Nurturing Relationships

shelby castile

Summer days used to last forever...or so it seemed. These days, it seems like summer is never long enough. Weekends quickly get booked up with events with friends and family, and the demands of work are ever-present.

With so many things competing for time and attention during the summer, setting aside time to focus on relationships and spending time with one another is vital to a healthy relationship. Relationships need constant care and attention, hello!?!

Let’s face it, every relationship goes through highs and lows. They can be tough times or even just times when one or both people are just going through the motions. Wanting change? Easier said than done.

Try Something New can be a great starting point.

At a certain point in a relationship, it is easy to fall into routine. There’s nothing wrong with routine, but every now and again, it's necessary to get out of that routine and try something different.

This looks different for everyone. For some, getting out of a comfort zone could mean trying a new restaurant their partner heard about. For others, it could mean going to a foreign country where neither of them speak the native language.

Sharing these experiences with a loved one can help reignite the spark.

Time for Two & growing together.

Having kids—and sharing the bond of parenthood—can be an amazing thing! However, it’s so easy to get caught up in the daily details of running a household, dropping the kids off at school-practice-recital-games, and working {to name a few} that finding spare moments to nurture a relationship can be hard. Trust me, I get it.

That’s why scheduling time to work on the relationship is so vitally important. This can take on many forms. Sometimes it just means taking a day off and finding a sitter for the kids. For some people, it can be finding a summer camp where the kids can thrive while every night transforms into date night for Mom and Dad… Hoorray!

However the time is made, it will be time well-spent.  

In the end, growing together is a critical element of a strong relationship. It takes time and effort, but nurturing the relationship is most always, rewarding and bountiful.

Slowing Down this Summer

slowdownthissummer.jpg

Let’s face it. When someone asks, “How are you doing?” the immediate response might be, “Sooo busy!” Many wear it like a badge of honor, but is being so busy really healthy? The longer people stay “busy,” the more likely it is they’re going to burn out. And when people burn out, it's hard to be helpful for anyone, especially themselves. 

That’s why it is essential everyone learn how to find time away from the hustle and bustle and take a moment to check in on how they’re feeling. Not sure how to go about that? Here are a few ways to slow down and re-center amid the busy days.

Meditate for 15 Minutes

Set aside 10 or 15 minutes first thing in the morning to meditate. “First thing” means before coffee & before breakfast.  Why? Because scheduling it into a daily routine (before the rest of the day’s needs and distractions creep in) means that it’ll happen. And when it becomes part of a daily routine, the benefits will start soon after.

Meditation has been around for thousands of years and those who practice it regularly extol its virtues. Meditation has been linked to better self-awareness, relaxation, and stress reduction, to name but a few.

Learn to Say No

One of the leading factors contributing to the feeling of being depleted and drained is overcommitting to things. Whether those commitments are big things or little things, the bottom line is that it requires one major thing: time.

Time is precious and should be guarded. But the more frequently people say ‘Yes’ to attending events, get-togethers, or taking on that extra project; means less time to focus on the ‘self.’ Understandably, it is hard to say no, especially to friends, family, and employers. However, before taking on yet another big project, the prudent question to ask is: “How does this improve my current state?” If that question can’t be answered question convincingly, then it might be time to politely say, “No thanks. Maybe next time.”

Make a List

Trying to keep track of everything going on in life is hard. Especially if you’re keeping it all in your brain. There is a saying that goes, “Let the paper worry.” It means that when something is written down—especially in a list—it isn’t bouncing around in your head anymore, which can be exhausting!

In addition to freeing the mind from extra stress, lists help people visually prioritize what is important and what isn’t. When prioritizing a list, add in a few “easy” things that need to be accomplished. This will motivate you to attack the other top items in your list. When you start completing things, you’ll feel more in control. The result? You’ll feel more relaxed and more likely to take time out for yourself, too. These are just a few ways to begin realigning daily activities in order to get more time to focus on you.

My wish for you this summer is to take a step back, enjoy the sunshine, and focus on what brings you joy.

As always, if I can be helpful in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out! All of my information can be found here.

 

 

Source

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1125975/

Summer Self-Care

self care in summer.jpg

It's the time of year where kids--and teachers--can’t peel their eyes away from the clock. As each minute passes, they’re another minute closer to that sweet release: summer vacation. But while your kids are eagerly awaiting a 2 month break from homework and tests, your reality is about to change, too: no school means the kids are home more frequently. And that means less “you” time. Right?

Well, maybe not.

Summer vacation is one of the few times during the year where it is easy (or at least, easier) to get the family together for a road trip or family vacation. After all, since the kids are out of school, there’s no need to worry about missed assignments or falling behind in class. There’s no doubt that time spent together as a family is valuable.

However, if you’re a parent of school-aged kids, you’re probably used to having a bit more time to yourself, at least during normal school hours. But summer vacation changes all of that. No school means you don’t have those precious few minutes of quiet time between getting the kids out the door and heading off to work.

As much fun as it is to spend extra time together as a family during summer vacation, it's important to make sure you’re taking some time to yourself during these months, too.

Here are a few ideas:

Set Quiet Times

One easy way to make sure you’re getting enough time for yourself this summer is to set up Quiet Times for the family. Depending on how old your kids are, this could be anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour. During this time, everyone must be involved in a quiet activity. This could involve reading quietly, working on a puzzle, or drawing for the kids, and a nap, coffee, or cocktail for you. Quiet Time not only gets you some much-needed alone time, but it is also great for the kids to figure out ways to entertain themselves without Mom or Dad having to do all the leg work.

Play Dates

As the parent of school-aged kids, remember that if you want quiet time, so do your kids’ friend’s Mom and Dad. A great way to get some R&R is to coordinate playdates (or better yet--sleepovers) with the parents of your kids’ friends.

The beauty of this is that you’re essentially getting a free babysitter for anywhere from a few hours to a whole night! This, of course, comes with the expectation that you’ll return the favor to the other parents at some point during the summer, but isn’t that small price to pay for some peace and quiet?

Adult-Only Nights

Whether it is time with your spouse or going out with friends, getting some adult interaction is also considered “me time.” Coordinate with friends and arrange a babysitter to come to the house for a few hours so you and your spouse can get out of the house on a double date or just be partners in crime for a little bit. The kids will be well-taken care of, and you’ll revel in the freedom that comes with Date Night.

As the days get warmer and the sun sets later, be sure to enjoy the time with your family, but don’t forget that recharging your batteries is essential to being the best parent and spouse you can be!

Relationships + Change

relationships and change.jpg

As humans we are constantly evolving, growing, and changing. As couples, we’re constantly evolving, growing, and changing, too. This growth and evolution can be great for couples, but what happens when this growth and evolution moves in opposite directions within a relationship?

There’s no question that the person you are today is different than the person you were years ago when you met your partner. Even when you started your relationship, you were a different person then than you are now...and the same is true for your partner. And with all of this change, there is bound to be some tension and tough times, but learning to accept your partner for who they are now--and who they will become--is the foundation of the next stage in your relationship.

Observing and Understanding Change:

There are times when change seemingly happens overnight, but those times are generally infrequent. Instead, change happens slowly over time, almost invisibly. If too much time goes by without addressing small changes, before you know it, these gradual changes have warped into giant chasms between you and your partner.

Whenever possible, attempt to (delicately) bring up these perceived changes with your partner. Ideally, this conversation isn’t confrontational in nature. Instead, it is more of an observational conversation. You may wish to approach your partner and state a few facts that you perceive have changed. If these are changes you’re observing in your partner (rather than your own changes), it is important to be supportive of your partner as you bring this conversation up. Depending on how you approach it, your partner may get offended or defensive, which has the potential to end the conversation before it even begins.

