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?

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Sick days and true wellness


I’ve been dealing with some health stuff. Thankfully, nothing too serious. I had something simple needing a quick round of antibiotics followed by some kind of stomach bug. I never get stomach bugs. Like ever. Awfulness was flying out both ends. Quite literally scared the crap out of me. Graphic, I know. But as with most intense experiences, the last few days have taught me some valuable life lessons.

Walk in wellness

It amazed me how quickly I developed a sick mindset. What I mean is that even once the symptoms had passed, I continued to think and act like I was sick. I was tentative about eating and drinking anything. I was fearful that the symptoms might come back. Even once I was feeling fine and the pep in my step returned, I was still worried. Finally, I had to tell myself, “Girl, you are fine. You know you're hungry. Eat some real food and keep it moving.” It might seem weird, but as I resumed my well behaviors (eating, walking, stretching, etc.) my healing continued.

Face the fear

A second realization is that I live in a perpetual fear of sickness and death. Maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to wellness and prevention. I mean, if you can prevent issues, why wouldn’t you try? That’s fine, I guess. But what it showed me is that avoiding sickness just reinforces the fear and limits my ability to be resilient. I’m not ever going to volunteer for a struggle. But perhaps, I can adopt the mindset that there will always be grace to endure whatever comes. Rather than pray, "God, please don't let this happen," maybe, I can pray, "God, give me the strength to handle whatever does happen."

Know you’re not alone

A final lesson from my sick days is that God is always with me. I try to honor other faith traditions and spiritual beliefs, I really do. But, when I was throwing up by myself at 3am and feeling scared and lonely, I called on my Father. The universe was not going to comfort me. Love, light, and good vibes were not coming to my rescue. I needed Jesus. I needed the One knew me from eternity, created my body, and already made provision for my healing. I knew if I lived or died He was with me and that gave me peace like nothing else.

 Deep thoughts from a 24-hour bug, I know. I think these are the moments when life can really show us something if we’re listening. I’m here for the movement, the mindfulness, the nutrition, for all things wellness, really. But if and when we face sickness and pain in these mortal bodies, can we still walk in wellness? Can we face our fears knowing we’re not alone? That’s my new wellness goal.


Monday, May 29, 2017

What an IG post reminded me about peace, mindfulness, and radical acceptance

There I was preparing an Instagram post. I had my sufficiently athletic-looking fitness clips, an appropriate song, and what I thought was an amusing caption. For whatever reason the editing app was giving me trouble. Every time I would get ready to save the video the app shutdown and I would lose everything. This happened several times and I was becoming increasingly frustrated. Since I have been intentionally practicing mindfulness I reminded myself to breathe. I tried again, but this time I breathed in, held, and exhaled out. I somehow knew if I just relaxed it would work. Sure enough, it did. 

This simple example reminded me how often I live in a frantic state. Outwardly I appear calm; inwardly I'm like a dog spazzing out trying to get one of those cones off its head. It's almost like I'm afraid if I don't hurry and free myself I'll be trapped in my circumstances forever. This perspective, however, only heightens the desperation for things to change. Instead, I took charge of the moment in the only way I truly could- by accepting it. 

Acceptance isn't about liking your reality. You could very well want to change it. It's just that in order to keep your peace you train yourself to accept what is right now. You fully enter into the present moment without ruminating on the past or fretting about the future. It reminds me a lot of this scriptural passage about worry.
Matthew 6:25-27

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?


I think of this passage often as there are usually dozens of worries that plague me at any given time. They range from the inconsequential like whether I'll create a satisfactory post for the gram, to the considerable like will I be okay now and in the future. Either way, I'm challenged to consider what good it does me to worry. Can worry add time to my life? Nope! It can take time though. Can worry suddenly transform me into a clairvoyant with full knowledge of what's to come? I wish, but no. The conclusion, then, is that worry isn't helpful, but breathing is. Embracing the moment is. Trusting the process is.

I realize this is much easier said than done. There will be no "5 steps to get rid of worry" lists offered here because quite frankly there are none. Life is stressful. Anxiety will come. But through practice, continual, earnest, daily practice, we can discipline our souls to stay in peace. And when (not if) we drift from that peace, due to technological annoyances or existential crises, a gentle prompt to stay in the moment can bring us right back.










Sunday, April 23, 2017

It's all a matter of spoons

A month or two back one of my clients who has a rare autoimmune disease gave me a handout on Spoon Theory. Anyone who suffers with chronic illness is probably very familiar with this theory. It’s a simple analogy that equates spoons to energy reserves. Every daily activity requires a certain number of spoons. On tough days with the illness sometimes you have to make choices about what gets done because you simply don’t have the energy to do it all.

I immediately grabbed hold of this analogy because I think it has application for everyone.
I know I am extremely privileged because of my health and able-bodiedness. Therefore, I would never want to seem like I’m trivializing the plight of those who are differently abled than I. As a burnout and compassion fatigue preventionist, however, I think we can all be mindful and better stewards of our energy.

Do this for me. Spend some time today making a list of everything that requires your spoons this week. It’s not just tasks. Your relationships and even some of your self-care practices require spoons as well. Then, at the beginning and end of each day assess your spoon reserve? Maybe you’re blessed with physical health like me and you don’t have the added challenge of managing chronic pain or illness. Be thankful for that. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn something valuable from Spoon Theory. As the saying goes, success in life is more often about managing your energy than it is managing your time. It’s all a matter of spoons.


Sunday, April 2, 2017

Time for a reset


The realization came from navel-gazing- literal navel gazing. I was inspecting my stomach and wondering how someone so active and otherwise fit could be so "endowed" in the midsection. Stress? Probably part of it. PMS? I’m sure. But then I recalled the extra 250 calories I consume each time I treat myself to a Starbucks grande vanilla latte. Oh and then there's the red wine too, but let’s not go there.

