mindfulness

The Marvelous Ms. Mina Show

There’s a voice in my head that encourages me to get out for my run, or ride or, in this season, a cross-country ski. You’ll have fun, she says. And even if it’s not fun today, she assures me that I’ll feel better for having done it. She’s pretty much always right. There’s another voice in my head, which tells me that I’m out of shape and slow and why bother. Sigh. I hear her, all too well, even though she’s mostly wrong.

Yet another voice tells me that I’d feel better if I just had that cute long sleeve base layer in black and mint green that I saw in the ski shop.

These voices are cast members in the long running television series going on inside my head.

Vintage television against checkered wallpaper
Ajeet Mestry on Unsplash

I’ve made a cast list:

(note: each distinct character—such as BFC- and BFC+—has a dual, yet integrated and whole, nature and should be played by a single performer, with distinguishing costume elements. Triple asterisks separate each double-faceted character)

Bad Fairy Critic (BFC-)—a generalist, who will criticize anything and everything from my body to my intelligence, to my fundamental worth … AND

Bountiful Fairy Creator (BFC+)—who supports me with empathy and gentle guidance.

***

Fat Face—my inner judge, who is named after the judge in Toad of Toad Hall, a character I played in a grade school production, and who judges me and others, and then judges me for judging others … AND

Agnes—a source of wisdom and discernment, a woman we might have called a witch in times past. She is also organized and practical. She gets shit done. Her name comes from Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party, an epic, feminist art installation with names of 1038 women of herstory and myth.  The name Agnes showed up multiple times and grabbed my attention.

***

Doña Q—she specializes in delusions of grandeur, followed by vicious re-education sessions to set me straight about my puny capabilities and potential … AND 

Geneviève—my inner voice of compassion and the divine, my superheroine. 

***

Kaitie—she wonders, why bother with anything? You’re just going to end up with wormy chocolate and unwilling visitors who think you are a batty cat lady … AND

Gigi—the Good Girl who does her homework (and workouts) and even the supplementary readings and post workout stretches. She keeps on keeping on.

***

You-Are-Not-Enough—she is the messenger with a trumpet. Hear ye, hear ye, all ye who enter abandon hope of ever being whole, you will never be up to it, no matter what it is… AND

I Am Enough—she isn’t complacent, just assured and at ease, humble, yet also respects her own gifts.

***

Tiffany—she is constantly yearning for that one more perfect piece of clothing that will make her feel whole and cure all the past hurts caused by not fitting in … AND

Audrey—she feels satiated and plentiful, not to mention kickass, when she’s wearing a favourite pair of boots (green velvet!) or piece of clothing (midnight blue silk shirt!).

***

As you’ve no doubt noticed, every character had two sides to her personality—a destructive, bull-in-a-china shop aspect and a creative, you-go-girl aspect. Depending on the day, one or the other will have all the lines and the other one won’t be in the episode at all.

I wondered if I was getting carried away with this naming business and anthropomorphizing the voices in my head. Then I signed up for a workshop in Internal Family Systems. Turns out I was onto something. IFS calls this cast of characters our parts. And it’s not just me, we all have our own personal television series. But it takes time and intention to tune into the right channel. And not just get to know them, but befriend them. Because all of them have our best interests at heart, even if they seem to be toxic.

I’m still in the very early stages of tuning in. But even the bit of bandwidth I’ve gotten access to with this cast list has been enormously helpful. When one of the destroyers starts up with a vicious monologue, I’m learning that being gentle can be an effective Jedi mind trick. If I listen to her, instead of trying to mute her, this softens her edge and can even coax her twin creator personality out of hiding. Well, that’s helpful! When Kaitie is on a trash talking spree about how lousy my cross-country skiing is in the current series episode, I thank her for caring about my skills. Saying thanks presses the pause button on Kaitie’s diatribe. Gigi then takes the moment of silence as an invitation to chime in about how great it is that I’m out on the snow.

