What is considered healthy, or not, seems to be linked to fads that come and go. I've watched clients as they have embraced different ideas and diets based on what is current, only to spiral when they haven't worked. Alternatively, I have seen those clients who take the time to tune in to and listen to their bodies, and what "feels best FOR THEM", experience the most success with lifestyle changes. They are also the happiest and most content people that I know.
Taking the time to get to know your body and working with it rather than pushing it is essential to holistic wellbeing. Get quiet for a moment and ask yourself the following:
1. When in the past have I felt my very best?
What was going on for you at the times that you felt your best?
2. What currently makes me feel my best?
Think about the clothes you feel best in, the foods that give you energy, the activities that feel good and the people in your circle that light you up.
When you create this list be sure to leave off the things that are done, worn or eaten because you "should". Only list what "feels" really good
3. When you visualize or daydream about events of things you would like to draw into your life, what are they?
We often picture ourselves or wish for things we'll do or have someday when we have more time or money, or fewer commitments. List these things.
Now, compare your 3 lists. Is there a theme that you can pick out as to what things, activites, foods, people, etc. make you feel great? Can you incorporate one or two of them into your life now?
So what does this have to do with Holistic Health? Holistic health includes how you feel physically, spiritually and emotionally. If for example you love to dance but run instead because you feel you should, is running the optimal work out for a good foundation in your health? If to go out running you find yourself thinking of all the reasons you don't want to, you find you are not enjoying the experience and you're feeling unhappy doing it, is it really the best for you?
If instead, as soon as you hear music your body begins to move and your mood lightens, and you smile...doesn't dancing fit your holistic wellbeing in a more positive way?
Think about the "shoulds" in your life and how they make you feel. What can you change to shift the feeling for a more holistically healthy you?
During the months of September the trees are a shining example of letting go. The leaves they've grown through Spring and Summer change colours as they begin to die and then drop from the branches. The tree becomes bare, only to begin the cycle again the following Spring. There's no thought to it, there is just no more need of these leaves and so the tree simply lets them go.
We often marvel at nature as her colours turn to the reds, oranges and browns of Fall. The crunch of leaves beneath our shoes or jumping in piles of leaves that have fallen bring joy. I think though we often don't make a connection with the lesson the trees are sharing with us in the art of letting go.
For humans letting go is more difficult. We struggle with the one constant in our lives, change. It's inevitable that at points in our lives we must summon the courage to just let go and allow life to happen to us, because to do otherwise can bring feelings of desperation, guilt, anger, sadness and loss. Emotions can consume us and keep us stuck in the past chapters of our lives, when really the page has already turned...we just haven't acknowledged it yet.
In letting go we have to take some time to mourn the dream that is lost, the picture we have created of what we think our life is about, or should be, the person we thought was meant to be with us forever... For each individual the acknowledgement, acceptance and release of that dream takes time, as does the healing process and taking steps to move forward. But move forward we will, at some point, in some way, by our own definition. As natural as change is in life, so is our need for connection to something new. It's a part of what makes us human.
In the years that I have practiced the healing art of Reiki I have been witness to incredible feats of letting go. It's important to create a safe, non-judgemental space for each client to take whatever time they need, while providing a gentle and loving presence where they can feel secure to laugh, cry, rail against the unfairness, weep as acceptance comes, experience joy as they begin turning the page...and any other messy emotions that raise their heads. It's humbling to be a part of that experience as clients let go and move forward.
Reiki, loving energy that is focused, can begin the process of developing a cushion to the pain, until the client is ready to take it on, face it and release it. Often surrounded by that loving, healing energy, it can be a less painful and easier path. Reiki energy can also help in guiding us towards that new path, one that is the best and most joyful path for our being.
In the art of letting go I'm often reminded of something a friend has said to me, that
"What is meant for me will not go past me"
In acknowledging a trust in the universe and wrapping it in the loving energy of Reiki it is easier to have faith that this is so. That what is part of life's plan for us will show up...if we allow it.
For many, Spring is the time of year to toss out the old and make room for the new! This tradition can help to create fresh energy that benefits both our physical and emotional wellbeing. The art of Feng Shui suggests that clutter in our home can bring clutter and stagnation into our lives. For myself, I find that physical clutter affects my mental calmness and clarity of mind.
For many years I have embraced the beautiful art of placement, Feng Shui, as it has brought so many positive energies into my home space. People will often comment that my home feels welcoming and peaceful. The sense of sanctuary, my space of peace that separates me from the rest of the world, the work, the noise pollution, the chaos... is essential to my wellbeing.
