I recently attended a Pilates Conference sponsored by a leading equipment manufacturer, Balanced Body. In attendance were Pilates instructors from around the world. It was so amazing to be among enthusiast's sharing our passion for Pilates and helping others. With a desire to get a taste of the evolving repertoire and new ways to move on the reformer I signed up for a few intermediate/advanced master classes. Makes sense, doesn’t it? I’m a Pilates teacher who has been doing this specific type of functional movement for 7 years. Well, I was soon humbled by my first class. Unbeknownst to me during registration, this was a 90 minute class using a Pilates “Arc” on the reformer (image below).
With a fusion of my thoracic and lumbar spine, this “Arc” was NOT my friend. My back would never in my lifetime have the ability to extend over this prop. I was immediately faced by 2 choices: Option 1: An ego based, muscling through the workout on the Arc with obvious limitations and paying for it with an all too familiar muscle spasm and/or inflammation in my lower back for the rest of the day. OR Option 2: treating myself as I do with all of my client’s with limitations by showing empathy and compassion and perform effective variations WITHOUT the Arc. Truth be told, my ego won for the first few exercises and I quickly felt pain radiating down my back. That was all I needed to remind me of the importance of self-compassion and respecting my own limitations. I immediately hopped off the “!*!*!” Arc, found a foam roller and began gently applying massage to my muscles that were seizing up to protect my spine. Fortunately, I was able to course correct by revisiting my second option: share my limitations with the teacher and perform most of the class w/out the Arc.
Every class following this experience involved many exercises that I could not do without making significant modifications. This is the wonderful fact about Pilates! There are so many exercises, which can be performed with adjustments and assists to achieve the same result! At first, I felt like having a little pity party, for not having the ability to perform exercises as beautifully as most of the other students and impress the master teachers. Once I shifted my mindset to the positive and focused on lessons learned from the experience I actually felt a sense of gratitude for my limitations and for the gifts of empathy and compassion acquired because of them. When I shared with the instructors about my fusion they were more than accommodating and even used it as an opportunity to teach other student instructors how to work with a fused spine = )
Lessons from this experience I’d like to share:
- Don’t allow limitations prevent you from participating fully in your life.
- If there is something you are getting a nudge to try just show up! Allow yourself to feel the anxiety and discomfort of trying something new knowing it will pass. If you find that you aren’t enjoying the experience you can modify, take a break or just leave. It’s never too late to course-correct.
- Speak Up!
- Always practice self-compassion!
- Never compare yourself to others!
Thank you for reading = ) Now get out there and Rock What You've Got!
I found the following article which really resonated with me regarding making time for self-care. Enjoy!
In the circles that I run in, self-care is big. On the other hand, in American society at large self-care is fairly frowned upon. Long work weeks are expected, frivolities are considered unnecessary, and it’s selfish to spend time or money on yourself. Self-care is HARD, particularly in a climate where it’s not supported. Most of us tend to believe that we shouldn’t need to pamper ourselves, or that we’re only allowed to when things are falling apart. The way that many people view “me time” is to work yourself to the bone and then take one gigantic vacation that completely recharges your battery. Generally this is a really inefficient and bad plan that simply doesn’t work, so I’d like to first advocate for the necessity of self-care in all lives, second try to promote a more integrated and continuous model of self-care, and finally offer some tips and tricks that I have found effective.
So first and foremost, self-care is not about being selfish. It’s not about being self-absorbed. It’s not about putting yourself before everybody else. Self-care is about making sure that you’re taking care of your body and your mind and your senses so that you can function well. At the end of the day, the best way to give to other people or to be effective at your job or to be a good parent is to practice some self-care because it makes you more in tune with what you need, it gives you resources, and it helps you to have enough energy to do what you need to do. It’s like emotional fuel: you wouldn’t ask yourself to do a workout without eating, so you shouldn’t expect yourself to make it through a long day without some emotional energy.
