bootcamp-sign

Lessons from my “Balance Bootcamp”

It’s been a while since my last post (2 months and 4 days to be exact). I’d like to explain. Not because I think you’ve been offended or curious about my absence, but because I want to consistently provide valuable content and conversation here, and I’d like to share why Consistency took a side road.

During June and July, I wrote a book that has to do with personal transformation (a term I prefer over “self-help”). It’s for anyone who feels a little lost, is seeking more direction and fulfillment, and wants to live their juiciest, most awesome life! I can’t wait to share more with you soon, but in the meantime, I can tell you that my book will be back from the editor next week…whoo-hoo!

Another contributing factor to my absence was the start of graduate school. It has taken my brain a month to recover from the shock to my neural pathways, since it’s been [ahem] quite a few years since my last academic experience. It’s also been a significant challenge figuring out how to balance all the lovely moving pieces of my life.

While I don’t have it down perfectly–who ever does?–I have found my center once again. The last two months served as a lesson for how positive, powerful thinking is a daily practice. It’s not like riding a bike, where you never forget how to successful use it. You have to work at it by being self-aware, remembering the basics, calling upon Faith, and allowing time for quiet reflection (where our most enlightening moments lie). Balance is certainly not a one-and-done sort of thing.

bootcamp-sign

I like to always leave you with some takeaways, so here are some lessons from my recent Balance Bootcamp:

  1. Remember the big picture–why you’re putting yourself through (and enduring) challenges to reach your goals. Knowing why you’re doing something, and keeping your eye on your desired result, will help keep you afloat.
  2. It’s okay to feel crappy. Ignoring or pushing down your feelings will usually lead to a blowup or meltdown later on. So recognize the fear, doubt, and frustration, and feel them. But then…
  3. Allow yourself to move on from the drama. I relied heavily on this mantra: “All is well. Right here, right now.” It put things in perspective. 99.9 times out of 100, nothing is happening in the moment to cause the negative chatter in your head. You’ve got to get out of panic mode in order to see the road ahead. There is always a solution, you just might not be seeing it right now.
  4. You CAN find the time to do what’s most important. But you have to plan for it! If it’s important to you, schedule it. And do it first, if you can.
  5. Take time to practice self-care. The busier we are, the easier it is to neglect ourselves. Big mistake. Even a few minutes to do something that gives you joy, centers you, or allows you to relax is crucial for your well-being. Forcing yourself to push on doesn’t end well.

 

 

ostriches in group

4 Steps to Conquer the Overwhelm

ostriches in group

There are times when your mind is racing out of control from stress, you’re feeling the wild horses of anxiety gallop in, and you hope the earth will open up and take you out of your misery.

We’ve all been there.

Here are 4 steps that can bring you from a place of overwhelm to to a head space where you can deal: 


#1. Breathe. *REALLY* breathe.

How often we forget to fully implement this simple yet crucial step! When we breathe deeply, we not only calm our system but take our mind out of crisis mode. Stop whatever you are doing and focus in on the sound and rhythm of your breath. Inhale and exhale fully until your heart rate slows. Bonus move: Try tilting your face upward 45 degrees while you do this. I find it naturally tugs your mouth into a slight smile in this position.

#2. Strip away the story.

Emotions cloud our ability to separate fact from fiction. While our feelings are completely real to us and valid, we have to question the story we’re telling ourselves that’s causing our distress. Is it really true?

Suppose we are in conflict with someone. Instantly, we think we’re experts in interpreting their facial expressions, the meaning behind their words, and accurately predicting their next moves. We are the only ones to have successfully entered another person’s head, right? Nice try. While we have the capacity for complex ideas and understanding, we also have fantastic imaginations that can construct entertaining stories. Imagination is a wonderful quality in the creative process, but can create unnecessary drama and pain during stressful situations.

To cut through chatter and get to the facts, try analyzing your circumstances like a scientist. What scientists think of or consider as “real” are things they can prove. Strip away all the story and see what facts are left. What remains is likely a much tamer situation than originally thought.

#3. Slow your roll.

Determine if any action is required. If not, don’t do anything right now! Most of what we worry about works itself out without any action on our part, or we find out that what we were worrying about isn’t as dramatic as we’d assumed (see Step 2).

