Monthly Archives: April 2015

How to Be a Tortoise Instead of a Hare

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turtleI was talking just this morning with Genna Mori about how women of our generation are a nation of do-ers. We think that if we're not do-ing, we're not good enough. We must do until we drop!

The problem with that notion is that we are suffering for it – we're depressed, we're tired, we're burned out, we're sick and tired of being sick and tired.

My challenge for you today is this: What would your day look like if you decided to be a Tortoise instead of a Hare? If you took things a little slower, tried to Do a little less? It might freak you out at first, but I bet by the end of the day, you'd feel a lot more accomplished and relaxed.

So how does one be a Tortoise? Here are my top tips:

  1. Take the time to prioritize daily objectives.Each morning before I start working, I ask myself, “What are the 3 most important things I need to do today?” Then I focus on those 3 things. Yes, interruptions will occur, but I find if I write them down and put them by my computer, it helps me remember what I am supposed to be focusing on.    
  2. Cut internet use by half. I complain about not having enough time to do the things I want to do, but I also spend way too much time on email and Facebook. A friend of mine suggested I close out my email account when I’m working so I don’t get distracted. Ditto with Facebook. And now without the constant notifications pinging at me, my work space is much quieter, which makes it easier to concentrate!
  3. Enjoy nature. I try to get outside every day – especially when it’s nice out. A mid-day quick stroll or a few minutes in my backyard at the end of the day go a long way to restoring my sanity.
  4. Eat Slower. Ever eat in the car while driving? Yeah, me too – and it gave me indigestion. I try to eat my meals away from my desk so I can enjoy my food (and my stomach feels better too!)
  5. Connect with family and friends. I’m not talking about Facebook either. I’m talking about one-on-one time when you can actually enjoy each other’s company, sans smart phones.
  6. Make time for yourself. Yeah, yeah, yeah. “But I don’t have time for myself.” Yes, you do. Cut down on Facebook by 10 minutes a day and do something relaxing for you.
  7. Give yourself more time. Some of us like to stick to a tight schedule and plan all our daily events. Next time you’re jotting down new tasks in your planner, try to factor in a few extra minutes when estimating how long things will take. This will help you not rush through daily tasks.
  8. Take the scenic route. Hate rush hour? Me too. So I drive the ‘long’ scenic way to work. It’s so much more refreshing than sitting in traffic.
  9. Sit for a moment with your eyes closed when you start your computer. I start each day in prayer. I ask for guidance. I ask for God/Goddess/Universe to guide my thoughts, sight, words, voice, heart, hands, and body. And then, and only then, do I start working.
  10. Remember your goals and aspirations. Create a vision board. Look at it every day and figure out how you can get one step closer to your goals.

Now isn’t that a better way to live?

What Does Awakening Your Inner Goddess Have to Do with Your Hormones?

By | Body Love, Goddess Wisdom, Wisdom Blog | 4 Comments

Woman Standing on ScaleThat's a good question.

I did a podcast interview last week and we were talking about the fact that I help women of all ages, but most of my clients – even in my 30 days to BodyLove Program – are perimenopausal women (mid-30s to mid-50s). The interviewer asked me why so many women in that age range struggled with body image. I told him it had to do with their hormones. Which is when he asked, “What does awakening your inner goddess have to do with your hormones?”

Here's the deal. Depression is more common in times of hormonal change like menarche and menopause due to the changes in our reproductive hormone levels during that time. For many women, this depression can lead to the breakdowns and break throughs that help them re-establish their connection with their inner goddess. Perimenopausal and menopausal women are also prone to developing body image dissatisfaction and eating disorders as they become more depressed about their appearance and are more likely to report feeling fat. In particular women aged 40-60 are especially vulnerable to bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, and eating disorder not otherwise specified (e.g., compensatory (purging) behaviors for weight loss in the absence of full eating binges and despite normal weight, chewing and spitting out food), as they tend to both use food to cope and withhold food as punishment for being ‘fat.’

