I was struck this morning by this quote from Maya Angelou, “my mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style." It really made me think about how I am living my life.
I have always said, "I am a Survivor" and been proud of it! I identify as a survivor because I have been knocked down and picked myself back up so many times. I did this the best way I knew how, by doing everything myself and choosing habits that made me feel safe. Habits that no longer serve me or allow me to be powerful.
I have survived many things in my life beginning with my birth. I thought these events made me who I am. As I started to think about this quote, I realized these events do not make me who I am. I no longer want to survive, I want to thrive.
I found it important to look up the definitions: to survive: is the act of surviving under adverse conditions in my case divorce, jobs I didn’t like, menopause, you get the picture. To thrive means to grow or develop and is characterized by success.
As I dove deeper into the meaning of surviving and thriving, I realized that I was so entrenched in survival mode, I didn't even see that there was another way to live. I started to list the things I do when I am living in survival mode. The list is long! I blindly put one foot in front of the other trudging through each day. Happy to have made it through another day. I am often exhausted at the end of the day, thinking there has to be another way.
I became comfortably uncomfortable, doing the same thing day in day and day out because I was comfortable. I knew that what I was doing was no longer working for me, and I wanted my life to be different. Yet, I couldn't seem to change.
As I read the descriptions of these words in the dictionaries and other’s articles on surviving, I saw that the act of surviving was really meant to provide basic life needs: such as food, clothing, and shelter. Having the skills necessary to maintain life. If I could provide those things for myself and my family, I considered myself successful. After all, I was surviving, right?
My research today showed me that surviving also means other things like barely getting by, a daily grind, feeling unfulfilled, feeling like you are drowning so much in problems that even a simple act of survival feels like a win.
It gets even deeper survival is fueled by fear; it is always hustling to be able to get by, it is the fear of running out, fear of not having enough, fear of losing everything. Knowing that if you do what you have always done, you will be OK. This was me!
The horizon in survival mode is small and closed up. You are only able to focus on the next thing to be done. Survival means taking the path of least resistance, living from a place of lack, and feeling stuck. When I am in survival mode, I fear failure and see it as wrong. This way of thinking keeps me small and afraid to grow. I am reacting to people and challenges, so I push them away. I find myself complaining and blaming others for my circumstances. All these things I realize have become so embedded in my daily life.
In survival mode, I surround myself with negative people and experiences because it is what I know. I am lonely and isolated because it is hard to reach out for help and support when times are tough, and in survival mode, times are always tough. I have learned that I don't need anyone. I'll do it myself.
Survival means I am afraid to step into my power because I am afraid of the unknown. This is not the kind of life I want to lead!
I want to understand and embrace what it means to thrive! To thrive is to be healthy, to flourish. To thrive means to make steady progress, to grow healthy and strong. To live your best life. To think and live abundantly and joyfully. Thriving is a choice. Choosing to thrive pushes you outside your comfort zone. You can choose to live a life of optimal wellbeing; including having compassion for yourself and self-care. It means no longer reacting to situations but taking the time to respond instead.
Thriving means taking 100% responsibility for myself and my actions and seeing failure as a necessary part of success. It means getting to know myself, finding my strengths, and acknowledging my accomplishments. It means welcoming change and challenges into my life. It means surrounding myself with positive people and things that make me happy. It means choosing connection, looking for the good in life, and giving back.
Middle-aged women, like myself, want to thrive!
What can we do to go from surviving to thriving?
1. Own it! Realize that you have been living in a place of survival because life knocked you down and you picked yourself back up again. Set an intention every day that you want to thrive.
2. Be honest about your feelings. Name them. Feel them in your body. Then let them go.
3. Journal about 5 things you are grateful for every day.
4. Celebrate your wins: at the end of each day, focus on what went well.
5. Move your body for at least 30 minutes every day.
6. Find more opportunities to be in the "zone." Find your "flow" activities, you know those activities where you are fully engaged, and hours go by without you even noticing. These activities could be dancing, hiking, painting, singing, playing a game or an instrument, reading a book, or writing. Do these activities several times per week.
Like Maya Angelou, if we find things we are passionate about, have some compassion for ourselves, laugh a little, and have a little style, we can learn to survive and thrive.
So many people have been talking about making a shift or pivot since COVID hit. I am no different! Many of you know I am a nurse not currently practicing nursing. With the onset of COVID, it became clear to me that I needed to do something to make a difference. Truth be told, I had some survivor guilt because I was not working in the field. When I suggested I may return to nursing, my family and friends said, "are you crazy?!"
I also discovered that I suffered from burnout. I left nursing because I felt stressed. I was not taking care of myself while I was working. I was always the person who said "yes" to working extra shifts or staying late with a patient at the expense of my health or time with my family.
I left myself behind.
I was giving to everyone else and not practicing self-care, leaving me feeling tired, stressed, and defeated because I could no longer do the job I loved so much.
When I became a nurse in 1985, I wanted to help people heal. My journey with nursing took many twists and turns. Now I realize nursing is not the same as it was so many years ago. The opportunities to heal are not there any longer for the most part, at least the way I wanted it to be for me.
I turned to alternative therapies such as Reiki and Aroma Freedom Technique so I could get back to healing people in a way that feels fulfilling and rewarding again. That still isn't enough. Now it is time to heal the nurses who, like me, are hurting and help them to love themselves and their jobs again.
Fast forward to 2020, and COVID is devastating nurses everywhere. Nurses are exhausted, stressed, and ready to be done! I have spoken to so many nurses who are under so much stress and uncertainty they do not feel like they can go on any longer in a job they once loved.
I have this overwhelming urge to help. I want to help nurses lessen stress, form community for support, and go back to loving what they do again!
I also learned that I had adrenal fatigue which I had been ignoring because, like you, I had other things to do! My functional medicine doctor told me I had to reduce the stress in my life.
Less stress? I was in the middle of a major home remodel which had been going on for a year. Family struggles and childhood traumas had surfaced. It was time for me to start paying serious attention to my own health and well-being, which meant lessening stress in my life. Thankfully, this led to more time in nature with my husband and dog, resting when my body needed rest (believe it or not, that was the hardest part), learning to meditate, doing Reiki at least once a day on myself, and using essential oils to quiet that anxious feeling I felt most of the time.
I have partnered with another nurse who has also suffered from burnout. She left a job she loved, because it was no longer a safe place to work and the stress of working overtime and being understaffed became too much.
We want to form a community for nurses, a safe place to heal. A place to share nurse humor because, let's face it, no one understands nurse humor like a nurse! A place to remind you that you are not alone and there is always hope.
With 30 years in the nursing field and certifications in wellness and success coaching, Reiki, and Aroma Freedom Technique (AFT), Wendy brings new light to what it means to find yourself, make yourself a priority, and live in alignment with your desires.