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Last weekend, we announced that one of our writers would be taking the Hell Week Challenge based on the book Hell Week: Seven Days To Your Best Self by Erik Bertrand Larssen. Well, I am that writer. My name is Kristen and I have been with Daily Mom for a year. I am a stay at home/work from home mama. I am checking in with you all to let you know how the Hell Week Challenge has gone for me so far. If you want to get ready to start your own Hell Week, order a copy of this book from Amazon and you can get started next week if you are ready! If you did not read our original post, check it out here. It explains how Hell Week works.
Hell Week has seven rules to follow every day, and each day has a theme that will challenge you in a different area of your life. And by challenge, I mean, force you to take a hard look at yourself and dig deep to be better! So, go check out the first post if you havent already and then come back here and see how the week has been for me so far.
Before you can begin your Hell Week on a Monday, you have to prepare. Larssen recommends that you prepare for Hell Week two to three weeks before actually beginning the challenge. Thats a fair amount of time considering there are seven steps of preparation. I am not going to go into great detail to explain each step. You will get all the details when you read the book and prepare for your own challenge. However, I will basically describe each step and tell you what I got out of the process. This preparation alone was incredibly valuable for me and my quest for personal growth!
Step 1: Embrace Adversity – During Hell Week, you are supposed to enjoy adversity, not just get through it. I tend to get frazzled at first when things get especially difficult, but I usually suck it up, power through and come out proud of myself on the other side. I would not say that I enjoy adversity though. At Larssens direction, I took stock of adversity in my life by listing the ups and downs that I have experienced. I was able to see all the ways that I have grown through tough times and that showed me that adversity isnt necessarily a bad thing. To prepare for adversity this week:
- I thought of some possible scenarios where I might struggle and how I will push through.
- I want to stay calm instead of defaulting right to my normal freak-out mode.
- I need to be able to laugh at myself when things dont go as planned.
Step 2: Get Mentally Prepared – Here, you must recognize the role your emotions play in achieving anything in life. I am a very emotional person. A lot of times our society views that as a weakness, but when it comes to pursuing your dreams, Larssen sees it as a strength. He explains that your emotions control your decisions more than anything and that is definitely true for me. To prepare here, you have to silence the negative voices inside yourself; I know I need to work on this! I want to really focus on this during Hell Week.
Step 3: Strengthen The Connection Between Mind and Body – When it comes to physical fitness, we tend to believe our excuses for being out of shape are not just obstacles, but impassable walls. WHOA! Hes got me there. I dont think I realized how intensely my mental state is connected with my physical state. I know that I always feel amazing and I am always in a great mood after I exercise but I guess I never made that connection. I want to get control of my physical state in order to be healthier and feel happier and calmer. During Hell Week I will exercise every day and eat healthy every day.
Step 4: Gather Feedback – Before you begin Hell Week, you should talk to people from your professional and personal life to get feedback on your actions, your attitudes, and your performances. People dont necessarily see you the way you see yourself. I talked to people I knew would be honest with me. However, I felt pretty vulnerable doing this, but I really did get some good feedback that I am applying to my goals for Hell Week.
Step 5: Define Your Goals – What would be the point of working toward your best self this week if you didnt have a goal of what that best self should be? Your goals need to be based on your values and what you need the most. Personally, I value my faith and my family the most. However, as a writer and assistant, I also have a lot of work I need to complete everyday. My main goal is to be more efficient in my work so that I am not constantly thinking about my to-do list when I am focusing on my faith and my family.
Step 6: Visualization – The tool of visualization is something I have used in my life since I was a child. I grew up playing sports and from middle school on, I showed my horse competitively. Before every class in every show, my Dad would talk me through a visualization of that class. I would ride through the entire class before it began and you know what? It worked. I went into that competition with a calm, clear mind and my performance showed it. I dont know why I dont apply this to my everyday life. I know it works! I dont need a competition to use it. I can visualize staying calm when my son is having a meltdown about dinner! I can visualize staying focused on an article I need to write so that I avoid making mistakes and complete that article faster.
Step 7: Devise a Program – The last step is to have a plan for Hell Week. How am I going to push through the tough parts of the week? What things should I focus on first? How should I divide up my days? Larssen suggests tackling big tasks first. I do not do that. I work on little administrative type things when the time in my day for work arrives. By the time I handle a bunch of little things, my energy is zapped and my time is short. I will work differently this week and get my writing done before any administrative stuff. I am not making a full schedule for every day of this week, and Larssen does not suggest that you should schedule every second of every day. I scheduled the order I want to do things but not necessarily the hour in which I will do them.
