Lessons in listening: How to sustain your wellbeing in the face of change

Sunrise this morning was officially 6:38 a.m. I am acutely aware of this, as my alarm clock sounds off a good while before this. One hour and thirty eight minutes before this to be exact. I happen to be one of those people who truly loves early mornings. It is when I feel most alive. My mind is a reflection of the quiet of dawn. It is also the time day that I carve out for self-care. As a mom, partner, friend, nurse practitioner, health coach, and colleague, the early morning solitude is my sacred time to recharge and nourish my mind, body and soul. It is a time when I meditate. I run. I write in my journal. I drink my tea leisurely. I play my fiddle. The freedom of 5 a.m.! 

Curiously, the freedom and joy I experienced on my summer mornings is now riddled with the dilemma of pre-dawn darkness. The snooze button has been tapped more than a few times and I find myself lingering at the door, giving Aggie a few more belly rubs before I step out into the darkness. I would be disingenuous if I didn’t admit that my usual run through the cemetery makes my heart beat a little faster than my pace necessitates. 

As a veteran Vermonter, I know the changes of the season well. I also know that my routines of the fair weather often drop off come autumn. What is new to me, though, is the recognition and acknowledgment of my inner response. Frankly, I feel resistance. Based on recent conversations with my coaching clients, friends and colleagues, I am not alone in this internal shift. The question is, how do we honor the dynamic nature of life and sustain patterns of behavior that supports our wellbeing?

Here are a few of my thoughts on this.

Accept the change. 

It is absolutely healthy and normal to respond to both internal and external changes in your life. When I was a kiddo, I went through a number of “food fads.” I remember having an egg on toast every day for months. Another number of months I only had grape juice for breakfast. Here is my favorite: in fifth grade I packed an olive loaf and mustard sandwich every day for lunch. Thankfully, part of being human, and not a baloney-eating robot, is that our preferences in life change — sometimes cyclically and sometimes permanently. The more we open mentally to this proposition, the greater is our opportunity to experience the abundance of life.

Tap into your inner wisdom and listen.

What really matters to you and how does your health affect your ability to engage fully in life? Knowing your “why” and living by it aligns your life choices with your values. If being able to play with your grandchildren truly makes your life meaningful, you will make choices and find the support that enables you to be able-bodied.

Name and safeguard your non-negotiables. 

What are the behaviors and choices that are essential to support your wellbeing? For one of my clients, being a mom and cooking healthy breakfasts for her boys and herself is a non-negotiable. She values her family and her wellbeing is supported by the knowledge that her sons have the proper nutrients to grow and learn. Another one of her non-negotiables is exercise. She knows that exercise increases her physical strength, mental capacity, happiness and patience. Safeguarding the time for both of these activities is essential for her.

Let go of the rest. 

When reassessing ones’ life choices, this is an essential, yet often an overlooked step. What behaviors and mindsets do you need to let go of to create more room for growth and possibility? One must learn to say no, or no thank you, to open to the spaciousness of a robust yes. 

Get creative! 

Are you bored with your dinner choices? Ask your friends and colleagues what is on their weekly menus. Or even better, set up a meal or soup swap with them. Rounding back to my pre-dawn darkness run, I actually have many options. I could ask a friend to run with me, as accountability goes a long way. I could get on my treadmill. I could go do kettlebells in town. I could do yoga or the seven-minute workout a few times. Knowing my why helps me commit to brainstorming and trying various possibilities.

Twilight has passed and the darkness of the evening has settled in by now. With that, I am off to bed. After all, 5 a.m. comes early these days.

Laura Wilkinson is a Nurse Practitioner and Integrative Health Coach at Middlebury College. Learn more about her and her coaching at middlebury.edu/middleburyintegratedhealthcoach.


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