self-care

Uninhabitable for human life

I almost lost it all. One moment of self-doubt could have turned to tragedy.  It couldn’t really be carbon monoxide.  It must be faulty batteries, not a faulty furnace.

How I doubted myself.  How it could have ended everything for me, for my life, for my neighbors in the building.

What I could have lost and missed out on:  motherhood, adventure, marriage.

All lost in a moment if I didn’t move.  If I didn’t follow through.  If I didn’t make a phone call.  All could have ended.

The earth gone black.  Death by choking.  Death in my sleep.  Death all alone.  Death all heartbroken.  Leaving everyone I knew’s heart in pieces too.

Luckily, that’s not where my story ended.  It was a rebirth.  A renewal.  A tangible bona fide appreciation of life.

How fragile it can be.  How temporary it is.  That every day is a gift.

My neighbors survived.  My life was given new meaning.  I am forever grateful for the lessons and cherish each day.

That basement apartment off of Gano Street?  The final verdict:  uninhabitable for human life.  I called it home for a short three months.  And it could have cost me my life!

My first time on my own.  Living the dream of being an independent woman.

And I was afraid.  I was lonely and heartbroken.  Alone for the very first time.  Unsure of what to do.  Doubting my choices to leave, layering on guilt and remorse.

It could have all ended.  But thank the stars it didn’t.  My life is amazing these 14 years later.  The beauty and gift of this one remarkable life.

self-care

Listening

I paused before eating the donut. I took a breath and realized that I have a green smoothie in the fridge.  Maybe I’ll enjoy the donut tomorrow.  It’s rainy.  It’s cold and I’m eating cold food.  I was fighting off a virus on Easter and my appetite is still not back to normal.  I’m grazing and not consuming my usual portion size.  Today I drank my first small cup of half-calf coffee.  I still want to limit my intake.  I’m so tired of the energy crashes.  Maybe without caffeine, I’ll have steady, normal energy again.  Wouldn’t that be blissful?  Like when I was a child again.

Lately I’ve been suffering tennis elbow. I decided that I’m going to be as hands-free as possible with my belongings.  Constantly having my hands full can become a way of life:  Carrying our burdens all the time.  Carrying our obligations and “the weight of the world.”  That it’s our burden alone to carry.

Well, I’m not down with that anymore.  This momma is getting a cross-over purse.  She’s going to limit what she carries:

I will only hold one beverage at a time or I’ll find a suitable place to carry it for me.  The old me normally held a glass water bottle, had a coffee travel mug tucked in the crook of my arm with the weight of my purse handle pressing into my inner elbow.  All the weight was on my right side leaving my left hand free to open the door or to navigate.  My husband has called me a “bag lady” on more than one occasion.  I brushed it off as an annoying comment.  I didn’t realize how ridiculous I looked until I caught a glimpse of myself.  It reflected how much I always seem to carry:  work bags, tote bags, a child, grocery bags, laundry, food, etc.

This bout with tennis elbow has been painful. But as the astute learner, I’m listening to its message.  “You do enough.  You don’t have to pile anything else onto your plate.  It is safe to let it go for now.”

And pausing is the best first response. That microsecond gives me a moment to reflect, to think, to not go off on to autopilot and reach for the donut.

Even though it’s a cold, gray day, I feel energized.  Maybe it’s because I kicked this cold to the curb and I’m feeling like my old self again.  Perhaps a lighter version of myself and I’m seeing with renewed eyes.

self-care

So simple and grounding

I’ve been reading “Eat With Intention” by Cassandra Bodzak.  I was feeling inspired one morning at breakfast.  And I created this mindful eating mantra:

May I be nourished

May I be happy

May I be healthy

May I feel satisfied

May I feel energized

May I feel complete

So simple. It grounded me to look at my oatmeal, to pause and take a few breaths, and not just devour the food but to savor a few moments.

And that’s all we really have right now:  Just a few moments. To be here in the moment. To observe, pause, and try not to change it. To avoid the urge to pick up my iPhone.  It’s so easy to distract myself.

