holiday fitness · holidays · meditation · yoga

Making Space 2022: Day 1

In December 2020, Fit is a Feminist Issue blogger Martha created a tradition – a series of reminder posts to take good care of ourselves during this last month of the year when it is far too easy to get swept up in your to do list, no matter what you are celebrating or not celebrating. Last year, it was my turn and after an introductory Go Team post called Give Yourself Some Space, I created a series of reminders called ‘Making Space‘ that offered a suggested short exercise video and a suggested meditation in case you needed an easy way to find space for yourself in your schedule.

For 2022, I’ll be doing the same thing but I’ll also be including a link to Martha’s post from the same date in 2020 and I’ll offer a few extra ideas for relaxation, creativity, and self-kindness here and there.

These posts are not about insisting that you do more, more, more during this busy season. Instead, I want to encourage you to remember that there IS a *YOU* who is doing all of the things and you are worth taking good care of.

Perhaps the things I suggest aren’t what you need in the moment. That’s totally ok. Perhaps you can use something else to create some space, something that will help you feel more relaxed or more in charge of your day.

On December 1, 2020, Martha reminded us that we are always enough (a position that I whole-heartedly endorse) and that things don’t need to be perfect to be good. Please go check out that post for an excellent reminder of how it is ok (and encouraged!) for you to show up just as you are.

On that theme, I’m wondering if you know about Jennifer Louden’s Conditions of Enoughness? I find them an excellent tool for keeping my self-expectations in line with my actual capacity but, like most useful things, they take a bit of practice. If you feel like you are always scrambling or if you have a nagging feeling that you are falling short, the advice at the link above could be just the thing you need to give yourself a break.

If movement is something you need right now, perhaps this short series of stretches will help.

Ok, so most of us are already up for the day but feel free to lie down again for a few minutes and do these stretches with Joelle. Description: A video called Morning Stretch in Bed from the Yoga with Joelle YouTube channel. The still image shows a person with long dark hair lying on their back at the foot of a double bed using their clasped hands to draw their right knee towards their body while their left leg is extended.

If meditation is more your speed, give this a try.

A short meditation from the Great Meditations YouTube channel. The still image shows a cartoon drawing of person with long brown hair with a peaceful expression sitting cross-legged on a fluffy cloud against a blue background.

Whatever you try or whatever you do, I hope you can be kind to yourself in the process.

PS – If you are already feeling overwhelmed by the thought of the month ahead, you might find this old article of mine helpful. December is like a messy closet, here’s how to get it back on track. I’m not actually too concerned with you be ‘on track’ but I do want you to have peace of mind and I hope the suggestions in that piece can help you move in that direction.

fitness · habits · meditation · nature · October

Christine’s Meditative Afternoon

The Thanksgiving holiday gave me the opportunity to have a nice, slow start to my week on Monday.

I took Khalee for a walk and, even though it was windy, I took time to tune into my surroundings, noticing how the leaves have changed (or fallen), how the river noises are quieter, and how everything smells a little different right now.

A light haired dog on a green leash. Shadows from the dog and her owner are being cast on nearby grass.
It was kind of windy today but Khalee and I still enjoyed our walk. Image description: a photo of a light-haired medium-sized dog on a green leash is facing away from the camera while standing on a gravel path next to some grass. My shadow and Khalee’s are visible on the grass. Because it is late afternoon in autumn, the sun is low so our shadows are VERY long and we look disproportionately tall.

When I came home, I took down the load of clothes I had hung earlier. (It was a fine day on clothes, as the saying goes.) This task can be pretty mundane (or even boring) but today it was routine in a good way – repetitive actions with positive results.

A line of laundry in the late afternoon autumn sunlight
The repeated actions of hanging (and taking down) laundry) are meditative in their own way. Image description: a line of laundry hanging in my yard on a late autumn afternoon. The sun is shining through leaves so there are patches of sun and shadow The clothesline stretches from my patio to my shed so aside from the laundry, the photo shows some potted plants, a lawn chair with a red pillow, my patio rail, and some trees and my red-painted shed in the background.

As I turned with my basket of clean clothes, I noticed how inviting my swing looked and I remembered how much I enjoyed meditating while sitting there cross-legged the other day.

An outdoor shot of a hammock and a large round swing hanging from trees in the corner of a backyard. The grass in front of the trees is covered in brown leaves.
Two of my favourite parts of my backyard. Image description: a photo of one corner of my yard where my brown and orange hammock hangs from two trees and a round swing with green trim hangs from one of the branches. My wooden fence is one background and my (still green!) grass is littered with crunchy brown leaves.

