Home » Blog » meditation

Category: meditation

How to Run Your Own Freelance Business With Anxiety

how to run a freelance business with anxiety

 

First of all, it sounds counter-intuitive, but owning a freelance business can be therapeutic for someone with anxiety.

Think about it…

Much anxiety can come from…

  • Having to report to people when you don’t need “managing.”
  • Un-sureness about your job, even if you’re a good worker, because you just never know.
  • Office politics and cliques and wondering about what’s being said behind closed doors.
  • Difficult people who just aren’t satisfied with anything.
  • Commuting, which may make you lose an hour of your day every work day!
  • Time pressures of deadlines and launches.
  • Emails. Emails. Emails. Communicating with computers.
  • Leaving children behind, as they cry with arms outstretched to you (ouchy!)
  • Gray cubicles deep inside a building with overhanging artificial lights.
  • Not seeing the light of day…

IMG_2405.JPG

 

Those are MAJOR anxiety triggers! Major triggers that all went away when I decided to start my own business. Ah, the freedom of that alone! It changes a person!

People have commented about the difference they see in my face even!

Hubster even says I’m quite a different person. And noticing things like that aren’t his strong suit. But even he noticed.

Now, you know in your mind what being location-free might look like.

But it’s an entirely different life shift when you actually experience it.

 

Ok, get real woman.

Being my own boss isn’t all glitter and polka dots all the time, but it’s mostly that same feeling you get inside the polka dotted party store.

It speaks of opportunity and togetherness and celebration and pretty things.

Sometimes a kid walks in and throws party favors all over the floor like confetti.

Yeah, that happens every day around here.

And sometimes someone walks in with a glum face and needs to return hundreds of dollars of party supplies for a celebration that was called off.

Or someone passes out from breathing the helium.

But there’s still glitter and polka dots everywhere.

Ok, moving on from that analogy.

 

So, being self-employed has filled me with gratitude for the way it plays out…

  • When you wake up and you can’t wait to get started.
  • When you get to work in the comfort of your leggings next to lit candles (a fire hazard at most jobs).
  • When you take as many breaks as you need to readjust your focus.
  • When you can tend to your medicinal herb garden on your lunch break.
  • When your babysitter can give your baby access to you for boo-boo kisses through the office door.
  • When you can take a personal day anytime you need to. Oh wait, I haven’t needed to since there’s nothing to escape from! Just one day when I developed an infection, nbd.
  • When you don’t have to go anywhere! Hallelujah, no more commute! No more facing blizzards and rush hour and endless endless driving.
  • When you can set your rates and your use of time on your terms.
  • When you can spend a week with your husband in a semi and still get your work done.
  • When you can work from a picnic table at a local park with a view of the river and changing trees.
  • When you can roll backward on your medicine ball for a good stretch without looking like a moron.
  • When the coffee and tea and cheese (and wine) are just a few rooms away. No more desperate afternoon searches through the drawers to find a completely unappetizing snack. Ha, I can drink on a workday if I wanna! I don’t, but I could.
  • When you can listen to the rain and thunderstorms through the screened-in door.
  • When you can check on your dog and kitties and caterpillar collection at regular intervals.
  • When you can keep a tighter ship around your house because you’re there. Even though I don’t clean during work hours (although it IS hard to ignore the laundry), I’m still able to keep it cleaner around here, because I’m here, which makes me a much less anxious person.
  • When you don’t have to leave the house during snowstorms, or a day or two after.

IMG_3681.JPGMonarch caterpillar

IMG_3861.JPG

IMG_2397.JPGMore time with these two


IMG_2398.JPG

This guy needs supervision


IMG_3115.JPG

Seriously…

Okay, okay…you get the point.

Not trying to gloat, just show my gratitude.

 

My purpose in listing all of that — and that was just the stuff off the top of my head — was to stir up some emotions and desires inside of you. If you long for that type of life, this is for you.

If you have a desire, and you see that it’s possible, and you see that someone else is doing it, you might just realize that you can have it for yourself.

And if you’re really serious about it, you’ll actually do something about it;)

So, you can see how these pieces of glitter could make a person less anxious, right? How it could lift that heaviness and melt that nervous energy.

Once you become a freelance writer, it doesn’t mean the anxiety will automatically fall away though. You still have to have use some proactive strategies to steer your mind. Because when that one kid walks in and destroys the glitter and polka dots, you need to know where the vacuum is.

 

These are my strategies, the practices I do Every.Single.Day to tame that beastly worrier inside my head.