The second observation was my blah mood. Thankfully, I think I’ve turned a corner and the persistent, low grade sadness for no reason doesn’t plague me as much anymore. But I was feeling down this weekend. I didn’t end up having any plans. I found things to do to get out of the house, but without company to enjoy them with it wasn’t quite the same. In my boredom, I found myself passively and compulsively scrolling on social media. That, of course, only led to comparison and loneliness. I could’ve and probably should’ve gone to my church’s Saturday night service. I wasn’t up for it though. Sometimes church is just one more place to feel lonely and disconnected. I just wasn’t up for faking a smile, making pleasantries during the greet-your-neighbor portion, and then leaving to go home by myself. Instead, I stayed home, started a new series on Netflix, and took in more needless calories.

Then, here it was, another #SundayFunday, and all I had to look forward to was laundry, meal prep, and hair washing. I decided that didn’t work for me. I still had to do all that stuff, of course. But I needed more. I needed to reset. I’ve never been one to diet or to get jazzed about a new workout plan. I can see why people are excited by those things though. They give you structure and accountability. They give you daily action points and help you measure progress. In a world where things are vague, it’s nice to have something concrete.

What exactly is my reset you might ask? Well, there are a lot of moving parts. Suffice it to say, my focus for the next 30 days is more of what I need and less of what I don’t. I hope to improve the way I nourish myself physically, relationally, and spiritually. Maybe this will be a deeply transformative experience. Maybe it’ll just be a subtle but necessary realignment. Either way, I know it’ll be good. What about you? It’s the second quarter of the year. Are you in need of a reset?

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Nevertheless, she persisted

The middle of the night seems as good a time as any to offer a confession. Sometimes I notice I'll be going along fine. But every few months or so, I'll have an existential freakout. Maybe you know the kind, when you're plagued with thoughts about life and whether or not you'll be happy. Unfortunately, these freakouts aren't just the normal daytime ponderings. They are wake-me-up-at-3am panics about my future and if things will ever get easier.

Will I ever be one of those people who love my work?
Will I make a positive impact?
Will I ever payoff my debt and not struggle financially?
Will I ever have the love I long for?  
Will I ever leave a legacy?

There are lots of other variations, but you get the general theme. On these nights, I feel really scared and discouraged. I am viscerally aware of my own mortality. I think what scares me more than anything is passing on too soon with unfulfilled dreams still in my heart. It's tempting to stop trying. After all, why strive when there's no guarantee my efforts will be fruitful. Then this phrase...
 
This simple phrase originally intended as a rebuke is now my war cry. It is for a lot of women. It's a charge to keep going. Keep fighting. Keep pushing. Keep dreaming. Keep hoping. If the Lord is gracious, I could feasibly have another 50+ years of life. No one can stay on the struggle bus that long. Therefore, there's plenty of time to live, love, and passionately pursue purpose. 

As I close this out and try to grab a couple more hours of shut eye, I'll meditate on this phrase. At the end of my life, be it a couple of years from now or decades from now, I want it to be said of me that she faced some hard stuff. She had her hopes dashed and her heart broken a time or two. She wanted to give up many times and will her heart not to believe anymore. Nevertheless, she persisted and in doing so she inspired many and all of her dreams came true. Yeah. I like the sound of that.





Sunday, January 22, 2017

Every day non-attachment

Crap. This again. I’ve felt this before, many, many times. It’s an uncomfortable sensation with which I’m all too familiar. It feels like a bowl of hurt mixed with a swirl of anxiety topped off with disappointment- a sad sundae indeed. I feel it every time things don’t go my way. To be more specific, I feel it when I’m looking for one outcome and get another. When the feelings arise, I sigh to myself, a little frustrated for having let it happen again. Then, I remind myself to resume my practice, the practice of non-attachment.

Non-attachment is an Eastern term. I don't practice Buddhism, but the basic idea of it rings true for me. The concept of non-attachment comes from the idea that we create suffering for ourselves when we attach to people, things, results, or anything that’s temporal. Life is transient and we don’t have control over many things. When we think we do or we fixate on things going a certain way, then inevitably we feel frustrated, at best, crushed, at worst. That type of pain is needless and we can minimize it by understanding some things about attachment.

Ways we attach

Attachment is common and insidious. We attach when we make plans with friends. We attach when we have certain aspirations for our lives or even the lives of others. We attach when we keep texts, voicemails, and pictures from people. We attach when we double, triple, and quadruple check our phones to see if certain people liked our posts yet or if they appeared to get our messages. We attach when we aren’t just looking for a reply, but we want them to reply a certain way. Is this sounding familiar to anyone or am I alone in being Team Neurotic at times? If this is you, then you’ve undoubtedly experienced the sad sundae as well. Exhausting right, not to mention just really unpleasant. The only remedy for alleviating the pain is to detach.

Ways we detach

Detachment isn’t about becoming aloof or uncaring. You still might care deeply. You just forfeit your expectations. Detachment, then, might look like deleting messages rather than holding onto them. Whether they are positive or negative, you are ruminating on what’s already passed and can no longer be. Letting go allows you to be free. Another example is if you send a warm message to someone and they don’t reply or not the way you want. Let that be okay. Did you reach out for the response or simply to show love? Detachment might also be granting people room to be who they are. It can be hard to see people make certain choices. But love grants others that freedom; it doesn’t control or force. Control only creates suffering for you.

Think about this the next time you start to feel hurt or mad about something. Ask yourself if it’s possible you attached to a certain outcome and in doing so, created your own pain. It’s uncomfortable to admit, but when these feelings arise, they offer a gentle reminder that there’s more practice to be done. That’s a good thing.