Did you know that blue Monday is actually just a myth?!
It was supposedly “a fraud perpetrated by a psychologist hired by a travel agency” to encourage people in the northern hemisphere to bust out of their seasonal funks’ and take a sunny vacation. (CTV news Jan 19, 2019)
For someone who suffers from seasonal affective disorder, Blue Monday still feels real to me. Does it actually feel like ‘the most depressing day of the year’? I can’t say for certain, but it’s definitely a tough time of year for me. Did I buy into the travel scheme years ago. You bet I did. Do I feel taken advantage of? Nope not for a second. Why? Because I saw an invitation and found that those sunny destinations DO work for me, at least in some way although temporary.
I’d have to say that normally I am a pretty big skeptic though. I used to hang my hat on quick fixes and big promises of the next fad wellness intervention. I’ve been conditioned into a skeptic through learned experiences. I’ve been lead down some dead-end paths before where I have absolutely felt taken advantage of. And what I’ve learned is that anyone in the wellness industry who claims to have the magic pill, a quick fix, to be perfect or have their life all together, who claims to have the next best kept secret, who only shows you the ‘best’ parts of themselves, who wants to fix you or be the one to change you is in my opinion also a fraud. Because first of all —Nobody is perfect. That expensive wellness coach has his/her fair share of ‘problems’, hurdles, life events that shaped them. That fashionable super bendy yoga instructor has his/her fair share of dark places. That wellness company who claims to be the ONE who has all the answers, has its share of imperfections too.
I’ve always chosen to be transparent in my journey as a wellness promoter. I don’t have all the answers. I’m on a journey. I certainly don’t agree with taunting people with false hope or painting a picture of some perfect world. I show up with all the various parts of myself, the light and the dark, the ones I am proud of and the ones not so much. I live out loud in an authentic way. Why? Because my goal is to be real, to share my experiences – good and bad, to make connections based on life as it is, to share the ups AND the downs of my journey, to build a community where we can celebrate our individuality and all walks of life, and where maybe someone somewhere can relate. Where our circle is equal. Nobody in front, nobody behind. Nobody above, nobody below. Just equal.
The wellness industry is one of the top-grossing industries in the world right now. How incredible is that?! Better than say a weapons industry or something, right?!? It’s comforting to know that people are investing in themselves. But my hope is that everyone has a little bit of a skeptic in them. That they are brave enough to ask why? That they are not being taken advantage of because they are in a vulnerable place in their lives. Because it’s only fair that you have the truth.
When I fell head first into the wellness industry back in 2013 I looked for what worked for other people. I felt insecure, not good enough, had little self-love in my tank. My skewed eyes saw that the ‘skinny busy’ people looked happy and successful. I felt attracted to that. I thought that if I could lose weight by working out 7 days a week and work a crazy amount of hours at a dignified job that that would bring me confidence and joy. So I snuck down that rabbit hole and bought into the ‘fitness’ world of wellness. I became a regular gym junkie and took up running. I developed injury after injury, but kept pushing. I lost a bunch of weight and became an arrogant, careless party drunk (i’m allowed to call myself that). I got a lot of attention, a lot of complements based on the outer layer, I loved myself a little more because of the reactions of how hard I had worked. I hurt people I loved. I did things I am not proud of, which I’d share here but out of respect for other people involved I will just leave it at that (although I love to chat one on one with anyone who feels the urge to). I ran, and worked, and drank myself into a very dark place – I now refer to as rock bottom. At that time I was working in a busy emergency department and all too often could related with many of the clients that walked through the door. I’m actually surprised I didn’t end up there, in one of those emergency beds. I contemplated taking my own life as an easier way to deal with the mess I created. I thought I’d spare the people who loved me any more hurt. I’ve never told anyone how much pain I felt or how dark those days actually were. And I’m definitely not telling you this now for pity. I’m just being real. Thankfully in those darkest days I kept choosing to mend instead. I kept re-evaluating my trajectory and searching for the real person within. I kept peeling back years of layers and suffering. I abruptly cut connections with toxic people. I stopped the gruelling fitness routines and crazy diets. I got help. I stopped numbing myself with alcohol. I saw a counsellor. It was two steps forward, one step back, then three steps forward, four steps back. It took work but it didn’t look like the work I was used to. It was waking up every single day being open to growth and grateful for the opportunity to try again. I got curious about how to live a life that felt peaceful yet fulfilling, where I could be happy yet resilient when life through those lemons. For some reason I kept coming back to my mat. Day after day. I found refuge there. I found acceptance. I found some answers. Not just on blue monday but on most of my blue days throughout the year. Yoga was what worked for me. Not just showing up to a class and doing some poses. Yes that helped me too. But digging deeper into the philosophy of yoga, the yogic lifestyle. I gained weight and lost friends. But I vowed to question each new turn. I definitely walked the new path lightly. I literally questioned everything. I tried it all on first and I’ll be totally honest not all of it fit. There were people who came into my life that broke my trust. That made me feel two inches tall, that rattled and shook me, but each time I would come back to myself and ask does this feel right? I moved slow. I looked for evidence. And yes the scientific evidence out there was a great resource in answering my ‘why’s and how’s’, but ultimately it came back to the evidence I found within. I bought into the invitation.
