My Year By Design

The journey to living by design.

My favourite reasons to do yoga at home

The dress code: I can do yoga in my pajamas, or my underwear, or nothing at all, (TMI?) I don’t have to do my hair or worry about how I look. I can roll right out of bed and hit the mat.

The class schedule: Yoga on demand 24-7. I can practice when I want for as long as I want.

The pace: I can speed up, slow down or take a break any time I need.

The studio: My house, my rules. I can have any setup I like. I get to choose the lighting, the temperature, the music, and anything else I like to suit my mood that day. I always get the best spot in the room too:)

My classmates: Me, myself and I…and an occasional furry visitor.

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The peace: Being by myself is a real meditation booster. The house is quiet and I can slow down and just be.

If that doesn’t inspire you to try yoga at home, I don’t think anything will! Namaste.

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Having a good time with my brain

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I’m in the middle of an online learning course to update my teaching certification. I won’t bore you with the details as it’s really only interesting to people in my field of study. However, I will say this: every day in my course I feel like I’m getting smarter. It’s like I can actually feel new connections being made and reinforced in my brain. This is a very condensed course, (only 20 days!) so I’m having to read, write, research, and think very quickly. The last time I really felt like this was during my Masters program, where I was hacking through courses with new concepts and ideas daily. It might be my imagination, but in these moments I think I can feel my brain changing for the better.

When was the last time you really enjoyed learning? When a book changed your mind on something? When you finished a major project? When you successful overcame an obstacle? It could be something as simple as when I helped my niece and nephew put together a perfect Lego tower.  It is important to notice these times when we are improving our brains. At North Americans, we are very focused on improving our physical health, (going to the gym, eating healthy, etc.) but we tend to neglect our mental development once we leave school. I’m going to try to keep doing things that are good for my brain. I hope you do too. Keep learning!

Let Us Pray to the Massage Gods

I don’t know who decided that therapeutic touch was good for humans, but that person deserves a noble peace prize…and a hug…and a cookie. While recovering from my recent bought of migraines, (yes plural and almost a week’s worth,) I also booked two massages. I go to a Registered Massage Therapist and because I got a doctor’s note for massage treatments for my migraines, my health insurance covers it. Hooray for free massages! The RMT treatments really helped reduce my pain and I slept better afterwards too. Now I am migraine free and starting to feel like a normal human again!

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Don’t mind me…just scooping my brains out with a spoon

I’m on day four of a migraine. It’s not just my head that hurts; my jaw, neck, shoulders, and stomach all ache too. I will be crawling to the chiropractor and then to my RMT to try to fix this shortly. I’m taking a break writing so this is all you get today. Here is a picture of how my brain feels:

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The really good belly laughs

When was the last time you had the really good belly laughs? I’m talking about the laughs that snowball, getting louder and wilder, the laughs that leave your abs and cheeks aching as you wipe tears from your eyes. It happened to me not long ago at a Leadership camp I attended with my students. We were at the final talent show on the last night of camp. Each act was funnier than the last, filled with jokes from our week together. Unfortunately, I can’t share the photos or videos due to student privacy concerns. However, I’m hoping I can offer you something else for a chuckle.

This video starts out pretty slow but keep watching until 1:27 in. That’s when the magic begins. Nick showed me this video and I could not stop laughing. To make matters worse, he kept bringing the video back to 1:27 and letting it play over and over until I was gasping for air. I just watched it again as I’m writing this and I’m still laughing. That is one of the best feelings in the world.

Trying the Stop, Breathe & Think App

So I’ve been using the Stop, Breathe & Think app for a couple of weeks now and I’m really enjoying it. It’s a really simple app to use.

First I check in about how I feel mentally and physically. Then I can choose up to five emotions to add in. Based on that the app suggests a list of meditations that are suited to how I’m feeling. I do the meditation and then check in again to see if it changed my mood. Alternatively, I can just go to the full list of meditations and choose any track I like.

