Goodnight Moon

How many of us have a hard time winding down and falling asleep at night? You’re yawing and sleepy until the moment you lay in bed and feel your eyes snap open like a set of blinds in a cartoon. Your legs and arms get that tingly, restless sensation and you suddenly feel as though you could walk outside and lift your car clear off the ground. You turn off the light, close your eyes and an inventory of your day floods your mind, jumping up and down on your brain. You finally fall asleep and somehow turn into a roller weenie from the gas station down the street, just rolling around until you finally give up. Sleep is an important ritual in our lives and when it is constantly interrupted our bodies and our brain take notice.

Think of your bedtime routine and what you typically do prior to laying down. Most people watch a little TV, catch up on cleaning the house, wrestle their kids to bed or stare at their phones until their eyes bleed. Maybe you do a little mix of everything! If you are nodding your head to all of these and don’t add in relaxation at any point you shouldn’t be surprised that sleep doesn’t come easily or that you wake up feeling groggy most mornings. You may be saying, “Sara watching TV is my relaxation” or “I have to scroll through Facebook for the 175th time in order to relax, those cat videos won’t watch themselves!”. All of these things act as stimulants to the brain which are keeping your brain active and awake. Our body is set to work with the rise and fall of the sun. As the sun goes to sleep, so to speak, so should you. If you are watching TV, sitting in front of the computer or staring at your phone, you are tricking your body into thinking the sun is still up. The blue light being emitted from these devices is capable of stopping the body’s production of melatonin, which is a hormone that induces sleep. You may be able to fall asleep while watching reruns of Friends but don’t be fooled, that type of exposure can delay your ability to reach REM sleep, which poses an issue on the quality of sleep you’re receiving.

Our brains do not simply go to sleep when we do, they actually begin a process of clearing out waste and toxins. Not allowing your brain to do this can lead to diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Sleep helps us remember our day, store memories and improves our ability to make decisions. It allows for better coordination, concentration and helps the nervous system to function properly. We all know that lack of sleep or poor sleep will greatly affect your mood as well as your appetite. The list goes on and I encourage you to do a little research on brain health to not only help your sleep but to help prevent disease and memory issues down the road.

Everyone should have a bedtime routine in place that helps to relax and calm the body and mind. You should set aside an hour before you intend to lay down and actually fall asleep that you dedicate to connecting with your inner clock. Take a bath or shower, have a cup of herbal tea, meditate, journal or read on a device that does not emit light, maybe a real life book even, you know, one with pages! There are many ways you can relax and quiet the mind before bed and it’s very important to the health of your brain to do this. Your bedroom should be a place free of distraction and should help promote comfort and relaxation. Utilizing muted colors, soft lighting and scents that promote calming can greatly help in your quest for sleep.

So power down an hour earlier, give yourself a break from all that stimulation and allow your brain to rest. It is a pretty important organ after all.

Highway Picnic

Sitting in morning traffic today, I happened to look in my rearview mirror and notice the gentlemen behind me enjoying his breakfast. You may be thinking it was a quick breakfast sammy from the closest Tim Hortons, but you would be wrong. He had an actual plate of food and was eating it with a fork. This is serious breakfast commitment.

We are all guilty of eating in our cars and on the go since this is just how we live our lives in todays world. We don’t think about the implications of doing this and we certainly don’t stop to think if we are doing harm to our bodies by eating in this manner. All we know is that we woke up at 7:50 and have to be to work by 8:30. All of sudden the most important meal of the day becomes a picnic on the thruway. Not only is this a driving hazard and terrifying for those around you, but it wreaks havoc on your digestion. In this moment your body is in full on running late, morning rush hour flight mode. It’s complete chaos inside your body- stress, panic, watching the clock, full on road rage, not-a-morning person, chaos! The last thing your body is thinking about at this exact moment, is digesting the bowl of Cheerios you ate in your car 10 minutes ago.  Your body is now working like the crew members on the Titanic, doing everything in its power to shift attention away from your digestion and focus on what is clearly a massive iceberg headed your way. Digestion is controlled by the body’s nervous system, when your body is under stress it begins to send signals to places in the body that give you the ability to fight off an upcoming attack or run like hell. Blood flow to the area decreases drastically causing additional side effects such as indigestion, nausea and constipation.  This fight or flight response is part of our genetic make up and unfortunately our bodies are unable to decipher what type of stress we’re under. Whether you are being chased by a mountain lion or weaving through 6 lanes of traffic trying to get to your meeting on time, your body is in a stress filled situation. If you were actually being chased by a mountain lion, you would also not give a shit about your digestion.

