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Free New Year’s Health and Fitness Program

Workout Program for New Year

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Hey #Flashers,

I’m in charge of putting together a wellness program for my corporate job for the month of January. Since I’ll already have all the materials put together, I thought I’d invite you to join too!

It’s called Full Force because we’ll be going into the new year with full force toward our overall wellness goals.

This plan will cover fitness, nutrition and mental health.

What you’ll get:

  • A training plan
  • Printable trackers
  • Meal planning ideas
  • Daily tips emails

The entire program is based around using what’s already available to you. It will help immensely if you own a smartphone and a Fitbit, but they’re not completely necessary.

 

Let me know in the comments if you would like to join, and I will hook you up! No strings attached.

You want in?

Plant Your Own Backyard Anxiety Garden

Every year for my birthday, my mom buys me plants for my garden. Best gift ever!

At our new house though, we have deer, which does not bode well for a vegetable garden. So I wasn’t going to plant anything this year.

But then I realized we had a few garden beds that were filled with only weeds, so I did have some space to fill, with flowers at least.

We are also obsessed with butterflies and hummingbirds at our house, so the more butterfly- and hummer-friendly flowers we could find, the better.

Our backyard is becoming quite the magical fairy land.

We’ve seen at least four different hummingbirds on our feeder, we now regularly have lightning bugs and deer and caterpillars and all kinds of whimsical things.

 

I also created an anti-anxiety garden kind of by accident.

 

At the nursery, I thought, oh it would be amazing if I had lavender. So, on my quest to find it, I found a section called the “tea garden” where I also found chamomile and lemon balm. They not only sounded fabulous for fresh homemade teas, they are also all renowned for their anti-anxiety properties. I need all the nerve calmers I can get!

 

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Quick profiles of these amazing anti-anxiety herbs:

 

I love that I can go heal in my own garden!!!

I won’t stop taking my anxiety medications, but these are a great natural way to supplement my anti-anxiety regimen.

These plants were super easy to find at my local nursery, so they should be for you too.

As I gather and try out new recipes, I will share what works on here. Last night, I put a sprig of the lemon balm in my chamomile tea and it was delightful! I certainly felt relaxed afterward.

What are you favorite natural calming techniques?

Make Your Own Sunshine

Can we just put that in quotes and attach my name to it please? Haha! Cuz I just made that up, but it’s so true!

I have always has a strong connection to the light. The first time I remember coming to my own realization that sunshine is medicine was in high school. One day, we had a study hall out in the courtyard, and I just soaked up the sun for about 45 minutes. I remember going back into school and feeling…different. I can’t quite explain how it made me feel except to say I felt lighter and refreshed. I made a conscious connection then between the sunshine and the satisfying feelings I was having, long before people started talking about seasonal affective disorder.

To the contrary, when I worked third shift in college, I started to feel the effects of sunlight deficiency. I never got used to third. Our bodies are not naturally in rhythm with that schedule. I had trouble sleeping during the day, I was morose about missing daylight, and I was so unhappy it made my teeth itch! To feel this opposite end of the spectrum was just as enlightening. I knew exactly how much the sun affected me and I knew that I never wanted to return to this darkness.

I’ve noticed too, that all my worst bouts of anxiety have happened in December, February, etc. So, at my last appointment, I asked my doctor what she thought about light boxes. She gave me an enthusiastic, “I love them!” She whipped the one she carried in her purse out to show me, and a few minutes later I had a script for one in my hands and am now the proud owner of a light box to remove the SAD from winter in Wisconsin, where exposure to sunshine is scarce. And my preliminary observations are that it’s working:

There’s a whole lot of science behind this. Here’s an enlightening article about the sun and health.

So, here I am with a therapeutic 10,000 lux sun maker. I really am making my own sunshine!! I love the sunshine and being in the light. I’m drawn to sunny windows like a cat (new poem about that to come). The sun’s energy just penetrates me in places that no other drug or uplifting tool or mood-boosting strategy could touch. And that, my friends, is a great metaphor for anyone who strives to make each day a little better…and brighter. Heh! Make your own sunshine!

Just thinking out loud, but now that I’m starting to make videos, I’m wondering if my new light box will make a good light box for shooting videos too. Haha!

