Mental health & trying to keep it together

photo by j parker photography

This post is for when you feel like life is getting the best of you.

I ran into a colleague of mine recently while I was working at a coffee shop, and he encouraged me to write this post on mental health – how to keep it together when it feels like you have too many things going on (he’s getting his doctoral degree). I’ve written about that sort of thing before, but I’ve never really written a “how to” post. I certainly don’t have a magic recipe or a button to push to make all of life’s hard things disappear.  But I’m always happy to share my own experiences and give advice, so this post is about what always works for me when I’m feeling way too overloaded. These tips have gotten me through graduate school, juggling several jobs, heartache, loss, and more.

This new school year is already proving to be a challenge for me. I can’t seem to keep my head above water and every day is a constant to-do list that doesn’t even get halfway accomplished. Clubs, department chair, budget, committees, lesson plans and grading – I have never been this behind on grading so early on. On top of that, add a second job, keeping up with this blog, trying to exercise, 2 dogs, friends, family, etc…you get the picture. I’m sure you also have your own list! I really started to feel overwhelmed this week and even as I sit here, I’m trying to squeeze in writing a blog post after school before leaving for my second job at the pub. SO. I am also writing this post as a reminder to myself of the steps I need to take so I can keep my sanity and not completely fall apart.

People frequently ask me how I’m always so positive, happy, upbeat, etc. or tell me that I always seem “put together.” I’ve gotten that comment (compliment!) a lot in my life, and I can guarantee you that I do not always have it together – I’m just really good at faking it ’til I make it! But I do tend to stay pretty positive and I try to look at life’s hardships as a growing process and as problems with solutions, rather than letting them ruin my life. Here are the steps I take when life is really sticking it to me and I feel like I’m about to explode:

1. Take a breath. The cheesiest, most overused cure on the planet – but if people would just take a second and actually breathe in and out a few times, the world would probably definitely be a much better place. Breathing does a few things, and there is a lot of science behind it, but I’ll save that for another time because I know I can get long-winded (see what I did there?). Breathing gives you a few moments between stimulus and response:  The moment something “happens to you” and however you decide to react to it. If you’re taking a few moments to just breathe in and out, you are saving yourself from overreacting, saying something you’ll regret later, breaking something, etc. You have a few seconds to think about how you want to respond. Doing this simple task – breathing – and being aware of it, has literally changed my life and my whole outlook on it.

2. Allow yourself to wallow – but not for long. It is okay to feel overwhelmed and upset. It is okay to feel like life isn’t fair sometimes, or like you don’t deserve “all of this,” whatever “this” is for you. I get it. So take that time to really get a good “Dang, this sucks” moment in for yourself, and then remind yourself that you are done feeling sorry for yourself because you have mountains to move. At some point you have to dust yourself off and start making a plan. You just have to. Otherwise, you’ll get stuck in the dark place, and that is a hard place to pull yourself out of.

3. Distance yourself from whatever you need to. Give yourself space. Remember up there in #1, where I talked about stimulus and response? We often respond too quickly to a situation, a conversation, or a moment of frustration without giving it some time and space for thinking about it. If it’s school, work, social problems, whatever it might be, give yourself some distance. Physically walk away from whatever it is and take a break. Get some air, think about your feelings, all that good stuff. Weigh your options and then respond/act once you’ve been able to process everything. I wrote more about that here.

4. Vent to a non-judgmental ear. Sometimes we just need to get it out. Find that person that can listen to you without reminding you later what you said when you were stressed out. A sounding board that can understand you’re just having a moment and need someone to say, “I hear you,” and not, “I told you so.” Typically in these moments we aren’t looking for advice – we just need to be heard and validated. There is value in that. I believe there is true healing in just getting bad things out of your brain and into the open, whether that’s in writing, talking to friends or family, or even talking to a trained professional.

