When sleep becomes elusive, things tend to go downhill fast and it can feel like your world is beginning to spin out of control.
Sleep is vital, it helps us to produce and balance our hormones, allows us to better focus during the day, aids us in managing our tempers, writes what we learned in a day down as memories we can recall, heals and builds our muscles, and so much more. Without it, we cannot survive and certainly we will not thrive.
The real bummer can be that once we start the slippery slope into lackluster sleep, it often becomes a cycle that feeds itself; can't fall asleep because you feel anxious? Well, not sleeping will make you feel more of that and so the cycle is set.
So, what can we do to break these cycles we get into and get a good nights sleep?
I'm glad you asked, here are my go-to's:
-Meditate. If you don't know how to meditate or it seems to scary just take a few moments throughout the day to take 3-5 slow, intentional deep breaths. If you are down with trying meditation but don't have your own practice, google it! There are so many fantastic guided meditations and apps these days you're sure to find one you like.
-Hydrate, not not right before bed!!!! Drink your water earlier in the day and take the time to learn your body's rhythms. If you find you need to skip a glass of water because it's too close to bedtime try getting it in earlier in the evening to avoid those nocturnal callings.
-Use calming essential oils. I love Petigrain, Serenity, or Lavender in my diffuser before bed. They are calming and soothing, which is just what I need to quiet my mind and any anxious feelings I may have carried with me through the day.
-Take a warm bath or shower before bed. Having the heat warm your body before crawling into bed is so soothing and relaxing. If your a bath person you can add your favorite essential oils to epsom salt and then sprinkle it in for triple the relaxation as the Magnesium in the salts are actually gentle muscle relaxers!
-In the morning, to set your day up right, rub Balance blend or Cedarwood on your feet to get grounded and settled. You'll be amazed at how well you'll feel starting off your day with your feet on the ground and your head out of the clouds!
-Exercise!!!! Last but clearly not least, get your body moving. Every. Day. You don't have to do a knock down, drag out workout every single day but you should be moving every day. A walk, a bike ride, a run, a fitness class, yoga, anything to keep your blood flowing, your daytime energy up, and to give your body a release that will help you sink into the pillow each night.
Leave me your questions below or send me a message!
As I move through my own personal process of healing, growing, and learning. I see so many things so much more clearly than I did 2 or 3 or 10 years ago.
We struggle, we struggle SO HARD. Maybe it's health related or exercise related, maybe it's weight related, maybe it's relationships or even finances. But no matter what it is, it's a struggle and the struggle is real. No, seriously, it is. It affects our biochemistry, it affects our DNA, it can even affect our unborn babies! Crazy isn't it?
But what I want to say to you, the point that I want to get across is not only that your struggles are real and valid, but more importantly is non-judgement of the person in that struggle. In Yoga we would refer to this as practicing Ahimsa or non-violence.
Non-Violence you say? Yes, non-violence, the practice of showing compassion, courage, balance, self love, and equanimity.
Because whether you are the one in struggle or it is someone somewhere else, near or far, the best thing we can do for ourselves and them is to show non-violence/judgement of their situation and recognize that; when we were in our struggle, we were the same as they are now in their struggle. And on the flip side, if we were to be in THEIR circumstances with the tools that they have, we would most likely act and react the same to their circumstances were they ours.
We are one, we are common to each other as beings. The struggles are felt by all and they are all real. I encourage you to gaze deeply and recognize yourselves within others. You might just find that a part of you lives within a part of her, while a part of her lives within a part of you.
A few days ago I was in my car, driving down a street I've driven down a thousand times. So, needless to say I was on autopilot and my brain was freed up to think about some things that have been swirling around for a while.
In my work and as a woman I am constantly privy to body image conversations. Sometimes they are with clients, sometimes they are with friends, sometimes they are in my head or laments to my husband. Always they are about not being able to attain some idea that came along at some point in time to the the vocalizers mind.
