Is It Time to Take a Mental Health Day? (Hint…Yes!)

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Often when we talk about taking care of our health and wellness the first things to pop into our mind is food and exercise. Of course taking care of those things are essential to being healthy, but just as important (and possibly more) and less talked about is making the time to take care of our mental health.

Sometimes talking about mental health can almost hold a stigma – like if we are taking the time to focus on improving our mental health there is something wrong with us or we’re broken in some way. Think about this. You are talking to a friend and ask them what they will be doing today. If they say, “going to the gym” you think, “good for you!” If they say “meeting with my therapist,” you think, “uh oh. Something must be wrong…”

It’s because of this stigma that I believe a lot of us don’t even really pay attention to our mental state until it does feel like we’ve reached some kind of a breaking point. But taking care of our mental well being should be part of our regular health routine just like eating healthy foods and getting moving.

Recently I did a series of interviews with women about their greatest challenges when it comes to their health and wellness. While some challenges relating to food and exercise certainly came up what was fascinating to me was that almost across the board challenges relating to mental health took center stage in our conversations.

Things like wanting to feel more positive and more confident, worries about a lack of focus and direction, wanting to spend less time comparing themselves to others, struggling to feel like they are enough they way they are, feeling overwhelmed and scattered, feeling like they are worth spending time, money, energy on…

Let me just say that all of these women are amazing, whole, intelligent, beautiful, inspiring women and are in no way broken. I think if we are really honest these are real struggles most of us face.

So what are a few simple things that we can do to take care of our mental well being?

  • Meditation – You probably know by now that I will always suggest meditation as an truly effective way to take care of our mental well being. There are lots of resources out there to get started. Look in your community for in person classes or try this great free app that I love.
  • Yoga – Yoga is great because most classes are a blend of exercise and paying attention to our mental state and will incorporate meditation and relaxation techniques. If you are looking for a way to try yoga for free at home check out the YouTube channel for my favorite online Yogi Adriene.
  • Gratitude Journal – I love gratitude journaling because it is such an easy accessible way to shift us into the positive mindset. At the end of each day jot down three things that you are grateful for and make you happy. As you fall asleep your mind will focus on these positive things rather than all of the worries and stresses of the day.
  • Digital Detox – This is one that I personally struggle with at times. But taking time away from our screens to look up and pay attention to the world around us and take a break from being bombarded with all of the information on our news feeds can do wonders for helping us to feel less stressed and more relaxed. It can help us reconnect with what’s important in our lives including the people around us.
  • Write Down Dreams and Goals – Feeling swept up in life or unsure about decisions is very common. The antidote to that is to take time to carefully create a vision of what you want your life to look like. Once you have a vision your creative brain will start coming up with ideas for how to get there – your goals.
  • Creativity for the Sake of Creativity – This one I love because I think it’s one we don’t talk a lot about and can be so wonderful for out mental health and happiness – especially if we can let go of our expectations for the final result. I love watching my preschoolers immerse themselves in their art projects. They aren’t trying to make something to impress the world. They are just truly in the moment enjoying the experience of creating.
  • Exercise and Eat Healthy – Ha! The irony is that it’s all tied in together right? I know for me personally sometimes exactly what I need to get into a good mental state is to break a sweat and eat better.

These are just a few ideas. There might be others that work better for you. I like taking informal surveys when I talk to people to see how they attend to their mental well being. For some it’s making time for a quiet cup of tea. For others listening to their favorite music at full blast in the car with their eyes closed. Try picking just one thing to do a day for your mental health (just like you would for your physical body) and experimenting with it. Tune into your thoughts and notice if you feel happier, more focused, confident, settled afterwards. I’d love to hear your favorite ways to take care of your mental health.

Be happy, be healthy, be well.

starting-4_1_17Would you like some help creating a beautiful vision for your life and goals to get you there? My next Crafting A Wellness Vision workshop starts in just a few weeks. Register now to be one of 20 women in this supportive, coach-guided workshop. Each day you will spend 10-15 minutes completing exercises and journaling prompts that will guide you in the creation of an intentional vision for your health and happiness. Check out my workshop page to hear from past participants about the program.

