The Most Important Work of the Day

 

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When do you think your most important work of the day takes place? Maybe it’s in the middle of the day when you are in the thick of creative projects at work? Maybe it’s the volunteer work that you do after your “real” job? Maybe it’s in the evening when you are spending time bonding with your family? Maybe it’s right before bed as you spend time reflecting on the day? This is all important work.

For me the most important work of the day happens right up front, first thing in the morning. I wake up early – always have – a blessing and a curse passed down from my Dad’s side of the family (mostly a blessing, I only say a curse because I’m usually toast by 9:30 pm). I’m on autopilot a little first thing. I put the tea water on, do some yoga while waiting for it to boil, and then fortified with my steaming mug I sit down and get to work.

And by getting to work I mean I sit down and meditate. How can I consider sitting and doing “nothing” as my most important work of the day? Here’s what happens for me when I meditate. I give myself permission to relax with purpose. I can physically feel the calm wash over me as I start. When my mind starts to chatter (which it will inevitably do) I give myself permission to let it go. Have you ever had the experience when you can’t stop thinking about something, or someone, or a certain situation and you go over and over it again in your mind? Meditation is like taking a deep breath and saying “time out”.

Meditation helps me let go of the chatter and opens up space for calm, for creativity, for peace, for gratitude. It helps me to recognize that I already have everything I need in this moment. It makes me feel more positive. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve finished meditating and when I’ve looked up I’ve been struck by just how beautiful the world around me is. And those feelings often stay with me through the whole day. They help me to be a more patient parent, to be a more creative soul, to approach stressful situations in a calmer way, to focus on the positive, to want to connect with the people around me.

I’m certainly not trying to suggest that meditation makes me perfect – just that personally it helps me realize who I want to be and how I want to move through the world. And that for me is the most important work of the day – to set an intention of how I want to see and interact with the world around me.

So how will you set your positive intention for the day? Some people pick a daily mantra, or give themselves a pep talk in the mirror. Some people pray. Some people break a sweat. Some people snuggle with their children. The way we start the day matters. It is important work. It sets the tone for the entire day and that spills over into the rest of our lives. Find whatever it is that makes you feel love, connection, happiness first thing in the morning and do it every day.

Be happy, be healthy, be well.


Here is a little more food for thought for the importance of starting our day in an intentional way:


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Book Review: Big Magic-Creative Living Beyond Fear

bigmagicDo you have a creative idea simmering inside you that seems to keep getting pushed aside for whatever reason. Maybe it feels too much like play and not productive enough alongside all of the other things you need to get done. Maybe you feel like there was once a place for creativity in your life when you were younger but now that isn’t really practical – even though you used to love it. Maybe you feel like you aren’t quite good enough to pursue your chosen creative endeavor, like you should just leave it up to people who have decided to make a career out of it.

I’m telling you. Go pick up a copy of this book. Now.

In her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert clearly explains all of the reasons we self-sabotage and then beautifully but also in a no nonsense kind of way helps us to see why we should forget about all of that and pursue our creative dreams.

A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner—continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you—is a fine art, in and of itself.” -Elizabeth Gilbert

(Coach’s side note – Did you know getting lost in creative endeavors is also incredibly good for our health and wellness? It promotes the production of new neuron growth in our brain. It reduces stress. It can help prevent Alzheimer’s Disease. Often when we’re fully immersed in a creative project we can enter a state called flow which is not only really fun but so great for our brain.)

In her book Gilbert addresses the fact that art and anguish have often been seen as compatriots but argues that it doesn’t have to be that way. That it is possible and ideal to find joy in the creative process. That it is in fact the process and not necessarily the result that is the point. She also has some great ideas for those times when you’re feeling less than inspired and need a little help finding that spark.

This is a beautifully written, very inspiring, fun read.

So next time you can’t quite muster the motivation to go into the gym but you still want to do something good for yourself try pulling out your sketch pad or your guitar and lose yourself in a little creativity.