5. Prioritize. Make lists! Even if making lists isn’t your thing and it doesn’t bring you satisfaction like it does to me (which I can’t even begin to understand), making lists is the number one way to make sure you can accomplish all you need to accomplish – and in the order that it all needs to get done! So you’ve had your time to feel sorry for yourself, and now you have to make a plan on how you’re going to make it through. I usually keep several lists – for to-dos at home/errands, things I need to do at school, a list for the blog, a list for pictures I need to take for the blog, a list of workouts and groceries for the week, etc. You can do this easily on your phone, too. I set a million reminders a day and Siri always comes through for me if I don’t come through for myself. There are tasks that have to get done RIGHT NOW, and things that can always get done later, so put dates or times next to your items. Prioritize and then get to work. Focus on one thing at a time. Then the next thing. Then the next. And let me tell you, life doesn’t stop, so your lists will keep getting longer, but as you start crossing things off, it balances out. Even people who fly by the seat of their pants have to have a plan of attack if things are ever going to get accomplished.

6.  Do not be too proud to ask for help. I cannot stress enough that we are only human. We are not magical superheroes with more than 24 hours in a day or limitless energy and peppiness. If someone asks if you want help with something, or if you want to split something up, and you’re about to seriously go off the deep end, let. Them. Help. You. Give up the control and let someone know you are overloaded. There is no shame in admitting that you have a lot going on and could really use a little help. Then, the next time you’re feeling more on top of things, maybe you can pay it forward and help someone else who’s fighting to keep their head above water. It feels good to know we are needed, so let someone know you need them!

7. Be physically active. This is so key to keeping it together, and it is usually where I fall short, so I get it. You’ve heard the saying, “A tired dog is a good dog?” The same applies for humans! You may not be chewing up your favorite pair of shoes, but without releasing your negative energy, tension, and stress from your day-to-day life, you are going to be bottling up some pretty serious stuff, and when it has no outlet, it starts to leak like poison. No matter what you believe, you can’t deny the scientific proof that exercises releases endorphins. It also helps give you some head space and clear your thoughts. I know – you’re busy. You don’t have time to exercise, you’re too tired to exercise, you’ve got a million other things to do. But I promise you the payoff is so worth it. You can read all about how yoga changed my life here, but I also love to walk my dogs, do tabata circuits, and lift weights! Anything that gets you moving is better than sitting around feeling too overwhelmed to be productive. You will never regret it afterwards.

8. Check in with yourself throughout the day. Something that makes a huge difference for me is being mindful and aware of how I am feeling. That sounds so obvious, but a lot of us don’t stop to think about the why. We just go through the motions without thinking about what’s going on in our bodies or minds. Am I tired? Cranky? Does something just not feel right? Did something happen that made me feel this way? Am I clenching my teeth or wrinkling my forehead or tensing up my shoulders? Throughout the day I have to constantly remind myself to breathe deeply, unclench my teeth, and relax my shoulders. Those are the three biggest ways I can quickly just feel calmer. Make sure you’re checking in on yourself and taking care of your needs.

9. Fake it ’til you make it. My high school students can’t believe that I am “always in such a good mood.” What’s my secret? The secret is I’m not always in a good mood! But I DO believe that moods are contagious, and if you can fake it and put on a good face – even if it’s just to yourself – you can really help frame your mood, your day, and the moods of those around you. I’m not saying you have to act like Little Miss Sunshine, but even little things like not complaining when someone asks how your day is going can make a huge difference. Smile and tell yourself that you can handle this and have this covered, and then remind yourself of that as you start to take one thing at a time.

10. Celebrate. Life is short, and adulting is hard, and if we don’t give ourselves things to look forward to or celebrate our accomplishments, then what’s the point? When you cross a big thing off your list, or when you complete something you’ve been working on for a long time, do something that you enjoy, buy yourself a new something, treat yoself. Make plans with people you love and just go celebrate the fact that we are all making it through somehow. I think that’s something we deserve to celebrate, don’t you?!

Finally, and I think maybe most importantly, is to just be realistic with yourself and know when too much is really too much. Everyone has a different threshold level for how much they can pile on their plate. You have to be able to admit to yourself when your metaphorical food is about to splatter all over the floor. If you are focusing on too many things at once, you can’t do everything well. Sometimes you have to look at what’s really important and let go of one or two other things – even if it is only for now, until you can clear some space in your life. I continue to re-learn this every so often, but at least I’m really good at telling other people what to do 😉

 

I really hope this helps even one person out there who may be feeling overwhelmed like I am right now. We are going to be okay – we have to be! The world keeps on turning and life keeps on going. The sun will rise tomorrow and it is up to us to choose the tone of our days. Today, let’s choose joy.