But, wait, don’t we have to act quickly when things go sideways, put out the fire before it spreads? No. Or at least not until we can confirm we are about to take decisive and supportive action, as opposed to simply reacting. Our primitive brain’s job is to keep us safe, so when there’s a perceived crisis, our instinct is to react. That fight or flight stuff worked really well for our ancestors when there was a tiger chasing them through the jungle. But unless we are in immediate danger, it’s usually to our detriment that our mind urges us to react. I think we can all agree that most decisions made from a state of overwhelm never have the best results.

So resist the urge to “do something.” Overwhelm energy—that extra energy you don’t know what to do with but is screaming to get out—feels crappy. Unfortunately, we often do or say things that are destructive or unsupportive in an attempt to alleviate the discomfort—like lose ourselves in junk food or take out our frustrations on someone else. Instead, do something active. Take a brisk walk, tackle some yard work…punch the air if you have to. Once you expend that energy, you’ll feel more relaxed and less reactive.

#4. Unleash your angst without causing casualties.

Still charged up? One way to freak out responsibly is to write down all of your friction-building feelings about the situation. Set a timer for 5-10 minutes and let it all out, anything that you’re thinking. Voice record it if that feels more natural to you. Don’t stop until time is up. This exercise gives you permission and freedom to express how you feel and to identify what it is really bothering you. Then, tear up or delete your entry, allow yourself to let it all go, and move on.


While these tips can’t wipe away adversity, they can at least help squash overwhelm so we can deal with situations from a more centered place. One in which we can tell our brain’s crisis center, “Hey…thanks for looking out for me and being ready for action. But I’ll take it from here.”

Positivity

Getting Back to Happy

Have you ever gone through a vibrational rough patch? When you experience low energy or emotional numbness, not just for an hour or a day, but for several? That happened to me a few months ago. I couldn’t seem to shake the funk I’d been dragging around for so long, I was concerned it had become part of me. It ticked me off, actually, because I wanted *so badly* to get back to being happy. I kept saying, What’s wrong with you? Come on, get happy! BE HAPPY!! Berating myself into happiness wasn’t working. As you’ve probably experienced in your own life, that never works.

How do you get back to happy? 

I commanded myself to walk to a nearby park, even though all I wanted to do was lay in my bed. It was a bright day that sharply contrasted my mood. Everyone seemed to be having a great time. I wanted that too. I took a seat on a step leading down to an expansive pond, and turned my face to the sky, looking for answers. Looking for a way back.

What do you do when you’ve temporarily lost your joie de vivre?

The pond rippled from the wind. It was beautiful. Effortless. Everything was going with the flow. The twigs, patches of pollen, multi-colored leaves, and ducks were going with the flow of the water. Not resisting. Not second guessing or asking why. Just going with it. The grass and tree branches were bending with the breeze. Allowing nature’s abundance. None were saying, No, that’s not good enough. No, that’s not the right way. No, I don’t want that. 

Seeing all the raw beauty and noting its effortlessness grounded me into the present. The dialogue loop in my head shut off, taking all my concerns with it. I was thankful for the warm kiss of the sun through the chilled air. I was thankful for my sunglasses that allowed me to easily gaze at the sky. I was thankful for the punctuations of laughter and gleeful yelps from children in play. My focusing in on what was right before me brought me into a state of gratitude. And I remembered…

Life is a bowl of cherries

Photo by Kristin Rath

Gratitude is the way back to joyfulness.

Gratitude isn’t about guilting yourself into thankfulness for the things you *should* be appreciating, but about what you can appreciate in the moment. Whatever it is. The sun, the sky, the soft blanket around you, a really great cup of coffee, breathing. My mom has said to me–when I’ve griped about some minor thorn in my side–“Well, at least you have two legs that work. Not everyone does.” Not always what I wanted to hear, but she’s right. That was indeed something to be grateful for.

Gratitude is the answer. It can lift you back to what’s really important.

How could I have forgotten this simple but powerful practice called gratitude? We take things for granted. It’s just human nature. The trick is training ourselves to consistently bring our focus back to what we have and what’s going well in our lives, instead of focusing on what we don’t have and what isn’t working.

Gratitude is a gift. One that we can conjure up in an instant and gift to ourselves and others in a moment. And it doesn’t cost us anything. Rather, it gives back to us in the form of joy, peace, love, compassion.

