Category Archives: Time Management

Three Easy Ways to Clear Stinky Stuck Energy

Most people have abandoned their New Year’s resolutions by now.  This is not because most people are massive failures!  It’s just that making big changes on the outside requires inner work and a life set up to support them, not just the white-knuckling willpower junk that we’re all taught to believe is the key to making anything happen.  People who accomplish goals that way are cranky!  We don’t want to be cranky.

I think on some level, we all know that psychological shifts are necessary to quit our bad habits, that maybe they’re just symptoms of something that needs to be healed on the inside.  But ‘healing on the inside’ can sound so daunting and unapproachable!  I’m here to tell you, thankfully, this process is not all sobbing on a couch about your childhood, there are simple and direct actions you can take today to create the shifts you’re looking for (though I highly recommend psychotherapy if it’s an option for you and you’re interested; I love therapy and will probably be in and out of it until I die, at which point I will seek out other spirits on the other side to listen to me talk about my feelings).

Stuck energy can be a major block to accomplishing your goals, and a sneaky one too.  Without regularly keeping the energy in your life a-moving, you’ll slowly find yourself sucked dry and unmotivated to take action to meet your goals without really knowing why.  Have you ever noticed how the moment you stop obsessing over a guy, he calls you?  Years ago, after job searching for MONTHS, I finally got an offer not two hours after I broke up with an ex-boyfriend.  Those are energy shifts at work, my friends, and they can alter life situations dramatically and magically.

The great thing is that there are so many ways to clear stuck energy that are EASY!  Here are a few simple ways you can clear out the garbage and ride that energy train!

COME ON RIDE THAT TRAIN

Your email inbox

If you’re like most of us, you have a buttload of clarity suckers making a holy wreck of your inbox.  It’s so easy to let that happen, isn’t it?  Every stinking time you buy something online you wind up on some list or other!  People give away really cool stuff for joining their mailing lists!  There’s that blogger you signed up for updates from forgetting that you never read blogs in your email!  You know how it goes.

The problem is, the action of sorting through all the unnecessary e-clutter takes up brain and energy real estate.  Even if you handle your email on autopilot, your time and thoughts are precious!  That two seconds it took you to read about and delete a sale from the manufacturer of your coffee machine is two seconds SAVED next week if you just click the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email.  More than just a time-saving technique, the emotions that these small actions cause in you are a waste – especially if they annoy you or make you feel bad about yourself.

So delete or archive all that crap!  Then unsubscribe from everything that doesn’t serve your highest good, including this blog if it goes unread for more than a day or gets deleted immediately without reading. On a practical level, when you check your email each day there will be a few messages you actually want in there instead of 25 you don’t give a shit about.  On an energetic level, you are clearing the psychological space for communication you care about and sending the message to yourself that you deserve more than stuff you feel ‘meh’ about.

President Obama only wears blue or gray suits to save his decision-making energy for more important matters.  Make your inbox squeaky clean and your next stop could be the presidency!

Your phone contacts

Thanks to the cloud and that magic machine that transfers them from phone to phone, your phone contacts can turn into a ‘this is your life’ situation without some regular upkeep.  I feel this is one of the drawbacks of modern technology… we can easily stay in touch with friends with minimal effort, which is awesome.  But that means that most of us still have people hanging around the periphery who would have faded into the ‘whatever happened to her?’ land had you known them 15 years earlier.

These extraneous people in your contact list are just keeping you stuck in the past in some way – especially exes, old co-workers, and friends who you’ve grown apart from and feel awkward about.  The flash of emotion and memory as you see their name are just not worth it, nor is the extra time it takes to find the people who are actually relevant to your life today.

Go through those suckers and erase erase erase!  Enjoy the symbolic action of saying goodbye to parts of your past without having to burn things and stink up your home.  Plus, it’s kind of hilarious to uncover the erasable gems – your old building super? Don’t need him on speed dial.  Someone you waited tables with for a summer back in 2005?  Something tells me you’ve learned all you need to learn from her.  Somebody you did a group project with your junior year of college?  What, were you afraid you’d suddenly get a wild hair to contact this person and be all destroyed over the one that got away?

If you have a dire need to reach any of these people someday, you can use one of the zillion and one methods available to contact them.  It will feel sooo good when you scroll through your contacts and don’t have to think, “Pete – who is Pete?  Oh yeah, that gay guy I went on an internet date with who made me split the bill for two drinks!”  Not that I speak from experience or anything.  Because the gay guy I went out with was named Paul.

Your closet

Clothes carry energy big time.  They have so much to do with how we feel about our physical appearance, they get all kinds of memories attached to them, their quality and trendiness is all tied up with status.  If you often find yourself staring at your closet full of clothes hating everything you see and/or you haven’t done a massive wardrobe clear-out in over a year, it’s time to get crackin’!

By keeping a bunch of of clothes that you don’t feel proud to wear,  you jam up your energy gears in a number of ways.  You unnecessarily increase the amount of physical clutter in your closets and drawers, giving yourself more crap to deal with when all you want to do is put on a pair of pants.  You send yourself the message that you need to change to accept yourself every time you catch a glimpse of those jeans that give you a major muffin top that you’re keeping for your someday weight loss.  You subconsciously send yourself the message that you don’t deserve nice things and you need to be afraid that you won’t have enough when you hold onto clothes that aren’t in good condition.

Here are some good rules for keeping your closet and heart happy.  Go through your clothes and, one piece at a time, donate or toss it if:

  • You have not worn it in a year or more;
  • It does not fit you;
  • You don’t feel like it looks great on you;
  • It’s in crappy condition;
  • It has a bad memory associated with it.

The ‘does not fit you’ rule is especially important.  If you recently had a baby or were on medication or had something specific that made you gain an uncharacteristic amount of weight that you’ll be losing, sure.  But other than that, I find aspirational skinny clothing to be such bullshit!  Toss those skinny jeans and find some peace.