Sometimes, I can’t immediately identify who is flaming me. But the very act of trying to discern which cast member is speaking, slows down the action enough to flip the script to the creator. Does it work every time? Nope. Still, having the cast of characters perspective, creates a lot more distance between me and the voices in my head. I get less overwhelmed and sometimes one of them even makes me laugh with a particularly preposterous, over-the-top harangue. The script writer has quite an imagination.

In today’s episode, Gigi got me out for my regular ski workout and BFC+ offered empathy when I was resisting sitting down to write this.

Who are your favourite characters in the series of your life?

fitness · meditation · mindfulness · motivation · new year's resolutions

What’s your Word of the Year? Here are ours…#WOTY

Word cloud of the bloggers’ #WOTY

We didn’t all blog about it but most of the bloggers at Fit is a Feminist Issue have chosen a word of the year.

Why do it? Sometimes people choose a word of the year to guide them instead of a new year’s resolution, and for others it’s part of the resolution. It can mean different things to different people but the basic idea is to name an area for concentration, focus, or exploration. Sometimes it’s what you want more of in your life and sometimes it’s more general, to give a flavour to the conversations you’re having about your prupose, direction, and plans.

But with no further ado, here are our words for 2021:

Mina’s is ENOUGH

Christine’s is CONSISTENT

Sam’s is FLOW

Cate’s is STEADFAST

Nat’s is REST

Tracy’s is MINDFULNESS

Martha’s is HOLD FAST

Nicole’s is STEADY

Susan’s is PERSIST

Catherine’s is AWAKE

What’s your word of the year?

Let us know in the comments if you’ve chosen a word for 2021, what it is, and what it means to you. Thanks!

fitness · mindfulness · WOTY

Tracy’s word of the year: mindfulness

Image description: Leafy country walking path with wood fencing and lush trees in Grasmere, the Lake District, England.

Like Mina (2021: “enough”), Cate (2021: “steadfast”), and others (group summary post coming this aft!), I too have adopted a “word of the year.” Anne’s guest post about it at the end of 2019 (2020: “explore”) inspired me to try it. For 2020 my word was “authenticity.”

I think it’s interesting to consider what motivates people to choose their words of the year and even whether they choose a noun (as most do) or a verb (as Anne did in 2020, and also, if you read her post, in 2018 and 2019, with “believe” and “bloom”).

My word for 2021 is “mindfulness.” Sometimes it happens that words that seem trendy or like platitudes take on new and profound meaning. Such is the case with me and the word “mindfulness” right now. I’ve seized onto it this year because I have found myself doing all sorts of distracted things since the pandemic started. Distracted eating. Distracted doom scrolling. Distracted television watching. Multi-tasking (I hate multi-tasking). It never feels good when I do things that I don’t feel present for — that’s how I think of mindlessness. And mindfulness, or being present to what’s in front of me, is the best way for me to reverse that habit of distraction.

My commitment to mindfulness grew out of the September meditation challenge using Sharon Salzberg’s Real Happiness. Catherine gathered a bunch of us to commit to it as a blog book group. Daily meditation is a great way to be mindful, at least for 10-20 minutes or however long you’re on your meditation cushion. When I’m not doing anything else it’s easy for me to be immersed in the task at hand (even if that task is just to sit quietly).

Since I’ve adopted “mindfulness” as my word of the year (two weeks ago!) I can’t say I have been practicing it consistently. Indeed, this week has flown by in a blur so fast I can’t believe it’s already Friday. When that happens, it usually means I haven’t been paying attention.

We have just begun a new stay-at-home order here in Ontario. I do not want to come up for air at the end of this 28 days (is it a 28-day thing? I don’t even know) and wonder what happened, having spent a month in a distracted state of auto-pilot. So I’m committing to being mindful, paying attention, appreciating the details, tasting my food, showing up for my meditation, my yoga, my workouts, my walks and runs, and focusing on one thing at a time.

Do you have a word of the year?

fitness · mindfulness

Ten Percent Happier app is free for many types of frontline workers

Hi everyone– we at Fit is a Feminist Issue don’t do advertising or product placement (except for comedic purposes, and that’s mostly me…), but every now and then, we come across something out there that really works well, or is otherwise worthy of mention.

This is one of those times.

