How to Keep S.A.D. From Bringing You Down This Winter

Guest post from Kimberly Hayes of PublicHealthAlert.info

As the winter months approach, you may be worried about your mood. Those down days can be more than just an inconvenience: your depressed feelings may actually be a form of seasonal affective disorder, which is also known as S.A.D. Thankfully, there are some simple ways you can alleviate your feelings and improve your mood during prime S.A.D. months. 

Don’t Let Winter Drain Your Energy 

When you suffer from S.A.D., the winter months can be a drag on your vitality. Shorter hours of daylight results in your body having a difficult time producing the energy you need. So, how can you combat this effect? You may need to find ways to boost your energy, even when it’s hard to get some sunlight. Spending time outside, sharing time with friends, and writing in a journal can all be wonderful ways to boost your energy during the winter.

Another approach to increasing winter zeal is to focus on the health of your gut. If the bacteria in your gut is out of balance, it could lead to an imbalanced mood. Consider supplementing your diet with probiotics to get your gut and mood stabilized. To further boost your mood, especially during those weeks when overcast skies never seem to end, you can also pick up some S.A.D. lamps for your home. These specialty lamps supply some much-needed light therapy that can be the natural pick-me-up for people who suffer from all forms of S.A.D., including depression. 

Take Special Care with How You Eat 

S.A.D. can impact much more than just your mood. As your energy levels and spirit begin to dip during the winter months, you may also notice a change in your food cravings. S.A.D. sufferers typically begin to crave comfort foods when they are feeling low, but those soothing foods can be loaded with simple carbohydrates that will make you feel worse.

Luckily, there are plenty of swaps you can make in order to enjoy all your favorite comfort foods without the added starches and sugars. Cauliflower is a brilliant substitution when you are craving mashed potatoes, and you will hardly know the difference once you make the switch. In fact, you can use cauliflower to make healthier wings, pizza, and rice, which will allow you to maintain your healthy eating habits throughout winter.

Of course, no winter is complete without some holiday sweets, but baking up healthier holiday cookies is also a possibility, to keep all that sugar from crashing your mood. Adding super healthy chia seeds — or even veggies — can make your holiday treats so much better for you. Finally, don’t overlook the role vitamin D can play in the way you feel, and take note of the signs you may be missing out on this important nutrient. 

Don’t Forget to Find Ways to Relieve Stress 

Winter can get you feeling down but the pressures of the holidays can also cause some additional stress. Stress relief is a vital pillar in protecting yourself from the effects of S.A.D., so establish some healthy practices that help take those tension levels down. If you have not tried it already, meditation can be an invaluable means for relieving stress. Practicing even the most basic meditations can decrease stress and help you manifest a more positive attitude.

To promote a regular practice, you should select a quiet space in your home to adapt into your own meditation area. Include a supportive cushion, to encourage better posture and alignment of your body during your meditation sessions. For that final relaxing touch, choose aromatherapy aids that will produce more feelings of calm in your sacred space. Jasmine can elevate your mood and peppermint can increase focus, so a combination of the two can really take your meditation practice to the next level. 

The doldrums of seasonal affective disorder can be very real in the winter, but you can easily take steps to relieve those gloomy feelings. Be kind to yourself and be willing to practice more self-care to reduce the impact S.A.D. has on your life. 

Holiday Sanity?


How’s your holiday season ramping up? A few years ago I ran into a yoga teacher I know and we talked about the stress of the holidays. I mentioned that next year I would be doing things differently by choosing fewer things to participate in. Her response? “But by next year you’ll forget.” 

Holiday wreath

Was she right? I made a pact with myself right then not to forget. I’ve always felt like at the time of year when we naturally want to hibernate, when the days are darker, when our natural rhythm invites us to be more internal, we plan even more gatherings. I decided to be really selective and choose only a couple events each December. 

This year I’m going to Regina, a local sound healer’s event on December 21. Then on Christmas morning my partner and I are volunteering at an event that brings breakfast and some essential items like socks, garbage bags, and flashlights to the local homeless population. That’s it. 

Want to know the other thing that created ease in my holidays? A few years back my sister lived in London and even though I sent my packages weeks ahead she didn’t receive them until after the holidays. In fact, she didn’t receive any of the gifts from my family in time. I felt terrible. The next year I mailed my gifts a month ahead. If I was going to get hers in the mail I might as well send the rest of my families gifts at the same time. 

That was the most restful December I’d had in years. It worked so well that, even though my sis now lives in Washington D.C. area, I’ve continued the tradition. My gifts were in the mail by November 26 this year. I’m not telling you this to pat myself on the back. I find plenty of ways to stress myself out. But I’ve gotten good at keeping the holidays restful and special. 

