Category Archives: Self-care

How to fall out of the self-improvement trap

I love words that seem to sing what they’re about. I often find these words in other languages, including Sanskrit, the language of yoga. One of my favorite Sanskrit words is svādhyāya. Svādhyāya is translated into “self-study”, or “self-inquiry”.

Perhaps I like this word because I ROCK at self-improvement.

One of my former company’s core values was “continuous self-improvement” and boy, did I get it. I eagerly attended training and participated in programs, with a pure intention to hear people’s ideas about how I could improve myself. I was told—especially at performance review time—where I wasn’t up to snuff, where I could grow (hopefully as kindly as possible). As a manager, I delivered this feedback (hopefully as kindly as possible) too.

It shouldn’t be surprising that I’ve been a self-help book fanatic.

That’s not to say that I took what I read lock, stock, and barrel: certain ideas made me cringe, or didn’t seem to apply to me. I chose a few things that resonated with me, and let the rest go. This, I believed, was a healthy way to create my own system of self-improvement: one that fit my particular goals, strengths and weaknesses, and limitations like, say, the number of hours in the day I had left to do this work!

I’ve also seen a few therapists, and have even participated in a therapy group about Self.

I joined the group because I connected with the therapist’s initial presentation: I felt like he accurately described some of my struggles. I learned a lot from others in the group too; by the time I left, I had a well-organized, tab-delimited and labeled blue binder filled with tools and techniques to use in various challenging mental and emotional circumstances.

If there was a technique I could use to improve myself, it was at my fingertips.

If something I tried helped me, I’d continue to use it (sometimes after an ample trial period, but not always). If I’m honest, I’d often get overwhelmed with all the possibilities–which would leave me scrapping it all, because choosing added more stress and I had other shit to get done. Even if you take away ONE thing per book, training, or appointment, if you’re addicted to such things like I was, you’ll quickly develop quite a repertoire.

Years later, I put some of these tools and techniques to work helping others.

I left my corporate job and became a Mind-body Wellness Consultant. I started using the tools I’d amassed for myself to help my clients with many conditions. The conditions I most I love working with are ones I’d had some personal experience with, such as: stress, poor sleep, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and body image. I also found that like me, many of my clients have access to too many tools, or too many similar tools, which either don’t work for them, or which they fail to use. Then I noticed something else that was true both me and my clients:

Our best-intentioned health pursuits can actually be unhealthy.

If someone has lots of tools they like, the inclination I’ve seen is to try and throw all of them at “the problem.” Thus, people become more stressed out because of all the health-related activities they have to do every day.

  • “I have to get myself through rush hour to squeak into my yoga class with a minute to spare!”
  • “I need to find time to make these recipes for the week, so I can eat healthy!”
  • “I should fit in X days of cardio, X days of strength-training, and I have to meditate for 30 minutes too.”
  • “I’m tracking every ounce of food I ingest, regardless of where I am.”

The truth is, I used to be that person driving like a madwoman to get to the 6:30 pm power yoga class, because I left work later than I wanted to and traffic sucked. Nothing like rushing around, cursing other drivers and then…. “OMMMMMMM…!”

It just doesn’t happen like this, folks.

In fact this is the very kind of behavior that increases stress, anxiety, insomnia and tension in all of the hours that you’re not “doing” your health & wellness routine (and let’s face it, that’s a lot of time). And if you haven’t noticed by now, health-related “self-improvement” techniques like these don’t tend to become sustainable routines, either!

That’s because even though the mind thinks it is, the body knows that this kind of behavior isn’t healthy. No matter how smart you are, your body is smarter than your mind.

This is also the reason you can skip breakfast, eat a great salad for lunch, followed by a healthy dinner, and then binge your whole pantry empty in the evening. Your body knows deep down that it wanted that breakfast, and that the tasteless salad you multi-tasked while working at your desk at 2 pm isn’t really nourishing you because truthfully, you find salad 90% disgusting (the 10% dressing of course, is another matter!). You didn’t take any breaks through your day. Heck, you barely took full breath, and you didn’t notice that the posture you assumed at your desk was garbage; so now add a chiropractor to your list of “to do’s” to help your aching back.