 

Top 10 Strategies for Tackling Anxiety as a Freelance Writer

  1. Journal every morning: I journal every morning for at least 15 minutes, no matter what. I journal about what I want my day to be about, what I’m going to do today to make progress toward my goals, what’s holding me back, etc.Now, this might seem like an easy task to disregard, especially when you’re short on time, but actually journaling gives me more time. I feel like I have more time and space to create meaningful work after journaling because it makes me more intentional with my time rather than reactive to whatever happens to me.

    I also use journaling to turn around my entire vibe. If I’m feeling low or flat, I’ve learned how to use journaling to reverse it. I get to choose how I feel! I get to proactively change my mental state. This is one of the most momentous tools I’ve found for my anxiety. That’s why it’s number one!

    IMG_3053.JPG
    If everything abou
    t your time management and day originated from your journaling, you would be far more productive and focused than you ever imagined.

  2. Take hourly breaks: I have a Fitbit Charge 2 that’s literally changing my life right now. It vibrates at me every hour to get up out of my desk. It also has a meditation function built right in. So, if I’m feeling particularly charged up, I can breathe for a few minutes to refocus.Everyone who suffers from anxiety knows how miraculous meditation and deep breathing are…if they actually do it. Breathing in and out with that little expanding circle is somehow really effective at calming that nervous energy. Well done, Fitbit.

    Breathing and mindfulness make a huge difference for managing anxiety, so try all the tools you can.

    IMG_2372.JPG

  3. Exercise: I exercise 6 days a week consistently. Always. No exceptions. Some days, I can feel my runs or weight lifting squeezing the anxiety right out of my body. Other days, I know my body needs yoga and I feel noticeably rejuvenated afterward.Countless studies show the affect of exercise on mood. A quick Google search will lead you to plenty of material about exercise being a great mood stabilizer.

    You can even step the benefits up a notch by taking your workout outdoors. Even more studies point to the benefits of being in nature and sunlight. Combine exercise and nature to really turn your mood around.

    Make exercise a non-negotiable part of your day.

  4. Get out into nature: Okay, I mentioned this above, but I think it deserves it’s own mention. I make it a point to get out into nature every day. In winter, when it’s more difficult to get outside in WI, I use my sun lamp every day to charge myself with light.Nature has such a profound grounding effect. So much so that it’s becoming a “thing” to go forest bathing. Earthing re-calibrates your body. The sun pushes away the blues. There’s just something about being outside that makes us feel good and it just happens to melt away frenzied energy.

    IMG_3887.JPG
    View from my lunch break
    IMG_3660.JPG

  5. Be selective: Only take clients that you love. Only say “yes” to events that will truly make a positive difference in your life. Overwhelm is a problem with us anxious types, and this is a great way to tame it.We anxious types also find gratification in doing what we love, which translates into all kinds of mental health benefits. Writing about health and fitness, my bread and butter, all day gives me fewer things to be anxious about.

    This could be an entire different post (or book) but there’s something to be said about doing your life’s purpose work that heals that underlying anxiety that stems from knowing you’re not doing the work you were meant to be doing.

  6. Build in social time: Working alone every day is the bomb dot com when you’re a professional introvert like me. Answering customer calls is just about the last thing on earth I’d want to be doing, and it just causes anxiety thinking about it. So the nature of my job is perfect for me and my fragile spirit.However, being with friends is also paramount and lifts the spirit in indefinable ways. I miss being with my people. So, I make sure to get into town and plan social activities regularly because there’s no one on the other side of my desk to tell about the weird thing that just happened to me.

    Although one side of me loves being a homebody, another side of me knows that making time with friends feeds that energetic part of me. Social time is healthy, and I’m all about healthy.

    IMG_2814.JPG

  7. Write about anxiety: I’ve written a few articles for The Mighty and I’ve discovered that every time I try to put my anxiety or depression into words, I learn something about my anxiety on a little bit deeper level. Finding the lesson in the scary parts, finding the sense in the nonsense, discovering the blessings in the darkest times–writing gives you that!Even if you’re not a writer, you can pretend to write an article like 4 Ways Anxiety Makes Me a Better Mom or This ONE strategy nips my anxiety before it ever starts. This is kinda an extension of the journaling listed above. Putting your experience into words and working through your thoughts in a real tangible way like this gives you better awareness of your anxiety.

    I always hope my published words resonate with and touch other people too. I like to think that my articles might give people the reassuring sense that “someone out there gets it.”