If only we could savor those moments.  Life is brief.  I know my kids will be grown and out of the house in a blink of an eye.  The baby/infant days are now toddler moments.  And nursings have been replaced with morning cuddles.  How I savor them.  I try not to rush to the next thing to get ready for school and work.  And at the end of the day, while my toddler reads her books, I enjoy playful imaginations with Legos, My Little Ponies, and the like with my 6 year old.  I am grateful that she still wants to play with me.

I suppose my mantra for mindful eating can be transformed to all the moments:

May I be present

May I be loving

May I share joy

May I feel gratitude

May I feel loved

May I feel joy

I’m going to use this mantra of loving kindness this weekend. They always seem to fly by so quickly.

May we all savor the moments.

 

self-care

Our wild and unruly thoughts are not the whole story

We are all hurting. If there’s one thing we share in common, it’s that we all experience pain and/or suffering.

Our thoughts can hold us hostage and sabotage our present moment. For example, when I got my new job, my husband suggested, “Let’s spend some time celebrating!”  In an instant my mind shifted into forward thinking.  There’s childcare needs, a new wardrobe to purchase, and a general fear of the unknown.  That moment to celebrate was ever so brief.  Sweet but not fully experienced, not completely felt.  In hindsight, perhaps I should have taken a moment to savor the excitement and opportunity and let a feeling of gratitude set in.

It’s over too quickly and we can’t get it back. I had a similar experience when my 19-year old cat Max died.  My mom and I never followed through on our plan to memorialize him.  We were in a state of grief and I had to take care of my toddler.  We didn’t get the chance to properly mourn him.  As a result we suffered on our own and grieved alone.  Instead of holding each other, we kept it inside.  A few years have passed since then.  And I don’t know if we will ever be in that space again.

Our thoughts can run wild if we let them. They can rob us from the rich and healing experience of being fully present:  to how we are feeling or what is happening in this moment.  Now I try to pause when I notice my mind going rampant or rehashing the same story over and over.  I take a deep breath and think, “I’ve already spent enough time, space and energy on this.”  I soften and I take a moment to notice my surroundings.  “How is this story, forward or past thinking distracting me from the NOW?  Is it causing me undo stress?”  Of course, it is.

Then I ask the question, “How do I want to feel instead?”  Usually I want to feel relaxed, present and connected to my family.

And the final question, “What can I do to make that feeling a reality?”  Usually it’s taking a few box breaths or utilizing one of my self-care tools.  I’m a work in progress.  There are days when I forget my tools and I get lost in thought and distraction.  I lose my grounding and connection to myself and the present moment.  I’ve accepted the fact that I’m continuing to learn and re-learn what works for me, and I will always continue to do so.

Now it’s your turn. How do your thoughts affect you?  Are they distracting you from what’s going on right now?  Are they causing you undo stress?  If so, how do you want to feel instead?  And what can you do to make that feeling come true?

I send you peace.

 

 

self-care

A less frazzled commute

How can I have a more relaxed morning? I feel it is a frame of mind.  I can choose to say, “I’m late!” and all the angst that follows.  Or I can just say, “I’m doing the best I can.  I got this!”  And I usually then feel less hurried.

My morning commutes used to be highly stressful. Then I realized the main source of my stress occurred when I was traveling in the high-speed lane.  As soon as I got over to the travel lane, I relaxed my grip on the steering wheel.  My shoulders relaxed a bit.  I took a few deep breaths.  Now I hardly use the high-speed lane when I’m driving to work.  I only will on the rare occasion when I have to pass another car.  And guess what?  I get to work on time!

I always seem to get there on time.

I don’t obsessively check the clock in my car during my commute. It doesn’t matter what it says.  I’ll get there when I get there.  And thank the stars I always do.

There’s a lot of road rage: angry, stressed, frazzled energy that crosses my path.  I could choose to feel the tension boiling beneath the surface where you don’t want to be the recipient on the tail end when I lash out.  I could charge full speed ahead in line with that energy or brazenly be “Me first!” with the tailgating and high emotions that follows.

Or I can choose to stay on my path: Just traveling.  Passing through.

