Archive | January, 2013

There there, just keep trying!

31 Jan
this-fish-is-freaking-ready-to-blog

image from nataliedee.com

I had high hopes and expectations for what I’d accomplish this month and I must admit I didn’t do all I set out to do.  But with certainty, I admit that without this blog and without carving out the Body-Mind-Spirit project as a YEAR LONG project (as opposed to just a resolution or basic goal), I would have forgotten/given up/ gotten too distracted to remember.

January 2013 Recap! 

This month a few themes emerged: routine, balance, movement.  I oscillated from lofty goals to distracted laziness.  I spent lots of time walking, yoga-ing and working.  I thought a lot about self-care.  I brought more mindfulness into my eating habits and into my day-to-day moods.  I also took some time off from mindfulness.

Here’s what I initially set out to accomplish this month:

  • Take multivitamins and supplements daily.  
  • Attend appointments with the doctor, dentist and other health professionals as recommended.
  • Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
  • Cut out wheat.
  • Walk 10,000 steps per day, 6 days per week.
  • Do a daily yoga practice.

And here’s how they actually went:

  • Take multivitamins and supplements daily.  Success!  I did this!  I also changed some of what I was taking, including increasing my dose of Vitamin D, because my levels are quite low.  I also stopped taking Fish Oil supplements at the recommendation of my doctor so it won’t thin my blood.  And I remembered to take everything!  Before, I’d forget for days to take these and now I seem to remember every day when I have breakfast.  Yay!
  • Attend appointments with the doctor, dentist and other health professionals as recommended. Okay, boo-yah.  I totally did this.  I went to the dentist to have this unpleasant procedure that I’d been putting off for months.  And it went just fine.  I also found a new primary care doc (since my insurance changed) and started doing weekly acupuncture as well as regular therapy (instead of sporadic appointments- and yes, every good therapist has a good therapist!).  I also saw specialists as recommended and followed through quickly on things, whereas in the past I’d often drop the ball on things like that because I was too busy/ didn’t want to deal with it.
  • Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.  Yes, I made a big effort on this one.  I will admit there were some days I didn’t hit the goal.  Honestly, this is one I would like to start tracking daily, rather than just counting in my head each day because it would be more motivating.  I did eat a lot more fruits and veggies, including salads with dinner, spinach in smoothies, snacking on carrots and apples in the car, etc.
  • Cut out wheat.  So this one is probably a bit easier for me than for other folks because I have a pretty big reaction to eating wheat, mainly that my stomach hurts, I feel grumpy, and my skin breaks out.   I had a few slip ups with this, usually when there wasn’t much food around the house so I ate something sitting around.  However, I always regretted it afterwards which just led me to feel more resolved about not eating wheat.
  • Walk 10,000 steps per day, 6 days per week.  Oh but I have had fun with my pedometer, as long as I wasn’t washing it on accident!  I didn’t do 10,000 steps as I wanted, however there were plenty of days with more than 10,000 steps and some with fewer.  I am now aiming for 8,000 and figure it will all average out.  I highly recommend the pedometer for those who want to increase movement in their lives.  It is pretty motivating just to see the numbers go up.
  • Do a daily yoga practice.  This one went fairly well, although my practice is not as I’d really like it to be.  At the very least, I am doing SOME yoga each day, especially with all of the walking I’m doing, I really need to stretch my hips and hamstrings because they get tight!

So what’s next?

The next time I do BODY will be in April and I plan to focus primarily on food and diet that month.  I think I gained a lot of insight into my eating habits this month and would like to expand on it.  I will also benefit from more focus on the mind and spirit before doing that, because I don’t want to go overboard and become obsessive about what I eat/ what I don’t eat.

February is almost here!   It will be all about the MIND so I am going to be examining how I spend my free time, the things I read, and also tackling those little tasks that seem to take up a lot of mental space such as answering emails and paying bills.

How have your goals been going?  What helps you stay focused and motivated?  

Walking dogs and taking names

29 Jan

We are nearing the end of January, the first month of the Body-Mind-Spirit project.  This is a great time to review goals set at the beginning of the month.  Are you still on track with them?  If not, what can you do to get back on track?

These past weeks, I’ve fluctuated between forced discipline and laziness.  I’ve realized that routine helps more than anything.  I’ve been working on a basic morning routine that includes all the of important elements such as breakfast, dog walk and training, yoga and meditation.  Oh and tea.  My nighttime routine is one that needs a bit of work too, so I’m starting to bring in helpful elements to that, such as reading great books in bed and brushing my teeth after dinner so I won’t overindulge in sweets.

