From an empty 25, to a whole 26
December always brings about a major window of reflection for me personally. It is my birthday month ( and of course the last month ) and therefore I always find myself looking back on the past year. The change, the growth, the celebrations and victories, the hardships and challenges and what I can take away from it as part of the foundation of the year to come.
Today a year ago, I found myself taking stock of my life on pen and paper the night before my birthday. What came out wasn’t beautiful poetry — it was fragile words expressing a very broken and empty spirit and person. That year ( 2016 ) was an exceptionally tough year sprinkled with lots ( and lots ) of tears, stress, little sleep, neverending hard work, tough choices, unhealthy living in many aspects — and it all culminated in me feeling like a broken and depleted version of myself. In fact, I didn’t really feel much anymore at that stage. I loaded my plate with so much that year, yet it was full of empty crumbs when everyone was about to go and sit at the festive table. It felt like I was running on an unrealistic speed on a stationary treadmill for 365 days and suddenly my foot slipped, I tripped and I had to deal with the reality that I was sprinting my life away going nowhere.
And hear me out — it was never the plan to do that. I never set out to deplete myself or lose sight of the important things around me. In fact, most of the things I did that stripped me of myself the most, was done ‘with a good heart and even better intentions’.
That night I wrote in my journal, to God, begging Him to give me the courage to find myself again. I wanted to glow again, give again and be full and flourishing again. Asking God to miraculously just 'heal' me from my a state of being that I mostly inflicted on myself through choices didn't feel right ( although I know He is completely able to do that ), but instead I felt like He is inviting me on a journey of stewardship. To take responsibility and ownership of the temple He has given me — the very body that serves as a vessel to fullfil His purposes and dreams inside of me. The hands that has grown weary to serve and give, a heart that has stopped dreaming, eyes that was blinded by business and a mouth that failed to speak life.
Something's gotta give, and I knew the first step very well — CHANGE.
So I set out to be guided to change my habits, my ways, my thoughts and anything that needed to be re-evaluated in order to take slow and sure steps back to the Marize I know God created me to be.
In many ways, this change was rooted in wellbeing, and therefore I have shared about it often as motivation to anyone that might need that nudge in the same direction. But, there was also a few other crucial changes to this past year than the food on my plate and today I want to share one or two of them.
You might be feeling like I have felt a year ago right now, and if that is you — I want to ( virtually ) gently take you by the shoulders and look you in your eyes and tell you “dear one, you too can make your way back to your whole self again.“
The first one, encapsulates one of the golden threads of this year — it’s been a year since I started to work at balancing my hormones and healing my irregular / missing cycle. This ‘simple mission’ became a way of living for me and something I won’t ever turn back on. It is by no means a quick stop healing shop or a 30 day plan to healthy success. This is a process of daily investing in my health in many tiny aspects that I believe have an long term accumulative effect.
As many of you will know, I also started a platform Glow, with my dear friend Caitlin, as a means to shine more light on this subject and to serve women on their wellness journey.
So here goes the change that turned me from an empty 25 year old, into a whole 26 today.
BALANCING MY HORMONES
“ I believe that if women’s bodies don’t thrive, we fall out of sync with our lives — out of the zone of possibility, and away from our life’s purpose.” — Alissa Vitti
I’ve hinted at this journey a few times this year, and as much as my intention was to share much more about it more often, I very quickly realised that it’s a little more complicated than just quitting coffee. You see, we grow up ( or at least I did and I know many, many other women around me as well ) knowing nothing about these very mystical little things that pretty much make us who we are as women. What do you know about hormones? Well, all I used to think about it was that I only need to start worrying once I hit menopause. False, very big FALSE. Hormones are an integral part of our wellbeing as women. How we feel, our energy, our mood, our capacity to be creative, our emotions..the list goes on. It's our very make-up.
My doctor explained hormones so beautifully to me one day when she said : “You know, all these hormones are like instruments in an orchestra, when one is out of tune, the whole ensemble is lost."
Let that sink in for a moment.
When one of your hormones are out of balance…your whole body is affected.
Hormones work like dominos. Or even better, like the chain reaction of Chinese Whispers ( telephone game or ‘telefoontjie’ in Afrikaans )
— if the first in line hormone’s message isn’t relayed properly, the message will be garbled along the way and the body will be doing something far removed from the original function. What do we see? We see symptoms. Little help cries and red flags! What do we do, or what is mostly suggested? Birth control pills...
"Giving birth control pills and other medications to women to regulate their periods, improve their fertility, or enhance their sex drive is akin to putting a piece of tape over the flashing indicator light on the dashboard of your car and pretending you have addressed the engine problem rather than looking under the hood and dealing with the underlying issue." — Christiane Northrup, MD, FACOG, author Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom and The Wisdom of Menopause
Balancing my hormones started off by first discovering ( and medically diagnosing where needed ) who the false instruments are in ‘my orchestra’ and how they can be tuned again, and that is when the hard work started.
Our hormones can be influenced by a multitude of things and these are the ones that I have identified so far for myself and tackled to change this year :
( our blood sugar, anything irritating our gut health, too little good fats… this is a whole discussion by itself )
( before I get crucified for my opinion, have a read for yourself here )
TOXINS IN OUR SKINCARE & BEAUTY PRODUCTS
This is something I am incredibly intrigued by and at the same time I am shocked that no one ever told me how I was harming and disrupting my hormones daily with the things I basically fed it through my skin. Our skin is our largest organ and anything we put on it gets absorbed into our bodies. If we use products that we won’t put in our mouths, isn’t it scary that we put it on our skin?
TOXINS ( like pesticides ) IN OUR FRUIT & VEGETABLES ( or any food for that matter )
I used to just brush this off and use the sky high prices of organic food as my excuse. Until I learned about the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen and realised that the very baby spinach I so diligently eat bowls full off, are the second ‘dirtiest’ green out there. We did a full post on this over at Glow and I would really encourage anyone to have a read.