We all have the same want: to get to our destination safely.  No one wants to get hurt.

How I react sets me up for good or bad. Is it worth saving a few more seconds?

The hardest part for me is being a passenger and relinquishing my need to be in control. I notice that at times I press my foot down on an imaginary brake when I think my husband is driving too close to a car in front of us.  Over the years, my husband and I tend to only have arguments when we’re on the road.  I judge his speed and length between cars.  I am unable to relax and be present.  All we want is to have a good conversation while we travel.

I can choose what to focus on. I can choose connection or outside factors beyond my control.  I want to let go of my need to be in the driver’s seat.  I want to make peace with the fact that I can’t control what other people on the road doing at that moment.  Only I can decide how I want to interpret my thoughts and feel my emotions.

What would you choose?

self-care

What does self-care mean to me?

It’s 19 days into 2018.  And I’ve been inspired by three lovely ladies to start the New Year by putting self-care front-and-center.

January began with Kris Carr‘s 3 Simple Habits to support all your goals.  It really set the foundation for prioritizing my self-care.

  1.  Keep it simple.  Don’t tackle more than three goals.
  2.  Include buffer time.  Set realistic deadlines so I don’t set myself up for failure.
  3. Add more, subtract less.  Instead of cutting out that evening chocolate or snack,  I grab an apple before I reach for that treat.

Last week I participated in Susan Hyatt‘s miracle week setting yourself up for a fantastic New Year.  It was five-days long.  Each day had an uplifting video which included a 12 minute health/body challenge.  My daily self-care soared.

  1. Create a hygge corner.  It’s a cozy nest to unwind and de-stress.  I live in a small house with small children, so my couch became my hygge.  I neatly folded a blanket and had a fluffy pillow that was just mine.  Then I filled my tote bag with a journal, three inspiring books, two uplifting card decks, and a mindful coloring book with pencils.
  2. Mindful mealtime.  At home we usually eat with the TV on or at work I tend to scroll through Facebook during my lunch.  It was a challenge at first to put the technology away.  Now I’ve enjoyed Facebook-free lunchtimes for over a week!
  3. Declutter your wardrobe and find three amazing outfits.  We used Mari Kondo’s  philosophical question, Does this item spark joy?  That pink frumpy sweater and the itchy “work” sweater that I bought at Saver’s thrift store many years ago finally got tossed!
  4. Media detox.  This next tool has been a life changer.  Unroll.me brought my email inbox management to the next level.  I used to check my email and spend so much time deleting emails rather than reading them.  Now I’ve added those unwanted time-sucker emails to unroll.me.  They all get rolled into one email a day.  So the emails that I want to receive appear without any added distraction.
  5. Tiny goals and building consistency.  Small, attainable goals have the momentum to create lasting change. With the idea that tiny goals rock, Susan suggests that we choose one fun and tiny health goal that can be realistically and enthusiastically committed to.  My goal is to sit in my hygge corner for 12 minutes a day.  And if the couch is being used, I can just grab my tote and go to another room and unwind.

Susan Hyatt also hosted a motivation hour webinar.  The biggest take-away I got was Dial It Up and it only takes two minutes.  She suggests doing it while you brush your teeth in the morning.

  1. Assess how are you feeling or what you are thinking about.
  2. How do you want to feel?
  3. What can you think or do to get that feeling?

Here is an example.  Before I get out of bed in the morning, I tune in to my thoughts.  Am I beginning to plan all the little things I have to do to get me and the kids ready for school?  What will traffic on my commute be like today?  Are my to-do’s already forming?

How do I want to feel instead?  I want to feel a sense of completeness since it’s the end of the work week.  And I want to cultivate presence so I can savor the moment with joy.

What do I have to think or do to get that?  I can prioritize my self-care.  I can delegate the small things so that my plate is a little less full.

I’ve been practicing Dial It Up for three mornings in a row and I have enjoyed mornings without feeling rushed or overwhelmed.