The same goes for clothes that have gotten too big!  It took me the longest time to throw out my too-big clothes once I lost a lot of weight.  I felt like they were my safety so I wouldn’t have to be naked if it all came rushing back.  It felt so good when I finally gave them the old heave-ho!  It really is okay to believe in yourself and your body.

Now that you’re done, moving forward,  “Only buy clothes that make you feel like doing a small dance” (that’s from Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination, by Helen Fielding).  You deserve to get that toe-tapping urge every time you look in the mirror!

These are really just the beginning – you can hit up your bookshelf, your Facebook friends, your purse, anything!  The basic principle is being very selective about what you’ll spend your time and attention on, and not being afraid to say good-bye to the rest.

If it gets too hard, just yell “When in doubt, throw it out!” at top volume.  It’s like magic clutter-clearing courage pills!

Trash Heap to Temple: How to Restart when You’ve Been Treating Your Body Like Crap

We just returned from two beautiful trips for weddings, one to Asheville, North Carolina and one to Cape Cod.  It was so much fun!

However, two four+ day trips in two weeks means that I have hydrated using mostly cocktails for many days in a row. I swear to God yesterday I smelled barbecued ribs in my sweat.  It was NOT sweat that came from exercise, though, because I haven’t done that in weeks.  I have not touched my vitamins or even my DENTAL FLOSS for ages, for goodness’ sake!

Years ago, I’d have been sitting here having a shit fit about how much weight my indulgences were going to pack on me.  It wouldn’t have been unfounded, either, because I was such a restricter that all my indulgences had a fevered, crazy quality – I was always about to start tomorrow, so while I was off my game for the day it made sense to stuff myself to the gills.  Sometimes it would take months for tomorrow to come!  And I’d be beating myself up the whole time.

It’s not that way at all anymore.  I might be bloated, but I am not freaked out.  I’ve been doing this whole weight maintenance thing for several years and I’ve learned that giving myself the time to intentionally neglect my healthy habits are as much a part of loving my body as going to yoga.  It’s fun to forget that I normally think about things like toxins and the health of my liver and just do whatever the fuck I feel like for a little while.

I’ve learned that if I want to take exceptional care of my health, the thing to learn is not how to always be perfect all the time, but instead how to get back on the horse after he has thrown you off into a sea of mashed potatoes and vodka (mmmmm!).

Pick one healthy thing that you CAN do

It is SO EASY to get hung up on the can’ts when you’ve gone into cray cray post vacay territory.  “I can’t exercise, I got in too late last night and I’m exhausted.” “I can’t cook a healthy meal, I don’t have time to go grocery shopping.”  All of your can’ts are totally valid, I’m sure.

Let’s take your brain and shift it towards thoughts that are actually going to help you, okay?   Come up with what you CAN do.  Drink your water, eat a vegetable, take the stairs.  Go back to basics until you’re feeling stronger!

We’re gonna start a chain reaction here, folks.  Get a few easy peasy things under your belt for a day or two.  I promise, once you start feeling stronger and better from that, you will feel empowered to tackle the bigger stuff like making a salad  or getting back into regular exercise.

Make a damn plan

If you follow the point I’ve listed above, it might take you a few days to get back to your green juice guzzling, bench press-ing self.  That is FINE.  Take a few minutes to outline, realistically, how you are going to get back into it.  When are you going to grocery shop?  Take that trip back to the gym that will be like pulling teeth at first and then feel SO good when it’s done?

For me, I knew there was no way in hell I would get to the gym on Wednesday morning after getting back from Cape Cod on Tuesday night.  BUT if I planned for an early bedtime on Wednesday, I’d be fine with working out on Thursday.  I bought stuff for making a quick, easy dinners on Wednesday and Thursday, and lunches and snacks I could throw together in two seconds; and suddenly I’m back in business.

Start a chain reaction with other stuff

Hey, have you ever noticed that when you’re taking wonky care of your body that you’re kind of taking wonky care of everything else in your life, too?  For me, when I substitute potato chips for a meal a bunch of days in a row, I’ve also inevitably been overspending a bit (I like expensive potato chips???), my email is all backed up with a ton of un-replied-to stuff, and my apartment is a hot mess.

And along with that, when I have my shit together in other areas of my life, suddenly it is easier to eat my leafy greens.  If I’ve been putting away my laundry regularly rather than letting it sit in a clean pile, if I’ve been tweezing my eyebrows regularly, if I’ve been keeping on top of my to-do list, I usually also have been going to yoga and generally treating my body with the exquisite care she deserves.

I tell you this because if you’re looking for the motivation to start treating your body as your temple again, and it just will NOT come, turn your focus to some other areas and clean those up first.  I mean it, clip your toenails or clean out your closet or call your mom back.  Being on top of things is such a mindset.  You’ve just gotta figure out what it takes you to get there, and then the rest becomes easy.

Pamper yourself in other ways

There’s no way around it – sometimes when I’m cleaning up my health act, saying ‘no’ to things I really feel like doing is kind of depressing.  And pretty boring, too.

I soothe the sometimes-mundane world of healthy living by indulging guilty pleasures in other ways.  Right now, I personally have two chick lit books to make me feel all like I’m doing SOMETHING non-virtuous while I get back to my healthy self (Ugh, I HATE it when food is associated with good-ness or bad-ness.  But you know what I mean.). It makes me feel like I don’t have to be a hero.  Just because I’m not eating fried dough three meals a day anymore doesn’t mean that I have to become a saint overnight.

So how else can you guilty pleasure yourself?  Can you go to bed super early, watch a bunch of trashbag TV guilt-free, get yourself a mani-pedi?  Or a prostitute?

How do you get it together?

As you can see, I favor the ‘be gentle and love myself’ philosophy when it comes to getting back into my good habits after things have gone a little haywire.  It’s worked beautifully for me, and I highly recommend it to you – after all, isn’t energy that you put towards feeling crappy about yourself better spent on regaining focus?

What are your favorite ways to get yourself back into it when you’ve gotten crazy off track?

P.S.  Maybe you shouldn’t get a prosititute.

