I have to be honest. Focusing on wellness this Autumn has been so incredibly difficult. I’m honestly at a loss. How in the season that inspires me so much, do I also get so far off track?
My eating, sleeping, exercising regularly, personal development focus, staying in the moment and staying in prayer have all been off over the course of the last few weeks. I mean I haven’t been awful I suppose but I’m certainly not where I want to be in all of those areas, among many others.
Although several reasons as to “why” come to mind, if I’m being really clear with myself then I’d have to say this is the season for me where I am finding it easiest to “slip”. And by “slip” I mean come up with an excuse to avoid making a disciplined decision.
As an example last week I wasn’t feeling great, which usually happens for me when the weather starts to change from hot to cold each year. Over the week it was so easy for me to pass on going to the gym, order no-so-healthy takeout (because I was too tired/sick to cook) and let my house clutter quickly to build up (because I was too exhausted to manage it). Instead of pushing through the current state I was in, I gave myself a little too much grace, that ultimately negatively impacted my health and wellness even further. And this is just one example of how off track I have been this season.
Now as much as I want to beat myself up over this, I realize it will only waste more time. So my action plan is simple. Go back to the basics and focus on the little decisions each day. Because each little decision adds up and makes a big difference. I will get reacquainted with my vision board, daily goals and my gratitude daily recaps.
Over the past few weeks it has been so incredibly hard to focus on my wellness pillars. Everything from reading books, to listening to professional development podcasts, to working out, to focusing on the present, to eating clean has been an uphill battle it seems. I am doing my best but if I am being honest, I am not exactly where I want to be.
It’s such a slippery slope. A few small not-so-great decisions turn into a day full of bad decisions. And that can spiral into a week filled with unhealthy decisions. It can happen in the blink of an eye, which is the scary part.
But one new tool I have in my life this year is discipline. Becoming disciplined has completely transformed so many areas of my life over the course of the year. I couldn’t see it along the way, but as I look at my overall healthier state now, I almost can’t believe the person I was before.
So as I find myself struggling a bit to stay focused on my wellness pillars, I will lean on my faith that small positive decisions each day will continue to open doors in my life. I will just keep doing my best and focusing on the small decisions each day. It’s worked so well for me before so I know the sky is the limit if I keep moving ahead.
As exactly as I anticipated, September has been fast and furious. It has been full and challenging every step of the way.
If I’m being honest with myself, the whole month has been a bit overwhelming. And at first I was feeling a bit of defeat in my wellness journey throughout much of September.
But then I realized, I am actually doing much better, even during my stressed and frustrated moments, than I ever was before. Things and techniques that I have incorporated into my life have truly helped me stay afloat during extremely choppy waters.
The major lesson I will take away from September thus far is to just be honest with my emotional and energy levels. There is no badge in pushing through to prove a point while depleting all reserves at the same time. I am not superwoman and cannot do it all. It does me no good when in serving others I create severe need in my own life. No is such a powerful word that I must not be afraid to use. It will serve my wellness journey well.
Just like that when I find myself feeling a little down, the universe send me a reminder that small but mighty things are happening all around me.
My first jalapeño plant that I started from a few seeds months ago was looking hopeless. I was just beginning to accept defeat, that it would never grow anything other then leaves, then all of a sudden this little guy appeared.
It was a simple summer salad filled with mainly vegetables, a few fruits and dash of lemon vinaigrette to finish it off.
Was a salad what I was craving? Not really. But after quickly reflecting on my meals for the day and the week so far, I knew it was the right choice. I needed balance. I could use an extra dose of vegetables and fruits. After giving myself some grace over the weekend, I knew it was time to tighten back up on my healthy meal selections for the week.
There was a period not too long ago in my life where the salad wouldn’t have even been on my radar. I wasn’t disciplined enough. Instead it would have been “which fast food fries and random main item (because I clearly go for the fries) would I get?” Somewhere in the abyss of my mid 20s I lost my way health and wellness wise and it truly was anything goes. And my overall state of being showed it.
But where I stand today in my life, I choose wellness. Today I choose less chemicals, GMOs and artificially filled foods to put in my body. Today I choose foods that are created from the Earth. Today I make decisions to support a better tomorrow rather than decisions that support a fleeting immediate “need”. Today I choose health.