CYCLE SYNCING EXERCISE
Ever wonder why sometimes you can do a certain amount of exercise / training / movement and then the very next day the same routine feels like a death sentence? Well, wonder no more because the answer is simply in your hormonal cycle.
"One week we hear that too much exercise or the wrong kind of exercise is bad for us, and another week we hear we’re all heading to an early grave because we work out too little.
It’s head-spinningly confusing and it’s enough to make you want to spend another evening on the couch. We are overwhelmed with advice, tips, and research.
So what is the perfect Goldilocks-scenario here? What is the just right amount of exercise to do and the just right kind of exercise?
Wonderfully, your hormonal patterns provide all you need to figure this out. The cyclical pattern of how our bodies work sets up the perfect architecture for us to plan out what is the best workout for us. During each phase of our menstrual cycle our bodies are primed and prepared for different kinds of exercise. At certain times – luteal phase and menstruation – our stores of nutrients and hormones go into building the lining of your uterus, making enough progesterone for example. At other times we have everything at our disposal to channel into a really strong work out. — Alissa Vitto for Flo Living
If you want to know more, continue the read here.
I used to get up at 5am every morning and lived as if I had "early bird catches the worm" tattooed on my forehead. Until I realised that the only thing good about it is that it made me feel better about myself, but it didn't actually make me feel better. It was fuelled by performence driven thoughts and the fear of not ticking off to-do lists. But I knew my body was asking me for at least and hour extra duvet-time, so this year I set out to keep to a strict sleeping pattern.
Wake up at 6am, hit the pillow at 9.30, to be snoozing away at 10pm.
Off course this isn't always exactly possible, but for 95% of the time I stick to this pattern and I can tell you my biggest reward — energy. More energy means I am more effective and I have a fuller tank during the day. My mission for 2018, to kick technology out of our bedroom for good. I'll report back next year this time...
STRESS ( my hormones worst enemy )
Being a dreamer and a visionary, I often ( like daily ) find myself thinking up new ideas and goals and projects, but this year I learned that chasing every single one of them wasn't necessarily the goal here. I started doing less, when it felt like everyone else was doing more better, better and at a bigger success rate. I learned to say 'no' when the world whispers cunningly "yes, yess, yesss". I learned that respecting my own time, taught me to respect other's time.
When we measure ourselves by the world and compare ourselves with everyone's sleek social media 'life', we inevitably end up speeding on a highway paved with excessive stress — and let me just say this, stress is not serving you in any way when you are trying to heal.
Sometimes we need to make sacrafices and tough decisions in order to reduce neagtive stress in our lives. I sold a business at the beginning of the year that I literally put my heart and soul into. It was incredibly hard, yet I knew that something has got to give if I want to stress less in order to heal. Stressing less can't be controlled by rescue remedy in the long run, reducing stress in our lifes is a choice we have to make and a lifestyle we have to choose.
This is a hard one to open up about, but the truth is, we all have one or more of these somewhere in life. When you date a guy that is clearly not good for you, it is much easier to measure the toxicity. However, sometimes we have relationships that looks spotless on paper, yet if you really take the time to take stock of positives and negatives, you might find that the shallow long list of what seams to be positives, can easily mask that one manipulative negative that secretly eats away at you from the inside. When you constantly have to convince yourself and other of someone or feel like you have to defend a relationship, it is worth asking yourself whether this relationship is serving you. This might be a friend, a colleague or even sometimes a family member. I can’t tell you how to take action, as each of us will have a unique set of circumstances and relations, however I can tell you that you are worth at least evaluating whether stepping back might be a mountain off your shoulders and create room for healing and growth. I’ve had to step away from a few toxic relationships the past three years and each time I looked back with thankfulness for gathering the guts to do so. ( even though I didn't always do it the rigth way )
I would like to note that when I refer to toxic relationships, I am fully aware that we all have imperfections and our own journey as an individual to conquer our shortcomings and hurt. There are many reasons why a relationship can be toxic, and I personally try to ask myself what are the roots of the poison and to seperate that from the person. ( the same counts for my own poison ) The people I have stepped back from is people I still love in my heart, but I have learned that sometimes it is that same love and respect that propels me to step away in order for both parties to be released to heal and grow.
MINIMIZING ( ON MATERIAL MATTERS AND MORE )
In many ways I have always been a minimalist at heart. And to clarify, that doesn’t mean I only wear white and grey and my home looks sterile. Many people have a negative connection with minimalism, but I believe there is much more to it than how things look and how you dress.
For me, my process to minimise and minimalize this year has been all about removing unnecessary clutter in order to make room for things that is important to me. Clutter can be physical things, but it can also be in the form of digital overdosing or harbouring negative thoughts.
Like Marie Kondo’s suggests, the golden question is to ask yourself if that something that clutters sparks joy for you.
So in many ways I have been asking myself that question over and over again. Its an intentional task and a continuous process. For me personally I felt like I have been shedding old layers and taken steps closer to my essence, a place that I felt very far removed from a year ago. A place that sparks joy for me. Now that I have take a year to create more space, I am setting out to mindfully fill my life with things, people, places and pratices that sparks joy. Joy that overflows into the lifes of those around me.
These are a few pof the changes I have been making, and am still in the process of making. The toxins I have removed and replaced with nourishing and nurturing habits. The things I have let go off in order to make room for things that matter most to me. Like the people closest to me.
For way too long I believed the lie that taking care of myself is selfish. Looking after your wellbeing and making self care a priority is integral to being whole.
When you take time to replenish your body, mind and spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow.
It's quite simple, we cannot pour from an empty cup.