Now what I’m not advocating is that we always put ourselves first and never help others, or that we spend all of our money pampering and spoiling ourselves. What I am advocating is that we take some time each day to do things that make us feel calm, soothed, and energized. I am advocating that we always take a balanced approach when we’re trying to help others: only give out of what you have. If someone asks you to listen and you are on your last legs, you’re allowed to say no. However if someone is looking like they’re down and you’re feeling really strong and positive, it might be good to go over and ask how you can help. Self-care can help you get in touch with when you feel you can help and when you can’t, which overall will make you more effective. Practicing regular self-care will not take up too much time in your life, but it will likely leave you feeling better and more capable at work and in your relationships.
In many circumstances, I think we all assume that if each one of us just takes care of someone else, then somehow we’ll all end up taken care of. Unfortunately that doesn’t work; someone always gets missed, or things are uneven, or energy gets lost in the transfer. The best person to take care of you on a daily basis is yourself, because you are the only person who knows what you are experiencing and feeling, and you’re the only one who can figure out what you want or need. You are the only one who’s there all the time, and you’re the best judge of what needs to happen.
In addition, it’s important for us to be relatively self-sufficient in terms of our emotional health. Obviously there are times when we can’t do this, but most of us wouldn’t like it if we had to ask someone else to plan and cook all our meals, make up our workouts for us, and feed us our pills. There are some people who have to do this and it creates a lot of strain in their relationships and often makes them frustrated and unhappy (there absolutely isn’t anything wrong with you if you’re in this situation, but I don’t think it’s what anyone strives for and we generally aim for independence in our caretaking). However with our emotional health we often expect other people to take full responsibility for it. I think it’s time we learn to take care of ourselves. Self care is exactly this: it’s learning to identify what you need and how to get it.
Overall, the benefits of self care are that we all will feel better and function better with some self-care, we can take care of ourselves better than anyone else, and we can be more self-sufficient if we practice self-care.
So hopefully now that I’ve convinced you that self-care is useful, I want to talk a little more about the style of self-care that I’m advocating. Sometimes it can be useful to do something big for yourself. One of my future self-care plans is to get a tattoo of the eating disorder recovery symbol, and for me that’s a huge piece of self-care. Taking a vacation can be self-care. But for the most part we already know about these larger things and we know how to do them. We generally view that as what we’re supposed to do: feel miserable all week long and then party hard on the weekend. I’ve never particularly understood this model and I think it sucks. Instead of only focusing on these larger things, I think we need to shift our focus to the day to day, because one big action only leaves you feeling better for so long.
Many of us worry about our relationship or our job or the large things that affect our lives and generally strive to improve these things, but we don’t stop to think about the actual texture of each day. That day to day texture, more than the ability to rattle off our successes, is what makes us happier individuals who are capable of contributing and caring. Improving the day to day can be incredibly difficult. We may not get to choose what projects we’re working on, or if our partner is having a rough day. What we can change is our self-care routine. We can allow ourselves that mocha every morning if it significantly impacts our happiness. We can take five minutes during our lunch break to focus on our breath and come back to the present. We can find a few things that really make a difference to us and make sure we schedule some time each and every day to do them. No excuses. And it’s also handy to have a longer list of slightly larger things in your back pocket for the bad days, so that you can manage.
So all of you are onboard, right? You’re all clamoring to start your self-care right this exact minute, but you’re sitting out there just like I was with no clue of what it means to soothe yourself or what will actually be effective in making yourself calmer. Partially you have to discover for yourself. Everybody’s a little different in what floats his or her boat, so I can’t tell you what exactly will work for you. Try some experimentation. For a few weeks try to incorporate something a little different each day. To get you started, here are some suggestions of things that work for me or that have worked for others. There are also lists galore on The Google, so if none of these things strike your fancy, you can venture out into the wide world of the internet. One thing to keep in mind is that many of these things might sound silly or trite at first. Keep an open mind. Some of the things that I dismissed most quickly the first few times around have been proving to be the most helpful.