To top it all off, our high activity levels in childhood make most of us able to “get away with” eating foods that probably are not the healthiest options. Then sometime in our late teens or early twenties we realize that we aren’t “getting away with it” anymore. Pounds start to accumulate around the middle, commonly called the middle aged spread (although it starts in the 20s for most people – and, thanks to my hormones, it started in high school for me!), and we wonder where we went wrong.

So what does awakening your inner goddess have to do with your body image and your hormones – and even your weight? As it turns out, just about everything!

Of course, the question then becomes: Okay, I can blame my hormones. Now what? Tune in next week as I start to unravel the answers to that question.

Meditation 101

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meditationThe minute the gong sounds on my favorite meditation, I start relaxing. By the time my 10-, 20-, or 30-minute session is over, I am relaxed, rested, and ready to face my day.

 

But it wasn’t always this way. For the past several years, I made a New Year’s Goal of meditating for 20 minutes once a day. This year, for the first time, I actually realized my goal and consistently maintain it. I meditate first thing every morning for 10-20 minutes and again at night for 20 minutes.

 

What does it do for me? In a nutshell, it calms me down. Having suffered from anxiety most of my life, I am constantly looking for ways to reduce anxiety that don’t involve popping a pill. Suffering from anxiety is kind of like being a hamster on one of those little spinning wheels. Your brain never seems to slow down. As a result, your body never slows down either – it’s constantly in fight-or-flight mode. While that might actually be helpful in a life-or-death kind of situation, few of us actually find ourselves in one of those these days. Instead, our minds and bodies are constantly gearing up for the “big threat” that never actually comes. Not too good for the body. Or the mind. Meditation can stop anxiety in its tracks by stopping the fight-or-flight response . A big plus for an anxiety sufferer like me.

So how do you start? There are a variety of ways you can meditate. Some work better for me than others.

 

  • Meditating on the breath – This is the most basic type of meditation and one that is easy to learn. It’s as simple as breathing, literally. Begin by focusing on the breath. Where do you feel it in the body? The chest? The belly? If it helps, you can count your inhalations and exhalations. See if you can make it all the way to 10 before your mind wanders off.

 

  • Mindfulness meditation – If your meditation practice feels like an exercise in torture, mindfulness meditation might be a good option for you. Mindfulness meditation is a simple observation – of your breath, your thoughts, the way your body hurts when you sit on your meditation cushion. There’s no judgment here. It’s more of a, “Huh. Would you look at that? There I go thinking about the fight I had with my ex again. Isn’t that interesting?” I like this form of meditation because it allows you to detach from the emotions behind what you’re feeling. You’re a third party to your life for just a little while. Pretty cool, huh?

 

  • Guided visualization – There are a variety of guided visualizations out there. These are another great option if you’re trying to quiet your monkey mind. Basically, the visualization leads you through a journey, giving you something to focus on besides your unruly thoughts.

 

  • Heartbeat meditation – This one is similar to focusing on the breath, except instead of focusing on your breathing, you focus on the sound or feeling of your heart beating.

 

  • Candle meditation – If you are a visual person, having an object to focus on can help you calm down and redirect your attention. Simply light a candle (or any object that would hold your interest for a few minutes), sit about a foot away, and keep your eyes and mind on the candle flame. Watch it dance and play. Now switch your attention to the floor or wall behind the candle. Can you see the reflection/shadow of the candle flame? How is it similar or different from the actual flame?

 

Meditating, like anything else, takes practice. I still have days where my mind refuses to settle down, and that’s okay. The point is to show up and keep trying.

 

If you’re saying to yourself, “But I don’t have time to meditate,” think again. Start small – we’re talking 5 minutes. Who doesn’t have 5 minutes? And if you’re thinking about saying, “I don’t,” then find 5 minutes of another activity you can give up. Checking email? Getting on Facebook? Watching TV? I promise your 5 minutes will be much better invested in meditating than in any of those other activities.