So I decided to meditate there again today.

An outdoor shot of a woman (from the shoulders up) in her backyard.
No, I’m not actually meditating here, obviously. I was trying to use the back camera on my phone and took umpteen photos, each more bizarre looking than the last, and I fluked into this one. I decided to roll with it. Image description: an outdoor photo of me in my backyard. I am sitting on a round swing but it’s not visible in the photo. I am wearing a blue fleece jacket, my light brown hair is pulled back from my face in a cloth band, and my eyes are closed. I am smirking and I’m wearing one headphone. Grass, trees, my fence, (and part of my orange and brown hammock) are visible in the background.

And that brings me to 51 days of meditation in a row.

When I opened the Insight Timer app today, it offered this very appropriate quote for how I felt at the end of my meditative afternoon:


Mental health is not a destination,
but a process. It’s about how you
drive, not where you’re going.

– NOAM SHPANCER, PHD

I liked how, today, I have ‘driven’ myself calm instead of driving myself around the proverbial bend.

Wishing you all ease for the week ahead. Please try not to cram 5 days of work into a 4 day week. 💚⭐️

ADHD · fitness · meditation · mindfulness

A short reflection on 22 days of meditation

A few weeks ago, I posted about finding ease by doing the easy thing and, at that point, I was on my 9th day of yoga and meditation.

As I write this (on Monday night) I am at Day 22 and I feel really good, really at ease.

A screen cap from a meditation app that shows a small round photo, text reading ‘22 Consecutive Days’, and a row of stars.
I chose this profile photo in Insight Timer ages ago, I didn’t realize until now that the teeny version looks either smug or disconcerted – I’m actually smirking of course. Meanwhile, I love that the app has given me gold stars. Image A screen capture from the ‘Insight Timer’ app that shows a small photo of me, text that reads ‘22 consecutive days’ and a row of 5 stars – 2 bronze and 3 gold.

Not every minute of every day but, at any given point, it’s a little easier to find that space, that breathing room, when I need it.

And, to be clear, I’m not saying that I am meditating here and there in search of that ease. I mean that, because of my short daily meditation sessions, there’s a little bit of extra room in between my thoughts – I just have to choose to look for it.

Given my galloping ADHD brain, sometimes it is a bit tricky to remember to make that choice but I am definitely making it more often than I ever have before.

An up-close view of evergreen needles.
Looking closely at these evergreen needles also makes me feel peaceful so I thought I’d share. 💚 image description: an up-close view of evergreen needles on a tree.

I know that I have tried to develop a meditation practice several times before and my results were mixed, to say the least.

This time, though, doing the easy thing, not making a plan, just taking it a day at a time has worked out marvellously for me.

It has become easy and straightforward to include meditation at the end of my day – sometimes for 10 minutes, sometimes for 2 minutes – and I feel great about it.

In case you were wondering, Khalee is also a fan of my quiet practice…

A light haired dog rests in a burgundy armchair.
When I finished my practice a couple of nights ago, I looked up from my mat to see Khalee looking off in the distance like this. I can only assume she was mindfully paying attention to her breath like I was. Image description: Khalee, my light-haired, medium-sized dog, is resting in a burgundy armchair. Her head is resting on the seat cushion and she is deeply relaxed while she looks forward but off somewhere to left of the camera.

ADHD · fitness · health · meditation

The effect of music on Christine’s brain: A (very) small sample experiment

As someone with ADHD, I am always looking for ways to improve my ability to focus. My medication, my planning, and environmental cues all help but it can still take a lot of energy to keep myself on task, so when I came across some music that made it easier to stick to my work plan, I was delighted.

I’m not sure how I happened upon Greenred Productions ADHD Relief Deep Focus Music (embedded below) but I can only assume that it was something the algorithm churned up after I watched a How to ADHD video at some point.

Embedded YouTube video from Greenred Productions called ‘ADHD Relief Deep Focus Music with Pulsation, ADD Music for Concentration, ADHD Music’ The video includes 12 hours of music but there is a single still image on the screen for the whole video. The image is of a mystical looking stag with antlers that look like gnarled tree branches. The stag is standing in light that seems to be shining through the trees that surround it. There are broken tree stumps, plants, and a large rock near the stag.

Maybe there is a scientific reason why this music works for me or maybe it is a coincidence but, either way, playing this video helps me to focus. And the fact that it is almost 12 hours of music means that I won’t lose track of time while selecting music or creating a playlist.

I don’t always have music on when I am working but it has been great to have this on hand when I need a little extra help to focus.

