Wallowing vs Self-Care or How to Find Hopeful Movement after all the Chaos

 

Don’t you love that time, after you’ve gone through something big – when activity and thinking and decisions and emotional turmoil seem like a never-ending vortex that would pull you along forever – and things become quiet again? It’s so peaceful, just sitting and letting the dust settle on your new life.

You learn to relax again. You get caught up on a season of Broadchurch. You chat on the phone. It’s so comfortable.

Maybe too comfortable, because that was a few months ago; you’re still in that same spot and the dust is piling up.

You’ve gone from allowing yourself a quiet moment of recharging your batteries to full-on hibernation, and you’re starting to feel gross. Sluggish. Your waistline is expanding and your joints complain whenever you try to move.

Did you really just go through everything you did only to end up here?!?

I so get this. Every time I’ve broken up with someone, every time I’ve moved or changed career paths, I get to a point where I just want to curl up in the comfort zone of what’s easiest. But there’s a fine line between taking a moment of self-care and wallowing.

The beauty of change – whether consciously chosen or from the rug getting ripped out from under you – is that it opens the door to opportunity. Lost your job? What a perfect time to open the shop you’ve always dreamed about. Divorced? You can fall in love again…primarily with yourself.

Yes, it’s ripe with potential! Yet, without channeling some of that potential into movement, into action, you will stagnate and go stale.

Look at the trees this time of year. They’ve been standing still and grey, quietly enduring the cold. At a certain point, the sun gets warm enough and their sap starts to flow again. Life literally pours into their branches and they’re awash with colour and communal activity. Without the sap, its limbs will rot and eventually fall off.

Ok, so your arms may not fall off, but your body will feel the lack of vibrant nourishment over time. As poor health, as weight gain, as depression.

Sure wallowing can be part of the process, but when does it start to hold you back from the next necessary steps? And how can you get back into movement when that stillness feels so good?

Recharging makes conscious choices: to watch some TV or eat a cookie or have a glass of wine while you cook dinner.

Destructive wallowing feels like those same activities are a way of avoiding how you feel; they can take over to the point of mindlessness. One cookie becomes a bag. One episode becomes a whole season in one night. The glass of wine replaces dinner.

Recharging sheds tears for all you’re leaving behind – sometimes buckets of them from so deep in your heart, you suddenly understand why you’ve felt so heavy all these months and years. When they’re done, you’re filled with energy and a capacity to now fill that space with creativity and joy.

Destructive wallowing is needy and cries out of self-pity.

Recharging mourns. Wallowing pines.

Deep down inside (sometimes ever so faintly), recharging holds the candle of hope that you will, and do, feel better.

Wallowing feels like nothing will never be good again.

Recharging stays connected to friends and family, if only internally. Wallowing is completely disconnected.

Recharging naturally shifts back into creativity and a need to move. Wallowing can get stuck.

If you’re wallowing and truly feel there’s no way out, please, get help. Call me. Call a friend. Call a therapist.

If you just need a little bit of sunshine to get the sap running again,

  • Put on your favourite music and dance.
  • Go outside and take a walk. Go for a run.
  • Think about that really great day you had a few weeks back, how you felt and what excited you.
  • Get to a yoga class or zumba.
  • Visualize a shower of sparkling white light raining down on you and washing away the grey sludge from your heart and your soul.
  • Turn the dirt and start prepping your garden for planting.

Your mother was right to send you out for fresh air & exercise. Move your body. Get outside. Connect with Nature. Connect with other people…speak about how you’ve been feeling. Breathe.

What gets you back in the game when you’d rather stay curled up in your comfort zone?

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Can Your Body Handle Changes in your Life?

 

You drag your feet to the end of each day. You catch every virus going. You can no longer eat (or drink) like you did when you were 25.Your nagging little digestive pain isn’t quite so quiet. You go from caring too much about things to not caring less.

What’s going on with you lately? Are you falling apart or just getting old? Or is it that life has taken a left turn and you’re not quite able to keep up?

Who was it who first said that change is the only constant?

Some changes are well thought-out choices, some are inevitable, and some pull the rug right out from under you. This is true for all of us.

Becoming a mother, losing a mother, losing a job or starting a new one, divorcing your husband, the kids moving out, a diagnosis (yours or another’s),… Life is full of transitions, with an ever-evolving need to recalibrate.

I’ve seen how outer transitions clearly show up directly in the body – in clients whose discomfort with a certain situation manifests as physical discomfort, disease and pain. Occasionally these women are conscious of that connection, quite often they’re not.

