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.

Five Common Self-care Traps

You’ve made efforts, maybe even heroic efforts toward improving your self-care. Maybe you set a New Year’s resolution or intention. But you’re just not feeling that successful. Doesn’t seem fair.

Real self-care can be slippery. You may have fallen into one of these common self-care traps. (Don’t worry. It’s not like the commercial. Even if you’ve fallen you’ll be able to get up.)Trapped

 

  1. Random Acts of Self-care

 

A mani-pedi. A day at the spa. A luxurious morning in bed with your favorite book and beverage. A quiet walk in the woods. A week of vacation.

If these activities feed your soul, then bring them on baby.

The problem comes with confusing random acts of self-care with the ongoing self-care practice you MUST have in order to sustain yourself.

Random acts of self-care are fun. They feel good and fill you up. But they won’t sustain you for the long haul. Short-term solutions get you short-term results.

Don’t get me wrong. All of these things can be part of your self-care plan. Don’t throw them out if you love them. Just know they don’t automatically equal a self-care practice.

  1. Template approach

You see something that works. Your bestie drops 15 pounds from her recent diet. You hear about a celebrity that lost her baby weight while doing zumba six days a week. Your boss, who looks 20 years younger than her age and manages to stay oh, so Zen-like all the time, talks about the wonders of her morning kale smoothie.

So you try the diet, shake your booty at a zumba class, and drink your weight in green smoothies. Problem is the diet leaves you feeling deprived, you don’t like dancing, and you despise kale.

Putting on someone else’s self-care, be it a diet plan, a fitness regime, or a week at a spa might work for awhile.

But only for a while. You’ll find yourself dumping the regime and often feeling like a failure. It worked for them. Why not you?

Because, beautiful, you’re not THEM.

  1. Discipline, deprivation, and hard work

You “know” you need to knuckle down, to “get with the program.” Your brain figures out the “solution” to your overwhelm, clutter, anxiety, or food cravings. The problem is you forget to check in with the rest of you.

You might need some discipline in your self-care program. It might even feel like work sometimes. But without some of the other key ingredients like pleasure and joy, your plan will collapse in on itself.

  1. Wake up call

Whether your wakeup call sounds like a tiny child knocking at your door or a bulldozer running into your home, something gets your attention. A series of colds, a call from the doctor suggesting you come in for more tests, a bounced check, a foreclosure, a diagnosis of a scary disease, a divorce, ten pounds that you don’t recognize…

You pay attention. You attack the problem. Make big changes. Get great results. But too often once the high blood sugar stabilizes, the new relationship appears, or those mystery pounds go away you fall right back to pre-wakeup call habits. And with those habits you get pre-wakeup call results.

A wake up call can be powerful. But if the wake up call is your only call to self-care, your solutions won’t last.

  1. That Still, Small Voice

You listen to your inner guidance. And because it sounds so wise you follow its directions.

Do you want to know a secret? That wise voice may come from your brain. To create a sustainable approach you must listen to more than your big, beautiful brain.

You have a wealth of wisdom. Everyone I work with is surprised by the wisdom they bring forth. And that wisdom helps create your plan.

And how about another secret? Your inner wisdom may give you conflicting advice. Part of you needs to rest. Another part needs to run. Which part do you listen to? In order to arrive at a solution that feels good and is sustainable you must listen to the whole of you. Your head may say you should go out for a run today. But your body feels fatigued because you are fighting off a cold. The best solution for you, the one that will give you the most vitality and balance, isn’t necessarily the first one that comes to mind.

  1. Rinse and Repeat

It’s not that you’ve never tended to your loveliness. It’s not that you’ve never eaten a healthy meal or moved your body in ways that delighted you.

You’ve probably even had moments of flow with your self-care. Moments where everything was bright and beautiful. You knew what to do.

So you do the same thing that worked before only now it’s not working.

You are not the same. Different you, different plan needed.

Be not discouraged!

You just haven’t learned the hows of crafting YOUR sustainable self-care plan. I’m not saying you can create THE PLAN for your self-care for the rest of your life. Who you are today is different than who you’ll be tomorrow or in six months or 30 years. And because of that your self-care plan will shift and grow. (In fact, trying to stay the course with your self-care is a common self-care trap.)

Why Are You Making a Big Deal Out of This?

Self-care is at the heart of a life well lived. Purpose offers you reason for being. If you want to live a well life, a life with meaning written all over its face then you will need to tend to you, the purveyor of that big life purpose.

And by the way, living a life of purpose IS self-care.