Oh, and if you’re wondering…I didn’t get the post finished before my shift. That’s life! 🙂 

Classic with a twist // MAXOUThappy

my first-ever blog photoshoot with whitney 🙂

When I started MAXOUThappy, I really wanted to do it the right way. I researched for hours, stalked favorite blogs, read articles about how to blog, how to design, what hosting site to use, etc. All the behind the scenes stuff. I worked for Kate Bryan at thesmallthingsblog last summer as an intern, which was so cool, and I learned a lot about blogging. I took a Skillpop class about blogging basics with Molly Stillman and hope to take another one from her as soon as it’s offered.

I recently met up with Whitney, and we were discussing ideas and thoughts for her photography business and for MAXOUThappy. I mentioned that I never really know what to say when people ask me the inevitable question:  “So what’s your blog about?” I usually just say it’s a lifestyle blog, so it’s a little bit of everything…but I wanted to have a more focused description. I’ve mentioned my “classic with a twist” style before; but what is MAXOUThappy really about?! A fair question. Whitney helped me really narrow my focus into an idea that makes the most sense to me.

We both went to Meredith College and majored in Family and Consumer Sciences. We met on freshman move-in day and have been partners in crime ever since. I always wanted to teach high school, but I started out as an English major. I ended up switching after my sophomore year and Whitney did, too. Family and Consumer Sciences is what used to be called Home Economics, or “Home Ec.” I’ve caught a lot of flack over the years for going to Meredith, which by the way is a fantastic school, and for changing my major, which by the way is a fantastic major that is little-known and not as widely supported as it should be. A lot of people love to joke about getting your M-R-S degree at Meredith, or that my major is to help me be a better housewife some day. I’d love to tell all those people where they can put their opinions, but instead, I’d really rather help people get it. Family and Consumer Sciences is based on the idea that everything begins in the home and spreads out to the community and beyond. What we can solidify in the home/family and what we can improve on with an individual directly affects the outreach and impact of that individual. We are not people in a vacuum. We are all interconnected and how we live our lives and help others (or not) affects and sparks change in the world. My major is not about cooking and cleaning to be someone’s home maker, although there’s nothing wrong with that job, either. Family and Consumer Sciences is about creating change, addressing global issues, and helping others.

Being able to teach about Parenting and Child Development, Human Services, Foods and Nutrition, Food Science, Interiors, Personal Finance, and Textiles/Apparel gives me such a wide range of topics to be able to help mold the teenagers in my classroom, and hopefully it spreads out beyond them. I realized that the things I write about on the blog tend to trace their way back to one of these areas, and figuring that out really gave me a sense of pride for all the hours I have spent defending and supporting my college major.

So that, along with my “classic with a twist” take on life, is what brings me back here to the blog drawing board week after week…to say “a little bit of everything,” but with this lens of helping others, improving life, talking about real issues from time to time, and throwing in some happy fluff in-between the real talk. It always seems a little silly to think that a post I wrote about lipstick or a new pair of shoes I got is going to help someone, but I guess the idea is just to spread a little joy around, because life has enough blah already. I am a generally happy person and I work on maximizing that happiness to enjoy the life I’ve been given. It’s not realistic to say I’m always happy or that life doesn’t get me down; if you’ve been reading for a while, you know that isn’t true. But I am an optimist and I love to write; I always have. I used to write chapter books as a child, I’ve started a million novels, I wrote my eBook last year, and I have this blog. I’m so interested in words, the meaning of them, and how they can go together in a million different combinations to evoke different feelings. A nerd? Sure. But I’m happy with that. If I can help get anything positive across to anyone, in any small way, I feel so accomplished. When people come out of the woodworks to tell me they read my blog or enjoy it, it truly makes my day. So, happy reading! Now you know what MAXOUThappy is all about. 🙂

a magnet reminder on my fridge 🙂

Recipes and Workouts

This week I’m focusing on some healthy recipes and butt-busting workouts. Originally, this blog was going to be mostly fitness and health related…but then things in my life changed drastically and my life just kind of took a different direction. I used to be a bit of a gym rat, which is hard to believe maybe – but I was! When I started practicing yoga a ton, I pretty much completely stopped going to the gym. I love lifting weights and doing all kinds of different training, so I’ve really missed that part of my life. I recently joined Weight Watchers, which has always worked well for me, and I always notice that when I’m eating better, my motivation to work out spikes, too. It all goes hand in hand – this is not new information. So I’m writing it in my planner and speaking it into existence! I really need to be more active again and be a little more proactive on my food planning.