My challenge to you? Take one minute right now and list the one thing that’s most important to include in your holiday season.  Then take another minute to make a note of some obligation you can let go of. I bet there’s at least one. You really don’t have to attend that staff party you hate or make cookies for the exchange or do the secret Santa thing. Unless you really want to. Be mindful about what would feel good to you. 

By the way, I have two remaining spots in my February Purposeful Yoga Retreat in Mexico. It would make a great holiday gift, don’t you think? You can get the details here. 

My Hike and the “Endless Plain of Harmony”

“Continually striving for the highs, we will probably find that they elude us, and we will feel compelled to climb to steeper and steeper plateaus. We enjoy the thrill of the highest mountain, but dislike roaming around in the endless valleys below. Instead, we could be seeking out the endless plain of harmony.” Devi, Nischala Joy. ( 2007). The Secret Power of Yoga: A Woman’s Guide to the Heart and Spirit of the Yoga Sutras. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.

Most years my partner and I take time in January to evaluate our businesses, acknowledging successes and progress and learning from things that didn’t go according to plan. And there are always things that don’t go according to plan. This year we rented a house at the Oregon coast for a week. In between the business stuff we relaxed, practiced yoga, took hikes, and walked on the beach.

Our rental, across the road from the Pacific Ocean, was hugged from behind by a section of the coast range belonging to the National Forest. A nature sandwich. The massive hill behind the house called me. I felt compelled to hike it. What view would await me? What would be on the other side?

The next afternoon, after some time working on my website, I was ready to climb that hill. At first I followed a nicely maintained path on the property. Then I veered up onto a deer trail. The long fronds of the ferns, taller than my 5 feet 3 inches, crisscrossed the path from either side obscuring what little of a path there was. Luna, my 11-year old pooch, and I followed the trail north as it gently angled upward through old growth fir, salal, deer fern, and elderberry. When the path ended, I bushwhacked up the hill. I’d repeatedly find a deer trail, reach a drop off too steep to scale, then backtrack and try a different route.

After an hour I realized we were losing light. I could see the top of the hill. So close, yet at the rate we’d been hiking I knew it would take at least another 30-40 minutes to reach the summit. I really wanted to get to the top. Partly it was the principle. The top was where I was headed and that’s where I wanted to go. Plus I was really curious. I’d hiked in the coastal range a number of times. But I’d never hiked up to get a view. Did the forest continue? Or were there people living up there? I wanted to know.

I knew we weren’t “lost” because I could see the Pacific Ocean with the sun starting to set. But I also knew without a flashlight or a definite route it was foolhardy not to turn around. I started the journey back heading south along the ridge, looking for an obvious place to cut downhill. I followed what appeared to be a horse trail (the horse manure was my clue) for awhile, but that path continued south and I needed to head downhill. I began the bushwhacking process again, harder in the diminishing light. I wasn’t wearing my contacts making the low light even harder to navigate.

 

At one point I was getting closer to the house, but couldn’t find a place to descend. Each possibility looked too dangerous. I finally found what looked like a deer trail, but I couldn’t really see the path because of the dense growth. I stepped out in faith (or desperation) and quickly realized there was nothing under my feet. I slid a short distance as some friendly trees grabbed me and held me suspended. Luna, not wanting to be left behind, sailed over my shoulder and landed six feet below in the cushion of forest decay. When she looked back up at me I wasn’t sure which of us felt more surprised about our descent. Unharmed, she waited patiently while I used the support of the trees and my best butt sliding technique to make it safely down with only a minor scratch from some blackberries.

I realized even during the hike that this pattern of focusing on an outcome, of assuming the payoff is at the top of the hill resembled a pattern I exhibit in my life and business. Yet every step up the hill I marveled–at the old growth firs with rotted caverns big enough for me to step inside, at the pacific tree frog with skin the color of a green parakeet, at the thrill of being in an ancient forest while hearing the roar of the ocean. I know, I know. It’s about the journey, not the destination. But here I was “destinationing” again.

The next morning I read this passage from by Nischala Joy Devi.

“Continually striving for the highs, we will probably find that they elude us, and we will feel compelled to climb to steeper and steeper plateaus. We enjoy the thrill of the highest mountain, but dislike roaming around in the endless valleys below. Instead, we could be seeking out the endless plain of harmony.

Oh universe, you have such a sense of humor.

My Takeaways

  1. I’m never really lost. True on my hike and true in my life. If I get quiet and listen inward, I find clarity. I find the way.
  2. Even when there isn’t a clear path, if I pause and take stock of where I am, I can find my next step.
  3. I don’t have to have the entire journey mapped out. I only need to have a general idea of where I want to go.
  4. Trust that, even when the landing is a bit rocky, I am supported and will be okay.
  5. Enjoy the journey. The top of the hill is probably actually similar to where I am right now. And journey, ah the journey. So many joys along the way.

