Back to Basics

A Strong Framework

What is most important in life? To each person his own. Although we all may not have the same answer, I think it is safe to assume that there are some general ideals. But is what we believe in line with what we do?

I find that when I am struggling the most, it is because what I envision in not lining up with what I am doing or vice versa. I say that I want to be consistent, but I am not. It was difficult because there are a lot of things that I would like to be consistent with: a set schedule, a flow of work and projects and a peaceful and positive outlook. There is a lot to work on. So it was not until I decided to focus on one aspect, that I found other aspects in my life would slowly fall in line, too.


Exercise Well

With work like a roller-coaster, I decided to tackle a different inconsistency in my life: exercise. This past year, I found that exercising is a great de-stressing activity for me. Whether it was taking a class at the gym, swimming or going for a walk, exercising the body also helped the mind. I had been going to several classes within the week, and with the summer weather arriving, evening walks were finally possible. But I wanted to see results. Was there a way to calculate my results both physically and mentally? My solution was to try a workout challenge. In my case, I am testing myself with a 30-day workout video.

I can understand that this topic may be off for a graphic design blog - but hear me out.

I am a little over the halfway point, about 20 days, and already I see a difference. The challenge is a daily 20-minute high-intensity workout for 30 days. The first week was a little rough. Finding the time in my schedule was not easy. I found my sleeping pattern would be affected if I worked out too late and I was struggling to wake up early enough in the day. But as week two came along and I started a momentum, I would miss a couple of classes and in order to catch up, I would take twice the amount of classes the next day. Nevertheless, I have kept up with the challenge.

It was interesting what the instructor, Jillian Michaels, would say through the workouts. Even after watching the DVD a couple times already, something she said caught my attention: our time is precious. Maybe it is not until you realize how long 30-seconds is until you do 30-seconds of push-ups. But the notion struck me a way.

20 minutes of intended work and focused effort is worth more than hours vague intentions or idleness. Working out may not be everyone’s cup of coffee, but through working out I realized this. Where we put our time and effort is what is important to us. I hear a lot of people day that they want to change, get fit, be more productive or have a more peaceful life. Yet, that they say and do are conflicting. Our time is precious and as we get older, it can get harder to change out of our habits. Whether they are good or bad - they can always be better.

Building up consistency is finding consistency our daily duties and decisions. I was thinking, if the amount of time we spent on our phones before bed were spent reading or touching up on a project, imagine the amount of books or projects that could be completed? Developing a good habit takes time and the decision to do it. It is building up a framework of what is important to you. We are defined by our actions, our decisions, choices and ideas.


Eating Well

Oddly enough, with all the work and effort in this daily exercise routine, I found my diet changing as well. At first, I wanted to tackle two challenges in one: working out and eating right. But as I worked out, I thought treating myself to junk food and snacks were justified. I work out so I can eat whatever I want was the mindset. But after a while, all this cheating got to me. I was cheating myself when I did that. I had to be focused all the time. I was more aware. There had to be a healthy balance. I still treat myself, but to an extent to where my work is not wasted.

So eating had a new purpose, too. I would still enjoy sharing special meals with family and friends on occasion. But I could see how different foods affected me. For the work I want to do, I had to treat and care for myself well. With a hectic schedule and anxiety, taking the steps for a sound mind and body is the best way to prepare myself for what is to come.

I try not to think of myself on a diet (even though my family may think so), rather I am making a lifestyle change. In fact, it has become a family affair. So we are all trying to eat a little better and get some exercise. I can see how challenging it is for my parents. To change how you eat is not fun or easy. But it is not like we have stopped eating, it is what we are eating that is changing.

I can understand if you do not like eating salads or drinking water. But there will come a time when you will have no excuses. The excesses in what we consume physically and mentally can and will hold us back if we let them. We need to be strong to take on these decisions to making the best choice.


Sleeping Well

I woke up at 4:30am this morning. It is a miracle after waking up around 8am this past month. The little changes are adding up. With more energy, focus and purpose, waking up has meaning again.

I struggle with anxiety. I try to help my nerves by doing something about my fears. My sleeping pattern gets messed up when I mismanage my time. I say I value my work, but I sleep late. Why? Is it because I am already thinking that the work I do have may not be there the next day? Am I not making enough? Is it because I am lacking in something?

My anxiety has had me up all night before. I started working on a project that I had been procrastinating at one in the morning, because I could not sleep without doing something about it! My sister says it is okay to feel nervous. It means that you care. I do care. But I have also had to keep my nerves in check. A little excitement is alright, but worrying too much can be disarming.

Sleep and rest is important, too. It is the time when we recover from the day’s challenges. I am still trying to set up a good sleeping schedule. A good habit I want to implement again was reading before sleeping rather than scrolling on feeds on my phone. I was able to finish a couple of books at that time and with more books at hand, reading before bed sounds like time better spent to me.


Consistent Habits & Flexibility

There is a balance between consistency and flexibility. Along that fine line we learn and grow the most. With consistency we are grounded and feel prepared to take on the new challenges that push us to be flexible. When we are not grounded or prepared, we can feel like we are a boat in open water and life is just tossing us here and there.

Find what is important to you and prepare yourself for the future you envision for yourself. Be realistic and take your time. An athlete trains before the game. An artist sketches before he paints. Why would it be different for anyone? We can all learn from our experiences, build from them and adjust along the way. I think it is when the little things start adding up, that we can start to feel those subtle changes.

It is a daily challenge to wake up, exercise, eat well and work. To take care of ourselves means to fuel our bodies and minds with good things and removing excesses. By focusing our efforts we can not only produce great works, but great peace in our minds and in ourselves. When we feel strong, we become just little braver taking on what life has to offer.

I am glad to be on this journey and sharing these little victories with you. Whatever struggles or decisions you are wrestling with, I hope you know that it worth the fight to do what is right for you and others. Let us continue to build up a strong foundation while removing the excess. ■

Patricia Atienza