  8. Get dressed: Taking a shower and getting dressed are part of a healthy self-care routine. A healthy self-care routine you’re sometimes too overwhelmed to perform when you’re in the midst of a panicFor that reason, I get dressed and shower every single day. Even if I don’t want to. It’s kinda one of those fake-it-till-you-make-it scenarios where you take care of yourself like you would when you’re in your best states of mind. Anxiety can cause a snowball effect in your life, right down to self-care. So showering and getting dressed are two controllable factors you have at your disposal to push back on that snowball.

    Sometimes I put earrings on even if I’m not leaving my house. I even work better when I’m dressed. It’s good for my productivity and it makes me feel human. Feeling icky is not good for mental health. Showers are.

  9. Keep a schedule: Knowing what I’m doing and when helps on those days when I need to work on autopilot because I can’t work any other way. I have a set of routine tasks I do in the mornings and a pretty predictable way of working each day/week.That way, if I come upon a day, or an entire phase, of anxiety, I can just go through the motions rather than skip life those days entirely. Make sure, when you’re feeling good, that you establish this set routine so that when you come upon an anxious phase, you can “just do it,” as Nike so famously coined.

    I also find that there’s reassurance in having predictable habits. Anxious people don’t necessarily thrive on change, so having a regular schedule helps keep our nerves on a steady keel.

  10. 3, 2, 1, blastoff strategy from Mel Robbins. I’ve pulled out this strategy when I’ve needed to, on those days when I just can’t get out of bed and my mind is screaming at me to get some ish done while my body is not cooperating.All you do is count down, like you’re a spaceship about to launch, “3-2-1 blastoff,” and you jump out of bed. It sounds stupid. Even Mel Robbins admits it’s stupid. But somehow, you just get out of bed, which is the hardest part. Once the hardest part is out of the way, you can get to living.

IMG_3602.JPG

 

So my strategies are pretty textbook. Except maybe that last one or maybe my approach to them. A therapist would suggest many of these. So would every anxiety guidebook out there. So, if you were looking for something more profound, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you don’t practice these regularly.

The trick is to actually do them. To actually practice them.

Try the silly little expanding circle breathing exercise on the Fitbit. And keep trying it for several days in a row, and you might start to experience noticeable effects.

Look, I know some of them sound rudimentary, but they’re freaking effective! The most effective. There’s a reason you hear about them all the time. Because they work.

My anxiety is at an all-time low right now. I feel amazing. It’s a combination of warm weather, autonomy, goal alignment, and personal fulfillment. Yes, I take medication to help temper some of my biological anxiety, but my lifestyle adjustments contribute immensely.

I hope something in this article strikes you and helps you. Maybe even just hearing it from someone who’s gone through it makes you feel a little better. I want to let you know that you are definitely not alone.

I’d love to connect with any other anxiety warriors out there. Tell me in the comments who you are and what you do to tame your wild anxiety;)

Walking Barefoot in the Grass

I found out something fascinating today.

Walking barefoot in the grass is magical. Like literally and figuratively.

IMG_1149.JPG

I have long been drawn to taking my shoes off and walking through the grass. There’s just something so calming and gentle about it.

Turns out, there’s also something scientific about it.

So today, I found this entire article about how walking barefoot through the grass (officially called “earthing” btw) resets your entire body through electron transfer with the earth. It helps regulate our body rhythms.

Ok, even to me that might sound a little woo-woo. But there’s got to be something to this right? Because doesn’t just the suggestion of walking barefoot in the grass make you want to do it right now?

If you really think about it, shoes do insulate us from the world, don’t they? They disconnect us from the Earth one level.

And that’s before you add flooring and rugs and carpet and cars and concrete….

And if I really start to think about it, my feet barely touch the actual ground during the day and my face barely gets shone the sun. I wake up, get ready (vinyl) and go to my car, which is parked in the garage (concrete). I get a bit of sun through the windshield on my way to work.

Drop off the kids (sidewalk). Go into work (concrete). Don’t see any nature for 8 hours, except when I take a break outside (all paved). Then I go home and I might, only might, go outside. And I might, only MIGHT run my bare feet through the grass.

That’s a whole lot of disconnect between me and nature. And between me and the real actual earth in particular.

Guess what I did on my lunch break today? I totally kicked off my shoes to try and absorb a few electrons…er…run my feet through the tickle of the grass.

Whether or not this reset mIMG_1169.JPGy body, it was an enjoyable experience. Research says it may have lowered cortisol and inflammation levels. I do know that it provided gentle stimulation, it provided a dose of green, it gave me a real connection to the earth, it gave me a little stress relief, at least for a few moments.

 

I challenge you too, dear #flasher, to kick your own shoes off and allow your feet to “feel” and experience something living and be part of the flow of Earth’s electrons.

Alright, #flashme your bare feet in the grass!