An idea:

You may want to start out by telling your partner about your love for them, and share a few fun, uplifting, loving memories from years ago. This will remind your partner about times when you were both deeply in love and in sync. Then, you can gently bring up some of the changes you’ve seen in your partner. During the course of this conversation, it’s important to be open to the fact that you have changed, too. If your partner wants to talk about those changes, it is important that you listen to them completely, and hear them out.

Relationships are a lot of work, and taking the time {together} to actively talk about your relationship and love for one another is important.

Where Do You Go From Here?

Well, it depends! If your conversation(s) went well, it's important to keep them going. Remember: part of the reason you had to have the “big” conversation in the first place is because you didn’t address the small changes until they became so big they were too hard to ignore.

So, now that you’ve had the talk, what can you do is schedule time where the two of you spend time with one another on a weekly basis. Turn off your phones and other distractions, and just be together. You can participate in each other’s hobbies, relive fun moments from your past, or just talk about your dreams and aspirations as a couple. These moments, though small, can really be beneficial for you and your partner in the long run.

If, however, your earlier conversation highlighted some larger rifts in your relationship that need mending, consider reaching out to family, friends, or a licensed professional for help. Sometimes, having someone with an outside perspective can be a huge benefit. If you’re not comfortable reaching out to family or friends, a licensed professional might be the best bet. Not only are we trained to help couples sort through these changes, but we’re also an unbiased third party, who has no agenda other than to help you as best as we can.

No matter what, remember that you both deserve to feel joy and happiness in your lives. Please reach out to me directly here if I can be of benefit.

Refresh + Rejuvenate for Spring

march into spring.jpg

Spring is just around the corner and Daylight Savings will be here before you know it! Spring is a time of rebirth, renewal, and a perfect time to get “out with the old and in with the new!” This year, think BIG with Spring Cleaning: it doesn’t just refer to cleaning up a home (though we’ll touch on that, too.)

Daylight Savings Time

After the short days and dark nights of winter, Spring is always a welcome respite, because it not only gives us longer days, but it reminds us that warmer summer months are just around the corner. (Personally, my favorite time of the year!)

When Daylight Savings hits this year, what are you going to do with those few precious, extra hours of daylight? This year, challenge yourself to spend that time wisely. Whether you’ve been meaning to pick up a new hobby, rekindle old friendships, or read more and Netflix less, Daylight Savings is an excellent time of year to start something new.

If you’ve been wanting to get more exercise, take time this spring to start walking around the block or going for a quick hike after work. The fresh air, new smells, and budding flowers are an excellent reminder that spring is here...and you’ll be reinvigorated with that spring energy!

Spring Cleaning

For some people “spring cleaning” is reminiscent of moving decrepit old cardboard boxes out of your garage or cleaning grime in the bathroom...not exactly appealing images! But this year, in addition to some cleaning up around the house consider a few other areas of your life that could use a good “refresh!”

Around the House

Cleaning the house doesn’t have to be seen as a chore. Believe it or not, it can be fun. Really. After you’ve cleaned up a room, take a step back and consider rearranging the furniture. If it has been a few years since you last reorganized your living room, for example, see what happens if you swap the sofa and loveseats, face the area rug in another direction, or just change a few of the pictures hanging from the walls. You’ll be amazed how quickly your rooms feel clean and fresh, with a new vibrancy and sense of life.

Spring Cleaning in Your Day-to-Day

Take advantage of the spring cleaning frenzy and think about what areas of your day-to-day life could be improved, and how you can improve them.

Perhaps there are a few relationships in your life that are a bit toxic or not very healthy. Think about how you can reduce the amount of time spent with these people and how not being around their negativity will enhance your mood and make your days even better. You don’t have to ignore them, but you can think of creative ways to slowly reduce the amount of time you’re spending with them.

Spring is also a great time to ensure you’re eating well. With gardens being planted and early blooms popping through the soil, let the rejuvenated life inspire healthy eating habits. Spring also marks the return of many farmers markets, so look for local event calendars where you live to find one near you.

Let Spring Spring!

No matter how you decide to spend those few extra hours of daylight or whatever you decide to “clean” this spring, do so with intention. The more you reflect and act on things that will improve you, the better off your whole year will be. Set goals, take small steps, and always be kind to yourself. Happy Spring everyone!

 

The Power of Intention

live intentionally.jpg

As 2018 begins, it is nearly impossible to make it longer than a few minutes without some mention of a New Year’s Resolution. Whether it’s an ad on TV, radio, or online, we are constantly bombarded by the concept of a big, grand resolution. Many New Year’s Resolutions are made with the best of intentions, but are quickly abandoned. Why is that? Perhaps it is because people set huge, almost-impossible resolutions for themselves.

This year, instead of the over-the-top resolution, consider being more mindful + intentional in 2018.

What does it mean to be intentional?

Living your life intentionally means something different for everyone. At its core, though, living intentionally means being purposeful in what you do and what you say. How can you be purposeful and intentional in the things you do? Consider this: when you live intentionally, you approach each day with a fresh perspective, ready to embrace what the day may bring. It also helps you guide your daily actions and routines.

If you’ve ever felt like you’ve been in a toxic place, a place where you are not in control, or where life happens to you, this mindshift will come as a breath of fresh air. When you live intentionally, you are actively making choices that you want to make and that ultimately bring you fulfillment and happiness.

How can you live more intentionally?

Living intentionally doesn’t require a a grandiose personal makeover or an overnight change. The beauty of being intentional is that it comes in small, deliberate steps. What makes these deliberate steps so effective, though, is that each one is done with a specific goal in mind. What that goal is is up to you. Perhaps you are trying to live a bit more simply or you want to spend more time with friends and loved ones.

As you embark on your journey to living more intentionally, every step of the way you can ask yourself, “Does this action get me closer to my goal?” By continually framing your words and actions in this way, you’ll experience the transformative effect of  living intentionally can have on your life.

First + foremost, be kind to yourSELF.

To quote an old cliche, remember: “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Changing the way you go about your day-to-day is not something that will happen overnight. But remember that it won’t happen at all if you are not able to forgive yourself for the missteps and mistakes that are bound to happen as you begin to live your life with intention.

Sometimes, you will say or do something and look back on it and say, “That is not how to live intentionally.” And that is okay! When that happens, own it, recognize it, and most importantly: Learn from it! These are not mistakes or missteps, but important moments for learning and self-growth. Allowing yourself to be forgiven will only help you on your new path to growth and intention.

Whatever your overarching goals to getting the most out of this year may be, remember: good things come in small packages! By remembering that small, incremental changes can make a big difference over time, you will be well on your way to living your life with more intention. And when you do, you will be amazed at how your perception of the world (and how you interact with it) will change.

Wishing you a very healthy + happy New Year!

Holiday Self-Care

The holidays are often filled with visits to and from friends, family, and loved ones, both near and far. And while it is wonderful to see so many people you care about, it can be a lot to handle, too. That’s why it is important to be mindful during this busy season to make sure that you’re taking time for yourself. I’ve put together this list to help you discover ways to recenter yourself away from the hustle and bustle of the season to take care of yourself.

Meditate right when you wake up.

That’s right. Before the coffee, before you check your phone, meditate. Meditation can help you organize your thoughts and just be with yourself before you head out into the world or a home full of guests. These moments of serenity can then be called up later in the day when things are getting a wild around the house or at work. Focus on your breathing, be aware of your body, and just be.