These cases walk into my office as

  • The 46-yr-old who understands, if reluctantly, that she needs to adapt her eating and lifestyle to reflect the creeping signs of age and perimenopause
  • The teacher whose irritable bowel finally drives her to get help – a cry of distress from deep inside that she can no longer digest the status quo with her husband
  • The writer who weeps in frustration before the basic task of preparing supper because of eating restrictions from the doctor, the same one who’s too unsettled from moving for the umpteenth time to grasp any sense of normal anywhere
  • The mother who wants to take charge of her body since several flus hit hard after her own mother dies; flip side to the one whose fibroids spawn complications as her kids move out
  • The professional who woke with labyrinthitis (dizziness from an inflammation of the inner ear) the week she retired.

In my 30s, my own expanding waistline signalled a need for me to grow in a different way.

Think about it. When you’ve felt your worst in body, had something major just shifted (or wanted to shift) in your life?

Could it be that these symptoms you’re experiencing during life’s transitions are a message from your body that something needs to change in YOU as well?

Health, by definition, is a balance whereby you have what it takes to cope with, and recuperate easily from, whatever ails you. When your life changes, it necessarily sets you off balance. In the best case scenario, you’re in a place in your body, mind and soul where you can regain your equilibrium without much ado.

However, when the transitions coincide with your usual aches & pains getting the better of you, or new ones showing up, when your anxiety’s up or your energy levels are down, it’s a sign that you were thrown more off-balance than you’d realized.

Your symptoms are a sign that you need to care for yourself more thoroughly, more consciously and more deeply than you have been.

I know what you’re thinking. When things are in flux – even when it’s your choice and all for the best – you’ve got to make sure everyone around you is looked after, not to mention the details and to-dos. How can you possibly think about yourself at a time like this?

If there’s one thing I hope you’ve learned by now as a wife and mother and multi-tasker extraordinaire, is that you can only be so, effectively, from a full cup.

Perhaps the discomfort you feel at these points is actually your body reminding you that NOW is the time to look after you. Dare I say, it’s the perfect opportunity to dig deeply into what YOU need to survive the upheaval and land on the solid ground of who you are.

I’ve spent the last year riding a physical, mental, emotional roller coaster through a move from my lifelong home in Montreal to Ottawa. Under two hundred kilometres’ distance, but light years in how far I’ve come in myself. Perhaps it’s this experience that has pushed me to own up to a strong compulsion to help women struggling with the pain of change to reach a new normal.

More than finding a healthy balance, I want these women to thrive, even blossom into their full, beautiful potential.

As a result, my work is undergoing a slight transition of its own. My client work still revolves around encouraging you to listen to your body for making your best healthy choices. My writing will continue to offer tips, stories and inspiration for finding whole health from the inside out. I will still encourage conversations in the Whole Health Dinner Party group around the same.

The upgrade will be that my focus is now on supporting women who feel the shifts and changes of life take a toll on their body, guiding them to care for themselves in ways that allow them to land safely, feeling healthy, on the other side.

If this is you, tell us how change affects you, and where you need the most support when life changes directions. When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

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How to Nourish YOU for the Coming Year

 

I step out my front door after a heavy snowfall. The expanse of white blanketing my lawn is pristine – not a rabbit trail, nor a wind drift in sight – it’s pure, clean and full of possibility. I get a satisfying thrill to be the first one to make a mark. Today, it’s a footprint. Other times it’s an angel.

That’s exactly how I feel on the first of the year. As if by turning to a fresh page on the calendar, I’ve wiped everything clean and get to start again; I get to make my mark on the year in any way I desire.

I get to step forward as the person I want to become.

I get to feed and dress and entertain myself in a way that reflects the wants and needs of that “new” me.

I get to enjoy relationships with a whole new heart.

I get to share my reaffirmed values through work and service to others.

The possibilities are vast – all emanating from me.

All starting from that 1st step.

2017 is going to be a big year. I can feel it.

Am I feeling the excitement brewing as Canada turns 150, as Montreal turns 375, as most of my friends and I turn 50, my eldest son, 25?

Politically, we’ll see a whole new world – terrifying and thrilling in equal measure.

Maybe I’m tuned into the cosmic pull of numerology. 2+0+1+7=10, the culmination of one cycle and the start of the next; as well as (1+0=1) the very beginning. Maybe I’m feeling the onset of the Year of the Fire Rooster – vibrantly social and healthy.

