What is balance?

I am a wellness educator. I know the right vitamins and supplements to take, and I know what foods to eat for optimal health. I know meditating each day helps keep my mood stable and immune system strong. I know that daily exercise outside will expose me to sunlight and fresh air, and that when I don’t get outside I start to go a little off the rails.

I know that if I try to do everything and be everything to everyone in my world, it feels good at the time but I pay for it dearly later on. Whether it’s with exhaustion, exasperation, or worse, it always comes back to bite me.

Recently I had six week stretch of time that was truly the busiest and most frenetic I’ve ever experienced. I loved most of it. I loved being productive, I loved that the golf events business I’ve been building experienced a surge of activity and that my business partner and I took the challenge and succeeded (and exceeded). I love that my daughter started a new adventure in high school and not only dove right into being involved and enthusiastic, but also made the tennis team (requiring a lot of parental involvement in the form of rides and a cheering section). I love that my wellness business is thriving and growing, too.

What I didn’t love: spending wayyyyyyy too much time sitting in a car. Whether battling traffic or sitting in the parking lot waiting for tennis practice to let out, it left me feeling cooped up and caged. I tried to set up my car to be comforting and useful, even putting a lavender essential oil diffuser in the vent. It helped to a certain extent but didn’t change that I was putting hundreds of miles in every few days. Not healthy for anyone.

I didn’t love being unwilling to let myself off the hook a little bit for doing all the same things I would under “normal” circumstances. I still expected myself to make dinners (failed), attend all the tennis matches (mixed), and be a completely present parent for my daughter’s first month of high school (probably not great). I don’t love that I threw everything I knew about self care and nutrition out the window. It felt a little freeing at the time, but as with most unhealthy practices, it ultimately wasn’t a good choice.

The result of all of this was feeling totally burnt out. Depleted. And sick. When everything wrapped up at the same time: my daughter’s tennis season, a big multi-year co-chair volunteer job, and the three golf tournaments in a row, I thought I would feel a sense of accomplishment and freedom. Instead I just felt…nothing. A classic sign of burnout.

The takeaway from this is NOT to scale back my work. No way. I love what I’m doing and I want MORE jobs, not less. Rather, it’s to stay mindful of the things I know will help me feel balanced and healthy when the flurry of activity comes to a halt. Meditation. Acupuncture. Walks with my dog. Good nutrition. Sleep. Yoga. ASKING FOR HELP. And setting good, old fashioned boundaries on what I’m willing to do. It’s my responsibility to set those boundaries, and like many women, I find it difficult to do. Luckily, life isn’t slowing down and I will have endless opportunities to practice these skills. Maybe, someday, I might even find balance.

I put a call out to my social media community for their thoughts on achieving balance, and this is what I heard. If anything, it was really comforting to know that we have all experienced similar challenges, and I hope you find it helpful, too. Here are a few responses:

“Healthy food, adequate sleep, moving my body and laughs/time with those I love (aka Crappy Dinner Party!)” — Deanna (my amazing friend and neighbor)

” I don’t think true balance is achievable. I feel like I have to intentionally take inventory of my priorities and what may need more of my attention on a particular day/week/month. I gave up trying to “have it all” a LONG time ago because it was making me crazy. Of course my children are my #1, but if I’m not working we don’t have the financial resources we also need as a family. Giving yourself grace as a working parent is also important because let’s face it, you’re going to get some things wrong. If we can give ourselves some forgiveness and bring a healthy dose of a sense of humor, we can navigate the “close to balance” goal in a more enjoyable way!” – Stacy

“(You) must be prepared to let go of things and be clear about boundaries to get close to work toward balance— always a work in progress tho!” – Molly

Please respond below with your thoughts on finding balance. Is it achievable? How do you approach it?

MayCember Meditation

It’s a stressful time for a lot of people — teachers/school employees, parents and kids, especially. Some people call May “MayCember” because it’s the time of year when there are a million extra activities on top of all the other normal everyday stuff you have to get done. It’s a lot.