Be in Nature.

Head outside and get some fresh air and observe the beauty of the world around you. Taking a walk around the block or to the store to pick something up is a great time to unwind and recenter yourself. If there is a dog to walk, you may even be doing someone (especially the dog!) a favor by getting them out of the house, too.

Be honest.

If you are someone who needs a lot of time to yourself on any given day, chances are very good that you’ll definitely need some alone time during the holidays. If this sounds like you, do your best to communicate with your guests or your hosts ahead of time that you like to take some time and just be alone. Let them know that it isn’t a reflection on them, but it is just part of your routine that you cherish and desire. You’ll be surprised at how warmly people receive that message.

Write in a journal.

This doesn’t have to be page after page of your thoughts (though those are fine, too). But when you take a few minutes to commit words to paper about the day's’ activities, ups and downs, and other musings, you’re not only getting some time alone, but you’re also committing your thoughts to paper, which can be incredibly therapeutic and empowering, especially during the holiday season. Not sure what to write about? Start out by writing down something that you’re thankful for every day, and see where it takes you.

Do something for someone else.

This may seem to run counter to “Take time for yourself,” but helping others is a wonderful way to reflect on your year and spend some time with yourself. Whether you’re volunteering, writing a letter to an old friend you’ve lost touch with, or shoveling the snow from an elderly neighbor’s walkway before they wake up, doing something nice for someone for its own sake is incredibly gratifying, and at the end of the day, you’ll feel like you’ve really made a difference in someone’s day.

No matter where you find yourself this holiday season, take time to be with yourself, even if you’ve got a million people buzzing around you. By being mindful of the time you need to be a better you, you’ll improve your interactions with those you surround yourself with over the holidays. Taking time for yourself is one of the best gifts you can give yourself this year.

Expressing Gratitude

Expressing Gratitude.jpg

With Halloween behind us, it is natural for us to start looking ahead and begin to think about the upcoming holiday season. Thanksgiving will be here in no time, and with it the stress and frenzy that often accompanies it. Whether you’re traveling to see family or friends or you are hosting people at your home, Thanksgiving can be incredibly stressful. However, as much as possible, this season especially is a time to practice being thankful and showing gratitude.

As Thanksgiving approaches, try to be present with your partner, and even when the pressures of the season are at their peak, do your best to show your partner gratitude. By following some of the examples below, you will be amazed at the difference expressing and showing gratitude to your partner not only does to improve their mood and outlook, but yours, too.

Count the Little Things

Gratitude shouldn’t be reserved for the “Grand Gestures” in our life. If that was the case, our expressions of gratitude would probably be few and far between. Instead, find the little reasons to show gratitude on a daily basis to your partner.

There are times when partners surprise you: they clear the dishes without being prompted; they surprise you with flowers; or they draw a warm bath for you after a particularly grueling day. These are obvious events where expressing your gratitude goes a long way. These gestures show that they care and that they are in-tune with many of the things that make the modern relationship “work.”

But don’t forget about the other events where gratitude is appreciated and goes a long way. Every now and again, your partner may need a gentle prod or reminder to sweep the floors or put their laundry away. Even if you politely prompt them to do something, once they do it, thank them. Sure, they needed reminding, but when you go out of your way to acknowledge them, chances are they’ll be more inclined in the future to do things without being prompted.

Work Together to Prioritize

One of the key factors of stress between couples during Thanksgiving and the holiday season comes from a lack of communicating priorities. In other words, one partner may view a clean house and neatly trimmed yard as the top priority, whereas the other may feel like having a stocked refrigerator and clean sheets on the beds are the top priority. While each of these are important in their own right, if partners aren’t communicating well with each other about what they view to be a priority, there is a lot of room for assumptions and unmet expectations.

One way to avoid this is by sitting down with your partner and making a list together of all of the “To Dos” you think you need to get done. Once you have the list, you can sit down with each other and discuss the merits and priorities of each. That way, you can both be on the same page about what should be done, by when, and by whom.

While this may not necessarily be an outward form of expressing gratitude to your partner, there is intrinsic value in letting your partner know that you care about their well-being, especially during the holidays, and when you’re on the same page, you’re telling them that you care. In turn, they’ll be grateful to be able to talk through competing priorities with you. And, a little quality time together making a list can be a lot of fun, too!

Communicate Your Way

Every couple has their own spoken and unspoken language. For some, an unexpected hug after an argument says “I’m sorry” in ways that the words never could. On the flip side, other couples may need to hear those words as they work towards forgiveness.

Gratitude happens in much the same way. The go-to method of showing gratitude for one couple may seem incomprehensible to another couple. Also, understand how your partner prefers to be shown gratitude. If your partner is shy, for example, he may not be particularly pleased if you single him out to thank him during the Thanksgiving dinner toast! Instead, he may be thrilled with a sticky note on the bathroom mirror before bed at night.

Finding “your” language to express gratitude is a special exercise and may require some introspective thinking. There is beauty in this, though, because it helps you think and consider the various ways in which gratitude can be shown, and by its own right, that is something to be grateful for.

Wherever you find yourself this Thanksgiving, remember to be thankful. Thank everyone from your family to your colleagues to the tellers in the grocery store. In a busy world, a “Thank You” still goes a very long way.

Wishing you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving!

Learning to set BOUNDARIES

learning  to set boundaries.jpg

From time to time, we all get the dreaded feeling that there just isn’t enough time to do everything we need to do, let alone squeeze in a few of the things we want to do. Between demands on our time from work, kids, kids’ events, spouses, and countless other activities that vie for our attention, it is easy to get so bogged down to the point where you feel overwhelmed to the point of drowning. Part of it is surely our culture. After all, we live in a society where the appropriate response to “How’s it going?” is “Oh, I am so busy.” So many people wear it as a badge of honor sometimes, but at what cost? In this post, we’ll explore a few ideas that can help you take back control of your life and your time and hopefully return some of your sanity back, too!

Set Boundaries

It sounds simple, but it is easier said than done. What sort of boundaries am I talking about? Here, I’m referring to personal boundaries; the ones that are often hardest to bring up but that have a significant impact on your mental health and well-being.

For example, do you hate attending holiday functions with your family, because someone always brings up how impressive and accomplished one of your siblings is? Or perhaps someone in the family leaves you feeling guilty that you don’t visit as much as you used to. Any variation of these can leave us feeling depressed and despondent. However, there is a way to overcome those anxieties: set boundaries.

Whether it is the dreaded family holiday get-together or something else entirely that you dread doing, try and level-set with whomever you’re visiting and tell them what is and is not okay tobring up, talk about, or share while you’re there. These are difficult conversations to have, especially with loved ones (the same rules apply for workplace functions, too), but until you express your feelings, no one may know their behavior is negatively affecting you.

Self-awareness is a major aspect of setting boundaries. After all, in order to set them, you need to know what they are. When you have clearly communicated your boundaries to those who need to be made aware, that is just the first step. If someone violates your boundaries after you’ve set them, it is equally as important to be assertive and let them know how their actions are affecting you. Whenever possible, seek the support and guidance of others whom you respect and can count on to be there for you.

Make Healthy Choices

Healthy minds and healthy bodies are key ingredients to regaining control in your life. With all of the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, though, it can be difficult to find time to head to the gym or take time to just focus on your thoughts without distraction. However, achieving a healthy mind and body doesn’t require giant time commitments, and the results will serve you well all year long.

