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habits

Health, Simplify

The Year of No Thank You

Do you ever overcommit? Do you then promise yourself that you will stop?

Do you?

You do?

Me too.

And I’ve been racking my brain to figure out why.

I want to be a person who naturally takes on less. I want to know my limits. Even when I tell myself to cut back on commitments to create more space in my day, somehow I manage to add more to my schedule. It’s classic commitment creep.

So this school year I’m trying something different.

It’s the year of letting go of what is not necessary in order to take back my time. It’s the Year of No Thank You.

Last year we had a baby. And my husband’s business doubled its number of clients. I returned to a full-time job after maternity leave. And I was teaching a baby wearing dance class. All of a sudden we were really busy.

I’m sure you understand.

But see what I mean about commitment creep?

Something had to give.

Earlier this year I took a personal inventory to figure out how we got to our overwhelmed lives. And then I took action.

First, I gave up teaching the baby wearing dance class. It was taking up 3-4 hours of my Saturday mornings. My little one was outgrowing our baby carrier and it was an easy transition to give the class to another instructor. I decided to limit my fitness teaching to subbing cycling and yoga classes for the year to keep a toe in the fitness world.

Next, after much discussion with my husband, I decided to leave my full-time job at the nonprofit where I had worked for over a decade. It was a very hard decision. I believe in the mission of the organization, but out of necessity I was also working in our family business. It was too much. After doing the math, we realized that the transition to teaching more and working in the family business would only mean a small pay cut.

So now my schedule has much more flexibility. I still teach part-time and help out with the family business. Some weeks I work a lot in the business, but other weeks I can focus more on our family. So far, so good.

And now I’m saying “No Thank You” to other commitment opportunities that come my way. In fact, “no thank you” has become my mantra. Because by saying no to additional responsibilities, even if they are amazing, I am saying yes to unstructured time with my family. And that is what the Year of No Thank You is All About.

Let’s see if I can keep this up. 🙂

Have you been able to say no thank you to commitment creep?

 

 

Fitness, Health

Walking meditation for folks who can’t sit still

Who needs meditation the most? Busy people. Those of us who are not naturally calm. People who have a lot on their mind.

We know that we can benefit from time to quiet our mind, but finding the space for quiet can be hard.

I’ve had both family and friends tell me that they can’t find time to meditate. They don’t feel that they have enough hours in the day or they aren’t the type of people who can sit still easily. So they ask how they can incorporate meditation into their lives if they can’t sit still.

No judgment if people aren’t ready or don’t want to sit in a traditional meditation posture. There are other ways to get the benefits of a meditative mindset even if you don’t want to sit in one spot.

Through my yoga studies and personal experience, I have learned that we can calm our mind even when we are moving. Whether we are flowing through yoga postures, hiking in the mountains or strolling our neighborhood, we can move mindfully and create head space.

The goal of meditation is not to clear your mind completely or to think about nothing, rather meditation is designed to help you become aware of your thoughts as they appear so you don’t become consumed by them. If your mind jumps all over the place from thought to unrelated thought, you are experiencing a phenomenon known as “monkey mind.” And you are not alone.

Many of us wrestle with thoughts that jump all over the place. Thoughts like, “I’m hungry. How far is it from San Francisco to Tokyo? I should Google that. I can’t forget to pick up the dry cleaning. I wonder what they are thinking about me. Do I have lettuce stuck in my teeth?” Our minds bounce all over the place, even when we are trying to focus on a project, a task or the present moment.

Meditation is an avenue that allows you to acknowledge your random thoughts and let them go.

We all can begin to tame our monkey mind simply by acknowledging our thoughts and emotions without letting them consume us. This consciousness can be attained through a walking meditation if you don’t have the time or inclination to literally sit with your thoughts.

How to Engage in a Walking Meditation

This is not your typical city walk. You want to reduce outside distractions as much as possible, including traffic, pot holes and other dangers. You will be turning your focus inward, so find a space with even trails or sidewalks that will allow you to do so. Also, leave the technology behind. A walking meditation is a time to be alone with your thoughts.

