Eyes Wide Open: Discovering My Personal Passion

Recently at a professional book club meeting, the topic of passion came up. One of the questions was what are you passionate about personally?  The question kind of took me by surprise because I had always related passion to work.  When you are growing up and planning your future, you always hear the advice “Find something you are passionate about and then figure out how to make a job out of it.”  For me, teaching is definitely one of my passions.  And just recently I’ve recognized some things that have driven my level of passion with teaching sky-high (another blog post on that coming soon!) But when I was asked “What are you passionate about in your personal life?” I was really taken aback – what am I passionate about?

Of course, the most natural of answers came to me right away – I’m passionate about my family, about spending time with loved ones, and making sure they are taken care of.  But is that really a passion?  Sure, I care immensely about my family, but what interests do I have that excite me, inspire me, light a fire within me on a daily basis?

My colleague suggested my love for the Toronto Blue Jays.  I am definitely a huge fan.  I watch games religiously on television, attend as many games as I can throughout the summer, and proudly wear my Jays gear whenever given the opportunity.  I can name all the players, know what position they play, and know the basic stats.  But I don’t live for the Toronto Blue Jays.  It’s an interest but it doesn’t create a burning desire inside of me.  Watching the Jays doesn’t inspire me, it’s more just like a really enjoyable passtime.

So what is my passion?  I started to think about things I am good at and enjoy doing.  I know, I thought, my passion is writing!  It’s true I’ve had many fantasies about making a living as a writer – spending my days in a quiet room, alone, sipping flavoured coffee, and lighting my keyboard on fire as thoughts and ideas come flowing out of me and onto the screen.  I do feel I express myself best in writing. I do get great satisfaction from writing blog posts and putting my ideas into words.  But is it my passion?

I started thinking of a passion as that one thing you can’t stop thinking about.  It permeates your life every single day.  It makes you feel excited, inspired, thoughtful… but sometimes overwhelmed, confused, and scared.  Then it hit me!   I think I know what my passion is…..

Health and Wellness!

For years, I have been interested in health and wellness.  For the most part, I have been interested in health as it relates to weight-loss.  The story of my adult life is that I am consistently trying to lose weight or maintain a weight loss.  I am constantly seeking out the right plan to follow that will help me to look and feel great.  But more recently, the idea of health and wellness has evolves into something different.  Yes, I still want (and need) to lose weight.  But more importantly, I have recently become more interested in simply making myself healthy.

This has stemmed predominantly from my diagnosis a few years ago with ulcerative colitis.  I consider myself lucky in the fact that my colitis is fairly mild compared to some others.  Most of my symptoms include bloating, a lot of foul-smelling gas, indigestion, diarrhea and constipation.  At it’s worst, I’ve also experience severe abdominal pain that has landed me in the emergency room.  I’ve also experienced severe urgency that has disrupted my workdays and interfered with social activities.

What I didn’t realize until recently though, was that some of the other symptoms I’ve been having could be directly related to the inflammation in my gut.  I’ve had excema, skin problems, achy joints, headaches, extreme fatigue, and mood swings.  These things are all symptoms of inflammation (mind blown!)

My most latest motivation to get back on the “healthy eating/exercise bandwagon” has been not only to lose weight, but to heal my gut and to feel better overall.  I am tired of being tired.  I am fed up with the mood swings (irritability, crankiness, anger, sadness).  I want to feel energized, positive, and happy – every day, all of the time!

This has inspired me to start a kind of “new” health journey.  In order not to overwhelm myself (which can happen so easily), I have decided to focus on nutrition and making better food choices, not only for weight loss, but also as a means to heal my body from the inside out.  I am slowly starting to learn about whole foods, natural ingredients, eliminating sugar, processed foods, wheat, and dairy, eating more plant-based foods, and feeding my body so that I can feel energetic, vibrant, and strong rather than bloated, tired, and irritable!

I have chosen nutrition because there are SO many areas of health and wellness that if I jump into too much of it, I will totally overwhelm myself and may give up altogether.  But that’s not to say I am not dabbling and looking into other areas of health and wellness (mindfulness, meditation, exercise, to name a few).  I am so enthusiastic about this topic that it’s actually kind of hard to rein myself in but I do have to remember that it’s a HUGE learning process.  Lord knows, I have a LOT to learn.  But the most important part is, I am not only open and willing to educating myself, I am so excited to do it!  I have this strong natural urge, this passion burning inside of me that wants to know all I can about how to live the best life I can!

Whether it’s articles, videos, books, websites, social media pages, internet sources, or people… if it has to do with health and wellness I am interested!   Here are just some of the topics that have grabbed my attention, that I’ve experimented with, researched, read about, or thought about so you can get the idea of how interested I really am!

Nutrition – gluten-free, elimination diets, anti-dairy, the wheat belly diet, holistic approaches, Weight Watchers, eliminating sugar, processed foods, 21 Day Fix (Beachbody), Shakeology, supplements, anti-inflammatory foods, recipes, plant-based foods, whole foods, Paleo diet…..

Fitness – going to the gym, walking, running, yoga, 21 Day Fix, home workouts, Tai Chi, pilates, weight lifting, heavy lifting, CrossFit, Pure Barre, ballet, dance, hiking, paddling, skiing, baseball, soccer….