I’ve blogged a bunch of times this year about how restarting my meditation practice has helped me endure, better understand and adapt to the pandemic/political maelstrom which was 2020 (and apparently hasn’t read the calendar to see that 2020 is OVER). Others of us have written about contemplative and self-care and mindfulness habits we’ve revisited or started.

I’d like to share some very nice news with you: my favorite meditation app, called Ten Percent Happier, announced in December that they were offering the app, which usually costs about $100/year, for FREE for the following groups:

  • US Postal Service workers
  • warehouse employees
  • teachers and educators
  • grocery and food delivery workers
  • health care workers (obvs)

All you have to do is click here, and you’ll be directed to sign up immediately, or you fill out a short survey and then can sign up.

They are using the honor system to limit the free signups to the indicated groups. Here’s what they said on their site:

We know that many groups of people have been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. While we’d love to support everyone, we have been completely overwhelmed by the response to these offers. At this time, we’re only able to offer free access to warehouse employees, teachers, healthcare, grocery, and food delivery workers. Please honor this and do not click on the above buttons if you do not work in these fields. By doing this, you’ll allow us to serve these workers more quickly and efficiently, helping them in the critical work they are doing to support us all.

I love this– that is, I love that they’re making an effort to support who they can, making it easy for those groups to sign up, and asking the rest of us to help out by not deluging the system. I hope you do, too.

A heart symbol, made by two hands, against a warm color background. Wish the world were like this more often.

Readers, do you already use this app? Did you just download it and try it? Do you use others? Do other apps have this deal? Please share any info, as we are all in this together.

habits · mindfulness · motivation · new year's resolutions

I’m Struggling, Can You Help Me Figure Out My Challenge for 2021?

Welcome 2021. We begin the year of how-the-fuck-do-I-make-a-plan? And I’m not even talking about grand plans; regular old-style plans and small wishes and intentions feel hard. For me, it’s six days into the year and I’m still trying to figure out both my Word of the Year and my challenge. I usually have both well in hand by now. This year I struggled mightily to find a word. As for the challenge, I’d love your help.

A bit of background. My cousin introduced me to this Word of the Year practice more than a decade ago. As I wrote last year in my January post, “The idea is to distill your hopes, dreams, ambitions and challenges for the coming year into a word. What’s the one word you choose today to describe the year you are aiming for? A word that aspires to something greater, but doesn’t set you up for disappointment. A personal word that captures both who you are already (and you are just dandy the way you are!) and how you can refine that existing excellence. A word that will inspire you for the 364 days to come.”  

Past WOTY’s have included presence, grace, renewal and attention. Last year’s WOTY was becoming. I was feeling open, excited and daunted by the challenges ahead. I almost cried when I read how optimistic I was feeling at the beginning of the year. Even though, I also mentioned that I didn’t know what my big project was for the year. I was sure the project would emerge and be so energizing.

Oof.

In the end, there was no big project last year. There were lots of medium and small projects—1) figuring out how to fluidly adjust to the virtual world, when my collaborator, Julia, and I had to cancel the very first weekend retreat we had planned for our new venture, ImagiNation Playshops (embodied emotional intelligence workshops, facilitations and coaching); 2) almost moving to Montreal from New York City and then having that whole plan dissolve at the 11th hour (with significant financial loss); and 3) just plain figuring out how to navigate pandemic normal and the constant low level (sometimes high level) fear that I (or worse, someone I loved) would get sick and …

Plus, there was my sprained ankle in September, followed by agonizing shoulder pain that came out of nowhere, and which I now think may have been generated by all the internal stress and angst of the decision to move to Montreal. A move I’d longed for in my dreams, but which turned out to be way less straightforward logistically and emotionally than I’d expected. As if the pandemic and the US election weren’t enough turbulence and stress, I’d added tearing my life up by the roots. My shoulder is healing. Slowly. I can put on my coat now without feeling like my whole shoulder has dislocated and needing to sit down and recover. And, I am still wondering what my big project will be this year; except now it’s next year and that was supposed to be last year’s wondering.

Aargh.