As I saw more clients and studied myself more, I realized I’d made a crucial error:

Svādhyāya and “self-study” does NOT mean automatically leaping on the “self-improvement” train.

Of course you have to recognize areas for improvement before you can make any changes. But I certainly got waylaid by our culture’s ideas about GETTING.BETTER.FASTER. It’s no wonder, since these ideas are reinforced not only in workplaces but also in typical routes to improve health. These were two environments I lived and breathed, and dare I say, thrived in. Living in the question isn’t a place of comfort; not like DOING something is.

Svādhyāya isn’t about adding anything, per se. It’s about NOTICING what’s happening in your mind-body system, so that you can discover who you are. How you get triggered. How you behave when under stress. What you do, what you don’t do. How you think. How you feel. Only when you spend some time here, in this realm of curiosity, can you learn to start making timely decisions that are more aligned with your best interest. It’s mindfulness of the Self.

Although I had been exposed in my initial yoga teacher training, I’d forgotten the most important component of true svādhyāya, which is CURIOSITY. Curiosity is no easy task. It’s what remains when we temporarily let go of that addiction called JUDGMENT. That’s where the real challenge is. But when we can put judgement aside, when we can say things like “huh, I didn’t realize that!”, or “isn’t that interesting?” about what comes up in our thoughts, about how we feel, or how we behave, it can be quite educational.

Svādhyāya itself IS the best technique for living. No fixing required.


Staying AWARE; the eye of the storm

I must say I was pretty surprised not to find “moving” on the list of the 10 most stressful life events. And when you factor in a cross-country move with a significant other and an animal, I’d expect it to at least be in there!

When I moved to Austin at the end of 2013, I was lucky. I was by myself, felt I had nothing to lose, and had someone there ready to accept me (and my stuff) with open arms and empty drawers. Although I loved the weather, my teaching gigs, my students and my clients, the energy and atmosphere of the South just doesn’t work for me, and it’s almost immediately noticeable when I’m back in Boston. So last week, I flew home with 2 big and 2 small suitcases, received by a gracious friend and her equally gracious beau, and hit the ground running on the apartment-hunt front. I can feel the almost 24-like timer in the corner of my screen, counting down the days I have to find something that’s do-able for my family for a year.

I’d love to say that being a Mind-body Wellness Consultant means I’ve taken GREAT care of myself. But honestly, it’s been quite hard.

I was up way too late the night of arrival, busy catching up, socializing, and then wound so tight sleep eluded me. The following 2-3 days were a frantic pile of running around–renting a car until mine arrived, looking at places I’d already lined up, texting / emailing / calling multiple people trying to show me places, etc. I ran around from mid-morning to early evening, and then last night had an agonizing decision to make over two “doable” but “not quite right” places I finally turned down, when 3 tosses of the coin came up tails and that was clearly the answer from the Universe. Talk about stress.

But I will recognize and even give myself some “kudos” (wow, that word hasn’t come up in a few years ;-)! Even as I was driving around–which BTW is SO SO much easier here than in Austin!–I became AWARE that I wasn’t hydrated; that I was hungry; that I was tired. When I NOTICED these things, I ACTED to make better choices in the next moments. I stopped at Whole Foods for a lunch break. I got a quinoa salad thing (at Starbucks of all places!) in the morning and put it in my lunch sack for later…I bought bottles of water and healthy GF nutrition bars. I even took my pile of supplements with me in a little plastic baggie–and I haven’t yet missed a dose. I also haven’t missed a day of my morning yoga practice, because I KNOW how much I need it.