 

How Sugar, Hormones and Stress Mess with Weight Loss

Sometimes, there’s more to the weight loss game than just diet and exercise.

I went to a very interesting Lunch N Learn at work last week about how sugar, hormones and cortisol affect weight loss. So, let’s start with your typical weight loss equation. If you burn more calories than you take in, you lose weight. That’s typical for almost everyone. Most people respond well if they eat less and exercise more.

But, if you’re like me, you have a few more factors that affect that equation. My body doesn’t respond that easily. And I’ve been thinking that every one of those factors mentioned in the title might be affecting my own personal weight loss. I’ve been working out 6 days a week, eating pretty darn clean, and seeing no progress. So, I had to start thinking outside the box of diet and exercise.

Reduced Diet Calories + Increased Exercise  Weight Loss

I do have issues with anxiety, so cortisol is something I’m exploring. Diabetes runs in my family, so I’ve been trying to eat more protein and fewer carbs, including sugar, at my doctor’s advising. So, when my workplace offered this presentation on sugar, hormones and stress, it was 100% in line with what I wanted to dig into more. So, I signed up right away!

Our speaker had her own amazing weight loss story, having lost and kept off 70 lbs just in the past couple recent years, so she had some immediate proof in her own body. And I just really clicked with everything she said and have a lot of similar views as her.

Let me sum up the presentation for you:

1. Sugar is the root of all evil. Seriously.
2. Cortisol makes your body hold onto fat.
3. Hormones from sugar and stress create a vicious weight loss struggle.


So, we have these stressor in life, just general worry and real stressor too like deadlines, bills, and close calls. These stressor activates the sympathetic nervous system–fight or flight.

During this, the body is told to stop digesting, stop muscle building, and flood the body with glucose (suger). Then, glucose comes along thst needs insulin to clear it out, but cortisol blocks insulin. All the extra sugar floating around, that you didn’t use to flee from a tiger, is stored as fat.

But then, to add insult to injury, leptin, the hormone that tells you when you’re full, is blocked by insulin.


So, let me summarize: 

Cortisol blocks insulin and insulin blocks leptin.

So basically, sugar and stress cause fat to hang on like crazy!

 And the body is still over there telling you it’s hungry, feed it quick, with sugar!

Sugar feeds disease in all different ways. It is evil.

So what do you do to combat this? Meditation, sugar elimination and a plant-based diet can have a profound impact on your life and weight! Guess what I’m adding to my diet and fitness regimen? A daily meditation practice, a kitchen sugar clean-out and a shopping trip to the produce and Steamer aisles. It seems so simple, but are you actually doing it? Can you do it better? Start there! That’s where I’m starting.

As a side, our presenter is a certified eating psychology coach, which really intrigues me. Of course healthy eating and fitness have always been my passions, but I’ve also had lots of interest in the psychology behind it. I had an emphasis in psychology in college and just couldn’t get enough of it. Check her out:

1 Minute Work Meditations

Hey Guys, I am jumping into the world of YouTube videos right now, and I’d love to have you check it out and tell me what you think!

So, I came up with two one-minute exercises that you can practice at work. They seem really simple and shruggable.

But.

Let me give you the lowdown on the profound, far-reaching benefits of mindfulness meditation:

  1. Addresses muscle imbalances (that you might not even realize you have): I specifically designed these exercises to stretch the chest and work the back and combat that hunched upper crossed syndrome that desk workers usually have. Here’s a really good article if you’d like to read more about this chest/back imbalance.
  2. Oxygenate: deep breathing exercises increase blood oxygen levels. If people with asthma can benefit from deep breathing, then that’s really saying something.
  3. Energize: at the same time as your blood oxygen is rising, your energy is increasing, but it’s a calm energy, not a frenzied one.
  4. Anti-anxiety: I have struggled with anxiety-related issues and one thing that kept coming up for potential treatment options was mindfulness meditation. I thought, huh, what’s that gonna do? Then, I saw it over and over and over, and with my arms crossed, I thought “fine, I’ll try it.” Turns out, it’s a pretty darn effective treatment, especially for OCD. It lowers your threshold for anxiety, provides an alternative to rumination, dampens fight-or-flight mode, and keeps your body in a much more relaxed state on a regular basis. The root of anxiety often is bad thoughts (something’s wrong with me, I’m not good enough, etc) that have too much power, and mindfulness meditation reduces that power. But you don’t have to have an anxiety disorder to benefit as it reduces stress and frenzied thoughts.
  5. Increased work productivity. Seriously, a regular meditation practice can restructure your brain! Don’t believe me? Read this. Benefits listed in the article also include improved attention, reduced stress, more compassion, and on and on. These mind-clearing exercises should be boss-approved.
Do you get the idea? I could go on… Meditation might sound new-agey, but it’s becoming more mainstream, and for good reason. If you’re still not sold, here are 100 Benefits of Meditation. If that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will.

