The "Wicked Success" Revival Plan

Ways stressed out women can revive and renew - mind, body, & soul

You’re a modern woman—which means you’re barely surviving.

You work yourself to the bone for ever-diminishing returns, thanks to the rising cost of everything from gas and food to health insurance. Meanwhile, you serve as cook, maid, shrink, tutor, and handyman at home. When life’s little “emergencies” crop up—a broken water heater, a toothache, a parent-teacher conference to discuss your son’s recent homework boycott—well, those land on your plate, too. No wonder you feel you’re one permission slip away from a complete breakdown!

And here’s the worst part: lately, the bar is so low you find yourself celebrating the mere fact that you survived another day. To be energized and fulfilled—well, that’s so much farther up your hierarchy of needs that you can’t even see it for the cloud cover.

Women should not accept this state of stressed-out existence and call it living, insists Vickie Milazzo, author of Wicked Success Is Inside Every Woman (Wiley, 2011, $21.95) and recipient of the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s Hope Award for Ambassadorship. “You can lead a successful life and cultivate a wellspring of energy that renews your mind, body, and soul every day—but first you’ve got to give yourself a break,” says Milazzo.

“Today’s woman has taken on an extreme life crammed to overflowing with commitments and responsibility,” observes Milazzo. “It’s not possible to stretch yourself to the breaking point every day and not break.

“You wouldn’t expect a battery to keep going forever without recharging it, and you shouldn’t expect it of yourself either,” she adds. “Women need to learn to revitalize their minds, bodies, emotions, and spirits frequently, so that they’ll have abundant energy whenever they need it.”

Milazzo suggests that women try to look objectively at their lives and routines, as though they were happening to a good friend. What advice would you give her?

“You’d probably tell this ‘friend’ to slow down, take a few deep breaths, and spend a few minutes doing something enjoyable before the next day and its demands come crashing in,” Milazzo guesses. “You know that this advice is sound, too…so listen.”

Milazzo speaks from experience. After working (overtime) for six years as a registered nurse, in 1982 she faced the reality that she was unsatisfied with her career, financially strapped, and burned out across the board.

“I realized that if I wanted to thrive instead of just survive, the first thing I needed to do was cultivate a fulfilling relationship with myself,” she recalls. “Yes, I know that it might seem impossible to take even one moment out of your overscheduled life, but I promise you that it can be done. Too often, our own behaviors and habits sabotage us and prevent us from taking the renewal steps we need for restoration, causing us to slip further and further into the desperate state we’re trying to escape.”

Plan to Recharge

The fact is, every woman needs to renew and refuel her body, feelings, mind, and spirit on a regular basis, so that she can reflect on what’s important and maintain perspective and equilibrium. And with habitual rejuvenation, promises Milazzo, you’ll be able to  complete your daily tasks while having the energy to pursue your big goals and passions—and still have some vigor left over for great sex!

Milazzo lives by tried-and-true suggestions you can use to renew yourself in the midst of your manic life:

Renew physically. While many of us would like to think that frequent trips through the drive-through don’t have that much of an ill effect, the truth is that these empty calories have a negative impact on our short- and long-term health. The same goes for poor sleep and insufficient exercise. Look honestly at your eating, fitness, and resting habits, says Milazzo. Are they helping or hurting? If it’s the latter, you need to know that it’s not only your body that’s affected; your productivity, energy, creativity, and motivation will also take a hit.

“Physical health is necessary for any kind of success, because increased energy opens up all kinds of doors,” Milazzo asserts. “There’s no need to make a ton of drastic changes all at once, but over time you do need to shoot for a balanced, nutritious diet, regular exercise, and—of course!—the chance to relax with a massage, a facial, or a soak in the tub. No matter how smart you are or how much potential you have, you’ll never get anywhere if your body is sluggish and running on empty.”

Renew emotionally. These days there’s certainly more than enough to worry about: healthcare, cutbacks at work, your dwindling bank account, the price of gas… the list goes on. It’s easy to spend all of your energy fretting and contingency planning. Sooner or later, though, you’ll hit emotional rock bottom (if you haven’t already) Milazzo warns, and you’ll go through life bitter, put-upon, and exhausted. Plus, if you don’t renew emotionally, you’re likely to overreact or underreact to various situations, which will only multiply the number of things you have to fret about! To avoid this fate, you need to allow your emotions to recover and be uplifted on a regular basis.

“If you barrel through life with an unhealthy sense of urgency, you will never enjoy anything,” says Milazzo. “You must learn to enjoy the moment and cultivate calm, not always be pushing. Whether you plan a vacation, have a cup of tea, or go on a walk, think of being kind to yourself as a necessity, not a luxury. Allow yourself to get away from it all from time to time so that when you re-enter the fray, you’ll have freshly buoyed emotions to sustain you.”

Renew spiritually. All other types of renewal will be temporary fixes unless you have a deep-seated sense of serenity within you to draw upon. Milazzo emphasizes that spiritual discipline is definitely a journey, not a destination, but its benefits are peace, calm, and enlightenment. Figure out what works for you, whether it’s meditation, prayer, study, service, or something else, and incorporate it into your routine. Just a few “time-out” moments at the beginning and end of each day can make a significant impact.

“Spiritual renewal is important for me, because I don’t want to accumulate worldly success and still wonder if ‘this’ is it,” Milazzo explains. “Spiritual renewal looks different for everyone, but I think an important component of it is to quiet down and reflect on who you want to be and what is really important. Doing this will give you lasting perspective and will help you to realize and remember just how precious a gift life is.”

Renew mentally. Most of us never stop to consider how often we feed our minds less than-healthy fuel. Whether it’s reality TV, bad romance novels, talk radio, or Farmville, the activities we pursue in our downtime often don’t renew our energy (and may even deplete it). No, you don’t have to read scholarly articles and watch educational documentaries every day, but Milazzo feels that it is important to throw some thought-provoking activities into the mix. Consider visiting a museum, gallery, or arboretum that you normally pass by, or try your hand at something creative like painting or writing.

“What you feed your mind influences your thoughts, attitude, and energy,” points out Milazzo. “You need mental energy to be creative and to make good decisions. You don’t have to give up ‘junk’ entirely—in fact, I find that reading a frivolous book every now and then is kind of like indulging in a buttery bag of popcorn—but make sure that you’re also watching, reading, and experiencing new, challenging, and inspirational things. And the best part is, you don’t have to carve any more free time out of your day. Just imagine what you could learn and accomplish in the time it takes to watch a sitcom or two!”