This morning was more of the same, but after I turned in the rental car, I’m in, no where to go and nothing to do. In some ways, having this self-care day is exactly what I needed. I’m ensconced in tea and “Tuesdays with Morrie” (which I started on the plane and just finished). I had my first “meal” this morning around 11 o’clock: rotisserie chicken, basmati rice, and green beans, all smothered in olive oil. Ah…so soothing. When realtors text me, “I’m sorry, I can’t see anything until tomorrow.” And that’s true. For today, I’m hanging out in the eye of the storm. Trying to find some bit of stability, peace, and comfort with everything whirling around me.

What have you done to find some peace and stillness when everything around you is in upheaval? Do you NOTICE and CHANGE your behavior before it’s too late and you’re completely spent? I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts and advice!


What would it feel like if we stopped beating ourselves up?

I recently had an interesting conversation with a friend and coaching peer. She and I basically swapped stories of how we “screwed up” something. For her, it was a typo in a survey she sent out; for me, it was the wrong date of a new program I’m offering in June.

What I thoroughly enjoyed about this conversation was that we were both very light-hearted about it. “Oops!” and “oh well, stuff happens” was pretty much the attitude we collectively embraced.

Now that’s not to say that we weren’t taking responsibility for what we’d done (or hadn’t done). In fact for me, I knew it was pretty ironic that I messed up the date for a MINDFULNESS class! I’d quadruple checked things, as did she. But sometimes you can look at your own work for hours without seeing mistakes, and at some point, that work simply needs to be released into the world.

I used to live by the idea that if I wasn’t perfect, I wasn’t a good person. A mistake like that would have had me beating myself up for hours–if not days–afterwards. It would have me wondering “how could that possibly happen?” It would have me worried about my “reputation”, such as it was.

How often do we judge ourselves for being human? For making mistakes that have to happen once in awhile, because you know, no one’s perfect?

I advise both myself and others this way:

If you make a mistake, you have the mistake to deal with.

Now if you add a layer of judgment on top of that (e.g. “I’m so stupid what’s wrong with me?”)

And then any / all the subsequent thoughts that grow from a negative thought like the previous one,

You’ve just piled yet more s**t on top of yourself that you’ll have to dig out of, eventually. Its like building a layer cake–but much less tasty. And the more you do it, the stronger the tendency becomes!

So don’t pile it on. Don’t do it. Just don’t!

Step carefully away from the judgment. Own the mistake, fix it if you can, recognize any contributing factors that might help with “next time”, and then move on.

Remember that you’re so much more than your little faux pas!


Modeling the Way for Your Employees, Bosses, & Clients

A few years back I worked for a high-tech company, and one of the very common phrases you’d hear is “model the way”. This meant more than “lead by example”; it meant that people who worked there–at all levels of the organization–should exemplify the core values (i.e. the “way”) in their words and deeds. First let me state that this primarily is a necessary (and good) thing.

And it works out great…as long as one is internally aligned with those values–or more importantly, how they’re being carried out in the fabric of the company’s culture.

When one is not (or no longer) aligned, things like this may happen:

    1. The person tries their hardest to fit into the expected model; others sense this person’s lack of authenticity and therefore, don’t get the benefit of authentic modeling; the person acting in-authentically may begin to suffer physically, mentally, and emotionally.
    2. The person remains authentic by flat-out dismissing the expectation of modeling and the model itself; others are confused about what is expected of them because they see different things; the person being true to themselves may feel frustrated, ostracized, and criticized, which may again lead to suffering in various forms.

I’m sure there are other possible permutations, but you get the idea. It’s hardly a win-win situation.

If one is not in alignment with the actual culture of their company (vs. its stated values), it’s likely they’ll suffer to some extent. Oftentimes such mis-alignments initially seem manageable, until one day the suffering (and health status) of the individual clearly shows they’re not.

In companies small to large, it’s ideal when the corporate values that help meet business goals are integrated into our mind-body system and are authentically reflected out to our employees, bosses, and/or clients.