A couple of weeks ago, I was returning to the video over and over throughout the week but, for some reason, I wasn’t resetting it, I was just letting it play from wherever I had paused it the session before.

So, even though it is a 12 hour video, I eventually reached the end and THAT’S when I found the best meditation/relaxation/body-calming music (embedded below) that I have ever encountered.

Embedded YouTube Video of Greenred Productions video “Deep Cello Meditation Music: Dark Meditation Music, Relaxing Music, Dark Cello Music for Relaxation” There is two hours of music but there is no actual video just a still, black and white image of a person with shoulder length hair playing the cello outside a stone house with a set of double doors and a window set in the front of it.

It turns out that I find cello music incredibly calming. In fact, when I listen to this music, I feel the same kind of sensory-soothing calm that I feel when I put on a weighted shoulder wrap or lie in my hammock. Something in the music just really grounds me and puts me at ease.

I have been playing it while I meditate, draw, colour, or read and I swear I can feel myself sinking deeper into those relaxing activities as a result.

Do you find specific types of music help you to focus or to relax?

Does music contribute to your peace of mind?

Did YOU know that cello was so relaxing? Am I the last person on earth to discover this?

Tell me all about it in the comments. Pretty please!

PS – I really wanted to call this post ‘Cello, it is you I’m looking for’ but then the first embedded video wouldn’t make any sense and besides, I wasn’t sure if the Lionel Richie reference was too much of a reach for the joke to work. 😉

Dancing · fitness · fun · holiday fitness · holidays · meditation · mindfulness · motivation

Making Space: Day 31

Welcome to Day 31!

I hope today finds you with the space you need to take good care of yourself.

And I hope that you can recognize your own efforts to make that space, even if you didn’t always succeed.

You matter, your needs matter and your efforts matter.

And here’s a gold star for those efforts:

A large gold 3D paper star hanging on a white door.
Image description: This is the largest gold star I own. It’s a foldable 3D paper ornament and it is covered with sparkly gold spirals. In this photo, I have hung it on a white door.

Now, onto our movement and meditation for making space. (As always, feel free to do these or to do your own thing.)

One of my favourite ways to get moving is to join my friend Elaine Dunphy in either an ageless grace or a Nia dance class. Since I can’t bring all of you to one of her classes (what with Covid restrictions and the laws of physics and all), I asked her to create a short video for today’s post.

Here’s Elaine, in full positivity and joy, with a New Year’s Eve message and a short and fun movement practice for you to try as you create a little space for yourself today.

My friend Elaine Dunphy with a New Year’s message and a short movement practice for us today. I posted this on my own YouTube channel – the only other video on there is my husband doing the ice bucket challenge, so obviously I am not a prolific YouTuber. The still image shows Elaine in her dance studio. She has very short salt-and-pepper hair and she is smiling and holding her right hand up, palm towers the camera with her fingers held widely apart.

And as for a meditation, I am offering two today.

The first one is for people with a lot of space in their day, the second is for people with just a sliver of time for themselves.

A ten minute meditation from the Great Meditations YouTube channel. The still image is a cartoon drawing of a person in yellow sitting in a classic meditation pose – legs crossed, backs of hands resting on knees, palms upward. The words ‘Clear Your Mind guided meditation’ are on the left side of the image.

And if you just have a minute, here’s a meditation for you.

A mini-meditation from the Headspace YouTube channel. Still image shows blue squiggles against a yellow background with the words ‘Health Mind’ written in purple on the upper left side.

I hope that these posts have helped you find space for yourself during the month of December when time seems to telescope, dragging on or collapsing without any relationship to the clock or to the calendar.

As we move into 2022, may you have the space you need in your mind, in your heart, in your days, in your schedules, and in the places where you spend your time.

See you tomorrow for my first Go Team! post.

fitness · habits · holiday fitness · holidays · meditation · mindfulness · motivation

Making Space: Day 30

This is our second last day of Making Space before I switch over into Go Team posts but, just so you know, the encouragement level will stay the same. 💚

I hope that you can find space and ease today and that you have some peace in your heart and mind.

We don’t have to earn our rest.

We don’t have to finish everything first.

Rest is part of our daily cycle, no matter what the ‘push through it’ advocates would have you believe.

Sure, there are occasional times when pushing through is the answer but those times are the exception, not the rule.

It’s ok, in fact, it is advisable, to listen to the signals from your body and mind and take a break as soon as you can.

Maybe your current obligations mean that you can’t take a long break but even a few moments here and there will help.

Please don’t think that I am pressuring you to put more things on your to do list, that is definitely not my goal here. Ideally, we’ll learn to build breaks into all of our projects rather than making them a project in themselves.

