I hope you’ve been with me for the last week as I took the Hell Week Challenge based on the book Hell Week Challenge: Seven Days to Be Your Best Self by Erik Bertrand Larssen.
If you want to get caught up with how the week has been, I wrote 7 posts, with this post being the 7th. If you haven’t already, take a little time to read the other posts as well: Hell Week Challenge: What It Is and Why You Should Do It,
Hell Week Challenge Prep,
Hell Week Day 1: Habits,
Hell Week Day 2: Get In the Mode,
Hell Week Day 3: Planning,
Hell Week Days 4 & 5: Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone and Rest.
I hope you will strongly considered doing your own Hell Week Challenge. Just order a copy of the book from Amazon and you can get started!
It’s over! I say that with some regret because I wasn’t done. I was just ramping up. Life kept throwing stupid obstacles my way that kept me from doing it the way I wanted to. However, even with this, I’ll call it, half assed hell week, I have been able to gain a lot of insight into my life, things to improve, things I got down, and things I need to keep trying to perfect.
My last day, the day of reflection was perfectly spent with Lexi, at the beach, swimming, reading, and watching the sunset.
My all-nighter failed. As much as I wanted to do it, you just can’t ask an exhausted mom to spend a whole day on the beach in the sun and then put her preschooler to bed by laying in a dark room pretending to sleep for 30 minutes. I passed out. I laugh at that because it’s a really funny “fail”, but also because a lot of things in the Hell Week Challenge weren’t meant for a motherhood situation where we juggle many modes throughout the day and don’t have strict limits when work/home/baby ends and starts. You can’t plan those things that are largely not dependent on you. Yet despite of that, every mom needs a Hell Week Challenge, a modified Hell Week Challenge, catered to things that moms tend to overlook (exercise, healthy eating, mode switching, no social media, etc). I bet if someone were to write that, it would be a huge hit! Maybe I will come up with a Hell Week Challenge for stay at home moms. Hey, Erik, you up for that?
No, but really, as much as this challenge didn’t account for every individual situation. In my situation, I wear multiple hats. I am both a stay at home mom and a work at home mom, a coparenting single parent, an amateur athlete who trains a lot, and a traveler – that is a lot of things to contend with. So, let me go over how this challenge applies to two types of moms.
Hell Week for Stay at home moms
This where the most modifications would have to be made to the Hell Week like Erik suggests.
The biggest benefit to a SAHM from the Hell Week Challenge would be a sense of structure, which is something that is lacking when days and activities are open ended. You can benefit from more focus, discipline and determination, even though you’re stuck at home and going to kid activities. Focusing on yourself and making time for yourself, like exercising and eating healthy (no junk) is something a lot of SAHMs ignore and yet probably needed the most.
If you’re a SAHM and…
- you feel like your days are endless with little productivity.
- you’re not engaged.
- you don’ have the energy or time to exercise.
- you end up snacking and eating treats and drinking wine more often than you care to admit.
- you can binge watch hours of TV shows instead of doing things that would make your soul happy.
- you spend your days without a goal, pointless and mundane,
you need to do this challenge. It will fix or at least put you on the path of fixing all this.
If you think that there is nothing wrong with the things that I listed above, then you’re probably more in need of a reset than you think.
All humans have an innate need to have a purpose, to do something that matters. You can shut it down and pretend that you’re happy, but no one can be happy without a fulfilling goal to work towards (a child as a goal doesn’t count, you have to be an individual as well).
Hell Week for working moms
Hell Week for working moms gets closer to the real hell week because there is a true separation of childcare and work. Note, I am talking about working outside of the home, because work from home moms fall into SAHM category for these purposes.
As I can imagine (as a work from home mom), working moms are stretched thin. Sometimes too thin. Not only do you spend all day ay work but you’re probably also responsible for making food for your kids, shopping, cleaning and a lot of other things. This is where the time management and the mode aspect of Hell Week will really help.
If you are a mom who works outside the home and…
- you think that you don’t have time to work out.
- you feel scattered, stretching yourself between our job needs and your child needs.
- you would like to find a few extra hours in a day (believe me you actually can).
- you have been gearing up for a promotion at work, but haven’t been able to make it happen.
- you feel like you just need a little extra push to get your life in order.
- you need to get rid of that snacking habit,
then the Hell Week Challenge can get you on the right track.