Moving our bodies in deliberate, thoughtful ways helps connect our bodies to our minds. One great way to do this is through practicing yoga. Yoga includes physical movement, breathing exercises, and promotes an awareness of Self that other workouts simply don’t give you. By bridging the physical to the emotional and even spiritual, yoga allows your body to relax and move while calming your mind and putting you back in the driver’s seat and regaining control.

Mindfulness is another great way to regain control and balance in your life. It is also very much in line with the practice of yoga. There are a lot of great benefits associated with mindfulness, namely the ability to become fully present, aware of ourselves and our surroundings, and become more reflective and less reactive to the world around us. You can incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine in a number of ways. One of the easiest ways to start is to focus on your breathing. Since breathing is so integral to everything in our lives, deliberate concentration on breathing in and out can put your mind and body at ease, leaving you with a feeling of more control in your daily life.  Breathing is just one exercise of many, so this appeals to you, I encourage you to further your research and find more mindfulness routines that suit you.

Don’t Try to Change Everything at Once

Old habits die hard, and breaking out of them is difficult to say the least. Generally speaking, research suggests that it takes about 21 days of consistent patterns and action for something to become habit. That’s why it is so important for us to be mindful about how we’re adopting these changes into our life.

If the goal is for us to feel less stressed and less overwhelmed, what sense is there in trying to fix everything at once? That sounds stressful!

So, be mindful about creating boundaries, eating right, and getting exercise. These changes don’t have to be enormous, either. If you’re looking for an easy addition to your daily routine that is incredibly helpful, try simple breathing exercises.

Whenever you feel overwhelmed or stressed, try to pinpoint what specific things in your life that are the source of the stress. Then, close your eyes and simply focus on your breathing: Gentle inhale through your nostrils, gentle exhale through your mouth. Repeat. In. And out. In. And out. 

When you complete this exercise, your head will be in a much better place to approach your stresses rationally and head on. You’ll be amazed at how satisfying regaining control with a few simple breathing exercises can be.

I would love to hear from you! What do you do in your daily life to help reduce stress and not feel incredibly overwhelmed all the time?

Let Love Grow

Let’s face it: Relationships require work. Sometimes, really hard work. All too often, the longer you and your partner have been together, the more work your relationship requires. That seems kind of counter-intuitive, right? After all, the longer you’ve been with someone, the better you should know them. And the better you know someone, the less conflict you should have, right? If only it were that easy! As relationships go on, other stressors and factors enter the picture that may not have been there when the relationship was just starting to blossom. Busy careers, bills, kids, kids’ activities...all of these can cause couples to drift apart. Sound familiar? If it does, don’t worry! There are ways you and your partner can reconnect, bicker less, and grow stronger in your relationship.

Let love grow Shelby Castile.jpg

Bickering

Every couple bickers from time to time. Occasionally, that bickering morphs into full-fledged arguments, complete with yelling and exasperated sighs, and migraines. Bickering can actually be really healthy for relationships, as long as it is done respectfully. “Huh?” I’m sure you’re saying. Stay with me! 

Bickering and arguing can be healthy when you’re not just waiting for your turn to speak but when you just shut up and listen to what your partner is saying. Often, the causes of arguments are small things that have built up over a period of time, but which have never been expressly communicated. So, the next time your spouse gets on your case about not cleaning the toilet, listen to what they’re saying. They may not be mad about the toilet; perhaps you’re not taking initiative on cleaning in general.

In the heat of the moment, people can say things they don’t mean or that they instantly regret. Avoid this if possible! The best way to do this is to hit pause. When you recognize that the argument is not yielding anything productive, put it on hold. Whether you both need to walk away and get some fresh air, or (contrary to popular belief) go to bed angry, just give each other some space. These moments of reflection help calm emotions and allow our more rational sides to come back to us. When sufficient time has passed, talk about your argument calmly with one another. Chances are you’ll both find a little humor in what you were arguing about, too.

Sometimes, couples that argue are in healthier relationships than those who don’t bicker at all, because those who aren’t bickering about anything have (sometimes) given up on the relationship without knowing it. When people aren’t bickering and aren’t blissfully in love with their partner, they’re like ships passing in the night. They know the other is there, but they’re not seeing them.

When this happens, what can you do? Sometimes, the easiest thing to do is just talk. Let your partner know what you are feeling, and see if they feel the same way, too. Go into this conversation with an open mind and open heart, and really listen to what your partner has to say. This type of dialogue is essential to growing together as a couple. If you are uncomfortable having this type of conversation or you feel like it has gone beyond the point where simply talking one-on-one with your spouse will work, seek professional guidance from a therapist or marriage counselor.

Reconnect

Relationships are breeding grounds for stress. There is constant pressure from your career; you want to make sure you’re providing the best life you can for your kids; and the result of this is that your relationship with your partner can unintentionally take a backseat. When this happens, it is easier to justify disagreements or, worse, accepting and living in a situation that seems stagnant and doomed.

One way some couples can reconnect and reignite the spark is to either get away or spend some quality Adult Time together. Whether this is a relaxing vacation with just the two of you or sending the kids to the grandparents’ or summer camp for a bit, these moments together can work wonders on a relationship.

Vacations are a great way to hit “reset” and forget about the worries of the real world (just make sure you’re not checking your work email incessantly!). Sitting on a beach with a fruity drink and a trashy novel (followed by some passionate love making in the room) can be just what the doctor ordered. Vacations also get us out of our normal routines and inspire spontaneity that is absent in our day-to-day.

For couples who have the means to do so, sending your kids to summer camp can be an incredible way to fall in love with your partner all over again. This is a great option, because camp offers kids a wonderful opportunity to make new friends and grow into themselves, so you don’t have the same type of guilt that may accompany a parents-only vacation! On top of that, you and your partner can still do your normal career things, but you can enjoy extended happy hours or more frequent date nights without having to worry about getting back in time for the baby sitter.

No matter how long you’ve been with your partner, there is always a way to grow and mature in your love for one another. Sometimes, the monotony of everyday life can grate on us, and our relationships are the first to suffer. Be proactive when you can. But if you find yourself bickering or looking across the dinner table wondering, “Who is this person I’m living with?”, give each other a chance. Talk, communicate, hold one another tightly, and ask for help if you need it! 

Relationship Refresh

Intimate, loving relationships are one of the most amazing things in the world. Finding a partner with whom you can share life’s adventures, tragedies, and joys is an incredibly wonderful gift. Like anything worthwhile, though, relationships require constant work, communication, and ongoing attention in order to thrive.

What do you do when your relationship begins to show signs of wear or is fraying a bit at the edges? Every relationship has its problems, so understanding ways in which you can identify problems and work towards a resolution is of paramount importance if your relationship is to survive and grow.

In this post, we’ll explore 3 common relationship problems and possible solutions.

Recognize and overcome relationship problems

Regain Balance

We often hear that relationships are a balancing act, requiring ongoing repositioning and adapting to our partners’ cues in order to maintain a healthy symbiosis. There is a lot of truth to this, but relationships also have ability to become lopsided and imbalanced.

But what does it mean to really be “balanced,” and how do we get from a place of imbalance to balance? For our answer, we need to understand how our emotions, and the actions that impact those emotions in relationship, are regulated by our bodies.

Our bodies produce and release all sorts of chemicals depending on what a situation calls for. When we work out or push our bodies physically, the body releases endorphins, which lessen the pain from these strenuous activities and leave us feeling good. Afterall, if the body didn’t release those feel-good endorphins after a killer spin class, why would we ever want to go back!?