I noticed the effects immediately upon starting meditation. Within 2 months, I was able to half the dosage of my anxiety meds. Within 6 months, I halved the dose again. I hope to be off of them altogether by the end of the year. I think I can spare 5 minutes for that.

Is Food Your Coping Mechanism?

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5262932_sHave you ever had the following thought? “Food is my best friend and my worst enemy.” A recent national survey found that half of Americans report more stressed than they felt five years ago and 43% use food to cope. Emotional eating is one of the hallmarks of hormonal imbalance for women in their mid-30s through mid-50s and nearly every woman I see experiences it at some level.

Why do women emotionally eat? Many women are chronically stressed; this means they suffer from higher levels of cortisol. Thanks to all that cortisol, when we’re under stress, we tend to crave foods that are high in sugar and fat as our bodies are trying to store calories to help us prepare to fight or flee. Of course the problem is that you usually can’t fight or flee from whatever your stressor is (e.g., lost keys, waiting for the cable repairman).

So when it comes down to it, we are biologically driven to eat foods that help us ‘cope’ in ineffective ways. We don’t realize this, though. All we know is that we want chocolate and we want it now.

From a psychological perspective, emotional eating usually falls into one of two categories: avoidant or emotion-focused coping. Avoidant coping is just what the name implies – you avoid dealing with the stressor. Eating when you are stressed so you don’t have to deal with the problem is an example of avoidant coping using food. As you might imagine, avoidant coping is rarely effective as the problem is still going to be there once you’ve stopped eating.

Emotion-focused coping using food can be equally ineffective. When we engage in emotion-focused coping, we are attempting to make ourselves feel better by addressing the emotions the stressor provoked rather than the stressor itself. So if you get in a fight with your significant other and, instead of talking it out, decide to comfort your hurt feelings by consuming a chocolate cake, that would be an example of emotion-focused coping using food. Again, not super helpful in this situation. While you might feel better after eating (or not – you might feel guilty if you ate something you have labeled as “bad” or eaten too much), you still haven’t fixed your problem.

You see where I’m going with this, right? Most of the time our problems are within our control to fix – cortisol, be damned – and eating is likely not going to help. Thus, what we should be doing is focusing on how to fix our problems. That’s where problem-focused coping comes in. As the name implies, the basic premise of problem-focused coping is this: “Have a problem? Fix it.” So if you have a fight with your significant other, wait a little bit to calm down and then go back and talk it out. Don’t turn to food to comfort yourself because that’s not actually addressing the problem.

I know, I know. That sounds great, but how can you make that change? I’m going to warn you: it’s not going to happen overnight. If you’ve been turning to food as your primary coping mechanism for 40 years, you can’t expect it to go away overnight. I wish it was that simple, but for most of us, it’s not. After all, we have biologically trained ourselves to crave our comfort foods.

So what should you do?

Step one : re-evaluate your response to stress. As I said earlier, most of our problems are fixable and most of them are within our control. So very first thing you need to do is Stop. Right when you begin to feel yourself getting stressed out, Stop for just one minute. Then ask yourself, “Is this going to kill me?” The answer to that question is likely no. Then you move onto the next question:  “What can I do about it?” That brings us to…

Step two: take a deep breath. Do it again. When our bodies are all wound up, it can be very hard to focus on what to do right now to fix your problem. It works best if you can stop that stress response in its tracks by giving your body the cues it needs that the stressor has passed (no stressor, no food cravings). As deep breathing is counteractive to gearing up to fight or flee, it can be an effective way to calm down enough that you can actually deal with the problem.

Step three: decide HOW to cope. Yes, it’s up to you. While it may seem like it happens automatically, it only happens this way if you don’t give yourself any other option other than to act in a way you’ve previously dealt with that stressor. In other words, if you’ve conditioned yourself to eat chocolate cake every time you fight with your spouse, the next time you fight with your spouse, guess what? You’re going to find yourself automatically reaching for that chocolate cake. Unless you give your body, and mind, permission to do something else. In the meantime, know that you DO have a choice in the matter.

