Best Self

Is It OCD?

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There are moments in our lives when many of us say to ourselves, or to others, “I know that’s a little OCD,” about one of our seemingly quirky behaviors. There are people that have to put 18 blueberry’s on their oatmeal every morning. Some have to touch their phone 3 times with each pointer finger, before hanging up. Others clean their stove top to bottom thoroughly every single day. These behaviors may sound a little silly, and sometimes they can be.

The question is when are these unusual actions actually the symptoms of something more serious? How do you know when a behavior has become more of an obsession than a quirk? What are the signs that you actually have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

OCD Explained:

First and foremost, let me explain what Obsessive Compulsive Disorder constitutes. According to Psychiatry.com, “Obsessive-compulsive disorder...is an anxiety disorder in which people have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas or sensations (obsessions) that make them feel driven to do something repetitively (compulsions). The repetitive behaviors, such as hand washing, checking on things or cleaning, can significantly interfere with a person’s daily activities and social interactions.”

To clarify, OCD transfers anxiety into compulsive actions to such a degree that often your day to day life is consumed by them. Getting out of bed, through your morning and out the door is often impossible, without completing these all-consuming tasks or behaviors over and over again. Your personal and work life may be so disordered that others may have pulled away from you or shared how alarming your compulsions are to them.  If this is the case, you are not alone. Around 2.3% of the US population has been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. That correlates into roughly 1 in 40, adults no matter their race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background.

Once you begin to begin to question your behaviors,  you can ask yourself a few questions to get you started toward deciding if you need to seek help.

A Helpful Tool:

Eric Hollander MD has a more in-depth list of questions you can ask yourself in the following article from Psychology Today. Again this isn’t an actual diagnosis, the questions are meant as a  tool for you to see if you feel the need to find a therapist to help you.

Briefly, ask yourself:

  • Am I spending more than an hour each day on these behaviors?

  • Does this anxiety cause me overwhelming distress?

  • Am I able to stop the obsessive actions and go on with my day?

  • Is the life I am living so affected by these obsessions that I am no longer living the life I want to live?

Ultimately the last question is the most important one. If you find yourself so overwhelmed by repeated actions and are not able to enjoy your life, and they are adversely impacting you, then it’s time to reach out. Finding a therapist who specializes in OCD and asking for help is the next step. You can learn healthy ways to cope with your anxiety and deal with what brought you to this point.

Please remember you are not alone. There is strength in asking for help and working towards the life you want.  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.

 


Managing Expectations & Practicing Gratitude

Taking control this holiday season

While I try to make it a habit to practice gratitude throughout the year, I find myself reflecting more on just how fortunate I am in my life and in my practice this time of year. Every day, I am fortunate enough to work with strong, brave, intelligent people as they work through the challenges that life presents. And while I would like to thank you - my wonderful community - for all of the support you’ve shared with me this year, I also want to acknowledge that the holidays can be a very difficult time for many people. Between end-of-year work deadlines, tight budgets, travel, and visits with family... the holidays can be physically and emotionally taxing on everyone.

This month, I’d like to offer a few ways you can be more mindful with your time this holiday season both at work and home.

Manage Expectations

It seems like everyone needs something during the holiday season. Whether it’s a demanding boss at work or a mother-in-law who insists on doing everything “her way,” it is easy to become overwhelmed by the number of things that are thrown at you.

This holiday season, though, the key to managing expectations is to be proactive and anticipate demands, deadlines, and requirements from colleagues, family, and friends alike.

At Work

If you’re feeling the stresses and pressures of year-end deadlines at work, you’re not alone. Since many companies (or clients) end their business year on December 31, there’s a scramble to get as much done in as little time as possible. That often means that you and your colleagues are left with all of the responsibility and little time for anything else.

If you’re starting to feel the mounting pressure, here are a few things that may help you to be proactive and manage work expectations.

  • Ask for (in writing, if possible) all outstanding deliverables and their expected deadlines;

  • Remind your supervisor/boss of any time off requests you’ve already submitted. If you are comfortable with them, ask them how the aforementioned deadlines can work around your schedule;

  • If you plan on taking time off around the holidays, remind colleagues when your last day in the office will be. Gently remind them that if they need anything from you, they need to submit any requests by a specific date, which will give you enough time to complete the tasks. After all, no one wants to be working on their “time off!”

At Home

Managing expectations with family and friends are just as important to your holiday stress levels as they are with work.

If you find yourself hosting family or friends for the holidays this year, feel free to start thinking about menus/meals ahead of time. You’ll often find that with a little bit of forethought, you can whip of meals ahead of time and freeze them until the day you want to serve them. Doing so accomplishes two things: For one, it is less to worry about once family starts showing up on your doorstep; and secondly, it provides you more precious time to spend with loved ones while they’re in your home.

Taking Time for Yourself

With so much activity around the holidays, it’s easy to get swept up in the hustle and bustle. But going 1000 miles an hour for days in a row is exhausting. That’s why it is so important to take a few moments each day to focus some time and thought on yourself.