Wise old elephant. This image came up on Unsplash when I searched “tears” and it just struck me as appropriate, even though I don’t think the elephant is crying. Captured my feeling of pleading with the universe for an answer. Probably the elephant is feeling joyful and I (and the photographer) are totally projecting. Photo by Amy Elting on Unsplash

So, what’s the WOTY that captures this state of ongoing not-quite-sureness? Here’s last year’s list of possible words: “[I]lluminate … grow … strong … steady … being …  belonging … becoming … run … light … recharge … strong … vitality … engaged … present … discerning … happy … incandescent … yes … flow … curiosity … change … renewal … reliability … radiance … spontaneity … pleasure … simplicity

I like the potential these words embrace. This is a year about expanding and making space. I want to get to the end of 2020 and feel like I’ve tapped into new personal resources.”

Oh man. Again, I read those bright, shiny words and I want to cry (okay, I did). I had such plenitude in my spirit. Except this … I do feel like I tapped into new personal resources last year. We all discovered reserves of strength and resilience we didn’t know we had. There is one word that jumps out at me off that old list: recharge. But that’s not my word for this year. The word feels premature. After reading Nicole’s post on January 4, a word started to percolate that felt right: enough.  The “I am” before that word is implicit. I want to practice feeling enough-ness, practice being grateful for the enough-itude in my life and practice relaxing into the gentle comfort of enough. At the same time, I want to use enough as an engine to get motivated around a writing project that’s been percolating in my brain for the last many years, to stay energized around the workshops we are creating at ImagiNation Playshops and to be curious and open to what other projects arise.

Yesterday I was playing with all the permutations that capture the fullness and nuance of my WOTY:

  • Enough-ness
  • Enough-itude
  • Enough-ing
  • Enough-ed
  • Enough-ment
  • Enough-y
  • Enough-es
  • Enough-ly
  • Enough-ful
  • Enough-ist

Yay. I have my word.

How about the challenge mentioned in this post’s title? Challenges are my version of resolutions (but not): “There’s something about resolutions that always feels like someone/something is chastising me to do better. And I was never very good at sticking to resolutions. But I have developed a habit of setting myself a challenge for the year. And, weirdly, I generally manage to stick to my challenges. Could just be that the word is more motivating. My challenges are usually ways of being that I want to try on for size, with no commitment to extend after the year is over.”

A friend calls these challenges my annual devotional tasks. Last year’s challenge was not buying anything from amazon (except books/tv/film). That proved to be more pointed this year, but I stuck to it. Though, full disclosure, there were a few household items that my partner bought on amazon, that I used. Like the hot plate, because the gas is shut off in our New York apartment, so our stove top is out of commission. I may keep up that new habit, my ongoing protest against the consolidation of wealth into fewer and fewer companies (and therefore individuals’ pockets). My other challenge was not to shop for clothes/shoes in the alternate (even) months. The no-shopping task was a bust—not because I didn’t stick to it. I did. But because it brought me no peace of mind. In 2018, I challenged myself not to shop for clothes/shoes for a whole year. I felt clean and clear by the end of the year (actually by about 3 months in.). While I never intended to extend the challenge beyond the year, I hoped it would make me more mindful. It did, but then that mindfulness started to fade. I thought I’d re-up my attention with the alternate month idea. Nope. Instead, I spent the last week of every even month obsessing about what I might buy during the upcoming odd month. I can’t tell how much of that was also COVID driven. In the midst of a general sense of deprivation, the added denial of not allowing myself to buy something fresh to wear (at home) felt like an extra layer of no-you-can’t. Yes, I recognize that I’m privileged to even be able to contemplate buying something new. So, there’s that, too.

This year … what? I’m struggling to come up with something. After the 2020 we all had, I’m not inclined toward a you-can’t-do-this-thing challenge. And I’d like my challenge to have a generative or contributive element. I’ve thought about creative/artistic writing projects. Write a new poem a month and offer it up to friends in written and audio form? But then, as much as I think other people’s artistic efforts are generative and contribute to our collective fullness, the idea that my own work might do the same appalls me. Egotistical. Delusional.  I know. I only just chose my WOTY and already there’s not a whole lot of enough-ful-ness in my feelings around my work. Sigh.