For this part of Spring Clean Yourself I will share what I have used in my physical space when practicing my own type of energy cleaning. Watch for Part 2 where we'll talk about emotional spring cleaning...even more important!
Anything you don't absolutely LOVE!! The most important step. When you look around your home at the objects you have how do they make you feel? Do they offer positive thoughts, memories, associations? or do they bring your energy down? Certainly there are the everyday mundane things we must have for day to day activities, however, if the can opener you're using is difficult to use and not doing it's job, how are you feeling as you open that can of food for you or your pet to ingest?
Take a look around and get rid of those things that don't work that well, that you've kept out of some sense of doing the right thing, gifts that just don't fit (re-gift them to someone who will enjoy them). Once you've removed these things take a breath and notice how the energy in your home feels. Does it feel better?
Once I've gone through all the stuff and cleaned everything then I often smudge my home or mist with a purification blend of essential oils to move out any old energy. Other regular activities can include:
-Opening all the windows for 15 minutes each day to allow stagnant air out and fresh air in
-Find natural scents that you enjoy and fill your space with candles, incense, oil diffusers or whatever works for you
-Before bringing anything new into your home take a moment to check into how it "feels". Do you love it? just like it? meh?
-Create corners of sacred space that bring you joy each time you see the contents. This could be photos, pictures, art work, plants, candles, crystals, etc. Whatever brings your heart joy.
-Smudge regularly as energy can get stuck in spaces. I usually choose just after the New Moon each month when energies are fresh and new
Coming next: Spring Clean Part 2 - Emotional/Mental cleaning
The ever typical peace keeper, despite best efforts not to be, I find myself slipping into that role time and again. Boundaries were never something I learned. Growing up in an alcoholic home they just didn't exist. I earned my gold medal in peacekeeping just to try to maintain some space between myself and the chaos that surrounded me. Unfortunately it's a tough role to break...but I will continue to make it a work in progress.
With a lot of self work and reflection, boundaries have become something more familiar and I've identified a number of them that work for me. The difficult thing about having boundaries is knowing when to set them. For myself, it's usually after I've allowed them to be pushed, a number of times, in my efforts to keep the peace and oh yes, did I mention I'm also working towards becoming a reformed people pleaser as well?
I usually will get to the point of being in exhausted tears before I realize I haven't held my boundaries and have overextended myself to please. The stress of people pleasing is finally outweighing everything. Once again, I've let myself down. Any of this sounding familiar? I suspect it does because I meet a number of others in this life who will tell me of similar circumstances. So what do I tell them and what do I tell myself?
1. FORGIVE YOURSELF
First and foremost cut yourself some slack. After I've kicked myself a couple of times and wiped the tears away I remember to tell myself that yes, I caught myself again, I messed up, but I did catch myself and perhaps next time I will catch myself sooner. That does happen.
2. STOP IT!
As soon as you realize the boundaries have been breached put them back in place. Take a few moments to recognize where you've been lax in holding your own space and gift yourself by putting those boundaries up. Then take a breath.
I use to feel that I couldn't, that it was too late, that people wouldn't like it...yeah, the people pleaser raises it's loud and ugly voice to say "What will others think of me?". But the more important question is how will you feel about yourself if you don't? I thought so...nail those things up if have to, but put them up.
3. Say NO
Say no and don't justify it. You really don't owe anyone a reason or justification for putting your boundaries up and beginning to say no. Yes, it means you have switched gears, people may not like it, but is it worth the stress to not do it? Certainly if people ask and you feel as though you want to explain, you can, however at times that can be exhausting. Right now you're doing the work of holding the boundaries in place and rebuilding yourself, and that needs to come first.
4. Celebrate you
Hey, you were successful, you figured it out, you caught up with your boundaries, set them, took a breath and now it's time to celebrate that amazingness that is your achievement. Yes, there will likely be more occurrences of boundary violation and people pleasing mishaps, but not today.
You're only human and that is something to celebrate. Give yourself the pat on the back, the toast with champagne or whatever way you celebrate you!
Something I hear from others, but also experience myself is the way in which misunderstanding, hurt and hard feelings come about through the lack of emotion when communicating through technology. When reading a text or other message we tend to interpret what we think the sender is expressing, but we do so through our own filter. That filter through which we see and hear others, is what we've developed through our past experiences in communicating with the world...but, is it true?
In order for it to be true we would have to have had the exact same experiences that the sender has had in their lifetime, and have dealt with those experiences in a similiar way. Yes, there are life experiences for which we can empathize with or share the joy of, but we still do that through our perception.