In fact, it’s this very integration and reflection that makes one professionally successful.

And, I’ll argue that it should never come at the expense of our health!

A Tried-and-True Human Value System

Sometimes, when we start to feel misaligned with how our workplace’s core values are reflected in the corporate culture, it is because they are in conflict with what I’ll call “human core values”.

A nice way to stay connected to our human core values is to use something that may initially sound a bit “woo”: the Chakra system.

Many people believe in a subtle system of energy that flows throughout our system in two primary “roads”, called nadis. (There are actually three major nadis, but for now we’ll stay with these two.)  One begins at the base of the spine on the left side, and spirals up the torso, weaving right and left, toward the left nostril and eye. The other begins on the right, and spirals up to the right nostril and eye. The points at which these nadis cross are called Chakras, and there are seven. To stay with the road analogy, think of Chakras as rotaries or roundabouts.

Chakras are assigned different colors and symbols, and each serves the neighborhood it’s located in: in other words, each is responsible for particular physical, mental, and emotional aspects of our well-being.

A “balanced” mind-body system means that energy is moving freely up and down through all seven Chakras.

If there’s a blockage in the energy, it’s like traffic that gets stuck in the circle; issues related to that chakra may manifest. In our road systems, we know that if there are two rotaries close by, traffic stuck in may cause back ups in the other. As such, we often will have multi-chakra issues.

Whether you believe in the existence of chakras or not, the chakra model is an interesting model for determining how aligned you are in body, mind, and spirit with the culture of your workplace.

And once you have some knowledge about where the mis-alignments are, you are better equipped to change yourself, your position, or influence your company’s culture to align better with people.

Because ultimately, good companies know that it’s their PEOPLE who are the most important asset!


Want to know how closely your work life / culture aligns with your human core values, in the context of the chakra model?

Download the worksheet to help you assess & identify specific areas where you might get stuck.


CCFT? No, CCF Tea!

When I first heard someone say I should make CCF tea, my corporate brain translated that into the four-letter acronym CCFT–which I suppose still works doesn’t it? 😊 Anyway, as it’s been cold (relatively speaking of course) and rainy in Austin these days, I thought I’d share this very healing drink with all of you.  Since I understand how little time one can have in a day, I’ve included instructions for when roasting seeds isn’t in the day’s plan! Note there are logs of variations on this recipe so feel free to experiment!

Recipe for CCFT

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds (can reduce to 1/2 if taste is undesirable)
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 4 cups water

Instructions

  • If you have more time (optional): dry roast the seeds in a shallow pan until fragrant, then grind using a coffee grinder.
  • Bring water to a boil and add the seeds (ground or not). Reduce heat and simmer for up to 5 minutes. Strain and enjoy!*

*If you find the taste too “unusual”, note that some folks like to add a little honey.

Tips

  • To try it out, first buy the seeds in the bulk aisle so you don’t have too much.
  • If you make it a lot, buy your seeds at a local Indian grocery and save!

Some Benefits

  • Reduce inflammation
  • Reduce bloating
  • Improve digestion
  • Balance blood sugar
  • Reduce bad cholesterol levels
  • Clear up skin
  • Calm and soothe agitation
  • Help with weight loss (drink as between-meal “snack”)
  • Improved respiratory function

Sources

  • https://thewholejourney.com/homemade-healing-spice-tea-huge-digestive-benefits/
  • https://wellnessmama.com/119233/cumin-coriander-fennel-tea/

How My Own 7-day Self-Care Challenge Helped Me Redefine Self-Care

If you read my last post, you know that the week of Valentine’s Day I facilitated a 7-day Self-Care Challenge on Facebook.  Each day, participants were challenged to do a particular self-care activity, or one of their choosing that aligned with the day’s theme.  We finished on Saturday, February 18th.

As a teacher / guide and eternal student, I straddle two worlds: the world where sometimes clients think I do everything perfectly, and the world of reality–which is one where I struggle with some of the same things my clients do.  So I decided that I would not just be a facilitator: I’d also be a participant!