I wanted to write something cheery and intentional, to inspire myself and you. Instead, I wrote this, a mess of confusion and unknowns.  

Where are you at? I’m in need of your wisdom and insight.

covid19 · holidays · mindfulness

We Wish You a Meh Christmas

The holidays are a bummer this year, and I’m ok with that.  I’m ok with it being a bummer; I’m ok with being bummed out.  I appreciate that my husband and I have enough privilege that our discomfort this year is about disappointments, not serious suffering.  We are not food or housing insecure like far too many people; we aren’t yet mourning the loss of anyone close to us due to the pandemic. In that context, being bummed out is actually a pretty good place to be.

Buddhism teaches that expectation is the root of all suffering, and while I’m not a Buddhist, I see wisdom in this perspective, and I’m working on letting go of my expectations.  Expectation management looks like telling Mom a few weeks before I was on winter break that I won’t be seeing her during my vacation.  It looks like shipping gifts to friends with notes saying, “I miss you” rather than “I can’t wait to get together.”  It looks like planning a tasty but modest meal for celebrating the holidays with my husband, alone in our house.  We’re keeping low expectations to avoid regretting that it isn’t more.

That’s not to say that there aren’t real consequences to not getting together this year.  I have family in poor health, family I never see except at the holidays and may not see for another year, and family with problematic lives I’d love to see face to face to KNOW they are actually ok.  I am sad and concerned to miss this yearly check-in and opportunity for connection.  But we agree that the risks outweigh the benefits, and I will not be seeing any of them in person until it is safe to do so.

I’m doing what I can to celebrate the little joys–the smells of fresh-baked, spiced lebkuchen cookies and boiling candied orange rinds, the glimmer of Christmas lights in puddles as I walk through the neighborhood, a quiet evening at home with my fireplace, my cats, and a puzzle.  It’s a kind of mindfulness that I can get behind, being present and not wishing, hoping, yearning for more.

My goal isn’t to convince myself it’s all exactly as I would wish it to be; the lack of validation that can coincide with the forced seeking of silver-linings doesn’t make me feel better.  I’m not a gratitude practice kind of person.  That sort of list-making seems to make me focus on what’s missing rather than on what’s there.  Instead, I’m acknowledging it, that it’s not quite right, that it’s not what I want, and that it’s still ok, good enough even.

My family is Danish-American, and Christmas Eve was traditionally the day we celebrated growing up, a day for a big family dinner and opening the presents under the tree.  (Only stockings stuffed with treats from Santa to be enjoyed on Christmas morning.)  Christmas won’t be that this year, it’s going to be a bit disappointing, and I’m fine with that.  I hope you are able to be ok with your holidays, too, in whatever form they come.  “Meh Christmas to all, and to all a good enough night.

Photo description: Five people on bicycles wearing Santa Claus costumes. Photo credit: Rocco Dipoppa photographer, Unsplash.

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher.  She can be found making tins of homemade candies and cookies to send to her family, picking up heavy things, and putting them back down again in Portland, Oregon.

fitness · mindfulness

Fitter in 2020 (from the neck up)

2020 will be remembered as (among other things) the year of zoom fitness classes and challenges, Zwifting, building and using of home and backyard gyms and yoga studios, widespread dog acquisition and subsequent walking, etc. Movers gotta move, and a global pandemic has proved insufficient to slow many of us down for long.

Gotta Move!

I have to say, I’m not in the above-mentioned group. Sam posted about being on Team More during the pandemic, and writes about some of the ways she’s changed up her workouts. I wrote here about being on Team Less is More, doing more meditation, even when I couldn’t do more cardio. This brings me to my first increased fitness item:

  1. Daily meditation is transforming my life, my world, my sense of self.
Oh. Well. Uh, good for you, I guess.
Oh. Well. Um, how nice for you, I guess.

Sorry– did things just get awkward? Let me see if I can help.

What meditation does for me is to slow things down so that I have a front-row seat to the show which is my awareness moment to moment. And what happens in that show? Not much. Thoughts come and go, itches and pains and warm and cold sensations appear and disappear. Feelings of desire or fear or shame or pride or whatever– they show up and then recede. Any of this can happen during 10–20 minutes of sitting. Then I get up and go about my day.