When communicating face to face, and really listening to another (and I don't mean listening to respond, but really hearing) we have the benefit of facial expression, hand gestures, body language, touch and tone of voice. It creates clarity in communication and the opportunity to ask questions to be sure that you are truly understanding another.
As a hands on therapist I have that opportunity to clearly hear what a client is saying in regards to issues they may be having with their health. I'm able to watch how they are moving, listen to their tone of voice and see their facial expressions.
What I find is that it is more often those personal interactions that are shifted to technology, as we find ourselves busier and busier in our day to day lives, and often relating from a distance. The communication with those that are the most important to us, our friends and family, are left open to the misunderstandings that can be created through our filters. While I see this causing stress in clients lives, I feel it in my own as well.
Many will respond to this dilemma with a shrug and say "well, that is just how the world is now". But is that true? Perhaps it is as simple as picking up the telephone. Granted you only have tone of voice to really listen to, but that at least keeps some of the emotion in communicating. Better yet, if those relationships are important to you then making the time for face to face communication is probably more essential than keeping up with the "busyness" of life. In the long run it is likely that you'll not only experience less stress and negative emotion, but increase the release of the feel good chemicals and endorphins in your body that keep you healthy and vital.
How do you maintain clarity in your communications with others?
How do you make the time in your life for those important, in person conversations?
Whether you love your job or would rather do something else, the night of your last day off before the work week begins can be stressful when thinking about the week ahead, what needs to get done and finding the time.
My days off are Sunday and Monday and each Monday night I have a ritual, it's something I've been doing for years and it ensures that my week ahead will be smoother.
First the practical stuff...
Coffee is my get up and go juice, it's likely an addiction but really, I don't care. I really enjoy that first cup in the morning (I only allow myself 2 a day). I know that if I take the time to sit and sip then my day will go well. So on Sunday night I set up the coffee maker for the morning AND grind enough coffee for the week so that I can selfcare each morning.
I also take a wander through the fridge and cupboards and in my head figure out the meals for the week. I make sure that what is there will meet my nutrition needs and for the longer work days, will be easy to prep.
And then of course, given the work that I do, there is the nail care. Making sure that my nails are trimmed and short so that I don't knick or scratch a client's skin during their sessions this week.
There's also the mundane...checking that the clothes are clean and ready, the linen for clients session is washed and folded...
While meditation is a regular habit, I take some extra time with visualization the night before my work week begins. Lighting scented candles that I love and putting on some quiet back ground music I make myself really comfortable. This has become an invaluable practice in easing into the first day back and being in a space to give my clients the best of myself throughout the week.
What do I visualize? The work week ahead going smoothly and easily where clients receive the best care that I can give them, Sending positive energy ahead to the clinic so that as I walk into my workspace it feels really good from the get go and that will reflect upon my mood when working with clients, visualizing my days filled with clients as I do something that is my absolute passion!
And with those pictures in my mind I breathe deeply and settle into bed just a little earlier than needed with a book and a cup of tea, knowing that the week ahead will be fabulous!
What tips and tricks do you have to set your work week off right?
Do you take the time to visualize?
OK. If you're a dedicated people pleaser then these tips are likely not for you, however, if you have the understanding that your self preservation means you have more energy and presence to give to yourself and others then read on...
Why is the holiday season so energetically draining? It may be the extra foods, lack of sleep and worries over spending (see Surviving the Holidays Part 1) but perhaps its something closer to your soul. Putting yourself "out there" whether entertaining or visiting takes a lot of mental and physical energy...AND...when you are out there in the midst of family, friends or shopping at the mall, already feeling drained, you can be a magnet for the negativity, fear or anger energy that others are emitting. So what can you do to take care of you?
You'll need about 10 minutes, so brew a cup of tea or coffee, find a quiet space, take out a pen and pencil and let's get to this. I'll admit that some of these suggestions are not going to be easy for some of you the first few times you put them into place but see if you can give 1 or 2 a try.
First, take out a calendar or print one for the month of December.
Next, on a separate piece of paper, write down the absolute have-to-dos on the calendar (include how much time you'll need as well). Keep this to the definites and not the maybes, such as, have to show up for work because the bills need to be paid or must take time to make dinner for the kids, otherwise they turn into hungry monsters...those kinds of things. Then fill them in on your calendar in pencil.
On another piece of paper draw a line down the centre. The left column will be labelled "Shoulds" and the right colum labelled "Needs".
The needs column is the first one to fill out and that should include everything you like to do for yourself that makes your soul sing. It can be as easy and simple as taking a bubble bath, walking in the rain, taking time with good friends, getting lost somewhere for a day with your phone turned off, going for a massage or pedicure (or both), shopping, making delicious and nutritious meals, spending time with your kids...make it as complete as possible.