Your Dream Job is Right Around the Corner: How to Say Good-Bye to the Soul-Sucking Job You Hate

I’ve been wanting to approach this topic for awhile, but had no clue how.  I still don’t have a clue how, actually.  But more and more I learn that successful people just ACT rather than cowering in fear of fucking up and waiting to do things perfectly, so rather than put this off anymore I will just SAY IT ALREADY:  I have a new job!

Okay, now that I have said it, I can go back and fill in the other parts, like in Season 2 of Breaking Bad when at the beginning they show you the creepy black and white shots of the one-eyed stuffed bear floating in Walt’s pool; and then with each episode you find out exactly how that beat-up bear got there.

Where I Started

Speaking of mangy stuffed animals with significant organs missing, that was how I felt at my former job, which was an Executive Assistant in Finance.

I was so excited when I got the job!  Jonny and I had just moved in together and my personal life was so satisfying that it didn’t seem like a big deal to work in an industry that wasn’t really my thing during the day.  I made more money than I ever had before in my life, they bought me lunch every day, I had a comfortable desk in an office in a beautiful building.  All I had to do was show up every day from 9-6, Mondays through Fridays, and be an Executive Assistant in Finance.

How I Felt

I wonder if it was obvious from my posts here how unhappy I was with the career area of my life – those of you who noticed that I’ve written separately about both Sunday blues and Monday morning anxiety may have put two and two together.  The specifics are entertaining but to discuss them on the internet wouldn’t be very nice, so I’ll save it for my memoir and instead focus here on the main reason why it made me so miserable:  what it meant for my life.

I know that there are countless people who are either jobless or working in awful conditions who would have considered themselves lucky to get up and do what I did every day.  I told myself that  constantly, along with a zillion Zen-ish affirmations about finding joy wherever I am.  I put my heart and soul into doing a stellar job thinking I’d find some grace in that. I went back to therapy, hoping I could somehow blame my parents for it and find relief there.  None of it helped ease the feeling of soul rot as I rode the subway to work every morning.

It wasn’t like it was a surprise that this job didn’t light my fire, I knew that when I took it.  At the time, I’d thought that by doing something that wasn’t meaningful to me during the day, I’d have tons of passion left over at night and on the weekends to do stuff I actually liked, right?

Actually, no.  Energy is a funky thing.  While logically, it makes sense that doing something I felt passionless about all day would leave me with lots of zippity pow to spare all night long, the exact opposite was true.  By doing something where I had to shut off my Marla-ness all day long, I couldn’t just call it up on command when I got home at night.  It turns out that not being yourself is really fucking exhausting, as is the energy of dread, which is what I had hanging on me all the time when I was not at work.

It just didn’t feel right to me, the statement I was making about my life by showing up there every single day to do work that wasn’t meaningful to me.  I felt like I was saying to Life, “Nothing means more to me than a paycheck.  I can be bought.  My preferences are meaningless.  I am a fucking jackass.”  I felt like a giant hypocrite every time I sat down to write about doing what feels right or taking it easy because I just could not bring myself to apply that principle to my working life.

More than anything else, I felt completely and totally trapped, because the thought of staying and the thought of leaving without another job were both pretty nauseating.  I knew what it was like to be unemployed in a poor job market and couldn’t bring myself to choose that special hell of sweatpants and fruitlessly firing resumes off into space.

I cringed at the thought of the financial and emotional pressure it would create on my relationship with Jonny if I were to leave without another job; at the same time, it wasn’t exactly a relationship strengthener for me to come home in tears most days.  I just could not see any way out of my current situation, short of some kind of non-fatal injury or illness that would render me unable to work, which I’m not proud to say I fantasized about at least once a week.

What I Did to Change It

The world of work is such an intensely personal thing, so I don’t have any idea what the right move is for anyone else.  Staying in a job I hated felt like nails on the chalkboard of my soul every single day at this point in my life, but at another point in my life it might be the absolute right thing to do.

But just in case you’re where I was and looking for some answers beyond most of the weak suggestions in I-Hate-My-Job help articles (Reach out to your social network!  Focus on the positive!  Vom!  That last one was mine.) as I was, here are a few of the things that I credit for getting me out of a bad bad situation and into a good one.

  • I started this blog.  I didn’t dream of becoming a fulltime blogger per se, but I knew that my dream job involved greater creativity, so I figured it was a good idea to start exercising that muscle regularly.  It was nice that blogging was a project that would keep building on itself and growing, because a big part of my feeling of everyday grossness was that nagging sense that I was totally stagnant, building nothing.  My blog also turned out to be a huge asset in applying for my new job, but more on that later.
  • I broadened my idea of what would be acceptable work.  In this day and age, we all know smart, capable people who have job hunted for a year or more, and I felt like if I left my job there was no guarantee that I wouldn’t be one of them.  It took me a long time to do it, but once I sat down and figured out how much money I would need to survive I could begin to research the myriad ways to get it.  They may have not included benefits and vacation, but between Taskrabbit and Craigslist, I knew that I could always figure out a way to make a buck somehow, and that empowered me.
  • I worked with an amazing coach, Carolyn (she offers a great service at an unbelievable price and I can’t recommend her highly enough if you’re looking for someone), who helped me tease out the crippling fear that if I did what I really wanted to do, that I wouldn’t get what I needed.  Then, piece by piece, she helped me see that had not always been the case.  In fact, time and time again, when I looked back, doing what most of society would have deemed as the ‘right’ choices every step of the way had left me nothing but miserable; and I had plenty of examples in my life of the magic that happens when you follow your heart – you bump into the right people out of nowhere, situations miraculously shift, you wind up at the right place at the right time.  She helped me see the positive side of taking risks, whereas before I was certain that straying from the tried-and-true path meant instant doom.
  • I held some time sacred every single day where I went into straight up fantasy.  Say what you will about visualization, I’ve seen it work!  For months, every single morning on my way back from the gym or a run I would pretend I was going home to shower and then go do something I was really excited about.  I’d fill myself with thoughts of, “I can’t wait to get this day started”, “I’m so lucky that I’ve found such meaningful work that it’s such a joy to do,” and “I feel so great”.  For good measure, I’d even throw in thoughts like, “MAN it’s so nice to not have to ride the subway to work anymore” because that was another little pipe dream of mine.  Whether you believe those thoughts actually created a shift for me or not (and I swear to you – they did!), those moments every single day were a wonderful break from the worry and fear that ate away at me all the time and I’m so happy I gave myself that gift every morning.