And you? Do you relate to this pattern? Or do you find other patterns messing with your happiness or your success? Coaching can be a great way to help you tease out your patterns and move with clarity toward your goals. If you’re interested in learning more you can set up a free consult here.

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27 Vegetables

In November when I listened to a message from my Mom asking me to call as soon as possible I figured my 89-year-old father was back in the hospital. I was shocked when she told me that my healthy 62-year-old brother fell, was slurring his words, and had been admitted to the hospital. A few days later my recently retired, laid back, lean and fit brother was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. My family reeled.

I’m a helper. Wellness has been a big part of my life personally and professionally for years. I went to work figuring out how I could help. My offers to fly back to the Midwest were turned down. Pat, a nurse and my sister-in-law’s, sister drove over for moral support during the surgery. Not much else was needed while my brother spent a month in the hospital and rehab recovering and regaining strength, mobility, and speech. I went to work researching. One of the great resources I found was the book, Anticancer: A New Way of Life by David Servan-Schreiber.

The author was a 30-something doc when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Servan’s oncologist offered no info when asked about supportive dietary changes Dr. Servan could make. So he got to work researching the topic as if his life depended on it because, in fact, it did. His book is the result of that research as well as his experience plus that of his clients.

27 Vegetables

One of the bits of research he mentions is that women with the gene marker for breast cancer lived longer if they consumed at least 27 different fruits and vegetables per week. I love fruits and veggies and eat a variety every week. But I doubted that I made it to the magic 27. I decided to set myself a challenge to get to that level.

I started to keep a list in my note app on my phone. The first week my count was 28! I happy to say it wasn’t hard at all. But I wouldn’t have eaten that much variety if I weren’t focusing on it.

Here’s my list from week one.

  1. Arugula
  2. Onion
  3. Garlic
  4. Ginger
  5. Romaine
  6. Spinach
  7. Chard
  8. Mushrooms (not technically a fruit or vegetable, but I’m counting it. Hey, it’s my list.)
  9. Carrots
  10. Brussels sprouts
  11. Avocado
  12. Apple
  13. Boysenberry
  14. Tomato
  15. Sweet potato
  16. Celery
  17. Peppers
  18. Beets
  19. Blueberries
  20. Peaches
  21. Cabbage
  22. Persimmon
  23. Kale
  24. Artichoke hearts
  25. Dates
  26. Rutabaga
  27. Parsnip
  28. Lime

Will I maintain that? I don’t know. I want this variety in my diet to become a habit. I do eat an assortment of fruit and vegetables already, but I also have my regular “dining companions.” I don’t want to count what I’m eating every week because I know that wouldn’t be sustainable for me. But keeping the concept in mind, I believe, will help. And maybe I’ll periodically try counting.

Here are a few of my strategies for getting an array of produce into my diet.

  1. When at the grocery store I fill up my cart with produce first. It leaves less room for other stuff.
  2. I keep my usual, easy-to-prepare standards on hand at all times. Apples and berries for my smoothies, lettuce for salads and smoothies, always carrots. Plus I like to keep a few jarred veggies and frozen fruits on hand so even when I return from a trip too late to stop at the grocery store I have something to eat. My staples are fermented veggies (carrots, beets, and ginger are one of my favorites,) sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts in the veggie department and frozen berries for my fruit needs.
  3. Peruse the seasonal specials. I’ll go for a pomegranate, lemon cucumbers, or a persimmon when they’re in season.
  4. I choose dishes that easily let me include multiple veggies and fruits. My morning green smoothie usually includes 1-3 types of fruit. Maybe an apple or a cup of mixed berries. Then I add mixed greens. I love knowing that it’s early in the day and I’ve already ingested at least 3 different plants. Salads, soups, casseroles are other good options for mixing it up.
  5. Kathy Abascal, author of The Abascal Way, a book about how to quiet inflammation, suggests that at least 50% of breakfast and 2/3 of every other meal and snack should come from fruit and vegetables. I’ve found that a helpful guideline to follow.
  6. Grow your own. My friend Allison grows much of her own produce. The images she posts on Facebook of veggie friendly meals make my mouth water. Because I live in the woods AND have goats growing my own produce has been a challenge here. But I’m a regular at the farmer’s market and I keep thinking I’ll sign up for one of the many CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) in my area. In other words, there are lots of options
  7. Gather your veggies. I’ve been a forager since high school. In advanced biology my final project was camping for a weekend and only eating food I gathered from the woods. Yesterday I gathered some dock leaves and nibbled on violet blossoms, chickweed, and blackberry shoots all while doing yard work. DON’T do this unless you know what you’re doing. Learn a few plants and make sure you’re gathering from a place that doesn’t spray. Don’t over harvest and make sure you have permission. Those “weeds” will add variety and freshness to your diet.

