Category Archives: Health

Creating Space for Ourselves in a Busy World

Getting to watch the world anew through her eyes is pretty much all the inspiration I need to be intentional with my time.
Getting to watch the world anew through her eyes is all the inspiration I need to be more intentional with my time.

Lately my plate has piled up higher and higher. In an attempt to avoid full-time work outside the home, I’ve taken on a variety of part-time jobs. While the flexibility is awesome, it’s all too easy to get lost in the endless tasks I could (not necessarily should) be doing. Add in domestic responsibilities and the desire to be present with my ever-changing daughter and, well, parts of me are being left behind. Like writing. Like yoga. Like self-care.

So, here I am today making a sweeping declaration. I’m allowed to stop working (for the most part) on the weekends and do things like write even if writing doesn’t pay the bills. It’s okay to have a slightly messier house so I can go to yoga at least once a week. It’s not the end of the world if I’m occasionally not home for my daughter’s bedtime so I can meet up with other moms to write or actually go on a date with my husband.

Basically, I’ve realized I need to look at where I can let go so I can take care of myself. And, I know I’m not alone. We could all benefit from some honest reflection on how we use our time. In the spirit of creating more space for self-care, I offer you the list of journal questions I’m asking myself this afternoon.

  1. Responsibilities. Make a list of the responsibilities you have in life. What jobs do you have in and out of the home? What obligations do you honor with your friends, family and/or community?
  2. Set days/times for each responsibility to be met. I’ve fallen into the trap of allowing many of my responsibilities to wash over each other so I feel like I never get a break. While some obligations may not realistically be categorized into specific time slots, most can be limited to specific days and times. As a student and a teacher, I set up a schedule for myself and stuck to it. This afternoon I’m attempting to replicate the same approach to life as a mom/wife/teacher/entrepreneur/etc.
  3. Develop weekly/monthly/yearly goals for each responsibility. Keep it simple, but actually map out what you hope to accomplish this week/month/year for each of your responsibilities. Finding clarity in what you plan to achieve helps get rid of all the time wasters, (cough::: Facebook).
  4. Acknowledge your distractions. Actually make a list of your biggest distractions from each responsibility. While tools like social media are crucial to many of my roles, they can also be big time wasters. Recognizing this helps me free up time for more important priorities, like meeting bigger goals and actually having time for myself. My newest plan is to set a timer as a reminder to limit distractions.
  5. Acknowledge what brings you joy. Our responsibilities should ideally bring us joy. But what else makes you happy? Make a list of everything you enjoy doing in life, both work and recreation.
  6. Set weekly self-care commitments. Look at your joy list and figure out what you want to do for yourself on a regular basis. Examine your calendar of responsibilities and figure out a way to consistently schedule in time for things like exercise, meditation, creativity, friendship and romance. We all need personal time to prevent burn-out, stay healthy, and be present for the people in our lives.
  7. Allow space to be unproductive. I have a tendency to over-schedule myself and my family. It’s okay to have time not dedicated to anything in particular. We all need hours to lie around the house and get nothing “done.” Instead of feeling like this is wasted time, acknowledge the need to rest and just be as part of the critical ebb and flow needed to maintain momentum in a busy world.

Have anything else that belongs on this list for self-reflection? Please share– these questions have evolved out of conversations I’ve had over recent months and I’d love to hear your secrets too!

September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month

I will remember the night we spent in the pediatric wing of our local hospital for the rest of my life. E was just 4 days old and her jaundice had reached the highest level her pediatrician had ever treated. Not the best thing to tell first-time parents.

Even though we were reassured everything would be alright, my heart was ripped open. Here I was a mess of post-partum hormones being told I wouldn’t be able to hold my newborn baby while she cried in the glow of an artificial blue light. The nurses must have thought I was crazy. My tears just wouldn’t stop.

As I tried to settle into my fold-out chair for the night, my body still cramping in post-delivery discomfort, the sound of an emergency chime kept ringing in the hallway. Children in much worse states than my little girl needed immediate help. Quick footsteps and rushed voices repeated throughout the night. The urgency was palpable.

At some point in the early hours of the morning, worried about E’s persistence in peeling off her protective eye wear, I stumbled into the hallway in search of tape. The corridor was empty. Determined to find what I needed, I headed for the nurse’s station, but open doors caught my eye.

One stuck with me. The sock-covered feet of a mother who lay beside a crib, the room decorated with all kinds of items from home. These people lived in the hospital. A long-time patient, something seriously wrong. Suddenly my night of not being able to hold my baby became trivial.

It’s hard to think about sick kids but they’ve been on my mind a lot this week. A friend is raising money for a volunteer-run organization that directly funds innovative pediatric cancer research. Her friend lost her six-year-old daughter to a brain tumor.

After watching the video below, I couldn’t get the girl out of my thoughts. Her smiling, happy face. Her dancing in the midst of such darkness. Her mom wishing for just a couple more normal days filled with simple time together around the house.

September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month. Four days left. If you’d like to donate to the organization my friend volunteers for, click here. I already did and am also giving 10 busy bags to our local hospital. If you’d like to send me with more bags to keep sick kids busy, click here.