Do you use a light box? If so, how has it affected you?

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. 

A Drum Circle Experience

There’s a little bit of hippie in me and every once in awhile it comes out in a free-spirited blend of essential oils, a backyard tepee, a flowy bohemian skirt, or a community drum circle.

This past week, Kayne and I participated in our local drum circle. He had experimented with drumming at the farmer’s market and was willing to give the drum circle a try. Plus, I like to treat him to special one-on-one time when I can, and this was a great opportunity to do that. I’ve always thought he might enjoy something like this.

The drum circle was set up at a park in town instead of their normal headquarters in a nondescript storefront. The outdoor setting had a nice nature/community/open air element to it. Passersby would stop to watch and passing kids were handed maracas and other noise-makers to try.

I love what it says on their website: “Rhythm is universal. It is inside and all around us. From our heartbeat to the cycles of the seasons, it is more a matter of opening ourselves up to remembering and feeling than a music lesson…Using creativity we all possess we will make beautiful music ‘in the moment.'”

Drum circles are really both a physical and emotional experience. I’ve been trying to incorporate more spiritual and mental fitness into my life, and I think drum circles encapsulate a whole bunch of wellness practices:

1. It’s a community builder and great social activity. You’re meeting people and you’re all working together to build something pleasant. A drum circle is a very open group of people.
2. It’s a practice in mindfulness. One of the frontline treatments for my anxiety-related issues is mindfulness. Meditation not only lowers your threshold for stress, but it also helps you live in the present and let worrisome thoughts pass on by. It may sound a bit new-agey, but it’s really grounding. And it’s really effective. It sounds too simple to be very effective, but it is profound!
3. It’s creative.
4. It’s physical and gets me out of my head, where I spend too much time ruminating and analyzing.
5. It’s therapeutic. There are studies about the use of drum circles, and music in general, as an effective form of therapy.
6. The being outside part is also therapeutic.

Bottom line: I’m kinda hooked!

So now, when I’m at work, you might find me listening to drum circles on YouTube which sort of produces calm energy and helps with my concentration. It’s like the musical rhythm gets me into a good work rhythm too. Ok, hippie moment over…

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

Maximizing Life

It all started with a book I picked up from the library. Hey, Chalene Johnson wrote a book? Cool. What I thought was a book about fitness turned out to be a book about making every goal in your life you’ve ever wanted to achieve happen. This led to me signing up for Chalene Johnson’s 30-Day Challenge, reading Brian Tracy’s Eat That Frog (a reference Chalene uses), reading Michael Hyatt’s Life Plan manifesto, and re-reading The Art of Nonconformity. The universe is trying to tell me something I think.

Out of nowhere everywhere, all these resources starting coming at me and they all seemed to have a common synergy. And they all seemed to pick up on my desire for personal progress. I’m feeding my ambitions with all of these resources and you can too.

Here are some of my favorite FREE resources for maximizing your hours, days, and life; melding your passions with your talents until you’re unstoppable; making your dreams a reality; and being more productive. These are not the new-age-y send-positive-vibes-into-the-universe-type resources either. These are legit, human psychology- and science-backed strategies.

Bubble.us: free thought bubble mind map software. Here’s a peek at my thought bubble. I broke it down by life priority and then by goal within that priority. My biggest priorities are God/Spirituality, Relationships, Health, Environment/Home, Career/Financial, Giving Back, Hobbies and Writing/Blogging. You MUST break down your life by priority in order to figure out where to best spend your time, with intention. If you’re not giving time to the things you value most, you’re not going to feel well-balanced.

List-making apps: Chalene strongly recommends using your smartphone for your daily list-making. I do find that when I make lists, I get more done in a day. I’ve used Astrid before and am currently looking into Evernote, Wunderlist and Remember the Milk. List-making sounds like such an unnecessary habit, but those of us that are most productive know just how magically motivating those lists really are. They perpetuate your goals.

Chris Guillebeau’s A Brief Guide to World Domination. Also check out The Art of Nonconformity from your library if they have it. You do not need to approach life in the conventional way, the way mom and dad taught you. Dare to be different. And if you can travel hack like Chris does, then you’ll be well on your way to every continent on Earth.