From the relationship aspect, though, in order to understand why a relationship may be off kilter, it is important to realize that the way the body reacts chemically to certain situations may be at the root of relationship problems. Consider the fact that other feel-good brain chemicals such as oxytocin (aka the “trust” hormone), serotonin (an antidepressant), and dopamine (a “reward” chemical) all have the potential to play significant roles in our, and our partners’ behavior.

Think of the phrase “having too much of a good thing” and how it may ring true in relationships. “Feel good” chemicals also have the potential to serve as a crutch when we’re feeling low or stagnant in our relationships. The release of dopamine, for instance, feels good and is rewarding, but those same characteristics can make it more addictive. In other words, the actions you or your partner take to get that rush of emotion may actually be harming your relationship, but the addictiveness of the feeling may make it harder to stop the behavior that is causing the body to release those feel-good chemicals.

When you recognize that you or your partner may be seeking “too much of a good thing” in terms of these chemical releases, you’re on the right path to fixing a broken part of your relationship. However, it is important not to impose this on your partner: they may feel attacked and emotionally vulnerable if you do, which may actually encourage more of the behavior that you’re trying to solve!

Look Inward

When you’re trying to find your balance with your partner, you may be wondering, “If we’re hard-wired to release these chemicals, then what can we do to break the addictive nature and regain balance with our partners?”

The first thing that we can each do is to look inward. All of us are in control of our own selves and emotions. When we are able to take emotional stock of our actions, behavior, and feelings, we gain a clearer understanding of how that may affect our relationships. For example, if we recognize that we’re constantly engaging in behavior that has a negative impact on our partner, the question then becomes: what can I do to change my behavior?

Similarly, it is equally important that your partner take the same emotional inventory. Often in relationships, bad (or if not bad, damaging) habits form early on but don’t manifest until much later, because one partner or the other shrugs it off thinking it isn’t a big deal or that it will end soon.

By talking with your partner about your own process you can encourage them to evaluate themselves. This relationship “work” has the potential to bring you closer together during tough phases of your time together. When your partner recognizes not only your emotional vulnerability and confidence in expressing these emotions in a self-aware way, you may just give them the confidence they need to start their own inward journey.

Stay Strong

We won’t be so naive to think that every relationship can be fixed by finding balance and looking inward. The unfortunate truth is that some relationships are just toxic, or even downright dangerous. Understanding the difference between a relationship needing “work” and a relationship that is causing emotional or physical harm is paramount.

However, sometimes you do need to seek balance and look inward to recognize you’re in a toxic relationship. If you come to this realization, understand this: you are not alone. Seek the guidance of trusted friends or family.

Our friends and family (and, if necessary, professional help) often see our strengths even if we cannot. Their support, love, and encouragement in times of struggle are often the boost we need to confidently recognize the impact unhealthy relationships can have on our lives.

Toxic relationships can be saved if the other partner is truly willing to make the necessary changes, but having the strength to recognize that your partner isn’t letting you be the Best You is a giant step towards a healthy Self.

No matter where you are in your relationship with your partner, never be afraid to seek the guidance of friends, family, or professionals. Alone, it is hard to see the forest for the trees or to recognize patterns that others may see immediately. Give yourself time to look internally to understand yourself. Trying to mend fraying or broken relationships is never easy, but it is possible, and it starts with you.

Reignite the Spark

It will probably come as no surprise to you, but relationships take a lot of time and work in order to grow and ultimately be successful. I often see clients who are in a relationship standstill or rut. They’ve been with their partner for years and each can anticipate what the other will say before they even say it!

When you get to that point, or feel like you’re teetering on the edge of it, what can you do to reignite the spark that brought you together in the first place? This post explores many of the ways in which you can bring some spice back into your love life.

Reignite the Marriage Spark

AppreciatE

If we were to believe all of the Hollywood date-night movies, Love (with a capital L) would always be outwardly displayed by some grandiose gesture, hot air balloon rides, and endless candlelit dinners surrounded by rose petals. But those of us who live in the real world know that love is a combination of lots of little things: holding the door open for your spouse, emptying the dishwasher, waking up in the middle of the night to clean urine-stained sheets from your little ones. Every day, our partners do little things for us because they care. Are you making sure to appreciate and acknowledge the little things your partner does for you? One way to practice appreciation is to keep daily list, either on paper or in your head, and at the end of each day, tell your partner one of the things you are appreciative of from earlier in the day. This little gesture can go a long way. And who knows...maybe they’ll start their own list of “appreciations” and begin the practice, too!

Acknowledge

Similar to sharing the little things you appreciate about your partner and what they do for you, I also encourage my clients to talk about the small things. What are the “small things?” Well, there’s always the classic example of a man leaving the toilet seat up. Maybe she takes spoonfuls of peanut butter right out of the jar to eat, and it kind of grosses you out. Whatever it is, it won’t do either of you any good if you bottle up those little annoyances. Gently bring these small annoyances up to your partner. Don’t be accusatory (because remember: there are probably a few things that you do that annoy your partner!) but let them know that some certain behaviors or actions are a bit annoying to you. Opening up this line of direct, thoughtful dialog tells them that you want to be honest with them and that hopefully by talking about it, the two of you can come to an understanding or agreement about these annoyances.

That said, there is also virtue in letting some of these small annoyances go. Really. Some things may just not be worth bringing up, especially if it is a lifelong habit of your spouse, or you know that they truly get a lot of joy from whatever action it is that annoys you. The trick here, though, is to actually let it go. Do what you need to do to get over it and not let it bother you any more.

Talk, Talk, Talk!

Notice a theme in the first few tips to a healthy relationship? Communication is King. Small things, big things, middle-of-the-road things. No one wants to be that couple who eats an entire meal together in silence because they have nothing to talk about any more. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been together for 4 or 40 years, keeping your dialog open, fresh, and fun is one of the keys to relationship longevity.

What to talk about? Anything! Talk about your partner’s hopes, dreams, even disappointments. Is there anything that they’ve done that they regret? Perhaps there are things you can talk about that bring new ideas to light that are energizing and invigorating to your mate. Talk about doing something together that may be out of both of your comfort zones. Again, don’t let things fester in silence. Bring things up into the open and have honest, thoughtful conversations.

spend time together

If you and your partner share a lot of the same interests, one thing that can reignite the spark and take you both a bit out of your comfort zones is taking a class together. Find something that interests you both, but that neither of you considers “a strong suit.” For example, if you find yourselves eating out a lot, try signing up for a cooking class. There are tons of options out there ranging from cooking basics to region-based fare (think Mediterranean, Chinese, Mexican, etc) that are designed for couples to learn together.

Another option is taking classes in outdoors activities such as sailing or rock climbing. Perhaps this is something you’ve both wanted to do for a long time, but things like work, kids, time, etc have gotten in the way. Don’t put it off any longer! When you both learn something together, you’re creating new memories and often, the playfulness, the joking, and the fun that sparked your relationship in the first place bubbles back up to the surface.

No matter what you end up doing, relationships take work. But like all things that come with hard work, the rewards are incredibly valuable. When you and your partner overcome relationship hurdles together, you forge stronger, more enduring bonds that will take you years into the future together.

Children + Mindfulness

children and mindfulness

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Kids are like sponges: they absorb everything.” When uttered, this phrase is typically used as a warning to parents or their guests: “Whatever you do, don’t mess up...the kids are watching!” One errant bad word and you’ve got an adorable 3 year old walking around saying something she shouldn’t to your in-laws!