I’m not here right now to sell you yoga. I know fully that one way is not right for everyone. And I’m asking you right now to call my bullshit. To try this wellness stuff on for size. To chew on it for awhile. To maybe rsvp to your own invitation.
I took my YTT to become a yoga teacher because I wanted to learn more about the ancient practice of yoga. I wanted to know how it worked for thousands of years for so many people and why people were buying into it even in our modern day society where things are consumed then tossed aside like the latest fast fashion. Yoga seemed to stick with people, and as a nurse in the healthcare industry, as a person lost in the chaos, I wanted to know why.
What I learned over the years both as a nurse in various positions and as a yogi is that if you only focus on one aspect of your being then you will eventually lack in wellness in another aspect. For example, people who only focus on their physical wellbeing can often disintegrate mentally. I also learned that pure health is not a destination. Health and wellness changes across the spectrum. People can flourish with illness and people can disintigrate with wellness. But I love that yoga invites us to look at the living being from a holistic view – body, mind, and spirit. Instead of looking outside the box, it invites us to remove the box completely. It offers multiple paths for all different sorts of people with no rigid answer to what brings peace or joy. An ancient yogic text called the Bhagavid Gita is a story about wisdom, spirituality, and actionable paths for living yoga, ultimately, each path offering a way to live a purposeful life while maintaining inner equilibrium. It invites us to keep trying even if one path doesn’t work.
What I have realized over the years and what I’ve built the very essence of viva la lemon on is the fact that yoga and wellness practices are just an invitation. They are a practice that invites you to look inside yourself (some more so than others). And if the one doing the inviting is aligned with these ancient practices then he/she believes that every living thing inherently has the answers within them. Yoga, and what I value in the wellness industry, is a comradery here on earth with the purpose of simply walking each other home. It’s a path but you dear one, you are the driver. You decide what feels like a ‘yes’ and what feels like a ‘no’ right there in the shoes you are in, on the path you are on.
A few years ago a massive company came up with a slogan called #thisisyoga. It commercialized untraditional views of yoga – people running, people meditating, people laughing, people of color, people of all sizes, actively doing something that appeared as a form of selfcare. Although I don’t necessarily agree with all the values of that company, I loved that this particular campaign made yoga seem more accessible. Because I believe if you are acting in a way that is caring for yourself that’s from a place of unconditional love without attaching to the actual fruits of your labour then that my friend is yoga. You are already doing it! Doesn’t matter if you are lifting weights, doing headstands, dancing, singing, or lying quietly in savasana. You are already doing it. And if you just looked in the mirror and realized that maybe you’re not then oh my gosh dear one you have so many opportunities to do so. Because that invitation stands for everrrrybodddy.
So whether blue monday is a myth or not, we know for a fact that seasonal affective disorder, depression, anxiety, and burnout is not. Instead of tossing it under the rug because it’s a myth, let’s use this to assess our state of resiliency right now. Let us use this as a great reminder to check in with how we’re feeling mentally, physically, even spiritually. Let Blue Monday be a time that we notice the path we are on and the trajectory of our future. Perhaps this can be our time to question everything, including those who once inspired us. Maybe to call bullshit. This is an opportunity to take action. To say yes now to nurture the future we want later, or to kindly say no to what feels like a weight so we can heal and choose a new path. My intention for writing this blog post (thanks for making it this far) is to share a piece of my path with you, to be authentic in this big wellness industry, to be vulnerable, perfectly imperfect and to remind you that no matter what anyone else says, YOU have the answers you seek within you!! I’ve had my own rock bottom and if I can be that hand that reaches down to lift you up then I’ve done what I have set out to do, and one day maybe you’ll do the same. Blue Monday shouldn’t be the only day of the year that we look, speak out, or question. But let’s also not miss this opportunity.
Wellness is a spectrum. Look at the direction you’re facing on that spectrum, can you see flourishing? Or do you see disintegration ahead? Those answers look different for everyone. Do you need or want change? Do you need to assess your boundaries? Is your selflove tank running on empty? Are you sad, stressed, or anxious more than you are not? Its okay. It’s okay to be in the place you are in dear one. This post isn’t about shaming. BUT here is the invitation, from me to you. I want to assure you that you are not alone. That we, the viva community are sincerely here for you. We too have complicated stories. We too are on our own path. We too have depths beneath our surface. We are a community that was built on the belief that we ALL belong. That we all hold a place to be here, to be ourselves, and to be loved no matter what path we are on. We stand with AND for one another. Are you with us dear one?