Daily movement and exercise, a big focus this month, has been going quite well.  I started walking dogs for my dogs’ trainer in my free time and it has been fabulous.  I spend time outside, get to meet lots of great dogs, get tons of exercise, and it is sharpening my training abilities to work even better with my dogs.  While I’ve believed this to be true for some time, I am now convinced that spending time with animals is downright good for the soul.  The combination of regular exercise and hours of dog time has left me feeling happy, energetic, and excited.

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The number of steps I took on that particular day. This was a very long day!

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All of those steps, translated into 10.58 miles.

So that’s where things are right now.  I’m moving a lot, outside often, and enjoying meeting and spending time with new dogs.  This is a wonderful way to balance out the time I spend in with clients in therapy, which I am also enjoying but tends to be quieter work that is more still and thoughtful than walking around with a goofy dog.

Nitro Dogs

Some of my new friends

Life Lessons

27 Jan

 

I read the 45 life lessons on my Facebook feed, posted by one of my yoga friends.  Oh how I loved the 45 wise tidbits of advice, given by an artsy and interesting looking lady who reportedly wrote the lessons on her 90th birthday. I decided to put it on my blog since I’ve been a bit too busy/ distracted to really sit down and post.  However, after googling the author’s name, I learned that several years ago, this author and newspaper columnist, Regina Brett, did write 45 tips for life on her 45th birthday(she has since added 5 more).  The tips were such a hit that it went viral and eventually the internet decided she was a 90 year old lady.  Funny.

regina-brett

Image found on elephantjournal.com

Written by Regina Brett

Originally published in The Plain Dealer on Sunday, May 28, 2006

“To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me.

It is the most-requested column I’ve ever written. My odometer rolls over to 50 this week, so here’s an update:

1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.

8. It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.

12. It’s OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don’t compare your life to others’. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don’t worry; God never blinks.

16. Life is too short for long pity parties. Get busy living, or get busy dying.

17. You can get through anything if you stay put in today.

18. A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.

19. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Overprepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: “In five years, will this matter?”

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive everyone everything.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do.

35. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.

36. Growing old beats the alternative – dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.

38. Read the Psalms. They cover every human emotion.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.

41. Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

42. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.

43. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

44. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

45. The best is yet to come.

46. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

47. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

48. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

49. Yield.

50. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.”

 

Well, no matter what the age or the photograph of the author may be, these are fabulous tips.  I especially love #4, #31, #32 and of course, #47.

What are some of your tips for life?

 

Monday, MLK Day and Inauguration Day

21 Jan

MLK

 

Some Martin Luther King, Jr quotes for today:

“Faith is taking that first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.” 

I have decided to stick to love… hate is too great a burden to bear.” 

“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”

“Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it, because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others.”

 

Also, Happy Inauguration Day!  

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Image from dc.about.com

 

 

 

Sunday Dinner: Kitchen Sink Stew

20 Jan

It is still cold, clear and bright here in Seattle.  We haven’t had our regular gloomy, rainy days and I am not complaining. Such chilly weather (it’s been in the 30s!) makes stew seem even MORE appealing than usual.

I’ve been making variations on this stew for years now.  The combination of coconut milk, peanut flavor and many vegetables makes it both comforting and healthy.  I call it Kitchen Sink stew because it contains almost all but the kitchen sink!  I admit it changes a bit each time I make it, but it is hearty, tasty, and sure to use up all of the vegetables sitting around.  I throw in so many ingredients from so many regions of the world, but hey, that’s okay.  This is kitchen sink cooking!  Surely this stew is influenced by my years in West Africa, where spicy peanut sauces are common and delicious.  As for the combination of coconut milk, lime and Sri Racha I blame my love of Asian food and also the little things I’ve picked up (mainly from eating) from my Vietnamese husband’s amazing dishes.  As for the cinnamon, I love the use of this warming spice in savory dishes, surely influenced by my love of Mexican food (mole!).  So yeah, this isn’t any kind of traditional dish, but it is tasty, easy and I’ve found we usually have most of these ingredients sitting around the house.

This is the first time I’ve made it with the crock pot and I added in a few steps in doing so, I’m sure I made it more complicated than necessary but it was still pretty easy.  You can also make it in a dutch oven, although I’d still recommend heating up the coconut milk and peanut mixture on the side as I describe below (I do this because it makes the texture much smoother!).

Kitchen Sink Stew 

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Hearty and flavorful. Perfect for a cold January night!