Without further ado: Self-Care Tips
- The first thing I always suggest to people who are looking for ways to self-care is to start with the senses. I never realized before how closely emotions and physicality are tied together, but it’s amazing how quickly your emotions calm if you can calm down your body. So try to be good to your senses: they’re how you perceive the world. This can come in any number of forms, and will be very personal. You could buy something incredibly tasty once a week, and really take the time to savor it. I personally am a texture person, which means that I have a couple of very fuzzy blankets and a pair of footie pajamas so that if I’m having a rough day I can immediately sooth myself by touching something soft. Lighting a scented candle might be your thing. Taking a hot bath. Wearing comfortable clothes. Taking some time to look at cute kittens online in the middle of your day. Listening to music. Anything that engages your senses and brings you into the present moment, while also being calming.
- Moving your body can be GREAT, especially if you work a desk job. If you can get out and go for a short walk, your body can feel a lot better.
- Reading a book for pleasure.
- If you’re a fidgeter, get some silly putty or something similar. You can likely have it with you at work, and just use it if things start to get stressful.
- Giving yourself permission to say no, or to skip something if it won’t make you happy and if you don’t have the energy. Particularly if you’re someone who has an overloaded schedule and some of the things on it are supposed to be fun, don’t go if it won’t make you happy.
- Do yourself the favor of trying to take care of your body. Get enough sleep (THIS IS SO IMPORTANT I CAN’T EVEN SAY IT ENOUGH), eat regularly and try to be fairly healthy (that doesn’t mean cutting out delicious things), try to exercise some, take whatever meds you’re on but don’t take non-prescription things. It is amazing what doing these basic things can mean for your emotional well-being.
- Spend time with people you like. Talk to them.
- Art can be really helpful, in whatever form this means to you. Exercising your creative drive feels GREAT. Painting, playing music, writing, going to a play…let yourself experience art. I can no longer go a day without writing, and if I tried I would go CRAZY.
- For a little extra, added pampering, something like a massage is wonderful. For the menfolks out there, I know that this might damage your manpride, but pedicures are also fantastic. You get a little foot massage and you feel lovely afterwards. Related to this, getting a new haircut or something to make yourself feel extra spiff are great.
- Dress up. Or dress down. This one really is about personal preference. If it makes you feel a little more springy to put on a cute dress, then GO FOR IT. If, on the other hand, you’re sick of having to wear clothes that are uncomfortable, then wear sweatpants for a day (as you are capable). Particularly when it comes to dressing up, don’t let anyone shame you for how you dress. If you’re overdressed, then OWN IT. It doesn’t matter. Just smile and tell anyone who asks that you wanted to dress up for yourself.
- Let yourself watch shitty TV with no guilt. Every Friday is bride night on TLC, which means Say Yes to the Dress. Guess where you can find me every Friday night? Guess how much shame I feel over that? Exactly 0. Now sometimes parking in front of the TV can leave you feeling pretty shitty, but consciously choosing to watch something you enjoy is different from just falling into the routine of sitting in front of the TV and channel surfing.
- For those who may be on the higher anxiety side, or have diagnoses, or even just those who have a tendency to get lost in their own heads, it can be good to pull yourself back to reality. This isn’t exactly self-care, but it is a practice of regularly taking care of your emotions. There are a number of suggestions as alternatives for cutting, and I think they can be fairly effective for anyone who feels anxiety or who wants to use negative coping techniques. They include things like holding on to an ice cube, drawing on yourself, flicking your wrist with a rubber band, or take a cold shower.
- Mindfulness! Meditation! This was one of those things that I was skeptical of at first. It seems very woo woo, I know. But there are evidence-based mindfulness techniques, and you could join a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction group, or simply look up some of those techniques online. These are great ways to recharge a little, or simply calm your mind.