As you begin your walk, be mindful of the world around you. Notice the noises nearby. Are birds singing? Do you hear traffic?

Then, as you walk, tune in to sounds farther away. Can you make out specific sounds from the overall din of the soundscape?

Then turn the focus inward. Keeping your eyes gazed on the path ahead, become mindful of your breathing. What is the quality of your breath? Is it shallow? Are you breathing into your back? Just notice.

Then see if you can maintain a rhythm with the breath. Most of us will need to slow down our breathing. Focus on making the inhalation and exhalation approximately the same length. Keep this focus for a minute or two.

And all this time, you are still moving. You may notice that your walking pace has slowed. That is ok.

Breathe.

Now it is time to turn your focus to your thoughts.

Notice what thought bubbles up in your mind, acknowledge it, thank the thought, and let it go. Bring your awareness back to the breath.

Don’t become discouraged if your mind drifts away to another time and place. Find the breath and begin again.

Each time a random thought pops into your mind, notice it, thank it and let it go. Bring your focus back to the breath. See if you can stay in the present a little bit longer this time.

Keep walking, breathing, and noticing.

It’s a journey. Noticing our thought patterns and quieting our minds isn’t easy. But it’s worth it every step of the way.

Fitness

Daylight savings, meet early morning yoga

I have this dream that I wake up at 5am every morning and run down to the local yoga studio to take a 5:45am yoga class. In my dream I return home feeling awake, open and energetic, all before the rest of the family wakes up. We then gets ready for the day together, and I make it to work on time. I am an early riser, and I feel good.

Alas, it’s only a dream. The truth is that I’m not a morning person. I wake up most mornings between 6-7am because my 6-month-old is an early riser. Yet rising at 5am on a regular basis seems impossible. It’s a ridiculous mental block.

With the help of daylight savings, I am about to make my dream of early morning yoga a reality.  Here is the plan–starting on Monday, I’ll wake up at the same time, or what feels like 6am. Since our clocks move back one hour, it will actually be 5am. This extra hour will give me the kick in the pants I need to fit in a yoga practice at the beginning of the day.

I’m happy to use Daylight Savings as a convenient mind trick to add yoga back into my routine.

What are you doing with your extra hour of sleep this weekend?

Family, Simplify

Routine vs. Whimsy – Where do you Fall?

Do you find that you are  a person driven by routine or are you a bit more whimsical?

I had never thought about this much until I took a Myers-Briggs personality test when I first started college. That question jumped out at me. Of course I was whimsical. Wasn’t everybody? I loved adventure and never wanted today to be like yesterday.

Flash forward and now I am in a completely different life stage. Routines keep me sane. Since I am not a naturally routinized person, I unconsciously fought the implementation of family routines with all my might. But life as a Mom is a heck of a lot easier when things get done. Developing habits helps us make sure what needs to get done doesn’t fall through the cracks.

So which of the following resonates more with you?

1) Are you comforted when you find yourself engaged in routines day after day? Does the idea of stepping out of your routine seem a bit daunting?

OR

2) Does the idea of doing the same things every morning or evening seem difficult or impossible? Are you always down for a new adventure?

Are you more like #1 or #2? Somewhere in the middle?

You probably guessed that I am more like #2. I love last minute plans and seeing the potential possibilities in each new day.

Now that I am a Mom, I’m finding that life is much smoother when I stay true to my daily habits and only treat myself to whimsy once in awhile. Yet committing to routine day in and day out is still a struggle.

If you are a whimsical or adventurous person,  you feel my pain.

In order to simplify life with young kids, you need to have a plan and execute that plan to maintain consistency for them and some order for you. At least in our house, no one else is going to make sure we have clean clothes, food in the refrigerator, and bedtime rituals. And honestly, a consistent bedtime is hard for us to maintain because my husband is a lot like me. We get home from work and want to hang out with the family. Heck, we might even go on a small adventure after dinner. And then we look at the clock and try to rush through bedtime routines only to realize that our daughters are late for bed….again.