Then, without scrimping, fill in how much time you need to do each of these things to make your soul sing. For instance: you could take a 15 minutes bath to soak your muscles and get going again. (Personally my soul singing time slot is an hour and that bubble bath will include music, a good book, a cup of tea or glass of wine and candle light.) Don't scrimp on your needs, remember this is just on paper.
OK, Here's the first hard part!
Take 10 needs and put them on your calendar, in ink! Then put them into your phone or whatever reminder system you use. These are dates with yourself that you will not break.
If this is too hard then try 5 to start.
These are often the "shoulds". You know those things that you really think you should do but when you think about them your energy just drains away? Those little (or big) jobs that need doing, the relative you should visit, the gift for someone ... Think about them and fill them in on the right column labelled "Shoulds".
Time to get a little reflective now... on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being a total energy drain that makes you feel bad and 10 being a soul singing experience that lifts you up and makes you feel great. Take some time to be harshly honest with yourself...no one is going to know. It really doesn't matter what people will think or say about your energy draining shoulds so be straight forward with you.
If there is any room left on your calendar fill in time for those shoulds that you rated between 7 and 10 for how they make you feel when you do them.
And now the hard part....DON'T fill in the rest, throw the list away now. So how many of you said to yourself "I couldn't do that, what would others think, say, etc?"
In this busy month when self care is your priority, how could you not?
If you're still not convinced here are some links to study, listen to or read that may help you.
Increasing Self Worth - a Guided Meditation
How to Stop People Pleasing
How to Improve Your Self-Esteem: 12 Powerful Tips
Wishing you a Happy and Fun filled Holiday Season!
It always seems that I have to get that universal kick in the butt before the concept of self-care crosses my awareness. In complete opposition to what I encourage with my clients. Yes, guilty of doing, more than being.
A recent round with a cold/flu virus knocked me back...again...seems this year I've caught everything that is going around. I probably should have received the message the 2nd time around with a cold but it took this last knock for me to sit down and reassess. My body had been talking pretty loudly before the virus...knowing I needed to do more yoga and meditation, take more time for soaks in the tub and "do nothing"time. But as many of us do, I kept putting it off until I "had the time". Well the universe made sure of that.
This time I paid attention. I took time to review just how busy I had been through the last months and in that business had neglected my being. We all get caught in the hamster wheel of "busyness" but I was more than a little surprised to see just how many hours I was logging in with work tasks each week. No wonder I was achy and sore given that both my jobs, holistic therapist and dance instructor, are so physically demanding. I let that number of hours echo around in my brain for a few days realizing I was the only one who could make the changes needed for a more balanced life.
What I find tough in that is how much I love the work that I do and how difficult I find it to say no when a client has injured themselves and is in pain, or a student is working with a choreography and has hit a wall. I realize that I'm not very different to a lot of others in the varied personal service industries, if you've been at it for any time at all it is likely because you have a passion for what you do. But again, I'm brought back to I tell others; if you get sick or disabled and can't work what is going to happen in the different aspects of your world?
So what changes have I made? With both businesses I've reduced the number of hours that I am making myself available. Saying no is difficult so I've decided during the off hours I will stay away from the computer email messages and turn the phone off. A little self preservation that will go a long ways and I KNOW that in the long run, I will have more to give to both others and myself. It is the first in a few steps that I need to implement but it is a start!
(for my adjusted hours at Hand To Health please click here)
What steps are you taking, right now, to look after you?
Life gifted me with a precious child 32 years ago. I think until you experience parenting there is nothing you can even remotely compare it to and the amazing experience that it is. It impacts every aspect of your life. With Mother's Day quickly approaching I find myself, as I have for many years, reflecting on having been a parent and thought I would share some of the Mother's Day gifts my son shared with me.
When he was 15 months old I was newly separated and finding my way around the world of single parenting. My father was staying with us for the Mother's Day weekend from out of town, so he could visit my Grandmother. On Mother's Day morning he took Jeff for a walk in his stroller so that I could have a quiet morning coffee. When they returned Jeff was beaming as he held tightly in his tiny fist a bunch of wildflowers that he and G'mpa had picked during their walk. The smile on his face just melted me.
When he was 5 I was woken up by the milk from a bowl of cheerios as it was slopping across my face, and a giggling smiling boy standing over me as he was bringing me breakfast in bed. You just can't get mad at the thoughtfulness. He was so proud of himself. We spent a morning in bed, cuddled under blankets together, eating cheerios and reading books.