Whatever influences and environment and waves push and pull against you through the coming year, at the centre is you. YOU are the only part over which you have control. YOU are the only tool you have for creating waves – through your own care & feeding, in how you interact with others, in how you vibrate in the world through work & community – your footprints.

Will they be made of carbon or snow? Of fairy dust or hard facts? The choice is yours.

It all starts with you.

Before you make that first step each day, though, be sure to start out knowing who you are in that moment. Connect with YOU first. Action comes next.

Huh?!? What does all this mumbo-jumbo mean?

It means that the best way to be yourself, to feel like yourself and stay nourished through your day, is to start each morning with a bit of ritual: a morning routine.

A morning routine ensures that you start your day nourished body, mind and soul.

A morning routine wipes the slate clean like that freshly fallen snow. Without necessarily getting rid of yesterday’s transgressions, it contains forgiveness for them, and hope for tomorrow’s wins.

A morning routine ensures that you have had time to yourself and for yourself, no matter what the rest of the day holds. It gives you the space to focus inward before engaging outward.

When life rips the rug out from under you, a morning routine maintains a constant, a beacon to which you can tether yourself to get safely to the other side.

A morning routine connects all parts of you into an integrated whole from which you can better make decisions about work, food, leisure… basically, how you want to spend your time, energy and money through the coming day.

The daily practice of a morning routine fosters discipline. Not the strict, whip-cracking type. Ritual establishes boundaries as a safe container for who you are, what you will & won’t do, what you will & won’t let in…or out…of your life.

A morning routine starts the conversation in which you can listen to your body – her needs, her hopes, her fears.

A morning routine gives you the space to connect with the Divine, a conversation with a greater power. This includes the petitions for what you need as well as listening for a response.

If there’s time for nothing else on a given day – the connection to self and spirit are the non-negotiable pieces to my morning, in the form of breathe.

Feeling my breathe move into my body’s centre, then settling into that space as it leaves.

That way, I start each day with a calm nervous system.

I start each day with a dose of oxytocin – bi-product of connection, which lowers cortisol levels, with its residual waves to improved blood sugar, immunity and libido.

I start the day, saying, “This is ME.”

I take each step from there.

Your morning routine will likely look different than mine. It will vary, depending on whether your day includes a marathon or a day of leisure, kids or just you, being at home or on the road. Your routine may alternate depending on the type of work you do, or where your values and priorities lie.

One thing that remains the same for each of us, whether you will be teaching kindergarten or spear-heading a corporate merger, starting out your day grounded into YOU will set you up for more energy, success and happiness at the end of it.

My morning routine has evolved over time and continues to evolve as my needs shift through the seasons and the circumstances of life. For the next four posts, through the months of quiet hibernation in winter, it’s the perfect time to share some aspects of my morning routine, not as specific rules, but as guidelines for possibility.

How you make your own routine is up to you.

Do you have a morning routine, or a non-negotiable bit to your day? We’d love to hear about it! When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

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Lighten Up! 3 Ways to Reduce the Winter Blues

 

Getting out of bed these days is brutal. After I finally drag myself up, only to be greeted by the cold tiles in the bathroom, I get to repeat the process with my son. Some days I never hit my stride and my sweet tooth is threatening to take over. I’ve got no zest for life; I feel washed-out. From about 5:00 onward, all I think about is going to bed, sleeping is all I want to do once I’m there.

Yup. I have a clear case of S.A.D.

Seasonal affective disorder shows up in an about 3-5% of Canadians – closer to 15% if you count the milder form of “winter blues”. It’s a very real form of depression that hits in countries at the northern- and southern-most parts of the planet.

Logical in these months of reduced daylight, though I’d say it gets compounded by the fact that we modern city folk tend to spend far too much time indoors, no matter what time of year. And when we do go out, we keep our skin covered and our eyes well shaded.

We’re systematically depriving ourselves of one of the most nourishing nutrients we have: the sun.

The sun’s rays on the cholesterol in your skin provides vitamin D. Sunlight also enter your eyes, hits your retina, stimulating your pineal gland. As the regulator of your entire system, this wise little nugget of fat, nerves and minerals controls circadian rhythms, both large (life cycles) and small (day/night).

The pineal secretes melatonin as daylight wanes in the evening, to make you sleepy and keep you knocked out until dawn. Daylight and the blue of the sky shut off its production so you can get up and go the next morning.