Where I am Now

I stayed in the space I described above for several months, tossing around the idea of leaving when it felt like I just could not do it anymore but hitting up against the wall of my Taurean, security-loving sensibilities every time

Then one day I was looking for Health and Wellness jobs on Craigslist, despite the meanie demons in my head saying, You’re not a nutritionist!  Why even bother?!  I saw a post for a job at Gnosis Chocolate, a beautiful company that makes raw, organic, vegan chocolate by hand.  I read all about the story of the company and just went bananas.  Every single piece of the business agreed with me, from the DELICIOUS and healthy products, to the eco-conscious methods of production, to the feminine energy model of growth (100% word of mouth).

Then when I saw it was in Astoria, my neighborhood, I thought, maybe this is meant to be!  Maybe maybe maybe!  I applied, keeping my hopes down as much as possible, because I have applied for many jobs in the past I thought I was perfect for and never heard so much as a peep.  I later met the owner of the company, Vanessa, and it was unlike any other job interview I’ve ever had.  I didn’t look at their website just because it’s what you’re supposed to do before an interview, I had spent days devouring everything I could about Gnosis because I’m so in love with their products and story.  For once, I felt like who I really am at my very core, the spiritual weirdo with the corny jokes, was an asset; rather than something that a company would just have to accept if they wanted my productivity.

Best of all, Vanessa loved my blog!  The posted position was looking for someone who is passionate about health and wellness, and instead of just claiming that I was or sending along a picture of myself on a yoga mat, I had months worth of posts on the topic to show how much I love it.

One thing led to another, the angels sang and I got hired.  After working both jobs part-time for a while during the transition, I am now a full-time Project Manager at Gnosis Chocolate.  I now work for a company that I absolutely adore, with people I admire, doing work that uses my strengths and that matters to me.  Even though it wasn’t that long ago that I was so unhappy, the feeling of stuck-ness is so foreign to me now –  can I say ‘I feel so alive’, or is that too cheesey?

This doesn’t mean that I’m not scared.  I am scared all the time!  Caring more about a job than I ever have in my life is scary business.  But accompanying the fear is a feeling of expansion and growth and a feeling in my heart of ‘I’ve got this!’ rather than what i had before which was a feeling of shriveling up and dying and a feeling in my heart of ‘I really need some antacid’.

Very Important Lessons

I’ve gotta tell you, I learned a lot by going through this crap.

Pay attention to signs!  Remember when I told you that one of my fantasy thoughts was how nice it would be to not have to ride the subway?  Then how I said that I was so excited that Gnosis was in Astoria?  Well, it turns out that my new office is… on my block.  Yes, right on my block.  If I stick my head out my living room window, I can see it.  My commute is 90 seconds long.  I had no idea when I applied for the job that I’d been passing it multiple times a day for years.  I think God knows how much I tend to doubt myself and my decisions and wanted to make it so I could make absolutely no mistake about it – I’m meant to work here.

Pay attention to your feelings.  Long before I’d interviewed at Gnosis or even knew the details of the job, I got so excited at the thought of it that I couldn’t sleep for several nights in a row.  Then I got out of bed at dawn and ran for miles like it was nothing.  The same thing happened right after I met Jonny.

On the other hand, for months after starting my old job, I could not walk to the subway in the morning without getting horrible stomach cramps and almost crapping my pants.

Our bodies are so smart!

If you’re really that confused, do nothing.  If you’re like me and both, “Just stick it out, at least you have a job in this economy!” and “Fuck it, life is too short to be miserable” sound equally appealing to you, please don’t hate me but I think that for right now you should do nothing.  My indecisiveness, as much as I tortured myself about it, turned out to be the perfect placeholder until my right job was available.

Life could be cooking you up a little something fabulous right now that’s not quite ready yet.  And no matter how many times try to convince it otherwise, life will never ever think you are a fucking jackass.

If You’re a Sensitive Person, Consider Dropping your iPhone in the Toilet

Happy Valentine’s Day!  I love you, you know.

Last Sunday morning, my iPhone fell in the toilet.  I was doing one of my favorite weekend-y things, which is listening to the Joy the Baker podcast while taking my time getting ready. I reached for my hairdryer and SPLASH!  Right into the old porcelain throne it went!

The thing is, when you drop your iPhone in the toilet, it’s not like you can revive it instantly.  Nearly every weird trick (putting it in a bag of rice, putting it in the fridge, putting it in the oven, blowing it dry, vacuuming it) involves at least a few 24 hour waiting periods.

I didn’t want to run out and buy a new phone prematurely because they cost a zillion dollars out of contract and the tiny flame in my heart was still burning away that I’d see that Apple logo blazing bright again, so I was phoneless for six days.  Because of the manner in which I’ve become accustomed to using my phone, I was also music-less, podcast-less, map-less, fitness  tracker-less, and social media on-the-go-less.

Here’s the thing:  IT FELT GREAT.

That wasn’t all that surprising to me.  I’m aware of the fact that the use of a smartphone can easily become a time vampire.  As a busy woman, I could have guessed that whatever time that my iPhone normally sucks up would feel nice when it became free time.

After a few days, though, I realized that disconnecting from my phone isn’t as important for my busy-ness as it is for my sensitivity.

Are you calling me a sissy?  Actually, I’m calling me a sissy

My skin is paper thin.  After trying every which way to toughen it up, I’m pretty sure this is just a part of me, you guys.  If you’re a stranger on the subway sitting next to me raging, I feel it!  Even if you’re not raging at me.