And I am definitely not telling you that this is easy or that you *should* already be doing this. Our lives are full and we are often under a lot of pressure to be everything to everyone.

My hope with these posts was that they could help you recognize that your breathing room matters, that making space for yourself is valid, that small breaks are good for you, too.

It was never about chastising you (or me) for the challenges involved.

So, once again, I celebrate your efforts to make space for yourself in your life, even if dropping your shoulders away from your ears for a moment is all the extra space you can make today.

⭐️ <- for your efforts to make space today

And now, on to the totally optional videos:

Today’s movement video was really energizing and completely warmed me up on this chilly morning. There are some jumping movements in this one but you can easily modify them as needed (I did!)

A short energizing workout from the 117 Wellness YouTube Channel. Still image shows the instructor in outdoor clothes and hat standing with their knees slightly bent and their hands in ‘prayer’ position in front of their chest. They are at the edge of a body of water and a dock is visible on one side and there are mountains in the background. Text reading ‘Energize Your Body In 6 Minutes’ is superimposed on the right side of the image.

I first clicked this meditation because I liked the title , then I noticed that it was from Calgary Public Library (yay for libraries!) which was a bonus, but the icing on the cake was when the meditation leader introduce themselves as Christine. A video from a library that recommends a pause and a speaker that shares my name? I am in!

A short meditation video from the Calgary Public Library YouTube Channel. The still image shows a person with long hair and glasses in a black turtleneck sweater and jeans sitting cross-legged with their hands resting on a stack of books on their right knee. The right side of the image is a blue semi-circle with the title of the video ‘The Power of a Pause 6 Minute Meditation with Christine Francoeur’ in white text.

fitness · holidays · meditation · mindfulness · motivation · self care

Making Space: Day 29

As we amble along together through the in-between, let’s remind each other that December 31 is a date, not an absolute deadline for everything.

Sure, for some of us, there are some legal things that may have to be finished up over the next few days but for most of us, there is no need to push to finish AllOfTheThings.

It’s ok to find as much space as we can to reflect, to dream, to rest or to have fun.

And however and whenever you make that space for yourself is the perfect way to do it.

Only you know what you need to do to feel like yourself and I wish you the time, space, and energy to do it.

And with this gold star, I celebrate your efforts to find that time, space, and energy – ⭐️

Our videos today are a 5 minute movement break from the Recreation Department at the University of British Columbia and a relaxation meditation from Great Meditations.

Whether or not you do these videos, I wish you ease today and always.

A 5 minute Movement break from the UBC REC YouYube channel. Still image shows the instructor in a blue shirt with her arms in a C-shape with the text ‘5 minute movement break’ next to her in black.
A 5 minute relaxation meditation video from The Great Meditations YouTube channel. Still image shows a cartoon image of a smiling person with long hair who has their eyes closed. The background is overlapping muted shades of blue and grey.

fitness · holidays · meditation · mindfulness · motivation · yoga

Making Space: Day 28

Today is a good day to make space to rest.

No matter what you were doing/celebrating/enduring/avoiding/ this month, it is almost over and so is this year.

Obviously, things don’t magically change with the end of a specific period of time but that ending can help us to shift our thinking a little bit. It gives us something for our brain to use as a pivot point.

So even though there are a lot of things we don’t have control over, we can choose to think about many things in different ways and we can choose to be kind to ourselves about the challenges we have faced (and the ones we are facing)

Making space to rest can help with that.

When we have restful moments, we can reflect, we can get ourselves out of the automatic momentum of doing and see how we might want to approach things differently.

And, of course, rest is just good in itself.

You don’t have to earn your rest.

You don’t have to have worked hard to ‘deserve’ it.

It is not selfish to rest.

Rest is part of the cycle of living and I hope you can make some space for it today and every day.

Perhaps your current life commitments don’t allow for a lot of rest, but I hope you can find or make small spaces for it here and there.

And, please, don’t fall into the trap that my pre-ADHD-meds-self used to fall into. Don’t think that you have to finish everything first so you can take a long rest because short ones won’t be ‘worth it.’ Wearing yourself out makes things worse, short rests are helpful, and pushing through tiredness over and over is disheartening.

Here’s your gold star for your efforts to make space and to find rest today, whatever that space and rest might entail – ⭐️

Wishing you ease and self-kindness today and every day.

Here’s Adriene with a short yoga break.:

A Take 5 yoga video from Yoga with Adriene. Still image shows Adriene standing on a grey yoga mat. She is wearing exercise clothes and her upper body is turned toward the camera with her left arm extended behind her and her right arm extended in front of her. Her dog Benji is sleeping next to the mat.