There’s no reason you can’t reap some of these benefits in one minute! However, you’ll get a more profound effect if you practice longer, regular meditation.

Here are my brand-new videos. I would appreciate it if you’d ever so kindly check them out, subscribe to my channel and/or leave a comment and let me know what you think. 

My Introduction to Essential Oils

When I was in about 6th or 7th grade, my passion for natural alternatives, remedies and products started to emerge. I have a picture of a friend and me lying on pillows with a homemade masque on our faces and cucumbers over our eyes. I still have books like this on my shelf about natural remedies and skincare.

One thing I’ve always had particular interest in is essential oils. They used to be much harder to find before Doterra and other big-name brands were around. I bought a little starter pack of oils in tiny vials along with a little beeswax and glycerin to become my own little apothecary.

Today, I still harbor an interest in essential oils. Once I started doing a little looking around for the uses for some of the common ones (lavender, peppermint, lemon, etc), I started to wonder why I wasn’t using them for everything!

I quickly made a purchase through Mountain Rose Herbs, based on the recommendations from this article, and got to work. I haven’t even had them for a month yet, but here’s what I’ve already been using them for:

Lemon or lavender on Peanut’s cuts and scrapes
Peppermint and eucalyptus + coconut oil on Hubster’s chest for congestion
Vitamin E oil + lavender rubbed onto my swollen preggo ankles
Lavender on the wrists before bed
Drops of lemon in all-purpose cleaner: 2 parts water, 1 part vinegar, drops of lemon
Epsom salts + lavender in the bath
Calming oils + breathing exercises during anti-anxiety meditation
Peppermint on a moist cotton ball for an ant repellent.
Other oils for pregnancy symptoms*

I get preggo elephant trunks

I have plans for a whole lot more too, such as natural insect repellent for camping and a muscle rub for workout recovery. I am even considering becoming a Doterra consultant. My cousin is a seller and she even graciously sent me several vials of samples. I really think being an oil seller would complement being a personal trainer in so many ways, but I may wait until post-baby to take on any more endeavors like this.

What are your experiences with essential oils? Do you think they’re a cure-all or a bunch of new-agey hooey? 

*You have to be careful with essential oils as some of them are not safe to use during pregnancy. Here are a few helpful resources, but always make sure to check with your doctor first.

Doterra pregnancy oils pdf
Essential oil pregnancy guide
Fit Pregnancy on essential oils

7 Small Daily Tweaks to Improve Health

When new healthy habits form and old detrimental ones fade away, progress happens. I’ve been adopting some new techniques and tweaking my routine here and there to build upon the foundation of healthy living I’ve built for myself. I’ve been a fitness buff and a health food fan for a long time, but there is always more I could be doing to get better every day. I do have some bad habits that need to be broken, some eating patterns that could be cleaned up, and some new goals I would like to achieve. Let’s explore some of the tiny techniques that I’ve been using that have made a huge difference toward health improvement:

1. Yoga Breathing Breaks: Throughout the morning, I’ve been known to sneak away for a few yoga breaks. I don’t do any full yoga routines, due to the logistics of working in an office. But I do sneak in some yoga breathing exercises. I usually perform the first part of a sun salutation over and over, breathing slowly through my nose, until I feel relaxed, usually about 5 minutes. I am not a very good seated meditator, but moving with my breath through a few stretching exercises feels amazing. I’m not only actively meditating, but I’m also limbering my body and practicing mindfulness without even thinking about it. The simple act of movement becomes a  great distraction to bothersome thoughts, making quieting the mind a whole lot easier than when sitting. And the benefits of meditation any which way you do it are phenomenal. Besides that, the habit gets me up out of the seat I sit in 8 hours a day and gets my blood moving.

Complete Pilates Yoga Meditation photo P2231297_zpsa4c92e3c.jpg

This is the book I use for my daily meditation/relaxation needs.
yoga sun salutation photo P2231296_zpsf50d6d31.jpg
I perform the first part of the sun salutation through and through: 
mountain, backbend, swan dive, forward bend, return to mountain pose.