Here are some recipes I’m using this week for my meals:

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image sources linked below

Whole Wheat Spaghetti Carbonara – This recipe is SO easy. I made this a few weeks ago when I first re-joined Weight Watchers, and it was a huge hit with both me and Andrew. I had leftovers for lunch the next day, too! Sometimes whole wheat pasta isn’t my favorite, but it’s really great in this recipe and there are only a few ingredients.

Chicken Enchilada Casserole – My sister sent me this recipe and I am excited to try it! It looks pretty simple, and for someone like me who LOVES Mexican food, I think it will be a great substitute! I just won’t be able to have any chips and queso 🙁

Zucchini Lasagna – I made this a long time ago and LOVED it. It takes some time and is a little bit of a labor of love, but if you’re craving something cheesy and delicious, this can’t be beat! And it’s friendly to your waistline, which is a huge perk. I’m so excited to have a meal to really look forward to that feels like a cheat meal, but isn’t!

Green Monster Smoothie – I love this blog because the recipes are all really delicious. And if you’re following Weight Watchers, all of the points are already calculated for you which is a HUGE plus. I love to do this for breakfast, but it would work as a snack, too!

For my workouts this week, I have planned 2 gym workouts, 2 yoga practices, and 1 or 2 walk/jogs with the doggies at the lake. I will probably write up my own gym workouts because that’s something I enjoy doing, but I have followed this blog for a long time and she has all kinds of amazing workouts that are all so different. Great recipes, too! I also have a bunch of different types of workouts pinned on my Sweatin’ Pinterest Board. It’ll be good to get to check all of my workouts off my planner this week! Along with the 17,000+ steps I get at the pub each shift, I’ll be burning lots of calories to earn a real cheat meal. Life is nothing without delicious food sprinkled in.

Wish me luck!

Reality check

photo by the talented samantha leonetti while we were on a yoga retreat in mexico last year

I recently hit a low point. That sounds so dramatic, but we all go through those from time to time, and I think it’s always best to be honest and unashamed of who you are. So there it is. I had a low point and I was worrying and stressed and everything felt like it was going to close in on me if I didn’t fix it immediately. But of course that’s not how life works. We can’t snap our fingers and fix everything. (Can we?!)

So anyway, I allowed myself to be upset and have a pity party for a day or two, but that’s generally my limit on feeling sorry for myself. I knew I had to make a plan to turn it around. I have always tried to be proactive about solving problems. I know some people have a hard time with that when they’re already feeling overwhelmed or down, but it’s the only way to dig yourself out of a rut. So I made my lists, stretched my brain, got advice from people I trust, and started putting my plan to action. I was taught my whole life that while we can’t control what life throws at us or what comes our way, we can control how we handle it and how we move on. My mom recently reminded me that we can’t keep looking back; we should only glance (quickly) to remind ourselves of what we’ve learned and why we aren’t there anymore.

Here’s a little reality check that surely you already know, but maybe, like me, you need a reminder of:  It doesn’t really matter what the struggle is about. Family issues, friend issues, money, weight, grief & loss, new life changes, jobs, etc. The truth is that everyone struggles. Yes, even the celebrities and fancy bloggers you follow on Instagram with their pink peonies tucked into their designer bags. Even them. We all post the best, most pristine versions of ourselves on social media. Generally only our happiest moments, our favorite things, make their way to the screen, as if to say, “Look at me go! I’m really killing it. Life is good for me, and low points are for people who don’t know how to handle stress.” It’s not necessarily a bad thing that we don’t post all of our negative thoughts or moments online – it’s kind of a fun, easy, make-believe land where everything is funny, lovely, happy, and it takes us to a place where we can escape for a little while. But we can’t forget that life happens. It happens to us, it happens to the people that we love, and it even happens to the people we don’t love or don’t even know. My point is, it is okay to have bad moments and low points. It is okay to feel overwhelmed and stressed and to accept that life is not always fair or happy. Everyone struggles in different ways, and if you were to get right down to it, I truly believe that even people who seem very different can have so much in common. No one has a perfect life, even if their Instagram or Snapchat streams would suggest otherwise. Because life is messy. Sometimes it hurts, kicks you while you’re down, and then hits you with another shitstorm juuuuust to see if you can take one more thing before you crack wide open.