Sometimes being more organized and routinized will simplify your life. Like when you have kids.

Other times letting go and making do on a whim is the best way to peel back your life to the essential.

Honestly, I don’t think there is a right answer to the routine vs. whimsy question. Your particular life stage may require routine. Or your structured life may benefit from a dash of whimsy. As we move through life, we constantly have to adjust and find a new balance that works for our souls and our circumstances.

Health, Simplify

Giving Up Caffeine…for coffee lovers

How do you give up coffee when you love it, yet are extremely sensitive to its effects? I’ll tell you how I did it, but first a little background.

I love coffee. Seriously, it has been one of my favorite beverages for as long as I can remember.

My obsession began when I was just a little girl and my Grandma would serve me mini cups of coffee so I would feel just like the adults. No matter that my Mom didn’t agree. When I would stay overnight with my grandparents, in the morning my Grandma would serve me a child’s version of coffee, all kinds of watered down, and then lean in and whisper, “Don’t tell your parents.” And, of course, I didn’t. It was our delicious, fragrant little secret.

So I grew up secretly slurping coffee until I was a teenager and the love affair matured with the introduction to espresso. Oh, how I loved the zing of espresso. I frequented coffee houses and gulped down coffee drinks to stay alert and on task as I studied. Like many others, I drank coffee when working the swing shift. It didn’t take long until I was addicted.

And I fully embraced my caffeine addiction.

Well, until I started to notice some side effects. After much denial I realized that I needed to stop drinking so much of the stuff.

So I stopped cold turkey. After two days of caffeine headaches that felt like an ice pick stabbing my eye and a vice pressing my head, I slowly started to feel like a fully functional human being again. And I was completely caffeine free.

Yet when I don’t have coffee, I crave the taste and I linger over the smell.

After awhile, I decided to start drinking decaf to satiate my craving.

Some people can switch to decaf and call it good. Unfortunately, that hasn’t worked for me because I am extremely sensitive to caffeine, especially after going cold turkey for a couple of months.

For those of us with caffeine sensitivity, which basically means that our bodies are slow to metabolize the stuff, after one cup or less, our heart rates increase, our anxiety intensifies and we feel as wired as people who drink multiple cups. I noticed this happened to me even when I drank a decaf coffee or espresso. It was no bueno.

I learned that I had to give up caffeine altogether, including decaf.

It wasn’t easy, but I made it through.

Are you interested in giving up caffeine? Whether it is because of a personal decision or for health reasons, it is possible.

Here are some tips to help you give up coffee:

  • Use the taper off method. If you drink a lot of caffeine, consider reducing your intake slowly. Drink fewer cups of coffee every day until you are not drinking coffee at all. You can even replace a cup or two with decaf and then slowly wean from decaf. This method also seems to eliminate or reduce headaches for most people.
  • Going cold turkey is best when you have a few days to focus on you. If you decide to go cold turkey, consider giving up caffeine when you don’t have big plans scheduled over the next couple of days. Especially if you are a moderate to heavy drinker, the side effects may interfere with your daily tasks. Allow yourself to slow down and take it easy.
  • Embrace peer pressure. Tell your family, friends and co-workers when you decide to cut out caffeine. You will be surprised how many people will be happy to be part of your support system. They will cut you some slack for your general malaise and keep you accountable so you are less likely to slip up. Peer pressure is powerful. Embrace it.

Giving up anything you love isn’t easy, so be kind to yourself. Because I love coffee so much, I find that I often give up coffee for several months only to find myself drinking it again.

I thank my grandma for my love of coffee when I am savoring a cup in moments of weakness. When my heart palpitations return—as they always do—I give up coffee again following my tips above.

 

 

 

 

 

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