slept. Then I feel even more dreadful. Which makes me more tempted to drink, or eat sweets. Which makes me feel a bit more dreadful and so I carry on in this downward spiral. The exercise goes out of the window and it takes a mammoth effort to get back on track again. So better all round if I just don’t bother with the alcohol in the first place.
3. Meditation. I’ve always been a bit slapdash when it comes to meditation. I do it for a few days, then not. I’m making a concerted effort to make meditation a daily commitment and making it a non-negotiable will help with that. Much like exercise, it makes a big difference to me. I normally aim for 15 minutes twice a day. Sometimes I just sit in the quiet, sometimes I use a guided meditation, but I’ve learned that it doesn’t really matter too much how I do it! But it does have a really positive impact on how I feel during the day.
Besides these 3 non-negotiables, the book recommends a toolkit of about 10 things that you can draw upon to help you navigate those tricky moments. I have:
1. A cup of tea. Very British I know, but you can’t beat a good old cup of tea. I suspect because it simply makes you stop for a while and address what is causing the problem. Or to sit quietly and just reflect. Or sit and look out of the window at the world going by for a moment.
2. My husband. He is very good in the moment. I can tell him what is going around in my head. 90% of the time he tells me it’s stupid and 80% of the time he’d be right. But I know that I can safely say what’s in my head, as bonkers as it may be. Just being able to say it out loud in a safe place gives me space to realise just how bonkers the thoughts are and it is the first step towards finding a solution.
3. My sister. After husband has mopped up the initial anxiety driven trauma, my sister is superb at providing impartial, practical solutions. No judgement, no making me feel stupid, just straight forward practical solutions.
4. Tapping (EFT) This is a relatively new find for me and I’ll admit I thought it was totally out there the first time I tried it or heard about it. It works with the central nervous system and the meridians. Basically you tap on various points on your face and body whilst repeating certain phrases and the combination of both helps restore your equilibrium.
5. Mindful Moments. I’ve set a series of alarms on my phone for every 2 hours. When it goes off I stop for a few minutes. If I’m out and about I tend to do a few minutes heart coherence. Or if I’ve been sitting studying for a while I use it as the opportunity to walk and stretch a little. The idea being that it brings to back to the present. Initially I thought it would be an intrusive nightmare, but it’s really quite pleasant!
6. Deleting Facebook. This probably sounds like a bizarre one. But I cannot tell you the difference it has made to me, not being on Facebook and avoiding that particular rabbit hole. I don’t know what it is about my brain that means I can’t take part in this particular activity – but I can’t.
7. Making things. Anything really! There is nothing that I lose myself in quite like making something. It absorbs me totally. I do want to make a dress that fits and I have a bit of a bizarre obsession with crochet scarves and wraps at the moment. I always have something on the go, so whenever I find myself feeling a bit low, or there is potential for me to get sucked into something that might not be so good for me, then I can pick up whatever it is I am making and sit enjoying the process for a while. I have the world’s longest list of things I want to make so it’s unlikely I’ll ever find myself at a loose end.
8. Music. As the song says ‘Through my times of trouble my music sees me through’. Listening to music, playing an instrument. I don’t play my clarinet as often as I should, but there is nothing quite like it for bringing me into the present moment. I’m trying to widen my music repertoire and am listening to different types of music, but I have to say that in the moment you can’t beat a bit of Katy Perry!
9. Sitting on a bench. This is a topical one! Ricky Gervais has just placed 15 benches around the UK based on the one he uses in the show Afterlife. The theory being that you sit there and someone comes to chat to you and might just save your day. I don’t very often get to sit and talk to anyone, but quite regularly a short walk to a local bench is all I need to settle my mind. To sit quietly and watch the ocean, or watch people walking by, to hear the birds singing, the children laughing. You can’t beat a good old bench.
10. Other people. This is a bit of a catchall. I don’t have a ‘crew’ as such and I am still trying to find out what works best for me. One thing that did resonate with me from the book is that different people will come into your life at different times. Some stay, some don’t, some you may not ever meet in real-life. But this is an evolving thing. There have been many people over the years that have made a difference to me. In the past year it has definitely been my physio and chiropractor, but I can see how I may move on from them now that physically, I feel so much better.
So there we have it. My 3 non-negotiables and my toolkit of 10. These may both evolve over time, but what I have found interesting is that it helps to be prepared. It helps to be consistent and practice techniques day in and day out. I appreciate that for many people this is not even necessary. What I do know is that starting my day with non-negotiable #1, the chances of me even needing to delve into the toolkit of 10 is significantly reduced.