2. Trade in Diet Soda: Without really trying to, I have successfully cut out diet soda from my diet (apart from the highly occasional fast food run). I have long cut out regular soda and sugary juices from my diet, but I still always had a diet soda every day with my work lunch. To cut costs for a few weeks, I cut soda from the grocery list and didn’t miss it as bad as I thought I would. Now, we’re saving a bit of extra money every week and I’m not killing brain cells. Seriously. Aspartame + Caffeine = Dead Brain Cells. After watching Hungry for Change, I decided to maintain this healthy habit and keep my brain for awhile. Water it is!

3. Work out in the Morning: Now, I am not a fierce proponent of morning workouts. If the only time you have to work out is in the evenings, that’s quite alright as long as you follow through. However, I myself have made the successful transition to working out in the mornings (I will discuss how I did it in a future post). This way, I get to spend the entire evening with my family, and I’m not running off the gym after work (not that I think this is wrong, it just causes severe mommy guilt). I also get the bulk of my workout done before my day even starts. In addition, working out in the morning before breakfast actually creates up to a 20% increase in fat burn. I’m all for that!

4. Eat Clean, Eat Clean, Eat Clean: As I’ve stated before, eating clean is the only “diet” that intuitively makes sense to me for long-term lifestyle implementation. It makes sense to get your nutrients from “as-God-made-them” sources and to stay away from processed foods. That’s a scientifically sound idea. I’ve been eating so healthy lately that whenever I have a not-so-healthy meal, I don’t feel good afterwards. It feels sort of like a hangover with a lingering “bleh” feeling and sour stomach. Quite the incentive to continue eating healthier, right? I know that French fries are going to give me stomach pains, so I don’t eat them.

Source: indg.ca via Krista on Pinterest

5. Don’t Cut out Stretching: When crunched for time during a workout, the easiest sacrifice to make is to skip the stretching, right? Bad move. By doing so, you are robbing yourself of the benefits of stretching, which include better posture, easier recovery, increased mobility, enhanced performance, enhanced exercise form, etc. I have recently started incorporating foam rolling (aka: self-myofascial release) into my stretching routine, based on the recommendations from my NASM studies. I just use a foam swimming noodle right now, which you can find at the dollar store, to massage out my knots. It feels sooooo good. I hear a lot of people saying that if it doesn’t hurt, you’re not doing it right. Either I don’t feel pain like most people or I’m a masochist, but I love the feeling (but I’m a lover of deep deep-tissue massage and have a super-high pain tolerance). And it really is working, making me feel less stiff, increasing my range of motion, and ironing out my exercise form.

6. Eat Breakfast a Little Later: I always eat breakfast. As you probably know, skipping breakfast is a cardinal sin of healthy eating. However, I’ve found that eating a little bit later in the morning helps me to eat fewer mindless snacks throughout the morning. I can make it to lunchtime without a problem if I eat at 9:30 instead of 7:00. Plus, I don’t actually start to feel that hungry until after 9, so it’s really not necessary to eat before leaving the house. Such a simple concept, but it really is making a huge difference! I’ve been good about planning my meals in advance so that I can prep them at work. Microwave scrambled eggs really are a miracle.

 photo P4160595.jpg

7. Try New Foods: I’ve discussed before the different foods that I’ve tried as part of the goals I set for myself last summer, and I’m setting intentions to continue this goal. This past week, my family was subjected to bulgar wheat for the first time. It was a success! Even meat-and-potatoes Hubster found it to be a good alternative to rice. He does like quinoa, and bulgar has a similar consistency. I tend to fall into really bad food ruts, so picking up new foods to try always helps me climb out. I will be adding bulgar to our regular rotation of whole grains. You can find it in the bulk section at your grocery store for super cheap. It’s really easy to make too much (see below), so freeze the leftovers for an easy grab-and-go option on rushed days. It’s always helpful to have a healthy mixture of food options to choose from, and adding more to the repertoire is great for giving your body a healthy variety of nutrients.

I hope these small tweaks that I’ve made in my own regimen inspire you to change a thing here or there in yours. Just try implementing one idea at a time and really pay attention to the difference it makes. If it doesn’t work, pitch it. If it does work, adopt it. Either way, keep moving onto the next step and see what happens. I’d love to hear back with your results. Good luck!

Walking Mantra Meditation

Since I’ve been delving into the land of mantras, I thought it would be fun to talk about walking mantra meditations. Now, I’m not a huge meditator. I know all about how good it is for you, and I always have good intentions of meditating, but the practice of silent meditation often falls to the wayside.

After reading an article about walking meditation by friend Nancy Monson, I decided I really like the idea of walking and meditating at the same time. After all, I walk to work a lot, and what’s better than multitasking while doing it?