A sustainable life of purpose requires focus, energy, enthusiasm, and wellness to pull off. You get that from self-care that’s a regular and integrated part of you life. You need an approach that you can endure. Not one that keeps falling down and skinning its knees. Not one that you bury in the backyard because it quits breathing.

If you’re ready to have the vitality and wellness you need to live your BIG dream then sign up for a no-obligation, no-cost chat. I’d love to help you find your way.

 

Don’t Give Up on Your Dream

For some time I’ve wanted to make a contribution to my community on Christmas day. I found offerings that happen around the holiday, but not on the 25th.

So I gave up.

One Woman

But this year my friend Kristel posted on Facebook that she was going to distribute stuff to the homeless on Christmas day. All by herself. She had the impulse and she was acting on it. A quick post to her page and I was in!

Kristel had decided to make something happen and that something quickly became bigger than just her. Even as we cleaned out our coat closets and shopped for food and personal items others offered to help.

Five of us put together 30 kits and organized bags of donated sweaters, coats, and personal care items. Lifesource the local health food store, gave me a gift card so I could get appropriate food. My friend Katherine bought food, sterno, and personal care items. Other friends of Kristel’s jumped on board. Her co-workers contributed.

 Project Burrito

Helping the homeless

Sharon & Theresa helping the homeless

I also learned of Kathy and her Project Burrito. She and her group of volunteers cook breakfast burritos and distribute clothes, hand warmers, and other needed items to the homeless on Christmas morning. Kristel’s posse, now seven people, joined up with about 15 other volunteers at 8 in the morning under the Marion Street bridge, a place near the local men’s mission and a park frequented by the homeless.

Since most of the volunteers stood behind the tables laden with donations helping to keep the tables neat, replenishing the items, or serving coffee or burritos I decided to mingle among the homeless.

After saying Merry Christmas I’d ask them if there was anything in particular that they were looking for and then help them find it. One man I spoke with was elated to find a belt. Another wanted candles (he was happy with the sterno) for heat and light. My partner saw a man setting on a bench in the adjacent park, a big smile on his face, putting on his pair of new socks. A gentleman with twinkly blue eyes simply smiled and said, “This IS Christmas.”

My Takeaway

I help people live their purpose. Sometimes that means getting clearer about what their purpose is. Sometimes it means helping people figure out how to take action, to get rid of what’s blocking them. And other times it’s about finding a way to take care of themselves in a way that supports their purpose rather than sabotages it.

For me the message in this experience was that one person, like my friend Kristel or Kathy the burrito lady, can make a huge difference by acting on their desire to help.

I’m taking that realization into the New Year as I plot my course for the coming year.

If you’re like a lot of people you’re at least thinking about how you want 2015 to be different. You might be putting together intentions or a plan for the coming year.

Your Dream?

I invite you to include something that you feel inspired to do as you look ahead. Maybe your idea has seemed too big. Maybe you hit a roadblock when you started. And maybe you worry about what others will think. I encourage you to move past the things that get in your way.

 

  1. First name and claim it. Share your idea with one of your cheerleaders. You can share it here. Wouldn’t that be a great, bold step? I’ll cheer you on.

 

  1. Next decide on a baby step. One little step. Commit to it here and you’ll be that much closer to your dream.

 

Kathy told me that the Christmas morning group served 75 burritos, 120 cups of coffee, and gave away 20-25 gift bags and backpacks with personal items, food, and/or clothing. One man told me there was nothing he needed. He was happy simply to have wandered into the event and been part of it.

So what about your idea? What can you accomplish?

Trusting the Plan

You need a plan, right? But here’s the deal. If you get too attached to “your” plan rather than the “bigger” plan (call it courtroomGod’s or the universe’s or divine order…) you can actually make things harder.

Maybe I should speak for me. When I get too attached to “my” plan and forget that there’s a larger plan I make things harder and decidedly less fun for myself. Do you find this to be true too?

The Jury Summons
Monday I showed up at the courthouse for jury duty. I don’t know what it is about Marion County, Oregon where I live, but they love to send me jury summons. I know people who never get called. But I get one every cycle. Maybe because I show up and I don’t tell them things that make them think I’m a whacko. (Seriously, if you want to get out of jury duty tell them you would kill anyone who abused your child. Yep, that means you won’t get picked.)

And We Wait
Day one was about waiting. And more waiting. The guy in the jury assembly room said he’s never had a group in the assembly room so long. They finally moved us into a courtroom for jury selection after 3 ½ hours. I figured I’d be out by lunchtime.

By 2:00 they finally dismissed those who wouldn’t be on the jury. But unfortunately they’d called my name for this 3-day trial.

I spent the lunch hour cancelling my Tuesday class and rescheduled my coaching and massage appointments for the next couple of days. Not excited about the prospect of listening to stories of meth, abuse, and identity theft, but I didn’t see a way out.