Something that is often forgotten about the “Kids are like sponges” sentiment, though, is that they also absorb good things. As an adult, kids look up to you and watch to see how you react and interact with the world around you. In a time where kids and adults alike seem unable to separate from their screens, practicing mindfulness in your life, and showing your children how to be mindful, can have immeasurable benefits.

I often see kids in my practice who are anxious or who struggle with other cognitive hurdles like ADHD. I have found that introducing kids to mindfulness exercises and games can help them immensely when they’re feeling overwhelmed or out of control. Below, I review some of the common advice I give children and their parents on how they can be more mindful every day.

Start With Yourself

Do you already practice mindfulness in your everyday life? If you do, that’s great: you’re one step closer to having a mindful child. Remember: Kids are like sponges, and they look to you for how to behave. So, if you don’t have your own mindfulness routine yet, start one. It can just be a few minutes a day, but getting into this habit will help you as you guide your child on their own path. There are tons of resources available online if you need a little boost to see how to start practicing mindfulness in your daily routine.

Mindfulness is FUN!

People frequently come up to me and say that they’d love to teach their kids to be more mindful, but they have trouble getting them to stay still for 30 seconds...it's something I’ve heard a million times and my answer is always the same: Make a game out of it! Kids love games, and games are a great way to introduce them to the concept of mindfulness.

Tip: Make sure the game is age-appropriate, and don’t worry about calling it a mindfulness game or not...it's just a game that incorporates mindfulness. Consider taking a walk around the neighborhood, and devote 30-60 seconds to a Listening Game. What do they hear? Birds? Cars? The wind through the trees? A simple exercise like this can plant the seed in your kids to be more aware of the world around them. 

Mindfulness is Calming

Right before bedtime is a great time to practice mindfulness with your kids. While they’re laying down, and after you’ve read them their story, guide them through an exercise that brings an awareness to their body. “Gently scrunch up your toes. Okay, now un-scrunch them. Feel the muscles in your legs. Feel them get heavier. Picture your belly and take a deep breath in. Now, breathe out.” There are lots of body-awareness scripts available online, too, to help you get the hang of this one. The quiet of the house and your soothing voice make this a great time of day to pass along mindfulness to your kids.

Remember: mindfulness doesn’t happen overnight, and it is not a “cure” for an unruly or rebellious child. However, mindfulness is a tool that you can equip your child with that can serve her well for years to come. Simply being aware of our surroundings and how we fit into our environment is a step in the right direction.

 

 

Need a reset? The time is NOW.

need a reset the best time is now

New beginnings don’t need to start or stop with New Year's’ celebrations. Don’t get me wrong, there is something powerful, almost cosmic, with the changing of the year. It is a time when anything seems possible, and you can say, “Adios!” to another year. However, New Year's happens once a year. What about the rest of the time? What happens when you need a reset? This is a question I toyed with for years until it hit me: my birthday falls close to the middle of the year...perfect! It was an amazing shift in perspective for me.

I’ve been able to use the time surrounding my birthday to contemplate my year thus far. I’ve looked inward and listened to my heart so I can hear what it is telling me. Am I on track with the person I wanted to be this year? What can I do differently? Having this conversation with myself, and being open and honest in my assessment of my progress, has been life-changing. I feel as though I am getting a second New Year’s Resolution, and I embrace the rest of the year as a challenge, but one I am equipped to meet.

So what if your birthday doesn’t happen to fall in the middle of the year? Don’t let that stop you. Find any date and make it your celebration and your time to reflect on the first half of the year. Use this day as an opportunity to explore what the rest of the year looks like for you. Who says beginnings can’t start in the middle?

With that said, I’ve come up with three easy-to-do exercises to help you get in your groove and find a renewed sense of energy and purpose.

Set a date, and stick to it. Like I said, your birthday may not fall in the middle of the year. If this is you, don’t worry. Pick a date that may have other special meaning to you. It could be the birthday of a loved one, an anniversary of a first date...something that may make you look back and smile. If you’re still coming up blank, that’s okay. Perhaps the summer solstice, which happens every year between June 20 and June 22 (but pick one!), is meaningful to you. Like New Year's, the Summer Solstice has that cosmic element that officially brings in summer and is the day of the year in which we get the most amount of daylight. What better way to enjoy that extra bit of light than by exploring the ways in which you can start fresh for the rest of the year?

Reflect, then Look Forward. What has worked for you so far this year? What would you like to change? Make a list. The Good, the Bad, the Ugly. Get it all down on paper. Smile and be thankful for the Good. Reflect, and write down how the bad made you feel and any thoughts on how the Bad can be turned into Good the rest of the year. Not sure what I mean? Perhaps you lost a loved one, a job, or are just in a rut. That sadness you feel can be transformed into positive energy. Maybe volunteering more and helping others can morph your Bad into a Good. Then there is The Ugly. Maybe you’ve been less-than-admirable in some aspects of your life. Own it. Recognize it. Change it. Write down the “warts” and then set out how to fix them moving ahead. Your future self will be glad you did.

Stay Accountable. Once you have your list and have set goals for yourself for the New You, check in on yourself! Don’t let excuses get in the way of becoming a better you. If you’ve struggled with New Year’s Resolutions in the past, tell a friend or family member what you’re up to and ask them to help keep you on track and on target. Something that has always helped me in goal-setting is setting SMART Goals. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. By setting your goals in this deliberate manner, you take actionable steps to a better you.

Unplug, Stop + Breathe

stress and the media

For better or worse, we live in a 24/7 world. At any time of the day or night, we can flip on our television or open our tablet or phone and be immersed in information. On one hand, this exposure to such a vast amount of knowledge and data can be enlightening and liberating: at no point in human history has the collection of information been so vast and so accessible. On the other hand, sifting through all of the noise that this causes can be nearly impossible and finding the golden nuggets of truth in the rushing river of 21st century media can seem like it is just too much.

If you are already prone to feeling stress or anxiety, our “always on” world isn’t doing you any favors. The human mind is a powerful, powerful creation, but one that is simultaneously fragile. With a 24 hour news cycle and social media platforms, our minds are constantly inundated with unnecessary junk.  

You may not realize it, but when you hear a news story about how the world may come to an end at any moment or watch a show about a house hunter with a budget larger than anything you could imagine, your mind continues to process that information long after you’ve changed the channel. In the news example, your mind is subconsciously trying to cope with the possibility of certain doom! That’s a tall order, don’t you think? And in the example of the house hunter with an astronomical amount of disposable income, your mind may start to wonder “Why can’t I  have that? Am I not good enough?” We needlessly put our mind through the ringer when we are constantly exposing it to these stimuli.

Now, compound all of that with the “normal” stress and anxiety you feel on a day-to-day basis: juggling demands from work; needs around the house; time spent with friends and loved ones fostering important relationships. By themselves, these are already a lot to deal with! Throw in the barrage of media from the TV and our phones, and we’re in hyperdrive but don’t know who is flying this rocket ship! What can we do? How do we make it stop?

Unplug. Step back. Breathe. Focus on what is important to you.

When it all seems too much to handle and your stress level is reaching its peak, just unplug. Even if just for 15 minutes at the beginning. Find time in your day where you don’t have a TV on and where you’re not looking at your phone. Just be present in the moment.

