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.

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Bridging The Political Divide One Blueberry Salsa Recipe At A Time

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I know that this is a health and wellness blog and my posts have been trending more towards the political lately. These days as I see so many people I love experiencing extreme amounts of stress and anger and frustration and fear that I have to believe the two are inextricably tied together.  It has been hard to think about much else lately. When I’m scrolling through my social media feed it almost seems a bit jarring to come across a post that doesn’t have to do with politics. Like, “Wait! Don’t you know what’s going on right now? Crazy cat videos are no longer important!”

We are all trying to navigate this new political climate in our own way. For me I’m trying to take at least one positive action a day for the world and also for my sanity and well-being.  I’ve also been trying hard to replace anger with curiosity. The question I’ve been mulling over a lot lately is how did we get to this place? How can we create a culture that invites conversation over argument when there seems to be such a huge gap between our beliefs?

I came across this Ted Talk last night that I thought was fascinating. If we really want to move forward as a nation I think it’s important that we take a closer look at our mindset. That we try to shift from the feelings of “we’ve got to beat them,” to “we’ve got to reach them.” Being angry can certainly fuel action, but it seldom convinces someone to see things from your point of view.

Now I fully admit to having lived my whole life on the left coast. I’m positive my way of looking at the world has been shaped by that. Most of the people I’m surrounded with have a similar world view as I do. But still I have a few aunts and uncles that I’m pretty sure have a very different take on things. I’m pretty sure their environment has shaped their views as well.  I know them to be good people who love their children. I have hobbies in common with them. We’ve known each other our whole lives. We’ve celebrated lots of holidays together over the years.

The idea of calling up these relatives and engaging in a political conversation is overwhelming. It makes my stomach clench. Just the thought of it makes my shoulders tense and my heart beat faster (Wow! Instant physical reaction even without the actual interaction). There are issues I feel so passionately about that I’m not sure at this moment in time I could rationally and calmly have a political conversation with them.  I can however imagine calling up my uncle and asking for that awesome blueberry salsa recipe that he made last time he was visiting. Maybe it’s not a conversation that will be world altering, but at least for me personally it’s a start. A reminder to both of us that there are real people that we know and love behind the political labels and party lines.

I’m not saying I think people should just get over it so that everyone will get along. I’m not saying we shouldn’t feel passionately about world issues or that we shouldn’t turn those feelings into phone calls and letters and emails and action. But there is a big difference between action and anger especially when it comes to our health and well-being. One empowers you and the other breaks you down. One reaches out and the other pushes away.

I have another aunt I love on the left side. She is very politically involved. She puts in long hours volunteering for her party. She is up to date on the issues. She reaches out to people to make sure their voices are heard. When we lost the election I was worried she would be hit hard. She had poured so much time and energy into the effort. I tentatively asked my cousin how her mom was doing. “Better than the rest of us!” I was so surprised by the answer. But now thinking about it I wonder if it’s because she is used to having these conversations. She is more aware that there are people out there with different ideas. I need to ask her about it, but I wonder if she like me is excited that even though we may not have the president we hoped for we now have a huge uprising of people who are getting involved, speaking out, learning about the issues.

Yes we can view it as a stressful, scary time. We can focus on the things that might happen (but haven’t yet). But when we do that we cause ourselves to essentially live in a reality we don’t like prematurely – think of me getting stressed out just by the thought of having a conversation with relatives that hasn’t even happened. When I imagine it happening the stress to my physical and mental health is the same whether or not that conversation takes place. I’m the only one who is negatively effected, not my uncle and aunt who don’t even know this is going on in my imagination!

So for my part I’m going to try my hardest to focus on the incredible and exciting positive response we’ve been seeing from people getting involved in the political process in a way that I’ve never known in my lifetime (thank you Mr. Trump!). I’m going to reach out to my friends and relatives on the other side and remember that they are good humans who have been shaped by their environment just like I have. Eventually I’m going to try to have some conversations with them through the lens of curiosity. I’m going to remember that one person doesn’t define a nation, that it’s all of us and our voices that do. I’m going to use mine!

Be happy, be health, be well.

via Daily Prompt: Overwhelming

Hygge for Health and Happiness!

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I am fascinated by wellness practices around the world and how environments help shape what we do to take care of our physical and mental well-being. Things like shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) in Japan, the culture of sauna in Finland, siestas of Latin America…but one practice I just recently learned of is the practice of Hygge (pronounced Hoo-ga) in Denmark.