But life is also such a beautiful experience. A tantalizing dance of twists and turns, spinning fast, and then just when you get too dizzy, it slows the music so you can catch your breath for the next round. The space between the highs and lows is what makes us appreciate every golden moment that we get to keep. So we remind ourselves that at some point, the sun will come out again. The chaos and turmoil will lift eventually. We surround ourselves with people who love us whether we are up, down, thin, fat, rich, poor, in a good mood or cranky, because life happens and we need them there when it does. When you focus on what you don’t have rather than what you do have, it really just poisons everything else.

So here’s a reminder to not compare yourself to others, to not get lost in the negative, and to not get mad at yourself for being in a low point. We have all been there. Make a plan about what you can do, thank God for everything you have been blessed with, keep being grateful for the air in your lungs and the love and light in your life, dust yourself off, and start climbing back up the hill to the sunlight…even if your footing isn’t sure and you don’t have a safety harness.

Here is to low points and the people who love us through them 🙂

Back in the swing of things

source (and a cute card!)

Welcome to the new & improved maxouthappy.com! I am so pleased with the design and logo and have put a lot of hours into getting the site looking the way I envisioned. I got both the logo and design theme from two Etsy shops, and it was simple, affordable, and now you’re looking at what I hope is a nicer, cleaner, more streamlined site.

In other news, I know, I know – you don’t have to tell me. It has been a looong time since I posted. Life is busy, and to be really honest, I’ve been super unmotivated lately. I have been in a slump with my weight and fitness, and that always affects other parts of my life. I haven’t wanted to take pictures or buy new clothes, I haven’t felt like my usual peppy and optimistic self, and so I haven’t felt inspired to write.  Along with that, it’s the end of the school year which is always hectic, and I’ve been in the process of moving for a couple of months now! BUT everything is finally settling and the dust is clearing. My sister and I are having panic attacks because the apartment still isn’t perfect basically all moved in, and I plan to have some fun home projects up on the blog soon!

So that’s basically why I haven’t been writing. But I’m here! And I’m trying to get back up on the fitness horse (for the 9838472th time in my life), plan my meals better, and work on the blog! Writing has always been something that I love. My mom called me a few weeks ago and asked why I hadn’t been writing, and I mentioned how I was feeling. She told me I just sounded “heavy,” which I thought was a funny choice of words even though she didn’t mean it that way! It made me realize that if I am letting this weight slump affect my life and my outlook so much, the only way to fix it is to take some control and get back at it.

This summer I really hope to focus on getting exercise and taking care of myself. I went through a pretty long phase in life of pushing myself to be this perfect image I could never live up to, working out twice a day at times and counting every single calorie, measuring every single bite. I look good in pictures from that time, but there was an underlying stress and source of needing to look that way, much of which was for someone else. Then, I let go of all that and really found myself in a happier mental and emotional place, but lost my fitness priorities in the process. So now I’m heavier, but happier. And my goal is to find a happiest place in the middle where I physically feel good, enjoy putting outfits together again, and the doctor tells me my health is just right. You know, a happy place where I don’t get out of breath going up the flight of stairs to my new apartment! This isn’t about being skinny. It’s about being able to enjoy life more, which for me means moving more and being able to fit back into some of my favorite clothes! We only have one life, and I want to make mine last as long as I can so I can spend it with the ones I love.

So now you know – and now you know I am on a mission! Sometimes you need to put something out there to make it more real. So this is me, putting this out there. I am excited to start posting more again and to have more energy and optimism again. It’s time to take a page from my own book and MAXOUThappy…and it doesn’t hurt to have a new look on the blog to go with it 😉

My best friend’s wedding

Most of you probably know by now that my best friend is a wonderfully talented photographer. She started her own business last year and she has really worked hard to get to where she is. Needless to say, I’m so proud of her for pursuing her dreams, hustling, and maintaining her life and other job all at the same time. A large focus of her photography sessions is on weddings, engagements, and couples – so I’m tickled pink that now the tables are turned and she’s going to be the one getting married!!! She asked me to be her Maid of Honor, and at the risk of sounding cheesy…I’m really honored to stand by her on her big day and support her through this planning process. What an exciting time!