Spiritual/Mental Wellness – mental health illnesses/conditions, mindfulness, mindful vs. Mind full, coping with stress, anxiety, depression, yoga, meditation, self-care routines, prayer, journaling, grounding techniques, therapy/counselling…

Wellness – natural self-care products, natural cleaning products, environmental factors, essential oils, sleep, balance, self-care, time spent in nature, self-help books, self improvement, positive thinking, mindset

No matter what it is whenever one of these topics comes up, I find myself wanting to know more.  I ask questions, I think, I reflect, I analyze, I read, I consider… and most of all,  I get so excited and so emotional!  If that doesn’t describe a person passion, I am not sure what does!

 

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Just Do It: Doing the Work Even When I Don’t Feel Like It

Ok guys, after months and months of being in a “slump” and feeling like I will never successfully get back on my weight loss journey, I finally feel like I’m about to make a comeback!   It’s all thanks to my Beachbody coach Melanie Watson who reached out to me and introduced me to author/ motivational speaker/ media personality Mel Robbins.  But before I get into that, let me tell the story from the beginning.

Back in early January, like so many others I made the resolution to get back on track with my weight loss journey.  After years of doing Weight Watchers, I decided to shake things up and signed up with Beachbody.  I started using the containers of the 21 Day Fix program and purchased Beachbody On Demand so I could workout whenever I wanted in my basement.  I easily found the Beachbody community online – literally hundreds, maybe even thousands, of other people trying to do the exact same thing I was trying to do.  It was online that I found and “met” my coach Melanie Watson.  Melanie seemed to “get” my struggles right away and had experienced many of them herself!  At the time, I was struggling with the winter blues, mild depression, and a major lack of motivation to do anything.   Despite being a complete stranger, Melanie seemed to know me so well and understood all my goals – plus she had the tools to get me there.   I signed up to her Facebook groups and followed her on Instragram eager to be successful. But after about the first month, things started sliding and I lost my motivation.  The winter blues were overwhelming and nights on the coach won over working out in my basement.  Carb-heavy, comfort food beat out nutritious and heart-healthy meals.  I started to tell myself that all the hard work and sacrifices it took to lose weight weren’t worth it.  Life was too short not to eat sweets. I should just learn to love myself the way I am.  Maybe for the first time in my adult life I could not be on a diet program and actually just learn to accept myself. But something deep inside me, an inner voice (or as Mel Robbins’ would call my inner wisdom) was still there.  No matter how much I tried to convince myself that I could feel satisfied, fulfilled and confident without losing weight, my inner wisdom was telling me differently. But still, nothing changed.  I still consumed calorie-rich foods all day long and snuggled into the couch as soon as humanly possible after work.  Every day I thought about working out but talked myself out of it within seconds.  I knew what I had to do to lose weight (and had all the programs and supports imaginable) but I still wasn’t doing it.

But the inner voice continued to talk.  I considered emailing Melanie.  By this point, I had completely turned my back on the Beachbody program.  I had unfollowed some of the groups online and began to feel resentful towards the cheery messages of success others were sharing in the groups.  I even contemplated unfollowing Melanie’s profile.  I was feeling so overwhelmed by all the messages about what I knew I had to do, but still, did not feel like doing. Then, last week, Melanie reached out to me.  I was shocked but so pleasantly surprised.  Although she had been so good to me previously, I had assumed I was just another “customer” helping to grow her business.  But by reaching out to me after weeks of not hearing from me or seeing my posts in group, Melanie proved that she actually wants me to be successful I immediately responded, openly expressing to her the struggle I had been experiencing.  I wrote about not being in the right “mindset” to get started and how I’d been struggling for months to get there. This is when Melanie gifted me with the invitation to check out Mel Robbins’ work.  As I mentioned earlier, Robbins is a media personality, motivational speaker, and author.  She wrote The Five Second Rule which I am currently devouring and taking copious notes from.  The minute I read Melanie’s email, I started obsessively watching Robbins’ videos on YouTube and spent my two-hour drive yesterday listening to her podcasts. It is like Mel Robbin’s was living inside my head.  So much of what she has to say is exactly what I have been struggling with for months!  And the fact that Melanie knew to suggest her work to me blows my mind even more.  How can a complete stranger know just what I needed?!

So what is this Five-Second Rule and why am I so excited about it?  As I mentioned, I just started reading the book to fully understand the concept but I am so excited by it that I felt I had to write a blog post right now.   Here are some of the main principles I’ve taken from Robbins’ work so far including how they relate to my life.

1. You will never feel like doing it, you have to do it anyway. Robbins speaks about the notion that we all know what we should do.  And we know how to do it.  For example, the Weight Watchers program (which I have been a member of for years), or the Beachbody program tell you exactly how to lose weight.  But yet I don’t do it.  Why not?  Because I don’t feel like it.   Robbins’ says that we’ll never feel like it but that we have to just start doing it anyway.  That’s why she says motivation is garbage.  Because we will never truly feel like doing things in the  moment that we should.

2. The Five Second Rule In a nutshell, the five second rule is a theory that you can train your brain to listen to your inner wisdom and do what you know you have to do, rather than hold yourself back from doing it.  It’s kind of like the Nike slogan Just Do It (which Robbins also refers to in the book).  Robbin’s tells of her personal struggles and how she discovered that by simply counting down 5-4-3-2-1 you can distract your brain and refocus on doing what you need to do.