Joyfully Well

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Have you ever noticed what a “heavy” topic health and wellness can often be? It seems like articles and studies are published daily demonstrating links between serious diseases and conditions and our lifestyle choices. Terrible things that will happen to us if we don’t exercise and eat the right things, if we don’t get enough of certain vitamins. If we allow too much stress in our lives. If we are exposed to too many toxins. On and on! It can feel like a war that we have to wage just to desperately cling to our health! Or like a hopeless battle that we’ll never win no matter how hard we try. The implication can be the more unpleasant something is the better it is for us. It’s the “no pain, no gain” or “you have to suffer to be beautiful” attitude.

Maybe last week you heard me tell the story of the women in my friend’s office who brought in a green smoothie to work every morning and then cringed in misery the entire time she was drinking it? When my friend asked her if she enjoyed them she said, “No! I hate them, but they are supposed to make me healthy!” The sad thing about this story is that this women is trying so hard to be healthy but she’s doing it in a way that brings her unhappiness every single day. I’m here to tell you there is another way! So here is my challenge to you to think about today:

What can you do to be joyfully well?

What foods do you love AND are healthy for you. What hobbies can you take up that get you moving AND make you happy? What kind of self care can you do that makes you feel relaxed and pampered instead of tortured and miserable?

Because here is the thing. To truly be well we have to shoot for our relationship with health and wellness to be a life long love affair. You may be able to force yourself to drink a horrible green concoction that you hate for 30 days but unless you find the joy in it what is going to happen after that? Most likely no matter how stubborn you are you will not keep it up your whole life long and thirty days does not a lifetime of wellness make.

That is not to say that joy and easy are synonymous. For me personally it might be easier to sit and veg out to a movie but I know going for a beautiful trail run with a friend, although “harder”, is going to feed my soul, bring me a greater amount of joy AND contribute to my well-being.

For some people it’s dance. For some hiking in the woods. For my sister anything to do with boats. For my husband skiing and mountain biking. Sometimes remembering how we loved to play when we were children and finding ways to do more of that in our adult lives can do the trick.

Wellness is not a quick fix. It’s like any kind of relationship. You can suffer through a bad one for awhile but over the long haul it will make you miserable and it won’t last. The challenge is to create a relationship with wellness that makes you want to be with it for the rest of your life! So that you can see yourself growing joyfully old together.

Be happy, be healthy, be well!

starting-4_1_17Registration is now open for my  Crafting A Wellness Vision Workshop starting 4/1/17. Join the next cohort of women creating personalized thoughtful approaches to health and wellness through a series of daily coach guided journaling prompts and activities.

Got the Blahs? – 5 Simple Steps to Help Get You Out of Your Funk

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I know the feeling. It’s that feeling of overwhelm, like there is so much on your plate that you just might get swallowed up and yet with so much to do you don’t quite know where to start or have the energy to do it if you did. You start to get grumpy with the people around you, it feels like the universe just might be conspiring to make you crazy. Is this what you signed up for?

Listen, I’ve been there. So if you are feeling that way right now, today’s pep talk is for you. If not tuck this formula into your back pocket for when you need it. We are going to kick that blah feeling right out of here! Here is your challenge today:

