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.

 

 

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!

 

Eating the Write Foods {Guest Post with Cari Kamm}

I met Cari Kamm at a wellness event in Soho about 3 years ago. Intuition told me I had to get to know this lovely lady…and I was right! Not only has she become a friend, but she’s also become a writing buddy and mentor to me as I embark upon my first novel. Cari knows a thing or two about those–she just published her second novel, For Internal Use Only, which made the list on my A Few of My Favorite Things post in February. Her writing is witty, entertaining, and just plain gorgeous, and her stories have meaning you can chew on. I highly recommend you get to know this future best-seller!

Now on to the guest post…

I finally got the message years ago that what I eat affects how my mind and body performs. Whether we realize it or not, the quality of food we take in permeates all aspects of our life. It either gives us the energy, attitude, and fortitude to help us get through the day…or it doesn’t. Cari’s post is a fantastic example of just how extreme a difference eating the right food makes.

Eating the Write Foods

by Cari Kamm

Tiffany & Co., New York City – 2011. Photo provided by Cari Kamm

Tiffany & Co., New York City – 2011. Photo provided by Cari Kamm.

When I’m not writing . . . I’m eating. Well, I’m thinking of eating or where I want to be eating.

I’m a self-proclaimed foodie and seriously enjoy every bite. My rule is “don’t pick before pics.”  I love to look at food. Take pictures of food. Dissect food. And of course eat food. A chef is an artist and unlike admiring a painting or absorbing words, you get to literally bite into their work and digest it.

So . . . how does this affect my creativity? The saying is you are what you eat. I find the same goes for my writing. My eating habits are different when it comes to the writing stage and editing process.

I begin writing first thing in the morning. Before anything can shift my mood or motivation, I make coffee and boost my body with breakfast before I hit the keys. Writing is my morning stretch. I write from home or head out to one of my spots in New York City. Sometimes, I just walk into random restaurants, bookstores, or coffee shops. I find inspiration in the unexpected. Not having a plan is sometimes the perfect plan for creativity. For eating…that’s not so productive.

My breakfast always includes a fresh pressed juice, scrambled eggs and oatmeal or wheat toast. My favorite morning juice includes apple, pear, pineapple, wheatgrass & mint or carrot, beet, apple, pear, lemon & ginger. Also, eggs contain Choline and that helps my memory and builds strong mental muscles. The benefit of this is keeping my characters and scenes straight!

There are foods I eat to nourish my mind. However, when emotions come into play during the creative process, I try to remember that I need to write my feelings…not eat them. Depending on which stage I’m in during creating my manuscript, food definitely contributes positively or negatively to my writing health. Knowing this allows me to be a better writer.

The creative process. My favorite part of the writing process is creating the outline of the story I have in mind. Then several months down the road realizing where the characters actually took me while reading the story they created. My creativity tends to crave carbohydrates. Unfortunately, this can lead to a food coma. Sugar becomes a big saboteur and doesn’t help my writing or my waistline! At first, eating sweets tends to make me feel happier and comfortable when I beginning a new project. One thing I know is that with all of the unknowns in developing a new story…I get nervous. When I hit the emotional rollercoaster peak and quickly come crashing down off the sugar high, I tend not to feel proud about a scene or a character even if it’s terrific. My characters’ emotions somehow control my food cravings. Well…I like to blame it on them! A romantic scene may call for chocolate and wine; a stressful scene made lead to Twizzlers or Thai takeout. If all else fails, I drink more wine.

The editing phase. This stage requires concentration, patience, and attention to detail. Protein keeps me on point! My characters cannot afford any food mood swings. I tend to focus on protein, fruits and vegetables! My favorite foods that are rich in antioxidants, folic acid and omega-3s include salmon, walnuts, blueberries, goji berries, cantaloupe and kale. I’m addicted to the deliciously dark green leafy guy! My favorite recipe at the moment is from the New York City restaurant Lupa.

The only culprit left is Mr. Coffee. I’m striving to lower my cups per day and sip more green tea or calming teas, especially during those late nights of writing or revising my manuscripts.

So…what’s the bottom line?  When I eat better, I feel better. When I feel better, I write better!

CariKammCari Kamm has worked in the beauty industry for over a decade, building brands, working behind the scenes, and even selling her own skin care line. She has a master’s in clinical nutrition from New York University. Kamm currently works in corporate social media management with clients in the beauty, fashion, and restaurant industries. Living in New York City with her mutt Schmutz, Kamm loves finding inspiration in the most unexpected places, being a novelist, and convincing her fiancé that ordering takeout and making dinner reservations are equal to cooking. More information can be found on her website, CariKamm.com. To check out the book trailer, click here: http://tinyurl.com/bdr7bfn.

Joyful living

Achieving Health and Wellness Resolutions, Step 3: Choose Better Thoughts

Laugh often...it's good for your health!

Once you’ve experienced the benefits of Step 1 (Choose Better Food) and Step 2 (Choose Better Behaviors), you’re primed to incorporate Step 3, Choose Better Thoughts.

You know the proverb, You are what you think.  What you say to, and think about, yourself shapes the person you are and could become.  It’s not easy to change the way you think, but choosing positive, supportive, health-inducing thoughts is the only way to make health and wellness a successful and permanent part of your life.

The following “Better Thoughts” were integral in my breaking free from food and body image issues.  I hope they can support you in achieving your health and wellness goals.