3. Get out of your own head. Robbins says that our inner wisdom is constantly telling us what we should do to lead a healthier, happier, fulfilled, and satisfying life but that we have the habit of talking ourselves out of following through on these ideas.  As soon as we start thinking about the idea too much, we easily and effortlessly talk ourselves out of it.  The magic of the Five Second Rule is that we can change that!

4. Your have to parent yourself. I love where Robbins talks about how no one tells us when we become an adult that now we are going to have to parent ourselves.  When we are kids, our parents are there to tell us no.  They are there to make sure we do the things we are supposed to do.  As adults, there is no one to do that, so we have to do it ourselves.  We have to learn to tell ourselves no and to do the work even when we don’t want to.

All this being said, I want to recognize that I probably just did a terrible job of summarizing some of Robbins’ main ideas.  Also, please take into consideration my other disclaimer – I just started reading the book.  I know I have just scraped the surface of some of this woman’s amazing ideas!  I can’t wait to learn more.

But more importantly, I feel like I have been given a tool that is finally going to get me out of this slump that I’ve been in.  I’ve spent all winter making excuses for myself, talking myself out of doing the work, holding myself back, trying to convince myself that I could be happy without losing weight. Now I see that I need to get out of my own head.  I always overthink everything and I’ve been overthinking my weight loss journey for years.  What I am starting to see now is that I will never truly be ready so why am I still waiting?  Just last week, I wrote to Melanie that I needed to be in the right “mindset” before I could get started!  What I see now is that by just doing it, by just getting started, the actions I need to take will put me in the right mindset! Most importantly, what I see now is that making change is hard work and our brain is pre-wired to protect ourselves from hard work.  Our brain doesn’t want us to be uncomfortable.  Therefore, it will try to talk me out of everything that I need to do in order to lose weight successfully.  Also, I am never going to feel like doing the things I know I should do (eat healthfully, plan meals, go for a run, workout) but I just have to put on my big girl panties and do it anyway.  After all without hard work, there is no reward. So instead of thinking about things, I have to just start doing.  And the best way to do that (according to both Robbins’ and coach Melanie), is to do it one day at a time.  Every time my instinct kicks in to do something healthy, I have to get my ass in gear and do it before my mind takes over and talks me out of it!  I have to parent myself, tell myself no, and just do what needs to be done. The best part of all this is if I do the actions that I need to do, the positive, happy, self-loving mindset that I thought I needed to get started, will develop all on it’s own!  Wow!

One last thing about all this.  I couldn’t help but think of a Weight Watchers leader I had years ago.  At the time, I knew I loved her approach, I just didn’t understand why.  Every week at our regular meeting, she would tell us what we had to do.  “Eat your fruit and vegetables.” “Drink your water”.  “Move every day”.  Now I realize that her no-nonsense approach is what helped me to be so successful.  She didn’t give us a choice. She didn’t give us time to think about things, she simply told us to Just Do It.  

Disillusioned and Seeking Escape: How Social Media Nearly Wrecked Me

For a few weeks now I’ve been struggling.  I felt some kind of cloud hanging over me, a weight baring down on me.  I have started dreading going to work (something I have never before experienced in this career).   I’ve started worrying about myself and wondering if I am suffering some kind of depression.  I’ve been unusually tired and lacking energy.  But, worst of all, I’ve had no idea why I am feeling this way.  Is it seasonal depression?  (We have had a lot of bleak, gray days and it is winter in Northern Ontario).  Is it all in my head and I just need to pull up my socks, think more positive, and try harder?  Is something physically wrong with me? (I went to my doctor, got blood work done, and go for a sleep test at the end of this week.) Do I suffer from mental illness (like 1 in 4 Canadians?)

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Today, I was feeling so rotten that I stayed home to rest and take a “mental health” day.  I slept in, watched mindless television for hours, had a long afternoon nap, and finally dragged myself out for a short walk.  But all day, I felt like I was just barely holding it together.  I was teetering on the edge of an emotional breakdown, and at any moment I’d go crashing over.

And then I did.

My 13-year-old son was acting as all teenagers do from time to time, and had a small moment of defiance which on any normal day would have been nothing but a small disagreement.  But today, I broke.  I sailed over the edge I had been hanging precariously close to and came crashing down.  I screamed and yelled and shook with rage, and hurt, and fear, and sadness.  I cried, and cried, and cried….

But before you go feeling sorry for me, it’s okay.  Because throughout all that, thankfully my husband – my dear, wonderful, loving, supportive, and intelligent husband – was by my side.  He didn’t say a word, he just stood there.  He listened.  He let me get it all out.  He called my son into the room and calmy and gently explained to him that the argument he and I had had, had nothing to do with him but everything to do with the kind of day I was having.

“She’s having a really hard time right now and we’re her family, we need to be here for her,” he said softly to my son.