The cool thing is, awareness of thoughts and feelings and sensations persists. It offers a subtle shift in how the world feels to me– it’s still great and horrible and delicious and mundane and tiring, but I experience it from a stable perspective. This is a good thing.

2. I’ve finally gotten a bit better at the New York Times crossword puzzles (even Thursday and Friday!)

“It’s not like you solved world hunger or anything, but congrats” card. I need some of these.

You may be thinking, well, congratulations, but what does this have to do with fitness? Glad you asked. Scientific American explored this question here, and the answer is complicated (because science…) Whether doing crossword or Sudoku or Scrabble or other word games improves or preserves cognitive function is still not clear, as studies show conflicting results. But some recent work suggests that doing crossword puzzles calls on skills at the intersection of short-term working and long-term memory:

In 2014, researchers in Claremont, Calif., examined how Scrabble and crossword experts process and store information in short-term memory. They found that these puzzle whizzes had extremely strong working memories as compared to their control group, college students who had scored 700 or higher on the verbal section of the SAT.

It’s hardly surprising… but things got interesting when the researchers looked at how their short-term memories were firing. Both groups, but especially the crossword experts, appeared to use both verbal and visuospatial components of their short-term memory—that is, that instead of separating out visual cues from verbally processed ones, the crossworders [and Scrabblers] were integrating both types of perceptions in their short-term memories.

Well that’s something. It’s 2020, and I’m counting it.

3. I’ve devoted more time to crafting (albeit with mixed results). Still, it’s relaxing and also social (in that Zoom way). Here are some things I made this year:

See what I mean by mixed results? It’s okay, I can face the fact that I’m not a great crafter. But it’s so relaxing, and satisfying. And, I didn’t do it all alone. This year I had my annual Women’s Craft Gathering (I think this is year 13 in a row) via Zoom. My friend Pata put together manilla envelopes with card stock, pretty paper (both big and small), and red and green colored felt pens. She also mailed them! A bunch of people showed up online– some to craft, some to chat, some to just hang out to listen to others chat. It was fun and companionable. I’ve done this a few times with Pata, and several of us are interested in continuing the Zoom crafting together. Winning…

4. I’m trying on for size the idea that attending to my emotional fitness is just as important as (and contributes to) attending to my physical fitness.

I love moving under my own power. On land, sea or air– it’s all exhilarating and makes me feel like me. But the moving life isn’t simple; not lately, anyway. The huge advantage of 2020 for me has been that when regular life came to a screeching halt in March, I had the opportunity and excuse to be more still and more quiet, to listen and observe. And what have I noticed?

  • I tend to impose lot of expectations on myself when I do physical activity.
  • These expectations almost always result in me feeling bad about myself.
  • Letting go of expectations is scary, too– what if I never move again?
  • Lately, when I let go, I often find joy in movement. Or exhaustion. Or boredom. Or satisfaction. Which makes it like life.

In 2021, even when the world speeds up again, it’s important for me to remember how to slow down in this way (whatever that is), to stay in touch with a life of movement.

What about you, dear readers? How is your emotional fitness doing? What have you got? What do you need? I’d love to hear from you.

fitness · mindfulness · planning

Mindfulness and Daily Movement: Christine H Eases Into December

Between holiday commitments, year-end chaos, and, in this bizarre year, stress about the pandemic, about work (or the lack thereof) and about the world in general, December can be a bit of a circus.

No matter how well-organized you are, no matter what you may or may not be celebrating, it’s really hard to avoid succumbing to the ambient stress of this time of year.

Buddy the Elf from the movie Elf (Will Ferrell , a tall white man with  curly hair) in a green elf costume, goes round and round in a revolving door while screaming.
I think Buddy the Elf sums it up nicely here.

In the past few years, I have helped reduce that ‘revolving door‘ feeling for myself by employing an easy and short mindfulness practice. It doesn’t eliminate the stress of course, but it gives me a little more space to deal with it and it helps me keep some perspective.