 

Do you want to take the 27 fruit/veg challenge? Share your tips and struggles here.

 

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Aging: The Inside Story

 

I saw an ad today for a “beauty” system that looked like a torture device. Picture a tiny paint roller with fine needles projecting from the surface. When you roll the device over your face the needles penetrate your skin. The fine print says “No known negative side effects.” I guess pain isn’t considered a side effect. Granted I haven’t tried it, but it sure looks like it would be painful.

I went onto YouTube to listen to reviews expecting to see people screaming in agony as they “beautified” themselves. The first reviewer I watched mentioned she had put a numbing cream on her face for 25 minutes before use. She said not to be afraid of the device. I’m afraid of anything that requires me to use numbing cream.

The theory behind the roller is that it “might” stimulate the production of collagen, reduce wrinkles, cellulite, etc. The holes it puts in your face also help you absorb serums and creams better.

Looking for Youth in all the Wrong Places

beautiful older womanWhat strikes me about this (and many other beauty treatments that are uncomfortable, expensive, and potentially dangerous) is the amount of focus on trying to look younger on the outside. I’ve known people that forgot about their “inside” life because they were so focused on the external.

I’m all for looking vital and healthy. I would love to have the same skin I had when I was 30. But I’m not 30. I’m 59 and happily counting. (There are more senior discounts in my future.) While I want to look vital and healthy and make choices that help me with that, I’m much more interested in FEELING vital and healthy.

Everyone makes his or her own choices about how much time and energy (and what type of time and energy) they want to put into looking “good.” And we also get to make up our minds about what we think looks good. We don’t all love purple hair, tartan plaid, or pearls. Thank goodness for that because it makes people watching much more interesting.

But there’s something disturbing to me about the hunt for pseudo youth. Dying your hair back to its original shade does not, after all, make you that age again. I believe it’s possible to do things like laser treatments, Botox, hair dye, even torture devices for your face because you love yourself and love looking your best. If getting your butt Botoxed makes you feel great then Botox away. But I think it’s equally possible (maybe more likely?) that many women are rolling torture devices over their faces because they don’t like who they see in the mirror. They don’t like the changes that aging can bring.

Embracing Change

You are changing. We all change. We don’t expect the tree we plant as a sapling to look the same in five years. We don’t expect our toddlers to stay the same or the oak tree to keep its leaves all year. Change is part of the beauty of life.

I’ll be honest. I don’t love all the changes I see in my body. I don’t obsess about aging and I’m grateful that I’ve very healthy—no medications, no arthritis, no high blood pressure. I don’t mind that my hair is gray because it’s thick and healthy. BUT I would love to have fewer lines and tauter skin on my face. I WANT to love all the changes including those lines. I’m working on that. My goals are to 1) accept the changes 2) love myself and 3) look and FEEL as vital and healthy as possible.

I do, however, love some of the changes that have come with age and maturing. I love that I’m more direct than when I was 25. I love that I don’t fall into victim mode anymore. I love that I don’t drink alcohol. It saves money and calories and I feel better. I love the community of friends I’ve gathered over the years. I love that I’m strong.

Being Edith-like

Cousin Edith

Edith at 100 years old with her Chevy

I’ve had the good fortune to have some outstanding role models for vital aging in my life. My
grandfather’s cousin Edith stands out. Edith lived to 108 years young. She lived independently until the last few months of her life. The year she turned 100 she was invited to be the Grand Marshall in her community’s annual Arkalalah celebration (yes, that’s really the name.) She walked to the DMV to renew her driver’s license so she could drive her 1950 Chevy, the only car she ever owned, in the parade. Not only did she get her driver’s license for the event, but also she bought a stylish modern dress that I would have been happy to wear at the time and I was in my early 30’s.

But Edith didn’t look 30. While her erect posture and lively movements belied her 100 years, she looked like an older woman. That didn’t seem to bother her. She was able to garden, take daily walks, play bridge, live on her own, and participate in a book group. She stayed active mentally and physically throughout her life. I never heard her complain about saggy skin, gray hair, or achy joints. She was far too busy for that. Maybe far too happy would be a better description. She once said she realized she could choose to be miserable or happy. She chose happy.

The theme of my coaching and retreat work is living a life of purpose well. Spending time trying to rewind time or focusing on what you don’t like about yourself takes time away from living that well life of purpose. I want to invite you to a life as rich, full, and happy as cousin Edith’s for as long as you live.

Your Vital Aging Challenge

1.    What do you value about your aging or maturing process?

2.    What about your maturing process do you want to learn to embrace or accept?

Here’s what I would love: Share your answer to #1 here. I think if we all start celebrating the wisdom of maturing instead of fighting against aging we’ll have more energy for what matters to us. The world will be a better place. And if you share here we can all celebrate each other’s awesomeness. Ready to join me?