 

What Does It Mean to Nourish Your Body Temple?

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Midlife-woman-close-up-300x200Growing up, “nourishment” meant eating whatever Mom fixed. As I was raised on the standard American diet, that usually meant some kind of meat, maybe a vegetable, and some bread. All of that was fine and good, but what I really wanted was dessert – and my glass of milk. If I could have lived on milk and dessert, I would have been a happy camper!

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that nourishing yourself is so much more than what you eat. It’s how you treat yourself in every aspect of your life. How you talk to yourself and about yourself to others. How you take care of yourself at a very basic level. What it really boils down to for so many women is their self-worth.

Here’s the thing. I used to think that I nourished myself. I mean, I ate. Not always high quality food, but back then food was food. So I should have been good to go, right?

No. What I’ve come to realize is that by “nourishing” myself with fast food or whatever’s cheap or on sale at the grocery store isn’t nourishment at all. Furthermore, settling for what’s cheap or available sends the message that you’re not worth nourishment.

Think about it. If you’re going through the drive through at McDonalds to grab lunch (which I used to do on a regular basis in my 20s), you’re sending yourself and your body the message that the dollar meal at McDonalds is all your worth. Even worse, you’re not even worth sitting down for an actual meal. No, you’ve got to eat and run, so to speak, so you won’t be late for your next meeting. No wonder I had so much digestive distress in my 20s!

So what does it mean to nourish yourself? Here’s what it means to me:

  • Eat 5-6 high quality meals per day with lots of veggies and fruit to keep my blood sugar stable and hormones happy
  • Unplug each night no later than 7pm (preferably 6pm) so I can relax and unwind from my day – I love to read each night before I go to bed (and work-related reading doesn’t count! It’s got to be something I enjoy that relaxes me)
  • Do some sort of movement everyday – usually yoga and some sort of fitness class (Fitmania Bootcamp is my favorite right now)
  • Get 8 hours of sleep each night
  • Treat myself to one self-care appointment each week (e.g., massage, yoga class, hair cut)
  • Talk to or spend time with girlfriends every week
  • Reach out to friends and family and ask for help when I need it
  • Show myself the same respect I would show a loved one – I still struggle with this one
  • Get out in nature some every day – I like to take my dog for walks morning and night in the foothills
  • Meditate every day – usually morning and night

My list may or may not resonate with you. These are just a sample of things that I have learned nourish me on a daily basis. And I am so worth it and so are you!

What’s on your “nourishment” list?

Featured GODDESS: Hera

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heraHera

Queen of the Gods

“You are the Queen of your own domain; you are your own sovereign ruler. Let no one take this power away from you.”

 

 

Traits Hera Embodies:

  • The Gift of Prophecy
  • Wisdom
  • Decision Making
  • Love
  • Independence

 

How to call on Hera:

Queen of the Olympian Gods and Goddesses, Hera was both sister and wife to Zeus (this was not a problem for the Ancient Greeks and Romans). She was his closest confidant and best friend, and was also fiercely loyal and protective of those she considered under her watch. Call upon Hera when you need to remember your own power. For she will remind you that no one can take your power from you – you can give it away and you can call it back.

 

Prayer to Hera:

Hera, Queen of the Gods and Goddess,

Mistress of Olympus,

Here my Prayer!

I ask for your help with [explain situation].

Please help me take back my power and use it for the highest good of all.

Please help me remember my sovereignty, my independence, my strength and wisdom.

In this I pray, thank you, Great Queen!

 

 

Tribute to Hera:

The best way to honor Hera is to not give your power away and to help other women do the same. That said, the cow, lion and the peacock were her familiars, so consider abstaining from beef or visiting a zoo to pay tribute to her sacred animal totems.