I’m hoping that will hold true for this strange and anxious year, too.

Here’s what I do:

On the first of the December, I choose an instrumental Christmas album and commit to listening to at least one song from the album each day for the month. I might do yoga, draw, colour, or just breathe while I listen but I can’t do anything that even looks like work while the song of the day is on.*

It’s only a tiny thing but it really does help.

This year, to amp up my self-care, I’m also adding a little extra movement to each day.

I *could* frame this as one of my beloved 30 day challenges but that would put it into the category of things I MUST do.  

Instead, I’m trying to think of the extra movement as a gift to myself – giving myself a little more time and space to be more fully in my body instead of being mostly in my head.

A square present is wrapped in red wrapping and tied with a large red bow.
I have never wrapped anything in this fancy a way in my entire life but I admire those who can make gifts look this pretty!

A gift feels way better than being challenged at this point in the year.

If you like the idea of gifting yourself a little extra movement, I’ve rounded up a few suggestions for you:

Yoga:

Yoga with Adriene’s December Calendar – This year’s theme is ‘Honor’ (or, as we say in Canada, Honour) and is about hono(u)ring yourself.

Movement-based Advent**calendars:

Nutritious Movement’s ‘With a Twist’ Program – This will include daily movements and will likely have a sort of functional-fitness slant.

 Darebee’s Full Body Advent Calendar – Both this calendar and the one below will feature short daily exercises and they include a timer right on the page.

Darebee’s Upper Body Advent Calendar – See above.

12 Day Plans:

If you aren’t jazzed about a full month of movements, maybe a 12 Days of Christmas plan will be more fun for you?

Darebee’s Fit Christmas

Participaction’s 12 Days of Fitmas – this is a link to the information about the program but I think you will need to download their app for the program itself.

*You might be asking: Why doesn’t she do this during the rest of the year with non-seasonal music? It’s because it literally never occurred to her until she was writing this post. Brains are weird, weird things. 

**Speaking of things that haven’t occurred to me before: Why do Advent calendars start on December 1 instead of on the first day of Advent?

fitness · mindfulness

Zooming for Mindfulness: report from a weekend webinar

You would think that a reasonable person would opt for just about anything other than 3-hour webinar on a SATURDAY, after a long week of Zooming here and yon.

Nevertheless, I opted.

My university paid (it’s so hard to turn down free things) for me to attend a Mindful Resilience and Wellness for Educators webinar. It was mainly for K-12 teachers, but the lessons applied to college students as well.

I know, I know– you are all probably a) already well-versed in, or b) heartily sick of tips for self care, wellness, resilience, bread baking, etc. during the pandemic. Me, too. BUT: this webinar taught or reminded me some things that I found valuable. Here they are.

The 20-20-20 Rule, which I had totally forgotten. Here’s what the Canadian Association of Optometrists says:

Many of us spend a good deal of our time staring at screens from laptops, computers, smartphones, gaming systems and television. This can put a lot of strain on our eyes and cause eye fatigue. When using your screens give your eyes a break.

Use the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and focus your eyes on something at least 20 feet away.

Woman in front of computer, hands on face, bathed in blue light (not in the spa way, but the computer-for-tool-long way).
Woman in front of computer, hands on face, bathed in blue light (not in the spa way, but the computer-for-too-long way).

Then, there’s screen apnea. Really? I hadn’t heard of this, although it’s a notion that’s been around a while. My favorite mindfulness folks at Ten Percent Happier explain it here:

Over a decade ago, researcher Linda Stone noticed that a majority of people (possibly eighty percent) unconsciously hold their breath, or breathe shallowly, when texting or emailing. She called it “screen apnea.”

In the short term, screen apnea can affect our well-being and our ability to work efficiently. Shallow breathing can also trigger a nervous system “fight, flight or freeze” response if we stay in this state of breathing for extended periods of time. It can not only impact sleep, energy, memory and learning but also exacerbate depression, panic, and anxiety.

And over the long-term, not breathing properly contributes to stress-related diseases and disturbs the body’s balance of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitric oxide, which keep the immune system strong, fight infection, and mediate inflammation.