Here’s just one thing I learned from my participation in the supportive group we had this year:

The best self-care is not just small…

I often tell clients that their self-care activity can be very small so that it’s practical, do-able, and can fit into a potentially busy day. And since I’m planner by practice, I had plans for what I thought was a small self-care activity on the day we connected with nature.

I planned to take a brief walk at a park on the way home from teaching one of my afternoon classes. But I was so hungry that I went straight home instead.

After lunch–while I was posting an article about plants–I ended up really looking at the aloe plant a dear friend gave me for Christmas. I observed how it has changed and grown in the few months I’ve had it. And because it’s on my desk within eye view, I realized it’s available to me to look at as a break from my computer screen every day.

Creative self-care requires mindfulness!

Because I was thinking about the day’s challenge all day, reading and commenting on participants’ creative posts, I became more mindful of all the little ways I could connect with nature throughout my day. Here was one of my favorite posts from someone who lives in a part of the country where going for a walk in February isn’t quite practical:

“It is a beautiful day, but the wind is brutal. I was going to go for a walk, but I’ll be honest… I didn’t make it far. I’m now back home watching the squirrels chase each other around the trees, which is actually really relaxing.” (Renee M., MN, also photo)

Later, I planned to spend some time gazing at the moon in meditation after my evening class. But alas, the moon wasn’t visible through the clouds in my planned moon-gazing spot. Arrgh, both my plans had been foiled! However, just as I pulled into my driveway, I was taken aback by a very bright Venus through some parting clouds; I paused to take it in. To be curious about what I was seeing To notice how it  made me feel. However brief, this experience turned out to be an extremely peaceful and expansive moment at the end of my very busy day.

So thank you participants, and to nature, for not cooperating with my plans! You’ve taught me to redefine self-care as:

a small, spontaneous moment of self-attention that arises from mindfulness and creates a positive feeling within oneself.

What do you think of this definition?

Future Self-Care Challenges

I hope to run this self-care challenge again next year–as much for me to practice and learn as for my clients! Here are what some folks said about participating:

  • Thank you so much for a great week! I have enjoyed the sharing and exchanging of information.
  • I did it all! I enjoyed the experience and I learned a lot, thank you!
  • Thank you so much for the week of wonders.
  • I did it all…with varying degrees of success. Thanks for all the great resources!
  • I wanted to do it all but got sideswiped by illness in the middle. But I’ve learned some great things, and will keep trying to incorporate them into my days.
  • I was able to do 7 out of 7!!!! Thank you so much for hosting The Self-Care Challenge. It was super fun sharing my results as well as reading everyone else’s!!
  • It was a good challenge. I needed those reminders. Good to remember it’s a practice!
  • “…it does feel good to focus on myself.
  • “Best wishes to everyone who participated in this challenge. And thank you, especially, Kali, for guiding us through the challenge.”
  • “When I first read today’s challenge I thought “Now how am I going to fit that in…” as today was a very full day. But as the day went by and I read all of my Self-Care friends’ post I became inspired!” (Photo courtesy Denisse M.)
  • “Pooh, I didn’t get yesterday’s challenge done. Busyness happened and I forgot to take care of myself that way. Oh, well. Today is a new day!”
  • “Nope, didn’t empty my water bottle like I should have. Why is it so hard to remember, I don’t forget to eat!”
  • “I wish I invited more people to this challenge. You have to do this again so others can benefit!!!!!”

Please like A Journey Into Health on Facebook or subscribe to my newsletter (below) to stay informed about the next challenge!


A Challenge for You: the Meaning of Valentine’s Day

On January 28, 2017 I conducted what was admittedly a very informal survey on my Facebook page. I asked my friends to tell me which answer most closely aligned with their views about Valentine’s Day. 33 people responded(1), and here’s the breakdown of what they said(2)(3).