The salad for me today has become a symbol of something so much larger. It is a reminder of my new found strength and discipline. The salad reminds me that I am thinking clearly enough now to know when I’ve hit my “treat yourself” limit for the week. The salad is a symbol of the wisdom I have gained from the seasons I have recently crawled through. The salad reminds me that my continued wellness journey is critical to achieving my goals in every facet of life. The salad is a clear reminder that I always have choice in life.
Reflecting on this last week, it was one filled with some really positive wellness choices and gains.
It was filled with some great workouts, clean eating, self reflection time, my first acupuncture session, some much needed rest and time filled catching up with loved ones. I even had a much needed vision board session to help set some plans and goals as I head into this new season.
One wellness highlight for me this week came in the most unlikely place – the kickoff to the college football season. My husband and I are huge sports fans. Sitting down to watch college football games is one of the ways we connect and spend time together each fall. And these gamedays for us usually involve getting some takeout pizza or heading to a restaurant/bar to eat greasy tailgate-like food. Now although this is okay once in a while, this year I am just looking to reshape this gameday tradition for us. So I decided this past weekend to make a healthy and completely from scratch gameday meal (picture below). It turned out amazing and after I ate I didn’t feel like I had the itis or needed to go for a run. Creating healthy gameday meals is a tradition I very much look forward to this football season.
(Gameday Menu: The main dish was made-from-scratch organic turkey meatballs and tomato sauce created with vegetables from the farm. Dish was topped with organic cheese. Garlic lemon organic green beans was the side dish. To drink I exchanged my old favorite hard cider with my new favorite Kevita Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic. The whole thing turned out amazing. Definitely a wellness win for me this week.)
In my quest for a stronger state of wellness, today I had my first acupuncture session. After a suggestion from a trusted counselor, I knew I needed to give it a shot. I didn’t know what to expect at all but I went into it open-minded.
Most of the initial appointment was just discussing with the acupuncturist my past and current state of health. Although I am new at this (obviously), I can already tell that one of the real keys of the entire acupuncture process is the relationship building process between the client and the acupuncturist. And I was so relieved to have an almost instant connection with my acupuncturist. I could tell she was very knowledgeable not only about the practice but about how to meet her clients where they are in life.
As far as the actual needles going into the body part, there is nothing to write home about. For me, it didn’t hurt and I barely knew they were there. Once they were all situated and I was laying in silence, I must admit that I did feel an energy flowing through my body. Nothing painful at all, but rather more like a heightened awareness of my body during the treatment. Could the energy I felt all have been in my head? Sure. It was just the first time so I’ll have to see how I feel post treatment and in the days to come.
Now if someone would have asked me even a year ago if I could imagine doing acupuncture, I would have said no. Not that I was too scared of the needles, but rather I just wasn’t in control of my health and wellness. And it wouldn’t have made sense to incorporate acupuncture into my life if I wasn’t eating right, drinking right or exercising. Honestly I wouldn’t have even found the energy to schedule my day to incorporate getting to the office.
But here I am after completing my first session. Another example of how this is a new and welcomed season in my life. I look forward to continuing on this acupuncture journey. I expect nothing but am open to whatever may come my way.
One of the things I have really embraced since my wellness journey began this year is going with the ebbs and flows of the process. Instead of getting frustrated that I fail to meet unrealistic expectations of doing everything and living perfectly healthy, I try to focus on doing a few things each day that I feel are important to me and giving myself grace on the rest.
In any given day I try to do a mix of the following:
Spending quality time with my husband in between our busy work and life schedules.
Eating vegetable and fruit based clean meals.
Drinking a kombucha, kefir drink or vegetable based juice daily.
Drinking lots of water to flush out toxins and chemicals that enter my body each day.
Cooking and eating meals I prepare (vs eating out).
Doing a workout (strength training for at least 45 min or cardio for at least 30 min).
Praying for at least a few minutes.
Reading or listening to podcasts for about an hour focused on personal and professional development.
Cleaning, picking-up or reorganizing an area of our home that is in need (because life happens and things can get messy).
Participating in an activity to support my mental and emotional health (such as going to a grief group).
Checking in with family and friends.
Writing a gratitude note to summarize all the things I am thankful for that occurred during the day.
Getting quality sleep (at least 7 hours each night).
I have really found this new system to be working well for me. I’ve been able to stay on track making positive decisions each day, while not worrying too much when I don’t get all the things done.