I have hooked my wagon to the study of procrastination. As often as I like to pat myself on the back for my compulsive"business" and list checking, I still find myself putting off more important things that take up way too much head space and create unnecessary anxiety. As I was listening to a podcast interview of an expert/author on the topic I had a total "aha" moment as the author broke down the emotional aspects and behaviors which mask procrastination. For this month's blog I am featuring an article on dealing with Procrastination. To listen to the podcast visit this webpage: http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=40669
As Maria Robinson once said, “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” Nothing could be closer to the truth. But before you can begin this process of transformation you have to stop doing the things that have been holding you back.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Stop spending time with the wrong people. – Life is too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you. If someone wants you in their life, they’ll make room for you. You shouldn’t have to fight for a spot. Never, ever insist yourself to someone who continuously overlooks your worth. And remember, it’s not the people that stand by your side when you’re at your best, but the ones who stand beside you when you’re at your worst that are your true friends.
- Stop running from your problems. – Face them head on. No, it won’t be easy. There is no person in the world capable of flawlessly handling every punch thrown at them. We aren’t supposed to be able to instantly solve problems. That’s not how we’re made. In fact, we’re made to get upset, sad, hurt, stumble and fall. Because that’s the whole purpose of living – to face problems, learn, adapt, and solve them over the course of time. This is what ultimately molds us into the person we become.
- Stop lying to yourself. – You can lie to anyone else in the world, but you can’t lie to yourself. Our lives improve only when we take chances, and the first and most difficult chance we can take is to be honest with ourselves. Read The Road Less Traveled.
- Stop putting your own needs on the back burner. – The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much, and forgetting that you are special too. Yes, help others; but help yourself too. If there was ever a moment to follow your passion and do something that matters to you, that moment is now.
- Stop trying to be someone you’re not. – One of the greatest challenges in life is being yourself in a world that’s trying to make you likeeveryone else. Someone will always be prettier, someone will always be smarter, someone will always be younger, but they will never be you. Don’t change so people will like you. Be yourself and the right people will love the real you.
- Stop trying to hold onto the past. – You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading your last one.
- Stop being scared to make a mistake. – Doing something and getting it wrong is at least ten times more productive than doing nothing. Every success has a trail of failures behind it, and every failure is leading towards success. You end up regretting the things you did NOT do far more than the things you did.
- Stop berating yourself for old mistakes. – We may love the wrong person and cry about the wrong things, but no matter how things go wrong, one thing is for sure, mistakes help us find the person and things that are right for us. We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past. But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future. Every single thing that has ever happened in your life is preparing you for a moment that is yet to come.
- Stop trying to buy happiness. – Many of the things we desire are expensive. But the truth is, the things that really satisfy us are totally free – love, laughter and working on our passions.
- Stop exclusively looking to others for happiness. – If you’re not happy with who you are on the inside, you won’t be happy in a long-term relationship with anyone else either. You have to create stability in your own life first before you can share it with someone else. Read Stumbling on Happiness.
- Stop being idle. – Don’t think too much or you’ll create a problem that wasn’t even there in the first place. Evaluate situations and take decisive action. You cannot change what you refuse to confront. Making progress involves risk. Period! You can’t make it to second base with your foot on first.
- Stop thinking you’re not ready. – Nobody ever feels 100% ready when an opportunity arises. Because most great opportunities in life force us to grow beyond our comfort zones, which means we won’t feel totally comfortable at first.
- Stop getting involved in relationships for the wrong reasons. – Relationships must be chosen wisely. It’s better to be alone than to be in bad company. There’s no need to rush. If something is meant to be, it will happen – in the right time, with the right person, and for the best reason. Fall in love when you’re ready, not when you’re lonely.
- Stop rejecting new relationships just because old ones didn’t work. – In life you’ll realize that there is a purpose for everyone you meet. Some will test you, some will use you and some will teach you. But most importantly, some will bring out the best in you.
- Stop trying to compete against everyone else. – Don’t worry about what others are doing better than you. Concentrate on beating your own records every day. Success is a battle between YOU and YOURSELF only.
- Stop being jealous of others. – Jealousy is the art of counting someone else’s blessings instead of your own. Ask yourself this: “What’s something I have that everyone wants?”
- Stop complaining and feeling sorry for yourself. – Life’s curveballs are thrown for a reason – to shift your path in a direction that is meant for you. You may not see or understand everything the moment it happens, and it may be tough. But reflect back on those negative curveballs thrown at you in the past. You’ll often see that eventually they led you to a better place, person, state of mind, or situation. So smile! Let everyone know that today you are a lot stronger than you were yesterday, and you will be.