I went into the start of my Hell Week feeling really motivated and prepared for some big changes, thanks to my preparation.
The First Three Days of Hell Week
Monday – Monday is all about habits. Habits are powerful, so if we nurture healthy ones, we can become more powerful ourselves. The challenge for Monday is to make a running list all day of every one of your habits, good or bad. I didnt realize how many habits I have throughout the day. Trying to be conscious of them all was kind of exhausting.
- My worst habit was by far my smartphone use. I check it way too much. To be fair, all my work is online and through my phone, but when I am hanging out with my son and not working, I need to check it less.
- My best habit is how I start the day with my son when he wakes up. He has the habit of calling for me when he is awake and I go straight to him and we lay in bed and snuggle and talk about what the day will bring. This habit starts my day off with my focus on him, which is my goal. I lose track of that focus with bad habits like checking my phone too much or spacing out when I get bored while I am playing with him.
I noticed how interconnected my habits are and how much of my day is driven by them. Larssen explains that you can change a habit with just small adjustments, like one minute a day. If I tell myself I cannot check in on my smartphone for the first minute after breakfast, that is a change. The next day, I dont check in for 2 minutes, and the day after, I get up to 3 minutes. By the end of a month, I will be waiting over 30 minutes after breakfast to check my phone and that would be huge. After focusing on this all day during Hell Week, I know I can make lots of big changes with little adjustments like this!
Tuesday – Day 2, Tuesday, is focused on learning how to operate in modes. Getting into the mode is about getting into a mental state where you can perform at the highest level for whatever task you have in front of you at that very moment.
- Being a mom, I have an Elliot mode, where I am focused on being with my son, Elliott.
- I have a work mode, where I deal with the administrative tasks that come with my work at Daily Mom and my other freelance work.
- I have a writing mode where I am just focused on writing.
- Really, I have a different mode for each task or relationship I am focusing on at any point during any day.
The concept is to be in the moment and focus only on what you need to focus on. When I am playing with Elliott, I need to only play with Elliott. I need to ignore the notifications on my phone. I need to stop writing my next post in my head. I need to leave the dishes in the sink and just play. When I am writing at night, like I am right now, I need to have nothing else running on my computer except what I need to write, and I need to turn off the TV and just focus. This sounds easy but it feels impossible to me. Therefore, Tuesday was a challenge to say the least.
I did the best with my modes when I got into Elliott mode and I do want to keep applying this to my daily life. I want to be present with him. He gets a little older every day and I dont want to miss a thing. I might not enjoy it all (and I dont) but I dont want to miss any of it. I also discovered that I need to give myself a break when switching modes. I cant go straight from getting Elliott to bed to writing. I am setting aside some time once he is asleep to chat with my husband for a few minutes and to check my email and social media. I guess thats my chill mode and I need to have that time to chill to be able to go into the next mode.
Wednesday – I was not looking forward to this day of Hell Week because the third day is about managing your time, and I suck at managing my time and I didnt want to face it. I am in survival mode when it comes to time. I try to fit in more than is possible into everyday. I underestimate how long it takes for me to complete almost any task, and I just keep my head above water when it comes to getting tasks completed. However, when I read the chapter for Wednesday, I felt some relief. Larssen explains that when you get overloaded, you just need to hit the pause button. When you feel stressed out, you stop and make a list of everything you need to get done. EVERYTHING. Not just work stuff. You list it all in order to get some control back over your life. I actually loved this exercise. My list was long. My sons birthday party is at our home on Saturday, I have an ongoing very long list of tasks for my paid writing work and my Daily Mom responsibilities. I also lead a ministry at our church and I feel like I am not doing enough there. Listing all my to dos actually reduced my stress. It seemed more manageable once I got it all out of my head. With my list in hand, I was able to start planning. Larssen teaches to plan long term goals first and then work toward present day tasks that must be completed. Break up your planning into phases:
For the purposes of Hell Week, I just did planning for my work life. It was invigorating to think long term and not just plan to get through the most urgent task today.