Find someplace comfortable. Someplace where you feel safe and away from distractions. Focus on your breathing. When you focus on your breathing, you’re telling your mind that it is okay to slow down and take a break from processing of all that “stuff.” Like any good exercise, this takes practice. But just like any type of practice, the more you do it, the better you become. Finding 15 minutes is no longer a chore, but part of your daily routine, and a routine that will leave you feeling alive, powerful, and in control of your life, even in this chaotic world!

The mind is a beautiful thing, but we must take the time to care for it. When you step back and focus your energy inward, your mind can take a break. When you’re done, you’ve done yourself and your mind an incredible favor.

Waking-Up

waking up and showing compassion

     This winter was very difficult for a lot of us. The cultural climate of constant conflict and discord has left many of us feeling emotionally, spiritually, and even physically, drained. It is so important that we take the time to invite this new Spring season into our lives, and welcome a much needed, and refreshing, change.

     Over these past few months, I have observed many of my clients going through a big shift, and they can feel themselves coming out of a life-hibernation. Many are sharing that they feel as though they are suddenly acutely aware of their potential, power and worth. Wonderful right? Except for many people, this time of inner revolution can feel a bit overwhelming and scary. Often, as we begin to move into our highest selves, there are multiple layers of complex narratives that bubble to the surface. It’s a process, a tapestry of tales and experiences, stitched together to form a renewed sense of Self. There are things we can do along each step of the way to empower our fierce truths, enliven our bravery and decrease any discomfort that may come up. You will absolutely come out of the process feeling stronger and better than ever before, you just may need support along the way.

Here are some tips and tools for when you feel yourself, bravely, waking-up:

1. Often times, when we recognize things that we hadn’t before, we initially wish we could go back to a time when we didn’t know. I think a lot of this is rooted in fear of the unknown. We mistakenly believe that this new awareness will diminish our sense of safety, security and predictability, so, rather than cradle our newfound truth, we try to throw it away and ignore it. If you find yourself in this place, I invite you to write it down. Write down the new calling/dream/truth/goal in a journal or a place that feels safe to you. Even if you don’t want to do anything about it, just give it a space to live outside of your body/mind/spirit. “Ok, truth. I hear you. I see you. I acknowledge you. I might not do anything about it right now, and I might wish you were never here, but I thank you for stopping by.” As you allow yourself to write about it you will begin to notice an evolution of your feelings. Set aside 5-10 minutes of you day to ask yourself important questions like, “What if I allow this truth to be true? What if I don’t have to do anything about it just yet, but I can just try it on for size? What would it look like if I leaned in to this newness? What am I, actually, afraid of?”  To use a favorite analogy from Sue Monk Kidd, once we are stung by a symbolic bee, we cannot be unstung. Write it out and you’ll find your way.

2. As you begin to stand in your new sense of power, you may feel an unexpected guest arrive: Anger (with a capital A). I’ve seen this so much lately, especially after the election. While we are very often told that anger is a foe, I believe it is actually a friend, trying to tell us very important information. As we wake-up we may start to feel less tolerant of people mistreating us; we may begin to question the motives of those we’d previously accepted without question; we may start to feel a deep, primal rage simmering while we re-examine our society and our history. This is when I highly recommend seeking the help and guidance of others. Perhaps you schedule an extra appointment with a therapist, or maybe you have a trusted mentor in your life to turn to. Either way, it is so important that you talk through the anger and explore its messages, before quickly reacting and potentially doing things you might regret. Anger is trying to deliver messages to us, but if we make rash decisions in its grasp, we very possibly miss the incredible gifts it has buried within. It’s not about making the anger go away, it’s about embracing it and then excavating for important artifacts. Using it as a tool rather than a weapon. We must take the time to work with our rage, knowing you owned it, not the other way around.

3. Right after the election, I found myself with numerous clients struggling with sudden severed relationships. Many experienced breaks in family ties and shared about dissolved friendships. The first thing I want to ensure everyone is that they are not alone. While we may feel temporarily isolated or displaced, and begin to blame ourselves entirely, it is so critical that we grant ourselves some serious self-compassion. As we leave the shores of the familiar and chart a course for new, unknown, lands, we can sometimes lose our bearings for a bit. We feel proud of our new strength and knowledge, but, at the same exact time, we might be met with unexpected longings for our previous routines, patterns, and relationships, even if they were toxic. When we are in these inbetween spaces, it is important to start seeking out supportive friends and relationships that nurture your transformation. It is also critical to practice massive amounts of self care. Some examples that always help: Going for long walks, finding a good book at the library, taking a bubble bath each night, getting a massage, practicing yoga a few times a week, sitting alone in nature, repeating positive affirmations, getting plenty of sleep, eating lots of grounding vegetables and fresh fruits, drinking plenty of water, and taking time to journal. You are not alone, and you will feel whole once again.

     As you enter Spring this year, remember that it may not always be easy, just like the butterfly struggling to emerge from her cocoon or a new flower pushing mightily through the thick winter mud, but it is, without question, always worth it. As you hear the song birds begin to sing outside again, remember to use these tools to keep yourself centered and courageous. There is big work to be done in this world, and we need you to be your best self, now, more than ever before.

 

Keeping Balance

Yoga for keeping health and balance

I was talking to a fellow yogi the other day and our conversation naturally turned toward the idea of balance. She is a work from home mom of eight children, the youngest being 8 months old! She struggles daily to keep balance on many different levels. There is the balance of taking care of the children, the house, her business and other commitments. There is the balance of relationships with her children, her husband, her friends and her family. Maybe most importantly, there is the balance within herself – mind, heart, body and soul. In a perfect world all of these things would ebb and flow sweetly, pushing and pulling together into a symphony of beauty. We do not live in a perfect world! How do we balance all of our commitments, relationships, and our own sweet spirit in the midst of so much busyness and sometimes even chaos?

Balance is a common need for so many people. In our rush, rush, rush, super-efficient, every moment posted on social media for the world to see daily lives our society is starting to see the need for calm.   We are starting to see the need to be still. Yoga is a long practiced proven, healthy and positive way to gain the calm and stillness that we seek. Yoga will bring balance whether you have a consistent home practice, take a class at the local gym or a combination of the two. The benefits of yoga are endless for balancing both your mind and body, which in turn helps to balance all aspects of your life.

There is a quote by Mahatma Gandhi that goes:

Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.

Our beliefs and our thoughts lead to our destiny! Balance starts in your own mind. This is why it is so vital that in order to gain balance in life that you begin with meditation. Learning to quiet your mind will help you to free yourself from limiting and negative thoughts. Connecting to your own thoughts in such an intimate way will bring your own intuition, dreams and desires forward. This will lead to a healthy balance of negative and positive emotions.

Your emotions then in turn help to balance your body. It is a well known fact in the practice of yoga that we carry our emotions in our bodies. By creating balance in your thoughts you also create balance in your emotions which affects your body.

The practice of yoga is also physically balancing to your body. Yoga aids your body in releasing negative energy such as anger, stress, frustration, insecurities, etc. When this happens it creates a shift between the positive and negative energies in your physical body, bringing balance to them. That balance allows more positive energy within your body such as dreaming, joy, patience, peace, love, kindness, gentleness, etc. That balance can also relieve physical pain in your body allowing you more freedom in life.

Think of the yin and yang symbol that is used to represent balance. There is both positive and negative energy within the sphere and they are in perfect balance (the same amount). There is even a spot of light in the dark side and a spot of dark in the light side. The “line” between them is not straight, which I love! I believe that shows that either side can move into the other creating an imbalance. When I look at the yin and yang symbol I see that it is always in motion.