It’s logical that on the shorter days, the memo to ease up on the sleepiness gets delayed.

Were we smart and followed our animal nature around this, we’d honour the lack of light (and heat!) and slow down through these deep days of winter. Heck, those squirrels and polar bears sure know what’s what as they gorge, make a cozy bed, then nap for weeks. But we live in a society that clings tightly to a set schedule. That values productivity and being “on” more than listening to your personal needs.

Everything in Nature screams to slow down, have a nap, take it easy, yet we insist on driving through a snowstorm on icy roads to get to a meeting. When I asked my osteopath about her holidays, she guiltily told me about watching an entire season of Broadchurch in one day with her husband, then quickly went on to justify the “indulgence”.

Other than impairing your ability to go-go-go, this low energy state drags some of us into a full depression. Melatonin is made from serotonin – one of your feel-good neurotransmitters. With more of the latter being shunted into the former, your usual good moods and energy have quite literally gone into hibernation.

Serotonin, in turn, is made from tryptophan, so you crave starchy food in search of a source. More specifically, you want sugar, as it’s both the quickest route to more energy (albeit not a sustainable one) and another stimulator of the feel-good centres in your brain.

Many North Americans have learned the good habit of popping vitamin D through the winter months to protect bones, digestive tract, immunity and breasts from lack of sun on our skin. (If you haven’t got on this train yet, start!)

It’s just as vital to supplement the lack of sun in your brain.

Here are 3 ways to do just that.

1. Light therapy

The regular bulbs in your home and office aren’t enough to do the trick, though ironically, they’re enough to set your melatonin off-kilter when you’ve got them all on late into the evening.

As a bonus, this practice not only reduces the effects of S.A.D., it helps regulate all your cycles – sleep, menstruation, fertility.

You need full-spectrum light. Sunlight.

Get out into the daylight for a good 10-20 minutes every morning, without any type of lenses covering your eyes. Ditch the shades when you walk the dog or the kids to school. Go an extra couple of blocks before hopping on the bus. If it’s mild enough, have your morning tea on the deck.

Lunchtime is the next best time to do this.

Open the blinds in your office; move your desk so can see outside.

Even if you’re not getting direct sunlight – the sun’s only just coming up as I head out these days at 7:40 – you can still drink in the blue of the sky or the hint of brightness behind the clouds.

When I conscientiously look up at the sky rather than bow my head against the cold in the morning, it makes a marked difference to my energy levels and mood.

If you don’t have the luxury of an extra 20 minutes outside – I won’t harp on at the moment about all the ways this is good for you – then get yourself a full-spectrum lamp or two. Have it on in the room(s) where you spend most of your time each day.

2. Take some down time.

Remember, the pineal gland is about rhythms & cycles. Which means turning off just as much as being on.

If your energy wanes at this time of year, don’t fight it.

Honouring the fact that this is a season of drawing inward and quiet rest attunes your body and recharges your batteries for the more energetic times of the warmer months.

  • Switch from power yoga to restorative yoga. This delicious practice nurtures you with lots of gentle poses and support with blankets.
  • Have more evenings in than out. Jigsaw puzzles and board games come out more often at our house. They draw us together as a family or make a great excuse for putting on a pot of chili and having some friends over.
  • Choose a meaty novel or your journal over TV. Tackle the classics you’ve had on your shelf for years, or see what the library has among the new arrivals. (If you prefer an e-reader to paper books, be sure to put it on night mode.)
  • Get more sleep. By all means, go to bed a bit earlier. Sleep in a bit later on the weekend. The snow will still be there to play in when you get up.

3. Eat your way out of the blues.

Feed your brain with adequate protein and good fats to keep neurotransmitter and hormone levels up to par.

Nourish your need for sugar and comfort food with squashes and roasted root vegetables. Not only are these yummy choices packed with nutrients, you can think of them as concentrated sunshine – the sugar molecules literally being the sun’s energy in carbon and water.

How do you keep yourself energized through the winter? When you share your thoughts in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

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Should You or Shouldn’t You?

There are days when I feel drained without having done very much.

There are days when I spin in circles, not knowing what to do next.

So many of my clients get stuck by the fact that they know what to eat, but can’t seem to do it.

Writing those sentences, I notice the one thing they have it common is the verb “do”. Taking action, or more to the point, not taking action…and how it drains us mentally and physically.

