This Is Your Brain On Stress

If you are a 80's or 90's kid like me, you remember those horribly cheesy commercials warning "this is your brain on drugs" with a smashed frying egg. Oh, nostalgia. As I grow older and reflect back on the things I learned as a child, I realize that while we learned a lot about what not to do with our bodies, we never quite learned what not to do with our minds. 

We do not learn enough about what we should do more of so I want to aim to provide guidance as well as some things to shy away from. 

Stress is not pleasant, but many would say it is inevitable. It is part of living life, becoming successful, and growing. However, the amount of stress the average person has to bear is incredible and more than moderate.

Intense and persistent stress wreaks havoc on our body, our interpersonal lives, and our connection to ourselves. It makes the days run together, it makes us short-tempered and irritable. In short: stress sucks.

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What Is This Whole Self-Care Thing?

I recently came to realize that there are people out there who are not yet on the self-care bandwagon. This blog is for you: the curious, the confused, the skeptic.

One of my most popular blogs to date is about The Importance of Self-Care which speaks to how to make self-care fit more seamlessly into your life. This has been super helpful for those who are aware of this practice, but may not be entirely helpful for those new to the idea. 

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Slow the F*ck Down!

This is not click bait. This is a plea from me to you to truly take some time to slow it down. Take the time to read this as though your life depends on it. Let's be clear about what I mean. What I write here might not change your life, but slowing down certainly will!

I want you to consider what it would be like if you slowed down your mind to be able to think clearly, process your thoughts and plans fully, and organize your emotions and energy so you can feel like a human again. It would be pretty lovely right? 

We are so fast moving, ridiculously consumed by going-going-going that we rarely catch a moment to breathe. We are often working insane hours only to have no social lives or time for ourselves. This pattern begs asking the question: what is the point?!

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The Art of Self-Compassion

Compassion is usually seen as how we utilize kindness and understanding with others. As with most acts of kindness, the capacity to be compassionate starts from within. When we lack self-compassion it is generally a lot harder to be kind to others. When we view this self-love as beginning internally, it can then radiate outwards and color our interactions with others in a beautiful way.

What is self-compassion?

The act of treating ourselves with compassion is not one that many people place importance on, yet we are expected to treat one another with kindness. We are taught from a young age to treat others the way we want to be treated. However, we generally engage in self-criticism and self-talk that is far more harmful and hurtful than anything we would tell someone else.

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Not Letting Fear Decide

A large part of what I believe to be my purpose in life is to live with authenticity. To be genuine and real, both for myself and for the people I work with. I find that too often we know our true desires and want to pursue them, but something gets in the way. Whether its fear of judgement, an inability to believe in ourselves, or a fear of change, this thing that holds us back from living our best possible life is real!

Following our incredible farm/European adventure, I am back in NYC and working on growing my practice and developing the life I desire. A large part of me has wanted to share more, put myself out there in ways that feel scary and vulnerable. I made a list of all the things that could happen in 2017 that would be both scary and amazing. I could have easily sat back and let the list become a list of dreams and hopes than an actual plan for my year.

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Prioritizing Self-Care During Travel

Self-care is important to me. So important that I wrote an e-book about it. I implore my clients to develop their own self-care routines, and shamelessly keep to my practice when I know I need it. In many occasions, however, we fall out of habit without even realizing it.

For the entire month of July, I am traveling throughout Europe. You might be thinking that travel in itself is a type of self-care. It is true, getting out of your comfort zone, seeing something new, and being in awe are great practices to get you feeling renewed and energized. However, I know that travel can leave me feeling tired and cranky if I do not balance it with certain self-care practices.

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Tending to Your Plants

So far in the Farm Lessons series, I have discussed getting to the root of things in order to clear space for new growth andembracing your garden for what it is. This week I'll be addressing growth. Most people understand that they cannot just plant a seed and expect it to grow strong, healthy, and be fruitful. They understand that planting requires nourishment, care, tending to, maintenance, etc.

However, it can get a little tricky to understand exactly what your garden needs. To make it easier, I am sharing the four essential steps that I have learned from the farm and how you can use them to “grow” a little more mindfully in accomplishing your goals.

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The Importance of Self-Care

How do you think of self-care? Is it an elaborate spa weekend? Spending a week at a tropical resort? While those acts are certainly classified as self-care, there are several more continual self-care practices that you can incorporate into your daily routine. For instance, taking a long shower, going for a walk, and reading a good book are nourishing gifts you can give to yourself easier than you can give yourself a vacation. Self-care is the intentional choice to engage in activities, big and small, that are necessary for optimal comprehensive health: emotional, psychological, physical, social, and spiritual.

In our society it is commonplace to equate self-care with selfishness. The premise of this logic is care for others first and for yourself if there is time, energy or resources left over. What if I told you that the majority of people have it backwards? When you care for yourself first and foremost you are actually able to better care for others.

First, let's address the guilt factor that comes with self-care with a shift in perspective. I like to imagine all of the things that make me who I am as a house with a solid foundation. There are supporting beams that represent things I need to actively maintain to keep me standing strong. This is what self-care is: the supporting beams. You need these things to maintain a strong sense of self. You can give away one support beam, maybe even two if you are feeling generous. However, as a society we tend to give more beams away than we have for ourselves. Your home is likely to crumble when this happens. If all of your support beams are present and strong you are in the position to give to others without sacrificing your own stability.

Realizing that we need to maintain our own "support beams" before we think about giving to others first can be a liberating shift in perspective. One that, in the long run, will serve to make us better partners, friends, listeners, workers, etc. When you understand what you need to function to the best of your abilities and give yourself the nourishment you need, you are naturally going to be in a more refreshed state to help others.

There are plenty of other analogies such as you cannot share water from an empty glass or in the case of a flight you put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. They all speak to the same idea: nourish yourself first.

You likely already engage in some forms of self-care in your daily routine but you may not be placing these activities in the "I'm-doing-this-because-it's-good-for-me" category. You can make self-care an active and intentional practice by reminding yourself of why you do these activities. Maybe you are already in the habit of enjoying a cup of coffee and a few moments of silence in the mornings. Why not practice this with purpose and recognize the calming effect that this has on your body and mind?

Channeling the positive effects that any self-care activity brings allows you to register that you are providing nourishment and helps you to be more present in that self-care moment. It is the difference between being on autopilot when you give to yourself versus being an active participant. Take in how self-care makes you feel relaxed, energized or focused. Be present in the positive sensations, because that is what self-care is all about. Remind yourself that self-care is an ongoing process rather than something you can just check off your to-do list.

If you are not already in the habit of giving to yourself, allow me to suggest ways you could begin. Start by thinking about what feels fulfilling to your mind, body, and soul. Make sure there is variety in how you give to yourself. Remember, self-care doesn't have to be done alone, as long as the purpose is self-nourishment. So go walk and talk with a friend, or volunteer to help others, as long as the purpose is to feed your soul and rejuvenate you.

Get into the practice of giving to yourself as a continual, conscious, connected routine. I am not encouraging you to make sure every "need" on your self-care list is checked off at all costs every day of the week, but make sure at least one or two things are done on a daily basis. There will be times that self-care will be difficult. Try to do a small self-care activity consistently, especially during those difficult times. Allow self-care to be a source of strength, renewal, and connectedness. If you need additional ideas on self-care tips, check out these tips for 45 self-care practices.