When I check Facebook and see messages about Whitney Houston getting what was coming to her (COME ON.  How mean can you be?!  Addiction is a very sad and devastating disease! She was a brilliant and beautiful performer!), I imagine how it would feel for her mother or daughter to read anything like that and I could just break down in tears right now.

I don’t think you need any further examples because if you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’re probably sensitive too.  And for people like us, who are deeply affected by the thoughts and feelings of others, we’ve gotta be careful.  A device with the potential to connect us to others constantly can make it very hard to discern our wise inner voices from everyone else’s noise.

Reason #1 why I’m glad my iPhone took a dive in the toilet: when you’re not yammering away on the phone, a walk is a really good way to clear your head

I have a job where I generally can’t leave during the day for breaks.  Occasionally I do, though, either for special cases or to run a work-related errand.

Normally for my whole walk to and from wherever I’m going, I talk on the phone, in an effort to take advantage of the time to talk to my loved ones who won’t be around when I get out of work at night.

Last week, though, I used those walks to enjoy the fresh air.  Without my phone stuck to my head, I stopped asking for advice and overanalyzing my problems aloud.  I could actually hear my own thoughts enough to come up with solutions.

I’m not minimizing the value of a wonderful support system – I’d be lost without mine.  But if you’re the kind of person who is easily influenced by others’ opinions, the ability to call everyone under the sun and ask for advice could be the very thing that’s keeping you from figuring out what it is that you really want.  The smartest, lovingest, most well-meaning person could never know what’s right for you better than you can.

Reason #2 why I’m glad my iPhone took a dive in the toilet:  exercise is way more fun and therapeutic when you’re not tracking it obsessively

Normally, when I go running in the mornings, I listen to the Lady Gaga Pandora station the whole time and I track my progress with the MapMyFitness app.

Without Pokerface blaring in my ears, I got some awesome thinking done while running last week!  I know that great music can work wonders during a workout and if that’s the thing that keeps you sticking to it, don’t let me stop you.

Just consider, though, that when you’re moving your body, you’re channeling some powerful grace that you might be drowning out.  Same way that it’s hard to figure out what you really think if you spend lots of time asking everyone else their opinion, it can be hard to determine how you really feel when you’re wrapped up in the energy of the music.

I’m truly grateful to be living in a time of technological advancement that allows us access to our favorite music all the time.  I’m sure you are, too.  But we can’t let that translate into a fear of silence, or an ignorance of the insights that are waiting for us there.

WHOA, running is so much more fun when I’m not looking at a phone every few blocks to check my pace and distance!   I have nothing to prove it, but I know I ran way faster without thinking all the time about how fast I was going.    I just ran for the joy of it, a la Phoebe.

Reason #3 why I’m glad my iPhone took a dive in the toilet:  sometimes information at your fingertips is kind of a buzzkill

Since I got an iPhone last May, I got really into having access to Google nearly all the time.  Never again did my brain have to twist itself into knots trying to remember the name of Kelly’s boyfriend of Beverly Hills 90210 who got her hooked on cocaine (Colin, FYI).

Sometimes it’s not so good, though.  Like when you get inspired by an awesome idea, immediately whip out your phone to Google it to see if anyone’s done it before, and see that a bunch of people have already done it in a way that doesn’t feel right to you.  Or, a 22 year old in London has posted a question about it on Yahoo! Answers and all the responders have told him he’s crazy and it’s a terrible idea.  You feel defeated and put your phone away.

What a shame!  If you’d fleshed the idea out further internally before reaching for the external world, you may have come up with a way to bypass those potential roadblocks on your own, or come up with a way to do things that no one has ever done before.

It’s common for people to try to stamp out the light of others when it’s highlighting their own insecurities, or to give advice based on their values.  For a sensitive person, too much information about other people’s journeys can keep your greatest ideas trapped up in your head in a fearcage.

Reason #4 why I’m glad my iPhone took a dive in the toilet:  the world around me is pretty awesome

Last Thursday I was having dinner with some girlfriends, and I was the first one to get to the restaurant.  Normally I give myself free reign to mindlessly Facebook it up during those times.  After all, I’m kind of limited in the other healthy activities I can do when sitting at a restaurant table/on a barstool/on a park bench, right?

Actually, no!  Instead, I enjoyed the music playing and the beauty of the decorations in the restaurant.  I did some high quality people watching and eavesdropping on the other diners.  I caught eyes with people walking by and smiled at them.

Even time spent waiting for others is precious time spent being alive!  Instead of filling up those moments of with half-assed connections to others (scrolling through your News Feed, reading emails multiple times), consider those little pauses in your day as your chance to tune in to the actual world going on around you rather than tune out by seeing what Kourtney Kardashian is up to on Twitter.

The end of the story

My phone has recovered (sidenote for people in NYC – if your phone takes a similar dive, I recommend BNY Tech)! Luckily it can’t read this blog and see how glad I am about its dirty little swim.  Actually, it probably can.  That thing is SMART.

These are the ways I’m going to infuse my broken phone knowledge with my awareness of my own sensitivity:

  • Be more mindful about staggering non-chatty walks into my work breaks. Use them to turn to myself for solutions instead of everyone else.
  • Alternate music-free exercise sessions with music-full ones.
  • Retire my MapMyFitness app entirely for now, unless I’m tracking a new route and I want to figure out the mileage.  There’s just no reason to allow it to suck the fun out of my exercising.
  • Sit with ideas for at least one day before researching them.
  • Kill my habit of devoting waiting periods to my phone.  It’s a small, insidious addiction to bulshit.

Sensitive people, what are your thoughts on disconnecting?  What’s a device/activity/habit you’re dependent upon that could stand to be tossed in the toilet?  Tell me all about it in the comments!

Dealing with your Life-Force Sucking Autopilot Habits

I’ve always suffered from Sunday blues, bad. When I was a kid, my parents would sometimes take us to feed the ducks on Sundays, and it was always so hard for me to truly enjoy it because there would be the shadow of SCHOOL hanging over every single mallard and bread crust.  What was the point of really getting into it, when 12-18 hours later I’d be at school, sucking at gym class and wondering why my hair wasn’t perfectly poofy like everyone else’s? (It was the 80s.)