  1. Start the day by doing something loving for yourself – It’s not selfish or self indulgent, it is setting the tone for the whole day. This could be brewing yourself a cup of tea and making time to just sit and drink it quietly, taking a shower with new soap that you love, getting some exercise, meditation, journaling, reading a chapter of a good novel. Whatever it is that feels like self love to you do it! Here’s the catch. If you have kids that wake up at the crack of dawn or you have to be in at work by a certain early hour this might feel impossible. I’m telling you now. It’s worth setting the alarm clock earlier.
  2. An act of love for someone else – Okay, you’ve gotten up. You’ve reminded yourself that you are a human worthy of love and done something to prove it. Now it’s time to spread that around. Tell your children specifically why they are amazing, make your husband a cup of coffee when he’s not expecting it, text your friend to let her know you are thinking about her. It seriously takes almost no time at all, but can make a huge difference in that person’s day and magically I promise it will make a difference in your day too.
  3. Do one small thing – Here is the thing to remember. Sometimes just getting started is worth a lot more that starting in the “right” place. In fact I personally am not convinced that there is a “right” place. I think sometimes we get so hung up on getting it right that we just get paralyzed instead. Sometimes any progress is enough to break us free of paralysis and get us moving. So stop and think about the big picture for a minute and then pick one thing that moves you in the right direction. One drawer to clean out, one chore to complete, one phone call to make, one email to send and see where that takes you.
  4. Go outside – Now you’ve made a little progress. Good job! It’s time to go outside and breathe some fresh air. I know that you think it’s too much work to get the kids bundled up, or that you can’t pull yourself away from your desk and computer. Listen. It is ALWAYS worth it. It might be pouring outside. You are still going to feel better after getting out and moving. In the workplace there can be this funny culture where people are worried that others are going to think they are shirking their duties. I even felt that when I worked for an environmental education organization whose whole point it was to get people outside more! But do it anyway because not only do we all deserve breaks, being outside and moving for awhile will actually clear your head and make you more productive and creative. Take your boss with you on a walking meeting if you have to.
  5. End the day early and with gratitude – You’ve done a good job. Top it off be taking some time to appreciate the good parts of the day. Take it one step further and write them down. Recognize the ways in which you are truly blessed. Now turn off the phone and get to bed early so you will feel rested enough to get up and make time for yourself again in the morning. Repeat from step 1.

We all have times when our energy is low. When it feels like inspiration hasn’t visited for awhile. That is totally normal. But when you get to the point where you don’t want to feel that way any more it’s time to make some changes and you have the ability to do it.  They don’t always have to be major. I know sometimes it might feel like you need to overhaul your entire life and move to Italy to study bread baking (whoops, that was one of my fantasies), but often the smallest shifts in our actions and thinking make the biggest difference in our lives.

Be happy, be healthy, be well.

Join the Wellspring community of women seeking ways to make time for their health and happiness while leading busy lives. Sign up for Wellspring’s monthly newsletter for inspiration delivered direct to your inbox.

5 Free Apps For Better Health And Wellness That I Love

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Maybe you’ve heard that sitting is the new smoking? I have had a little bit of a love/hate relationship with technology over the years. For a long time I resisted it as much as possible. I was the last one in my office to get on Facebook back in the day.  It’s hard to ignore the fact that as a society technology has played a major role in moving us indoors more and making us more sedentary – contributing significantly to the obesity epidemic and all kinds of other health problems our nation is now facing.

But as with most things in life the issue of our society becoming technologically driven is not clear cut good or evil. There are of course many great things that technology provides us with. I get pretty excited when it contributes to helping us live healthier, happier lives. I keep an ongoing list of health and wellness apps that I use myself or have been recommended to me by clients. Here are 5 of my favorites that are free:

  1. 1 Giant Mind – If you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and like you don’t have enough time a daily meditation practice can help. Here’s the thing though, you can’t use meditation like a band-aid. It would probably help a little  to sit down just on those days that you are feeling particularly under the gun and meditate but much more effective is a daily practice. 1 Giant Mind makes it very accessible, it walks you through the basics of meditation and runs a 30 day challenge  where you unlock more great teaching along the way. I can’t recommend this app highly enough. I honestly can’t believe it’s free.
  2. Fooducate – Fooducate is touted as an app that helps you with weight loss, but that’s not why I like it (you know me, I like to focus on your health not your weight). You can certainly use it to track calories if that’s your gig, but what I like to use it for is as a way to learn about products and get ideas for healthier alternatives. The Food Finder feature allows you to scan barcodes on any products you are considering and then it will give it a “grade” and more information about it. But what I especially love is that it will provide you with alternative ideas for healthier items. Other fooducate users can post about ways that they have used that food. Fooducate does a great job of making you feel like part of a community of people who want to eat healthier. There are paid features to this app, but you can do a lot with it for free. It’s definitely worth checking out.
  3. Runtastic – If you are ready to get moving and are looking for an app that will track your workouts Runtastic Pro is a great option. I used this fitness tracker for years and found it to be really user friendly and accurate. It used to be that this tracker was just for running and walking, but now you can track all kinds of activities from rock climbing to cross-country skiing to wakeboarding. Seriously if you can think of it they can probably track it. One part I love about Runtastic is that they will give you a map of a course you’ve been on with the mileage and time, making it easy to challenge yourself to work on improving your time. Again their are some fun paid features (i.e. you can pay for stories while you are running), but the free version is pretty powerful and all you need to get started.
  4. Water Time – Drinking more water is a goal that a lot of women I work with have and it’s a good one! Drinking plenty of water flushes out toxins, it transports nutrients to your cells and helps your body to work more efficiently. But sometimes it’s hard to remember to stop and take the time to do it! There are lots of water apps out there but I found this one to be simple and easy to set up. It gives you reminders throughout the day to stop and drink (you just have to remember to have your water bottle with you!). With the free version there are some ads, but if they bother you an upgrade to the ad-free version is just $0.99.
  5. Lotus Bud – This sweet app is surprisingly simple and often exactly what I need. Throughout the day at random times the lotus bud app will “ring” a meditation bell reminding you to take a deep breath and be mindful of the present moment. It’s funny because my kids love it too. If they hear the bell go off they stop whatever they are doing and say, “time for a deep breath Mom!” A great app for all of us!

I’ve come around to embracing technology, especially when it can help us with our health and happiness. I’d love to hear what apps you use and would recommend. Leave me a comment below if you have one that you love.

Be happy, be healthy, be well!

 

Searching For Your Inner Gold Star

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I was out for a morning run on a glorious trail that follows the coastline and then turns and heads into the woods past giant evergreens and Big Leaf Maples and it felt great! There were a lot of things that had to happen for me to be able to go running at this time of day in this incredible place- sometimes it felt as if I was trying to single-handedly make the stars align just to have an hour to myself (kids fed, dressed and off to school, clean running clothes on hand, letting go of the guilt that I “should” be grocery shopping or doing laundry instead). But today everything had turned out perfectly and I had one beautiful hour to myself to just run.

I breathed in deeply. There was that pungent fall smell of composting leaves. There was just a hint of that wonderfully invigorating chill in the air. People I passed along the trail seemed happy and beautiful and vibrant. Colors seemed brighter.  I felt light and fast and like I could run forever. I was coming up on mile three and my familiar friend the runner’s high had just joined me.

I was about halfway into my run when it happened. I gave my Fitbit a happy little tap to see how many thousands of steps I certainly had already accumulated but the screen stayed dark…I tapped again (surly I just wasn’t tapping hard enough). Nothing. Nooooooooooooooooooo! My Fitbit was dead – and I knew it was really dead because it had been acting a little wonky the whole week and I had left it in the charger all night the night before just to make sure it was charged for this run.

I stopped running. How could this be? Everything that went into making it possible to even be able to go for a run and I wasn’t getting “credit” for it!

Now I know to some of you it seems crazy to stop in the middle of a perfect run and give into internal wailing on a beautiful day just because my tracker had stopped working. But I also know there are some of you out there who have tracked steps or miles or earned credit towards a goal and can commiserate with the feeling of wanting to earn those gold stars!

When I was studying to become a coach we talked a lot about intrinsic (or internal) vs. extrinsic (or external) motivation. How when people are intrinsically motivated to create healthy habits it is much more effective and lasts longer than if the motivation is purely to earn some kind of reward. I had learned this and of course theoretically agreed, but since finishing school had not until this moment so personally experienced how that really felt.