So the two of them stood beside me. They stood there watching me cry, and sob, and break.  I kept apologizing, always worried about my emotional fraility being a burden to my loved ones.  But they continued to stand there, in solidarity.  And even though they didn’t say a word, their simple act of being there spoke volumes to me.  The fact that my husband knew immediately what was wrong and exactly what to do was the most comforting and amazing feeling.  Some days I don’t know where I’d be without him…

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Then finally, after I had calmed, my husband spoke to me.  He spoke gently and lovingly, his words full of concern and care. I stood up, and threw myself around him, hugging him tightly and crying some more into his shoulder.

“I’m scared,” I told him, “Why do I feel like this?”

He let me cling to him until I let go and then we sat down to talk.  And what he said to me was mind-blowing.  His insight is always so spot on (I joked with him after that he really should have been a psychiatrist).

So here’s what I discovered during that heart-felt, eye-opening talk with my husband:

I have become lost.  

My abilities to cope with life’s realities, with stress, and with everyday emotions has been numbed and broken down.  I have inadvertently trained my brain to escape these things, so much so that when I have to face them they seen unbearable.  Instead, I have lost myself and have become disillusioned……

……by social media.

I know.  I can’t believe I am saying it.  But, guys, it’s so true. And my husband probably woouldn’t have been able to identify it so easily except that he realized it about himself recently too.  A few months ago, he discovered that the amount of time he spent playing games on his phone was interfering with real life.  It was starting to skew his vision of what real life is and he was starting to look at his own life as less impressive and less exciting in comparison to the things he saw and experienced online.

Before I explain further, let me be clear: it’s not that I think all social media is bad.  I’m not about to delete all my social media apps and never use them again.  It’s just that I can no longer let it consume so much of my time.  Let me explain….

 

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My husband (God bless him) described it like this: you find this escape (social media, video games, or in more extreme cases gambling or alcohol) and it feels good because it’s an escape from the stress and banality of everyday life.  When you “escape”, you create a bubble around yourself and no one else is allowed in.  You subconsciously turn off whatever you may dealing with in your life and get lost in a world of (mostly) meaningless distractions. After you do this for a period of time,eventually it comes to the point where you crave the escape.  All you can think about is the escape and how you would rather be doing [insert activity that serves as the escape here] then the other things you need to do in day-to-day life (your job, household chores, family responsibilities, etc.).  Eventually, your everyday responsibilities begin to feel tedious and wearisome because they take time away from your escape. And the irony of it is, the more time you spend escaping, the more your brain forgets how to cope with real life.  Eventually, you find yourself where I found myself ~ sad, confused, lost, and just generally sucking at life.

Wow.

Guys, I am almost ashamed to admit that this happened to me.  But now, I can see it so clearly!  This is exactly what had happened to me.  Every day, I can’t wait to get home, get through dinner, and be able to curl up on my chair with my blanket and my social media…. to escape….

And one of the reasons it happened, is that without even realizing it I pretty much became addicted to social media (which, if we are looking at social media as an escape from reality, makes sense). For instance, whenever I see the little red bubble that notifies me that there’s been action on Facebook, I feel a compulsion to check to see what the update is.  When I’m home, even if I am doing something else, I will pick up my phone constantly, to see if there is anything new on the feeds.  When there isn’t much new (most likely because I just checked it ten minutes ago), I actually feel disappointed.  Alternatively, when there is too much that’s new on the feeds, I sometimes feel overwhelmed because I feel that I have to scroll through everything that’s new.  I can’t just scroll for a few minutes and then stop.  Some weird thing inside my head tells me that I have to keep looking until I get to the stuff I’ve already seen, until I have consumed all the new stuff.   This is frustrating because sometimes there is a lot of new stuff and it takes a long time to go through it all.  And even as I am doing this, I can be sitting there thinking about how this is taking too long and I have other things to do, but yet I continue scrolling, utterly and totally consumed by the images on the screen….Wow….

 

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It’s not like I was completely naive to my compulsion to check social media.  Part of what makes it even more disturbing is that there are times that I’d be on it and I’d be telling myself I should be doing something else. For example, nearly every night I go to bed with the intention to read before going to sleep.  But the temptation to check social media one last time all too-often wins and my book gets left untouched.

Furthermore, how many times have I been in a room full of people and only half-listened to conversations because I was busy scrolling? (And this is a behaviour I see often amongst so many people!) It brought me to tears to realize how many times I’ve been in a room with people I care about, my family and ignored them while I paid attention to social media.  My precious, beautiful, sweet nieces have played on the floor in front of me while I’ve ignored them to scroll through social media…. my son has complained he’s bored and my husband and I have told him to go find something to do, while we stare at our phones…. my husband and I sit side by side every evening, not talking, just zoned into our screens…. Wow…

 

Then my husband asked me this, “Does it cause you anxiety if I tell you to just leave your phone closed on the kitchen island for the rest of the night?”  I instantly responded yes.

“Does it cause you anxiety to know that if you use your phone you’ll sit in the living room with me tonight and we will barely talk to each other?”

Tears rolled down my cheeks.  Wow…

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But not only is all the time I spend on social media taking me from time with my family, but it’s causing the same effect it had on my husband ~ I’ve started looking at my own life and feeling less than impressed.  I’ve started seeing my day-to-day activities as burdens I have to carry… as things that I need to escape…. Wow…

Which, by the way, is totally ironic because often on social media, I’d see people post messages cautioning others that the photos we see are often highly-stylized and not a depiction of real-life (particularly on one of my favourite apps Instagram). These posts warn that we shouldn’t compare ourselves to these images and fall into the trap of disillusionment.

“Well, duh,” I would think, “as if we need to be told that.  Obviously!”

Which just goes to show you how blinded I was.  This “fog” I’ve been feeling, this depression… It’s not because something is physically wrong with me… it’s because I’ve fallen into the trap of disillusionment that is so prevalent on social media.  I fell, without even realizing it. In fact, I became so disillusioned by the fantasy worlds on social media that, in comparison, my own life seemed so dull and unberable that I could hardly make it through the day without feeling dissatisfied and sad.  Wow….

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Now that I am beginning to see what’s happen, I am gaining some insight into some of my behaviours recently.  I can see why I was gravitating to certain feeds and topics online.  For instance, I had started following all kinds of free-spirit-type photographers who travel the world and make a living taking stunning images of nature and the places they travel.  I had started following women who live like gypsies and do yoga all day in Bali.  I started following mountaineers who get paid to travel, stay in sponsored log cabins, and spend their days exploring the wild and quiet solitude of the back-country.  Escape.  Not only was I using social media as my escape but the very notion of escape itself was the ongoing theme in so many of the things I was consuming!  I even noticed that I started gravitating to books with this theme.  Girl in the Woods – the story of a girl who drops out of “life” and hikes the Pacific Crest Trail alone for months on end to find herself.  Big Magic – by none other than Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat Pray Love – the memoir of a woman who leaves everything behind and travels the world to find herself.  Does anyone else sense a theme here?

 

And so there it is. By filling my mind everyday with images and stories of escaping, suddenly that’s all I wanted to do. Suddenly, my life didn’t measure up.  My day job became tedious.  My life overall became unsatisfactory.  I had romanticized the social media messages so much that I was beginning to believe there was a diffent life out there. Something that could be better….  Wow…

It’s no wonder, I’ve felt terrible lately.  It’s no wonder my everyday tasks have felt so cumbersome, so uninspiring, and so mundane.  It’s no wonder I’ve felt so sad, lonely, and lost…. Wow….

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So here’s what I did.  I immediately logged on to my Instagram account and unfollowed every single person that I felt was feeding that notion of me needing to escape.  I went from following 222 people, to following 100.  I kept my real-life friends and family and my most favourite bloggers (mostly just fashion bloggers, or health/fitness bloggers).  I did the same on Facebook (pretty much the only people I follow on there now are my closest friends and family.   Side note:  while doing this, I also realized that we often say how Facebook is great for keeping in touch with friends and family.  While this may be true, I would also argue that it makes us lazy in our relationships with friends and family.  How many times have I picked up the phone to call my long-distance friends/family?  To have a real chat and hear their real voice? It’s so much easier and faster to shoot a message online…. Wow…

Of course, as I mentioned above, this isn’t to say that I’ve written off all social media and will never again use Facebook or Instagram. There’s no need to be that dramatic.  But it’s definitely a relief to have some insight into why I’ve been feeling the way I have lately and to know that social media has more of an impact on my life than I truly realized.  It’s absolutely critical to realize how easily we can become disillusioned by the images we consume every day, without even realizing it, and to make ourselves aware so we can do something about it.  In other words, when you know better, you do better.  And now I know, that if I am not careful and conscious of the time spent on social media, it can easily consume me.  It can give me a warped sense of my own reality and cause me to become disillusioned and depressed. Most importantly, I can now see that my life is not mundane and wearisome.  I definitely don’t need an escape.  My life is wonderful and the moments I spend living it are worth paying attention to.  It’s time to put down the phone and do just that.

xoxo

Quiet, Easy Days at Home 💕

Well, here we are, the night before my return to work after yet another wonderful Christmas Break.  The last two weeks of holidays have been incredible.  Of course, we had Christmas in there which is my most favourite holiday, but I think what I enjoyed even more were the quiet, easy days at home.

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When we left school for Christmas Break I was exhausted.  And the last two weeks have been so restful and easygoing.  It was so needed.  I am realizing more and more just how much I love just being at home, spending a quiet day, puttering around, not running on a schedule, and just doing whatever makes my heart happy.  I guess I really am getting older!

For at least the last week, I haven’t been setting an alarm and just sleeping in everyday which feels amazing (granted, I really didn’t mean to sleep until after ten everyday, but it is what it is).  Upon waking, I’d linger in bed, chatting with my husband, scrolling through my social media feeds (loving Instagram even more than Facebook these days!) and cuddling our dog.  When I got hungry enough, I’d get up, turn on some soft, acoustic music and cook eggs for breakfast.  After breakfast, I’d make a coffee and curl up for some more social media time (yes, lots of social media but hey, it’s whatever makes you happy, right?) Many times, I’d sit for an hour or more, just relaxing, sipping my coffee and gaining inspiration from feeds and blogs I follow online.

This is not my home but I love how cozy it looks.

This is not my home but I love how cozy it looks.

After that, my day was wide open.  I don’t necessarily feel good when I have an entirely lazy day.  I like the satisfaction of being productive.  But I also like to do it at my own pace and on my own schedule.  I can’t believe I am going to say this but I don’t even mind doing laundry, washing dishes, or cleaning the house when I have all day to do it and can take my time.   The other day I lit some candles, played music from the Relax & Unwind playlist on Spotify,  and actually enjoyed cleaning my house.  It felt so good!  Other things I would do throughout the day include blogging (right here!), reading (currently: Girl in the Woods by Aspen Matis ~ so good!), watch television (faves:  Cityline, The Marilyn Denis Show, The Big Bang Theory or Dr. Phil), or look for sources of inspiration on sites like TeachersPayTeachers and Pinterest. 

I’ve also found time in my day to cook healthy meals and do at-home workouts.  After, I’d take my time enjoying a hot, lavender bath or long shower and then sit around wrapped in my big, plush towel~ no rush to get my hair and makeup done, and get dressed and out the door!

There’s just something so lovely about being at home – about being in my own space with the people I love, doing the things I love.  Not to mention, it’s so quiet here.  Bliss.

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But alas, the day has come and tomorrow I return to work.  I will miss my quiet, calm days at home but am hoping I can carry a bit of this relaxed, easygoing feeling with me as I jump back into a routine.  It might be wishful thinking, but at least I’ll still have my weekends!

For all of you heading back to work tomorrow, I hope you have a smooth and easy day!   xo

A Lesson Learned Again….

Well, guys, it’s been seven days since I’ve been eating healthier and working out regularly again and up until today everything has been going pretty great!  I’m sort of following the 21 Day Fix program – basically using the containers as guidelines for proper portions and to limit certain things like my carb intake and increase certain things like fruits and veggies.  I’ve also been doing the 21 Day Fix workouts which, until today, have been totally awesome!  I love that the workouts are only thirty minutes and that I can do them in my own basement.

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But today, I learned a lesson.  I’d been having a so-so day nutrition-wise to begin with because we’d stay at my parents’ place overnight and there are alot of temptations there.  I’d made the best of the situation but had already over-eatenmy carb intake (and it had been white bread to boot!). Plus, I’d drank quite a bit of coffee with french-vanilla flavoured cream which has a pretty high sugar content (it is so damn delicious that I’m just not ready to give it up yet!) Anyway, after getting back into town, due to some unforeseen circumstances, my family and I ended up grabbing dinner on the go tonight.  (I had planned to have roast chicken and salad for dinner but like I said, unforeseen circumstances…). We went to a little diner that is attached to the arena where my son was playing hockey.  Guys, this place has the best poutine I’ve ever eaten in my life.  So I convinced myself that since I’d done so well nutritionally for seven days that I deserved to splurge, so I went ahead and ordered a small poutine and ate almost all of it.

So where’s the lesson?  Again, you’d think I would have learned this one by now but I guess I’m still learning.  I think each time it happens it becomes more and more obvious to me: crappy food really does make me feel crappy!  Within an hour after eating that poutine, my stomach began rumbling and I started having cramps similar to what I get with my ulcerative colitis.  I was uncomfortable for the entire hockey game and the whole ride home.  In an effort to make myself feel better physically when we got home, I decided to do the 21 Day Fix Pilates work. Guys, I hate Pilates.  I’ve taken classes before and just hate it.  I find the moves so difficult and feel clumsy and uncoordinated when I do it.  But I was in my basement, and it was the next workout on the 21 Day Fix DVD that I’v been following, so I decided to give it a try.  Well, even though I was alone, I felt like a total fool trying to do this workout!   Next thing I knew, tears were streaming down my cheeks.  I was crying!  Now, I am proud to say that I did finish the workout, but I hated every minute of it!  I felt overweight, weak, and uncoordinated.  I was angry and disappointed with myself. Even when it was done, I still felt like total crap.  I was suddenly cranky, moody, and feeling down on myself.

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So there’s another thing I learned tonight.  Not only does unhealthy food make me feel terrible physically but it really does make me feel terrible emotionally too!  Between all the sugar I had consumed today (which had already been making my head feel fuzzy) and the poutine, I suddenly felt so down-in-the-dumps, frustrated and sad. Crazy!

The part that frustrated me most about all of this, though, is that I feel like I should have known better.  Even though I just got back to eating healthier a week ago, within days I’d been feeling the positive effects!  Not only had my mood improved, but more importantly, almost all of my UC symptoms had disappeared.  It had improved so quickly, in fact, that when my prescription ran out a couple of days ago, I decided to go without it for now since I’d been doing so well.  But after just one day of eating badly, the symptoms were back!  There is no way this is just a coincidence!

Anyway, as frustrating and disappointing as it all is, tomorrow is a new day!  I am grateful that I learned this lesson today (even if it was a tough one to learn) and I only hope that I will remember how terrible I felt today, next time I am craving junk food!

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Wish me luck!

 

My Intentions for 2017

Happy New Year!

Like many, I love the fresh start of a new year.  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and reflecting over the last little while to try to decide what my resolutions will be this year.  I love exploring different sources for creativity and inspiration, and a theme that keeps coming up over and over again, and one I am really latching on to, is the notion of self-care.

img_1011Self-care is unique to the individual so it really means figuring out what is right for you.  Here’s what I’ve discovered so far about the components of my own self-care practice that I hope to implement this year.

PHYSICAL HEALTH

Exercise

This year, I’ve decided to cancel my gym membership and find different kinds of exercise that I truly enjoy.  Some things I plan on doing are:  walking my dog, cross-country skiing, hiking, at-home basement workouts (cardio, strength training, weights). I’ve also finally registered for my first yoga series at a local yoga studio that I can’t wait for.

Nutrition

I’ve decided to commit to cleaning up my diet for a few reasons.  One, I’ve continued to struggle with ulcerative colitis and am hoping that by making changes to my diet, it will improve my symptoms and eventually put me back into remission.  Secondly, I want to be in the best physical shape of my life and I know a huge part of that is eating properly.  I’ve decided to try something different and have recently started the 21 Day Fix in hopes that a new program will give me the motivation I’ve been lacking.  Finally, I know that eating healthy foods (and cutting back on the unhealthy ones) will give me more energy and help alleviate a lot of the fatigue I have been feeling.

Water

As part of my new nutrition program, I am trying to consume more water on a daily basis.  I find drinking out of a reusable water bottle helps me to get my daily water intake and also helps me to easily keep track of how much I’ve consumed.

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MENTAL / EMOTIONAL

Yoga

Besides its physical benefits, yoga positively benefits our minds helping us to become more mindful, release negative thoughts, and open our hearts to love, light, and peace.  Yoga helps me to feel relaxed and helps me to slow down the rush of day-to-day life.  I am really excited to get started on my yoga journey!

Journaling

The main reason I started this blog was to have an outlet for creativity.  While others may paint, dance, sing, or scrapbook, my creative outlet is writing.  I think a lot and sometimes my brain feels overloaded with too many things.  Journaling helps me to release some of the things I am thinking about which eases my mind.  Furthermore, it allows me to express myself and reach out to others in a positive way.

Slowing Down

As I get older, I find I crave a more simple and quietwe life.  The drama, chaos, and negativity that thrive in the world, make me upset and make me desire a slower, simpler pace. This year, I intend to slow down my daily activities whether it’s my morning routine, driving, reacting to the choices of others, teaching, or just day-to-day tasks.

Being Outdoors

Until recently, I never truly understood the benefits of spending time in nature.  Lately though, I’ve realized that being outside makes me feel overall more positive, calmer, happier, and more at peace.  I’ve even found a new appreciation for our Northern Ontario winters.  I’ve finally realized that fresh, outdoor air and quality Vitamin D is essential to my mental health.  This year, I intend to spend more time outdoors by doing things like: walking (with friends, my hubby and my dog), hiking, cross-country skiing, skating on outdoor rinks, camping, and exploring the woods.  When summer rolls around, I may even try canoeing or kayaking!

Home

One of the places I love being the most is at home.  Our house is small but it is cozy and it’s one place where I can (usually) fully relax.  Most of the time, this happens in my favourite arm-chair, with a cuddly blanket.  Nearby, you’ll find my water bottle, sometimes a coffee, the latest book I am reading, my Chapstick, my hand cream, my iPhone, and my iPad.  Next to me, my husband is watching TV from the couch with our fur baby curled up beside him.  Another favourite place in my home is my bedroom. I love the cozy weight of our duvet, the coolness of our pillows, the light pouring in from behind our white, gauzy curtains.  On my nighttable, I have a simple statue of Buddha that helps me to feel peaceful before bed.  I love long, slow mornings lounging in bed on the weekend with my husband and our dog, scrolling through social media, reading, or making plans for the day.

Of course, there is always room for improvement in our home.  While I have some projects I’d like to see happen this year, there are a few simple things I can do to help make my home even more cozy.  I’ve started listening to acoustic music when doing household tasks.  I love lighting candles around my home.  I love the greenery of dispersing plants throughout our house. I love having cuddly blankets and pillows.  I am also considering putting up some white twinkly lights in my bedroom to help create a cozy, romantic, warm space.

Relationships

There is nothing in life more important to me than the relationships I have.  I am very blessed to be surrounded by so many special family members and friends.  This year, I hope to cultivate those relationships even more by paying more attention to my loved ones’ needs and showing more kindness and appreciation where I can.  I hope to stay in better contact with friends that live far away and to visit my three, precious nieces more often.  There’s nothing that makes my heart feel fuller than time spent with those I love.

Parenting

Parenting is a tough job, and I would argue that step-parenting is even harder, especially to two teenagers.  That being said, this year I intend to practice more patience when it comes to parenting.  I am a highly sensitive and emotional person that tends to react too quickly to feelings of stress, frustration, hurt, or anger.  This year, I will pause and think before reacting to these kinds of situations.  I will listen, not half-heartedly, but really listen to their needs and interests when they talk so that they feel the love and attention they deserve.  In essence, I will be kinder and more loving to my children.

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SPIRITUAL

Mindfulness

This year, I hope to practice being more mindful and fully present in the moments of my life.  By slowing down my day-to-day routines, I hope to notice the small things that make life so pleasurable (example: the beauty of the snow-covered evergreens that line my route to work).  Practicing mindfulness will also fill my heart with gratitude, faith, and love.

Yoga / Meditation

I am excited to learn more about yoga and meditation this year and hope to discover more about myself through the practice of both.  I plan to explore some guided meditations and perhaps even create a yoga space in my basement surrounded by things that inspire and motivate me.