But I realized over this weekend, it’s so easy to get in an automatic routine in life doing the same things. I determined that I needed to regularly stop and look at the big picture with how I am doing in each area. Maybe I have not been eating as many vegetables as I would like or drinking enough water. Maybe I only did two workouts this week and my preferred is a minimum of 4 workout sessions each week. So I’ve instituted an end-of-week check in to review how I’ve done over the past week holistically. This allows me to review choices I’ve made, reflect on the total successes of the week and reset for the week ahead.
While over the past week I have done a great job taking in new information by listening to tons of podcasts and reorganizing some problem spots in my house, I have slacked in the areas of getting quality sleep and drinking lots of water each day. Those are just two of the areas that I will make a focus this upcoming week. In addition, I am anxious but very much looking forward to trying acupuncture for the first time this upcoming week.
I now have great joy about taking ownership my wellness journey. I just wrapped up my wellness check-in for the past week and I am ready for the week ahead.
One of the best things I have done for my well being this year has been to join a local CSA (community supported agriculture) farm. Not only do we get organic, fresh vegetables to consume, but also we get access to spend some time at the beautiful farm. There is something about breathing the fresh air and being engulfed by nature that makes everything seem all right.
This fact became crystal clear to me after the loss of my father and son. But if I’m being really honest, this state of unwellness didn’t happen overnight. This enormous snowball was years in the making for a variety of reasons (excuses). My lack of wellness went far beyond the foods I was or wasn’t eating and the number of times a week I was or wasn’t going to the gym. Although there were many indicators, the biggest for me was that I was lacking healthy coping mechanisms to quickly bounce back from life’s daily curveballs. So when the big disasters came, I crumbled.
In my period of mourning and self isolation, I realized that although there were many things I could not control, the one thing that I could control and would have the biggest impact on my circumstances was to seek wellness. So I immediately went in search of wellness. And the very first book I found has become a game changer, and quite frankly a life changer, for me.
“How to Be Well” by Dr. Frank Lipman is the best “wellness 101” guide I have found by far. Dr. Lipman highlights basic health principles in the most straight-to-the-point yet profound ways. His Good Medicine Philosophy takes a look at each person’s state of mind and body to determine fundamental weaknesses and imbalances before even thinking about what medicine could be utilized. His Good Medicine Mandala identifies six pillars of health that can be optimized: How to Eat, How to Sleep, How to Move, How to Protect, How to Unwind and How to Connect.
Dr. Lipman encourages readers to focus on actions within each pillar, small and large, that positively impact our microbiomes, our inflammatory responses, our rhythms and our balance. These areas are often where our body’s dysfunction is exposed. These areas speak directly to why the practices he suggests can lead to overall improved wellness.
As a pioneer and leader in holistic medicine, Dr. Lipman educates readers on how to use spice as medicine, why its important to learn our food sources, why its important to play like a child, how clearing our spaces can impact our wellness and why counting our blessings should be a part of our wellness practices. This easy read is perfectly designed as a quick go-to guide, allowing readers to go straight to the topic they need exactly when they need it.
I can say with certainty that this book has significantly impacted my wellness for the better in a matter of four months. I reference this book almost daily in my life now. Although it is packed with countless easy to implement practices, the top 5 practices that had the most immediate impact on my own wellness are:
1. Know Your (Food) Sources – pg 66 – Inspired my husband and I to join a local CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) Farm.
2. Microbiomes – pg 26 – This introduced me to my now favorite fermented drinks – kombucha and kefir. Keeping the microbiome functioning properly and balanced is critical to so many daily functions, such as stress response.
3. Boycott GMOs – pg 256 – A much needed reminder of why we must avoid genetically modified organisms in foods whenever possible.
4. Omg EMFS – pg 286 – Another reminder for me that the electromagnetic energy emitted by communication devices can and does impact our health.
5. Honor The Seasons – pg 417 – Obviously my love of the human connection to seasons shows, however Dr. Lipman wonderfully articulates this deep connection to the seasons and why we should pay more attention to this relationship.
Dr. Lipman encourages readers to start small with one practice and then add other practices in once ready. The interesting thing is when we start to make small positive changes in one area of our life, suddenly we realize that other areas of our life will experience positive changes as well. And this cycle leads to overall greater wellness.
I highly recommend “How to Be Well” to everyone and it will be my wellness reference guide for many years to come.