I go through the same sort of thing as an adult – whenever someone wants to schedule some fun social activity with me for a Sunday, I’m always like, ‘Hey, what about a Saturday instead?’.  I just know that as lovely as brunch is, my fritatta will be tainted because hanging right over my head is a Monday morning subway commute with some over-cologned guy in a suit squished up against my ass.

Because of this, Jonny and I have a lot of relaxing Sundays at home.  Usually we half-assed talk about what we might want to eat for the week until about 3 when we get down to business to meal plan and make a list.  By the time I put a bra on, we get our shit together, it’s four o’clock.  We then do our grocery shopping, and maybe stop at Walgreen’s on the way home to buy deodorant or something.  We get home between 5 and 5:30, and in January that means it’s getting dark already.

At that point, dinner preparation time is looming large, along with the end of the night, along with Monday morning.  And I have effectively frittered away an entire day putting off a task, a day when I can really use a little extra self care.

Anyway, this past Sunday Jonny and I did our grocery shopping for the week at 11am instead, and we were home by noon.  We didn’t switch it up for any intentionally noble reason, we were just out of coffee and toilet paper.  And it was AMAZING!  By moving one little task, I suddenly had the whole day to do whatever with.

You can shop earlier on Sundays too!  In your own way

I’m sharing this with you to encourage you to find your own little gems.  They’re just waiting for you to discover them and free up your time and energy.  I’m speaking particularly to those of you who have kicked your addiction to bullshit and learned how to say no, yet you STILL feel totally trapped by your schedule… there is hope!

I know you have a lot of shit going on and it all feels non-negotiable.  I’ve gotta tell you, though, focusing on that is an easy way to feel powerless and like you have no control over your own life.  Instead, search high and low for the tasks and blocks of time where you DO have some leeway and focus on maximizing those for ultimate joy and peace.  Don’t tell me you don’t have any – be brutally honest with yourself, and beware of what you do on autopilot!

Here are a couple of ideas to get you started:

  • FIGURE OUT A WAY TO SPEND LESS TIME ON YOUR HAIR.  Thanks to a roomful of screaming Korean women in Woodside who straighten my hair once a year, my morning hair routine is five minutes long.  Trust me!  If they can tame this mop, there IS a way for you to spend less time on grooming and still feel gorgeous!
  • Do one thing at a time.  (Texting counts as a thing!)  I absolutely suck at this, but when I can apply it I save loads of time and feel a zillion times better. I realized this one a few years ago when I discovered that I need an hour and fifteen minutes to get ready for work at home, but I can get ready at the gym in a half hour because I have no distractions.
  • Pick out your outfits the night before.  You deserve the nice feeling of putting on clothes that you know are clean, pressed, and matched without having to think about it too much.  It sure beats scrambling around at the last minute, sniffing the pits of your black cardigan trying to remember the last time you wore it.

GIVEAWAY WINNER!

The winner of the Cuisinart CSB-76 SmartStick 200-Watt Immersion Hand Blender is PETREA!  Congratulations Petrea! Please email yourfullplate (at) gmail (dot) com with your shipping address and preferred color and I’ll get it shipped out to you right away.  Thanks so much to everyone who entered.

 

The Technique You Must Apply Before Making Your 2012 Resolutions

How are you faring in the holiday season so far?  If you are at the end of your tinsel-y rope, I want you to know that you’re not alone.  The end is in sight, too.  The insanity of the most wonderful time of the year will die down in a couple of weeks, and it’s going to be high time for goals and resolutions for 2012.

Today I’m going to talk to you about reflecting, because looking at where you’ve been is just as important as figuring out where you want to go from here.

A nauseating slow-motion replay of drunk dials and the time you congratulated that lady who wasn’t actually pregnant won’t do you any good.  Instead, an hour of self care to reflect on your life throughout 2011, both the exciting happy gifts as well as the blessings in disguise, is just the juice you need to crush your goals.

I know what you’re thinking. “The past is over!  I’m all about the present, I am totally Buddhist!” Or, “I’m planning for the future, what’s done is done, lady!  Let it go!”

I definitely want you to get back to your power of now and let’s look ahead philosophies.  But this was the only 2011 of your very special life!  What else could possibly be so important that you can’t give an entire, never-to-be-seen-again year of your life a little love and attention?

Why You Need to Learn the Art of Reflection

Get all your ruminating done in one go.  Your nagging thoughts about the past tend to bleed all willy nilly into your day, don’t they?  When you set aside a specific time of your choosing to take inventory of your history, you take control of those pesky suckers rather than vice versa.  Leading up to your reflection date, if regrets surface, tell them “Not now.  I’ll hear you out on Friday at 7.” or whenever.  Following your reflection date, tell those thoughts, “I already heard you out and got everything I need from you.  SEE YA!”

See your progress and what the journey has been like.  Progress includes learning what does not work for you too, by the way.  This allows you to feel great about how far you’ve come (it’s nearly always further than you give yourself credit for), and also shift your path a bit if you’re heading anywhere that sucks.

Put you first in the midst of the season of giving.  I bet you are feeling pressure like crazy to catch up with everyone this time of year, huh?  I know I sure am.  By giving yourself an hour to reflect, you ensure that you will catch up with yourself.  You are way less annoying than those other people anyway.

Some Reflection Prompts

If this year was a movie, it would be called ________________ and _____________ would be on the soundtrack.

I wish I had handled ____________ differently.  I did what I did because _____________.  Here’s what I learned from following the path that I did: _________________.

I’m really grateful that ___________________ happened this year.

This year, my biggest time sucks were _____________________.

The time this year that I felt my absolute best was ______________________.

The time this year that I felt my absolute worst was ____________________.

Looking back on your 2011, what are you proudest of?  What about most grateful for?  Tell me all about it in the comments!