My own take aways and my main discoveries
I felt like I had someone hold up a mirror to me, my habits, and my life this last week. I don’t think I would personally be able to admit all the things that weren’t being done to their best in my daily routine and life. Mostly because I work so damn hard at being efficient,productive, and purposeful and think through most of my actions and my daily activities. That’s what makes me happy naturally (which is why the idea of a Hell Week Challenge appealed to me so much). But seeing that in reality I could use some improvement was an eye opener.
Having had healthy eating, no alcohol, no TV and exercise SO under control, I figured that the rest of the rules wouldn’t be that big of a deal. I had the hardest four that people struggle with down. How hard is it to just focus on the rest? Well, it turns out focus itself is hard as is pushing yourself on things you don’t want to push.
Yeah, it’s all cool that I have no trouble pushing myself to exercise and eat healthy. That is because those are the things I ENJOY already, or have taught myself to enjoy. Same with not drinking alcohol and not watching TV- it’s natural to me. I don’t care about either so it’s no effort not to do those things.
But when it comes to pushing myself in things that are harder or aren’t a habit yet, I turn into a baby and an excuse maker. Really. I mean don’t get me wrong, for the most part I end up doing it and on the surface it looks like I am just fine, but I was surprised to hear so many whiney voices in my head making up excuses and reasons for why I can’t do something. I didn’t know I had those voices. Or just wasn’t as aware of them. Now that I am, it is time to silence them.
The biggest challenge during this week, I found, was being consistent. Again it doesn’t apply to exercise, no TV, no alcohol, and healthy eating. But I was struggling being consistent with other things, because I didn’t feel they always applied to my life. In some cases it was true, they didn’t. But in other cases, that was my weak, lazy Elena peaking through.
While I believe it is crucial to be flexible in many situations, I can think of some occurrences this week where I could have pushed through.
Here are the main problems that I encountered during my Hell Week:
Early to bed, Early to Rise
Being a night owl it is extremely hard to do both: early mornings and early night. My productivity ramps up in the night hours. However, since I’ve been so much more physically active in the las few months, I have been pretty exhausted in the evenings. 5am is what I used to call my bedtime. Now it was supposed to become the start of my day. That’s quite a change to go through.
Despite not being able to get up at 5 am a few times this week (whether it was due to late volleyball or food poisoning), I have not given up on the idea of making 5 am my wake up call.
Look your best at all times
Eh. So this point really applies to those who work outside of home or in the kind of field where they network while being out. For me, it just DOES NOT APPLY. I simply do not have the 2 hours it would take me to style my hair, put make up on, pick out and iron my clothes just so that I could plop my butt on the couch and work on my laptop. Makes zero sense.
What about the times when you’re out with Lexi, you’d say. Once again I have absolutely no one to impress. Mommies at gymnastics class? Beach goers at the beach? Yes I will put make up on in the car during red lights on my way out of the house. And I’ll brush my hair then too. And my clothes will never be sweats and a tank. I will always look presentable, but pushing further than that defeats common sense for my situation. However, I didn’t let this rule and lesson go to waste. I did devise a different interpretation to it that DOES apply to my life. Always out of time, and never having enough hours with everything I have going on, I often forgo simple, basic routines that would take care of my skin in the long term sense. I would wait to shower till I have to go out which then would make me rush through it or skip it all together. I would not take the time to put moisturizer on my skin, or use a body scrub in the shower or wash my face. Those are simple but necessary steps that in a busy lifestyle often get skipped. So, I am bringing them back. Every day (in the two hours I gain by getting up at 5 am) I shower, use a scrub, wash my face, brush my teeth, wash my hair if needed.
This is a real problem and it became very apparent as soon as I was not able to use it freely. It gets even more complicated because most of my social media usage is work based. I rarely use my personal FB and that’s the only account I have that is personal in nature. This is a change I will be working on and developing a better plan to be more balanced and not so dependent on it.
Switching modes requires a conscious effort. One I have not been making until I started on this challenge. Surprisingly for me it is more complicated than simply switching from work Elena to mom Elena. I have to repeat silently and redirect myself to move away from the activity I was in to the activity I needed to be in right now. Quite often I find myself still thinking about work while being with Lexi, or Lexi while playing volleyball or work when at the gym. It prevents me from focusing and truly giving it my all. It robs Lexi of her valuable interaction with her mom, it robs my body from having that mind-body connection at the gym and it robs my volleyball concentration when I think about personal matters ( which I do a lot haha).
