"Why do I feel Terrible" MemeThis funny little meme has been making its way around Insta-Land lately and while it prompts many smiley-face emojis, it is unfortunately all too true. It is a common theme among the women in my tribe and those I see in my practice: we carry around the number of times we’ve reheated our morning coffee, how little sleep we’ve gotten, how little we’ve eaten and our busyness–like badges of honor. Why is that? What is it that society imposes on us that deposits the narrative in our heads that it’s okay, almost noble, to sacrifice our own health for the “greater good”, meaning our kids, other people, our work or the unrealistic idea that we must look like we have Pinterest-worthy lives at all times? After a while these proverbial badges of honor lose their luster and lead to Nothing.But.Stress.

And stress leads to S-I-C-K.

Stress is a threat to our health on every level. Stress affects our blood pressure, blood sugar, sleep, immune system, digestion, thyroid and even our serotonin levels. It’s no shocker that women seek treatment for stress-related concerns and things like anxiety and depression at roughly twice the rate that men do. Stress even deteriorates us at the cellular level and has been correlated with the “turning on” of genes that trigger autoimmune disease. I witness examples of these stress-induced conditions on a regular basis in my practice.

It wasn’t until I personally got on the SICK end of this exhausting narrative that I was forced to examine its source: Is it society that is responsible, or us? Could it be that there are many narratives out there, but it is this particular one that we’ve believed, taken the bait, or dare I say, bullshit for? I finally realized that it was up to me to change the narrative and doing so required two things:

  1. Listening to my body, and
  2. Applying the 90% rule

Listening to your Body

Listening to your body is like a mindfulness-ish game of question and answer. You ask your body WHY:

  • Why am I craving this donut?
  • Why am I feeling so anxious lately?
  • What is the REAL reason I am screaming at my kids right now? (or my husband?)
  • What is my pain trying to tell me?
  • Do I really need this new shirt or am I buying it to make myself feel better?

Then, you LISTEN. I promise if you practice this enough and give your true self time to respond, you will get an answer. Then ask the next question:

  • What do I REALLY need?

Again, LISTEN. Often we innately, in our spirit know the answer to the question—we just tune it out.

I encourage you to tune in.

Giving Your Body What It Needs - the 90% Principle

What comes next is the action part of the "question and answer" game: giving your body what it needs. More sleep. Less coffee. More water. Time to yourself. Date night with your husband. Saying no to volunteering for EVERYTHING your child is involved in.

The second practice is the 90% principle. I learned this from Greg McKeown in his enlightening book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.  He doesn’t call it the 90% principle, but I framed it this way to keep it simple for my own brain. Hopefully you have a vision for how you would like your parenting, your marriage, your work life, your spiritual life, etc. to be, look and feel. There are things that are important to you in each of these areas and things that are not. The 90% principle means that if a decision does not line up 90% with what you want in any of these areas, don’t do it.

For example, if you are deciding whether to take on a particular endeavor in your work life—it may be a great opportunity but if you are not at least 90% excited about it and it does not line up at least 90% with your goals, don’t do it. I personally tend to get excited about a lot of things, so I also seek spiritual guidance with the litmus test of: “Do I have peace about this?” If I don’t, I don’t do it. It’s that simple.

I was conveniently able to teach this principle to my 11 year-old daughter the other day. Like her mom, she loves to shop and is attracted to all things new and sparkly. We were about four stores in to her following me around while I looked for the perfect pair of camel-colored leather boots. Just short of exasperated she asked me, “This is the eighth pair you’ve tried on, why don’t you just buy them?”

“Because I don’t love them,” I replied.

If you don’t absolutely love it, don’t buy it. That’s all there is to it. This has saved me a ton of money, closet space and buyer’s remorse.

You can apply this thinking to everything. If you aren’t at 90% in your collective excitement, vision and peace about something, don’t do it. No energy wasted. This is extraordinarily freeing.

Obviously, I’m not advocating ignoring your responsibilities just because you aren’t 90% excited about them. Let’s remember wisdom. You still need to pay your bills, change your oil and show up for work and the parent-teacher conference.

Benefits of Applying These Two Principles

Personally, I’m driven by the desire to reach more, teach more and help more. I’ve found that applying these two practices in my own life has swung the pendulum from stress, over to more joy and more peace. I’ve seen the same metamorphosis in my patients in the form of better sleep, less anxiety, intuitive eating, and greater peace. My hope is for you to be able to experience those things as well.