We constantly look around at what our American food culture has become and the answer is typically, obese. Yes, much of that has to do with the overwhelming amount of processed food that we have in our diets but we also have to take a step back and look at our way of life. Our food has become overly processed and has become instant to fit in with our “on the go” lifestyle. There is an astounding array of foods that can be made in 5 minutes or less. We tend to walk past the produce department and head straight to the prepared meals to grab something fast and easy that fits within our lunch hour. We have slowly turned eating into this mundane task that has to be completed, rather than enjoyed. We put no importance in the daily routine of preparing a meal, sitting down and enjoying our food. Our culture no longer values people, it no longer cares that you ate your lunch hiding in the bathroom, it is not concerned that you had to work extra hours without being granted a break. Our culture doesn’t give a shit.

We stop to take a look at European countries and see that there food culture is completely different from our own. You do not hear about morbid obesity running rampant throughout these countries. Most people are granted 2 hour lunch breaks and get out of work at a reasonable hour to partake in dinner. It doesn’t matter that bread, cheese and butter are main staples in France. It doesn’t matter that pasta and a bottle or two of wine is a part of every meal in Italy. What matters is that they use fresh, real ingredients free of chemicals. They actually take a break and sit down to eat without rushing or interruption. You would find it difficult to find a fast food restaurant on every corner in Europe, of course they exist, Old McDonald made sure of that, but they are typically full of tourists trying to eat quickly on their way to the next museum. You will never sit next to a table of Italians in a restaurant and hear anyone say, “We have somewhere to be immediately after this, is there any way you can rush the meal?”. I can’t tell you how many times this has been asked of me working in the restaurant industry. It is like we are incapable as a country of slowing down and enjoying each small moment, even it is just another meal. We act as though eating is an imposition rather than 1 of 2 very important things that keeps us alive day to day.

If you were to just take a breath, slow down and enjoy each and every bite of your food, you would notice some pretty great changes in your digestion. You may notice you don’t feel as bloated as usual or that you are actually going to the bathroom regularly. The number on the scale may start to drop gradually and your pants may feel a bit looser. You may notice you start to make healthier choices in what you’re eating rather than grabbing the fastest option.

This week try and focus on not only what you’re eating, but how you’re eating. How long does it take you to eat a full meal? Are you eating on the go or in a hurry? Do you feel stressed, rushed or anxious while you’re eating? Before you even take that first bite, take a deep breath and remember that this meal is doing a service for your body. If you feel stressed, give yourself a few moments to unwind and breath. Allow your nervous system to rebalance and make the shift from stressed to relaxed. Breath in the scent of your food, feel the texture, allow it to last long enough that you actually taste what you’re eating. Slowly increase the amount of time it takes to eat each meal, if it typically takes you 5 minutes to eat, increase it to 10. Work your way up to 20 or even 30 minutes to complete a full meal. This allows your body to feel satisfied that it has completed the eating process and you will find it less likely that you reach for a snack or dessert. So if you’re having tummy troubles give this a shot and please, please stop eating plates of food in your car.

Mirror Mirror

If you read my post a few weeks ago, “Pear Bottomed Girls”, than this post will make more sense. If you have not read that one, I of course advise that you do, but you should be able to pick up what I’m putting down without having to read it. I asked that you pick a body part on yourself that isn’t one of your favorites and may even induce rage or sadness. A part that is constantly getting poked and prodded and endures snide remarks and hushed commentary on how it has ruined your life. I’m sure most of you already have that part in your mind without having to think about it.

*Whispering under breath while reading this…

“Stupid fat thighs, you disgusting dimply pieces of trash, you repulse me. Seriously. I hate you. You can’t even fit into my favorite jeans. You have 1 job, to prop my ass up in these jeans! You can’t even do that right!”

Sound about right? We have all been there. We have all stared blankly at our bodies in the mirror, dissecting every inch of flesh. How do you typically feel after that intense moment of self loathing? Since I have done it myself, the answer, is fucking awful. So why do we continuously do this to ourselves! We should be cherishing every moment we have within our bodies. We should look at every space on this beautiful creation with wonderment rather than torment. Our bodies carry us through life, they take a severe beating on a daily basis only to come home and be beaten further with verbal brutality.