Be happy, be healthy, be well!


starting-4_1_17Interested in some inspiration and guidance in creating a beautiful vision for your life and goals to get you there? My next Crafting A Wellness Vision workshop starts in just a two weeks. Register now to be one of 20 women in this supportive, coach-led 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.


 

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.

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

Shaking Hands With Fear: Lessons From A Grandma At The Women’s March

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Yesterday I marched. Yesterday I joined with thousands of other women and men in my city and millions across our nation and the world to stand up in solidarity for love, compassion, equality, human decency.

I have never considered myself particularly political. I always vote. I’ve been to a few caucuses over the years. I follow the highlights of politics. Occasionally I’ve written an email. I’ve never marched in a rally before. But then again I’ve never known a time when I’ve felt so scared by the direction that our nation seems to be moving in. Now with two small children that I love more than I knew was possible it feels impossible and almost irresponsible to stop at just filling in a circle, dropping a ballot in the mail and hoping for the best. I was grateful for the march yesterday in part because it began to fill this aching in my heart that there must be more we can do!

In the morning getting ready I was nervous and excited and I will admit that I was scared. I was scared of being in such a large group of people. I was scared that people with different views might resort to violence. I kept dropping things as I was making breakfast. I didn’t really know what to expect. After much deliberation my husband and I decided to leave the kids at home with him and I made plans to meet up with a few girlfriends. My five year old helped me color my sign. It felt like I was getting ready for some kind of strange festival with a serious and important message.

I met up with my friend Amanda and we carpooled to her church. Her congregation was walking together from there downtown to the start of the march. Her minister started us off with a blessing and a prayer that included a few moments of levity (“may the lines at the outhouses be short.”) which was just what I needed. I started to breathe again. Older women were handing out pink pussy cat hats. Camaraderie was building.

As we walked to the start of the march my spirits began to lift. I saw friends in the crowd that I knew and hundreds of people that I knew were friends I hadn’t met yet. We waited for the march to begin. All around us a sea of mothers, grandmothers, aunts, daughters, fathers and sons began to build. Thousands upon thousands of people – standing in the heart of it all we had no idea how many. There was laughter and stories and signs. Oh the signs! Some serious, some hilarious but so creative and personal. I wanted to read every one!

And then I felt a little shift in the joyous energy around me. I turned to look around. A young man was inching his way through the crowd. In a sea of pink he stood out not only because of his red and black clothes but because he was wearing a full black face mask that covered his entire face. All of a sudden I felt afraid. All of the fears from early in the morning came flooding back. He stood just a few inches in front of me and I studied him in case I had to tell authorities about him later. I noticed another woman taking a picture of him. He had a backpack on (you can only imagine what went through my head about what might be in it) with the name ROE written on it in black sharpie. The hair at the base of his neck where a little showed under his hat was dyed green. All of my fear heightened senses took these details in. We were packed so close in the middle of thousands. There would be no where to go.

I was scared. I was scared and paralyzed. I was hyper aware of him and I could feel everyone else around me was too.  And then a short, beautiful, open-faced grandma stepped out in front of him. She said in a firm but also somehow kind voice “What ya got under the mask son?” He didn’t say anything but he pulled the mask down and looked her square in the eye. She looked back.  “Glad to have you here with us today.” She said and reached out and shook his hand. He moved off through the crowd.

And that for me was the greatest moment of an incredible day. A grandma brave and kind. Unafraid to look at what we all feared straight in the eye. To really look and not just in a way that was critical and judgmental but curious and kind. To reach out and shake his hand. And I as a witness was changed in that moment. It was a simple gesture, over in a moment but a powerful example to me of why it was that we all came together that day.

After that we marched! We sang. We chanted. We gave high fives and hugs. That night we uploaded and shared our pictures and our stories. We read articles of other marches across the nation. We stood in awe of what we had done and what it looks like when we come together. We stood in awe of how it feels when we look our fears straight in the eye.

You know what blows me away? My story is just one of millions. I would love to hear yours.

Be happy, be healthy, be well.

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