Whitney and Romain make a great team. Romain is practical, a little Type A (like me), and really loves Whitney (that’s my favorite part). Whitney is a little more carefree, spontaneous, and they both share a love for food and exploring local events! Romain is the other half of Whitney’s photography team, and they support each other’s dreams like any strong couple should. I can’t wait to watch them tie the knot!

Plus, Romain is a f a n t a s t i c cook, so I never mind going over to hang out, if you catch my drift!

Lovebirds 

Last week, Whitney invited our friend Kelly and me over to have dinner. We are her two bridesmaids – they are keeping their wedding pretty intimate. We were excited to just have some delicious food, wine, and to catch up a little bit. Life is busy when you get older; I’m realizing that now more than ever. Little did we know, Whitney had put together a sweet bridesmaid surprise with gifts for us! This was the cutest idea, and I wasn’t expecting anything at all. Everything was color-coordinated and it was the perfect touch to an already exciting occasion.

I’m stealing these photos right from Whitney’s camera roll – my measly iPhone camera can’t do it justice!

A silky robe for the wedding day, kleenex, a candle, and champagne!

I am thrilled to be celebrating these two for the months to come (and beyond). Congratulations and best wishes to my BFF and partner in crime!

Lately

I know. I haven’t written in over a month. Life has come at me fast lately and I have had my hands on too many things (as usual). I try to be honest with myself, and I know that one of my major flaws is doing too much. I have way too many expectations for myself, and for fear of letting anyone down, I say yes to everything that I care about because “It’s important,” and then find myself barely hanging on by a thread, my head spinning and everything left at about 80% because I have too much going on to focus on anything completely.

I’m having to let some things go so I can keep space for my sanity and happiness. I don’t want to let go of MAXOUThappy, but I had to step back for a while to get a grip on some other stuff in my life. Everything is good stuff, but it’s just too much stuff.

So anyway, long story short, I’m trying to get back to some type of regular posting and I hope you’ll stick around!

Here’s what has been going on lately:

-Andrew and I had our one year anniversary last weekend! I can’t believe how fast time flies. We really met by chance through our friends who are married, and I love making him tell me the story through his point of view of the night we met. It gets better every time, even though it’s always the same.

img_5416-I am loving this Burt’s Bees BB cream and have been using it since my yoga studio started putting out samples of it. I was hooked after one application and went out to get it at Target. It is natural, super moisturizing, goes on like velvet, and smells nice! It lasts all day and I set it with my always favorite Lorac POREfection baked perfecting powder. I have the light/medium shade in the BB Cream and I use shade PF3.5 in the powder.

-My hair is getting longer, and I’ve been keeping it a little darker blonde these days. In the summer I’m generally a sunshiney white blonde, but for the fall and winter I’ve been keeping a more rooty look with balayage painted sections. I go to Jamie at The Parlor at North Ridge and have for years and years.

-I have recently had to come to grips with the fact that I am almost 30 and need to be wearing more supportive shoes for teaching all day on my feet. I feel so old. I asked for these, these, and these for Christmas, and we’ll see if I’ve been a good enough girl this year!

-I managed to get almost all of my Christmas shopping done last weekend, and mostly all online! I love the holidays and good cheer, but I find that if I go out in public to stores around this time of year, my happy attitude quickly plummets. People are just in too much of a hurry, it’s too crowded, lines are long, and it seems like people forget the whole point of the season. It felt so good to check that off my list.

-There are only 9 school days left before Christmas break, and I am holding on to that for dear life! Here comes the push! (Imagine angels singing).

That’s really all that’s new with me! Otherwise, just running from one thing to the next, slowly trying to balance myself out with my commitments. Enjoy the weekend! Ugly Christmas sweater season is upon us 🙂

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Why I yoga

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Photo credit: Rachel Garrison Photography 

I have now had a few full meetings with my yoga club students at the high school. I decided last year I wanted to start this club at school so students could experience something they may otherwise not have the chance to. So, without really knowing what direction I wanted to take, I went all in and took the first step.

