Saturday, November 18, 2017

Lazy Saturdays


Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matt 11:29

It started with a prayer. Teach me the way of rest. I already knew about the invitation to learn the Lord’s way of living and being. This weekend, however, it became my intention.

Today, I decided not to set my alarm. My eyes opened around my usual wake up time of 7am. My mind started to review my to-do list. But instead of getting up, I rolled back over to sleep another 45 minutes. When I finally felt like stirring, I still didn’t want to start my tasks for the day. I opted to sit up in bed, journal, and meditate. I indulged in time for about another hour.

When I finally parted ways with my bed, the rest of the morning involved coffee, chocolate chip pancakes, and watching a soccer match with a friend. During the game, I felt the pull to multitask on my Macbook. I’m a busy woman after all. I can’t very well just sit and watch a game for two hours. But then a gentle whisper asked, “Why not?” Instead of arguing with it, I agreed. Why not?

After the game, I was hungry again and ready for lunch. I should mention that even though I’ve been battling varying degrees of stomach issues almost daily the past few months, I did not experience any digestive symptoms today. As I finished my left over Chipotle, I mentally ran through my to-do list again. I considered doing a quick workout at the gym. I’ve been pretty slack in that area. Or maybe I’d get dressed and run an errand. Or maybe I’d grade more papers for my class. Lord knows there were a ton of those to get through. But when I checked in about what I really wanted to do, all I felt like doing was going to sleep. So, I took a nap. I didn’t set my alarm and I slept for about an hour. It felt amazing. It was that good, deep sleep when you drool a little bit. Gross, but glorious. 


Around 3pm, I finally took a shower and got dressed. I listened internally for what I felt like doing next. I opted for a walk around the pond and then I sat by my community fire pit. I loved it. It felt so nice to just be. As I allowed myself that space to rest, I started to understand what Jesus meant when He said, “learn from me.” I realized the things that were really important. I mean, yeah, I still had work to do, and I did eventually get to some of it. But, it didn’t seem as agonizingly important as originally perceived. It was as if I adopted a new perspective. Nothing…and I mean nothing in this world matters more than abiding in the Lord and allowing Him to minister rest and restoration to you.


When was the last time you had a day like that? When was the last time you unapologetically enjoyed a “lazy day?” ‘Cause here’s the thing about a lifestyle of rest. Not only does it give health and life to your body and soul; it gives you the supernatural ability to accomplish all that needs to be done. Try it and see what I mean.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

5 ideas for everyday self-care


I think about self-care pretty often. It’s a big part of my whole wellness schtick after all and I am always looking for ways to share how normal self-care can be. Vacays and spa days are always great. Those are bigger ticket luxury items though and tend to be reserved for special occasions. But the way life is set up we need self-care daily. That’s why I want to share more ordinary ways you can nourish yourself- ways you might miss if you aren’t mindful. Here are several from my own life in no particular order.

1. Don’t clean your plate

I know this goes against conventional wisdom. Maybe you believe it’s rude or ungrateful to waste food. Consider this though. You don’t have to force yourself to finish anything you don’t enjoy. Eating is about fueling your body, yes, but, it’s also about enjoyment. If you don’t like something, are you truly able to give thanks for it? I’m not suggesting we waste or not appreciate what we have. I’m simply saying that adulting means doing a lot of things we don’t want to do. Choking down unappetizing food should not be one of them.

2. Shave your legs

A second example of ordinary self-care we might not think about is shaving your legs. Maybe the normal routine is to rush through it in the shower. Maybe it’s just another thing to cross off your list. But what if you slow down the process? Take a bubble bath, indulge in time, and put on some of your favorite lotion or oil after. Smooth legs feel amazing and it’s such a simple way to nourish your body. Next time try making it an experience rather than a chore and notice the difference.

3. Make a playlist

Another way to engage the senses in ordinary self-care is through music. I got the playlist idea from fellow therapists and self-care influencers. Stefanie Flores and Davia Roberts recommend creating playlists depending on your mood. I love it because music is such a powerful reset. I have a few lists now for how I’m feeling. It’s a way to foster my creative, expressive side as well as honor whatever vibe I have on a given day. 



4. Learn something new

Another side of myself I like to nurture is my inner (or perhaps not so inner) nerd. Intellectual wellness is often a neglected component of overall wellness. It’s important to continually learn and grow, though, otherwise we get bored. That’s why recently I registered for an 8-week online workshop for empaths and sensitive souls. It serves a practical need because my profession requires continuing education. It’s also been great for expanding my mind. When was the last time you read or learned something new?

5. Say yes to you

A final point I’ll mention for how you can practice ordinary self-care is by listening to your gut and trusting its wisdom. I made a tough decision last week related to my business. All the warning signs were waving that something wasn’t right and I wasn’t going to be happy if I proceeded. It would have been easy to move forward anyway so as to not disappoint someone. Instead, I decided that as uncomfortable as it was to say no, it meant I was saying yes to what felt right for me. That made it worth it.