Following the Rules
As I explained in my introductory post, there are 7 rules to Hell Week and I am doing my best to follow them. Heres how I am doing so far:
Wake up at 5 and Go to Bed at 10 – The first day I woke up at 5 but I didnt accomplish anything until 6:15. I was up the second day and got a jump start on preparing food for the day and packed my husbands lunch, which he loved. Going to bed at 10 is screwing me up. I work from home and do the majority of my work when my son is asleep at night. This summer he is home all the time. No camp, no school, hes never been to daycare. By the time he goes to bed at 7:15, I dont really get started on work until 8 and 2 hours is not enough time for the workload I happen to have right now. I do need to be more efficient but I wish I had more time at night.
Look Your Best – I am making an effort to look nicer everyday and you know what? I kind of like it. Why not put on a comfy but cute dress to hang around in? It isnt any more effort to dress that way than it is to put on yoga pants and a t-shirt. Not to say that I will abandon my yoga pants, I wont, but I do notice that I feel better about myself and expect more of myself when I have taken 15 minutes to get ready for the day. I put on a little makeup and a spray of perfume and I feel like an actual human being. Dry shampoo and mascara can go a long way for a mom!
Exercise everyday – Before Hell Week, I was exercising at least twice a week. This fluctuates for sickness in the family or travel, but overall I am a consistent member at the YMCA. I am pushing myself this week and going everyday though. That is hard. I participate in group exercise classes at the Y that last an hour. I want to be true to the Hell Week Challenge in how I exercise so I am pushing myself harder in my classes. For example, in my Body Attack class I always skip during burpees. I hate them and I make excuses for why I dont do them. I normally do squats when burpees are on the menu. This week I am doing the burpees though. I pushed myself harder than I thought I could and now I know I can do more. My excuses were crap, and I can kick butt at some burpees and then some! Since it is summer time, I have been taking my son to the pool to swim after my workout. So I get a little mini workout in the pool with him after my class. We take breaks for snacks, like watermelon, and have the best time together.
Eat Healthy – Heres a tip for Hell Week: no matter how much your son asks, do not agree to bake chocolate chip cookies during Hell Week. I wanted to stick my face in the mixing bowl and eat ALL THE COOKIE DOUGH! I showed some restraint but I shouldnt have put myself through that. I have been trying and actually doing pretty well at eating a healthy diet for months now. I have dessert a little more than I should, but I am trying to find a balance between enjoying life and being healthy enough to live a long one! The strict rule to eat healthy this week has been hard but good.
Control My Digital Life – I need this rule everyday. I check my phone too much. I am actually thinking of quitting Facebook now. I think it would be a good change for me. I know that social media is an addiction and while it brings with it some good things, I think I am experiencing a lot more bad from it. I do need to check out from all social media when I am working or focusing on Elliott so I am giving myself strict times scheduled to check in on my accounts. A lot of Daily Mom business goes on through a private Facebook group so I keep up with that but I am not scrolling through the feed while I am in line at the grocery store or hanging out with my husband. I need this rule to stay with me long after Hell Week is completed.
Get Hyperfocused – This rule is related to being in the right mode. I am struggling with this but I know it is important and I will keep working at it. I think being in the right mode is about creating new habits to ensure I can stick to my modes at the right time.
Step Up Your Game – I need to go all out this week. A lot of times I leave tasks unfinished because I feel like I need to move onto something else. I am pushing myself to finish one thing before moving on and this is stepping up my game for sure. For example, I never keep the kitchen clean during the day. I do the minimal amount in the kitchen as far as straightening up goes and by the end of the night it is a disaster and my husband ends up cleaning for an hour. I want to stop this. Today, I made cleaning up the kitchen after every meal and snack part of my daily plan. I stuck to it and tonight the kitchen was clean after dinner. This might sound trivial to some but it is a big deal to me.
I have four more days to go during my Hell Week Challenge. With some writing assignments on my plate and a big birthday party to throw together, I have my work cut out for me. I will recap the last four days and what I got out of the Hell Week Challenge on Tuesday, once it is all over and done with, so stay tuned! If you want to start your own challenge, be sure to get a copy of Erik Bertrand Larssens Book, Hell Week: Seven Days to Be Your Best Self on Amazon and start preparing for your Hell Week. I am really enjoying following Erik Bertrand Larssen on Instagram. Share your experience on social media with #hellweekchallenge and comment here to let us know that you are taking the challenge!