Did you know that Denmark rates #1 on the list of happiest places in the world? Why is that when their winter days are extremely cold and short? How do they keep their happy disposition despite what some might think of as a challenging environment? I live in the Pacific Northwest where it is undeniably beautiful but winters are dark and rainy and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a very real thing for a lot of people. I was hoping the Danes might have a trick or two to help us through the darkest part of our year.

Denmark is doing a lot of very cool things that probably contribute to it being the happiest country on earth. Things like the fact that 50% of commuters in the largest city of Copenhagen commute by bike. There is extensive parental support when it comes to paid leave after having a child. They have universal health care. They provide free (or very low cost) high quality early childhood education and consequently many more women return to the workforce post-baby.  Gender equality is rated as very high.

In one interview a Danish woman said she believed that they were such a happy people because they felt safe. They don’t have to stress out about whether or not to have children because they know they will have lots of support. They don’t have to worry about the cost of health issues if someone gets sick. They have a strong sense of community and social support.

There is one other thing they do that I think we should embrace here in the Great Northwest -the practice of Hygge. Hygge doesn’t translate perfectly into English but it means something like “the feeling of coziness” They make a point – especially in the winter – of making their surroundings inviting, comfortable and festive. The winter season is dominated by festivals and gathering of family and friends.

5 Easy Ways to Practice Hygge at Home

  • Light candles – The Danes love candles! You can bring a little Hygge into your home by lighting candles on your mantle or at the table.
  • Snuggle under blankets with a hot drink and a good book – Even better if someone else is snuggling under that blanket with you!
  • Warm foot bath- If you aren’t sure you want to go to the trouble of a full blown bubble bath (although I’d say that would be very Hygge) try a decadent foot soak with epsom salt and a few drops of your favorite essential oil.
  • Enjoy a treat- One component of Hygge is enjoying delicious holiday treats in a mindful way without feeling guilty about it afterwards – just making a point to thoroughly enjoy and appreciate them.
  • Turn on some relaxing music during dinner time. Make the mealtime environment warm and inviting.

Really what I think Hygge boils down to is taking care of ourselves and appreciating the important things in our lives – our family and friends, our warm cozy homes, good food. It’s understanding that our bodies need a change of pace as the seasons change and embracing it rather than fighting it. We could all use a little more Hygge in our lives. Hygge for health and happiness!

Be happy, be healthy, be well.

 

 

Practicing Radical Self Care During Tumultuous Times

“We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.” – Carlos Casteneda

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I don’t know about you but I’ve had a bit of a bumpy week. Normally I am that admittedly somewhat annoying person who loves getting up in the morning. I have crafted the most beautiful morning routine that I love so much that I feel a little bit of Christmas morning giddiness every morning (I know, I know, normally I try not to talk about it too much so people don’t throw up). I run through my routine and finish by sitting down to write and I really don’t worry too much about if I’ll feel inspired to do it or not because I inevitably do.

But this week has been hard! I have been struggling with everything going on in the world and not sleeping well. I have been staying up too late searching for some kind of answers and spending far too much time on social media reading articles of speculation and distress. I have had a hard time getting up in the morning and have found ways to justify staying in bed later and later. As so easily can happen when our mind, body and spirit need it the most I have been letting my self care routine slip.

Sometimes just going through the motions you can trick yourself back into an inspired state. As I laid in bed this morning I said to myself “Enough! Just get up and put the tea kettle on.” So I did and that started off a series of well worn morning practices that ultimately led me to you with a huge sense of the comfort of coming home.

I’d like to advocate for intentionally creating a morning routine just for this reason. Sometimes when you are feeling emotionally drained you need a self care plan in place that you can run on autopilot. Whatever it is that you need to do to feel cared for, rejuvenated or inspired make sure you do it regularly during the good times so that you know how to fall back on it in the hard times. Trying to create healthy habits when you are not feeling great – physically or mentally – is exponentially harder.

Although I have been letting my morning routine slip there are two things that I have made more time for this week that have been a huge help in processing these big emotions I’ve been having. One is spending time with good friends – talking about everything going on, and also remembering to take time to talk about other things going on in our lives!

The other is making time to get outside – I call it our mountain therapy. This weekend it felt like we needed a good dose so we packed up the family and headed up into the Cascades to spend a couple of days with a good friend who lives there. There have been all kinds of studies done on the benefit of spending time in nature, more on that in a future blog post, but I can say from personal experience that breathing that pine soaked air and exploring the trails with the kiddos was just what this aching heart needed this weekend.

Please be sure to take care of yourself in times of tumult. The world needs you healthy and well now more than ever.

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.