5 Ways To Make Your Mornings Better

5 Ways To Make Your Mornings Better

Have you ever woken up late, rolled out of bed with your heart pounding, and started rushing around trying to get everything you need ready to start your day? Yeah, me too. Not an awesome way to begin a new day of life. When I get up late and frantically try to cram in all the things I like to do at the beginning of the day (i.e. put the coffee on, make a nice breakfast, practice yoga or run, and sort out the day’s to do list… before I power up the computer for coaching appointments or get my 4 year old daughter up and moving) I start the day feeling frazzled, drained and fuzzy headed. What I want to feel at the beginning of the day is calm, gently energized and clear minded. Because every day is a new day, right? Each and every morning offers up a new opportunity to make the choices that will set up a day full of actions that invite the feelings that we want.  So how can we ensure our success in starting the day off right and feeling how we want to feel? Continue reading “5 Ways To Make Your Mornings Better”

Let’s Get Back to Nature

Let’s Get Back to Nature

Earlier this week I drove 20 miles south down WI 35, a roadway punctuated with greenery, gentle rolling hills, a few curves and some more rolling hills.  I took one left turn and meandered slightly east from the St. Croix river valley and sank deeper into the forest with every passing mile.  Then I abruptly remembered to pay attention and turned right at the correct fire number and parked in from of a pole barn.  A van had pulled in right before me, and a man covered in grass clippings was walking across the lawn in greeting as I approached.  The occupants of the van got out and joined us.  I had arrived.

The destination?  The site of “The Great Back to Nature Exchange”  as visioned by herbalist Kelley Hagenbuch.  She and her family moved onto 30 acres of wooded Wisconsin wildness late last year with the mission to live close to the land, and she’s passionate about sharing nature-based wisdom and cultivating a sense of community around realigning with ways of being that foster living attuned to our environment, rather than separate from it.   Our purpose of the day was to tour the site and do some planning for the event that will take place in early September.  After brief introductions, we started off into the woods, stopping frequently to discuss the plants along the trail, identify mushrooms and commune with the resident grouse, all the while absorbing the energy of a place that is still mostly wild. Continue reading “Let’s Get Back to Nature”

Returning to our Roots: Healing Healthcare

Returning to our Roots: Healing Healthcare

Being a yoga teacher [or a wellness coach] is similar to being a physician [i.e. one that is invested in healing, not keeping business good]: my mission is to find the origination of my clients’ problems and help my clients heal themselves, so I can send them on their way, out in the world with the ability to maintain their health, on their own.

~Rebecca Lammersen

It’s not about business or client retention or making more money than we did last year.  Sure, on some level it is important to create business and have clients and keep them around long enough for everyone involved to benefit in the ways that matter.  But these days, it seems that the ever important dollar gets the final say more than anything else.  Pulling a profit that’s bigger than before takes priority, and we tell ourselves that if business is booming, well, we can help more people.  In some ways, it’s true.  We can try to keep clients coming back for as long as possible, plant the seeds of positive change, treat the disorder with a pill, and along the way help the bottom line.  Everybody wins, right?

In this world we live in, money is important.  You might know this already.  Depending on where we live and what sort of lifestyle we are aiming for or born into, we need a certain minimum of incoming cash flow to thrive.  Living on the planet comes with a price tag for most people in the modern world.  So, while money is obviously important, I might dare to say that authenticity is more so.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not super interested in working with someone who doesn’t really want to interact with me, or only does so out of fear or guilt or whatever other reasons people do things that they aren’t intrinsically motivated to do.  People can benefit from programs and classes and 1:1 appointments, absolutely.  That’s not my issue today.  My issue today is that yoga and wellness coaching and health care, at the core,  is about healing. It’s about honoring the process. It’s about authentic ways of being together and in the world that increase beauty and take energy away from destruction.  Too often our culture has lost sight of that.  Too often we hook people and try to convince them that they need us forever.  Too often we become part of the message of lack. Continue reading “Returning to our Roots: Healing Healthcare”

A Yoga Story

A Yoga Story

Yoga, an ancient but perfect science, deals with the evolution of humanity. This evolution includes all aspects of one’s being, from bodily health to self-realization. Yoga means union – the union of body with consciousness and consciousness with the soul. Yoga cultivates the ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day-to-day life and endows skill in the performance of one’s actions.       B.K.S. Iyengar

A regular yoga practice can provide a wealth of mental, physical and spiritual benefits. From greater strength and flexibility to lowered blood pressure to increased mental focus, many opportunities exist for enhancing health within yoga’s positive, non-forceful approach.