The students were, of course, a little bit awkward, a little unsure, and a little bit silly – only 3 or 4 of the almost 30 girls that showed up have ever even taken a yoga class before. It’s understandable! But watching the students as I was giving them the background of yoga, the principles and the ideas behind why people practice yoga, and directing them through our first (very brief) practice together, I started to realize something. We had pushed desks to the sides of a classroom, the floors were dirty, their mats were awkwardly sprawled everywhere, and it was this really neat moment of realization. It reminded me why, after those first few yoga classes I took a couple of years ago, I couldn’t wait to come back to the next one.

People always ask me what got me interested in yoga – the truth is, I needed some serious stress relief because I was going through a terrible time in my life. I went with my friend Abbie who made me try a class even though I told her I hated hot yoga the one time I had tried it before. But the reasons I kept coming back, the reasons I decided to do teacher training and become a yoga instructor as well as a student, those are the reasons I love to share.

Yoga, at the very minimum, increases strength, flexibility, breathing, balance, and coordination. It is an ancient practice that has been proven to reduce stress, increase health, and improve quality of life. Yoga heals. It forces you to quiet your mind and shut everything else out as your ears eagerly await the next cue in class, or as you struggle with how the heck your right foot can go any farther back as you keep your body standing tall and your arms twisted up like a pretzel (elbows above your heart and shoulder blades expanding to either side, please). Yoga is a place where a community is formed the minute you step inside the studio, because no matter what your story is or why you’re there, you’re there. There is no “good” or “bad” in yoga. It’s about how you feel and your own relationship with your own practice. You can be successful every single day on your mat if you just show up and let go of whatever it is you’re holding onto for a little while.

I love yoga because it gives me a chance to see a different part of people than I would out in the real world. I get to catch glimpses of their vulnerability, see if they are competitive with others or with themselves, know if they like to dance to the beat a little in their downward dog, or if they have the type of practice where they seem to float on top of their mats (as I seem to clumsily flop around on mine). We say things like “Namaste,” or call out the fancy Sanskrit names of poses as we teach or discuss yoga practice, but sometimes we forget why we’re really there. Yes, for strength and flexibility…but also for sanity, self-love, quieting the mind, and a support system.

Yoga is for every body type, every age, every race, every ability. It’s for every person. I believe fitness and health in this country are way too expensive in general, and unfortunately, the same is true for yoga. But there are many community yoga classes that are donation-based, free yoga classes for special occasions, and many studios do a first class free setup where you can come check out the studio without any charge. YouTube has several, several yoga channels and there are many apps that can bring free yoga to you. The internet has free sequences and poses already. So even if you just practice 3 poses every day for a few minutes, you’re practicing yoga.

A wise person and one of my favorite teachers reminded me in class last night:  The pose is what you’re doing. Yoga is how you are being. Whether you’re a seasoned yogi or a brand new practitioner, the idea that you have to do yoga ‘right’ or be a certain way to come to your mat is the opposite of what yoga is all about. If you’re considering trying a class for the first time, my best advice is just to take that leap and try. Bring a friend, go by yourself, put your mat in the back if it’s more comfortable at first, and let yourself laugh when you lose balance and almost fall over. Even the most experienced yogis fall on their faces. It’s a humbling experience to practice yoga, so try it with an open mind and a willingness to fail…and you’ll succeed 🙂

It’s time // 6 week shred

I went to the doctor recently and had the dreaded weigh-in. I hadn’t weighed myself in a really long time, because I hate focusing so much on the scale and I honestly was trying to ignore the fact that I have not been very healthy lately. And if I’m really, really being honest, it has been a lot longer than just “lately.”

So I stepped on the scale and tried to ignore it, but then I couldn’t help myself – I glanced down and saw the number. And YIKES. Before my doctor even had the chance to mention anything to me, I went ahead and let her know that I knew it was time to get a grip. And instead of saying, “Noooo, you’re fine,” she said, “Well, at least you know it’s time.”

That’s when I knew. I knew this wasn’t something I could sweep aside anymore.

My big sister has been on the fitness train forever, and for a long phase of my life, I was too. It’s not a new lifestyle to me, but it’s one I’ve been far away from for a while. She, my mom, and I decided to do a six week shred program through Gauge Girl Training. My sister did another program of hers and really saw fantastic results. She is an engineer and food scientist, which makes me feel a little more comfortable paying for a meal plan. I know I could do all of this myself, but I felt like I needed a good kick in the rear to jump start my metabolism and get me back on track.