And, if nothing else, take this post as a reminder to appreciate the people you care about. Laugh and play. Love and gratitude. Simple enough.

July Fitness Challenge: A Worthwhile Fail

Turns out vacation wasn't the best time to start my challenge, but it was a good reminder that focusing on the people I love is just as important.
Turns out vacation wasn’t the best time to start my challenge, but it was a good reminder that focusing on the people I love is also rejuvenating.

July is over and so is my 10-minutes-a-day (yoga) challenge. I did great until it was time to leave for vacation and then I completely lost focus. Turns out traveling with a 16-month-old required a lot of energy. The ten minutes I had to myself were generally spent doing something more time sensitive, like eating or taking a shower or appreciating the people around me.

Even so, the challenge was successful in making me realize how even 10 minutes of exercise impacts my overall feeling of well being, and most days, the 10 minutes stretched into more. The small time commitment made it easier to get started. Now that I’m home again, I’m going to attempt to make 10 minutes part of my regular self-care routine, as opposed to a temporary challenge.

If you participated, how did your month go? Did you stick to it? If not, did you still get something positive out of it? Hope you’ll share.

And, if you kept at it all month, virtual high five.

Reclaiming my physical self 10 minutes at a time

When I was pregnant, I remember lamenting to a coworker how I couldn’t wait to have my body back to myself. I was thrilled to be having a baby, but I missed being able to move freely. All I wanted was to be able to run down the street at full speed or lie on my belly in bed. My coworker responded, “Oh, you won’t have your body back to yourself for a long time, you’re planning to nurse, right?”

And, she was right. Between recovering from pregnancy and nursing my daughter around the clock, my body didn’t feel so much like mine anymore. Of course, again, I didn’t really mind, but exercise became more sporadic, and my eating habits revolved more around feeding her than making myself feel healthy.

Fast forward two years from when I found out I was pregnant and it’s officially time to reclaim my physical self. In addition to wanting to be in optimum shape before I decide to have another little person sometime down the road, this week I accepted a part-time teaching job as a “games specialist” at a Waldorf charter school. While a little different than your traditional PE program, it will be my job to teach children to be physically fit, which in my mind also means I should be physically fit!

So, as I lay on my yoga mat yesterday evening and contemplated my course of action, I realized I should start small. 10 minute increments. I can claim to be too busy for a lot of things, but every single day should include 10 minutes of my own. The month before I got pregnant, I did a 30 day yoga challenge, so it only seems fitting to start where I left off and pick an activity I enjoy.

Beginning today and lasting through the month of July, I’m challenging myself to spend a minimum of 10 minutes a day doing yoga. Whenever possible, I hope to do more, but with 2.5 weeks of travel planned for July, I know 10 minutes is something I can realistically complete.

Will you join me? Do you have a favorite physical activity you can commit to for a minimum of 10 minutes a day? We can give each other virtual high fives on August 1 and feel more accomplished for squeezing a little extra health into every single day, no matter how busy we think we are, (and, hopefully, this will translate into a new life rhythm of more daily exercise).

If you need additional motivation, check out this article about how exercise makes you live longer or, if you’re a fellow yoga enthusiast, join me in following along to Adrienne’s 10 minute yoga video below as my day one pick, (Adrienne also has a fantastic series for 30 days of yoga if you enjoy her instruction). I find the hardest part about consistent exercise is getting started, so I’m hopeful to trick myself into action by committing to just 10 minutes at a time.

We all have 10 minutes somewhere, right?

Deleting Apps: Being Present in a Busy World

Realizing more and more that life is what's happening in front of me, not on my phone.
Realizing life is what’s happening in front of me, not on my phone.

Life is full. Between guest teaching part-time, polishing up my manuscript, and chasing a toddler, I’ve been busy. Fitting in time for exercise, cleaning the house, socializing, and just plain relaxing has gotten trickier.

As I lay on my yoga mat yesterday, it hit me that one of the biggest drains on my brain power is Facebook. While I have a limited amount of time to sit on the computer, time spent holding my cell phone is an entirely different matter. I manage to scroll through my Facebook feed while doing all sorts of things. Standing in line at the grocery store, riding as a passenger in the car, waiting for my lunch to be ready, the list goes on. It seems like I’ve managed to fit phone surfing into every cranny of my life, which got me thinking about brain patterns and the ability to just be still and present in any given moment.

I have the urge to check my phone multiple times an hour, and mostly it’s for Facebook notifications so I can see when people have posted to groups or respond to something I put up. Information I definitely don’t need in the middle of spending time with my daughter or going about daily life. Watching a mom peruse Facebook while pushing her child in a swing the other day really drove this point home.

Add in the possible health effects of cell phone usage and it seems obvious it’s just not worth the risk. So, this morning, after checking my phone three times in less than hour, I deleted Facebook. I’ll still use it on my computer (because, let’s face it, I also think it’s great for connecting with people), but my goal is to no longer pattern my thoughts around needing to check my phone for updates.

I’m hopeful life will feel more relaxing with extra moments in the day. So far, so good.