Just Keep Swimming

Just Keep Swimming - Josie Feather Blog

This year I’ve committed to keeping a inspirational or motivational type book on my current reads list. By constantly feeding my crazy brain with positivity and exciting ideas I’ve found it’s so much easier to keep myself thinking positively and focused on big goals. Maybe it seems a bit cheesy, but to each his own, right?

The thing is that I’ve noticed a theme that runs through a lot of these books. Some are bold and clear about it, and others it’s just a faint whisper in the background, but it’s still there.

Resilience.

I’ve never given much thought to the word until recently. I’ve never really stopped to think about it’s application in my own life. I think in some ways it felt a bit like a foreign concept in the past. Now I hear it loud and clear. Now I can see how it’s played out in my own life.

I used to struggle to build good habits. It seems like there was always some convenient excuse to give up on “my goals” and yet I still wondered why I couldn’t seem to ever reach those goals. I’ve been working on changing that though. I’ve been slowly building good habits I actually look forward to and truly love (I can’t tell you how much I really missed working out last week when I was sick). Now I look back and think about the person I was and feel a stab of pity for the girl who seemed to be endlessly frustrated with herself.

The thing is, the reason those things changed is not because of some crazy magic, or a secret I finally figured out, it was simply that I finally decided to be resilient. I decided I wasn’t just going to give up and take the first excuse that sauntered my way anymore. I decided I’d work out even when I really really really really really didn’t feel like it. I would hit the gym even when it meant some mornings I’d have to get up before 5am. I would read for a few minutes even when my brain really just wanted to shut off and watch some tv. I would just keep going, even when it was inconvenient, not fun, or just plain torture some days.

In other words, I just kept swimming.

It seems so simple, yet is one of the hardest things to do. To keep going even when there’s good and easy reasons to just give up. I’ve never done a “word of the year” but may just have fallen into this one, and I’m not complaining.

Have you ever stopped to think about your own resilience?

What to do (when you have no idea what to do)

What to do (when you have no idea what to do) - Josie Feather Blog

As Chris Traeger once said, “I am 100% certain that I am 0% sure of what I’m going to do”. If you don’t know who that is, then I’m very sorry for you, and would recommend you go directly to Netflix and binge Parks and Rec for the rest of the week.

That quote is exactly how I felt for years.

At times I’ve felt like social media has made it seem like everyone’s got their whole lives figured out. Every ten year old is starting a fortune 500 company, and all the 12 year olds are traveing the world and getting masters degrees, and there I was with no clue what to do. I would read and listen to countless blog posts, books, and podcasts about how to achieve your dreams(!) It felt like I had all the steps memorized, perfectly ready and willing to do the work, but have absolutely no idea what work I was supposed to do.

“Do what you’re passionate about!” the world seems to scream these days, but what do you do when you have no idea what you’re passionate about? It’s taken me years to figure out what I’m passionate about, and figuring that out was a way different process than I thought it would be. I used to think you just knew, and something was wrong with me for not knowing. Maybe that’s how it is for some very lucky individuals, but I think for the majority of us it just doesn’t come that easy.

Get to know yourself

I know I’m maxing out my Parks and Rec references here, but just like Anne, you need to date yourself. When I think back to those times I felt completely lost and generally freaked out by not knowing where exactly I was going, I realize how little I knew myself. I was overcome by fear and insecurities that slowly over time I’ve had to chisel away at to get to the real me so I could even find out what things I like, much less what I am passionate about.

So… how do you get to know yourself? I fully encourage you to follow your whims. One thing I knew I always enjoyed but I never seemed to actually make the time for was reading. Over the last few years I’ve made it more of a priority, something part of my every day, if even for just a few minutes. I also indulged in anything that had sparked my interest - I took horse back riding lessons, taught myself calligraphy and lettering, learned to run, and traveled more. None of these things have anything to do with what I’d call “my passion” but by indulging in them I learned more about myself and what I love, and sometimes, what I don’t love.

Take care of yourself

I’ve struggled with depression for most of my life. Even during better times when I didn’t find it impossible to get out of bed, I still felt like I was living with a brain fog and a general apathy for life. Those my friend, are not a good combo when you’re trying to figure out what to do with your life. If you are struggling with any number of mental or physical problems you need to stop and take care of those first. You’re not going to be able to find your passion if you can barely even find joy in regular life.

This past year I discovered how much exercise helps me fight off depression, but that doesn’t mean it still doesn’t hit me at times (especially when I have extra stress), so I also took another step and finally found a therapist I can talk to. I don’t have regular appointments with her, but if I hit a wall I can make an appointment anytime and I already have that relationship. No matter what your struggle is, set up systems to help you overcome and keep you on the right track. You can’t chase your dreams (or even figure out what those are) if you are’t taking care of your health first.