These are just my recent examples. But what about you? What are you doing in your life that is self-care without even realizing it? Self-care is any deliberate choice you make to nourish yourself and restore your internal balance. Maybe it’s sitting in silence. It could be taking a different route somewhere to create a mini-adventure for yourself. Maybe it’s going to the good grocery store that has nicer aesthetics and shorter lines. That’s the beauty of ordinary self-care. It can really be anything as long as it’s done with mindful intention. 


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Endure

I recently heard a teaching by Dr. David Jeremiah. He was talking about endurance and sharing what he learned from his personal training session. As a trainer myself, his analogy got my attention. He explained that there are two ways to train your muscles. If you lift heavier weights with fewer repetitions, you grow in strength. If you lift lighter weights, with more repetitions, you grow in endurance. This is true and this is exactly the idea that I’ve been mulling over in the last few weeks. I was not so much applying it to physical training as much as emotional and spiritual training.

When I posed this question to friends, I asked if they’d prefer one big crisis in their life or several sequential stressors over time. Not surprisingly, most chose the one and done approach. They would rather power through one big issue rather than deal with a bunch of smaller persistent issues. Is this true for you? It is for me. It’s so much easier to be strong and brave once to get through a difficult situation. But to get up daily, face multiple stressors, the problems that irk your soul and persist weeks or sometimes months on end…that’s a whole different training that’s happening. It’s working out patience and resilience in you. It’s teaching you how to endure.

Next time you’re training, think about this analogy. For my heavy lifters, think about mixing up your regimen with lower weights and higher reps. For my sprinters and short distance runners, think about running slower and going farther. For everyone else, consider how life’s discomforts, aggravations, and frustrations are giving you a valuable skill set. There is most definitely a place for strength. But when you’ve trained to withstand for the long haul, then there’s nothing in this life that you can’t endure. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

To any who have been hurt in the name of wellness

You should see my Google search history of late. In the last 2 ½ months, I’ve done all kinds of research on healing digestive issues. The latter part of my summer and the first part of fall I’ve been totally consumed by the effects of a stomach bug that just wouldn’t quit. I haven’t been 100% or felt well for a while now. Thank the Lord, after a good report from my doctor Monday, I believe I have turned a corner. In my recovery process, though, I’ve realized some things. Wellness professionals can be self-righteous and judgmental as hell.

Now, because I’m one I’ll venture to say most are well-meaning. I’m sure people promote certain nutritional choices and exercise regimens because they’ve found them personally healing and helpful. Maybe their wellness habits did play a role in curing what ails them. Awesome! Here’s an inconvenient truth though. You can do everything right and still get sick. Your diet and self-care game can be impeccable and you could still suffer pain in this life. It’s not a reality we like to accept. I certainly don’t. But you can be vibrant and able-bodied until one day you’re not.

If that’s the case and health isn’t guaranteed, it seems like we should all be a little more patient and compassionate with each other. I know lots of delightful souls who deal with chronic illness, autoimmune conditions, pain, and various ailments. They didn’t ask to get sick. I’m sure they don’t want to be. Just in my brief season of moderate discomfort I was beside myself. It’s hard to imagine people who deal with sickness every day for years. Yet, many do. Because so many do, let’s skip the judgments about what they did (or didn’t do) to cause their illness. Let’s stop preaching to people about eating in narrow or restrictive ways. Let’s stop shaming people for being where they are, weight or size-wise, especially when they’re hurting. Let’s instead be merciful and kind. Let’s give people hope that relief and healing are possible. And you know what? Sometimes the most healing thing you can do is let someone know you care and they’re not alone. 


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Wh you shouldn't compare yourself with yourself


Many of us have heard sayings related to you being your only competition and focusing on beating where you were yesterday. These are helpful in the sense that they keep you from comparing yourself with others. We each run our own race and should not worry what is happening for the next person. I just can’t help but wonder if competition serves us at all, even if it’s with ourselves. What if it actually interferes with accepting where we are today?

I thought of this because I haven’t quite been myself. I’ve hit a rough patch health-wise and because I haven’t been able to fuel my body sufficiently, I haven’t exercised as much. It’s been over a month since I’ve done much beyond teaching my regular fitness classes. I decided that I needed to ease back in to my own regimen, though, if I wanted to prevent regression.

The results so far? Well, let’s just say I’m in a much different place athletically right now. If I can muster the energy to jog a few minutes, I go much slower. If I can handle weight training, it’s with much lighter weights and fewer reps. Basically, my workouts are pretty wimpy compared to my personal records. But how fair is it to compare myself with my best when I haven’t been at my best?

I share this in hopes that you’ll let yourself off the hook. Life happens and so many factors impact our physical wellness: illness, injury, pregnancy, stress. Sometimes even in peak physical condition, energy levels fluctuate due to nutrition, hydration, or other hormonal and metabolic changes. The bottom line is we don’t always have to beat our best. Sometimes movement isn’t about recapturing some glory moment of the past. Sometimes movement is just celebrating that we can move, that we don’t have pain, that we have the strength to stand, that we can breathe with ease. There are any number of reasons to move that are less about beating your best and more about being your best however that looks today.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

6 Ways Therapy is Like Boot Camp


Health doesn’t just happen. We have to be intentional. Any of us, me included, can experience less than optimal health when we neglect it. That’s why I decided to return to counseling after many years. That’s right. The therapist got a therapist and I’m so glad I did. Since making that choice I’ve considered the many ways therapy is like boot camp for your soul. Let me explain.

