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.

Thoughts From The Sick Bed

Even the healthiest people get sick. I fell ill with the flu 10 days ago and am just now getting out of bed and starting to feel better. My doctors tell me if I hadn’t received the flu shot, I would very likely be hospitalized with complications.

I do “everything right”. I get a lot of exercise, I take my supplements, I eat very healthy, I get 8-9 hours of sleep a night, I meditate, I enjoy lots of nourishing relationships. Sometimes, even with all of that, you just get sick.
I’m telling you this because a lot of holistic nutritionists and wellness practitioners sell people on this notion that if you just do all the “right things”, you will be invincible. That if you just cut out all sugar, or go gluten free, or go vegan, or go paleo, or any number of other things, you won’t ever get sick. That is nonsense. We are human and human bodies sometimes break down, get sick, or get injured.

Someone from my cohort yesterday told me not to eat any fruit whatsoever and stop all my supplements because they “feed the pathogen”. This is such utter nonsense. When I asked for studies to back up her claims she went radio silent. It makes me angry that someone out there is peddling this psuedo-science.

Bottom line: be careful when seeking wellness information and guidance. Look for real, honest-to-goodness scientific studies and papers to back up any claims. If something doesn’t sound right, follow that instinct. And if you ever have any questions, reach out to me. I like nothing better than to provide science based wellness advice.

In the meantime, I’m following doctor’s orders to rest. I’m going to eat lots of fruits and vegetables (they are full of vitamins and minerals, fiber, vitamin c, and other anti-inflammatory compounds). I’m going to get acupuncture today, and I’m staying hydrated. Sometimes, time is the best medicine.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: My Own Experience.

A great book to help you get started. Even my dog agrees the house feels calmer.

In my opinion, and a lot of experts agree, a cluttered house leads to a cluttered mind. Higher rates of anxiety and depression can be seen in people who live in extremely cluttered environments. And when your mind is cluttered, your creativity and productivity are inhibited. As one of the foremost experts in happiness, author Gretchen Rubin has studied this extensively. She likes to say:

“Outer order contributes to inner calm.”

Gretchen Rubin


I’ve spent the last week decluttering my house. All the drawers, cabinets, storage spaces, and nooks are being methodically purged and organized one by one. I’m not finished yet, but I hope to be by the end of this week. We don’t have a lot of surface clutter, but look inside drawers and it’s a different story. This leads to me to feel like I don’t have control over my surroundings. And when I try to find something and I have to wrestle with a bunch of odds and ends in a drawer to find it, I get frustrated.

In the middle of my project, a friend told me that Marie Kondo, author of the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, had a new Netflix series called Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. I have read that book and used it to purge my clothes closet a few years ago. I watched the eight episodes of the series over the course of the last four days and got a lot of great tips from it. She’s calm and kind and I loved watching her process.

So, is organizing your space on your list of New Year’s Resolutions? Leave a comment below and tell me. I am amazed at how energized I feel since I’ve started decluttering. Today I’m tackling the kitchen utensils, which will make cooking even more enjoyable.


Have a great day!

StopTober?

I have been thinking about this word for several days now. It’s a mashup of “Stop” and “October” and apparently some people in the wellness and self-improvement world use it as a chance to try to stop a bad habit. I have also heard it more specifically referred to as “SoberTober” amongst people who take a break from drinking any alcohol during the month of October.

So ,what habits are people trying to stop? Drinking. Smoking (in England, the National Health Services, or NHS, uses the word for their stop smoking campaign). Eating junk food, gluten or sugar. Swearing. Watching TV. Overspending. Going through the drive through. And on and on.

Part of me loves this idea. So many of us wait until January to decide to cut out unhealthy or unhelpful habits (and sadly, the majority of us fail). This sort of gives us an opportunity to address things that are bothering us during a time of year when we are ramping up our eating, drinking and celebrating.

The other part of me would like to see people focusing on adding healthier behaviors rather than stopping or giving up something. There is real value to the “crowding out” philosophy, where you crowd out unhealthy behaviors with healthier ones. It’s a bit gentler and for many people this approach works better. But, I am a moderator, which means I can eat just a half of a cookie or drink a half of a glass of wine. So for me, the crowding out approach works. But I appreciate that many people do better abstaining than moderating, and need firm guidelines.

I am going to do a little experiment for the month of October. The one thing I really have trouble moderating is my iPhone usage. I am on it most of the day (reading articles, researching, emailing, texting family and friends, and yes, scrolling through my social media feeds). I am not happy with the amount of time my hand is tethered to my phone, so while I am not going to give up my phone completely, I am going to set limits. The new iPhone update has a “Screen Time” tab in the settings. You can keep track of how much time you spend using certain apps and set limits on them. I was shocked to see how much time I have spent on my phone over the last few days. And although yesterday I “only” spent a total of just over two hours on social media, I spent almost two full hours texting.  Another way to help me stop the habit of picking up my phone whenever I’m bored is to use the Forest app more often. You can grow virtual trees if you don’t use your phone for a set amount of time. And when you’ve racked up enough points, a real tree will be planted.