- Stop holding grudges. – Don’t live your life with hate in your heart. You will end up hurting yourself more than the people you hate. Forgiveness is not saying, “What you did to me is okay.” It is saying, “I’m not going to let what you did to me ruin my happiness forever.” Forgiveness is the answer… let go, find peace, liberate yourself! And remember, forgiveness is not just for other people, it’s for you too. If you must, forgive yourself, move on and try to do better next time.
- Stop letting others bring you down to their level. – Refuse to lower your standards to accommodate those who refuse to raise theirs.
- Stop wasting time explaining yourself to others. – Your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe it anyway. Just do what you know in your heart is right.
- Stop doing the same things over and over without taking a break. – The time to take a deep breath is when you don’t have time for it. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting. Sometimes you need to distance yourself to see things clearly.
- Stop overlooking the beauty of small moments. – Enjoy the little things, because one day you may look back and discover they were the big things. The best portion of your life will be the small, nameless moments you spend smiling with someone who matters to you.
- Stop trying to make things perfect. – The real world doesn’t reward perfectionists, it rewards people who get things done. Read Getting Things Done.
- Stop following the path of least resistance. – Life is not easy, especially when you plan on achieving something worthwhile. Don’t take the easy way out. Do something extraordinary.
- Stop acting like everything is fine if it isn’t. – It’s okay to fall apart for a little while. You don’t always have to pretend to be strong, and there is no need to constantly prove that everything is going well. You shouldn’t be concerned with what other people are thinking either – cry if you need to – it’s healthy to shed your tears. The sooner you do, the sooner you will be able to smile again.
- Stop blaming others for your troubles. – The extent to which you can achieve your dreams depends on the extent to which you take responsibility for your life. When you blame others for what you’re going through, you deny responsibility – you give others power over that part of your life.
- Stop trying to be everything to everyone. – Doing so is impossible, and trying will only burn you out. But making one person smile CAN change the world. Maybe not the whole world, but their world. So narrow your focus.
- Stop worrying so much. – Worry will not strip tomorrow of its burdens, it will strip today of its joy. One way to check if something is worth mulling over is to ask yourself this question: “Will this matter in one year’s time? Three years? Five years?” If not, then it’s not worth worrying about.
- Stop focusing on what you don’t want to happen. – Focus on what you do want to happen. Positive thinking is at the forefront of every great success story. If you awake every morning with the thought that something wonderful will happen in your life today, and you pay close attention, you’ll often find that you’re right.
- Stop being ungrateful. – No matter how good or bad you have it, wake up each day thankful for your life. Someone somewhere else is desperately fighting for theirs. Instead of thinking about what you’re missing, try thinking about what you have that everyone else is missing.
Excellent scientific and understandable article on habit change. Understanding how the brain processing habit development and change could be the key to a happier and healthier YOU!
Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo isn't actually Mexico's Independence Day (it's September 16, for the record). Instead, the fifth of May memorializes the triumph of the underdog Mexican army over French forces at the Battle of Puebla. But enough history lessons — are you ready to party like it's 1862? In the United States and the region around Puebla, Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is a day to fete Mexican heritage and history with plenty of tasty food, friends, and of course, margaritas. From drinks to dessert, here are 10 recipes to celebrate the healthy way. Copy and paste link below for details and beautiful presentations of these recipes.
The following blog posted by Nichol Nichols in the Daily Spark (dailyspark.com) resonated with me. Not only did I once share this perspective (delaying happiness) I hear it way too often. People look at me like I'm out of my mind when I ask them to love and accept their bodies where they are. My hope is that this blog will inspire you to find beauty, gratitude and acceptance TODAY.
The Secret to Loving Your Body Isn't Losing Weight
But many people who have lost any significant amount of weight will probably be quick to tell you that even as a thinner person, life doesn't change that much. You may have lost weight—and that's great for a lot of reasons—but you are likely the same person with the same outlook, same personality, same level of overall happiness. Weight loss alone won't cure you of your body hatred, your lack of confidence, your shy personality or your low self-esteem.