It’s an investment
I know we tend to be stingy with our time and money but therapy and fitness require both. If you want one-on-one, personalized attention, if you want someone to partner with you and walk you through the change process, you should expect to drop a pretty penny. It’s not unusual to spend as much as $60-100 per session for a therapist or trainer’s time and attention. But just remember, it’s not about lining their pockets. It’s about investing in you.

You must train your weakness
Confession: I hate training my shoulders. But if it’s a back or leg workout, I can do those for days. It’s easy to focus on our strengths and only do the things we do well. But if you want to grow, you need develop your weaknesses. Emotionally, you might rock at setting boundaries, but stink at expressing your needs. To be well rounded and whole you have to strengthen both.

It hurts before it gets better
You know that sore feeling that happens a day or two after a workout? We’ve come to embrace it as a badge of honor. It’s like, yeah, I did that. Yet, as soon as we notice emotional pain we rush to stop whatever is causing it. Why? Therapy is designed to bring up uncomfortable thoughts and emotions, so we can deal with them in a healthy way. Don’t run from feelings. Discomfort can often be the very sign we’re getting stronger.

It’s best with accountability
You ever notice it’s hard to do the fit life alone? It’s possible, but there’s not as much joy in it and it’s harder to stay on track. Same goes for therapy. It’s great if your therapist is your coach and guide, but you’ll notice even better outcomes if you have support in your personal life. So, tell your trusted friends and family members that you’re working on your emotional health. Maybe you’ll inspire them to do the same.

Small change happens first
You know the feeling you get when your clothes start fitting differently? Or maybe that subtle ability to walk a flight of stairs without getting as winded as you used to get? The same thing happens emotionally. Maybe a simple task that used to cause anxiety doesn’t freak you out as much anymore. Maybe the negative thoughts you battled aren’t as loud. Regardless of what it is, it’s a small but significant change. It might only be discernible to you, but it encourages you to keep going.  

It’s about progress, not perfection
A final noteworthy similarity between therapy and fitness is that perfection isn’t the end goal. No one can be perfect. You will have setbacks. You’ll plateau. You’ll get off course. But as long as you keep moving and don’t quit, you’ll keep progressing. That’s what life’s all about. Progress.

There you have it, friends. Let’s not just burpee, squat, and run our way to physical health and totally neglect our mental health. Let’s get just as excited to train our soul. Put in the work required to be emotionally well. I can assure you there are few things in life more attractive than a beautiful soul.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Where wellness is found when the world is falling apart


It's a weird time to be alive. Last week there were nuclear threats by North Korea. Yesterday in Charlottesville, Virginia a Klan rally became deadly. Sometimes it's hard to keep posting my feel-good stuff as usual as if current events aren't happening. Sometimes I feel like my wellness messages are needed even more during times like this. Then sometimes I just don’t know what to say at all. Right now is kind of one of those times and yet I'll reach for the words anyway because they're needed. I think I'll share where I'm finding respite from the rampant bigotry, violence, and chaos.

One of my favorite finds of the summer is a local yoga collective that offers pop-up classes all of the community. I’ve been going to a sunset session on the pier. It's a large class that draws a diverse crowd. Lately, we have been closing class with the following recitation:

May all beings everywhere be happy and free. And may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to the happiness and freedom for all.



It’s aspirational, for sure, but that’s why I like it. Whether or not it can be realized in our lifetime, I’m comforted that there is a remnant of those who still want to believe peaceful relations are possible. It kind of feels like a throwback to John Lennon’s song, “Imagine.” I might be a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.

Another place I’ve found respite is church. I’m thankful to attend a genuinely diverse church that goes beyond multicultural images for the website. They are truly intentional about diversity of ethnicity, liturgical tradition, and sociopolitical views. Most importantly, they are not afraid to denounce the hatred that’s become the norm in our culture. It’s very affirming to have clergy members, particularly those of the majority culture, take a stand rather than shrink back in silence. It’s really important to know who your allies during times like these.

A final place I’ve gotten a break from all the hate is in the marketplace. It seems that everywhere from laundry mats to farmer’s markets to Starbucks are the great equalizers. People from all backgrounds come and seem open to connect. Perhaps it’s just my recent experience, but I’ve noticed people being a little friendlier: making eye contact, smiling, engaging in small talk and actually waiting for a response. It might just be a simple gesture, but any evidence of human kindness these days gives me hope that there’s still beauty in the world.

What about you? Where are your safe places? Where are you getting a break from the heaviness of life? Netflix is cool. Sometimes you just need to distract and escape with a fictional drama. But what about opportunities to connect with people around you? Now, more than ever, we have to remind ourselves that compassion, goodness, and love exist. If, by chance, you don’t see those qualities around you, perhaps you can embody them. And maybe in doing so, you can contribute to the happiness and freedom for all. Nice thought, right?