Those thighs carry your body around all day. They make sure you are able to make it from point A to point B, tirelessly working hard to support you. Yet, they are never given any credit, just criticism. Those arms, that seem “flabby” or out of shape, are able to hug the world. They are able to closely hold what is dear to us and show our affection towards one another. Whether you’re holding your partners hand, rocking your child to sleep or holding on tight to a friend, they have encountered countless moments of love. That belly, our arch nemesis, it does the most amazing thing on earth. It has the ability to hold life. It is a source of power for our entire body, our core, our center. We take all of these pieces of ourselves for granted and instead look at them with shame and anger.

I would like for you to stop here and take a moment to look in the mirror, really look in the mirror. Scan your body from head to toe. Stop at each and every body part and come up with a reason why that part is actually perfect. Every inch deserves a compliment, deserves acknowledgment, deserves to be looked at with love. This is NOT a time for judgement. If something negative starts to push its way into your mind, bring your focus back to this positive intention. Give each body part a purpose and thank it for doing the job it was set out to do. Stand in the mirror until you believe each and every word you have said. Repeat it and trust it, as if saying anything different would feel wrong, like a betrayal to this new found relationship with your body. Do this on a daily basis and continue to build the courage to believe in your beauty.

It’s so easy to get caught up with “what beauty looks like”. The funny thing is, beauty looks exactly like you. Here you have been searching for the ideal body, the perfect shape and its been there all along, looking back at you in the mirror. You just neglected to see all the reasons that your body is already perfect. We waste so much of our time and energy with negative thoughts. Try a little positivity and see how it shifts not only your relationship with your body, but with the world around you. Embrace that feeling and know that you can have that every single day. You can wake up and choose to love yourself or you can spend a lot of valuable energy thinking of all the ways to veiw your imperfections negatively. I dare you to be happy and show that girl in the mirror that she’s worth it. All you have to do is work together and watch the beauty unfold.

Everyone is always winning the game they are playing

In life we are constantly aspiring to be greater. We always want to take that next step, get the promotion, continue our education, make more money and so on. When it doesn’t happen fast enough we get discouraged and beat ourselves up. We start to compare ourselves to those around us and try to figure out what were doing differently. What we neglect to remember in this world of instant gratification, is that life takes time. We are so used to having access to the universe with a click of a button, the scroll of a mouse and a siphoned Wi-Fi password to the nearest Starbucks. We are impatient and want immediate success. We are unwilling to see the importance in those small steps that lead up to the end result. Those small steps are the roadmap to your life. They are there to guide you forward and act as a manual in which you can always use for reference to see where you made mistakes or where you excelled along the way.

We fail to see that we are always right where we want to be. What we are experiencing is what we want to be experiencing, we just don’t realize it. We trick ourselves into thinking we’re ready for the next step and we make ourselves feel bad for not being farther along. The truth is, you are not stuck, you are not failing, you are just not ready. You may think that you are ready to conquer the world when in reality it scares the hell out of you. You find yourself making choice after choice that sets you back, or keeps you at a standstill.

Everyone is always winning the game they are playing.

 

What does this mean? People work perfectly to produce the results they are getting. If you wanted to be at your end result, you would be there. Here is an example:

You are trying to lose weight and the first weeks you do amazing! You’re eating all the right things at the times that are best for your body. Week 2 comes along and you begin to say, “I’m just too busy to plan out my meals, my schedule is too erratic.” You are playing a game of being distracted and you are winning. You are placing value on being distracted and busy over valuing stability and consistency. This is a deliberate choice, not an accident. Yes, there are certainly times you cannot help how busy you are, but is it really as often as you think? Think of something on your calendar right now that is not pertinent and may even be something you don’t want or have to do but scheduled anyway. You may notice that the moment your schedule frees up, it is almost instantly filled with something else. You are winning the game of being busy and hectic. There are many scenarios in which we are winning a game that does not service us.

So take a look at where you currently are in life and ask yourself, “Is this where I want to be? Am I doing what I set out to do? Is anything or anyone holding me back?” Do this as a daily assessment to make sure what you are doing is in service to reaching that end result. You may find yourself playing a game you hadn’t realized you signed up for. So go forward and acknowledge each pathway you have set out to conquer. Take it one small step at a time and thank yourself for having the courage to take that step.