So, today, I’m just leaving this beautiful image right here for you to gaze at for five seconds while drinking your morning coffee and contemplating the never ending to-do list. I hope you have some time this weekend to just relax and be still. It might seem frivolous to do nothing. Trust me, it’s essential from time to time. Did you know five seconds of being mindful of your breathing and nothing else counts as meditation?

I want to be on this boat right now with a thermos of hot coffee and a really good book.

Summer Intentions: An Update

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my summer intentions. You can read that post here. I always put my summer goals on paper so that I have a clear idea of what I want to focus on between June and early September.

In a nutshell, those goals were to: meditate daily, strength train weekly, update the blog more regularly, and stop being the “cruise director”.

So, how am I doing? I’m pleased to say I have meditated the last four days in a row. That’s pretty huge. I’ve noticed a difference, too. Instead of waking up and getting on Twitter (and then throwing my phone across the room in disgust at what I’m reading), I meditate. In fact, I have been waiting until later in the day to log on to Twitter and it’s helping my mood quite a bit. Secondly, I have really done a great job of resisting the urge to plan and coordinate constantly. It has actually freed up a lot of mental space and I am doing a lot more spontaneous things, which has been fun.

The two things I would like to improve upon are strength training more regularly and writing more than one blog post a week.  I would also like to add a weekly yoga session. Summer has just gotten started and I’m finding a rhythm, so I feel confident I will feel good about my implantation of my summer intentions when I reflect on them this September. I plan on checking in every few weeks to make sure I am following through.

Do you make any summer goals? If so, please share them with me in the comments!

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Summer Intentions

Every time the seasons change, I use it as an opportunity to reevaluate my routines, habits and goals. I’m what I guess you could call a “serial improver”. For example, setting an intention to eat at least six servings a day of fruit and vegetables several years ago has stuck, and I’ve built on that goal to the point where now I’m regularly eating 9+ servings a day.

Some people are part of the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” camp. I am squarely in the other camp. To me, it’s fun and exciting to think about new ways to do things, which is why I obsessively read health and wellness articles and studies. The idea that I can “hack” my health (whether it’s physical or mental) or find new ways to do things like make cooking for my family easier, gets me very excited.

So, I thought I would share what my goals and intentions are for this spring and summer. I would love to hear what yours are, so please make sure to leave a comment at the bottom!

  1. Meditate daily.  This is *always* on my list and I have yet to accomplish a consistent daily practice. And yet, meditating really does benefit me in many ways, such as reduced anxiety, more focus, and better sleep. I love the Headspace app and have been using it for years. With some meditations as short as two or three minutes, there’s really no excuse for not doing it daily.
  2. Blog more consistently. Someone just said to me recently “I really miss your weekly cocktail recipes!” And even though I see the metrics of how many people read my blog each day and I know that I have people logging on from all over the world to read Cultivate Wellness, sometimes I still find it hard to believe. That comment sparked my commitment to be more intentional about my posting schedule.
  3. Add strength training to my weekly routine. I hate it. Like, I really hate it. I have yet to find a way to include it in my workout schedule so that I will actually follow through on a long term basis. Have advice for me? Please share! It’s going on my list, as it always does, because I’m sure that one day I will find a way to do it. It’s very important for people over 40, especially women, to include strength training. Read here for more information on why. One possibility is this 9 Minute Strength Workout.
  4. Stop being the cruise director. This one goes against everything I am. I have been told by lots of friends that one of my strengths is bringing people together and planning new and fun things to do. If a reservation needs making, concert tickets need buying, or trip needs planning, I’m usually the one to step up. I truly do enjoy doing this, but sometimes it feels more like a job than a pleasure. So, I am intentionally going to take a step back from that for the next few months and see what happens. Maybe I’ll free up some energy to strength train 😉

I’m sure I will add more intentions to my list but this seems like a good start. Please comment below with your spring/summer intentions!

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Midweek Mashup: Taco seasoning recipe, a cell phone contract for teens, and 13 easy yoga poses for stress.

