Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Four years strong

It's hard to believe this summer will make four years, well, two years since it was official. We met in July 2012 on the campus of Old Dominion University. We were already casually acquainted before we met, but had no real expectations. Little did I know, once I opened up, I would be instantly swept off my feet. My life would never be the same. I fell in love. It's been almost four years since I fell in love with fitness. You thought I was talking about a guy, right? Yeah, sorry. No. But, I do think there are lots of relevant parallels between relationships and my journey with fitness.

Take this evening, for instance. It was kind of a mundane day for us. I came home from teaching two classes. One was actually cancelled due to poor attendance and the other went on as scheduled but was pretty small. To be honest, it's hard to have the same energy and excitement with two or three participants as you do with a larger group. I still love moving and helping others be well, of course. It's just some days I'm not feeling it like I used to feel it. I'm still committed to this life. I can't imagine any other. But occasionally, I fear the thrill is gone. Since walking away from the fit life is not an option, here are some ways I try revitalize my relationship.

I remember
You know what helps the most when the loving feelings start to wear off? Remembering how it was in the beginning. I re-motivate myself with a playlist of the songs I heard when I was a student. I remember what I was doing when I would spontaneously light up like a Christmas tree. I remember rushing to stand in line so I could pick my preferred spot in my favorite instructor's class. Basically, I recall what made me fall in love in the first place and I intentionally do those things again.

I refocus
Remembering how it felt when I was a student also helps me refocus on what matters. Sure, I fell in love with fitness in a state-of-the-art recreation center with mirrored studios and large windows. But, my students now, have only known classes in a windowless gymnasium. I might have known classes with forty or fifty people, but they've only known classes with five to ten. And guess what? They don't care. They love moving. It's their happy place just like it was mine. The ambiance isn't as important as the feeling. If people walk away feeling happier and stronger, then I've done my job.

I reconnect
Lastly, I try to get alone with my love. Just like couples might do date nights or weekend getaways to reconnect, I try to have private time with movement as well. I imagine it's kind of like families who have kids. That's what teaching exercise classes or personal training is like for me. It's still enjoyable, like I said, but it becomes a different thing when another person is the focus. It isn't my personal time anymore. It's about someone else. So, if I want to find my way back to what I love, it requires intentionally setting aside time for just the two of us- taking a walk outside, doing a yoga flow on my balcony, freestyle dancing in my living room...just getting back in touch with what movement means to me, what it meant when it was just the two of us.

Four years. It's long enough to still like the one you love while also long enough for the new and shiny to have worn off. I'm learning that in order to sustain a joyful, long term relationship of any kind, it requires remembering and doing everything that made you fall in love to begin with, refocusing on what really matters, and intentionally reconnecting with the one you love.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Why health articles aren't always good for your health

I love health and wellness. No surprises there. It's my brand and it's my passion. Because of that, I read a lot of psychology and health related content. Most of the time, it's great material that ranges from the importance of friendship and what you can learn from your poop to how to date after heartbreak and the benefits of drinking red wine. Who doesn't love that? But every few articles or so, the topics are downright scary. They detail how to spot a narcissist as well as all the lovely ways you can contract STIs without even having sex. (Hint: This is why you should always disinfect gym surfaces). 

Don't get me wrong. I'm not naive. I know these articles are designed to be click bait. They use the "sexiest," most attention grabbing titles possible to ensure people click to read more. They work though and they do a great job of totally freaking me out. If I absorbed a steady diet of articles like that, I would conclude that every hangnail is malignant and every person I meet is a duplicitous, philandering psychopath. Imagine the result of maintaining a perspective like that. I would feel afraid all of the time. That's just not healthy. It certainly doesn't foster a sense of wellness. It's like I need to read how-to articles on yoga poses for anxiety just to fix the stress caused by reading the other articles.


Do you know what I do instead? Instead of clicking on certain articles that would only promote fear? Instead of reading yet another piece on diabetes (which contributed to my father's passing) or betrayal (which was a factor in my last relationship ending)? I follow positive images. I fill my feed with inspiring, hopeful messages that ignite faith in my heart, not fear. I choose to read how proper nutrition can reverse high glucose levels. I prefer to follow posts that depict faithful men who value marriage and family. I love to see pictures of baby animals. They warm my heart and make me feel snuggly inside.

There's something powerful about guarding what enters your eye, ear, and heart gate. We have to protect what we see because it has a direct relationship to what we believe. It's not about sticking your head in the sand. I don't believe in denial. I don't think living in times like this allow us to just swear off the news. We need to know what's going on in the world. We just can't only take in fear-based content. There are facts and there is truth. I choose to fill myself with truth.

What is the truth? The truth is that there is illness and there is healing. There is loss and there is life after loss. There is injury and there is restoration. There is betrayal and there is faithfulness. There is sorrow and there is serendipity. What you come to expect in your life is simply a matter of what you behold.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

These three words

I walked into work today and got a sobering message that a colleague passed away. Any loss is sad, of course. It seems especially upsetting when someone relatively young passes suddenly. She had only been ill about a month. Loss like that changes things. It offers a higher perspective.