The Secret that Will Add Hours to Your Day and Make You Feel Great (Slay Your Time Vampires, Part II)

This is the second post in a series called Slay Your Time Vampires, helping you identify and rework time sucks in your life so you can use that time to take care of your health.  Read Part I here.

There’s a simple answer to your time management issues

What if I told you that there was one thing that would greatly increase the time you have to devote to your health?  One thing that, if you mastered it, would add hours to your week and a glow to your cheeks?

I’ll tell you what that one thing is at the end of this section.  Before I do, though, I want to warn you that upon hearing it you will immediately come up with reasons why I am wrong.

In order to apply this one thing, you will have to machete your way through a jungle of convincing resistance.  You will think “I’m a special case.  This would never work for me.”  That’s just your fear talking.

You don’t have to listen to it.  You have a choice, even all of your cells are screaming at you that you don’t.  I’ll give you a way to deal with those screaming cells later.  Just stick with me, okay?

This one thing has nothing to do with strategies, tools, and technology.  It’s just a word you have to say.

The word is NO.

Your mission

I want you to say no to things that don’t make you happy.  You know that lousy feeling you get in your body when you say yes to something that puts your happiness last?  I want to work with you to eliminate that feeling from your life, one small step at a time.

I’m not talking about non-negotiables like going to work to support your family or caring for a baby or sick relative.  I know that life is not one big party and that there are certain less-than-fun tasks we must do, sometimes for a long time.  I’m talking about the areas where you do have the power to say no, and you’re not exercising it.

Your tricky areas will be unique to you, but here are some common examples:

  • Staying late at work every time your boss asks.
  • Taking your girlfriend for happy hour drinks to talk about her breakup even though you are getting sick, and this is the third time she’s broken up with the same guy
  • Saying, “Well..okay.” when your boyfriend asks if you guys can throw his best friend’s birthday party at your place.

I’m asking you to look at the areas where you have let your sense of loyalty to others outweigh your sense of loyalty to yourself, and take small actions to restore the proper balance.

The benefits of saying No

If your resistance is telling you to stop reading this blog post right now, tell it these reasons why it’s worth it for you to learn how to say no:

1) More time!  By eliminating what doesn’t serve you, you will have more minutes and hours to devote to improving your life.

2) Confident feelings follow confident actions.  By saying no, you are sending yourself “I love you” messages even if you don’t quite mean them yet.  It will only be a matter of time until all of that love sinks in and translates into improved self esteem.

3) You lead by example.  By gracefully honoring your own boundaries, you give others permission to do the same.

4) Your relationships will improve.  Your friends and family have a better sense of your feelings than you think.  Once you start saying no, you will lose the heaps of resentment for them you’ve been carrying around. Your relationships will become more authentic and trusting as a result.

Why this is so difficult to carry out – my story

I understand the enormity of what I am asking of you.

I am a people pleaser of Olympic proportions.  I want you to like me more than I can put into words.  I want you to like me even if I don’t like you!  Actually, I want you to like me especially if I don’t like you, but that’s getting into extra freaky territory so I’ll save it for my therapist.

I spent the first twenty-something years of my life on a quest to be loved by everyone, doing what others asked of me without question.  I defined myself using everyone else’s opinions of me, and the way to ensure those opinions of me were good was to put my needs aside and always say yes to whatever they wanted.

This was especially true for me socially.  It never occurred to me that I had the right to filter my social circle; that it was important to turn down a friendship if the potential friend wasn’t very nice or an invitation if the thought of going was a drag.  I had such low self worth that I thought anyone who wanted to be my friend was doing me a big favor.  I gave time, attention, and money away recklessly.

I couldn’t say no romantically, either.  Up until Jonny, my love life was all guys who showed interest in me first.  I thought that I had to take what I could get.  Once I was in these relationships, I thought my value as a girlfriend lied in having no needs and always doing whatever the guy wanted.  I thought I’d lose all desirability if I stopped being a needless doormat.

Years of this behavior translated into an insurmountable weight and overeating problem for me.  I had the obvious issue of not having time for my health because I was so busy helping everyone else.  Eventually, I saw how the psychological issues behind my extra weight ran even deeper than that.  The “I am worthless” message that I reinforced to my very core every time I put myself last created a gaping, painful hole.  I turned to food to fill and numb it.

When I decided to address that gaping hole rather than trying a different diet, I came face to face with my self hatred and all of its manifestations.  I could not wipe out my low self esteem all in one go, but I could begin to act like a girl who loved herself.  It has taken years of practice, and I’m not perfect, but I’ve come a long, long way in being able to say no to what doesn’t serve me.  My health and happiness have flourished as a result.

Your reasons won’t necessarily be identical to mine.  But if you find that you don’t have enough time to spend on yourself and your health is suffering as a result, now is the time to figure out why.

What you can do about it

If you’ve been a lifetime people pleaser, a sudden switch to putting yourself first feels impossible.  Be easy on yourself.  Dip one toe into the “no” pool at a time, and submerge yourself further at your own pace.

Saying no to strangers is a great place to start.  I once had a counselor who told me she learned how to say no by politely telling cashiers she did not want to sign up for their rewards programs.

Once you’re feeling ready to move on to the people in your life, aim for slow progress rather than sudden change.  Here’s a continuum, from least to most self-honoring, that you can work your way through when someone asks you to do something that doesn’t work for you:

If your friends and family are used to you being a yes girl, they are going to kick and scream a bit when you change your behavior.  This is a very natural response when one person in a relationship changes.  It’s scary for the other party, and they do what they can to maintain the dysfunctional status quo.

It sucks feeling like your loved ones aren’t happy with you.  The only way to get it to suck less is to stick with it so they get used to your new empowered ways.  I want you to remember that the suckage of feeling like you’ve disappointed your loved ones is a hell of a lot better than the cumulative effects of a life lived putting your needs last.  Those that can’t adapt to you tending to your own needs first might be relationships that you’re better off without.  