Is there something you’d like to give up in October? Or do you think it is a silly idea? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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Make Each Day Of The Week Unique (plus a new carnitas recipe!)

Portobello “Burgers”

 

 

 

 

Should You Drink Celery Juice?

celery

A friend reached out to me recently asking if she should be drinking celery juice. She had read about all of the health benefits and wanted to know if I recommended it and if she should jump on the celery juice bandwagon.

Have you heard about this newest trend? The actress Busy Phillips (whom I love for her honesty on social media about all kinds of issues ranging from parenting to body image and more) posted in January about her commitment to drinking it every day. She said “Apparently it’s supposed to do all of these wonderful things for you and something with Gwyneth Paltrow and I don’t know but I’m on board,” she said, laughing. “So now I’m drinking celery juice. It’s really good.”

Ok, back up a second. Gwyneth Paltrow’s website Goop has received all kinds of press regarding her health advice, much of which is not supported by science. In fact, there has been such a backlash that she recently committed to hiring a fact checker for all the claims her website makes. This article is an absolute must read for anyone who follows Gwyneth Paltrow’s advice or even is a little interested in her Goop empire. It’s titled, “How  Goop’s haters made Gwyneth Paltrow’s company worth $250 Million”.

This is all to say that even as a holistic nutrition consultant (with a healthy dose of skepticism for any outlandish claims), I wouldn’t necessarily recommend drinking celery juice. Why? First of all, it’s very very bitter. Why punish yourself? Secondly, no one food is a magic bullet. Yes, celery is a very healthy veggie with fiber, folate, vitamin K, and potassium. It’s a powerful antioxidant. But so are a lot of vegetables. What I would recommend is eating celery in its whole form so that you do get the fiber along with it. Put it in a green smoothie so you get some other flavors and nutrients in there. Eat it with some peanut butter for a healthy snack that contains the magic trio of fats, carbohydrates, and protein. And if you really want a green juice, combine it with some other green veggies so you are mixing your nutrients instead of focusing on just one source. I like the Suja Uber Greens Organic juice which has cucumber, celery, grapefruit, green chard, spinach, parsley, mint tea and more. I buy them from Costco for a reasonable price and when I feel like having a green juice I reach for one of those. They have only 5 grams of sugar per bottle, which is important to note because a lot of green juices contain fruit juices and up to 48 grams of sugar per bottle.

My final thoughts on the matter: be wary of outlandish health claims. While drinking celery juice won’t hurt you, I don’t believe there is anything magical about it. If it makes you feel good, have some celery. But if you are suffering trying to choke down a glass of celery juice, give yourself a break and eat it with a healthy dip instead.

You might also like:

It’s All Good?

Vitamin C Smoothie (Great For Your Immune System)

LIFE HACK: An App For People Who Have Trouble Staying Focused

forest

I have a problem. I try to do multiple things all at the same time which leaves me feeling agitated and depleted. Why sit and peacefully watch t.v. when I could also scroll through my emails on my laptop (is what my brain constantly tries to tell me)? What’s the problem with reading emails while watching t.v., or scrolling through your Instagram feed while walking the dog, or trying to reply to a text while also have a conversation? Well for one thing, when we multitask, nothing is ever done really well. It also leaves our brains feeling fried and for many of us we wind up feeling on-edge and irritable. I have also started to notice a link between how much time I spend mindlessly online and the amount of energy I have to do other tasks. Being online literally drains me.

According to this Time Magazine article, trying to multi-task, especially with electronic devices, can hamper our attentiveness, mindfulness, and ability to learn. In fact, higher amounts of technology use has been linked to mental health problems in adolescents. It’s no wonder, with kids constantly seeing images of “perfection” on their peers’ social media feeds. I have found that the more time I spend on social media (as a 43 year old), the more agitated and anxious I get as well. This article does a good job of explaining why that is. One positive of technology use in adolescents is that more frequent texting appears to help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. perhaps because they are reaching out to real friends and connecting rather than perceiving that everyone else has perfect “Insta worthy” lives.  Read the article to find out more.

So, what am I doing about this problem? I found out about an app called Forest, and have been using it for a few days. So far it has really made a difference. You can plant virtual trees and set a time for how long you want to focus on a task without looking at your phone. When the time is up, your tree has grown. By planting trees and growing trees, you earn virtual currency to use towards buying and planing a REAL TREE through Trees For The Future. The app costs $1.99 for iPhone and it’s free for Android.

This might be the sort of thing where I use it for a relatively short amount of time to rewire my brain and seal in a new habit. I’m perfectly ok with spending $2.00 for that life hack!

P.S. I wrote this entire blog post without checking email, reading my texts, or inexplicably ending up shopping on Bananrepublic.com. WIN!

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Life Hack: The Daily Dozen App

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