The conversations are tender and raw and scary and sad. They reflect our perceived failure to look and therefore feel a certain way. "I'll be happy when I lose 10lbs." "I will meet the man of my dreams when I can get rid of this cellulite." "If only everyone wasn't staring at the crows feet around my eyes."
But since when are these things we are lamenting inherently BAD??? Since when is not meeting the exact standard of a weight watcher's calculation your failure? Since when are laugh lines around your eyes a sign of failure? Since when does a completely natural part of your body like cellulite instigate shame in your heart?
Why are we no encouraged to embrace the movement of our body, not just through space but through time?! Why are we not encouraged to look at ourselves in the mirror in order to get to know the body standing in front of us? And what if we did? What if we stood before ourselves with eyes and heart wide open so that we could really see and get to know the bodies that house our wounded souls?
What do you think it would feel like to take the time to observe your body, its changes through the days and the years, how it feels and what makes it feel good or sick, what it is capable of accomplishing when your mind is fully supportive of your body. What would it feel like to look at yourself in the mirror and acknowledge that it is the only body in the world that is like this. And this body is perfect the way it is, the only thing you need to do to make it the most amazing body ever, is to nourish it, accept it for being uniquely yours and to love the hell out of it.
So, I am not a nutritionist or a dietician. Heck, I don't even focus on nutrition for weight loss in most cases. I don't count calories or disect my every meal for the proper concentrations of micro and macronutrients. Sure as I eat a grapefruit every day of winter I help my clients food journal and make sure they are not calorie/nutrient deficient, food is incredibly important! I just don't subscribe to any one thing. Mostly for my sanity.
But here is something I just came across and I feel that it needs some hashing out.
I recently tested out a new app on my phone that is stellar at motivation, behavioral change facilitation, health coaching, engagement, calorie and step tracking but there were a few things that were red flags for me. These issues are not only found on this app, I see them in other point system weight loss programs as well, some of which I have zero doubt you've heard of or maybe tried.
The potential problems I came up against:
When calculating my Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), the amount of energy (calories) we need in a day to sustain life (AKA lounging around in bed all day), I came up with a number that was higher than the system put me on. Ok, that was a mouth full. In other words my calorie intake was set at 1200 cal but according to my calculations the minimum I needed to be in bed all day is actually closer to 1400 calories/day.
Why does this matter? Well, for one, our bodies need to have a certain amount of intake to function properly, that includes functioning in the fat metabolism department so we can lose weight. Second, I'm a pretty active person and much of my weight comes from muscle, not just an oversupply of fat. Muscle requires more calories than fat does so there's a potential that I'm even further in the negative.
My major concern with this is that (particularly as a woman) my body might go into "starvation mode" rather than actually burn the fat like I wanted it to. So, setting calories too low can really backfire on you. Not to mention, since the focus was on calories not on macronutrients, there's no telling if my calorie reduction left any major gaps in my diet; which would also send signals to my body that things are off and send it into a tissy to get it back on track again.
I feel the need to get into this because there are a lot of programs out there that put a really heavy focus on calories or points and for the most part they are great, there are some key situations where they can really trip you up.
For instance, another client of mine was telling me about how bananas were "0" points on the program she was using, which sure makes it seem like they don't have many calories right? So, maybe you could eat a couple in a day or simply not give them a thought. But the average banana is about 105 calories and a lot of that is sugar and if you're honing in on other low point but high calorie foods, you could be spinning your wheels big time and mentally that can do a serious number on your psyche.
So, the moral of the story is make sure you eat ENOUGH food to sustain your daily activities in a healthy way. You can still have a significant daily calorie reduction and be above your BMR. And secondly, be mindful of the healthy foods that might be sneaking in the calories you were trying to leave out. If you are using a point system check on the foods you gravitate towards from time to time just to be sure you are on the right track, or have a buddy, health coach, personal trainer, program mentor double check your work.
Eat lots of colors and enjoy!
So today I am going to talk about the Immune System! What on earth does it have to do with exercise though?
Well, as it turns out, a whole lot. The immune system likes to sit at a sort of baseline level. As we move through our days and weeks and are exposed to different things it fights to maintain it's steady balance to remain at your personal baseline.
When you add in exercise into your day you actually DEPRESS the immune system.
*Wait. What???? Why is this stuff being pushed on us all over the place if it depresses my immune system?!*
Don't despair!!!! When we exercise regularly we actually BOOST the baseline of our immune system!!! The trick is to keep it consistent. Working out every other day may be a good sweet spot for you to keep your immune system steady and working on beefing itself up. Similar to cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength training. Consistency is key.
Below is a super simplified, non-scientifically numbered graph. It's meant to give a simplified big picture so you can see what I'm talking about visually.
-Follow the Medium orange line at the bottom to see what happens when you work out once in a while. You drop deep below your baseline and it takes a long time for the immune system to pick back up again.
-Follow the dark orange line to see what baseline is like when you don't exercise and just maintain a similar day to day without any notable exertion.
-Follow the lighter line that starts above baseline to see how your immune system re-regulates to stay above the "normal" or previous baseline. This is where you want to be. Bounce back is faster and you keep your immune system stronger than your non-exercise baseline every day!
Here is a cool article with some more fun images for you.
If you'd like to read a nice review of literature looking at the body's immune response to exercise this one may be of interest to you. They also get into the question of exercise intensity and the immune response. Their findings seem to suggest that high intensity exercise is very beneficial and quite protective!
Moral of the story? Make exercise a regular and consistent part of your lifestyle.
Consistency. There is a word capable of striking fear into even the bravest of people! Or is that just me..?
Well, assuming I’m not alone, let’s just go ahead and validate those feelings. The thought of being consistent in something day in and day out feels really daunting sometimes. I hear you, I’m with you, I completely understand, and I want to run away too.
So, what can we do? Well, first let’s reflect on things we’ve done in the past and observe our actions, reactions, and feelings *WITHOUT JUDGEMENT*. I know that last bit is really really hard but if you allow yourself for observe with our judgement there is no end to the wonderful possibilities and changes coming your way. This, I promise you.
Next up, identify some behaviors you already are consistent in!!! “Wait, what? You think I’m already a consistent person?” Well, yes. Yes, I do.
1- Do you brush your teeth and hair every day?
2- Do you get dressed every day? (unless you have a newborn, then move along to the next one... seriously no need to liver here.)
3- Do you eat when you are hungry/at meal times each day?
4- Do you greet people when you see them in the morning, at work, in the checkout line? (Side note, if you don’t, no worries but I highly recommend you do. It has an uncanny ability to brighten everyone’s day!)
Ok, you get the point right? There are plenty of things we do every day and I probably missed some of the most obvious ones here. But you can add them to the comments!!!
So, now we have reflected, observed, and had the “Ohhhhh, that’s true.... I am a consistent human...” moment. Where can we expand and grow and add in more healthy things consistently?
Here are some pointers and ideas:
-Baby steps. Yup, babies learn a little at a time and they keep at the tiniest things until they master them. (They also take breaks when they are tired, just saying, we can learn a lot from babies...)
-Pick one thing for today or this week that you want to focus on. Maybe you have a list of 50, but for today, pick one.
-Work on one maybe two things a week, with gentle and attainable goals. Then each week reflect back on how you did, how you feel, and what you think might serve you best going into the next week.
-Find some accountability. Maybe you can hold yourself accountable. Maybe you journal to aid in that effort. Maybe you ask a friend to check in with you or start a buddy system. Maybe none of that works for you and you decide to hire a health coach/personal trainer.
-Whatever you decide, make sure it feels right for you!
I cannot say it enough, rest, is important. Rest is where the magic really happens. Rest is where our body does the work. Rest is our regulator, our memory, maker, and our mood modulator. Rest is where we grow and rest is not optional.
When we are talking about rest in relation to exercise there are a few things that may or may not pop up in your mind. For one thing we rest between intervals, sets, exercises. This allows us to catch our breath, our blood to flow without quite so much constriction, our waste to be removed from the working muscles, etc.
Then there are our rest days. These are the days when we take a load off and hang out. The day we don't go for our morning run or meet our bestie for HOT HIIT (Yes, that is a thing, as if High Intensity Intervals weren't enough already, now you can do them in the comfort of a hot studio. Needless to say I'm very interested to try it!). Rest days are in place to allow your body and mind to heal. Heal? Yes, heal. Because when we workout we are creating tiny little microfractures and micro-tears to our bone and muscle. No, there's no need to be alarmed, it's just the way the system works and when we give our bodies proper fuel and rest it heals even stronger than it was before. It's really pretty cool!
Rest, specifically sleep, is also incredibly important. When we sleep our bodies are literally put on the charger and all the ins and outs of our every system are restocked and restored. Trying to lose weight? Well, you had better get your sleep because that's the time when the hormone Leptin is produced and Leptin my friends is responsible for regulating hunger and therefore, how much we eat. I don't know about you but when I am over tired I could eat a house and Leptin isn't alone, there are a whole bunch of other proteins and hormones that all work together to manage how our bodies respond to food, exercise, etc. If you'd like to read a brainy article about Leptin: here you go!
Now, we have an honorable mention, mood. When we are not well rested we are more likely to be a bit more moody than usual. This can throw off our desire to stick to our plans, be pleasant to our fellow exercisers, and cause fights in the family. I've personally sabotaged more than a few workout sessions with my sleep deprived bad mood picking fights with my husband. So, don't skip rest days and don't skip sleep! Currently I'm reading about some really interesting findings on how lack of sleep makes us more susceptible to certain disease states and it's no joke!
How can we help you rest today? Well, here are a few of my go-tos:
-Diffuse Lavender, Serenity, or Petitgrain Essential Oils
-Eat a well balanced diet during the day with lots of fresh water
-Exercise! Of course ;-)
-Meditation, Prayer, Sacred Quiet Time. Here's a nice piece on WHY Meditation works.
-Want some ideas as to what to do on your rest days to help prepare you for your next workout? Here are 9, but I bet you can come up with some pretty fantastic ones of your own, do share in the comments!
So, there are 4 different types of exercise and you can read about them here. They include Stretching, Strength Training, Aerobics, and Balance. They are all equally important and Harvard can tell you all about why, but what I want to talk to you about today is finding what works best for YOU.
Some people LOVE running while others LOATH it and often the thought is that we SHOULD like something because we believe it is good for us; but that doesn't really help so much with actually getting on the treadmill...
So, let's take a moment and reflect on activities that we DO like, maybe things we have done in the past as kids or something we saw in the park and it sparked a bit of curiosity. Next let's take the judgement out of it. There is a lot of pressure to do what someone (or an inner voice) tells us to do and we need to take the time to allow ourselves to observe outside of any judgement that may be passing through. If it does pop up, "oh come on, that's ridiculous, there's no way you can do that," just recognize it for what it is and allow it to move on along.
Next, let's at the same time, be open to all the possibilities. For instance, I seriously disliked Yoga for YEARS, that is until I got real darn sick with Lyme. Now, my case was no walk in the park and I'm still working on rebuilding my immune system and while I can exercise quite a bit now, running and biking are still out. Last winter I was still feeling a bit under the weather but not so much that I felt I could just forgo all exercise so I dipped my toe into Yoga again. It has been life changing. My body is so much stronger and my mind is really feeling the perks as well. Something that I once avoided has become my hands down go to.
Now that we are allowing ourselves to dream a bit, removing the judgement (yes, yes you can start practicing the circus arts and no, people are not going to think you're crazy, trust me.), and being open to things even if you think you might not like them; let's look at some choices!
You have Choices in Movement:
*Personal Training (make it what you love!)
*Gardening, yes, I said gardening, do it right and it absolutely counts
*Online Classes of all kinds (there's nothing like working out in the comfort of your own home)
When you are trying to decide how best to become active, be gentle with yourself, be kind, release judgement, and go slow. It's all a process and it can be an enjoyable one if you let it!
Keep me posted! What exercise styles or classes have you tried? Do you think you've found something you love?!
Stay Safe, Stay Warm, Stay Well!
Winter time is here again and it mother nature has come at many of us fast and hard! Maybe she's making up for lost time from this unseasonably warm autumn...?
So, what are some things you can do to stay healthy this winter?
One Keep the relative humidity at a comfortable and therapeutic level. Somewhere around 40% is generally pretty good. You can add humidity to your air by using humidifiers, diffusers, a kettle on your wood burning stove, etc. Personally, I like to use my diffusers because I can also add my favorite oils. OnGuard to clean the air and keep sickness at bay, Citrus Bliss to lighten the mood, Siberian Fir or Breathe to promote feelings of ease and clear airways.
Two Keep moving! Yes, I said it again. Because I really do mean it! Did you know that your immune system gets built up just like your strength and endurance does? Have you ever noticed that just working out once a week or a few times a month leaves you sore for a few days but not a whole lot stronger? Well, that's where consistency comes in and it is just as important for your immune system. Just like soreness creeps into your muscles after a workout and brings you down a bit, your immune system becomes depressed after a bout of exercise leaving you a little bit vulnerable. BUT when you exercise consistently, your body starts to build your immunity as a result. Creating new immune cells to fight off infections and keep you healthier than you would be if you were more sporadic about your exercise. So, move your body and uplevel your immune system by keeping it consistent.
Three Eat what's good for you! For me I like to go the route of lots of fruits/veggies, followed by quality proteins and healthy carbs as a nice treat. To boost the effectiveness of a full belly I use my favorite supplements, Life Long Vitality pack from doTERRA along with their probiotics and food enzymes. I've tried a whole bunch of brands and these are my favorite. No matter what your particular diet consists of, try to keep the sugar to a minimum. It can create mood swings, lead to excess weight gain, and if you have a bacterial infection (like chronic lyme as I do...) those nasty spirochetes LOVE to feed on sugar and let me tell you, that's no fun.
Four SLEEP!!!! Yes, glorious sleep. Sleep is important for SO many reasons. It's when our memories are written for safe keeping, our hormones are regulated (trying to lose weight? Sleep can help with that!), and we finally have time to relax, If I'm having (or my kids are) a particularly amped up evening I'll often put some Lavender, Petitgrain or SERENITY in the diffuser and watch magic happen. If I want a little extra oomph for myself I'll take a Serenity softgel and enjoy a good night's sleep.
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Welcome to Day 1!
Ok, so we all know that there is A LOT that surrounds us creating "health" right? We all know that just as the foot bone is connected to the leg bone; that the energy level is connected to our nourishment and all of that is connected to our emotions right? Don't we? Well, maybe I'm being overly simplistic here but what we put in on, around and what we do with our bodies is completely related to how we feel physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally. It just is.
So, that all being said, welcome to 15 days, 15 topics and if you watch my videos on YouTube they will take you about 15 minutes. Little bite sized pieces of my research and anecdotal insights to keep you warm in this blasted cold weather!
When you are watching these videos or reading my blog posts I invite you to keep an open mind and stick to what you are comfortable with while maybe taking the leap and researching some of the things that you might find a bit strange or scary to take on at first. We all have our own personal limitations and nothing is one size fits all, especially when it comes to keeping our bodies' and our minds' tip top shape! Some of us may long for earthy scents of Siberian Fir and Cypress to lift our moods, while others may crave the sweet scents of Ylang Ylang and Jasmine. Some of us use Yoga to move our bodies, keep our muscles toned, and joints lubricated while others prefer Zumba!
Ask questions, set goals, make small changes for the better and let me know what you think!
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I am an Exercise Physiologist and mother of two lovely ladies. I love teaching my community about health and wellness and I love helping likeminded people implement natural solutions into their everyday lives.