Dreaming as Self-care

dare to dreamDuring my final months of college I read What Color’s Your Parachute?  In case you’re not familiar with this classic it’s a subtitled “A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers.”

That book changed my life. It gave me permission to find work that fit my values, my interests, and my skills. Up until then I knew I wanted to be a social worker and help others. I knew I liked working with kids, but beyond that I didn’t have many specifics.

Wishlist

When I finished the book I had a long wishlist for my dream job. Here’s part of my list:

  • Time in nature, including hiking
  • Opportunity to do crafts
  • Able to dress casually
  • Not a 9-5 job
  • Working with kids
  • Non-traditional program
  • Opportunity to grow
  • Chance to travel
  • Vacation time
  • Place where my skills of teaching and counseling would be helpful

Let Your Dream Find You

Now with the list I had clarity Unfortunately I didn’t have any job prospects or any ideas of how to find my dream job. But clarity, focus on what I wanted, and trust paid off. (And maybe a healthy dose of 20-something naivety didn’t hurt.) Through a series of serendipities my dream job found me.

I had worked at a summer Girl Scout residence camp between my junior and senior years of college. I loved working with the kids and planned on returning for one more summer after graduation. My parents, who had been supporting me during college, strongly suggested I get on with a “real job” hunt instead. I agreed.

One morning in the late spring I woke up from a dream that told me I needed to work at camp again. I don’t have any memory of the dream, but I remember that I “knew” I must return to that summer job. I called the camp director to tell her I had decided to work at camp. I knew I had missed the deadline for signing my contract. Would a position still be available? Turns out she thought I HAD decided to work at camp and already had me on her list. Yeah!

That summer, in between s’mores, hiking, and swimming, I sent off resumes for all the job listings my mom sent me. I scoured the want ads in alternative magazines like Mother Earth News and applied for jobs that sounded like they might match my wishlist. But with only a few weeks of summer left I hadn’t lined up any job interviews.

One day the camp director invited me to ride with her to the Girl Scout council office about 30-minutes away. They had offered her a temporary job as director with a day camp for a new program. She wasn’t interested, but thought I should apply. So I put on my cleanest jeans and headed to Bloomington with her.

That position had been filled, but they hired me on the spot as a counselor for a three-week stint with the day camp for that new program. I was glad to have a job, even if it was temporary and I didn’t know where I’d stay.

After returning to the resident camp I told my friend and tent mate, Thumper (we all had camp names) and she invited me to housesit for her and her boyfriend Jim as they headed out of town. They’d be gone a week, but I could stay for the three weeks.

That temporary position led to a full-time position as a youthworker/trainer with that new program. It was the start of my coaching and truly my dream job. It ticked every box on my wishlist and then some.

How Do You Dream?

Some of my clients automatically bypass the dreaming phase. You might relate if you’ve ever gotten in trouble for daydreaming. Or if you’ve taken a risk going after your dreams only to be disappointed. Who wants to risk that again?

Maybe you’re a detail person who hasn’t learned how to go big with your vision. (Hint: your vision is made of details.) Or you’re afraid of getting caught in airy, fairy, fantasyland, never taking action toward your dream.

Like some of my clients you might be choosing the known, afraid to admit what you REALLY want. Or maybe you’re not even sure what you want.

Allowing yourself to dream does have risk. You could get your hopes up and be disappointed. But by going for what is safe and known, you risk not living your dream.

Dream-mode

Staying in “dream-mode” all the time won’t get you a free ride. When you step onto the path of your dreams it’s helpful to pack some reality to help you make plans, to help you take action. I had to go to the interview when it was offered. I had to take a temporary job that felt right. There’s a time and place for both dream and “reality.” If you’ve been all action or living someone else’s dream then you’re overdo for some “dream time.” Here are a few ideas to get you going.

How to dream

  1. Pretend you’re a kid. Remember lying on your back under the clouds? Let your mind wander as you make up an “imaginary” tale about your life. What would super hero, super-model, or super-confident you do? What would you ask the genie in the bottle for? Which vision gets you excited? Which one seems to have a life of its own?
  1. Notice bits of other people’s lives that you’d love to copy. And yes, copying is allowed. Do you envy a friend who travels to exotic locations? Or melt when you see the woman down the street with her 3 kids? Are you in awe of your friend who’s set up her business so she only works 3 days a week?

Do find yourself wondering how a friend published a book or landed a new job? Remember you don’t have to take their whole picture into your vision. The woman who travels might seem exhausted. You can incorporate the travel and leave the exhaustion out.