My coworkers handled it so gracefully. We were all shocked and upset. We met together, prayed together, and cried together. I'm fortunate to work with other therapists. We're naturally good at being supportive and in tune with each other. And today, we all seemed to make it a point to chat a few minutes longer, leave our doors open between sessions, and offer crestfallen smiles through moist eyes, as if to communicate, "I see you every week. I'm glad you're here. I don't know you in a deep, personal way, but I appreciate you."

If my coworkers were anything like me, they also reached out to family and friends. That seems to be what people do in times of loss. I sent a group text to my mom and sister letting them know. I reached out to a friend in Florida. I even texted my brother. I love him dearly too, of course. Guys are just different. We don't call each other, but the love is understood.

But today, even though it's often a little awkward for me at times, I was a little more free saying these three words...sweet and simple...short and kind...I made it a point to tell people, "I love you." When was the last time your loved ones heard you say it? 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

My almost entirely about me day

If you follow my blog, you know last time I wrote about my need for a therapeutic hour....basically, my own space and time to recover from life. While it's an honor to support others in their time of need, I was starting to feel like I need some me time. So, I took off from all three jobs, even my fun fitness job, and I dedicated a random Wednesday to self-care. Here's how my almost entirely about me day went.

I woke up refreshed after a rare nine hours of sleep. God graced me (yep, just me) with a sunny 75 degree day. I enjoyed every drop of my Starbucks grande vanilla latte before getting a professional massage. God bless massage therapists. I'm sure they can relate to mental health therapists in what it's like to give to others all day. But thankfully, it wasn't my responsibility to attend to her needs today. It was my time to indulge and I relished every minute of it.

I floated out of the massage school to my car preparing to do a mini shopping trip. I have a function this weekend and I wanted to get a couple of cute new outfits, also something I rarely do. When I glanced down at my phone I thought, Uh oh. I missed a call from one of my friends. Normally, I wouldn't have thought anything of it. But since I had missed two other calls from her this week, I figured something was up and she really needed to reach me. I hesitated to call back at first, to be perfectly honest. I felt bad, but if there was a crisis of some sort, I didn't want it to undo the woosah I had just attained from the massage. Then I thought, this isn't a client. It's my friend. She's nowhere close to being needy. So, if she's calling for support, it means she really needs it.

I went ahead and called her and I'm so glad I did. She was really upset about a professional issue that had gotten ugly. I could hear her fear and was totally present for her. Not only was I able to see her situation clearly and offer her wisdom, but it didn't take much energy for me to do so because I had just been recharged. We hung up. She was grateful. I was glad I made the time to support her. Then, I went on to the mall, found some classy and sassy items on sale, and went home. I took a nap. I later went for a run. I sat in quiet reflection. Finally, I sat down to write this blog.

Here's my conclusion. Unless you escape to a deserted island, you will probably never get an entire day of solitude. We live in community and that's a good thing. We are designed to both receive from others and give love to others. At times, we serve and other times we need to be served. We do not live solely for ourselves and yet, our individual needs are important. Living in community, as we all should live, is a beautiful system of interdependence. We simply need to steward the balance.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Therapeutic Hour

If you have ever seen a counselor, you know the average session time allowed by insurance companies is about 45-50 minutes. It's called the therapeutic hour because it isn't really a full hour. Clients can really get lost in time and it seems to fly by. Counselors, however, feel every minute of it...at least I do. It's not because I'm bored or disinterested in what's being shared. Usually, it's quite the opposite. My mind is working overtime to figure out the most helpful response, even if I'm silent.

As you share your story, I'm discerning the best time to summarize and reflect what I've heard. I'm crafting just the right questions to take the conversation deeper. I'm figuring out how much further to push without going too far too soon. I'm wondering if we'll have time to contain all the emotions that emerged so you don't leave feeling psychically exposed. It's all in a day's work for counselors. It's a tremendous gift to clients though, because when you think about it, how often to do we allow ourselves to indulge in time?
 
It's not something I often do. I have enjoyable activities, of course. I teach Zumba and fitness classes, but usually, I'm thinking about cueing the next step. It's not really my workout in the way that it used to be before I started teaching. Reading is fun, but I'm still looking at the clock and thinking about what's next. Even TV shows I enjoy keep me focused on time. Will this drama be resolved within the hour or is there going to be a Part 2? My point is anyone can put their phone or computer down for a moment. But how often are you so engrossed in something that you forget where your phone is and you don't care? Time completely slows down and nothing is being asked of you in that moment. It's completely yours.
 
When's the last time you felt that way? When's the last time you were completely lost in time? What were you doing? Who were you with? And how can you do more of that? It's not just therapists that give of our time. We all do. So in order to recharge, how about designating your own moment on a regular basis to focus entirely on you? Create your own therapeutic hour. That's my goal.
 

Gambrell Wellness LLC is here to help! As a licensed professional counselor and certified personal trainer, Dr. Crista Gambrell is dedicated to helping you achieve your goals for total health, both inside and out. Begin your journey to wholeness today. Visit gambrellwellness.com for more information.