Michael Hyatt’s Creating your Personal Life Plan manifesto (see his sidebar). I like the way Michael takes a different approach to charting your future, by starting with your death. Michael also takes a Christian approach to life planning, which I strongly identify with.

O magazine: Finding your Passion. If you like pretty charts and worksheets, you’ll love this, my diligent little worker bees. If you don’t know where to start with any of this, start here. You need to know what your passions are before you can embark on pursuing them.

Self Magazine: Creating a 5-year plan based on your passions, dreams and goals. This isn’t the type of 5-year plan that the black suits ask you about in job interviews. This is the type of 5-year plan that makes you feel all giddy to get started.

Erica House: How to Architect your Own Happiness. Check out the mind map Erica uses. You could do that with Bubbl.us listed above. Just doing concept maps makes me happy:)

The Leap: I found this little gem when I was writing reviews for a local bookstore. The case studies of people in this book that went from ho-hum jobs to giant successes are so motivating, it’s hard to sit still. In the most general terms, Rick Smith talks about finding the overlap between your deepest passions and your best talents. Then, you take baby steps to get there, testing the waters first before you make that leap. No need to live in the poor house while you work on your startup!

You can read them all or read one or two. They all boil down to getting your priorities aligned, making steps each day toward your big life plans, and keeping to-do lists to find your happy. The only caveat to this reading list is that you can spend a whole lot of time reading without actually doing anything. Make sure you’re actually putting your plans into action in some small (or big) way every day. Use these materials to give you momentum while you’re charting your future.

Start today. Figure out what you’re meant to do on this Earth.

Finding the Beauty

~Better every day

I strive to follow this mantra each day I am alive. Sometimes I need a gentle reminder though. I like to try to do things better, be better, live better every day. I could always be more patient, more organized or less negative (just ask Hubster). I could always try to run a little faster or eat a little healthier.

Don’t get me wrong though. I don’t want this to sound like I beat myself up for not being the best at everything. I criticize myself enough already. No. This is about striving to be a better human each day, to make each day a little more special, to revive the mundane with a touch of pretty.

Making each day special takes work, but the type of work that it more than worth it. Deciding to do an art project with your children instead of offering them more screen time takes some preparation, but the memories and outcome far outweigh the effort. When your campfire is extinguished by the rain, take the s’mores inside and laugh as you roast them over the stove.

Certain things like slow drivers, chores, and weather consequences can be a source of extreme aggravation to some people. With a little practice though, you can change your mindset. When it’s supposed to be spring and you find yourself in the midst of a thunder/sleet storm that puts your yard completely under water and threatens approach upon your basement, you can either complain about it…

wi flooding

…or set up your water pump and search out the beauty that the day brings…

icicles on the trees

wi spring storm

find the beauty

wisconsin sleet storm beauty

Fighting something that you have little control over just causes stress and emotional turmoil. It’s not worth the worry. Just try my strategy. Find the beauty in it.

Let’s all try to get better at finding the beauty, shall we?

And just this once, let your kid get you with a can of silly string when you get home from work.

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Finger Bouquets Addiction

This summer, finger bouquets became my new favorite hobby. As we move into colder weather, I might have to start making leaf and acorn bouquets and then pine needle bouquets. Who knows? Until then, I’m still in love with this simple happiness habit.

I ask again, why would you walk around empty-handed, when you can walk around with fragrant flowers in your hand? Duh!

Backyard finger bouquet, Finger Bouquet, Pinch Bouquet

Backyard Pinch Bouquet, Finger Bouquet
Pretty little flowers (don’t tell them they’re weeds; they don’t know that) growing in my backyard lawn.

Lunch Break Finger Bouquet, Finger bouquet 8/17/12

I usually take a walk past some railroad tracks on my lunch break where there is plenty of wild flora to arrange in your fingers. This one made it back to my desk and into a cup of water.

Apparently yellow and white varieties are popular in Wisconsin.

My whole life’s ambition is to make each day a little lovelier. There really are easy things that you can do every single day to brighten your spirits and sprinkle in some special-ness. Finger bouquets are one of my favorite ways to gather beauty and visual gold out of the cracks. Flower collecting is a much better habit to be into than crack numbering, don’t you agree? Train your mind to see the flowers, not the junk in the cracks.

Cool, huh? You should try it.