One day, on my way home from work, I selected a word to focus on for the entire trip. The results were actually pretty amazing. Focusing on the word “beauty” made so many lovely and heartwarming things stand out to me. I had covered the non-picturesque territory so many times before, I didn’t think anything would really strike me as particularly beautiful, but I was wrong. Turning a simple walk into an opportunity for awareness, wellness, and gratitude is just genius to me. It makes every walk quite a bit more special.

I noticed a squirrel carrying a whole corn cob (funny!)
A sign for “Pleasant Street”

A family decorating their Christmas tree in front of the window (so special!)

Particularly aesthetically-pleasing arrangements of apartment electricity lines (weird, I know!).

And interesting architectural details

And I really can’t believe I never noticed this adorable bird treehouse display after living in the same neighborhood for over 7 years!!! It’s amazing what you pick up on while you’re being intentionally mindful.

Tree full of birds nests

This type of walk was so energizing, I plan on doing it much more in the future.

I’ve taken walks before where I focused on how fast I was going to the point that my face got really tight. I’ve taken walks where I focused on a recent fight and used the walk to get away from home, process what happened, and prevent welling rage from erupting. This idea of a walking meditation is much more pleasant and productive, don’t you think? And why would you ever take another walk again without focusing on what’s truly beautiful? Just another simple way to turn an ordinary everyday task into something a little more special…

Try it! And then leave a note to tell me what you think.

Running Mantras

Mantra Post, Sidewalk Chalk Mantra

I love me a good mantra. That’s why I’ve been studying them lately and testing some to experience their effect.

Mantras can be a powerful motivational tool if used in the correct way. They give the mind a clear focus for a workout, a performance, or a run. They keep you clearly focused on your goals and intentions. They can be used as an important reminder or as intrinsic motivation. They help keep you mentally prepared. For example, if you’re doing a workout to show yourself you can after years of being sedentary, repeating “I can do it” to yourself over and over again can be the difference between failing and finishing. Focusing on the “I cans” is  a strong motivator to do just that.

Source: bit.ly via amanda on Pinterest

Mantras also cloud out negative thoughts that could easily mess up our concentration and progress. If you’re completely focused on “I can do it,” negative thoughts about your body, endurance, or appearance are not given any consideration. Drown out those distractions! Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, you’re concentrating on what you can do. Simple, right?

In this same way, you can completely re-wire your own thoughts. If you’re not intentionally focused on anything and you’re working out on autopilot, your thoughts are likely to stray to how much time you have left, how much cuter the girl on the elliptical in front of you is, how hot it is at the gym, how much your leg aches, etc. Taking control of your thoughts with a mantra puts the focus back on your abilities, squeezing out more of your potential than autopilot ever could!

Finding a workout mantra that fits is another thing that shouldn’t be done without some consideration. Mantras should actually have an effect on you, so follow these steps to find a mantra that moves you!

1. Make it meaningful: Your running mantra should have personal meaning to you. Your mantra should really push you to do your best. Say, you’ve been finding lately that the only difference between dreamers and doers is action, you might try a mantra to remind you of that important lesson such as “take action” or “do it, do it.” My personal mantra for almost everything is: “Make it happen.” It has a lot of meaning to me. Whatever changes I want in any aspect of my life, I have the power to make them happen.

2. Make your mantra activity-specific: Your running mantra might not be the same as your weight-lifting mantra. For example, “little steps, big strides” might keep your focus on lowering your stride length, but it has little to do with ekeing out one last rep. Something like “power up” would be perfect for lifting.

3. Make sure it moves you: You might come up with the perfect mantra and then realize that it’s just not resonating with you. Try again! Mantras aren’t static. If you get bored with one, move on. Hey, “move on” would even be a good mantra!

4. Base it on a goal: What are your health goals? If you haven’t already listed them, do so now. Goals take you forward. Now, figure out what mantra would remind you of those goals each time you work out. Say you want to be able to run a 5K by next month, you might choose a mantra such as “Go farther” to serve as a reminder of your goal. Say you want to tone up for a wedding. Chant something related so you keep your eye on the prize. Something like “here comes the bride” or “love and beauty.” Make sure you’re focusing more on the mental/health rewards vs the superficial ones.

5. Revisit Poetry 101: Ok, this rule is optional, but rhythmic mantras are a great way to incorporate your mantras into your breathing pattern, weight-lifting motion, or running stride. I recently took a run and repeated “faster, farther, stronger.” I repeated the first syllable on one foot strike and the second syllable on the second foot strike. The effect was cool. If the words rhyme, even better. Rhyming words roll off the tongue easier.