In gratitude, we raise our vibration. With gratitude, we can get back to happy. Even when it seems impossible.

What can you be grateful for, right now?

Jars aren't just for picnics. They're earth-friendly containers for taking lunch or snacks to work!

Healthy Picnic Recipes in a Jar

Note: This is a guest post. I did not receive any compensation from the author’s company in exchange for publishing this article. 

Jars aren't just for picnics. They're earth-friendly containers for taking lunch or snacks to work!

Jars aren’t just for picnics. They’re eco-friendly containers for taking meals or snacks wherever you go!

It’s finally spring again! This beautiful season’s warmer temperatures and longer daylight bring bright thoughts of spending time outdoors — and what better way than with a picnic? It’s hard to think of a happier spring pastime than bundling up a bunch of food and blankets and heading to your backyard or a local park. But what foods should you pack? What are some easy, transportable ways to bring delicious, healthy meals on the go? Enter the mason jar. When you make a meal in a mason jar, it’s easy to grab in the car or throw in a backpack and bring to the beautiful outdoor space nearest you. To inspire you with healthy picnics in a jar for your next weekend getaway, here are some great recipes to try:

  • Veggies and Dip: Forget plastic bags and use a mason jar to pack the time-tested, beloved snack of fresh vegetables and dip (hummus, baba ganoush, tzatziki, etc.). Use this informative post from The Kitchn for inspiration!
  • Salads: There’s no limit to the type and style of salad you can mix together in a mason jar — just read this post from The Muse for proof! Whether it’s a vegan cobb salad, a Greek chickpea salad, or a curried lentil and kale blend, these recipes prove how simple and delightful a mason jar salad can be! Simply pour the dressing at the bottom, stacked with heftier ingredients, and add the lighter components (like leaf lettuce) at the top. Shake when you’re ready to eat, and everything combines beautifully!
  • 7-Layer Dip: Pack this classic party dip in a mason jar, and you’re halfway to a great picnic treat. Add your favorite chips to another jar, and you’re all set. For a recipe to get you started, head over to KristaandJess.com.
  • Sushi in a Jar: Love sushi? Try this version of deconstructed sushi in a jar, which involves rice, vegetables, vinegar, lime juice, pickled ginger and more.
  • Yogurt Parfaits: Combine some yogurt with fruit and granola in a jar, and you have a ready-to-go parfait whenever you want it! Here’s an example from Ezra Pound Cake.
  • Frittatas: Take a nod from My Living Nutrition and bake frittatas in jars! While this meal takes a little prep work and a half hour of baking time, it yields six ready-to-enjoy egg bakes stuffed with vegetables and pastured meat.
  • Casseroles: A little like frittatas, baked casseroles are wonderful meals to make in mason jars. Simply portion your casserole mixture into jars and bake as normal, checking for doneness earlier than you usually would.

Even the above list doesn’t include all the many ways to make meals in mason jars. There are also mini pies, fruit cobblers, cheesecakes and more! What are some of your favorite picnic foods? Could you transport them via mason jars? Why not give it a shot this season?

About the author:

Steven Musumeche, owner of Picnic World Picnic Baskets, is an avid outdoorsman and picnic guru from Lafayette, LA. In his spare time, he enjoys playing the piano, fishing, camping, and hanging out with his wife, daughter and three pet beagles, Cassie, Ellie & Annie.

GorillaStayAway feature

Mind Your Monkeys

worried monkeys

Photo by Patrick Nijhuis

I have a mind that never shuts off. It’s like a 24/7 news station, giving me up-to-the-minute warnings, analysis, investigative reports, predictions, and reviews. This is great for brainstorming and multi-tasking. Not so great for relaxing and re-centering. It can become quite a jungle up there. I like to call my virtual wild kingdom of ideas, movement, and chatter Monkey Mind. If you think you’ve heard that term before, you’re right…I snagged it from the Buddhists. Don’t worry, I cleared it with them first.

When life throws me a challenge, my monkeys tend to call out in protest, a little like this:

Monkeys:  Who do you think you are? You can’t do this!

Me:  Why not? Other people have.

Monkeys:  Yeah. Smarter, better looking, more charismatic, more talented people.

