Musings, lightbulb moments, & me........
Musings, lightbulb moments, & me........
An ongoing blog series of entries about life, wellness, and the journey.
An ongoing blog series of entries about life, wellness, and the journey.
December 27, 2017
First, push the idea of physical fitness as being synonymous with wellness out of your mind. Wellness has many other components; there is physical, yes, but also intellectual, spiritual, mental and social wellness to consider. How do we care for ourselves in a way that we are truly and wholly well?
My personal WHY begins 15 years ago when I woke up lying in a cardiac ICU unit. I had pericarditis, an inflammation of the lining of my heart, which a year later was blamed on a chronic, progressive illness; lupus.
With lupus, your body is in constant state of inflammation and begins to attack itself. Lupus ebbs and flows, and I liken my flare ups to feeling as though a 300lb person is sitting with all their weight on my sternum. This is in addition to the bone numbing fatigue that can prevent me from doing regular things. Like getting out of bed.
Doctors usually turn to medication to treat symptoms and to slow disease progression, but I was convinced that lifestyle had to play a part somehow. For me, lupus became an invitation. An invitation to live life well; to fully enjoy what the world has to offer.
Living life well requires living in a state I like to think of as living “wholly well”. My whole life needs to be well in order for me to live well. I mindfully assess what goes into my body to avoid foods that trigger flares. I mindfully assess what I spend my time and energy on. I am selective about who I surround myself with. I’ve changed my career to a more flexible one that allows me to work in an environment that values health.
I believe all bodies, minds, and souls have needs like mine. We all have the privilege, no, the right to be well. And I believe that when we care for our whole life; the physical, emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual, THEN we experience the best version of our selves. Be well.
My favorite things
My favorite things
January 1, 2018
Soooo....I'm about to let a giant "secret" out of the bag......
Wellness pros get sick too!! UGH!!! We do everything in our power to avoid disease and then when we are not looking, it strikes!!! Last Tuesday, right after I subbed water aerobics I felt that little tingle. And then I woke up Wednesday and I got hit by a MAC TRUCK carrying a big old load of the cold virus. Friends, I'm still getting over it.
I am resting and sleeping more, that is the time your body heals, drinking tons of fluids and just plain doing whatever to be a little less miserable.
So I'm going to share a few of my favorite things this week....and my theme is favorite things to help you get over a cold, or at least lessen the suffering.
1. Butternut Squash soup...I got some at Whole Foods when I was in the most miserable part of the cold and then my best friend made me some of hers! YUM-O. Not only is it packed with nutrients likevi tamin E, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B-6, folate, pantothenic acid, potassium, and manganese, but really, the warmth of it is soothing to the soul. Just use low sodium veggie broth and find a recipe with no heavy cream or cream cheese.
Give this one a try I found at allrecipes.com:
2. Glass water bottles.... water just tastes better our of glass!!! I'm a klutz, so I was gifted a beautiful one that is nice an protected. I add some lemon to help flush out the toxins in my body and it tastes great. With how much water I drink daily if I were to use plastic water bottles I'd kill a whole state in a month! I guess doing something that is better for the planet makes me feel like it rounds out a good decision.
3. Puffs Plus with Lotion...omigosh friends, MY NOSE!!!! We had an off brand for the first few days and I could have been Rudolph's double! I got my Puffs with Lotion on Saturday and my nose is at least 10 shades lighter in color. Put a couple drops of a mint or menthol-like oil on a cotton ball in the box and even better! Open those pasages!!
4. Finally, Thieves oil. Oh, how I love Thieves. First and foremost, it smells fantastic. I diffuse it to lessen the smell of the laundry that's been piling up while I've been sick.
Just kidding. Mostly.
I use Young Living Oils because I want theraputic grade, pure oils that don't have a million mixers in with them or the distributor cannot trace back to the source. Thieves comes in two versions; a vitality oil and an aromatic oil.
Thieves® Vitality™ essential oil blend contains Eucalyptus Radiata essential oil,
which may help support a healthy respiratory system when taken as a dietary
supplement*Add to food or beverages to enhance the flavor. A drop in hot drinks adds a spicy zing (Clove, Lemon, Cinnamon, Rosemary).
• Includes the naturally occurring constituent limonene (Lemon, Eucalyptus
• Includes the naturally occurring constituent eugenol (Clove, Cinnamon)
• Includes the naturally occurring constituent eucalyptol (Eucalyptus Radiata,
• May contribute to overall wellness when taken as a dietary supplement*
• Supports healthy immune function*
The aromatic version, well, I already mentioned it smells oh so good!
The comfort of my favorite things, especially when I combine them with losts of rest, hydration, and some much needed catching up on reading, all give me the emotional equivilant of a hug. So, I'll be here maybe for another day of two with my favorite things, healing quickly so I can take on 2018 with you.
What works for you?I would love to hear! Drop me a line at [email protected]
*These products and information are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Anyone suffering from disease or injury should consult with a physician. I am not a medical professional. Information for educational purposes only.
January 3, 2018
Nutrition can be oh, so very confusing, right?!?
So this week, let's just make one small change in our nutrition to make an impact.
This week, let's eat the rainbow!
Yep, every day try to eat one thing from each color of the rainbow.
Yes, the color should be naturally occurring...but you knew that before you asked, lol.
Ready to take the challenge?
Join me on social media and send me your pictures of rainbows!!!
January 10, 2018
It's #wellness Wednesday!
Exercise is a great #weightmanagement tool, and it has a side benefit in helping to relieve stress.
Today, squeeze a little extra #movement into your day by getting up every hour and taking 250 steps, do 10 squats, and do 10 wall pushups. It will take you 3 minutes and you will #feel better physically and emotionally.
What is your workout today?
January 11, 2018
Last Saturday I taught a Power Yoga class for the first time in two years….gads did I have so much fun! I came home bursting out of my skin, jumped right into cooking breakfast for my family and did not panic about my messy house even when company is arriving in a few hours. Giddy is a great way to describe how I felt as I bustled around the kitchen texting friends about the experience, the feedback, and my overwhelming sense of joy.
This coming March will mark ten years that I have been teaching yoga. I was attracted to yoga as most people initially are; I thought I would get a good stretch. My first few classes felt great physically and I was surprised at what I can only term as the post yoga glow. My first glimpse at mental/emotional/spiritual side effects of yoga practice. When I discovered a physically vigorous power yoga class it fed my competitive spirit and need to be challenged. I was hooked and decided to study to be a teacher four years later.
Early on in my journey as a teacher I was blessed with a fabulous mentor who always offered me the same gentle guidance; speak mindfully and be yourself.
Lisa’s words stay with me as I practice, plan, or teach.
Echoing “Speak mindfully. Be yourself.”
But it’s hard right?! To be yourself…to be AUTHENTIC?! With all the pressures to wear certain clothes, drive a certain car, go to certain restaurants or stores or vacations. Social pressures that tell us that we “should” behave in a certain way. It’s not overt, this pressure is subtle…pressure that you don’t consciously perceive. There is no one standing over me telling me that my possessions are not good enough or are not the “right” look/feel/brand/season/color/model.
Well, no one except that little voice inside me…..right, that’s me imposing this on myself. I am telling you, there are times I can feel these pressures physically; my heart start to race, I am easily agitated, I snap at the kids and goodness knows nothing fits!
I am a yoga teacher for God’s sake, I am supposed to be calm, collected, ZEN!!! Don’t I have tools to use for this crap?!
I do. But then there is also this part of me that hears my dear Lisa; “Speak mindfully, BE YOURSELF”
I like to live fully, completely, and stay busy. That’s just me. I guess it could be that I like to live life at a fast pace. Fast pace for a health nut, yogi mom which translates to staying active, always working on something or other, and filling my schedule up. I am emotional and sensitive which is sometimes expressed rashly.
But that’s me.
Accepting that- that I am an emotional, sensitive, busy, active person - and not trying to force myself into some little box, a picture of who I think I am supposed to be - is work. Every darn day. I get up early to practice, but also to spend some time in devotion. I pray, I talk, I assess the day before and ask for the strength and grace to take in stride what the day before me will bring. It took me 14 years of practice to discover morning quiet time is my jam; it centers me, directs me, and allows me to be me.
This does not work for me during the day; I had to try on a few other strategies to find that short walks and getting outside are my mid-day tools to re-center.
And this, all the strategies to re-focus, all the insight into myself that I feel I have been driven towards…it can all be traced back to my practice; I got this all – in a roundabout way- from a class I went to initially to get a good stretch.
So when I feel crazy and the pressure is on my shoulders and my shoulders are in my ears my jaw is clenched and I feel like I can’t deal, it’s ok.
Just having a moment. And needing to remember Lisa’s words “Speak mindfully. Be yourself.”
Which brings me all the way back to the beginning of this rant post. Teaching a power practice….right now, where I am at in my life, it felt good, and real, and right. It felt authentic. It felt like me. And knowing that for a time, it was not is teaching me that I can be fluid in my own authenticity. What feels good and right and true will be different for me depending on what is also in my life at the time. Now that feels like me.
The Illusion of Balance
The Illusion of Balance
January 16, 2018
Close your eyes now and visualize what that word means to you; give yourself 30 seconds to sit with that visual and then notice how you feel. Come back to me after your 30 seconds.
Write it down; how does your visualization of balance make you feel?
Are you relaxed? Agitated? Hopeful? Sad?
Does hearing that word give you hives? Does it seem like the impossible dream? Does it make you feel inadequate?
Like so many of you, I dance around the juggling act we call life each and every day. A demanding job; kids with schoolwork, activities, and now- social lives of their own (and no ability other than me to get places); grad school; chores around the house; and once in a while, I’d like to do something social or relaxing too.
I am naturally a perfectionist and a bit of a competitive personality; I enjoy the feelings that come as a result of meeting a certain level of achievement and recognition. For years, my way of approaching life was to give my all to EVERTYHING that I do…nothing could drop below a certain self-determined level of excellent or I would be thrown into a tizzy of negative thoughts. Sometimes, if more than one of my pockets of life was “off” the negative thoughts would spiral and I would find myself locked into a mindset of “I’m a failure”.
Friends, that is no way to live. As you all well know, no one is perfect and it is IMPOSSIBLE to be excellent at every little thing you try or explore, do or say, work on or experiment with. Something had to give.
Over time I explored so many different tools to manage the negative mindset spiral and to feed my emotional and mental wellness; meditation, yoga, journaling, church, friends, hiking…..and they helped. To a point.
In 2016, I attended the World Sports and Spinning Conference in Miami (looking to hone in and craft my instructor skills….you know, to be #excellent)and took a ride from a Master Instructor named Shaun Sullivan appropriately called The Wellness Ride.
No, really. A SPIN class changed my life. Not in the 60 minutes on the bike, but in the time that followed. Side note, I totally believe that your life is changed millions of times over its course…. Think about a path with many side trails. Off those side trails are even more side trails….so on and so forth. Your journey is dependent on which trail, side trial, side side trail you take. You always have the option to turn around and go back to the path to try out different side trails. Being mindful to recognize what is a positive change that you can grow with is the game changer.
What Shaun presented was a ride based on a commencement speech given by Bryan Dyson, a former Coca Cola CEO. An excellent instructor presents to you not just a class, but an experience…. The music, their cues, even the lighting…. You feel engaged and “in”.
In this ride all of those elements combined for an experience, one I even got Shaun’s permission to attempt to replicate, and the speech stuck with me. Stuck like glue. I reread it regularly, revisit it when I feel out of whack, and have shared it with my colleague and team at work.
For me, this speech has forced me to consider that balance in life is a fallacy; it is an unachievable standard set forth by popular media, or your friends, or Instagram…wherever. I think of balance as equality, which maybe it’s not- but in my brain that is how it works; kind of like justice holding the scales and they would be exactly equal. This doesn't actually work in my life when I try to apply it...this thought of balance being equal…life is more of a juggling act.
There are times that certain things need to shift to a lower priority… a project at work, a late meeting, a new certification, a certain book, a two hour workout…they shift to a lower priority so that more important things can be elevated up a rung or two on my to do list ladder. You know, things that matter like staying home with a sick kid, having coffee with a dear friend, making the dentist/doctor/therapist appointment….. Feeding what makes me whole and well. “Balance” is about juggling and shifting and accepting where you are at in life. It’s not equal. It’s personal. A personal best, if you will.
At the end of the day, I have to be in sync with my values and revisit those things that work for me to attain some sort of sanity in this crazy busy life I lead (which, btw, I like that way!). Shift priorities, accept where I am at that day/week/month/year. That is after all, my personal best.
Here’s the speech: http://www.graduationwisdom.com/speeches/0055-dyson.htm
Stay the Course
Stay the Course
January 21, 2018
Consistency will get you to your goals.
It really is that simple.
There is no magic pill, no trick, and no shortcut I can give you that will help you make a lifestyle change. Consistency will get you there.
I may have just gotten myself mentally fired by some of you with that bit of news, lol, but know that my goal is to empower you to make LASTING lifestyle choices that positively affect your wellness. This will involve change. Change can be hard. But when you apply that change consistently over a period of time, you will see results.
In January of 2001 I weighed 195 pounds. I am 5’ ¾’ tall. I was a retail store manager and my schedule was all over the map; nights, weekends, days, overnights. I worked all the time and rarely brought my meals to work. Exercise?? Yeah, that was walking to Taco Bell in the food court to get Nachos Bell Grande for dinner.
That winter I applied and interviewed for a promotion and did not get the job. Something about that flipped a switch in my head. When my regional manager told me I was not the one, he asked if I was ok and then asked what I was going to do next. Not thinking that my boss might mean professionally (oy!) I blurted out from my heart “Go to the gym”. Really? That answer surprised me as much as him. But I did it. I drove the two blocks (yes, drove) to the gym and joined. It was a great gym full of friendly trainers and offered 3 free sessions. I took advantage of that and hooked up with a trainer who not only taught me the fundamentals of strength training, but also keyed me in on the gym’s free nutrition program. They sold no supplements, used real foods you can get at Hannaford, and the plans were easy to follow. By the time I moved back to New York in October of that year I was down 65 pounds.
The weight has stayed off. That first year, just two short months after moving home I began to experience lupus flares. I have had five pregnancies and two full term healthy babies. I have gone through a painful divorce. And the weight has stayed off.
I am 17 years into this healthy lifestyle journey now, and I can tell you my top key to success is consistency.
What I want to give you today are simple tools for your tool box. Apply them consistently and you will find yourself on the path to successful change.
1- Stop making excuses. If time is an issue, realize that you will never FIND time, you have to MAKE time. This will involve choices. You may not get to watch the latest episode of This Is Us on the couch with some popcorn and instead have to watch it from the elliptical. You may have to get up earlier to devote time to meditation or devotionals or journaling. You may have to see less of certain individuals if you spiral into negative, defeating, gossip if that is where you find yourself every time you see them.
People who make positive life changes make choices. And they are not always easy. And you don’t always feel like you are “in the mood” to journal/workout/take an extra 20 minutes to make a healthy dinner/fulfill the volunteer commitment.
2- Define your goal. Do it on paper. Now look at that goal. Every. Single. Day.
Is it specific? Saying I want to reduce stress becomes a lot more meaningful if it is restated as I want to decrease the number of upset stomach incidences I have weekly.
Is it measureable? Losing weight is a great goal, but there is a big difference between 1 pound of weight loss and 15. Make sure you have an objective metric attached to your goal.
Is it really and truly realistic? If you want to lose weight and exercise every day and you are doing nothing right now, I suggest you revisit your goal and redefine it to a smaller chunk. Adding two sweat sessions a week is 200% more than you do if there is no exercise now, two days a lot!
Is it achievable? If you have never run a day in your life, you may not run a marathon this year, but you can do a 5k or 10k. Stretch goals are excellent, but don’t set yourself up to fail.
Does it have a finite deadline? Put a date on it. A deadline can give a sense of urgency to your goals, but also gives you a check in point.
3- Drastic behavior change often is not long lasting. Make small changes in your life and goodness, don’t make more than one or two at a time. Behavior change will become routine if it is not an incredible lift to put it into practice. That 15 pound weight loss can be broken down into 3 (30) day segments with goals of 5 pounds at each segment.
4-Find healthy life hacks. USE THEM!
Want to meditate more? Install Insight Timer on your phone and let it guide you. Want to make healthier meals? Check out the prepared fresh produce that is in most grocery markets now. Become one with your broiler. Meal prep- even if it is just breakfast and snacks. Want to reduce your stress? Make a date with a dear friend for a once a week walk/yoga class/ steaming cup of tea. The internet is full of life hack ideas, just sift through with a discerning eye for the ones you can try.
5-Enilist help. Get a friend to be an accountability partner. And pick someone who will be kind, but not easy on you. Hire a coach or a trainer. Go to a counselor. What will best support your journey?
Life has ups and downs, so will your journey. Your path to your goal will be riddled with obstacles, from well-meaning friends who say “It’s just one cookie” to the exhaustion of a house full of sick kids keeping you from the gym to the demanding boss who imposes virtually impossible deadlines. You will fall off course. But with consistency, it is much easier to get back on track. We are so quick to toss a goal to the side with just one day or week or month or year that is tough. Think about this in the span of a lifetime. So you had a year that threw you a curve ball. That’s one year out of 80 plus that you will live. Perfection will not happen, so shake it off friend, and try again.
Back to consistency. Each of these points has helped me in my health journey to live a life of wellness. I make some hard choices and try my hardest not to make excuses about why healthy is hard. I make goals. Change for me happens in small bites- I’m not all or nothing. I use life hacks. Often. I ask for help; I find an accountability buddy or challenge, I hire a trainer, I talk with a trusted mentor. I know that change takes time and by practicing new behaviors consistently, change will happen. Above all, I have come to understand that wellness is a fluid concept for me. What the demands on my time/emotions/mental capacity are will direct what my plan looks like to elicit the most optimal wellness at any given life point.
Friends, I hope that 2018 is treating you well and that you are inspired to live a life of wellness. I am honored to share that journey with you and look forward to hearing from you! [email protected]
What Drives You?
What Drives You?
January 30, 2018
I started writing this earlier today at the breakfast table with my daughter. I was thinking about how I recently signed up for a Beginner Tri group, the day ahead at work, the SPIN class I was headed to meet a friend, and the smiling 11 year old sitting next to me. I was there, but not really, truly anywhere all at the same time. I wasn’t focused, wasn’t really in to anything that I was doing….do you ever find yourself in that very same place? In attendance, but not present?
Each of us has different thing that compel us along in our wellness journey. For some, it’s a trip to the doctor to find out your blood pressure or blood sugar is too high. For others it’s the prestige of attaining finisher status at elite sporting events. Some find pleasure in the solitude of a run or hike, crafting a beautiful and tasty locally sourced meal, enjoying the fellowship of friends.
Studies show that people who are motivated intrinsically- meaning within your heart, mind, and soul- and not extrinsically- external….like being motivated by your boss to finish a project not because you love it, but because they need it. Over the years I thought I was intrinsically motivated….I was in for the challenge, for the feeling of accomplishment that I get when I finish a big race, when I meet a goal. But really, I wanted to be the best. That’s it…..I liked having the attention, appreciation, and the admiration that people bestowed on me when I reached one of those “goals”.
And then my world crashed down on me. My divorce.
No sordid details here, but suffice it to say I spent two years of my separation and the first months of my divorce putting fitness and event notches in my belt as a way to deal (that’s code for ignore) my dead marriage and the pain the end of such an intimate relationship creates.
During this time I had also discovered a great new love, hiking. Initially it was to get away, be in nature, and think. Then it too fell to another goal; could I reach the prestigious 46er club mark before 40? Oh yes, and I started at 36. But then something happened to me. I got happy. I started being present in my life, not just on the mat. I went back to school. I did me.
I discovered that it is ok to slow down once in a while. I discovered that I didn’t always want to feel like I HAVE to run today so I’m ready or I HAVE to lift so I am strong for an obstacle. I like to move for the sake of moving. I love how I feel when I am doing yoga and when I am done with yoga. I love how I feel reading in the hammock in the backyard or baking with my kids. Slowly my motivation shifted. My motivation became living life. Active, lazy, busy, a little less busy. But just to live.
My motivation is the smiling 11 year across the breakfast table. Don’t confuse what I am saying here…I don’t do things to please her, to make her happy. I am motivated by my daughter to be me. Just as I am. Because if I can show her that I can be me, like me, and really truly own who I am then my job as a mom is done. This is true intrinsic motivation. I want to do me. So I’ll put down the laptop till later, put my anxiety about my upcoming commitment to training off for a bit and focus on my motivation. The other stuff can wait.
Life looks different through the passage of time. Things that worked 10 years ago do not work now. Things that fit your life then go away and then come back. We must learn to listen to tune in, focus, and listen to ourselves. Hike, swim, pray, cook, read…..tune in! Whatever works for you. And know that it is ok when it shifts. Because it may shift again.
So me, yep, I signed up for a tri training group. Not becaue I need to accomplish something, but simply because sometimes a little kick in the pants when you feel a shift happening can help.
Teabag Wisdom - Part 1
Teabag Wisdom - Part 1
February 5, 2018
“Appreciate yourself and honor your soul”
I love, love, love Yogi Tea. Not only does it come in fabulous varieties, but you get a little quote of inspiration with each tea bag. I enjoy my morning cup of Detox Tea with a little “Teabag Wisdom”.
Today’s quote really made me pause and reflect. Appreciate myself? Honor my soul?
Finding appreciation for my own talents, values, and attitudes has been/is an ever-changing (um…challenging?!) part of my personal wellness journey. We are all given talents…… you know ……. things that we do well, and we all make a choice to utilize those talents to fully realize who we are, or to ignore the talents, stuff them in a deep dark drawer and suppress our natural, inborn strengths. Sometimes our talents make others uneasy which can make it even more difficult to appreciate what we have been gifted with. That should not make us hide our talents or downplay them, but we often do.
I’ll throw myself out there for you…ugh…..bearing some vulnerability here. I can speak in front of large (or small) groups of people with relative ease. And enjoy it. Over the years I have been asked to take part in multiple speaking opportunities from radio, to TV, to audiences of 10 to 300. I am consistently the one selected to speak during group projects and enjoy giving presentations. I have always attributed this to practice, practice, practice; I taught group exercise for years in all different environments and still teach yoga; I get practice multiple times per week to define my inflection, enunciation, language use, and speed.
But I was at ease speaking in public years before I taught group exercise; at the age of 23 I was asked to address a business group of colleagues decades my senior in age and experience in my very first work conference. I was tapped into to train others on a central message during an international rebranding campaign at 24. When I challenge myself to view my public speaking ability through the lens of talent; I get uncomfortable. My friend Sarah has an amazing eye for interior design, color complements, and you should see her put together a gift basket. I have so much respect and admiration for her talents, yet excuse my own as simply the result of repetition. What is it about simply accepting that I have a talent that gives me the queasies?
My teabag gives me a clue. It is ok to appreciate myself not just accepting my faults and recognizing that I have some talents, but really appreciating that those talent are part of the unique fabric that is me. This appreciation is not egocentric or narcissistic, it is allowing myself to have a positive reflection on my own ability that I certainly extend to others on a fairly frequent basis.
Such a mental shift is seemingly easy as I type this when I am well rested and in a quiet place, but how to hang on to this sense of acceptance and avoid the pitfall of “thanks, but….” is the tricky part. Here’s my plan:
• Daily I will add to my journal a simple sentence or two about how one of my talents has positively affected my life or the life of someone around me
• Restructure my ingrained response to compliments about talents to just simply remain at “thank you”.
Appreciate myself. Yes. I can do this.
And so can you.
Will you join me in learning to appreciate yourself?
Email me at [email protected] or find me on social media @allisonraeh and tell me about your progress.
My Favorite Things
My Favorite Things
February 13, 2018
February brings to mind visions of pink and red, hearts and flowers, chocolate and champagne. Well, maybe if you are in some sappy movie.
For me, this February is bringing mid-winter getaways for skiing and snowy fun, summer plans (OMG- my kids are already registered for camp!), the Olympics, and focus.
Happily, I have two trips planned to the ADK this winter. One with the family and best friends for a long weekend in a cabin to ski, snowshoe, tube, and hang with the kiddos. The second weekend is my 5th annual girlfriends’ getaway; still to the snowy mountains of Upstate NY, but with a goal of reconnecting with my amazing network of female friends which always seems to rejuvenate my soul. Ok, that and to sleep late. These times that I take to leave my home offer me the opportunity to realize the magnitude of my blessings and appreciate my season of life better.
Summer! Just the word makes you smile, doesn’t it? And my summer plans are in full swing. Vacations on both coasts including a conference turned family vacation that will ignite my passion for wellness even further, my first triathlon, lazy evenings, days at the pool, and hearing all about summer camp. Summer is all about exploration and adventure, both which without life becomes dull.
There is just something so inspiring about the Olympics. Beyond the amazing athletic feats, the dedication and determination of the competitors stirs feelings of joy, admiration, and awe. I totally cried watching the reaction of Chloe Kim’s dad following her gold medal run on the halfpipe.
Focus. At the start of the year we have so much drive to change/move/alter/shift our lives. By the time President’s Day rolls around, we’ve reverted to old habits and lost the wide eyed hope that January 1 brought. February can mean focus if we choose it to, and at the start of the month I decided for me, it did. I signed up for a training group to help me maintain my fitness focus, took on a new writing gig and set a schedule for my graduate work to maintain intellectual focus, and am seriously limiting my distractions. It’s tough. I mean real tough- red wine and bad TV are soooo tempting. I am just trying this experiment where I focus on having focus and I’m going to see where it goes. I chose this favorite thing not because it’s simple for me or because it’s sexy, but because I think that improving my focus will ripple out to other areas of my life and maybe even help me enjoy all my other favorite things that much more.
Do your favorite things keep you going? I'd love to hear more! Email me at [email protected] or catch me on social media.
February 25, 2018
I’m going to get real honest with you.
At some point in the last two years, I lost my spark. I lost my fire, my mojo, my zeal.
It’s been a rough two years.
In March of 2016, I began to flare up. Chest pain, couldn’t breathe right, exhausted. Did everything the doctor’s said I should; rested, tapered workouts way back, didn’t hike on my annual snowshoe weekend, started a new medication. After a year, this resulted in my body starting to feel better, but I had done a job on my spirit.
At the same time the flare up began, I was completing my bachelor’s degree; 3 semesters into a 7 semester long journey. I took 3 courses every 16 weeks so I could finish “on time”. I seriously thought that to myself for two years….I must finish “on time”….. and I defined on time as during the year I was 40. If I turned 41 pre graduation I would consider that a failure. A stressful standard that I arbitrarily decided to set for myself.
I beat myself up for not being fit enough, strong enough, smart enough, needing more sleep, craving different foods, or not being able to do everything that I could do pre-flare up. I got frustrated and irritable.
And I lost my spark. Fitness- my love, my passion, oh- and my occupation- became something I did because I had to. Now, really- EVERYONE has those days where they are only exercising because they have to, but I usually love a good workout.
This is not me.
This happened once before. Not many people know it, but in the fall of the year 2000, pre children, I weighed in at 195 pounds. I am 5 foot 1. Don’t get me wrong, I struggle with maintaining weight and having a healthy relationship with food- always have. This was different. I had been a gymnast and swimmer in middle and high school but after that period didn’t really land on any activity that I loved. I am often motivated by activity. When I love activity, I eat better. And as we all know, it’s the nutrition anyway that makes weight gain or weight loss happen. During that period, I went down a dark path of eating my feelings. I got myself out of it when I made a goal and reconnected with an activity I loved.
The weight gain was not going to happen again this time, for my health remained important and over the years I’ve learned the impact of nutrition on my lupus symptoms. But I did lose my enjoyment of activity then and I lost it somewhere along the last two years.
And it changed me. I was going through life and getting things done that had to get done. Sure, I had enjoyment and excitement in my life, but the underlying spark, sizzle (some may say sass) was gone…if it was there the moments were fleeting, or worse, false.
I have done quite a bit of introspection over the last two years trying to get my head wrapped around this, trying to desperately get “me” back. I wondered, more than once, if I was depressed. I read positivity and mindfulness books, did devotionals, and tried different methods to ignite my internal fire again. I think all that work did help- I think it kept me treading water with my head above the surface. If I had not fought for me so hard then maybe I would have gone down that path of darkness.
What I learned was that I just have to let go. So finally, just three months ago, I did. I let go. Just like I teach about, just like I have read about, and just like I had to do so many years ago to begin my fitness journey when I weighed 195 pounds….I let go.
I let go of any sense that I had to be this crazy intense ball of muscle and energy all the time. It is ok to learn to not just listen to your body, but listen to your life. My life was telling me that it was time to slow down. Time to be gentler to my body. Time for more quiet. Time to start saying no to all the “extras” that I am offered.
I let go of the need to be the best. All the time. In everything. I never will be anyway, so goodness why hold myself to an impossible standard.
I let go of the constant comparisons that I made with myself and the neighbors or colleagues or friends or the stranger in the coffee shop or Instagram. Time to be me. 100%, fully, authentically, human me.
And I let go.
I have enjoyed the last few months. There have been hard decisions, beautiful moments, tears, joy, and have fully accepted each moment for what it is. I do not want to wish any of it away, then it would not be fully, authentically, me. I am resisting planning each and every second of each and every day, micromanaging and designing….. because then I am not in the now. Oh, I plan. But not everything. I try to be mindful of my limits and give myself permission to say no. I allowed myself to discover new creative outlets (hello blogging, writing, power yoga)
Slowly, ever so slowly, I could feel a shift. I set a goal.
Today, I felt a spark. Excitement bubbling back to the surface. My vision cleared; I mean almost like a fog lifted- and I began to focus.
I would say I’m back, but I never left.
What did I learn during this part of my journey?
I learned, again, that your wellness will ebb and flow. Yes- I have learned this before. This time it wasn’t just the cognitive learning of acceptance that took place, it was my soul that learned acceptance.
I learned that you have to use the tools around you to help you when you need it. For me, books, yoga and meditation, prayer, and pulling back from commitments helped. Resting helped. Asking for help, helped.
I learned that nothing is forever. And not in a negative way. I mean nothing is forever in a “positive, you get to have so many experiences in this life if you choose to” way.
I feel a spark of hope about what is to come.
Tell me about what you do to reconnect with your center, your spark. Email me at [email protected]
So, when do I rest?
So, when do I rest?
March 27, 2018
“I’m exhausted!” “I’m beat.” “Ugh- I got no sleep last night, I’m so tired.” “I’m just worn”.
Ever hear yourself saying one, or all of these in answer to the question “How are you?”
I do. Just like busy, I seem to pride myself on being exhausted. Yet, it is oh so very bad for me to be in a constant state of tired. And I know it! I tell my kids to go to bed because “You need to get your rest.” I tell friends to rest when they come to me with their weariness from life’s stress.
I work full time, am in training 6 days a week for a triathlon, and go to grad school half time. I get tired. But yet, I find a million and one excuses not to rest. Laundry needs to be put away. The dishwasher needs loading. Facebook is riveting me with the details of my friends’ lives. I’m searching endlessly for something or other on Amazon. This is what drags me away from rest. Right. Like any of that minutia needs to take place at 10pm when I should be heading to bed. Why do I devalue the importance of rest in my own life?
Rest is literally the only time that your body heals. Yep, science backs me on that one. Not only has it been proven in a lab that sleep deprivation inhibits the process of healing and repair for physical wounds; any new parent, stressed out student, or overwhelmed executive can tell you that sleep also affects your emotional ability to handle, well, life. Intellectually, I know rest is important.
And then, there is the flip side…..getting into a rut and taking too much “rest”. I don’t want my work out to be too hard because, ummm….it’s HARD! I choose mindlessly browsing etsy instead of working on the paper that is due next Monday. A 5 minute conversation at work about a projects steers its way to a 20 minute micro-analysis about so and so’s decision, or how something was handled- not a productive conversation, rather one that distracts from what is actually in front of me.
Rest then becomes for me a conscious decision I need to make. And that I need to properly define. Avoiding the difficult is not rest. Distraction is not rest. Boredom- even sitting on my rear for hours- is not rest.
Rest is when I physically and mentally take a break because my body and mind need it. Breaks need to recharge me and refuel me. So how does that happen? How can I tell when I need rest?
First, I have to tune in and listen to my body. I literally have to do this in quiet. No music, no talking, preferably no snoring dog. As a health coach, trainer, and fitness pro I know all of the science backed signs of overtraining; increased resting heart rate, soreness that does not dissipate, trouble sleeping, etc, etc. But I think that yoga has been a great guide for me on this step, teaching me to unite the body and mind through breath. I always seem to decide that I need a nap on those days when I have some quiet time between a tough workout and the house. Physical rest will allow me to heal and my cues are crankiness, avoiding workouts, feeling unable to focus, and a general sense of discontent.
Second, I have to listen to my mind. I had this great conversation at the Y the other day about the importance of paying attention to what you fill your mind with because really, that is who you become and what you believe. If I fill my brain with mindless surfing of things to buy- I then become someone who is always wanting. And if I always have my wheels turning, analyzing this conversation, or playing that discussion over and over and over again, my mind is working in a cycle that generally is not a productive one. Usually, it is an emotionally draining and negative one that sours my mood. How do I rest my mind? Again, quiet sometimes helps, but here I have also learned classical music helps. Going for a walk helps- even just 10 minutes. Being in nature helps. Meditation helps. I don’t always necessarily turn off my thoughts, rather, I tune my thoughts and get my brain off the spinning wheel.
Third, I have to listen to my heart. Life can wear you down and man, there is a lot going on out there. Your soul needs to be fed. I have to take time daily to re-center myself around my values, my beliefs, my essence. I do a daily devotional that gives me just one or two sentence to ponder and come back to when the day wears on me. I have some friends that read Rumi, or the Dali Lama, or just google a meditation. I swear there are days that without my verse- I would break down into a puddle of exhaustion and emotion, gently rocking under my desk. My heart gets rest in the familiar and refueled through the reassurance of my values.
So then, how do I know that I need to press on? Strangely, it’s been working for me to try a micro version of the above. I breathe and check in. Am I truly done- like, I’ll get hurt if I don’t stop done or do I have just five more minutes in me? Am I hurt? Is it my mind telling me to stop because work/school/laundry/etsy is calling? Will I feel better if I finish what I am doing? Can I still think clearly? Do I need to count to 10 and take a deep breath? What was today’s devotional? I check in and sometimes press on, sometimes say “It’s time for a nap!”
Whatever you choose this moment, this day, may you be well.
Talk to me about your rest [email protected]
The Mysterious Disappearance of Allison Raeh
The Mysterious Disappearance of Allison Raeh
July 28, 2018
It’s been a while….
So where have I been? Why start a blog, write a few posts and then drop it?
Friends…that is called prioritization and life.
I am a mom. A friend. A student. A boss. An employee. A trainer. A soon to be wife.
Life called and I had to go.
God has been good to me and filled my life with experiences and people of value.
One of my experiences took me, two years ago, to a conference where I heard a life changing speech that I wrote about in a previous post, The Illusion of Balance. If you haven’t read that post- read it now!!! Or here is the quick and dirty; life is about balancing 5 main areas of “things that really matter” family, friends, spirt, health, and work. If these were balls, only 1 is made of rubber and will bounce back if dropped and that is work. All the others need to be carefully juggled because they will be damaged if dropped.
I had to drop a ball.
I got so pulled on I felt like Gumby.
Something had to give and I knew it was time to focus my time, energy, thoughts, and soul on the balls that will be damaged if dropped.
Spirit. Health. Family. Friends.
Each of those areas is ow renewed, and, in my humble opinion, in better balance. I’ll write about how that happened in the coming weeks.
For now, I want you to take with you knowledge I learned (yet again!) the hard way.
Take time to breathe. Revisit your priorities. Check in. Laundry will wait. The article will wait. Computer time/social media/work email will wait. I promise.
Consider the urgent and important and know that sometimes, non-essentials mask themselves as urgent. Important aligns with your priorities. Your soul. YOU,
Today, take 2 minutes to check in with your 5 balls and decide if you need to stage your own disappearing act.
Tell me how it goes!! [email protected]