Uncovering an Old Lesson for My Mental Health

Posted by Alina Liao on

"One Thing At a Time" in My Customized Journals

Over the last few months, as my workload grew and orders for Zenit’s customized journals and custom planners piled up, my anxiety was kicking in. Every order I got was a win and boost of inspiration, seeing how people were designing their customized journals for their wellness and healing. But my anxiety was also there tagging along, prodding me incessantly, “You HAVE to get EVERYTHING done ASAP otherwise ALL your customers will be unhappy and you WILL FAIL!” Even when I was out running errands or home cooking a meal, my mind would constantly jump to the future and play over and over again how I would spend my next few hours working, planning each step down to the minute. 

As I journaled about this stress, I noticed that I could physically feel the strain on my brain from the constant overthinking and over-planning. Carrying this constant worry and dread was exhausting. I couldn’t keep going like this. I journaled about how I was feeling and how I wanted to feel instead - calm, steady, reassured, no matter how much I have on my plate. Journaling about this led me to remember, one day, the words of my old gymnastics coach, “One thing at a time,” “Pay attention to what you’re doing while you’re doing it.” 

In my 17 years as a gymnast, one of the most challenging movements for me was the “series” on the balance beam. You do multiple back handsprings and back flips in a row, all connected, without pause in between. I tended to rush, thinking about my last flip while I was still on the first. My coach could always tell when I was rushing, and she’d remind me, “One thing at a time.” “Pay attention to what you’re doing while you do it.” It always worked. It helped me refocus, calm my nerves, and land my beam series. 

At that time, the term “mindfulness” wasn’t so mainstream in the West as it is now, but there I was, a teenager in one of the most rigorous sports, getting lessons in mindfulness.

So that has been another one of my self-care mantras these past few months. “One thing at a time, Alina.” I use this mantra to bring myself from the future back to the now. When I do this, I can feel the grip of my anxiety release a bit. It’s easier said than done, but the more I do it and journal about it, the easier it gets to catch myself in the moment obsessing over the future and bring myself back to the present, releasing some of that stress of what needs to get done. It’s another wellness habit I’m building.

My aim in writing about and sharing this isn’t to say that everyone needs to do gymnastics to build wellness habits. In part, I wanted to write and publish this simply as a way to say thank you to gymnastics, to my coaches, to my teammates. They made me who I am. 

To a wider audience, this reflection makes me see that we can develop habits in self-care and mindfulness in unexpected ways. We all have our own innate wisdom of what our bodies and minds need for our well-being from our life experiences. Sometimes those lessons are buried in our past. Journaling can bring them to the surface. This lesson and mantra, “one thing at a time,” was long in me, in my former gymnast self. Journaling about how I was feeling and how I wanted to feel helped me uncover it and bring it to my present.

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