A Reframe
Two of my friends who are attorneys gave me a more positive spin. One said, “Important and powerful work.” The other said how lucky I was to serve and how lucky we are to have the justice system we have in the U.S. I felt less cranky.

Day one ended with a bit of education about our job and we were dismissed. Really? I’m thinking we should get started, but hey, they weren’t asking for my input.

And More Waiting
Day two we were to be there no later than 8:25 with an 8:30 start time. By 9 we’d been brought into the courtroom and then back into the waiting area. False start. And the waiting continued.

About 10 we went back in, heard opening arguments. Well, for a little while. We did get exercise as when there was an objection they would parade us back into the waiting room.
And then we got a “10-15 minute” morning break that lasted for an hour. Finally we got to listen to a witness. It was getting exciting now. Well, not really exciting. Mostly sad. Some people lead really sad, dark lives.

By noon, part way into the prosecutors questioning of witness one, we were dismissed for lunch. Again, I’m thinking really? We just got started.

Back at 1:15 we waited some more. Now I’m getting stressed. With 17 charges against the defendant and six more witnesses I couldn’t see how this was going to be over by Wednesday afternoon. Especially with the frequent breaks.

If we had just been facing loss of income and productive time it would have been stressful, but because the system felt so inefficient with all the waiting and breaks (and I abhor inefficiency) my stress level rose. Every time I felt my mind wandering to whether I should go ahead and cancel my Thursday yoga class and appointments I would take a deep breath, relax my shoulders, and feel better. For a few minutes.

A Bigger Plan
Finally I stopped reading and felt into what I was supposed to learn. I’d been reading a chapter about resistance. Interesting choice, huh? I realized the more I resisted what was happening, the worse I felt. When I finally surrendered and affirmed to myself that I was supported and just not aware of the divine plan I relaxed.

At 4:00, about ½ later, they called the jury back in to the courtroom. We’d been waiting since post lunchtime. Finishing by Wednesday afternoon seemed highly unlikely. The judge announced that because one of the witnesses was unable to testify due to a health issue they were declaring a mistrial and we were dismissed. Just like that I was free.

My Takeaways:
1. Any stress or issues I have are peanuts. Really not significant. I have physical and mental health, a loving family and friends, freedom, and financial abundance.
2. I am supported. When I get out of my own way, magic happens.

I send light and love to the victim, defendant, their children and families. Oh, and the judge, attorneys, and deputy. Those people work hard. Blessings to them all.

If you see me struggling you have permission to suggest I surrender to the divine.

And how about you? Are there places where surrendering to something larger would serve you? Do you ever block your success and health by trying to control things? I so appreciate the comments and feedback you send me. Really helps to know I’m not writing into the void. Would love it if you would share here too.

Calling in Clarity: Cool Tool #4

basilYou need to make a business decision or write copy for your website or create some class content or… But first you need clarity and it ain’t showing up. The harder you try, the more clarity refuses to cooperate and the more stressed you become.

 Mr. Basil at Your Service

You need to meet my friend. His official name is Ocimum basilicum, but you can call him basil. Mr. Basil will grab ahold of your lapels and gently shake you awake. He’ll help you focus, clearing out mental fatigue and low-lying clouds while lifting your spirits.

 Warning: This Essential Oil May Improve Your Life

 You know how on the drug ads you get a list of side effects like “may cause sudden death or extreme unpopularity?” Well, aromatherapy can also cause “side effects” too. They just happen to be mostly positive.

 So while you’re clearing out mental debris, basil essential oil may also erase your stress headache, including migraines. You might find your allergies or other respiratory problems such as sinus infections or asthma improving.

 Basil oil comes in several varieties. You want to buy a brand that lists the Latin name so you know what you’re getting. The common name on the label might say basil or sweet basil. Some aromatherapy companies sell a variety that contains more of a particular chemical constituent in it. Then the label will read sweet basil “linalool” or just basil linalool. And BTW-don’t expect the essential oil to smell like the herb you use in cooking.

 You also might find Mr. Basil’s cousin for sale, holy basil or Ociumum sanctum. Although she has some of the same properties, she definitely has her own personality and aroma.  Like the Mr. she’s also helpful with your stress and banishing headaches.

 How to use

The best way to make basil’s acquaintance is to breath in the oil. Sniff it right from the bottle. And remember, as with anything related to your health, it’s your health and your responsibility. If you’re sensitive to scents, take your time greeting basil. That way you can pay attention to your reaction.

 Do you use basil oil? Interested in trying it?  Please share your thoughts here.