So Mom, Emily, and I all purchased our meal plans and started a group text to help each other, keep each other accountable, and give lots of support! Andrew is on board with me 100% and supporting me through the next 6 weeks of not going out to eat or having any alcohol (nerdy date nights in our future!). My meal plan is strict, specific, and designed to cut body fat quickly while maintaining lean muscle. I’m putting this all out here because I need to be accountable. And maybe this post might reach someone and give them the lift they need to know that anyone can do what I’m doing. I am nervous about it, but I know I can do it. I’ll be checking in over the next 6 weeks to let you know how things are going!

I went to three stores to get everything I needed to get started, and then got to work rinsing, chopping, cooking, and storing my food for the week. It takes a lot of work up front, but then you get to sit back and relax the rest of the week because you know exactly what you’re eating (plus, you don’t waste money on going out to eat because you know you are wasting money on the food you have at home if you do that). My first day was yesterday, and it went so well! I ate all of my food, drank a ton of water, and already my mindset just feels so much more positive.

6 week shred, week 1

Alllll the groceries. It’s hard to believe I’ll eat that much by myself in a week, but I did my math carefully. I also know from experience that each week will be easier to plan for, prep for, and stick with. It takes a little while to form a habit, but then eating well and exercising regularly just become routine.

This isn’t about being thin. It’s about being in a healthy range for my personal body. It is about feeling strong and fit, having a healthy heart and lungs, and helping myself live a longer and fuller life. After 6 weeks is up, I’ll continue to eat healthy foods and exercise regularly, but I will also be able to live a little, because life happens and you have to enjoy the chocolate and the wine and cheese here and there, too.

I have thought about that doctor’s comments several times, and instead of being angry, I’m so thankful that she gave me that honesty that I needed. And you know what?  It is time.  It’s time to really hold myself accountable, it’s time to do something instead of complaining about something.

And it’s also time to practice being nice to myself more often. It’s a fine line between telling yourself you can improve and telling yourself you’re not good enough. I’ve come to a place where I’m trying to just accept myself where I am. I can only do my best from wherever it is that I am standing. So this is me, right now, and this is the body that I am in right now. Hating myself won’t gain results. I just have to plan it out, stick with it, and cheer on my mom and sister as we complete this 6 week challenge together.

Wish me luck!

Heavy boots

Has anyone read the book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close?  

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

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I read it when I was in high school or college, I can’t remember…but it is one of those life feels novels that has always stuck with me. I know it became a movie, but I never saw it. The book was so deep and so emotional for me that I knew I could never sit through it without the type of crying where you shake and heave and can’t get yourself back together. Maybe I’ll brave that on a night in alone.

Anyway, it’s a really great book and if you haven’t read it, you really should (among many others).

I think about Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close all the time, especially when the going gets tough. The main character, Oskar, describes this feeling of “heavy boots.” He’s a young kid trying to figure out his father’s death, and throughout the story, he tells of things that give him really heavy boots – the perfect way to describe grief through a child’s eyes. My brother and I say it to each other from time to time when something is really sad. You know, when something really weighs on you. I picture trying to walk through sludge with big, heavy, clunky shoes on, trudging step after step and feeling so heavy and feeling so much despair that it’s all I can do to lift my next foot one more time.

Isn’t that life sometimes? Trudging through, putting one foot in front of the other, and barely making it?

I recently experienced the loss of someone very special. That sounds so cliche and so easy to say. “Special” doesn’t even scratch it. Words simply are not enough. The sadness, the despair, and the harsh reality of having someone ripped away from you too soon is so much worse, and cuts more deeply than you can really ever describe. I have dealt with loss, but not like this. We love hard, and when we lose what we love, we feel it. Hard.

Sometimes I think that if we all collected our heavy boots, and we put them in a pile, it would be too big of a pile for this world to bear and we would make a huge pit, sinking deeper and deeper. There is so much sadness in the world, so much fear and loneliness and heart wrenching stories of people who have it worse than we do.

And yet, of course I am the type of person who also knows how much beauty there is in the world…that for every heavy boot, there is a light, carefree shoe – a new birth, a joyous wedding, a love story, a shoulder to lean on, and a chance to start again. And in time, I will be able to see it. I know God has a plan, but as humans, it is hard to see the plan when something devastating occurs.

I know that the sun will come out again, but for now, I am wearing really heavy boots.

Grief quote

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