MIDWEEK MASHUP

School is back in session and that means we could all use some tips on how to make things easier and more streamlined. Even if you don’t have kids in school, these tips are sure to be useful!

Why buy taco seasoning at the store which contains fillers and other weird ingredients when it’s cheaper and almost just as easy to make your own? Yesterday was Taco Tuesday at our house and I whipped together this easy recipe, with some left over for next time. Make a huge batch and seal it up and use it for several months! TACO SEASONING.

Does your twee/teen have a cell phone? Are you struggling with setting limits and enforcing them? If so, here’s one option: a cell phone contract. I like this particular one, and plan on having my almost 13 year old read and sign it today. Many parents (myself included) might even benefit from some of the points in the contract, such as etiquette and mandated times to turn off the phone.

If back to school or the changing season is causing some stress, here are 13 simple yoga poses everyone in the family can try. I’m going to break these out when my tween gets overwhelmed by homework and responsibilities.

Have a great week!

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Midweek Mashup! A Book Rec, A Favorite Product, and An Insightful Article on Resilience.

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Midweek Mashup! A Book Rec, A Favorite Product, and An Insightful Article on Resilience.

MIDWEEK MASHUP

So, how is your summer going? Is it long and lazy and wonderful? Is it busy and hectic and going too fast? Somewhere in between? For me it’s been the latter, and I’m none too happy about it. So, I’ve cleared my calendar for a few days and the plan is to simply relax and enjoy some rest.

First up on my non-agenda is to read the book The Art Of Being Ill: Or How To Be A Better Patient. I won’t bore you with details but the past two months have been an immunological roller coaster. My doctor finally gave me orders to rest, something I have a very hard time doing. I am looking forward to reading this book on the art of self care. Apparently before we entered the age of busy-ness, during the “Days of Yore”, people did a really wonderful job of convalescing. Laying around in bed and resting up was an art form. I’ll write an update soon and let you know what I thought of the book.

Secondly, I want to tell you about a fantastic product that I discovered my friend KC at Word Savvy using. I went to her house to pick her up one morning and her essential oil diffuser was on in her kitchen. I didn’t notice any clutter, or any dirty dishes or anything else because the diffuser made the entire room seem peaceful and calm. I immediately got online and bought one for myself. Depending on my mood and malady, I use different essential oils. I’m still learning about mixing essential oils but when I really need some calm I always just go for lavender. It doubles as a small humidifier so during the winter, next to my bed, it’s a very inexpensive luxury.

And lastly, I highly recommend reading this article from the “Well” section of the New York Times on boosting resilience in your adult years. There’s a lot out there about how we can help kids be resilient, but adults are also capable of building resilience, even in their older years. If you’re going through a traumatic experience such as a layoff, a scary diagnosis, or a family crisis, it is important to realize that you can navigate through it without succumbing to the fear and stress. “There is a biology to this,” said Dr. Charney. “Your stress hormone systems will become less responsive to stress so you can handle stress better. Live your life in a way that you get the skills that enable you to handle stress.”

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Midweek Mashup

Midweek Mashup

Maybe I Need A Timeout

So, I woke up feeling agitated about something this morning. And I was laying in bed just ruminating and getting more worked up. And then I remembered a tool I always have in my back pocket anytime I need it: my breath. Thanks to the regular use of my favorite mindfulness app Headspace for the past few years, I have built up all kinds of tools and mechanisms for when I feel angry, sad, stressed, overwhelmed or just in need of a break. 

#1 is always go back to the breath. When we are stressed our breaths become shallow and restricted, which depletes our oxygen levels and makes us feel worse. Spend a few minutes focusing on helping your breath normalize. When we take a slower, deeper breath and hold it at the top for a moment or two before letting it back out, it sends a signal to the brain that things are OK. 

So, when you begin your day at 5:45 am already stressed like I did, try some relaxed breathing. Or check out Headspace and take advantage of their free trial offer. Maybe you could also look up free meditation videos on YouTube if that’s more your thing.  The point is to find something that works, and revisit it when you need it.