The Shadows of This Life

Here’s some Emerson for you this evening all about the getting out of your own way and getting out of your own head. If you’ve got nasty little gremlins in your consciousness talking trash and making a mess, let them know in no uncertain terms that it’s time for them to take a hike.

This design is totally inspired by a stunning piece of art I found on this equally stunning blog, Pony Gold. Pay PG a visit for some new inspiration.

Ralph Waldo Emerson quote standing in ones own sunshine

Happy & Free

As this weekend comes to a close, I hope you feel happy, free, and full of love. The following image features a mantra I’ve become rather fond of over the last few months. Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu – may all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all. It’s big translation for just four words, right? But that’s the richness of Sanskrit for you.

And remember – “all beings everywhere” includes yourself. So as you head into next week, check in to make sure that your thoughts, words, and actions are in line with creating happiness and freedom for yourself. If you’d like to get a sense of what it sounds like when it’s being chanted, check it out here. I dare you to sit and focus on your breath with your eyes closed while you listen to it – dare you!

lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu - MindBodyPlate

Recession-proof Self-Care

If you’ve known me for long enough, you’re aware that I have one very concrete goal in life: weekly massage. When the day comes that I can afford to hit up my local spa every Sunday for 90 minutes of essential-oil-infused, deep-tissue bliss, I’ll know I’ve really made it.

Unfortunately, now is not that time. Every few weeks I can maybe manage one of those 5 minute neck rubs at the noxious smelling nail salon, but other than that, I just don’t have it in the budget.

One of my go-to excuses when I’m stuck in a self-pitying funk is that it’s just too expensive to practice self-care. I mean, when I think of the things that make me feel relaxed and happy, my mind goes straight to massage and shopping for new clothes. Or shoes. Or anything offered at Anthropologie.

But that’s a croc! I mean, it really is just an excuse. It’s me being too lazy to come up with more affordable, more readily available self-care activities. The great news is, there are so many ideas that fit this bill. So I’ve started a running list of self-care ideas that I keep on my cellphone. That way, when start to feel dark and stormy, I have an abundance of strategies right at my fingertips to help me see the light.

Creative self-care: makeup play time!

One of my favorite ways to practice self-care is to bust out my old art bin filled with a makeup collection several years strong (a lifetime ago, I was on my way to becoming a makeup artist). I take a seat at my heirloom vanity, where I imagine my grandmother sat and looked at herself many times before, and I just… start to play. The key here is that I’m not getting ready to go anywhere – no one may see the final product, and no one needs to. It’s just me and my brushes as I start to paint, using my face as the palette. Sometimes, makeup play time turns into imaginary photo-shoot time, wherein I take a few selfies and tinker with them in a photo-editing program. When it’s time to take the makeup off, I mindfully massage coconut oil into my skin (it’s a great makeup remover), and then wipe it all away with a warm washcloth, moving gently over my face and décolletage with a great deal of care.

So that’s my makeup play time idea. True, it’s a little image-centric, so it might not work for all people or all moods; but the point is, it’s totally free. You don’t even have to leave the house!

I have a client who told me that nothing feels as good as changing the sheets on her bed. “It takes a little bit of effort,” she explained, “but when it’s done, and I snuggle into those crisp, clean, new sheets…” She paused. “I feel like I’m in heaven.” This absolutely blew me away. What a totally creative idea for self-care! And most of us think of changing our bed sheets as a chore. I left that session realizing that my options for creative self-care were truly infinite.

Other affordable self-care ideas include:

  • Create a friendship pyramid. Though I’m fairly certain this idea originated as a social skills worksheet for the special ed classroom, I think it’s a fab idea for us all. Grab some paper and a pencil and start filing in your friendship pyramid as a reminder that you are surrounded and supported by loved ones, friends, family, and community.
  • Make some music. Pick up that dusty guitar, plug in the ol’ keyboard, grab the nearest kazoo or even a red solo cup, and start making noise. The key here is that there are no expectations. Open your mouth and see what comes out! Express yo-self.
  • Give yourself a non-manicure. Listen to some soothing tunes while you remove any chipped polish, clip, file, and buff your nails. Next, add a few drops of essential oil to a big bowl of warm water and soak your hands for a few minutes – dare to get pruny. Afterwards, slowly and methodically massage an oil of your choice into your fingertips and cuticle beds. Take your time with this. Hell, massage all the knuckles as well. You can do this anywhere, and it feels amazing. When you’re all done, wipe away the oil with a warm washcloth and thank your hands for all of the amazing work they do.
  • Pick up an affordable hobby. One that has nothing to do with your job or any other pursuit that makes you feel stressed. Something that’s yours alone. Years ago, before I started this blog, I began tinkering with photo-editing programs and became somewhat of a graphic design enthusiast. It felt totally enriching and really helped me to zen-out. Now, of course, that passion has become a part of what I do here at MindBodyPlate, so on to something new… perhaps I’ll teach myself to knit!
  • Fall down the inspirational quote rabbit hole. Go ahead and Google the term inspirational quote. Oh, just do it. Click on something – anything – and start reading. Found one that you really like? Copy the name of whoever said it, and next, do a Google search for all of their quotes! You can go on and on like this. As long as you watch your posture and jaw tension while you’re parked in front of the computer screen, this free activity can be absolutely invigorating and uplifting.
  • Massage your face. The first time I pressed my fingertips into my cheeks and jaw line, it was a revelation. The human face has at least 42 different muscles, and they get used all day long! For most of us, facial tension is at an all-time high, and a little bit of love up there can go a long way. There are a multitude of tips and how-tos for facial self-massage online, but you needn’t even look at them. Just wash your hands and start poking around. What feels good? What doesn’t? What feels not-so-good but it’s probably just because of major tension so you should keep going anyway? Play with different strokes, different rhythms, using different parts of the hand. Use oil or don’t. Whatever anxiety you may have about clogging your pores will be vastly overshadowed by how amazing you feel afterward. I’m telling you – don’t hesitate. Try it today!

Do you have any recession-proof ideas for self-care? Let me know what works for you. Let’s start a virtual database of easy self-care ideas!

MBP Daily Three: When Your Lucky Underpants Don’t Help

MBP3 IS A SERIES DEDICATED TO WALKING THE WALK. WHAT ARE 3 THINGS YOU’VE DONE TODAY TO NOURISH YOUR MIND, YOUR BODY, & YOUR PLATE?
calvin and hobbes lucky rocket ship underpants

From Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

Woof. Some days, you’re just so, totally down in the dumps. I knew a girl who called it “going to her dark place.” Luckily, the MBP Daily Three is a tool you can use to pave the way toward a better tomorrow, no matter how you feel today. It’s easy to remember: just check off one thing you’ve done today to nourish your mental health, your physical health, and your nutritional health (mind, body, and plate). The MBP3 might not turn your whole day around, but a little bit of self-care today may do a great deal of good in the long run.

Body: My handsome, bearded husband took the day off for a doctor appointment. Though he practically had to drag me out of the house, we ended up going for a short run through the neighborhood together. My brain was doing this weird thing where I thought if I couldn’t go run a 10k, then I shouldn’t run at all (being a perfectionist is really special sometimes). In the end, I just had to strong arm my way through that resistance and get out there. And don’t think I forget for one second how lucky I am to have a partner who can kindly nudge me in the right direction when I’m getting in my own way.

Photograph by Nicole Franzen for Gardenista

Photograph by Nicole Franzen for Gardenista

Mind: Our new neighborhood in Brooklyn is home to this cool little business called Sycamore Bar & Flower Shop. It’s, well… a bar attached to a flower shop. They’ve got all kinds of beautiful moss and ivy creations hanging in glass terrariums in the windows, along with gorgeous and unique flowers littering the mason-jar-filled space. After our run, we stepped inside just to have a look around. There was something about taking in the delicate beauty of some of those little succulents and air plants that demanded mindfulness. And practicing mindfulness helped lift my mood. Maybe we just ducked into a little bar and flower shop, but in some way it felt like a tiny trip to some sort of Midsummer Night’s fairyland, and it shook up my day in just the right way. It’s interesting how the smallest things can affect one’s perspective.