  1. Make your vision more tangible and present by recording it. Depending on your tastes and talents you might want to keep notes in a journal, paint a picture, or collage a dream board. Having a touchstone helps keep that dream alive as you take action.
  1. Hire a coach. I’m personally a fan of this one. : ) Hiring a coach provides wings to this process. A coach will hear things in what you say that you might not pick up on. A coach can lead you through the process guiding you when you get stuck and then helping you take that dream into action. Sometimes the other people in your life, like your partner or kids, have a vested interest in you staying the same. A coach can be a cheerleader for exploring change in your life when those around you feel unsure about that change.

When I hear someone say I’ve always wanted to… my ears perk up. If you think there might be a “dream” in you then you take the time to explore it. I believe that acknowledging and going for your dreams IS an overlooked and important piece of self-care. That’s gold on the path to a big life of joy.

Share a bit of your dream here.

Measuring your Goals

When working with my coaching clients one of the first things we do is to look at yardsticktheir values. When we’re finished with the process they’re often surprised by what their list ends up being.

I work with people who are pretty self-aware. It’s not like they haven’t thought about what’s important to them. They have. But few of them have peered so closely at their values. Those top values end up being the yardstick they use to make decisions as they move closer to their goals.

Values in Action: 59 Shades of Gray

I recently received a friend request from someone on Facebook who then proceeded to try and sell me cosmetics for reversing aging. At 59 I probably looked like a good candidate.

But I wasn’t a good match. I may have gray hair, but my values weren’t aligned with the company she represented. I do want to look healthy and vital. But I’m not willing to use a bunch of potentially harmful chemicals on my skin or hair in order to try and appear younger.

For me optimal health has a high value. I’m willing to sacrifice other things to live that value. I’m willing to not dye my hair and am willing to potentially look older than my peers who do dye theirs. I’m willing to forgo the latest skin care regime because the products contain mineral oil (or PEG 4 Laurate, Propylparaben, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate…) I’m not perfect in my quest for a high level of wellness, but it is a daily part of my life.

Are We Having Fun Yet?

One of my client’s “yardsticks” has fun at the top of her list. Any time she starts to resist something she asks herself if that something is fun. If it doesn’t sound fun to her we look at how she can shift it.

For example, going to the gym didn’t sound like fun to her. In fact it sounded like torture. But dancing on the deck gives her a thrill. Now her exercise includes deck dancing, something that she’s willing to do on a regular basis.

Another client values learning. Her job, a “good job” with benefits and stability feels like torture to her. A truly “good job” for her is one where learning is integrated, even rewarded.

What Do You Value?

How would your choices (and therefore your life) be different if you used a values “yardstick?” Your first step is to know what your values are. You can make a list on your own, but having a guide or coach enhances the process. That’s because we swim in our own sea. Having someone swim alongside you pointing out that you are, after all, swimming in water gives you a different (and more complete) perspective.

I’d love to know your top value or values. Would you be willing to post them here?

And if you’d like a “values guide” maybe it’s time for coaching. You can schedule a free consultation here.

Multidimensional Mindfulness

labyrinthI had finished a swim and was standing in the locker room when I felt a familiar twinge in my back. “Oh no. The pain is coming back.” It was the early 90’s and I had injured my back while finishing up massage school. My back would feel better after treatments like chiropractic care and massage. But a year after the injury the pain would still return. I felt like I would never be back to normal.

While that familiar twinge had returned many times, this time was different. I realized that what I was feeling was the tightening of a muscle, not pain. I breathed and focused on relaxing. The twinge left and the pain did not reappear! I realized my fear about the pain had been causing my muscles to tighten hence restricting the blood flow and ultimately causing more pain. You mean I could control this? Wow.

I wasn’t new to yoga, but this was awareness was new.

I’d dabbled in yoga since the 70’s. Regular yoga became a part of my routine after other treatments weren’t healing my injury. I’d started a consistent practice to help my body. I hadn’t counted on the“side effects” of yoga including increased awareness.

Your Go-to System

Awareness is a powerful tool. What do you notice right now? Your achy neck? Your breathing? A distracting thought? A feeling of happiness?

Most of us have a go-to system that we check in with WHEN we’re being mindful. We are not mindful all of the time, nor do we want to try for that state. Our habits and patterns serve us well by freeing up focus and energy. For example, I don’t have to think about how to type. I’ve done it enough that the neural pathways take over and I can focus on what I’m writing instead.

As you develop your mindfulness skills through meditation, yoga, chi kung, art, hiking, gardening, knitting, etc. you usually have a system you go to first. You notice your body. You pay attention to your breath. It’s gives you a starting point. Noticing everything at once would be too hard.

As you build your mindfulness muscles you can start to access more information. If you’re new to the gym a trainer will introduce you to a few pieces of equipment. You don’t need to lift every weight, try every machine. Over time you build your repertoire. It’s the same with mindfulness.