6. Make it short: It’s much easier to repeat one to three words to yourself than 15. You probably don’t want to quote your favorite Walt Whitman-ism. Focus on something very concise. When you’re breathing heavy, you don’t want to be reciting long phrases in your head. You’ll lose that focus that we were talking about.

7. Make it positive: “Keep going” is 1,000 times more effective than “don’t stop.” You’re focused on moving forward, progress, being a trooper. When you say “don’t stop,” you’re more focused on that word tough “stop.” It’s the opposite of motivating. Re-word your mantra until it says something positive.

8. Use powerful action words: Strong words are more impactful than wishy-washy ones, but that goes without saying. Inject extra energy into your workout mantra and it might just inject more energy into you!

Here are a few mantra ideas to get you started:

Burn it up
All in!
Pound it down
Worn to new strength
Thank you legs!
Guide your bliss
Forward motion
Move ahead
Move on
Fast and furious
Believe in it
Propel forward
Own it
Push it
Power up
It’s all in you! <–I love this powerful mantra from Lucy Danziger of Self Magazine.

Other ideas:

Hypnotics: In the book Born to Run, Jenn Shelton is said to have used a quote from a Kerouac novel to guide her runs. It said to let the ground passing underneath you hypnotize you. It is interesting to try this. When you’re focused on the sidewalk, you lose your train of thought. Interesting concept.

Bible verses: Depending on your faith, you might use scripture or other proverbs to piece together your mantra. Something like “run to You” could have double significance for a Christian runner. Take 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 for example. Basing your mantra on that passage could leave you repeating “run for THE prize.”

Mantra Project, Make it happen

Make it Happen is my personal slogan. I favor it so much so that, in the next few weeks, I will be showing you a few DIY projects that incorporate your mantra into the design. I can’t wait to share them with you.

Relaxation Techniques for Bedtime


From http://www.stopsmoking1.co.uk/

I’ve mentioned before the calming, massage-like effects of bedtime yoga. Another relaxing routine in my personal arsenal is a different kind of progressive relaxation. Instead of tensing and un-tensing muscles from the feet to the head, I progressively relax a little more with each exhalation. I take a total of seven breaths and try to relax further and further with each breath.

I also like to look at pictures of my dreams. I sometimes print off motivational pictures that I come across or find in Google Image searches. This brings my awareness and focus back around to important or happy things and away from worries and to-do lists. It can also make for some sweet dreams.

My mom recently dumped off a box of books at my house that I’ve apparantly been storing at hers for maybe 10 years. Some things never change, like my love for growing things and making homemade beauty products. In the stack, I found a Bath and Body Works at-home beauty book that got me thinking about a refreshing, invigorating morning routine:

1. Try some fired up yoga breathing and gentle stretching before leaving the bedroom. Ease into morning.

2. Drink a glass of ice cold water first thing when you leave the room. Better yet, throw in a slice of orange an enjoy the energizing effects of citrus. I love that sensation in my throat of the first cold drink going down.

3. Dry brush the body with a loofa or use a light body scrub to increase circulation and wake up the nervous system.
 
4. Give yourself periodic cold spritzes in the shower. The shock can be quite energizing. It will certainly bring you back to life.

5. A little bit later, you might enjoy a glass of tea. Peppermint tea is very refreshing and the minty steam opens up the senses.

Now, say ahhhhhhhhhhhh…

Turning Happiness Up a Notch

I mentioned something in a previous post about always doing something to nourish yourself, such as listening to music at work. I’ve been thinking a lot about this and I can see so many benefits from listening at work that I thought it would be beneficial to share so that everyone can benefit from it.

1. Music drowns out those “corporate sounds” of copying machines, bubblers cooling off, high heels on concrete, sales calls, incessant typing and other noises that sometimes stifle our sense of individuality.

2. Your taste in music and the emotions that the music evokes provide you with a sense of place in the world that extends far beyond the makeshift walls of your cubicle. It’s so easy to surrender to the grind that we could sometimes use a shift.

3. I tend to find lyrics the perfect ignition for my creative wheels. Sometimes a line of music–or even my mis-hearing of a line–provides me with an idea that churns itself into a pearl.

4. This is your chance to learn about new and unheard-of artists. Pandora is my go-to place. You type in your favorite song or artist or someone you hear about in a magazine or blog posting and you get a personalized radio station with similar-sounding musicians to expand your playlist.

5. Music has the profound ability to change or complement any mood. I turn on the meditation stations when I’m getting stressed out or the modern folk station when I need an artistic boost.

Today I’m listening to classical music, trying to memorize the names of composers and broaden my cultural knowledge. Come on, tune in!