Plate: Finally, we stopped at the health food store, and I pulled up a recipe for red lentil coconut soup that I’ve been eyeing on Pinterest for a while. I took my time perusing the store, an enjoyable pastime for me in itself, and gathered the ingredients to make the dish. The truth is, I may not even make it tonight; I may just not have it in me. But I’ll be able to make it tomorrow. And somehow, just knowing that I have all of the ingredients to make such a rich and healthy meal makes me feel more at ease.  No matter what happens, I know I have some rewarding nourishment coming my way.

Will you tackle your MBP Daily Three even when it seems like a futile undertaking? Who are the people in your life you can turn to for a gentle nudge in the right direction? Let me know in the comments below, and have a lucky rocketship underpants kind of day.

5 Years Recovered

Practice self-care, my friends; this post may be triggering to some.

Journal Entry on Recovery

When I wrote the above journal entry I had been in recovery for two years. It would be another two years and 8 months before I binged and purged for the last time. The road was long, grueling, messy, and confusing, but I made it, and today I celebrate five years recovered from an eating disorder that took 12 years of my life.

This old journal entry really captured my attention, because it sums up what was most challenging about my recovery process: sitting with the discomfort. Of course, at times, “discomfort” couldn’t begin to describe what I was feeling, the skin-crawling, nail-biting, heart-wrenching, head-pounding agony of living in my own skin after eating. I used to imagine digging my fingernails into the couch cushions, into the walls, into anything that would anchor me down and keep me out of the bathroom. There were times when I wanted to die, because it all seemed too painful to bear.

Looking back, it’s no surprise that I had trouble sitting with discomfort, with distress. Studies show that low levels of distress tolerance paired with high levels of urgency can predict bulimia nervosa (Anestis et al., 2007). The paradox of this life-threatening disease is that immediately following a binge/purge episode, bulimics experience a rapid drop in stress and other negative emotions along with a corresponding increase in positive emotions (Smyth et al., 2007). In other words, purging is an effective coping mechanism that makes sense… in the short-term. These reinforcing factors are part of what makes it so hard to beat.

And yet, it’s possible. I’m living proof.

This is not to say that my day-to-day is without struggle. A better marker than years for recovery would be the number of times I’ve felt physical discomfort or emotional pain and chosen to do something other than binge, purge, or restrict my food intake. What a number that would be! That’s how ‘five years recovered’ happens: sitting with one uncomfortable urge at a time.

Dr. G. Alan Marlatt, who was the director of the Addictive Behaviors Research Center at the University of Washington, called this practice “urge surfing,” and he used it with patients suffering from all kinds of addiction, from drugs, to sex, to food (Taitz, 2012). But you don’t need an addiction to use urge surfing; everyone can benefit from mindfully observing the rise and fall of a craving. We all struggle with urges that satisfy us in the short-term but might not be in line with our long-term goals. That makes us human.

Luckily, the intensity of my struggle has diminished with time and practice. I’ve gained a great deal of insight studying Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), mindfulness, and yoga. Each in their own way has helped me cultivate self-empathy and nonjudgmental awareness. I find when I’m able to slow down, notice what’s happening in the present moment, and accept the moment for what it is, I am free to create more beneficial patterns of thinking and behaving. And that is what recovery is all about.

So how do I plan on spending my big day? Well, I’ll start with my favorite yoga class, and I’ll probably end with a meal at my favorite New York City restaurant, Pure Food and Wine. A massage might be in order. More importantly, I’m dedicating this day to embracing each emotion as it comes, the good, the bad, and the not-conventionally-beautiful. Because if I can embrace those emotional waves and ride them with loving kindness, there’s nothing that can stop me.

5 Years of Recovery

References:

  • Anestis, M. D., Selby, E. A., Fink, E. L. and Joiner, T. E. (2007), The multifaceted role of distress tolerance in dysregulated eating behaviors. Int. J. Eat. Disord., 40: 718–726. doi: 10.1002/eat.20471
  • Smyth, J., Wonderlich, S., Heron, K., Sliwinski, M., Crosby, R., Mitchell, J., & Engel, S. (2007). Daily and momentary mood and stress are associated with binge eating and vomiting in bulimia nervosa patients in the natural environment. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 75 (4), 629-638 DOI: 10.1037/0022-006X.75.4.629
  • Taitz, J. L. (2012). End emotional eating: Using Dialectical Behavior Therapy skills to cope with difficult emotions and develop a healthy relationship to food. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.