I started practicing yoga in 2006 after an emergency appendectomy.  Post surgery, I had to sleep on the couch upstairs in our tiny lakeside cottage because going up the spiral staircase from the bedroom below was too hard.  I ate tiny bits of soup, cleaned the surgical wound regularly, read a lot of books and lamented the fact that my usual modes of exercise just weren’t possible.  Turns out they don’t recommend trail running and cross-country skiing after a semi-major surgery, albeit a pretty routine one.  I was supposed to lay pretty low, and that wasn’t what I was used to.  I like to move.

Not knowing what else to do, I remembered an old yoga DVD that somebody gave me for Christmas a few years back.  I popped it into the player and moved through the motions in my dark little spare room awkwardly – in hindsight, yoga probably wasn’t an awesome choice for helping an abdominal wound to heal, but hey, it healed so I guess that’s water under the bridge at this point.  I missed getting my heart rate up, to be sure.  But I kept popping the DVD into the player and I kept spending those 32 minutes in my dark little spare room bending and breathing with intention until I was feeling up to running again.  Something about the flow of breath tied to movement, however gentle, kept my “can’t function w/out my daily workout” itch from making me miserable. Continue reading “A Yoga Story”

A Heart Opening

A Heart Opening

Stand with your bare feet on the ground, hip width distance apart, if you are in a climate that allows doing so, or in front of a window if you are in a part of the world that is currently covered in snow. If standing isn’t an option for you, sit with your back straight; in a chair or in a comfortable cross legged position on the floor.

Let your arms dangle at your sides, roll your shoulders on your back and let your gaze roll down the tip of your nose, or close your eyes.   Engage your core.

Breathe in through your nose, deep into your belly, and let your arms reach out and up above your head. Bring your palms to touch and look up. Exhale and let your arms float back down again to your sides.

Repeat.

Breathe in through your nose, deep into your belly, and let your arms reach out and up above your head. Bring your palms to touch and look up. Exhale and let your arms float back down again to your sides.

Feel the energy from the core of the earth rise through your breath and ground you fully into your being.

Feel the energy that you hold in your own core mesh with the energy that pulses through all of creation.

Feel the energy and let it offer a sense of calm.

Feel the energy and let it offer a place of strength that you can always return to. Continue reading “A Heart Opening”

To Be Thankful

To Be Thankful

I think it annoys God if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.

– Alice Walker, The Color Purple.

I have been keeping a gratitude journal since November 30, 2012. I don’t remember why I started doing it. Probably because I read about the idea in one of the countless books that I consumed that year, and it sounded like a good idea at the time. Fortunately, it was a good idea and has proved to be a worthy practice as I walk through the days and the weeks and the months.  I have missed one day so far – June 21, 2013. Perhaps the longest day of the year doesn’t need extra acknowldgement because it is already so saturated with light.

The intent to notice these little bits of happiness each day has created a sense of spaciousness that wasn’t there before. Or maybe it was there, but I didn’t take the time to invite it into daily life. To be thankful for something is to recognize how it has added a layer of beauty to an ordinary day.

Looking back, some days sound pretty routine.

November 30, 2012: Watching Eva notice the world around her.
February 24, 2013: Hearing Nick read books to Eva before she goes to bed.
March 5, 2013: Listening to Eva babble to herself as she wakes up in her crib.

Some days have events that are unlikely to ever be duplicated.
December 16, 2012: A bird, standing on ice that is barely covered with water. A Jesus bird.
August 23, 2013: The neighborhood black bear cub, strolling past my office sliding door in the morning sun.
April 11, 2014: Passing the neighbor kids walking their new goats on leashes before their parents could tell them to stay off the road.

Some days are more challenging.
December 5, 2012: Being able to offer comfort to Eva when she’s not content.
October 14, 2013: The contrast that is provided by people who don’t see what I see.
November 13, 2013: How the gift of soup from a neighbor can erase loneliness.

Most days celebrate the way a physical body can move.
September 16, 2013: Running around the lake and picking cherry tomatoes to start the day.
November 2, 2013: Yoga – the way movement and breath provide a way to re-center on the present.
January 13, 2014: Skiing across the frozen lake into the rising sun.

All days are punctuated by the presence of life and the vibrancy of the natural world.
December 26, 2012: The way a single snowflake can catch the light and sparkle like a diamond.
January 16, 2013: Pink clouds moving across a late afternoon sky, filling the horizon with warmth on a cold day.
April 3, 2013: New life emerging from the soil as the mid-west welcomes another spring.
August 20, 2013: Tangerine skies and evening shadows that hint at possibilities yet to come.
October 5, 2013: The way that orange maple leaves command attention.
January 14, 2014: The muted beauty in fresh snow falling off of pine trees in a gentle breeze.