You may be wondering why I asked this question in the first place.

In essence, Valentine’s Day is a day (sometimes a month!) dedicated to love. Since the middle ages, this day has been about expressing romantic love. And like many holidays, over the years it has become severely commercialized. My assumption was that since I’ve personally experienced each of these potential answers at some point in my life (as well as some of the depression and low self-esteem angst that some respondents talked about when answering “E”), others had too. But I also wanted to see whether we’d collectively redefined and updated the holiday for current times.

What did I want to see?

Given the business I’m in, I honestly wanted to see more people saying “D – Self Love Day” (although I did not expect it). Although there’s some controversy over the wording of the “love yourself first” adage, one thing I see repeatedly when I coach clients is a pretty clear lack of self-love, and in talking with them I also see how this changes their relationship with others. They often don’t ask for what they need. They don’t set effective boundaries. They don’t feel they look the right way, so they don’t want to interact with potential partners. They focus on their flaws rather than their gifts. They don’t have time for themselves. They don’t invest in themselves. They’re waiting for [insert future thing here]. And they often come seeking more confidence.

I’ll posit that love starts small, and it starts close.

Anyone who’s ever done metta (lovingkindness meditation) will recognize that we start with: “May *I* be happy…”. After sending lovingkindness to ourselves, THEN we send it to others, and eventually out into the world (which may be needed more than ever). But it’s with the individual that it begins. (Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others!)

When I work with clients, one of the primary themes I see is that people are very hard on themselves. We need to stop beating ourselves up. No, we’re not perfect, and we never will be. We need to bring some balance to how we perceive ourselves: we have positive qualities, we have negative qualities. And if we love who we are, we love them both. We also love who we were, and we love who we have the potential to become. Without judgment. When you’re in a relationship, you have to accept the not-so-great stuff about your partner too. It comes with the package. So do you.

Without self-love, we may not feel we have anyone to show love to. But we ALWAYS have someone: we have ourselves.

I can almost hear people snickering while reading that. (I know because I can imagine myself having done just that a few years ago.) And take a moment to really let that snicker set in: how can you expect anyone else to see how fantastic you are if you don’t let that energy shine through?! It’s a catch-22 for sure. Some of us need to change that feedback loop.

How do you treat yourself? If you don’t care for yourself, can you love yourself?

When I first started dating my partner, he would say “I care about you.” It would frustrate me a bit. I wanted him to say the big three words: “I love you.” But as I write this years later, I now recognize and believe that “care” is a prerequisite for “love”. What naturally follows is that I think self-love first requires practicing self-care.

Make the time around this Valentine’s Day to sow the seeds of self-love.

Start small, start with you, start with self-care. Learn to make the time, spend the money, do what you need to do because you deserve to care for yourself! At first you may have to fake it. You may have to go through the motions. You may feel some stuff come up. But what–besides your self-esteem, your confidence, and your ability to love others–do you have to lose?

If you haven’t already felt it, I get it, and I’m here to help. If you’re the sort of person who knows you don’t truly love yourself (yet), but are ready to begin caring for yourself in small ways, or if you feel you could benefit from learning new ways of caring for yourself this month, please:

Join my 7-Day Self-Care Challenge over on Facebook

Every day for 7 days, you’ll get something in your Facebook feed that helps you take care of you. You’ll get to see others share what they’re doing (for encouragement, inspiration, motivation, and connection). It’s completely FREE and it’s your CHOICE to join. We start February 12 and go through the 18th. Invite friends, invite family, invite strangers. The more the merrier!

And, if you participate all 7 days, there will be a small gift for you. To learn more, head over to the Facebook group so you don’t miss it! 😉


(1) The chart totals 35 because some people indicated multiple answers.
(2) I summarized the answers with a catch phrase for the chart. The details were:

  • A – I could give 2 s**ts about Valentine’s Day–it’s a normal day for me.
  • B – It’s a nice sentiment but we don’t do anything special or we do something special AROUND that day so as to avoid the craziness
  • C – I love this day because I love my partner & want the world to see / know it! We have a magical day!
  • D – I use this day to show extra love & care toward myself.
  • E – Other (you tell me).