Give yourself time

At one point I remember feeling frantic to figure out what was next. I felt like I was loosing time and needed to decide what direction to go in ASAP. After talking with my therapist she told me I needed to give myself a break, stop raking my brain and just enjoy life for a while. So I did. Well, kind of. As best as I could. I decided to just stop thinking about it, stop worrying so much. Which is easier said than done. I experimented with things and tried new things without any specific hope that they would be the answer I was searching for.

If you’re struggling with where to go next, take a step back. If you’re getting ready for the craziness of college and aren’t even sure what to study then I love the idea of gap years. Don’t just sit around in your parents basement for a year and waste the time away - travel, volunteer, try new things constantly. Give yourself some time and space to experiment and have a little fun.

If you don’t know where you’re going - I feel ya. To the very depths of my soul I do. Don’t be tough on yourself, everyone has either been there or will be there at some point in their life. Care for yourself, know yourself, and give yourself some space and eventually you’ll get there. More than anything, just learn to enjoy life.

What I've gained from exercise that's way better than abs

Josie Davis

The conversation about fitness tends to revolve around one thing : “Looking good” whatever that means. MAYBE if there’s time, health will be thrown in there too. But in general, the exercise industry tends to direct all of it’s attention towards reminding you that you need to look better and that’s the number one reason you should be working out regularly.

Want to hear a dirty little secret of mine? How I look is the least important reason I work out on a daily basis, and I truly believe that’s why I’ve been able to build such a strong and healthy relationship with the gym. Seeing my body change has just been an extra benefit. It’s not a punishment to go to the gym because I don’t look good - it’s a pleasure to go to the gym because it makes me feel good.

If you’ve been struggling with building a healthy workout routine in your life, I highly recommend ditching the body shaming and find some new motivation. You need to change your mindset and focus your sights on all of the great things that will happen inside your mind and body, and stop worrying so much about what the scale says if you want a shot at having a loving relationship with the gym.

If you’re trying to find some better reasons to get in your daily sweat sesh, here are mine…

Physical Health

I know, this is probably an obvious one, but it’s hard to fully communicate how poor my quality of life was before I started exercising. In fact, I really had no idea how bad it was, or how much it could improve until it all changed.

You might also think that your health really isn’t that bad, you’re fine! so did I. After reading a lot about how exercise changes both your mind and body I really do believe that if you don’t have some regular physical activity in your schedule, then you’re not seeing your optimum health.

There’s a ton of little health benefits I’ve seen, but one major one has been my energy level. I used to be able to take a nap anytime, anywhere. I was exhausted all of the time. Doctors regularly tested me for Anemia, worried about how lethargic I was. Not only do I have more energy in general, but since I’ve switched my gym time to 5am and got them in before work, I rarely hit that 2pm slump that used to crush me.

Mental Health

I have been on anti-depressants, I’ve done countless hours of talk therapy, and more group therapy then I ever wanted, but I can confidently say that regular exercise has helped me manage depression better than any other thing has. To be clear, I am 100% not putting any of those other things down (in fact, I’m a huge believer in talk therapy for everyone), but building in a daily workout routine has made a dramatic impact for me personally, and it’s something I highly recommend to anyone struggling with depression and anxiety.

I actually was so surprised by how much it’s impacted me, that I read “Spark” by John J. Ratey and absolutely loved the deep dive into how exercise effects the brain. He really takes it to a true scientific study and lays how how and why it can be so affective. I am not going to pretend it’s a magic cure-all. Nothing is, and anyone telling you otherwise is lying, but it can have a huge impact, and can be so helpful with those struggles.

Confidence

This is major guys.

My husband once described me to someone as “the most insecure person in the world”, which was 100% true at the time. My confidence in myself has always seemed be in the negatives, and I struggled daily with the mental fight to feel confident. Then I started running. Okay, in the beginning it was more of a run 100 feet, walk 500 feet (you can read a little more about my journey here if you want) but I began to realize that I could do something I never thought possible.

That little bit of confidence I gained from running I took and decided to finally commit myself to also doing full workouts every day. I had tried to do exercise programs before, only to quit before day 3, but this time I was determined. I had already taught myself to run a 5k, and if I could do that, I figured I could probably do anything. So I did. I worked out every day for a month. Even when we were traveling and I had to do it on the floor next to our bed, I did it. And then I kept doing it.

Almost a year later I look back now and see how much that changed me. I’m not talking about physically (although that has happened too) I’m talking about mentally. Workouts have taught me every single day that even when something’s hard, I can do it. I can push thought and accomplish way more than I ever thought I could. Now when something is hard, or my brain tries to tell me I might fail, I remind myself I’ve done things so much harder. I’ve already accomplished this thing I would have never thought possible.

Alright, now get going!

Don’t let yourself get caught up in the idea that you need to workout just to look better. You look amazing, I already know it. You should workout because it will make your mind and body feel better, and work better together. It is such hard work, especially in the beginning, but make a rule to banish all negative talk during your workouts. Whether you workout for 5 minutes or an hour, it counts, and it’s awesome.