So, you see balance is not something that you work hard toward one time and then everything is perfect. It is like most of life… a constant ebb and flow, give and take, push and pull until every once in a while you get that beautiful balance. The process of gaining that balance is part of the reward of achieving balance within. So, learn to love the process! Take joy in the learning to bring your own beliefs, thoughts, words, actions, habits, values and destiny into balance.

Get on your mats every day and quiet your mind!

On Resolutions

resolutions and your health

During this time of year, we often begin setting goals and dreaming big. We fill our journals with plans for the future and prepare ourselves for what’s next. We fill our heads with visions of sugar plums and make lists of endless possibilities. It all feels so magical and exciting, and it is! But sometimes in the middle of this beautiful process of expansion, we forget about gratitude.

The Winter Solstice, or the return to light, is the perfect time to pause and reflect and maybe even offer ourselves a bit of self-love. Sure it’s alluring to write resolutions like, “Next year I will get in shape!” But what if we sat under the sky and, with one hand over our hearts, whispered, “I am so grateful for my health, my resilient body, my ever-beating heart.”

Feel the difference?

I recently worked with a Mother who was going through a transition with her teenage son. She thought she was setting important goals and boundaries, but he expressed that by setting so many goals for his future, she was, inadvertently, sending him the message that who he is, currently, and all of the things he is accomplishing right now, was all somehow not good enough. Until he shared that with her, she truly never realized that’s how it was all coming across. I think the same can be said for how we speak to ourselves. When we repeatedly declare, “Next year I will be thinner/smarter/better!” We may also be sending the inverse message to ourselves that who we are, today, is just not good enough. And that’s simply not true. We are radiant, brave, resilient beings.

Try this:

  1. Carve out 10-15 minutes of your time between now and December 21st to sit quietly and try this practice:
  2. Take a few deep cleansing breaths, allow your muscles to release any tension, and repeat, “I love, accept, and respect myself.”
  3. After you’ve done this for 5 or 6 deep breaths, think of the things you’d most like to change in the new year, and then see if you can offer yourself some grace and compassion in those areas. Find the gratitude from which to build your plans of evolution. If you get stuck finding self-kindness, just repeat the mantra, “I love, accept and respect myself.” When your 10-15 minutes is up, it is my hope you will feel lighter and more at ease.

Being motivated to become better versions of ourselves is an incredible feeling, and when we can do so from a place of reverence for the gift of what already is, I believe our chances of feeling fulfilled multiply tenfold. Even when we are exhausted, or angry or just totally ready to close one door and open another, granting ourselves permission to find the beauty in the imperfect NOW, is truly powerful.

No Time Like the Present

Anyone who practices yoga regularly is probably aware of the benefits yoga has on mental health. They each compliment one another on so many levels and the integration of yoga with mental health is becoming more popular by the minute.

Yoga and mindfulness especially, are all the rage these days. It seems everywhere I look, there’s a new study on how yoga can help with depression, anxiety and ease stress or relationship tension. How slowing down to become more ‘mindful’ can help us to make healthier choices and teach us new ways of coping to unpleasant, unpredictable life events.

The benefits are written about everywhere, yet people remain challenged in starting a regular yoga practice. I see this struggle in my patients as they come in session after session, reporting back to me with reasons why this week {yet, again} they could not make it to their mat.

I get it. Starting something new is difficult. Especially when it involves slowing down, getting centered and becoming grounded in your body. Emotions, fears and anxieties are bound to come up. However, yoga can be extremely healing and having a consistent yoga practice can be so supportive to emotional well-being.

SO… for all the curious newbies who are aspiring to start and keep a consistent home yoga practice, but are a little unsure of where to begin- I will outline a few simple steps to get you going.

Number one. Intention.

I suggest you become aware of why it is you want to start a yoga practice in the first place. Is it to help with your insomnia or anxiety? Do you want to lose weight? Perhaps you want to get to a calmer, more relaxed state of mind. Whatever it is, it’s okay. Intention is key to so many things in life, which is why I think it is essential to any yoga practice.

An example may be, “My intention to start a yoga practice is to slow down my racing thoughts so that when my children/partner/life become irritable/frustrating/demanding, I have the necessary tools to help me deal with the situation at hand.”

Number two. Time.

 I suggest practicing yoga in the morning. A morning yoga practice is my preference for many reasons, but mostly because this is when the mind is most clear. Plus, it’s the perfect time to get grounded and start your day with that intention you set! A morning practice can also help keep your energy lifted throughout the day. If that’s not a possibility for you, it’s perfectly okay. Practicing yoga around the lunch hour or in the evening can work well too, to refresh the mind, help release tension and counter afternoon fatigue.

Number three. Space.

A small, private room in your home or office is ideal for a daily yoga practice, although any quiet space that is large enough to roll out your yoga mat is perfectly doable. A balcony or grassy, quiet area in your yard can be a lovely place to practice if the weather permits. Just make sure your phone is off and you are not likely to be disturbed for a while.

I like to put on either a mellow or upbeat playlist and depending on my mood, will light a few scented candles. This is completely optional and really depends on you and what you’re feeling on that particular day. I always encourage my students to listen to their intuition and to trust it. Once your yoga practice becomes more consistent, your ability to tap into your intuition with more regularity will also strengthen.

That’s it! That’s all you need to start. Intention, time and space. These three things, in conjunction with the most critical piece {your breath} can provide you with the opportunity to develop a consistent, fulfilling yoga practice within your own home. Keep in mind too, that if you’re able to make it to a local yoga class, that’s a great way to build connection and be a part of your community.

Most importantly, go easy on yourself, have fun with it and enjoy the process. Learning something new can be challenging! Give yourself permission to fully experience whatever comes up.

Nurturing your Relationship

build better communication as a couple

Relationships are very, very challenging- but they can also be so wonderful and fulfilling. Quite possibly, the most important relationship in many of our lives is with our significant other. Unfortunately, this relationship often doesn’t get the nourishment and focus that it needs to grow and thrive. Why is this?

The business of life seems to get in the way and everything else seems more pressing.   Let’s face it- work demands, family obligations and dealing with children’s needs are all taxing. It’s easy to let life take precedence over love and not give the relationship with our partner attention. Intimacy can become challenging and growth halted as communication falls to the wayside. However, a relationship can be fostered and flourish through some simple actions.

Below, I will outline four tips to help communicate better with your loved one:

  1. Check In – Once a week, find a time and way to check in with each other, whether it’s a date night out, an evening in, or any other activity that is just the two of you. Hold each other accountable for this time together and make it a priority it to show up for it.
  2. Little Things – Simple, thoughtful gestures can make a big impact. Something as small as a sweet text message to let your partner know you’re thinking of them, or a sweet hand written note can go a long way in aiding better communication.
  3. Tune In – Keep electronics OUT of the bedroom. Date your partner NOT your phone. When you’re out for a dinner, make sure to keep phones and other electronics tucked away so that you can focus on each other and really tune in to your partner. Even when you’re at home, take time without your phones, iPads, computers and televisions to just focus on one another.
  4. Plan something – Having a big event or trip to look forward to as a couple is important. Whether it be a weekend trip or a night away, special time blocked off is a space in which to reconnect as a couple. When you’re away, your roles at home (Mom, Dad, Boss, etc.) are set aside and you become a different person. Relaxation helps let barriers down and can provide the space needed to further communication.
Communication with your partner

Remember, no relationship is perfect and all relationships take work. You’re not alone.  I hope these tips are helpful reminders. As always, if you or someone you know is looking for relationship advice or counseling, please reach out! I’m here to help.