I battled body hatred for many years. It compelled me to diet and exercise until I lost too much weight. I liked the attention I received, but my life really didn't change in any significant way. I still didn't feel like I still was good enough.
On the flipside, I gained back all the weight I had lost and then some to reach my all time heaviest weight. For a while, I felt worse about myself than ever. My confidence level and self-worth was very much wrapped up in my weight. Although I slowly (painstakingly!) lost the excess pounds over the course of several years, it wasn't weight loss that changed my outlook. In fact, I began to love myself at my heavier weight which is something I never thought possible, and these days, I'm trimmer and fitter than my heavier self of year's past, but I'm nowhere near the ultra-thin body I once achieved. Still, I'm happier with my body than ever.
When it comes to loving—and accepting—your body, weight really has little to do with it. In fact, research shows that one key ingredient can help you improve your body image and confidence regardless of your size.
What has really helped me appreciate, accept and love my body is exercise. Working out regularly helps me feel strong and powerful. It makes me feel capable and accomplished in a way that almost nothing else in my life has ever affected me. It drives me to work harder, to be a better person, to always be improving myself—inside the gym and outside. It inspires me to reach new goals, which helps me build a work ethic and increased confidence as I reach more milestones. It has given me access to the exclusive club of "exercisers" who "get" each other. I love the simple look, head nod and small wave that runners exchange on the street, which to me always says, "I'm in the club, too. Thanks for showing up today. You rock."
And as I get stronger, faster, fitter, better…I stand taller, feel better about myself and appreciate all that my body has achieved. It propels me to take better care of it. I want this body to carry me through life stronger and healthier. I don't care what I weigh, but I do care how much weight I can lift and how many miles I can run. That says so much more about who I am and what I'm worth than any stupid scale can ever tell me. I don't care what I look like while I'm doing these things—just that I show up and try my hardest.
My experience with exercise has been an education is self-care and body awe. When you put the work in, you do see changes and improvements. It's a virtuous cycle that feeds on itself. You exercise. You feel good. You take better care of yourself. You appreciate your body. You lose weight, or maybe you don't, but either way, you feel good about yourself, so you keep on going. Eventually, the weight takes care of itself. For me, loving myself was the key to losing weight.
Some research shows that even without changing a person's weight, exercise alone can help people feel better about themselves and improve their confidence. That's a win in my book! Why? Because when you feel good, you take care of yourself, and you do more healthy things for your body that ultimately result in settling into your healthy weight.
Do you agree? Does exercise improve your confidence and body image or are you still stuck on the scale?
- There is the blamer, who lays blame on everyone else without ever taking any responsibility.
- The guilt trippers use shame to get what they want.
- Jealous bees can never genuinely feel happiness for anyone else.
- Then there are the insecure ones, who pull others down to their level of low self-esteem.
- The fun haters seem unable to embrace joy. The bullies stomp on the little guys to elevate their egos.
- The Debbie downers, the whiners, the short-tempers, the gossipers, the drama queens, and the list goes on…
- If your relationship with a person has changed, did it get better or worse?
- Can you wholeheartedly trust that person with your dreams, fears, secrets, or your heart?
- Do you feel valued, loved, balanced, and supported?
- How would you describe the quality of energy exchange? Is it an equal exchange or one-sided?
- Can you truly be yourself without fear of being judged, mocked, or ridiculed?
- If someone drains you, explore the root cause of your attachment and ask: Can the relationship dynamic shift?
- And then you’ve got a decision to make: keep the relationship going… or not?
We are getting into the holiday season and with competing demands on our time we need to be extra vigilant on taking time for self care. I found the following review very helpful when discussing options with training and wellness coaching clients. The application I am currently testing out is Lose It and have to say am VERY impressed. It actually makes tracking pretty fun! For those who are motivated by numbers this stuff is right up your wellness ally! Happy tinkering!