After a minute I realized how ridiculous it was that I had stopped running and started laughing. To anyone passing by I probably would have looked like a lunatic stopped in the middle of the trail laughing by myself (luckily there was no one around at that moment).

As always life and personal experience are the best teachers. I took a minute to reset. Why was I out here anyway? Not to earn a gold star or another light on my step tracker! I was out here because it felt damn good to be using my body. Because I crave that runners high. Because the light coming through the trees was gorgeous and uplifting and good for my soul. Because I don’t want to just be around when my grandchildren are born, I want to be healthy and strong enough to play with them.

The rest of the run was great – made even better by the fact that my Fitbit had died and caused me to take a few minutes to reset my mind and heart and remember why it is that I was really out here in the first place.

So did I throw my Fitbit out when I got home? Well yes, but I also immediately ordered a new one. Because the truth is although I wish I was constantly tapped into my intrinsic motivation to move, tracking my steps helps me stay conscious of how much I am moving. There are certainly days I will walk or run a little further to just reach the goals I’ve set up for myself without thinking too much about the bigger why. There is nothing wrong with that! As long as there is a bigger why and I know what it is so I can remember it when I need to.

What’s your bigger why? What is it that inspires you to get moving on those days when you might not exactly feel like it? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below.

Be happy, be healthy, be well!

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Intentional Friendships – Your Secret Weapon to Personal Growth

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I just spent the most incredible weekend with 8 other women running in a race that required us to run at night, through dust and cow pies, and up and down enormous hills. It was very physically challenging, there was very little sleep for 24 hours and I loved every single second of it.

I’m not writing this blog post to brag about how awesome I am. I’m writing it to talk about the power of friendship and how the people you surround yourself with can lift you up and influence how you feel about yourself and what you think it is you are able to accomplish.

You may have heard this idea floating around the internet the past few years that, “you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with” coined by business philosopher Jim Rohn. When you spend time with people that you admire, that are working hard to reach their goals, that are positive and supportive of you in reaching yours, that believe in themselves and believe in you it lifts you up too. Sometimes without even being completely conscious of it you start to believe that more is possible because they do.

Think about it. Do you want to improve your health and wellness? Who are the people in your life that encourage you to do that? Who invites you to go for coffee and walk instead of out for burger and fries? Who gets excited when you tell them about your latest idea? Who is supportive and listens when you are going through a rough spot? Who exudes positivity and possibility? Who is working hard on their own life goals and regularly expresses gratitude?

Seek those people out! I mean right now, today. Whoever it was that popped into your head when you read that last paragraph I want you to immediately call and set up a time to do something with them. And not just any old something, ask them if they will do something with you that helps you to grow in whatever way it is that you are aching to grow right now. If you want to be more physically active ask them to take a walk with you or sign up for a race to train for. If you want to be more creative see if they will come over for a crafts night. Do you want to be more food savvy? See if they might sign up for a cooking class with you or spend an evening doing healthy meal prep together.

Now I’m not saying that you need to go and ditch all of those friends of yours that maybe are not pushing you to grow, or showing by example that it can be done. Of course you should keep those people in your life if you love them! It’s just that honestly we have such very little time – it’s the number one thing people tell me that is keeping them from reaching their health goals – so it’s worth consciously choosing who it is we want to spend the most time with because it really does have a big impact on our lives.

It certainly impacted mine last weekend. There is no way that alone I would have driven 4 hours into the mountains to run in a race through the night and day. And even if I did it would not have been the same finishing the race without having them screaming me in at the finish line, proud of me and believing in me 100%, and getting to do the same for them. These women never doubted that I could do it and so it helped me to believe that I could.Even more than that they were out there putting the work in too, going for training runs in the dark and in the rain and up gigantic hills. Setting an example of possibility.

So go now and make that phone call or send that text! It’s time to make the people in your life who make you better a priority.

Be happy, be healthy, be well.