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of broth, chicken or vegetable.
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can garbanzo beans
  • Many many vegetables, sliced and diced into little pieces.  Today I used: 3 carrots, 1 large turnip, 1 sweet potato, 1 large onion, 2 stalks of celery.
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder (add more if you like it spicy)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon of cooking oil (peanut is the best for this dish, I believe)
  • 1 pound of chicken breasts, sliced into small pieces.
  • 1/2 can of coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup of peanut butter (more if you love it!)
  • 1 tablespoon SriRacha sauce (again, more if you want it spicy)
  • 2 limes

Directions

  1. In your trusty crock pot, put in the broth, tomatoes, garbanzo beans, vegetables, garlic, ginger.  
  2. Add in the remaining spices: cinnamon, chili powder, bay leaves, salt and pepper.  I recommend going easy on them and tasting the stew in a few hours and add in more if needed.  Once you add too much of something, it is hard to undo.  But it is easy to add!
  3. Let the stew simmer on high for about 2 hours.
  4. Prepare the chicken by sautéing it on the stovetop, in oil over medium high heat until it is no longer pink on the outside.  Add the chicken to the stew.
  5. In a saucepan, heat the coconut milk on medium heat until it begins to bubble.  Turn the heat down and add in the peanut butter.  Stir continuously until it is combined.  Add in the Sri Racha.  Then place the sauce into the crock pot.
  6. Turn the heat on the crock pot to low. Cook for 1-2 more hours.
  7. Check the stew periodically and taste it, add in more spices if you feel it needs it.
  8. Once it is almost time to serve, add in the juice of one lime.  Slice the other lime and serve lime wedges on the side.

Serve alone, over rice or with a nice hunk of tasty bread.  This is great to eat as leftovers and also to freeze and then break out on some cold night when you don’t want to cook! Oh and make sure you don’t eat the bay leaves.

Possessed by technology

17 Jan

I want to be more mindful.  That’s the main reason I took on the Body-Mind-Spirit Project.  I want to be mindful about how I take care of myself physically, mentally, emotionally and physically.  Lately I’ve been working on my morning routine.  My goal is to accomplish a few things before I get going with my day:

  • Do some yoga 
  • Meditate
  • Walk the dogs

That’s really it.  There is nothing too complicated here. The order doesn’t matter, the time spent doesn’t matter, I just want to DO IT.  But… it is hard.  Mainly because I get very distracted and then?  I check out.  I’m sure this happens to other people.  You intend to just look at your phone or check your email quickly.  But then the next thing you know, an hour has gone by and you’re looking at shoes online.  What just happened?

Yep, I get possessed by technology.  It completely takes over and I am powerless.

Evil Tech Squirrel

Evil Tech Squirrel found on Myside’s Spew.

Yesterday I had the best of intentions to get things done.  I recently posted that I’ve been taking it easy, trying to focus on relaxed and loving transitions rather than harassing myself into doing things, for example bounding out of bed and running outside in my pj’s to take the dogs on a walk in icy, 30 degree weather (yuck).  BUT, I went to the other extreme and got a bit lazy.  Yesterday I let the dogs out in the backyard and checked my email.  I checked my other email accounts. Then, oh look!  Some messages on Facebook!  George Takei posted something funny!  Blah blah Blah.  Later, as if I couldn’t even control my movements, I was back in bed with the laptop, dogs happily sleeping by my side.  We did NOT go on a walk and so much time was wasted that I eventually had to get ready to leave for an appointment, followed by an afternoon of walking other people’s dogs.  Yep, that’s right.  I walk other people’s dogs and didn’t even walk my own dogs.  I felt embarrassed and ashamed.

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“Oh, you’re leaving? I guess we’ll just stay home and do this all day.”

Driven to actually do helpful things upon waking, I resolved to put my laptop far, far away from the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen.  Last night I placed it on the dining room table.  The dining room is in the far corner of the house and you just don’t really go in there unless you have to or want to.  Today I woke up and let the dogs out, made some tea, did some yoga, meditated and then we went for a walk.  I got my dog walking clothes out before doing yoga so it was all ready to go.  I made my bed shortly after waking up so I wouldn’t feel tempted to get back in it, which is SO tempting when it is cold.  As I did yoga and meditated I noticed little thoughts coming up and trying to entice me to grab the computer .  Oh my shins are sore from walking. maybe I can google the best stretches to do for this!…I bet I could find a great meditation to do online instead of just sitting here.  Instead of following those impulses, I just noticed it and moved on.  I told myself VERY CLEARLY that there would be no computer time until AFTER the dog walk.  Besides, those thoughts are stupid.  I know some stretches to help my legs.  Also, meditating IS just sitting there.  Sometimes we have such silly thoughts.

So putting my laptop far away and telling myself NO COMPUTER UNTIL YOU DO YOUR ROUTINE, it worked!  I did my stretches, meditated, and the dogs had a great walk.  Afterwards I made breakfast and some decaf coffee (yeah, I’m that boring) and then sat down to peruse my email (nothing much there) and Facebook (the political posts upset me) and then into my blog reader (now I like that!).

The Huffington Post recently published an article about practicing mindfulness with technology.  Some recommendations include taking deep breaths before jumping on the impulse to check text messages or emails and also to notice how taking part in social media and other forms of technology makes you feel.  I found this article very helpful!