You are Connected.

Your body, mind, spirit, energy, and emotions are connected. Think a happy thought and you will feel differently. Your body will shift to meet your emotion. But sometimes the message from the different levels of your wholeness will conflict.

Your body aches from too many hours of sitting in front of the computer. So you commit to prying your butt from your chair on a daily basis and hitting the gym. Great plan, right?

While your body might be screaming for movement your emotional body might be singing a different song. Maybe you’ve recently had a loss and your emotional body wants nothing more than to sit in that chair and eat a daily pint of Hagen-Dazs.™

If you listen to your physical body and ignore the call of your emotions you will end up sabotaging your efforts at the gym. And the bummer is that you’ll probablyfeel even worse because you didn’t succeed.

What’s a Whole Person to Do?

  1. Acknowledge and celebrate whatever awareness/mindfulness practice you do have. When I say “practice” I’m not referring to a formal practice. Every time you pay attention to some part of you you’re practicing mindfulness. To be mindful you don’t need to travel to India and sit at the feet of a guru.
  1. Add another layer. You notice your body is tense. Check in with your breathing. What do you find? When you get comfortable with that layer, add another. What is your mind focusing on?Eventually you’ll be able to check-in with a wide range of awareness. It’s like being a painter and starting with only red, yellow, and blue in your paint set. Over time you add burnt sienna, orchid, sea foam green… And you get different results with a bigger tool kit.
  1. Honor the discrepancies. Find creative ways to honor the different messages you get. How can you nurture your grieving heart while getting your butt out of that chair?
  1. Look for themes. When I coach clients we sometimes do an exercise where they listen to a number of different levels. The cool thing is that there are always themes. Those themes help direct the course of your life. Those themes can lead you to a path that will be supported by yourwhole team.

So what’s your go-to mindfulness system? Are you noticing any themes? Would love to hear your wisdom.

Embracing Overwhelm: Finding the Blessing in the Stress

Overwhelmed womanOverwhelm. It’s a word I hear a lot from clients and potential clients. Maybe you’ve experienced overwhelm at some point. That sense of having what feels like an impossible number of tasks on your to-do list. Or feeling like something too big to handle, too painful to live with entered your life.

When you experience overwhelm your nervous system gets triggered. Your muscles tighten. Your blood pressure amps up. You start to feel unsafe, perhaps a little irritable. You might even shut down.And with all of that you become less productive and more inefficient.

Before Strategy and Ohming

I’ve been in overwhelm and I know the last thing you want to do is take a break to hash over the situation. After all, you have a pile of stuff with your name on it and, tick tock, time keeps moving. In fact your adrenal glands, detecting danger, have shot out a nice dose of chemicals to help keep you moving.

Before you start to solve the problem of overwhelm, before you decide that yes, meditation is your ticket to calm or that you really should stop procrastinating, you have to decide IF your overwhelm is a problem. 

What if the sensations you’re feeling are actually a blessing? What if overwhelm is really your inner wisdom come calling?

What Would the Dalai Lama Do?

I remember having a quick conversation back in the mid-90’s with one of the counselors at the wellness center at which I worked. The conversation was quick because that’s all I had time for. I was busy, yes, overwhelmed with all that was on my plate.

I was a massage therapist with a full time busy practice, teaching yoga plus an occasional non-yoga class. And I was living life, taking care of a home, navigating a new relationship, etc. This counselor told me a story about the Dalai Lama. I don’t know if it’s true, but it was exactly what I needed to hear.

The story went like this. The Dali Lama was being advised of his schedule for the day, which was especially full. The advisor suggested maybe His Holiness should shorten his meditation time. The Dali Lama, being extra wise and lama like, said he would instead increase his mediation time.

I heard the message and started to look at my reasons for cutting back self-care to finish the “really important and necessary” stuff on my to-do list.

That story stuck with me. Now when I get tempted to do more or to shorten my workout or meditation time I do my best to listen to the message of my overwhelm rather than pushing through it to more action.

Signposts

I don’t think overwhelm is a bad thing. Nor do I think it is always about procrastination or being disorganized or inefficient. In fact, I think it is a blessing (even though it can raise your blood pressure and keep you awake at night.)

Being in overwhelm tells you that something is off. It’s worth pausing and making space to discover what underlies your particular brand of overwhelm.

Here are a few possible nuggets I find lurking in my own and my clients’ overwhelm.

  • Self-esteem issues
  • People pleasing
  • Lack of boundaries
  • Perfectionism
  • Control issues
  • Fear
  • Money issues
  • Distraction from what’s really important
  • Not enough information

Of course coaching is one option to getting your arms around overwhelm. So is a retreat. But there are lots of ways to handle overwhelm. I’d love to know your go-to solutions.