I like these meditations. They are straightforward and good for beginners as well as experienced folks. This app is really helping me make meditation a part of my weekly routine. It’s so easy to pop on my headphones and meditate for a few minutes. I especially like using this app when I’m trying to relax after a long day. My favourite meditation so far has to be “Falling Asleep”. It’s so calming and always helps me drift off. I really recommend this free app if you have any interest in learning how to meditate or in practicing meditation regularly.

Contentment, not joy

I think I can now safely say my recovery is going well. Like any good teacher, I’m going to give myself a bit of a report card on my mental health.

My process:

  • Taking my antidepressants every day.
  • Going to therapy bi-weekly or weekly as needed.
  • Working out more.
  • Eating less sugar and fewer grains, (both of which make my anxiety worse.)
  • Spending more time with friends and family.
  • Giving myself more downtime.
  • Meditating a few times a week.

Results:

  • I feel stronger each day. I feel anxious less often.
  • I feel more confident.
  • I’m sleeping better.
  • I’m laughing more.
  • I’m not fully joyful yet but I feel contented. I think I’m on my way to joy.

Grilled Strawberries

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Summer is coming and my BBQ is ready to go. For a light, fruity dessert in minutes, try grilled strawberries.

INGREDIENTS:

Fresh strawberries

1 TBSP Chocolate balsamic vinegar

1 tsp white or brown sugar

Wooden skewers

Fresh whipped cream

INSTRUCTIONS:

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Make sure your strawberries are well washed and dried.

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I used dark chocolate balsamic vinegar. You can actually use any balsamic vinegar but I recommend something sweet.

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Soak your skewers in cold water for at least 10 minutes.

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Add the balsamic vinegar to your strawberries.

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Toss to combine.

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Add sugar to strawberries.

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Toss to combine.

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Thread strawberries onto skewers.

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Grill on medium heat for 2 minutes per side.

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Serve with more balsamic vinegar and whipped cream. Enjoy and happy grilling!

Stop, Breathe & Think

Recently at an educator’s conference, a colleague told me she’s been using an app called Stop, Breathe & Think in her class to help her students self-soothe and meditate. I thought this might work for me and for my students with anxiety so I downloaded it on my phone. Get your copy at Stop, Breathe & Think.

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The app is made by a not-for-profit called Tools for Peace. According to the company’s mission statement, “TFP has partnered with over 20 organizations, universities and schools, and continues to strengthen and support emotional and social intelligence as well as academic success,” (http://www.stopbreathethink.org/about.html)

The app itself is free and comes with a list of fifteen free meditations, as well as articles that teach the user how to meditate and a progress tracker. Extra meditations are available in packs of three for a few dollars each. The proceeds from the app are then used to foster more programs through Tools for Peace.

Well, this app looks like a great fit for me. I’m going to try it myself for a month and if I like it, I’ll try it with my students next. I’ll keep you updated as I work away at this. Feel free to grab the app and follow along. Happy meditating!

Fake Anxiety

So on my path back to health things are often bumpy. As I’ve mentioned, I have generalized anxiety disorder. One of the ways I combat my anxiety is to look at the cause and then try to step back from the emotion a bit. I try to be really logical about it. For example, if I’m upset about something that happened at work I might meditate or do some yoga and then talk it out with Nick. He helps me decide when I’m falling prey to my anxiety and he tries to help me get a grip on how I’m feeling. This is usually a pretty effective strategy.

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Right now, the difficulty is that I’m getting what I call ‘fake anxiety’. This is when my body goes into fight or flight mode for no obvious reason. My heart races, I get short of breath and my skin crawls, but nothing is causing it. Sometimes it happens when I’m actually having a really good day. The other day, I got an attack when I was making dinner and chatting with Nick about taking a hike. There was no reason for me to be upset and I was feeling pretty good right up until I had a panic attack.

The only thing that works when this happens is for me to sit down or lay down and breathe through it. Because this anxiety has no root cause, all I can do is calm my body and wait for it to pass. Sometimes this takes a few minutes, sometimes as much as an hour. I’m going to just keep chipping away at this problem. If any of you have a good technique, let me know and I’ll give it a try.

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