Meditation

One effective way to take a “time out” during this busy time is to spend 5-10 minutes meditating. This could be early in the morning while the rest of the house is sleeping or at night when everyone is going to bed. Regardless, a few moments of solitude can do wonders for recharging your batteries before the start of another day or at the end of a long one.

Keeping Routines

If there are any routines you hold special in your daily life, hold onto them! Perhaps you find that a brisk morning jog or an afternoon yoga class is a great stress reliever. Don’t skip! If you’re afraid of being away from family or friends too long, invite them to join you. There’s a chance that they’re sacrificing their routines and an invitation to join you may be just what they need, too.

When you keep your routines intact, you’ll find that you’re not losing control of some of the activities you love or need, and holding onto those routines also manages expectations, too.

Practice Gratitude

Whenever you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or just plain tired this holiday season, I encourage you to take a step back and find something to be grateful for.

Practicing gratitude doesn’t need to be a long drawn-out process. In fact, some studies have linked the feeling of gratitude to an overall improved sense of well-being. (1)

If you can find the time and get into the habit, writing down what you’re grateful for is a nice way to reflect on some of the positive aspects of your life. It can be as simple as “It was a beautiful day today” or “Everyone complimented the dish I made.”

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year

As this year draws to a close, I hope that some of these tips are helpful for you through the holiday season and into 2019.

Wishing everyone a happy & healthy holiday!

[Sources]

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3010965/


Slowing Down this Summer

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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

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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!

Refresh + Rejuvenate for Spring

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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

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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.

Learning to set BOUNDARIES

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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?

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!

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.

Exhausted with Expectations?

learning to live with your expectations

Expectations. We all have them.

Have you ever found yourself feeling sad or disappointed in a relationship and not known why? With a little reflection, you may realize you had an expectation about something or someone and didn’t even know it. And neither did they.

To help bring awareness to your expectations, take some time to explore what your expectations are and how you acquired them. Often times, we pick-up messages about what relationships are suppose to be like and how we should be treated by others from movies, TV, family, and friends. If we don’t take time to consider our expectations, then we may accidentally adopt other people’s expectations that simply don’t work for our relationships or for us.

Unmet expectations can be detrimental to a relationship. Expectations can feel overwhelming and uncomfortable to the organic flow of relating to another person. If we have expectations of others and are really attached to the outcome, then we can engage in power struggles by using manipulation or control tactics to get our way. This strategy often leads to conflict and unhealthy dynamics where partners do not feel free with one another, do not act authentically, and most importantly may not communicate honestly with each other.

Coming to the realization that your partner cannot live up to your expectations or ideals can be devastating. Couples can feel disappointed, frustrated, betrayed, or resentful and move to end the relationship because of unmet desires and unfulfilled expectations.

SO… What can you do?

 

1. Own it.

That’s right- Take ownership for your needs and desires! The truth of the matter is – we know what we need better than anyone else. Ultimately, it is our responsibility to get our own needs met. If we give our ownership to others (by expecting others to magically know what we need and give it to us) than we can feel dependent, powerless, and misunderstood. Taking ownership also inspires action. We realize we have the power to create change. Also, we have the opportunity to nurture ourselves in the ways that we need it most. This is a difficult practice, but it can be very empowering.

2. Express.

Yep. Communication is KEY. Express your needs, desires and expectations to your partner. No one can read your mind. Have you ever consciously expected something from someone, but didn’t voice it? Usually, this is a recipe for disappointment and resentment. How is someone suppose to know what you want if you don’t tell them? Even if they get it right once in a while, it sets up a dynamic where two people are operating on assumptions, which leads to miscommunication and frustration. Get in the habit of making your needs known and stop expecting those around you to read your mind or “Just know” how you feel and what you need.

3. Speak Up.

Sharing your needs and desires with your partner may seem scary and vulnerable because it requires you to open yourself up and acknowledge that you have needs – this can make you feel vulnerable to the other person. What if they don’t care enough to meet your needs? But, what if they do? Imagine being able to ask for what you need in a clear and clean way (to own it, without making it someone else’s responsibility) and then to receive it from someone who genuinely wants to give it to you. This can truly be a transformational experience and a doorway to deeper intimacy. By taking ownership of our needs, desires, and expectations, we can work with our partners. We can help teach them what works and doesn’t work for us, and then we have the opportunity to learn and grow together.

4. Empathize.

Give people the benefit of the doubt. Usually, people are doing the best they can. And your partner probably loves you in the best way he/she knows how. This is important to remember when you are holding your partner up to an expectation or an ideal of yours. It may be helpful to consider, the question “How would I respond to the situation if the roles were reversed?” This is often easier said than done, especially when one feels hurt and protective. Trusting someone and giving them the benefit of the doubt can be extremely difficult if you have experienced a lot of hurt and betrayal. It is important to keep track of your wants and needs. If you are taking responsibility for your needs, then you will be more likely to take care of yourself and not harbor resentments in your closest relationships.