And heartfelt gratitude to Hunter Clarke-FieldsMindful Mama Immersion.  Five days of podcasts with experts and advice from mindful mamas who share their struggles and stories.  I might do a future blog on the takeaways from that experience.  Hunter’s wisdom and guidance came at the right time while I was forming my New Year goals.  She reminded me that meditation and mindful movement grounds me.  And I can choose to become aware of my thoughts.

For example, when we are sitting at the table as a family, I can notice my thoughts.  Sometimes I feel rushed and on a time-line.  But my thoughts are not all urgent.  I don’t have to share every single one (negative thought, fear, etc.) that pops into my head.  I can let it muster for a breath and the thought usually precipitates.  Then I’m able to enjoy myself, the meal I’m eating, and the moment.  And everyone around me is happier too.

When I feel aligned and mindfully present, I can truly listen to my child or my husband.  We all want to be validated and heard.  I know that’s one of my triggers.  I just want to be acknowledged and appreciated.  And if it doesn’t happen as expected, I can feel resentful, hurt, or frustrated.  When we’re lost in thought, we can lose those moments of connection.

So what does self-care mean to me?  It’s ever evolving.  I finally realize that how I start my day sets me up for how I want to feel for the entire day.  I begin with Dial It Up.  Then I do a few gentle yoga poses to feel grounded instead of hitting the ground running.  In the morning I choose to journal before I check my email.  At work I take a break and meditate for five or ten minutes.  After lunch, I take a walk in nature when possible, weather permitting this time of year.  I enjoy my green smoothie and a piece of fruit as a snack.  I spend the last few moments of the workday to reflect on the day, plan for tomorrow so I can set myself up for success.  And at night after the kids go to sleep, I devote at least 12 minutes to sit in my hygge corner.

What does self-care mean to you?  I’d love to hear your comments.

Here is Hunter Clarke-Fields free 3-5 minute guided meditations for you to enjoy.

 

 

 

 

self-care

A walk in January

It is unusually warm today in the 50s in southern New England.  The piles of snow from last week’s blizzard are starting to melt.  Drops occasionally drip on my head from the historical buildings as I walk on by.  The snow is dirty.  Rain is in the near forecast.  It’s gray and cloudy.  Remnants of holiday cheer are strewn here and there:  bits of broken pine and evergreen and a solo red ornament missing its hook lay on my path.

The snow is melting.  I see the turf of green grass at the edge of a wall.  There’s litter, a cigarette butt, and tiny pine needles reminding me of what once was there.  It’s the kind of day that you wish you could curl up and take a nap or read a book.  Rain is on its way.

Whenever I take a walk, I’m reminded that the simple act of walking clears up my mind and breaks up my workday.  I will go back to my office and eat a cara cara orange, my favorite fruit this time of year.  I’ll enjoy its bountiful juice and eat a piece of sunshine to brighten this dreary day.

 

self-care

The Apple Break

I wanted to start good habits when I began to work full-time.  I freelanced for many years working outside of my home, and I knew this new position would keep me more tethered to a desk.  We are supposed to get two 15-minute breaks along with our lunch break.  I noticed coworkers going outside for their cigarette break.  But I craved to move my body and breathe fresh air.  I wanted get out of my work mindset a bit, take a real break to renew and recharge myself for the rest of the workday.  So I invented the apple break.

I love working in downtown Providence, RI, because it’s so walkable with many options to choose from. There’s historic Benefit Street.  I can stroll along the Providence River, or go downtown to window shop and people watch.  Even the Roger Williams National Memorial is a convenient destination.

I would get outside rain or shine and start to walk in one direction, eating my apple. Sometimes I’d pick up the pace and walk quickly, sometimes it was a more leisurely stroll.  And as soon as I finished eating the apple, I’d change direction to turn around and head back.  Then I always slowed down my pace to walk mindfully.  I’d take deep breaths and take a moment to notice my surroundings.  I would observe the ivy climbing up a tree trunk, the fragrant blooming flowers, the breeze, or simply marvel at the changing color of the maple leaves.

And I found it was easy to spend one of my 15-minute breaks outside.