SyNOpsis (HA)

  • If you feel too busy to take care of your own health, take an honest look at how you are spending your time.
  • Other than non-negotiable duties, identify where you regularly say yes when you want to say no.
  • Work your way towards saying no more often at a pace that feels right for you.
  • Replace those activities with those that will improve your health and fitness.
  • Pat yourself on the back!  You’ve done a really hard thing!

I shared my story, now I’m eager to hear yours!  What’s the hardest thing for you to say no to, and what do you think is behind all those empty yes-es?   

Easy Time Management Tweaks for your Morning Routine (Slay your Time Vampires, Part I)

This post is the first in a series called Slay Your Time Vampires.  I’m writing this series to feed some minutes and hours back to you, the time starved lady who feels her schedule is too packed to make healthy changes.

I’m going to tell you a little story.  It takes place on a beautiful day, 80 degrees and sunny with no humidity.  I’m walking down my street and feeling great.

I’m strolling along thinking about how lucky I am, and just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, right on the bench outside my Laundromat, is YOU!

OH NO!  You’re crying, you poor girl!  You’re really in a state, mascara and stringy boogers everywhere.

I sit down next to you and put my arm around your shaky shoulders and ask you what’s the matter.

“I…. HAVE…. NO….TIME!”  you sob.   “I feel like crap about myself and every piece of advice about getting healthy takes SO MUCH TIME.  I work fifty hours per week, how the hell am I supposed to exercise and cook healthy meals and take time to relax?  And I don’t even have kids yet!”

I rub your back. “You poor thing.  I’ve been there, for sure.  Maybe I can help.  Why don’t you tell me about what a typical morning is like for you?  Soup to nuts.  I want all the details.”

“Okay.  But before you say anything, I am not waking up at 5am.  Out of the question.”

“Fair enough.”

“My first alarm goes off at 6:54.  I usually hit snooze twice and then wake up at 7:14.  Then I check email on my phone.

“Then I check Facebook, my Google Reader, Twitter, maybe the weather.  I shower around 7:30.

“I put on my makeup, do my hair, get dressed.  That’s all done by 8:20ish.  I check Gmail and Facebook one last time and maybe write back to an email.

“Leave for work at 8:30.  Get to work at 9:00, open my work email and see if anything needs handling right away.  If nothing does, I open up Gmail and Facebook and Twitter and leave them open for the day.”

I stop you. “Wait, so you’re telling me that by 9am you have already checked social networking sites three times?”

“Three times?  I guess so.”

“Okay. Let’s stop there for now.  The good news is that I can definitely help you.  The bad news is… you’ve got a time vampire infestation.”

“Good lord, vampires are everywhere these days.”

“I know, right?  But these aren’t even the sexy kind.  Time vampires are activities that stick their little fangs into your day and suck away minutes and hours without giving you anything in return.

“It’s actually great news that you have time vampires, though – it means that once we slay them, you will get back all this time that you can spend taking care of your health without changing your life too much.

“Your morning routine sets the tone for your whole day, so I’m going to pull out the parts that are sucking away from the awesome health and self care that you deserve, okay?”

Time Vampire #1:  STOP WITH THE DAMN SNOOZE BUTTON

We’ll start with the moment you wake up.  You hit snooze twice, staying in bed for twenty extra minutes.

Research shows that those small bursts of interrupted sleep may make you feel more tired.  The feeling that you’re resting up when you reset the clock and doze for a few minutes is mostly psychological.

Speaking of psychology, do you really want to send yourself the message of “I can’t do things I set out to do” the second you open your eyes in the morning?

Go on a 30 day crusade to kick the habit of hitting snooze and see how great you feel.  You will not miss those twenty minutes, I guarantee it.

Time Vampire #2:  GET OFF THE DAMN INTERNET

I’m about to be very honest with you about your next time vampire.  You’re not going to like it.

YOU’RE ADDICTED TO BULLSHIT.

I know what you’re thinking.  I have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m crazy, what does bullshit addiction even mean?!

I’m so sorry.  I wish I was wrong.  I’ve been here before, though; and you’ve got it bad.  The short attention span, the glassy eyes, the moments of slight gratification that add up to hours of nothing.

All signs point to bullshit addiction.

If you still don’t believe me, please ask yourself: what kind of information are you getting from the internet that you need first thing in the morning?  Is looking at the ultrasound of a former high school classmate (who you haven’t seen in ten years) on Facebook adding anything worthwhile to your day?

Seriously, you started your day by gazing at a stranger’s uterus!  I say this to you with great love – if that’s not bullshit addiction, I don’t know what is.

I love the internet.  There is nothing wrong with using it for a specific purpose.  What’s a bad idea is handing over hours of your day to websites on autopilot, without considering why you’re doing it.  You and your time deserve much more respect than that.  Those hours that could add up to glowing health if you put them towards taking care of you.

What do I do with all this damn time, anyway?

Congratulations!  You’ve identified two major time vampires and I just know you’re gonna slay ‘em.  You now have forty five fabulous minutes in the morning to devote to taking care of yourself and that beautiful body of yours.

Here are some healthy, happy ways to fill your mornings:

  • Running three miles at a moderate pace, with a warm-up and cool-down
  • Practicing yoga for a half hour, followed by fifteen minutes of meditation
  • Preparing healthy lunches to take to work
  • Preparing ingredients for dinner for the week:  washing and chopping veggies, preparing grains, soaking proteins in marinades
  • Reading a book that inspires you
  • Sending emails to friends you actually care about

The (damn) long and the short of it

You have more time than you think to devote to your health.  If you are spending your days feeling like a frazzled freak with no time to take care of yourself, take an honest look at your morning routine and see where your time vampires are sucking you dry.  If you spend a half hour a day for the next year exercising, you will be one radiant, healthy babe.  If you spend a half hour a day for the next year looking at Twitter, you will just know a lot about the Kardashians.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on time vampires in the comments!  What are your biggest, suckiest ones?  What struggles do you face in slaying them?

 

HEY YOU!
I'm Marla Hamilton, and this is my blog. I write it because I want to make it very easy for you to feel healthy and great about yourself.Read more about me here.
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