At six, we were leaving the garden shop when he asked me to stop the car and park again. I was instructed to stay in the car as he went back into the store. After 5 minutes I was beginning to worry and was just on my way out of the car to retrieve him, when my son emerged, again with a smile. In his hands he carefully carried a viola plant wrapped with ribbon and pink foil. Happy Mother's Day he announces! Unknown to me he had brought his allowance to the store.Apparently the lady in the store helped him with the ribbon. He was so excited that he remembered and that I had stopped so he could shop. I was almost in tears at the thoughtfulness.
Years passed with many breakfasts in bed and as he grew older the meals changed from cereal to toast to yogurt and eggs. The first year he was away from home on Mother's Day, I mean really away, attending a year of university in South Africa, was really tough. But a few days after Mother's Day, delayed by the postal service, came a beautiful card with a message from my son. And with it came a flood of memories of all the other years celebrated together.
As he and my daughter-in-law now lives overseas we haven't had a Mother's Day together in many years but I always find myself reflecting on the day. Thinking not so much about the physical gifts that were given, but the thoughts that went with them. This beautiful child, now a man, is the reason that I get to celebrate being a Mother and all the gifts, life lessons and experiences that has brought into my life (and continues to bring). He has grown into a kind and thoughtful man. It's been incredible and while I miss him beyond measure, I really do count myself so blessed.
So I wish a Happy Mother's Day to all those who have the experience to nurture and be nurtured by the precious beings in their lives.
Probably the first and most important thing that I had to come to terms with is that stress is a personal situation. We can become somewhat dismissive of stress when we compare our lives to others and think they have it worse. The realization that what may seem trivial to one person can be a high stressor to another, is important. Also, allowing ourselves to admit that stress is having an impact on us and on our lives which in turn impacts those around us.
Measuring ourselves against others does nothing to enhance our own lives
Chronic stress is not normal, though our reptilian brain may have us believing otherwise. Our body and mind can become conditioned to stress by not really allowing recovery from stressful events in our lives we seem to have an endless capacity for more, however there is a breaking point.
What do I know about it? Well, the list can be endless (single mother, self-employed, death of parents, child with cancer, assault survivor, healing from motor vehicle accident, financial struggles...) but I think what is more important is the methods I used to recover and the long term actions I continue to take
One of those that ignored and kept piling on the stress, a few years ago my body made me stop. Not just for a day or two but with a long term illness that stopped me in my tracks for several months. Being a holistic practitioner I knew this was not just the physical illness and so it was from that point that my work towards wellness began. Admitting and acknowledging to myself the stressors and their impact upon my life was the first step towards wellness. Understanding the "why I let this happen"and taking responsibility to make a change was next, and then began the search for methods to heal the emotional and physical effects PLUS take action to ensure I didn't allow myself back into this space.
I created a list of things I loved to do and was surprised at all of the many passions I had let fall to the wayside. Through this period and the stressors beforehand Dance was one thing that had and continues to have an amazing impact. When the music is on and my body begins to move I get completely out of my head. The stressful thoughts disappear and my body just moves. Some experience this through other physical activities, for me it is dance. So I increased the amount of time spent moving to music.
I looked at my work schedule and the demands it made upon me physically and emotionally and realized changing this was my biggest challenge. At the time I was running a retail store, had a busy holistic practice, taught belly dance classes and belonged to a performance dance troupe. While I absolutely loved each of these, I was working 24/7 to keep them all afloat and knew that something had to give. In closing the store and retiring from the dance troupe it gave me the room to focus more on my first passions...assisting clients through my holistic practice and sharing a dance/art form that I love with others. My whole being took a huge smiling sigh of relief.
But I took further steps with this. Looking at my work day and ensuring I had enough time between clients to prepare for each of them, take breaks myself and ensure I was taking days off. Break my dance classes into two evenings so rather than dancing 4 1/2 hours in a night and being completely exhausted for clients the next day, spreading my energy more evenly. This is something I go back to re-assess regularly to ensure work is remaining more balanced. I love the work I do and can easily slip back into habits of overworking.
And then there is the out of work time that I had to schedule at first in order to create the habit of even taking time off. Making plans with friends, turning off the phone, laptop and alarm, pulling out creative art projects, booking a holiday, ordering seeds for gardening... It took a while but now I've become a big fan of P.J. Days, Afternoon naps, walking with no destination, etc
My first attempts at all of this failed, but I kept at it despite that it seemed to be really stressing me out. Adjusting my life seemed an insurmountable task. It has been a few years and I do occasionally find myself slipping back BUT the long term effects have been well worth it!
What steps do you take to ensure your stress is kept at bay?
Does it seem insurmountable?