Oh the Anxiety

In lieu of being transparent and being open with any and all that actually sit and read my blog, I feel I must share a secret. Some of you who know me will find this as nothing new, some of you who are acquaintances may not believe me and some of you may be able to relate to this in a very real way. I am a girl filled to the brim with anxious energy. Some days I feel as though it might actually start seeping through my skin, exposing what’s really happening inside of me. As you know, I have recently launched my business as a Health Coach in which I help other women like myself find balance between life and the beast that is anxiety. You may ask how it is I can help others if I myself have days where crawling out from under the covers seems taxing. This is the exact reason why.

In this day and age everything can be fixed with a pill. Take one and you’ll be dancing through a meadow of flowers, singing “The Hills are Alive” while wild horses graze next to you. Or so they say. (I want to add before we go any further, I am not shaming anyone who is taking anti-anxiety medication or anti-depressants, I am simply sharing an experience. If taking medication has helped you and has been a source of relief for you than that is wonderful). I have struggled with anxiety and bouts of depression for my entire life. There is not a time I think back and say, “What a peaceful time that was before the anxiety began.” It has always been there and will most likely be something I regularly deal with for the rest of my life. When it reached a point a few years ago that I felt I could not go a day without an anxiety attack, I spoke to my doctor about possible medications. We chose one and I began the next day. After a few months of waking up and taking this pill, I decided I did not want this pill to be the reason for my happiness. I did not want this pill to fill me with false promises for the day ahead. I did not want this pill dictating my life. I went off almost as quickly as I went on. I now had the task of learning how to control my anxiety and learning ways to cope when the crazy would set in. It has not always been pretty, there are plenty who can attest to that, but it has been me. It has been my feelings and my emotions and things I have felt very deeply pushing its way through my body and begging for my attention. That’s the thing about anxiety, it can trick you. It can make you think you are less than. It grips a hold of you so quickly that you don’t have time to see it coming.

I can say at 27, I have learned a lot coping skills that have helped me greatly. I can also say there are still days I want unzip my skin and hang it up in the closet because I can’t stand the buzzing feeling circulating through it. I always remind myself in those moments, this is one day in the course of your life. Feel what you need to feel and don’t be ashamed to feel it. Tomorrow you will wake up to a brand new day full of fresh new energy. People who have only known me for a short period of time laugh when I say I’m incredibly shy. They can’t believe me when I say I have, what can often times be crippling anxiety. I’m the loud girl, the funny girl, the girl who usually seems to be having fun. My exterior proves me to be outgoing and outspoken. They don’t see the girl that is so scared to meet new people that she blurts out the most inappropriate things because she’s so uncomfortable she can barely form a coherent sentence that doesn’t contain the word “fuck”. They don’t see the girl that panics when she’s in the middle of a crowd because there is no clear escape route and someone’s touching me!  Oh god, why is everyone so close to me! They don’t see the girl that won’t walk into a business she has never been into before without a friend because she doesn’t know what to expect once inside. They certainly don’t know the girl who breaks out in hives at the thought of change. Yet here she is, in all her glory.

This girl is a part of me, and she’s a little nutty but she has some really great attributes too. When we struggle with anxiety we can often times forget the other half of ourself exists at all. The half that’s loving and compassionate. The half that is driven and successful. That half tends to take a backseat when the black cloud rolls in and it’s important to remember that she’s still here even if you don’t feel it.

Over the years I can say that journaling has been my greatest anxiety shield. I keep a pocket sized notebook with me at all times, everywhere I go. When I feel the electric charge begin, I know the storm is coming and I know to get a pen handy. Writing those words down has helped release them from my mind and has eased the need to remember a million things at once. Sometimes, its pages and pages scrawled in messy, rushed hand writing. Sometimes, only a few words that I needed to take the time to write perfectly. I look at it after and think, there it is. There’s the energy that has been burning inside of me waiting to be released! Its all right here, in this tiny notebook and it managed to fit on just these few pages. When I look at the entry I just wrote down, it seemed like when I began writing, the problem that was plaguing me was big enough to have filled the whole notebook. But here, in plain words it capsized into a few pages. It automatically soaked up my feelings and condensed them into a much smaller problem than I had originally thought. Ah, a sigh of relief.