5. Seek.

When opening up to your partner, if you feel a strong negative reaction, feel threatened, or really self-protective- than this may be a good indication that you have underlying hurts carried over from your younger years. These hurts will DIRECTLY impact your current relationships unless you deal with them. There are many opportunities to heal and grow, through self-help books, articles, groups, and psychotherapy. It’s never too late to learn new skills and to start practicing them. Your love-life may actually depend on it!

6. Allow.

Allowing space for people to meet you in the best way they know how can be a truly satisfying experience. When we lift our unspoken expectations off of our partner, share with them what we need in a genuine way and then step back and allow them to meet some of these needs we might be genuinely surprised and happy with how things go. Try and practice allowing things to happen in a new way and you may get new results you are very pleased with.

Overwhelmed with Life?

Want to get back to a place of mental clarity and relaxation

Do you have so much on your plate right now that you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed out most of the time? Do you have too much going on and feeling overworked, frustrated and under-appreciated?

Want to get back to a place of mental clarity and relaxation?

In our age of fast paced lifestyles and heightened commercialism, everywhere we turn is a demand for our attention. On top of the information overload, we are working longer, and taking less time off. The result? More stress and less time for ourselves. Juggling between work, children, family and our personal needs it’s easy to get sucked into the never-ending list of to-dos.

Let’s look at five important and useful stress management techniques to overcome this sense of exhaustion and anxiety in order to live a more relaxed and stress-free lifestyle.

Five Ways to Overcome the Overwhelm

1. STEP AWAY

Sounds simple, I know. But sometimes, we can become so engrossed in what we are doing and in trying to make things “just right” that it becomes impossible to step away. However, you can’t overcome feeling overwhelmed when you’re in the thick of it. You have to step away to be able to view your circumstances from a fresh perspective.

Suggestion– Temporarily move your work or project to a different room, get up from your desk, and go out for a walk/yoga class or go sit in a café. Stepping away from your current situation and changing your environment will help you gain clarity and shift you away from your overwhelming state of mind. New ideas and energy may flow into your brain when you give yourself a brief change of scenery.

2. IDENTIFY

When we are feeling overwhelmed, our minds becomes clouded by the tasks at hand and by thoughts that cause us to feel stressed. Many times, we get so caught up in our doing, that we forget why we are even doing what we are doing.

Suggestion — Start with asking yourself, “Why am I doing what I am doing?” For the mom who is stressed out while making 12 dozen cookies for her teenage son’s baseball team bake sale, she can lower her stress by re-connecting to the reasons behind the doing. For her, she is trying to stay connected with her son as he is growing and changing, and she is trying to reduce the out of pocket expense of having a kid in sports by supporting team fundraisers. She’s baking cookies to save money and to maintain her relationship with her son. When she remembers the why of it, the how of it may feel less burdensome.

3. JOURNAL

Whenever we are feeling overwhelmed, there is likely a lot going on inside our head. Ideas and thoughts race around in our minds and clutter up our mental space. The best thing to do is to get these thoughts out on paper. I cannot emphasize this step enough- “Write it all down!” is by far the number one suggestion I give to my clients who deal with racing thoughts.

Suggestion — Grab a pen and a piece of paper, a notebook, scratch paper — whatever! Start jotting down everything on your mind. Write without editing and write out every thought. If you have a bunch of to-dos running in your head — list them all out. If you have an idea –brainstorm on paper. And remember not to worry about keeping things looking neat and perfect – this will only limit your freedom to get whatever it is out of your head and onto the paper. Once our jumbled and tense thoughts and plans find expression on a page they will often stop afflicting us and free up our minds to return to a good night’s rest or to enjoy ourselves more in the moment.

4. ASK

People are amazing. Often, we are the problem that is blocking the help we need from getting to us. Because we think family or friends will say no to our request for help or support, we never ask for what we need.

Suggestion – Ask for help and be prepared to be amazed at the generosity that others are willing to provide. The key is to get comfortable with being on the receiving end of being helped. Most people would rather help than be helped because helping someone else can feel like such a powerful position. No one wants to be needy – but let me advise you that most people would love to help someone else if only they knew what that person needed. So, take a risk and open up to asking others for help and then be willing to receive that help when it arrives. Trust me on this one; you can pay it forward in the future when those around you need some love and support. You will be there for them.

5. BOUNDARIES

Time is our most precious commodity. So be mindful. Spend it wisely and consciously.

Suggestion — Start with asking yourself what is most important to you? Once you’ve decided what’s important, create boundaries around important activities and do not budge with any incoming distractions. Do not allow unimportant noise and activities to creep in. Because both email and Facebook can be such time suckers, set boundaries such as only checking it once a day for 30 minutes. In other words, do only what’s absolutely necessary, and anything that doesn’t get done during this time will just go on the list for a future time.

Finally, when we simply acknowledge that we’re feeling overwhelmed we take a huge step forward. Creating awareness about how we feel can help us move into action to regulate our emotions and shift our behaviors in a more positive direction. Remember, you have the ability to design the life you want and the freedom to create the rules.