#OneSmallThing: How one little habit can change everything
By Lauren Berry, a former tech start-up exec, yoga instructor, wife and mom of 3.
As a certified yoga instructor, I’ve made wellness and self-care a top priority in my life. I’m passionate about seeking out ways to improve myself mentally, physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. I’ve studied most of the traditional, the scientific, and the new age methods and routines that bring optimal health and well-being. And, I am also a mother to three children: 9, 3 and 1. I’ve had seasons (hello, currently in one!) where finding time to incorporate self-care is next to null. When I’ve desperately tried to create a 5am wake up routine only to be sabotaged by a baby who suddenly wakes up three times the night before, or even better, seems to now wake up at 5:10am when they used to sleep until 6:30am.
The feeling of failure, frustration, resentment is a lot in those moments. And at times, you feel like giving up entirely. If you can relate, I’m here to share a motto that’s kept my head above water. Because honestly, in these seasons, sometimes all you can do, and all you need to do, is just. keep. swimming. In these seasons, I look for my daily #onesmallthing.
#onesmallthing was born out of a season of being a single, full-time working mom. I joined a rapidly growing start-up when my son was a year-old and my days were split between giving my love and care to this precious baby and working my tail off at work.
Pretty quickly I found it hard to show up well in both places. I was run down in all ways, and it wasn’t hard to pinpoint why. My sleep was shaky, I didn’t have any exercise routine, I lived off of cold leftover freezer food from my son’s tray at night, and lattes from the drive through in the mornings.
Sleep, exercise, nutrition - the pillars of health - all we’re failing. This was not sustainable nor acceptable and something had to change. But what could I possibly do? What could I shift around? Where was there time for ME?
The first thing I did was take inventory of my day in terms of what I could control versus what was out of my control. I’d say this is THE place to start for any stressful scenario in your life. I could not control if my baby woke me up at night. I could not control if he woke up early. I could not control my work hours, nor the demands of my clients. I could not control the temptation to eat an entire plate of Korean tacos in our weekly catered lunches, and I could not control if traffic home at night would completely throw off our entire dinner plan. What was left was a small window in the morning and I knew nutrition was a huge component in what was lacking. I decided that I could dedicate 5-minutes in preparing a green smoothie during breakfast thus ensuring something green was in my diet on a daily basis. Whatever else happened that day (tacos, nuggets, happy hour drinks) didn’t matter. I would have my #onesmallthing completed.
Although small and perhaps seemingly insignificant, adding greens to my morning did a couple of important things for me:
I began to physically and mentally feel better. I was more energized in the first part of the day. I was noticing the correlation between nutrition and my overall well-being. This was positive reinforcement that would be the catalyst to any future changes.
It gave me a sense of accomplishment and confidence in my ability to create new habits. And yes, this positive feedback loop that my habits, in fact, made me feel better and were achievable led me to implement more: more greens at other meal times, extra walks to my day and eventually consistent yoga classes.
Starting small with what you can own during your day will lead to bigger and better results down the road - consider it the snowball effect. On the flipside, as I’ve learned through experience and as research will tell you, attempting to implement sweeping changes in your life is really, really hard. Will power is a muscle that becomes fatigued like all other muscles. And when it does, and when you fall off the horse, the cycle of negative self-talk, guilt and a sense of exhaustion from all the work you just put in attempting to do that one BIG thing makes it even harder to get up and try again. Find your #onesmallthing.
Fast forward 9 years to quarantine and the motto still works and is still as critical as ever. I’m currently, thanks to COVID-19, full-time CEO of the household ensuring online schooling gets done, that we’re not using screens more than 90% of the time, and there are meals created at least 3 times a day - that is my commitment. There are people touching me almost 24/7 and for some reason, my little ones love to trade off nights when they sleep, so we can almost always count on being woken up at least 1-2 times a night.
My #onesmallthing has become more fluid and personalized to what I need on a daily basis. I’ve built the muscles of awareness and tuning in over the last 9 years and am able to suss out what it is that will best put some fuel in my tank on that specific day. Some days it’s still a smoothie. And quite honestly, some days it's permission to stop folding laundry, get under the covers, and completely indulge in a Netflix and chill (SOLO) situation. To rest, guilt-free.
The good news is the perspective that hard things–just like good things–won’t last. It reminds me that this is just a season. Albeit frustrating for the over-achiever moms who want it all, naming it as a season allows me to give myself some grace in those defeating moments. And the grace is what allows me to continue to show up day after day for myself instead of falling back into the cycle of failure, fatigue and guilt.
Naming it as a season and allowing myself to hone in on #onesmallthing directs my energy to just keeping my head above water. Knowing that if I can just keep swimming, I will make it to the other side soon enough, and I will get there ready to tackle the big things confidently and joyfully.
My favorite quarantine #onesmallthings:
Jillian Michaels: 30-Day Shred, 20-minute total body workouts. Oldie but such a goodie and 100% effective. It’s easy to convince myself that I can do anything for 20-min as much as I may not want to work out at that moment. There are 3 levels so you can start where you are and build from there. I have the original DVDs but these can now be found on Amazon Prime.
Love the Peloton app for all the length of workouts you can do, as well. 20-min on the bike, and again, I feel like a new person.
A walk. So simple and so effective. In this quarantine season, I wait until my 3-year old is napping and ask my husband to work upstairs in case he wakes up. I put my one-year old in the stroller, turn on a podcast and walk for ~30 minutes. The fresh air, the movement, the adult head space - all work wonders.
Morning meditation and guided prayer apps (check out Churchhome, Insight Timer, Headspace)
Journaling - writing down ALL the feelings. For me, it's writing down 3 things I’m grateful for to start the day.
Reading a book - getting lost in stories has filled my intellect bucket as of late. It’s one of my favorite escapes. Currently reading Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker.
Calling a friend - usually only accomplished on a walk with the baby.
Choosing to watch Netflix and CHILL. Okay sometimes it's all just too much and you're overextending yourself. Can you tune in enough to know when you just need REST? Give yourself the grace, guilt free to stop and just enjoy.