(3) I tallied responses on January 30, and more came in after…however those seemed to confirm what was already there.


What You Need to Know About Bone Health

Guest blogger:  Dr. Angela Wicker-Ramos PT, DPT, CLT-LANA. Angela is the owner and lead physical therapist at Cancer Rehab Austin.

A person’s bone mass peaks during the third decade of life. But do not let this information get you down, because there are ways to strengthen your bones at any age. Bones become stronger with exercise by stimulating your bones to form new tissue.

There are three ways exercise helps improve your bone density:

  1. Strengthening exercises such as weights cause your muscles to pull on the bone that they are attached to. This stimulates bone growth.
  2. Weight-bearing exercises stimulate bone growth through impact. This brings in new bone cells and strengthens the bone.
  3. Exercise also helps decrease risk for falls by improving strength, coordination and balance.

Exercise and Bone Health

The best exercises to promote bone health are weight-bearing exercises, which are exercises that work against gravity.

Bone health can be improved by either high impact or low impact exercise. If you have osteopenia, osteoporosis or pain it is recommended you perform LOW impact exercises.
Examples of LOW impact exercises include:

  • Elliptical machines
  • Low-impact aerobics
  • Stair-step machines
  • Fast walking on a treadmill or outside
  • Yoga*

If you do not have any precautions or health concerns that prevent HIGH impact exercise, then these are some you can try:

  • Dancing
  • Doing high-impact aerobics
  • Hiking
  • Jogging/running
  • Jumping Rope
  • Stair climbing
  • Tennis

How often should you perform weight-bearing exercises in order to improve your bone density?

A study by Kemmler in 2014 reports that weight-bearing exercises should be performed 3x per week to impact bone growth. However, remember that any amount of exercise you perform is beneficial for your health. So start gentle and work your way up. Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your body, mind and spirit.

*If you have osteopenia, osteoporosis or pain, be sure to inform your yoga instructor of your condition prior to practicing.


My 66-day Watering Challenge

A few months back I attended a business-related seminar called The ONE Thing (based on the book). Like many such trainings, the speakers stressed the importance forming good habits as a way to keep a business healthy and growing. Because I’m a coach, I’m always interested in new ideas related to releasing habits that don’t serve us and creating habits that do. As much as I care about creating a sustainable business, I know that starts with me being healthy (and continuously growing)!

What Did I Do & Why?

On August 25, I decided to apply the 66-day Challenge to a simple habit: that of drinking 8 glasses of water per day. Now I’m not the kind of coach that sticks to “rules” per se: there is research both for and against this amount of water (as there are for most foods and beverages). But what I do know about myself is that I run dry, and that when I drink coffee and wine (both of which I enjoy), I am even dryer. I can wake myself up at night feeling so dehydrated I’m coming out of my skin. I’ve always been this way. I’ve ingested more healthy fats than I can tell you, including ghee (which I love). Really the only climate I feel comfortable in are ones like Costa Rica & Hawaii. Just the right amount of heat and humidity. But I digress…and I live in Austin.

How I Did It & What I Learned

I stuck this sheet on my refrigerator door and kept a pen in the drawer nearby. Every glass of water was indicated with my favorite marking system. I gave myself a checkmark on days I completed. When I knew that I’d really squeaked by for that day, I wrote “close” or “pushing it” to motivate myself more for the next day. As you’ll see, I wasn’t perfect. There are two X’d days. But in the process I learned several things:

  1. I know now how to approximate how much is “8” without tracking. For example, filling this water bottle is 2, that glass is 1….
  2. I know how to pace myself on that water. When I’ve not had enough in the morning, how it affects me in the afternoon or evening, and vice versa. Also how close to bed to have that last glass!
  3. I can feel the difference on days when I have coffee AND wine, even with the same amount of water.
  4. I learned a few fabulous new ways to hydrate my system without feeling bored. (See below for more.)
  5. I learned how having a soda really robs me of hydration.
  6. I felt less desire for chocolate and alcohol (even giving it them entirely for a time!). My appetite also changed; I felt less hungry and fuller on less food.

