But only if you want to feel happier—and more alive.
By Amy Shearn
I Can Negotiate with My Brain
When it comes to sleep, I get eight hours a night. My insomniac friend Julie follows a more complex system, swearing that if she gets four hours per night over the course of the week, she can make up for the shortage by sleeping 12 hours on Saturday. I maintain that this does not count as adequate sleep. It turns out that science backs up my years of anecdotal research: A recent study suggests that "catching up" on sleep on the weekends doesn't actually work to reverse all the effects of mild sleep deprivation throughout the week. The real lie, however, is the bargaining process. We make so many of these bogus contracts with ourselves: "If I work really hard on this project, then I can drink the whole bottle of wine tonight." "If I run 3 miles, I can eat 3 pieces of salted-caramel apple pie.” (Well, I'm pretty sure that last one is true.) I know these back-and-forths feel like you're rewarding yourself, but remember what you already know: Your body is not your brain. It gets confused when you keep changing the rules.
Nobody Will Ever Love My Calves...Including Me
Maybe you've never been a fan of your bulbous calves, so you've resigned yourself to a life of long pants. We all have parts of our bodies we don't like and have to figure out how to make peace with. (I used to work at a coffee shop with a fellow barista who hated her elbows so much she was sure they were distracting the world with their puckered ugliness.) But do these so-called flaws hold the key to our emotional futures? Listen to wise and wonderful Amy Poehler responding to a woman who says she feels that her body issues have kept her from finding a mate. Her advice: "Don't worry about finding love. There's a lid for every pot."
I Can Run a Marathon!
Technically, you inhabit the same body now that you did in the 11th grade, when you could stay up all night, consume nothing but Mountain Dew and, after months of strict inactivity, run 6 miles straight. Then again, technically, you are also made of the carbon from billion-year-old stars. Actual earthly humans over the age of 20 can't just run four hours straight out of nowhere. Actual earthly humans over the age of 20 will be very sad when they tear tendons they didn't even know they had.
I Can't Run a Marathon!
So you can't hop up and run for miles the way you once could. That's completely normal. That said, don't get discouraged because you start from zero and find yourself wheezing on the side of the running path, while toddlers stumble by faster than you can run. Yes, there are 99-year-olds and paralyzed people who complete marathons, but guess what? Every one of them trains. You obtain proper shoes, with the arch support becoming of a person your age. You start slow. You stretch. You hydrate. You alternate short runs and long runs, days on and days off. It takes some doing to get your body in shape for such a test of endurance. A marathon takes ENDURANCE. It's REALLY HARD. That's the whole point. Whether it's running a marathon or becoming a manager or making meringues, the last thing any of us needs is a resounding, internal can't. Because you can (if you train).
Loneliness is Mental
Feeling lonely isn't just about your state of mind. It can affect your whole body and can lead to hardened arteries, high blood pressure, inflammation and problems with learning and memory, researchers have found. Isolation also affects the immune system, at times, creating a downward health spiral. Sure, you've told yourself you have to get out there and meet new people. But since that hasn't worked, let these potential medical side effects give you a friendly kick out the door. (And if that still doesn't work, try getting professional help. It's worth it.)
I Will Magically Know the Moment Right Before I Overtweeze
I have no idea why there is not a 24-hour help hotline to call when you're considering cutting your own bangs or tweezing your own brows past 10:00 p.m. There ought to be. You think you've got it—okay, just one more—and then you step back and realize you've gone too far and, unfortunately, are not psychologically prepared for a life (or even a week) without eyebrows. Let me be clear: You not only will not know the moment to stop plucking, you also need a friend present to say "That's enough!"
I'm Too Antsy to Relax
I am miserable at meditating. I can't get calm at the end of a yoga class when we lie down in the quiet room for shavasana (aka deep relaxation) because my brain buzzes at me about all the things I have to do that day, that week, that year, before I will have time to be calm... Perhaps yogic meditation is simply not right for me. Perhaps I would do better with a "walking meditation," or with a soothing mantra. Perhaps we can each find our own ways to slow our minds. Perhaps being calm is not, after all, a requirement for getting calm.
I Don't Have Time for a Mammogram
It's not a bikini wax. It's not a haircut. It's not another errand. It's a mammogram. You do it even when you don't have time to do it.
I Don't Feel Bad, So That's Good
So many of us deal with feelings of sadness—or vulnerability, or neediness—with a self-preserving technique that Brené Brown calls numbing. Numbing is a kind of armor that comes in many forms—food, drugs, gossip, social media—whatever way we choose to distract ourselves from feeling our painful emotions. A few generations ago, I think, numbing was simply a way of life. How many of us had grandfathers who wouldn't talk about war or bad marriage experiences, drinking quietly in the armchair instead? Now, we have even more choices. If I'm feeling disappointed by a professional failure, or even just suffering a general life malaise, I can sink into a Netflix drama, or lengthy Twitter exchange. Or...I can consult a certain all-too-relevant Seamus Heaney poem, which says: "The way we are living, timorous or bold, will have been our life." So don't numb out this day. That too easily becomes numbing out every day. Which will have been your life.