Now that I’ve been working full-time for a year, I can reflect on this new habit and how I’ve incorporated it into my daily work schedule.  It’s definitely easier to get outside when I’m in Providence as opposed to the other courthouses around the state.  I prefer fresh, local apples that are in season.  And when I couldn’t get apples, I’ve been able to enjoy smoothies on my walks as well.

Now that autumn is around the corner and it is officially apple season in New England, I’m ready to restart my apple break habit.  I can’t wait to visit the farmer’s market and stock up on crispy, fresh apples.  My 15-minute break will be more pleasurable.  It is a true break in the literal sense.  I’m away from my desk, moving my body, and invigorating my senses while eating delicious fruit.  Then I’m ready to tackle whatever challenges may come my way.

self-care

The Placeholder

A week ago my favorite radio channel was sold. I had listened to WBRU since I was a teenager.  Every car I ever owned had 95.5 as a preset.  Now I didn’t dare to press it for fear of hearing the contemporary Christian station that bought it.

Yesterday I was tuning my radio to see what other channels are out there. I had become accustomed to my six presets that it had been many years since I last checked.  I found a station playing Bob Marley.  I immediately set the preset.  As I continued on my commute to work, my newfound station seemed to fade.  There was no static, just silence.

Today I realized that I don’t have to fill the void WBRU left immediately. That silent channel can be a placeholder while I wait to find a new radio station that resonates with me.  And if I press it accidentally, I no longer have to worry about feeling sad or angry that my favorite 95.5 WBRU is no longer there.  In the meantime, I can continue to listen around and expand my listening repertoire.

Sometimes we get complacent or we feel stuck in a rut. And an outside force removes us from our comfort zone.  Today I’m going to keep an open mind and use this placeholder as an opportunity to expand my listening horizon and see what else is out there.

self-care

I’m tired of living in fear

We are all connected.  And the speed of information has advanced our society into a global community.  You want to learn about X?  What does Google say?  Information is literally at your fingertips if you happen to own a smartphone.  And knowledge is power.

Even though my family got rid of cable years ago, we still have access to the news from our phones and apps on our TV console. I love that we can choose what to watch when we want to.  But we do channel surf through YouTube and you can’t escape the collective fear that is ever present.  The recent tragic events and acts of violence have pulled at my heart.

I love working in Providence. It’s a city rich in history and I’m proud to be a native Rhode Islander.  It’s a beautiful city to walk around:  the Brown University campus, the financial and downtown districts, and historic Benefit Street.  But I’m tired of living in fear.  If a car comes racing by or a strange box truck is around, I tense up and anxiety takes control.  My leisurely walk is interrupted and I’m terrified for a moment, especially if I’m around city hall or a federal building.  It never used to be this way.  Fear never played such a prominent role.  I started working full-time a little over a year ago.  And I loved the city.  I drank in the architecture, the people on their way to work, students walking to class, and the waterfront.  It was a welcome sight.

But over these last few months, the anxiety has been building. Yesterday as I was walking to the parking garage, a box truck stopped right in the middle of the street and began to back up.  Normally this wouldn’t have been an issue.  There’s construction everywhere and the street was a one-way.  But the truck seemed to be backing up and keeping  in pace with me as I walked.  Cars behind the truck began to honk, and it seemed like the truck was going to back up regardless of traffic.  This odd behavior made my anxiety soar.  I started to run, and all I could hear was the incessant “beep, beep, beep” as it continued to reverse.  I had the worst panic attack.  I feared it was going to blow up right then and there next to the financial district.  I had visions of me getting into the garage on the fifth floor and being toppled over by the above floors during the explosion.  I couldn’t wait to get out of that garage.

Once I got behind the wheel and started to exit, I shouted, “I’m tired of being afraid! I’m tired of living in fear!  I’m tired of freaking out over a truck!  I just want to be able to walk in peace without feeling terrorized!”

I don’t have an answer during these crippling moments. I just try to deepen my breath.  I remind myself that meditation helps ground me and I should meditate more and journal more.  Events will happen that are beyond my control.  And one thing I can control is my breath.

How do you bring calm when you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed?