Chapter 1 – January Reflections

As a person who enjoys setting goals and dreaming, I like to make a regular practice of reflecting on my progress so that I can make intentional choices about the direction I am heading moving forward.

I am happy to say that January 2020 was a great start to a new year for me.  Here’s why:

Mindset Work
For a few years now, I have found the week between Christmas and New Year’s to be a time of dreaming, goal setting, and inspiration. This year was no different. I spent the week reading personal development, journalling, creating my vision board, setting goals, and dreaming BIG.  The difference between this year and last (or any year before that) is that this year, thanks to the mindset work I have been doing, I have not allowed my limiting beliefs to shut down my dreams.  In the past, I’d enjoy my time dreaming and goal-setting and within no time, my own self-doubt and limiting beliefs would convince me that my dreams were unattainable, unrealistic, or impossible. I’d start to play small, settle in my regular routine, and forget about the idea that I (like everyone) am made for more.

But over the past few years, I have been training my brain to think differently and it’s made THE biggest impact in my life. I am now aware of those limiting beliefs and can stop them before they take over.  It’s been a long process – and one that I believe we never stop practicing – but the positive effects it has had on my life are undeniable.

Clarity Workshop
That leads me to my next big thing in January which is that I feel like I finally have some clarity.  As I mentioned, I love to dream. I often think about what other possibilities and opportunities are out there for me.  In my head, I come up with a million little puzzle pieces but they never seemed to fit together. I needed clarity. What is it that I am really made for? Where is my path leading me? What BIG DREAMS do I have ?  In which direction am I headed? I struggled to answer these questions and then…

I Accepted God
Enter my brand new relationship with God. For the record, I prefer to call him God but this is new to me and still somewhat scary (although I am trying really hard to believe). I sometimes think of God as Source Energy or the Universe or whatever power larger than us that is out there. Because there is a power and he/she/it works in mysterious and wonderful ways and when you start really truly believing ….. well, it’s utterly amazing!

Anyway, I found myself struggling personally at the end of 2019 and had a moment where I felt so desperate and lost that I didn’t know what to do except pray (I have never really been a person to pray so this was a breakthrough moment). I called out to God and prayed, and prayed, and prayed so hard. I poured my heart, my fears, my worries, my concerns out to him and basically begged him to hear me and help me.

And guess what?

He did.  The very next day.  To say I was shocked and amazed is a major understatement. It was a massive awakening for me.

And then, I had an even bigger realization –   He had been there all along!  I had simply never reached out to him before.  He was always there, waiting and watching and all I had to do was speak to him through my heart for him to show himself to me. (Mind blown!)

As you can probably tell, this experience was profound for me, but as I said it’s still a little scary and uncertain. I have never been a religious person but as I begin to form a brand new relationship with God it’s pretty fascinating.  And it takes me back to my original point – clarity.

When we start to listen to what God places on our heart, we start to gain massive amounts of clarity.  But we can’t just listen. We have to believe. We have to believe in the path he has put us on and in the direction he is leading us. We have to believe the voice that speaks to us when we get really silent and listen to what’s on our heart.  So that’s what I did, and for the first time in a long time, I felt so clear and so excited about the path I am on and the direction I am heading.

Stepping out of my Comfort Zone
Once I started to be clear on my dreams and really, truly believe in them, I knew I had to take some action. This is another step that I have never taken before. Last summer, I had an opportunity that would have been amazing, but I let my self-doubts talk me out of it and never pursued it.  But this time, as soon as I started to believe, I began to be presented with opportunities that I knew I couldn’t say no to.  I said yes and believed I would figure it out. Of course, my old limiting beliefs and fear started popping up, but I paid attention to it and turned my thoughts around.  Am I scared?  Absolutely.  Terrified would be a more appropriate word to describe how Iam feeling. But am I going to do it anyway?  100% yes. 

I also wanted to take the time here to say  that stepping out of your comfort zone doesn’t have to be big, terryifing things.  It can be small and simple.  For example, I often think of something nice to say to strangers (“I love your shirt”, “your baby is so cute”, “I love your hair – where do you get it done?) but usually stop myself from saying it over the fear that they might think I am weird/strange/crazy. Now that I am aware of how silly this is, I have opened myself up and just say what’s on my mind!  Just think of the positive impact giving a compliment to a stranger can have!

Personal Development Books
Almost any personal development book will tell you that nothing great comes from your comfort zone. They will tell you that you should believe in your BIGGEST dreams and that you should take any action – no matter how small – to move towards them. They will tell you that you are capable, amazing, and made for more.  They will teach you how to train your brain to be aware of your negative self-talk and how to turn it into something positive.  Personal development books are pretty much amazing, and empowering, and full of such incredible information that I believe everybody should be reading them on a regular basis.
If you don’t like to read, you could also listen to any one of thousands of amazing podcasts, videos, or webinars.  I believe in personal development so strongly that I am working on a whole blog post on what it is, why you need to be engaging with it, and where you can find it. Stay tuned!

Made for More Facebook Group
Another big win for me last month was that I created a health and wellness Facebook group for women who have similar goals. The intention behind it was that I wanted a space where like-minded women could come together to support, motivate, and inspire each other to get healthier and to believe in themselves and their goals. At first, I had some self-doubt (would anyone be interested? Who am I to give “advice”? This has already been done) – but I decided to give it a shot anyway.  Within just a few days I had nearly 100 women signed up to the group!  We’re now a month in and not only do I absolutely love creating inspirational content for the group, but many women are still actively engaging with it on a daily basis! I’ve even had individual women reach out and thank me for creating the group and tell me how it has encouraged them and motivated them. Now I call that a win!

Morning Routine
Another big success for me in January was my commitment to my morning routine.  A couple of weeks ago I attended a workshop and  felt like I found the missing pieces to my morning routine puzzle.  Because of my morning routine, I now have time every single day to do what I refer to as my heart work –  the reading, journalling, writing, and creating that sets my heart on fire and fills my cup so that it’s overflowing.  It’s amazing and if you don’t have a morning routine that lights up your soul and is the reason you spring out of bed in the morning, I highly suggest you start working on one.  Now.

Consistent Exercise
In January I also celebrated six months of consistent exercise!  I am finally at a point where I feel comfortable saying that exericse is a regular part of my routine and I am so proud of that!  I have exercised off and on for years but last July I made a commitment to a 100-day workout program – Beachbody’s  Morning Meltdown 100 – that changed everything. I built so much momentum with that program (not to mention endurance, strength + flexibility) that I knew I had to keep going.  So I did.  Since then I have completed an 8-week program and am going into my third week of the 8-week program for a second time.

The biggest thing that keeps me coming back to my work outs over and over again is the positive impact it has had on my mental health.  Exercise is my stress relief.  It is my proof that I can do hard things. It makes me feel strong and fierce physically and mentally. It’s true what they say about the power of endorphins after exericse – there really is nothing quite like it.

Nutrition
My biggest nutrition win in January was signing back up for Weight Watchers and beginning to track my food again. Tracking helps me to be more mindful of my food choices and to more frequently make better choices. It helps guide me towards healthier food options and away from mindless eating. I still really feel like healthy eating is the missing link in my health and wellness journey. Eating right has always been my biggest struggle. Even with all the exercise  I have been doing, my physical results have been slow because of the way I eat. I know that, and I continue to work on it.  Some days are better than others but I am not giving up and know that it’s the area I need to work on the most.

As you can see, I am celebrating a lot of wins for the month of January. For that, I am extremely grateful because I know that it was not that way for everybody. Many people struggle through this season when the days are long, dark, and dreary.  I saw family members, friends, and colleagues face their own challenges this month. And it’s not to say that I didn’t face any of my own. But overall, it was a positive month and for now I am choosing to focus on the good.

Life is full of ups and downs and I fully believe that when we are moving upward we need to celebrate and soak it all in. We need to do the work to strengthen our mind, body, and soul so that when life takes a downturn (as it inevitably will) we can move through it with grace and strength.

I’m ready February –  bring it on! 

xoxo

Becoming a Morning Person

Are you a morning person or a night owl?

For the longest time, I never considered myself to be either.  I liked to go to bed early and sleep in late.  But not too long ago, I began working on the habit of having a morning routine and it’s pretty safe to say, I’m already a big believer.

They key to my morning routine is making time for things that are really meaningful to me.  Throughout the day, so many people + things need our attention but during the quiet hours of the morning, before the rest of the household is up, I can give my full attention to things that fill my cup.

Keeping in mind that it’s still a routine I am working on, here’s what my morning routine has looked like recently.

First of all, it actually begins the night before and that’s because I no longer bring my phone to the bedroom (shout out to Mel Robbins for inspiring this one!) No matter how many nights I intended to go to bed and read for awhile before going to sleep, I’d find myself mindlessly scrolling on my phone, repeatedly checking the same social media feeds over and over again.  Not only is screen time before sleep detrimental to our sleep quality, but I’d stay up later than intended because I’d lose track of time.  Now, not only is my sleep not inhibited, but most nights I actually get to that book I’ve been meaning to read!

The second habit I’ve built into my morning routine is that I no longer hit the snooze button (again, inspired by Mel Robbins’ author of The 5 Second Rule which I highly recommend!)  Did you know that hitting snooze can negatively impact your energy levels for the first four hours after you are awake?  Energy is something I already struggle with so deciding not to hit snooze anymore was an easy decision.  That doesn’t mean it’s always easy to do when the alarm goes off at 6 AM but I am getting better.  Also, instead of using the alarm on my phone I use our Amazing Echo Dot and ask Alexa to set my alarm.

Once my alarm goes off and I’m out of bed, I start to get ready right away by doing my hair + makeup (I usually shower the night before).  This helps me feel “ready” to start the day.  I often listen to music or a podcast while getting ready.  I do stay in my pyjamas for a little while longer because they are just so cozy + I like to be comfortable in the morning!

After my hair + makeup are done , I head to the kitchen where I let out the dog, make myself breakfast + a coffee.  I usually eat in my favourite armchair and catch up on social media while having breakfast.

After breakfast, I take the remainder of my coffee to my office.  This is one of the times of day I love the most because it’s when I get to do the things that really nourish my soul + give me a positive mindset for the rest of the day. Plus I’m out of the way while my son + husband start getting ready for school/work.

Once in my office, I diffuse some essential oils and set to writing in my gratitude/mindset journal.  I always list at least 5 things I am for grateful and then write a list of goals + affirmations that I want to focus on. I always write my goals in present tense as if they are already happening (a tip I learned from my girl Rachel Hollis).

After writing in my journal, I turn to the personal development book that I am reading. I have read so many good ones + and they’ve helped my mindset immensely.  I’ll do a post on my top personal development choices but so far my top 3 favourite are:
The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins, Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis, and You are a Badass by Jenn Sincero.   Reading personal development in the morning fills my head with positivity which sets a great tone for the day.

(Side note: I just started reading The 5 AM Club: Own Your Morning Elevate Your Life by Robin Sharma for a little added early-morning motivation!  I’ll keep you posted.)

After I’ve read for about 10-15 minutes, it’s time to brush my teeth, get dressed, + head to work.  My lunch + bags are always packed the night before so it’s easy to grab them and go.  I try to arrive at work about 30-45 minutes before my students arrive so I can make any necessary copies + finish last-minute prep before they arrive.  I also sit down at my computer and open all files we’ll be using that day.  Having everything ready to go before the kids come in the door makes me feel organized, focused, + ready to take on the day!

So that’s it.  I’ve been doing this routine for about two months now and I feel like it’s had a huge impact on my mindset + mental wellness.  I feel more content, fulfilled + just generally happy lately.  I’d say that’s definitely worth getting up a little bit earlier for!

Do you have a morning routine?  I’d love to hear about it!

 

Trials and Triumphs

In a follow-up to the post I wrote yesterday about my new-found passion for health and wellness, I wanted to share with you something I have been experiencing for the last week or so.

Two weeks ago, I decided to fully jump back on the “eating right and exercising” bandwagon (yep, story of my life!) I am kind of following the 21 Day Fix program, although I am not using the coloured containers.  I am using the food lists as guides and trying to reduce the amount of wheat, dairy, sugar, unhealthy fats, and processed foods I am eating.  I am doing the 21 Day Fix workouts although the program suggests you work out every day, and I have admittedly skipped a day here or there.

The first week was fantastic.  My motivation was high, I was eager to learn, and I jumped in with both feet.  I did meal prep, journalled all my meals, and even tried to make the best choices when I was out of town for a 3-day work conference.  But here we are at the end of Week 2 and wow, it’s been tough.

Like so many others in today’s society, I have a major sugar addiction. If it’s sweet, I love it.  If it’s white and carb-y, I love it.  For months, I subsisted on a diet of pizza, bagels, pasta, and fries.  Yum.  But the entire time I was devouring those delicious foods, I knew that they were not only wreaking havoc on my physical body, but on my health overall.

It’s been brought to my attention lately just how badly unhealthy foods can affect us.  I have started learning and doing some research about holistic nutrition and when I heard that unhealthy foods can also cause mental health problems, mood swings, and skin problems (just a few examples), it was like a light bulb clicked.

For months, I struggled with depression, lack of motivation, extreme fatigue, and just overall feeling terrible.  My colitis has flared up leaving my stomach bloated and gassy and causing frequent trips to the bathroom.  I am so fed up.  Now I am finally starting to understand that my food choices directly affect everything related to my health – whether it be physical health, mental health, emotional health, or spiritual health.

So all the more reason, to get educated and to try to make some serious changes in my life.  As previously mentioned the first week was pretty easy.  I was highly motivated and eager to get started.  But this past week, has been a little bit like a drug addict coming off drugs.

First of all, the cravings I’ve had for carbs and sugar have been mad crazy, especially in the evening.  When the day’s work is done, and I finally sit down to relax, the thought of anything carb-y consumes me – PB & J sandwiches…. big ol’ bag of chips…. pudding cups…. ice cream…. let’s be honest, anything.

On top of that, I have been experiencing crazy mood swing, most of which have made me irritable, resentful, sad, and just downright, miserable.  My brain has been screaming at me, angry with me for not feeding it the junk I normally feed it.  I get mad and ask myself why this has to be so hard?  Maybe I should just give up?  I could go grab a bowl of sugary cereal right now.  Screw it!  I think.  I feel down in the dumps, frustrated, and sad.  A couple of times this weekend I have burst into tears for no apparent reason except that I feel like total and utter crap.  Thank goodness, my sweet and supportive husband has been by my side to talk me through it and to encourage me along.  Because of him, and because of the inkling of determination that still exists inside of me, I am thrilled to say I’ve mostly overcome these tough battles.

The good news is that I am learning.  I know recognize that these physical cravings and mood swings (oh and the raging headache I had last night) are my brain’s way of trying to trick me into feeding it the crap it so desperately wants.  And my logic tells me that if I just keep fighting and pushing past it, eventually I will overcome this hurdle and come out stronger on the other side.

So now I am focussed on one day at a time.  I am going to continue to educate myself about what fuels and energizes my body from the inside out, and what turns it into a sugar-addicted, miserable monster.  I know it won’t be easy, but at least my determination is still high.

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!