Down with Self-loathing!

Woman & mannequinI grew up chubby and have often seen “fat” when I looked in the mirror, even when the scales said differently. Only in recent years have I begun to accept, even like my body.

No wonder I love the trend toward accepting one’s body— curvy hips, belly rolls, the slope of one’s nose, cellulite, freckles… I applaud the women who say,“I’m not covering up these jiggly thighs for your pleasure. I will wear skintight yoga pants if I choose. I will shake these hips and let my flesh spill out in celebration.”

Self love=Self care

Self-love is healthier than the self-loathing that has been the norm. For years I’ve listened to females from pre-pubescent to elderly “dis” their bodies. Too short, too skinny, ugly knees, and the most prevalent, “too fat.” Along with scores of “sisters” I’ve looked in the mirror and asked the proverbial question, “Does this make me look fat?”

All that self-loathing takes a toll. It takes time and energy, which could be spent doing something you love—painting, hiking, snuggling, reading, growing a business… But instead that time is spent putting yourself down or worrying about how your butt looks.

Plus there’s the emotional and energetic toll. Your body, mind, and spirit register that mean spirited talk. And that registering, even for a comment that might seem small and insignificant, takes a toll. It’s a punch in the gut. A kick to the heart.

It’s self-abuse. So you can see why I’m heartened to hear and see the trend in the opposite direction.

I believe in self-love.

For years we’ve been “fed” images by the media of thin, too thin, and photoshopped lovelies. Many of us received the message loud and clear that we too should look just like the women in the ads. And we don’t.

As the pendulum swings to the other side we’re getting messages that it’s acceptable, maybe even preferable to be as Meghan Trainor says in her popular song, “all about that bass.” If you’ve worked long and hard to get your body to look like Kate Moss, only to feel like a failure, you’re probably ready to embrace the current trend to love every bit of you. Love away.

BUT…

Here’s my concern.

I think for some self-acceptance has come to mean “I can eat a bag of Doritos because I love myself and I’m not punishing myself any longer. Rather than watching what I eat I’m learning to love all of me.”

True that punishing yourself is not self-love. Lose the punishment. Yes to loving all of you. But feeding your body foods that cause you to be obese, to be unwell, to not feel good, or have energy is NOT self-love. No matter what you look like.

I’m sure you’ve heard about the well-documented risks of making poor diet choices and being overweight. Stroke, heart attack, cancer, osteoarthritis, mobility issues, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, reproductive concerns, gallbladder problems, back pain… Self-love does not include behaviors that put you at risk for these kinds of issues.

Pendulum dilemma

In my perfect world:

  • We all learn to accept, even cherish our precious bodies. They are a miracle. (Isn’t it amazing that your body can take a peach or a Big Mac and turn them into energy?)
  • We all make choices that support, honor, and grow the miracles that we walk around in. I’m talking about that body of yours. You know, the one that feels love, can drive a stick shift, and fills out government forms. Okay, so maybe you never learned to drive a stick shift. Still you’re amazing and deserve to be treated that way.

So maybe you’ve ridden the pendulum to one side: “I need to wear a size 2 or my life is over” or the other “My curves are beautiful so I don’t need to worry about what I eat ever again.” Seek your perfect balance point. That point will let you, on most days, love the body you have. And because you love that body you treat it accordingly, discovering what it loves, what nurtures it, what heals it.

I hear some of you saying, “But my body loves sour cream and onion potato chips.” You might love the taste of those chips. (I do too.) But I’m asking you to go deeper. How do you feel when you eat them? How do you sleep? How easy is it to move? How much energy do you have for the things that you really want to do?

I find that I don’t feel or look as amazing if I eat lots of chips and sugar. I think more clearly without them in my world. I sleep better. I stay healthier. And all of those things help me live the life of my dreams.

My goal is to make a self-loving choice with food more often than not. (If you see me in line at my favorite health food store with a pint of Luna & Larry’s Mint Galactica Coconut Bliss and a spoon you might not want to take that moment to suggest that I make a more loving choice.) But stalk me at my favorite health food store and you’ll find my cart is usually filled with healthy, non-sugar, non-chip foods.

But not always. I’m not saying be perfect. I’m saying be loving. To your cells. To your heart. To your head.

The pendulum swings. Riding it to the middle can be challenging. Having the support of a coach can make a world of difference. Coaching can help you find a place where you feel like you’re making choices rather than being driven by your cravings, your habits, or your emotions. You can find a place where you accept yourself AND learn to make healthy choices your way.

What do you think? Are you on one side of the pendulum? What are your ideas about finding and managing your balance point? I’d love it if you’d share them here. Might help me or someone else on one of those less than balanced days.