Light

For me, light is both figurative and literal.  Especially in the long, dark days of winter, spending as much time in daylight is crucial.  It’s one of the reasons I always open the blinds in my home and in my classroom, and switched all my indoor supervision duties for outdoor ones.  But light can also be figurative. For me the notion of bringing light into my life means to bring positivity and happiness ~ something I definitely intend to do this year!

Morning Intentions

At school each morning, our principal asks us to take a moment of silence to reflect on our day.  Each day, I use that time to set some intentions for myself, for my students and co-workers, and for my loved ones.  Recently, I have starting sharing my morning intentions via Facebook as a means of sending hope and light into the world. Also, by writing down my intentions, it allows me to reflect on them and express them more clearly.

Gratitude

Similar to my morning intentions, I sometimes share daily expressions of gratitude on my Facebook account.  Again, writing these thoughts helps me to see them and feel them more clearly.  But it’s also my intention to help others recognize the small, simple things in life that we have and to realize how very blessed we are.

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What are your goals / resolutions / intentions for the New Year?  Whatever it may be, I hope your year is filled with love, light, peace, and positivity!  💕

Learning Curve

Just recently I wrote a post about my new realization about how closely linked my mental health is to my daily exercise and nutrition.  It’s something I should have recognized years ago, but for whatever reason I didn’t. Perhaps I was too caught up in my efforts to lose weight simply to look better and to fit some kind of ideal that I thought my body should be.  But after dealing with feelings of fatigue, exhaustion, lack of motivation, and mild depression for some time now, I finally made the link. What I eat and how much (or how little) exercise I get, truly matters.

I put this new information to the test immediately.  I started out slowly – cutting gradually back on the amount of sugar I consumed, going for a brief walk, and ensuring I went outside for at least 20 minutes each day.  Within just a few days, I felt the positive effects. I was still tired after a day’s work, but I wasn’t completely exhausted.  In fact, I had enough energy to be more productive at home in the evenings and didn’t actually feel really tired until bedtime instead of my typical 4 p.m. crash.

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That was two weeks ago.  Last week, I started to let things slip. It started when we headed out of town for my son’s hockey tournament.  For convenience’s sake, we ate at fast-food restaurants several times (burgers and fries mostly).  We stayed at my parents’ place which is packed full of every treat and goody you can imagine at this time of year!  On top of that, Mom graciously hosted a Christmas party, complete with all my favourite appetizers.  After a weekend of indulgences and eating “crap”, I was determined to get back on track with my new-found habits on Monday. But when Monday rolled around, I had no energy.  I dragged myself through the day at work, over-ate at the potluck lunch, and when I got home, collapsed with exhaustion.  I’m too tired from the crazy weekend, I told myself, I’ll workout tomorrow. 

Tuesday came and all of Monday’s leftovers were pulled out of the fridge at work. Without thinking twice, I ate another huge plate of mostly unhealthy foods.  Then I had a huge piece of chocolate cake for dessert.  I dragged myself through Tuesday and collapsed with exhaustion when I got home. I skipped yoga at the gym, although I did attend my Weight Watchers meeting (how I dragged myself out of the house, I am not sure).  When I got home, I put on my pyjamas and promised I’d work out the next day. Later that evening, feeling agitated and overwhelmed, I got into a fight with my teenaged daughter and cried myself to sleep.

Then came Wednesday.  It was another hard day at work.  Granted, it’s the week before Christmas and I teach ten-year-olds, but the reason it was so difficult, was because I simply had no energy.  Sure, it’s safe to say that most teachers feel this way at this time of year (the typical pre-Christmas Break burn-out), but I knew that all the crap I had been eating and my lack of workouts was contributing more to my sluggishness than anything else. For the third day in a row, I immediately changed into pyjamas when I got home and buried myself under blankets on the couch.

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Normally, I would have sat there wallowing in self-pity and asking myself over and over again, why am I so tired?  Why don’t I have any energy? Why do I feel like crap?  But when you know better, you do better and know I know that the reason I feel like this is because of my poor nutrition and lack of exercise.

Although I just wanted to hibernate for the third night in a row, I knew it would only lead to making me feel worse the next day.  So I reached out to my friends in Weight Watchers on our online support group.  I confessed how terrible I was feeling and within minutes, one of my friends was urging me to get out for a walk.  I decided right then and there that that’s what I had to do.  I didn’t even hesitate to think about it (for fear that I would too easily find an excuse not to go).  I closed my iPad, got dressed in my outdoor gear, hooked my dog to his leash, and headed out.

I was so proud of myself for actually getting up and doing it that my motivation and energy immediately increased.  In fact, it jolted me awake so dramatically that rather than take my normal, short route, I set out on a much longer route.  Fifty minutes later (and lots of trudging through deep snow), I had completed my walk and my motivation to take care of myself was back.  This morning, on my coffee break when I usually indulge in sweets, I headed out for another walk and took in the mild weather and gorgeous sunshine peaking through the clouds.

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It’s still absolutely incredible to me how simple it is to change our emotions and mental state into positive ones, yet so many people like me get sucked so easily into the dark hole of lethargy, fatigue, and depression.  It’s all the more reason to remember just how critical proper nutrition and daily exercise really is.  I am so happy that I have finally make this crucial realization!