Me:  That’s so mean!

Monkeys:  Look, we’re just telling you how it is, sugar puff. [Nods of agreement all around.] You’re a nobody in this world and you might as well face it. It’ll take you too long to master the skills or gain experience, and frankly you’re too old to start now.

Me:  No! I can do this! I believed in myself yesterday. [Pause.] At least I think I did.

Monkeys:  Well, that was Head in the Clouds Day. This is Come Back to Earth and Deal with the Hard Truth Day.

Photo by K.C. © 2013 Kristin Conroy

Here’s a hard truth: I can’t banish my Monkey Mind permanently. It’s part of my personality, inherited from a long line of overly active-minded ancestors. I can, however, keep the uprisings to a minimum. I’ve succeeded in taming my monkeys from wild, screaming primates who fling poo to civilized primates who drink tea and discuss the meaning of life in hushed tones.

I used to listen to my monkeys, mistaking their rants as gospel. I didn’t even know I had a Monkey Mind until a few years ago…I thought I was just crazy. I used to let them run the joint, allowing them to feed me a diet of self-doubt and anxiety that kept me from attaining groundedness and balance. It wasn’t until I accepted the presence of my Monkey Mind that I was able to do something about it. 

I know there are others like me out there with Monkey Minds because…well, I’ve met some of them. And that usually means there are many more I haven’t met. Therefore, I’d like to share what helps me soothe my vine-swinging mind primates, just in case you are one of those special people. I learned to be the zookeeper of my monkeys. I not only have to show them who’s in charge but take care of them as well. Make sure they get sleep, love, playtime, mental stimulation, and proper nutrition. I highly recommend practicing yoga. Find the kind that works for you. It’s not only beneficial for your body, but makes you feel mentally lighter and more focused too.

The biggest effect on my monkeys, however, is eating real food. Real food means food that’s minimally processed and originally sourced from something other than a box, bag, or can. Dark leafy greens especially make my monkeys sit down and shut up. Believe me, there’s a difference between forking in the good stuff and indulging in too much crap. I’ve tested this theory out more times than I’d like to admit. Eating well keeps your monkeys stay cool, calm, and collected. Take a gander at my recipes page for good eatin’ ideas.

Photo by Dominic Morel

Photo by Dominic Morel

Another significant part of the primate training process is keeping things in perspective. A Monkey Mind distracts you from focusing on what really matters in life. Monkeys have short-sighted vision, seeing only the fleas on the neighboring monkeys’ backs instead of the beauty of the jungle and the opportunities it offers. When my monkeys are in a frenzy and giving me directions to the loony bin, I arrange a sit-down with them:

Me:  Is worrying about this important to my happiness?

Monkeys:  Huh? Ummm…no.

Me:  The happiness of my friends and family?

Monkeys:  Hmm…I guess not.

Me:  Will focusing on this help me achieve my dreams or goals, allow me to grow or evolve, or effectively solve the problems of the human race?

Monkeys:  NoBut, but…

Me:  No buts, monkeys!  Answer me!

Monkeys:  [Sighs all around.] Noooooooooo.

Me:  Ha! I thought so.

In this case, as is usually the case, I’ll then kindly ask my monkeys to return to their cages to do some Sun Salutations.  Now, this doesn’t mean I can avoid things like bills, chores, errands, annoying work projects, or dealing with difficult people. But comparing these “problems” to the grand scheme of life prevents me from having a panic attack or tantrum because of the misplaced focus of my near-sighted monkeys.

It’s a challenge to live with a Monkey Mind, but when you’re in control, you can live a happy, balanced life. I encourage you to focus on experiences, not things.  Focus on love and appreciation, not being right or perfect. And by the way…perfection is for crazy people. Forget about trying to get there, have that, or wanting others to be that. You and your melon full of monkeys have no use for perfect because…it doesn’t exist.

So in conclusion:

  • Be aware of your Monkey Mind and accept it. It’s part of your charm.
  • Know your monkeys. What sets them off and what calms them down.
  • Be master of your monkeys. Otherwise, they’ll master you.
  • Enjoy life! Laugh fearlessly, love infinitely, give of yourself fully, grab opportunities firmly, learn voraciously. Do things that scare you so you can grow. You only get one chance to live this life. So make it count!