Do you get possessed by technology?  Have you been able to successfully change habits, or build new ones?  If so, how?  

Sadness

15 Jan

Yesterday I felt very sad.  I won’t get into a lot of the WHYS, but there were a lot of things that bubbled up to the surface.  I was thinking of some upsetting situations and my hormones got the best of me.  I let myself have a nice big cry, remembering what I always tell my clients- Crying can be helpful.  Crying is a way we release stress hormones from our physical bodies.  Crying is cathartic.  So I just let loose with it.  I leaned my head against the wall.  I grabbed the hand towel from the bathroom and used it to catch my big ole tears.  I let my body posture completely slump down like a rag doll.  Radar, blind superdog, came into the room and began to growl at me.  Really, blind dog?  You growl at me when I’m sad?  This is what Radar tends to do when he isn’t sure what is going on and something startles him.  Although he knew it was me, I don’t cry like that very often.  My hypothesis is that he thought something was wrong with me.  He growled a bit and did these little yip barks.  I told him “I’m okay, it’s okay” and he stopped with the barks and growls.  All the while he held his little funny face really close to me, trying to assess each second with his big nose tilted towards me.  Once he got over his startled growling, he just sat next to me and that was comforting.

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“Are you okay?”

I thought a lot about what to DO about being sad and realized I didn’t really need to do much of anything.  My sadness felt appropriate, it wasn’t overwhelming, and I was trying to take care of myself.  I had a yoga class to teach so in preparation for it, I did a long home session of restorative yoga, moving very slowly, deliberately and carefully, like a moving mediation.  It helped.  Driving to yoga, I still felt pretty sad and realized I was going to need to pick my energy up just a bit or my students would spend 75 minutes crying into their mats.  I put on my favorite pick-me-up song, which I prefer to listen to at a loud volume while I hit the steering wheel to the beat.  This helped too.

XTC- Making Plans for Nigel

Yoga class was fine and it was actually quite nice to move around and get my mind on other things.  As I drove home, I listened to another song, this one is one of my go-to sad songs.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds- People Ain’t No Good

Once I was back home, I ate some warm soup, talked with my husband, and we watched some TV.  Oh and I ate some delicious dark chocolate.  After a good night’s sleep, I really don’t feel sad anymore.  However, if I hadn’t let the sadness bubble up and be present when it needed to be, I would perhaps feel less present and connected now.  Although it isn’t fun to feel sad, it happens.  I recently listened to this podcast, Opening to Our Lives with Jon Kabat-Zinn.  He talks about how in Western culture we tend to EXPECT constant happiness, which is completely unreasonable.  Sadness happens.  This really resonated with me.  It is what we do with it and how we treat ourselves that really matters.

Here are some of my general approaches towards sadness (based on DBT approaches for emotion regulation):

  •  Be curious.  Is it appropriate to feel sad? Do I have a reason to feel sad?  Investigate what it is all about.  Typically, emotions present themselves for a reason- they show us things!  Sadness can show us what is important and what we value.  When we feel we’ve lost something in line with that, whatever it might be, we feel sad.  However, there are also times when we inexplicably feel sad and it is helpful to know we can pull ourselves out of that if we need to.
  • Recognize appropriate sadness.  If there’s a reason to feel sad, try to sit with it.  Practice self-care even while feeling it, for example doing something soothing (drinking hot tea or taking a bath), or take part in an enjoyable activity (playing with my dogs or chatting about things with a loved one).  Sometimes when I feel sadness for a relevant reason, I just let it go through me (like I did yesterday) and assume that once I get through the wave of sadness, I’ll move on to something else.
  • Practice opposite action. If the sadness is making it hard to tend to necessary things (like teaching yoga, for example) OR if the sadness seems like it doesn’t fit the situation of what is going on, try using the skill of Opposite Action– Do the opposite of what you feel like doing.  The idea is that the opposing action can inspire different thoughts and feelings, which can actually change your mood.  This is what I did when I listened to the XTC song, which tends to make me energized and excited (instead of listening to the Nick Cave song, which makes me feel even more sadness).  When we’re sad, we tend to want to isolate and be very quiet.  Instead, try going outside, watching a funny movie, talking to a friend about light topics, and so on.  Exercise can be very helpful for this also.

Emotions are like waves. They come and they go.  They have a beginning, a middle and an end.  Some of them are very large and some are very tiny.  They will always be there.  We can learn how to understand them and how to work with them.

You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf. -Jon Kabat-Zinn

Water waves

Photo by Rob Casey (photo links to original source).

What do you do to take care of yourself when you’re feeling sad?  What are some of your favorite songs to listen to, either as a pick-me up or to really feel your sadness?