I sat down the other day to write a talk I’m giving next month on stress and eating. My mind was whirring with ideas: “I should talk about this,…then I should mention that,…oh, then I should teach them about…” Great stuff, but as I wrote, I felt my shoulders, neck and upper arms tightening, like I was being sealed into a shrinking box. Before I knew it, my excitement about the talk had deflated like a pierced balloon, and I gave up my efforts in favour of another piece of that yummy apple cake I’d made.

What should I do next?

Aha!

That’s where our stress is!

Transitions in life (moving, kids, gaining or losing a spouse, or a job,…) – the biggies – are touted as the main source of stress. They are. It’s normal. You cope – sometimes more gracefully than others – and then you settle into the new routine.

Like a car accident or a fall while skiing, where there’s a clear source for the break in your leg, or when some other major shift happens in your life, you understand why your health might be suffering, or why you’re feeling low. With the leg, you go to a doctor and a physio. After you buy a new house, you mourn the loss of the old neighbours, or you get a therapist to help you through the rough patch of a divorce.

Stress becomes more insidious in the way it worms into your regular days without your even noticing.

As if the pressure of being a modern woman isn’t enough – feeling the need to cook like Nigella, run a company like Cheryl Sandberg and look like Angelina, all while hosting intellectually stimulating dinner parties in your Good-Housekeeping-worthy home – you feel the need to push yourself further with a list that could earn you Perfectionist of the Year. And a few mental kicks in the rear to top it off.

Stress isn’t in the long list of things you get done in a day – yes, you get the kids to school and yourself to work, you manage your career and your home, you drive and cook and organize and see clients and teach and manage teams – when you do them with love and intention and joy, these tasks flow from one to the next, until you finally sit – tired, yes, but in an I’ve-have-had-a-good-day kind of way – and enjoy an episode of Bloodline with your husband before bed.

Stress is in the shoulds, or as my client put it the other day, mirroring my own thoughts back to me, “My day is full of oughts”.

“I should eat more kale.”

“I ought to send that email.”

“I ought to call my mother.”

“I shouldn’t drink so much wine.”

“I should get to the gym.”

“I should talk to my husband about….”

“I should remind the kids that…”

And so the day goes, with a litany of to-dos keeping an endless roll-call in your head, along with the running commentary reminding you of the things you didn’t get done. (Easily recognizable with its tell-tale preface, “I should have…/ I shouldn’t have…”)

Stress has a very real impact on your body. (Read more about that here.)

Sometimes that internal pressure builds to the point of snapping at your favourite people or an anxiety attack. Mostly, the stress gets held inside, messing with the balance of your health and your state of mind. Belly fat, blood sugar imbalances, depression, terrible sleep, lumpy boobs, PMS, are some of the countless ways cortisol’s nefarious effects show up in your body.

So, what’s the solution?

“Should” only comes up when there’s no action.

If I think about the To-Do list that sits on my desk, there are definitely items on there that are things I “should” do, maybe because it’s expected or because I heard some expert on the internet say so. Similar thoughts come to mind when planning meals: clients tell me all the time, “I know I should eat more vegetables.”

Yes, you should. However, telling yourself over and over doesn’t actually have any benefit, other than giving you more reason to beat yourself up later on.

Sometimes there’s an item on my list that I know is important, and yet I keep moving it forward from week to week, allowing it to hang over my head. Lately it was a call I had to make. I could literally feel my body sag every time I read it, or transferred it to the following week’s list.

There came a day when I made a conscious decision to get that darned call out of the way. Regardless of the outcome of the conversation, the relief in having actually done the thing was palpable – I felt lighter, happier, motivated to move forward.

That’s the key: make a decision.

The trick to making that key work is in going for it. Fully. “I’ll try to eat more vegetables, get to the gym, start that conversation,…” doesn’t cut it. Yoda was so right: “Do or don’t do, there is no try.”

Maybe the decision will be that you don’t make the call, or that you won’t eat more kale. The important part is that you’ve decided, taken action accordingly and moved on. It’s no longer hooking you with its claws, draining your energy or giving you one more reason to feel badly about yourself.

That’s where I invite you today:

Choose one thing that’s been hanging on in the realm of the shoulds. An email, a new vegetable, a walk around the block, pay your taxes. Whatever.

  1. Notice how the weight of that should feels in your body.
  2. Go and do it.
  3. How do you feel now?

Bonus: Go for one a day and see how you feel by the end of the week.

Masterclass: Every evening for a week, make a list of 3 that will happen the next day.

I’d love to hear your results! When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

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