Be your own best friend.

Photo by K.C. © 2012 Kristin Conroy

What do you see when you look in the mirror?  Your best friend or your worst enemy?  We’re taught to treat others with kindness and respect, but many of us don’t extend that courtesy to ourselves.  You would never tell someone you cared about that they’re stupid, fat, or weak.  So don’t tell yourself those things either.  Sometimes those messages aren’t intentional; we’re so used to saying them that it doesn’t seem like a big deal.  But the messages you tell yourself every day have an effect on you, whether you realize it or not.

Monitor the thoughts you have about yourself.  Practice turning negative messages into positive ones.  Maybe try supportive affirmations until those replace your old, negative mantras.  If you can’t love your body for the way it looks right now, love it for its function.  For example, I’m not a big fan of the way my arms look, but I can love how they’re strong and give really awesome hugs.  When you concentrate on what you love or appreciate about yourself, you’re much happier when you look in the mirror.  And in supporting and nurturing yourself, you’re more likely to reach your health and wellness goals.

Forget diets, a.k.a the “quick fix”

Photo by K.C. © 2012 Kristin Conroy

Dieting doesn’t work.  (This post explains more.Think about the quality of the food you eat, instead of basing its merits on calories and fat grams.  Why?  Because calories and fat grams are not all equal!  A piece of fruit vs. a fruit roll-up; olive oil vs. margarine; freshly juiced apples vs. commercial apple juice; raw cheese vs. cheese whiz….these pairs are not equal, even if the calorie count and fat grams say they are.

When I used to only focus on calories and fat grams to evaluate food, I wasn’t considering nutrition.  I chose a lot of artificial food.  And I was miserable.  When I turned my focus to quality and nourishment, the obvious choices were the least processed ones.  They also were the most satisfying, so I ate less.  Maintaining a healthy weight became rather effortless, which let my mind concentrate on more important things, like enjoying life!

And may I offer a reality check that will help you big time?  A slice of cheesecake will not lead to your undoing.  Nor will missing a day at the gym.  That’s dieting mentality, and I won’t stand for it!  Life happens, we’re human.  Accept it happened, take responsibility, and get over it.  Tough love lesson has now concluded.

Rather than looking at eating healthy as depriving yourself from the less-than-optimal food you love, think of it as offering yourself more nutrition.  There’s a big difference between “I can’t have that” (deprivation and judgement) and “I’d rather choose something with more nourishment” (support).  It was a huge mental hurdle for me, but once I disentangled myself from the habit of short-term thinking, I was able to see big changes in my health.

Know Thyself.

Photo by K.C. © 2012 Kristin Conroy

Learn to listen to what your body tells you.  We are born with bodies that have innate wisdom.  They know when we’re hungry or full;  what foods work with our bodies and which ones don’t; when we need to slow down and recuperate.  After ignoring and overriding those instincts from years of dieting and trying to keep up with cultural standards, we can lose that wisdom.  The good news is that our bodies doesn’t lose their wisdom…we just have to relearn how to listen to and interpret their messages.

Closing thoughts

This month I’ve introduced you to the 3 steps I think will help you achieve your health and wellness resolutions.  While these steps are simple, they’re not necessarily easy.  Be patient with yourself.  Instead of getting overwhelmed trying to put everything into action, focus on what food, actions, and thoughts will benefit you.  Choose ones that are within your comfort zone.  When those are a part of you, choose better ones.  And so on.  You wouldn’t consider climbing Mt. Everest on the first try.  You’d have to plan, prepare, and practice, while making a bunch of mistakes along the way.  Don’t think of the finish line right now.  Just the next step forward. 

In choosing better food, behaviors, and thoughts on a consistent basis, you’ll make your health and wellness resolutions a way of life.  Enjoy the journey to whole body nourishment!

elephant_close-up

Bite Your Words

Remember the post Eating Your Words on Purpose?  Here is a continuation of the conversation about food-related words.

Words Are Food Phrases #2:  How do you eat an elephant?

I think we all know the answer to this riddle…One bite at a time.  I love this saying because it plunges deeper than the surface answer and uncovers some treasure-worthy advice.  Many goals or problems appear monstrous at first glance–like the giant mammal, the elephant–but once broken down into mini goals or tasks, are revealed as entirely manageable.  If you keep plodding along, step by step, you’ll eventually find yourself at the finish line.  Or the elephant’s tail.  I’m one of those people who tend to experience a state of overwhelm when I look at a really big-picture situation.  I’ve learned that if I concentrate on one little thing at a time, I’m able to get it done, with a lot less stress and self-doubting.

Words Are Food Phrases #3:  Biting off more than you can chew.

I think this relates to the preceding phrase.  Biting off more than you can chew is not something you want to do, according to the traditional use of this idiom.  However, if you nibble away at the massive portion you have in front of you, why not take the biggest serving you can?  Go for it!  We often underestimate what we can handle because we don’t want to disappoint ourselves or someone else.  We don’t want the added stress or risk the possibility of failure.  Innovators, entrepreneurs, and other influential individuals would never have gotten as far, or achieved as much, as they did if they subscribed to the idea of only biting off what they could chew.

Final thoughts

My advice is to take on those elephants and bite off way more than you can chew.  Then calmly take small forkfuls and chew thoroughly to receive all the nourishment possible.  And enjoy the process!

Do you agree with my take on these phrases?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!


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