Hell Week Challenge rules I will be keeping and integrating into my life:
- Early to bed Early to rise: I loved going to bed early, despite wanting to work late. I feel MUCH more rested when I go to sleep with Lexi rather than force myself to stay up and work. How that reflects on my productivity and actual physical work completed is to be determined, but I want to give it a few more weeks before I make the determination of where 5 am and 10 pm works for my lifestyle.
- Exercise to the extreme: as I wrote before in my previous Hell Week posts, I love the burn that pushing myself physically gives me. That high I experience when I push myself beyond what I think my limit is and discover that it’s not actually my limit is addicting. As it is right now I do 3 hours of beach volleyball 4 times a week and leg day/pull day/push day 3 times a week at the gym.
- Stick to a Healthy diet: I started tracking my macros about 2 months ago and I love it. It forces me to eat better and helps my training in more ways than I can count. Occasionally I’ll have an off day, but I have been pretty consistent with this one. I still enjoy a treat here and there, if it fits in my macros (IIFIMM). But this would be an amazing rule to follow during hell week for those who have a snacking habit or a sweet tooth.
- Taking charge of my digital life: Absolutely continuing to work on this. I have been working hard controlling that obsessive pull to check social media. I have the urge to check in right now as I type this, because I remembered about social media. I have notifications turned off except for my texts and WhatsApp and will only check them when I truly have nothing better to do.
- Get hyperfocused: This is all about switching modes. It’s an immensely valuable lesson that everyone should learn. It needs practice though. I will continue to practice my mode switching, from work to mom, to athlete to a woman.
After Hell Week
Here is my plan. I love the challenge, I love the structure. I feel like I need more time to perfect this kind of lifestyle. And I want to. I need more time to figure out how all these rules apply to my particular complex life. I see it as a ramp up to the full potential. My biggest issue is travel and unpredictable schedule, so it will just take me a bit to find the best way to work these lessons into my life.
I will be doing another Hell Week Challenge, not because I didn’t learn the lessons or retain habits from the first one but because I need the productivity boost. Ideally I would like to live this way, however that’s not realistic. So I think I will be doing mini challenges here and there until I am in a comfortable place where I can execute the rules on my own without it being hell week.
Why you should participate
When you force yourself to do something outside of your usual, out of your comfort zone, even if you don’t succeed, you get a glimpse into what is dragging you down, what your weaknesses are. None of us should be so addicted to TV, social media, food, treats, sitting on the couch, mindlessly saying “mhm mhm” to our kids chatter that we are unable to give it up or at least see the need to give it up. With that understanding comes the ability and strength to change. If it doesn’t change your bad habits, at least it will give you insight, into yourself and your weak points. It’s up to you how hard you want to go at this and whether you’ll change anything, but if you’re at all not happy with any of the habits you have (and who is), it’s worth a try.
I would even recommend reading this book to those who are not interested in undertaking the challenge, just for the lessons you will learn from the author and you just might find yourself wanting to insert those lessons into your life.
After reading and participating, I feel like a more enlightened person, someone who has deep insight into herself. It’s refreshing to find vulnerabilities within myself when I spend most of my life being impenetrable. A lot of people always tell me how positive my outlook on life and anything that happens is. They are surprised at how I don’t seem to get bogged down by little negative events in my life. It’s that mindset that doesn’t leave space for me to feel bad about anything. I mean, of course I feel sad and have negative feelings, but they are quickly dismissed. So it is vulnerable and refreshing to open up and say “Ok, I could change this and this would be better even though it’s uncomfortable and I don’t want to think about these negative aspects, but if I face them, and change them, it will be even better. ”
I hope that my experience somewhat motivated you to start on a path of change as well, whether it is through the Hell Week Challenge or anything else that you wish to undertake. In the end the purpose of blogging is for me to hope to touch someone else’s life in a positive way. I hope that the 7 posts I pushed out this week about something I m passionate about were enough to do that for a handful of people.
If you decide to take the Hell Week Challenge, share your experience with #hellweekchallenge and #hellweekTAOMAB. I want to keep myself motivated to apply what I have learned by following Erik Bertrand Larssen on Instagram. Join the movement and be your best self!