Fortunately, combating screen apnea can be very simple, especially if you already have a meditation practice.  Simply bringing attention to your breath and body can make a huge difference. 

During the webinar, we did several mindfulness meditation exercises, designed to address screen apnea and the tensions that cause it. One was focused on the breath. Another centered on noticing any tension in the chest, legs, arms and mouth; we tightened these areas, then relaxed. We also did an abbreviated version of the loving kindness meditation, focused on ourselves.

Finally, there’s the encouraging notion of post-traumatic growth. The webinar leader, therapist and educational consultant Christopher Willard, talked a bit about how traumatic events (like the current pandemic) can result in post-traumatic stress, but also leave open the possibility of making meaning and learning from our experiences.

Here’s a great overview article in Scientific American about post-traumatic growth, if you’re interested. However, I learned a lot just talking in breakout sessions with others about how the pandemic had shaped our teaching experiences. Everyone said they now felt a stronger connection to their students (and vice versa), and spent more time just being with them, talking and listening. I feel exactly the same way. I’ve gotten to know and appreciate all my students more since the pandemic hit. When it’s over, I really want to take with me the value and practice of slowing down and taking time to just be with my students. I’ve learned a lot from them about the importance of resilience– how they count on me to hold space for them– and how they themselves manage their own lives in the face of uncertainty and danger. It makes me admire them more, and want to be better at my job.

All in all, the webinar was well worth my time.

Readers, did you already know about these notions? How are you developing resilience during this time? I’d love to hear from you.

fitness · mindfulness

Alternatives to doomscrolling

I am addicted to my phone. No doubt about it. I start my morning by checking all the usual social media, including the newsfeed app built in to all of our phones. Most of it’s not a downer. But there are the obvious offenders – Covid-19 – big announcement of the day! and how much life has changed indefinitely; Trump/US Election/the end of democracy as we know it; Climate Change; fires; other ways we can get sick or die, besides Covid; the economy; another icon has died; and so on. The news often scream out for a meditation break.

A cartoon (from NY Times) of a woman in a red top and black pants in a seated meditation pose.

I am a practical person. So I am not looking to cut out doomscrolling completely. How else will I have interesting things to talk about during virtual coffee breaks with colleagues? But I do think it would be valuable for me to make a concerted effort to interweave activities that are good for my mind and soul. Here are some options:

Not a complete list, but some ideas:

  • read a book (currently reading Girl Woman Other by Bernadine Evaristo)
  • go for a run or walk (practice active meditation)
  • prep a meal
  • tidy up (not my strong point these days)
  • do some push-ups
  • complete a task for work
  • call someone on the phone (voice calls are having resurgence during the pandemic)
  • take a hot bath (and read a book)
Drawing (from @mylittleparis on Instagram) of a woman in a bubble bath surrounded by a basket of fluffy towels, a stack of books, a glass of wine – optional – I prefer coffee these days – and candles. No mobile device for doomscrolling in site.)
  • go workout in the park (the winter doesn’t scare me, I will dress for it)
  • watch a show (endless streaming can result in watching crap shows. I recently watched a German series called The Last Word, that was quirky and touching and more up my alley). I also caved and added Crave to my subscriptions.
  • have sex (no partner required if one is self isolating!)
  • or just snuggle
  • trim my nails and remove some of the calluses from my feet and try to ignore the worsening bunions
  • shave my legs, but really, I let that go a lot these days too
  • start a sourdough bread or bagels
A picture of a batch of my sourdough bagels (I couldn’t resist)
  • clean out the fridge
  • sort out the clothes closet
  • clean the floors (I hate cleaning floors and we have two dogs, so that is not a good combo)
  • listen to music!
  • check in on a friend and try to make them laugh
  • do some jumping jacks
  • kiss my dogs
  • take a nap
  • do Sun Salutations
  • play Sporcle
  • practice my deep squat, do the “couch stretch” for my quads, do “up dog” stretches for my lower back, roll on my foam roller..
  • make plans for a socially distanced walk with someone not in my bubble

What activities do you enjoy between, or instead of, doomscrolling?

Nicole P. is trying not to doomscroll too much.