If you are out there, struggling to grasp your anxiety, please know you are not alone. You are simply one person in a sea of many trying to hide what they feel. There are many wonderful ways to cope with the overwhelming energy that is swirling inside of you. When you feel your next wave of anxious energy coming along, greet it and recognize that all energy can be shifted. I encourage you to find a safe place to shift it, whether it be journaling, meditation, deep breathing or any other form of release that you feel helpful. It may take time to find what suits you and you may try a few different things in your search. Just know that they are all perfect and none of them are incorrect. Be patient in your process, one may even choose you.

Not Today, and that's OK

As my alarm went off at 7 this morning, I rolled over and hit the snooze. I just needed a few more minutes. As it continued to go off, begging me to get up and do yoga before work, I continued to shut it off. It was just one of those mornings where that extra half hour of sleep was needed. I thought about yelling at myself, telling myself to stop being so lazy and get up! But what would that of done? I would then have to carry that attitude with me through the entire day. Constantly berating myself for not getting up early and doing yoga. That attitude would then make me look at myself with disgust and anger. Irritated that I chose to sleep in when I knew how great I would feel after yoga.

You want to know what else felt great? Sleeping. I went to bed much later than my usual 10pm and my body was just not ready to start the day at 7am. Who am I to disagree with such a well made machine? Believe it or not sleep can be more important than getting that early morning workout in. Listen to your body and understand the signs it’s giving you. If you are feeling exhausted and tired, sleep it off, your body will thank you for it. You will function your best when your body is well rested.

When you are tired, your body’s cortisol levels rise leading to hormone imbalances in the body. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that helps the body respond to stress, often referred to as the “stress hormone”. When this is triggered it effects the body’s blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and greatly affects metabolism and the body’s ability to balance salt and water.

Not only does your cortisol level rise (I know, you’re thinking “Please stop! We can’t take anymore!”), but lack of sleep also increases ghrelin levels in the body. Ghrelin is also known as the “hunger hormone”. DUN DUN DUN. Ever notice on days when your exhausted that you tend to open the fridge and scowl at the bowl of kale while simultaneously  ordering a large pizza? You may not be human if your haven’t done this once or twice.

I know, I know. I just threw some real science sounding stuff at you and your ready to call it quits, grab a pillow and take a nap. The moral of the story is; get some sleep people! Listen to what your body is telling you and stop trying to fight sleep. You will have time to finish the dishes tomorrow. You will have time to stalk to your ex boyfriend on Instagram tomorrow and you will have time to get your workout in tomorrow. It will all still be there for you when you wake up. We need to stop worrying about all of the things we “should have done”. You didn’t do it, its over and now its time to focus on the present. On this exact moment right now, the one you are currently living in and have the ability to change.

I didn’t do yoga this morning and that’s OK. There’s always tomorrow.

My New Year Mantra

Here we are, a brand new year, 2017. How many of you have set your new year resolution? How many of you have set this exact same resolution before? Have you ever wondered why it hasn’t seemed to stick in years past?

“It’s just too hard to stay on track.”

“I’m just not ready for this type of change.”

“Next year I will make it work.”

Do any of these statements sound familiar? There will always be a reason that your new year resolution doesn’t work out and you will always find a reason not to follow through. What if I told you its not your fault. It’s not because you’re weak or have no will power. We all have an innate power to change, we just don’t have the right steps to get us there. This year instead of beginning with a resolution, try beginning with a new year mantra. What’s the difference you ask?

A resolution implies that there is a problem that needs to be fixed, bringing negativity and judgement into each new year. We are not a problem that needs to be fixed. We are people, beautiful, intelligent, loving , wonderful people. So why do we feel that its necessary to bring ourselves down and assume that we need to be fixed in order to be happy?

A mantra is a statement that sets a positive intention for the year to come. It does not imply that you must fix yourself to be happy. It surrounds you in positivity and helps you recognize the power you hold and have yet to release to the world. Begin this statement with “I am…” and you will see it take on a whole new light. My personal mantra for this new year is; I am on the perfect path in my journey. This sets my intentions for how my journey will continue.

We all need a little positive reinforcement in our lives and who better to give that to you, than you! If you don’t believe in your journey, how will anyone else? So this year set your sights on a new year mantra rather than a resolution and watch the change take place! Repeat this statement to yourself on days you need a reminder of how positively wonderful you are. Recognize how strong and empowered you are and how much you have to offer. Its been there all along, it just needed to be set free.

Now travel into 2017 with the best of intentions for yourself and surround yourself in bright, positive energy. And of course have a happy, healthy new year!