How I Made It Interesting

I discovered the Lemon Olive-Oil Flush recipe. As someone who’s dabbled in Ayurveda for many years, I was used to drinking room-temperature water with lemon juice first thing in the morning. (In fact, my water is ALWAYS room-temperature if I can help it.) What I liked about this recipe was that it added healthy fat in the form of olive oil. I experimented with adding ginger a few times; with adding vanilla once (because I like the taste of it fine without!). It was like lemonade, but so so good for me. I generally cut the recipe in half to make a 16 oz drink.

My other great helper in this challenge was my Define Bottle. I experimented with all different kinds of fruits in the bottom including: mandarins, raspberries, blackberries, figs, and limes. The berries didn’t work as well as the citrus fruits. Writing this today reminds me to try the grapefruit and apple I have in the kitchen. 🙂

Are 8 glasses a day right for everyone? Nope. Is this challenge helpful for forming a new habit? I think so! I wonder what I’ll apply it to next….


What On Earth Does One Do While Detoxing from Technology?

18726174_sIt might have been 2013 when I first did a “tech detox”.  I may not remember what I did, but still remember the feeling of that weekend; the documentation of it is probably floating out there in a prior blog that I’m too lazy to find.

Given how my body has forced me to slow down since I moved to Austin, it might seem strange that I should require more quiet time, but I can assure you that even though I’m not as physically active as I used to be, my mind is still often moving fast. It’s not quite in the overdrive it used to be—thank you consistent yoga practice—but I find that I still sometimes need a break from being on, whether in-person (i.e. I teach, coach, and network but am really very introverted!) or via online social media.

If you’re anything like me the idea of taking a weekend or even a day (as I do nowadays) to un-plug might raise your anxiety. This certainly happened for me the first time. You might also have the question, “what am I to do INSTEAD???”

Putting logistics aside for a moment*, I’d just like to share some of what my most recent detox day looked like. Maybe this will spark some ideas that would make even a half-day detox seem more do-able and less anxiety provoking. Trust me, once you get the hang of it, it will be well worth it!

  • Woke up naturally, without an alarm clock
  • Did a silent, slow, and short yoga practice
  • Savored my coffee and breakfast
  • Oiled my body (abyangha) and showered
  • Read part of the special MINDFULNESS issue of Time I picked up yesterday at Whole Foods (interesting note: most of what I help people do is in there!)
  • Considered a few difficult situations that have recently have disturbed my equilibrium
  • Practiced my Tai Chi form
  • Rehearsed for my Anxiety & Depression Workshop (twice!)
  • Continued reading my current book: Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche by Bill Plotkin, after donning a bathing suit and walking to the neighborhood pool that I’ve never used
  • Took a refreshing cool shower and did a face mask
  • Throughout the day, I made a (handwritten) list of anything that I needed to do once connected again—things that might have drawn me back to the laptop or to a device
  • Enjoyed a healthy lunch
  • img_1930Used some leftover melted chocolate to make chocolate covered strawberries for my boyfriend
  • Got bored!
  • Drank a lot of water, including some infused with strawberries
  • Played with different ways to cook the sweet potatoes that were waiting in my fridge
  • Also made a nice dinner of scallops and broccoli rabe smothered in ghee
  • Journaled some of my thoughts, which turned into a few blogs (this and the prior one)
  • Started a new puzzle with my boyfriend
  • Did another silent, slow, and short yoga practice
  • Read a bit more before going to bed

*If there’s interest in topics like “what is off-limits during a tech-detox?” I’d be happy to share what I do.