 

To be thankful. I think the beauty in the world can only grow if we remember to notice it. Perhaps noticing it – and giving voice to the noticing – will allow it to seep into the spaciousness that exists in each of us as we walk through the days, and the weeks, and the months.

What gratitude practice will you use to invite beauty into your days and weeks and months?

BURNOUT

BURNOUT

What causes burnout? Long hours, a job that is too challenging or not challenging enough, monotony, a long winter, a disconnect between the employer and employee values, being in a caregiver role, always being the one to ask “how are you today?” and responding appropriately to whatever response is provided……the list could get pretty long.  Whatever the root cause, burnout can have a lot of impact on day to day life.  According to psychologist Herbert J. Freudenberger, who coined the term in 1972, burnout is a state of fatigue or frustration brought about by a devotion to a cause, a way of life, or a relationship that has failed to produce the expected reward. Burnout is essentially a condition caused by passion and good intentions that have absorbed everything that is available to give.

 Burnout is about not enough. Being burned out means feeling empty, devoid of motivation, and beyond caring. People experiencing burnout often don’t see any hope of positive change in their situations. If excessive stress is like drowning in responsibilities, burnout is being all dried up.  – Helpguide.org. (Melinda Smith, M.A., Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., and Robert Segal, M.A)

My day job is to support people as they figure out how to live in a healthy way.  I’ve been in my current position for exactly seven years, and though I truly value the relationships that I have with the people I interact with and can see the reason for most of the less glamorous job tasks that are required, last week I hit a bit of a wall.   And when I say “hit a wall” I mean in a head on collision, can’t function kind of way.  I just couldn’t do it anymore.  So I spent the two days I took off work sleeping, getting a haircut that was two years overdue, walking along my favorite creek bed and doing yoga.   I feel better after four days away from the office, but it’s not gone yet.  My next step is going to be figuring out how to take some more time off.  We’ll see how that goes.  The good news is that my light is flickering on again, even if it’s dim.

Once we identify that we are experiencing signs of burnout and acknowledge what is going on, we can take strides to change what can be changed, accept what needs to be accepted, and shift our focus to remembering what really matters in life.  We can prioritize what is going to allow us live in a way that honors what we value. We can look the fear of ‘feeling burnt out forever’ in the face and see all the beauty that is still there, just under the surface.  Just past the strong front that we put up on good days.  Just behind the expectations we hold for ourselves without even recognizing their loftiness.

We can remember why we have been so devoted, and we can remember that to be devoted – to anything – we have to take care of our own needs.

For me, some of the important things to priotitize are spending time with my family, having authentic conversations with people, being outside, growing and cooking food, hearing my daughter giggle, digging in the garden and watching the sunrise.  When I can remember that those things are what matter to me (which can be REALLY hard to do when feelings of burnout have clouded everything else) I can break through the film of melancholy.  I can see past the frustration, fatigue and dread of the everyday.  And I can remember that I have a choice to let those feelings control my life, or I can look at them, accept them, and allow them to dissolve in whatever way they need to.

Burnout isn’t a nice place to be.  But it doesn’t have to be the landing place.

                                                                                                                                            

If you think you might be experiencing burnout, take a look at the following lists.

Signs of burnout can include:

􀂃-Emotions: anger, frustration, depression

􀂃- Impatience

􀂃 -Heightened fatigue

􀂃  -Melancholy

􀂃  -Ambivalence

􀂃  -Lack of interest in things you used to really find intriguing

􀂃  -Short term memory loss

􀂃  -Feelings of dread

􀂃  -Self-medication

􀂃  -Nightmares

􀂃  -Difficulty making decisions

􀂃  -Working at 120% then dropping to nothing

􀂃  -Not caring about something that usually matters a lot

Burnout prevention & self care strategies may include:

􀂃-Know yourself. Figure out what your values are.

􀂃-Create a support system.  And use it.  Ask for help.  Accept help when offered.

􀂃-Maintain a schedule that supports the lifestyle you want to live.

􀂃-Do three things per day that you truly enjoy. Even you only have time for three one minute things.

􀂃-Honor your wellness priorities: Keep running, do your yoga, eat your veggies, get your rest.

􀂃-Stay stimulated with learning. But accept that you don’t have to know everything.

􀂃-Take time off.

􀂃-Get 15 minutes of natural light (more is better) every day.  Even on rainy ones.

We all have a pilot light that doesn’t go out permanantly.  There is light to be found even on the rainy days.

Additional burnout resources are available from these sources:

Compassion Fatigue

Burnout Overview from Mayo Clinic