And here’s a short guided meditation. It says it is for intense anxiety but I wasn’t experiencing intense anxiety when I did it. I don’t know if it works for that but it was a lovely practice for someone seeking a little extra ease.

A short meditation from the Mindful Peace YouTube channel. Still image shows abstract flowing shapes, some black and some blue against a white background. Text on the image reads ‘Intense Anxiety Breathing Meditation/Mental Reset.’
fitness · habits · holiday fitness · holidays · meditation · mindfulness · motivation · self care

Making Space: Day 27

Part 1: Have you read Diane’s post from earlier today? I love how she has found her own way of making space for herself right now and her plans for making space for herself in the new year.

Diane is sharing a great example of how soemone can create space for themselves on their own terms. She assessed what she needed and what she had available and she found a way to match the two.

Making doesn’t have to be about doing videos or measuring up to anyone else’s standards, it’s about making room in your own life to do the things that soothe you, that fuel your energy, or that give you peace of mind. Diane is doing what she can, with the resources she has, to make the space that she needs in her life.

Go Diane! ⭐️

Part 2: I have been light-heartedly chatting about making space for 27 days now, I know that while making space for myself is a matter of conscious choice/breaking a mental habit for me, that is not the case for everyone.

I recognize that we all have varying capacities/privileges that would allow us to choose how we can make space for ourselves. Perhaps you can’t just decide to do a video or soak in the tub or go outside for a while, but I hope that these posts can help you seek a little breathing room.

Even if the only ‘space’ you have is while you are waiting at the bus stop or in line at the store, I hope you can take a few breaths and allow yourself to pause your planning brain.

I wish I had the power to stop time so you could have the space to find ease. I wish I could wave a wand and make everything less worrying for you.

But since I am sadly lacking in magic powers, all I can offer is the reminder that your needs are valid. The desire for a break, for breathing room, for a little space for yourself is not selfish. It is not something you have to earn by wearing yourself out first.

Offering suggestions for videos seems kind of trite after acknowledging that not everyone has the capacity or privilege to do them but these posts were never about the videos themselves, really.

The videos are there to provide easy access to two kinds of space-making but these posts are truly here to remind you that your needs matter – even when you aren’t always getting those needs met.

If you can’t make space right now, that doesn’t mean that you aren’t trying hard enough. It probably means that there are too many competing priorities in your life and you have to put yourself and your needs last. I don’t mean for these posts to add to your to do list or to your stress.

I hope that you will have the capacity/ability/privilege to shift things and give yourself space but if you can’t right now, I hope that changes soon. I hope that your few deep breaths here and there can sustain you until you can have the space you need.

And here are some gold stars for your efforts to make space, your efforts to keep going, and your efforts to keep the rest of your life on the rails.

A string of gold star-shaped lights sits on a white surface.
Image description: a string of gold star-shaped lights sits on a white surface.

Here are our videos for today, a cardio warm-up (I especially liked the ones where you reached back overhead) and an anxiety-reducing breathing exercise that has a fun visual. The breathing exercise video has an explanation at the beginning so if you want to jump right to the practice, fast forward to about 2 minutes in.

A five minute full body warm-up from the Fitness by Anouline YouTube channel. Still image shows the Instructor in exercise clothes standing in front of a wall, there are plants to one side.
A breathing exercise video from the Headfulness-Luke Horton YouTube channel. Still image features a cartoon drawing of a light blue whale against a darker blue background and yellow letters that read “Deep Breathing Exercise = 2x The Anxiety Relief?”

I wish you ease and rest today, even if you have to find it a few seconds at a time for right now.

fitness

On balancing and juggling, making space and setting goals

Christine’s post from yesterday hit me at just the right time. My son and his girlfriend had just left after a week-long visit. During that visit, I did little except cook or sit on the couch and knit while chatting. My vacation is officially over, but I have two statutory holidays before returning to work. There have been multiple discussions about setting goals and how to achieve them. A favourite app for tracking walks disappeared when I upgraded my phone recently and I haven’t decided what to replace it with, if anything. Today was very much a “between time” and I started working on what comes next.

I have mixed feelings about New Year’s resolutions but I enjoy setting goals and tracking them. I will definitely be in on 222 workouts in 2022. I did well on that this year, and gave myself permission to count the movements that were little more than mental health breaks to get myself out of the house. Learning to acknowledge success in smaller chunks was huge for me, because I sometimes allow myself to be overwhelmed by big challenges.

The loss of my Walking to Mordor app made me sad, but it really wasn’t much more than a distance listing with excerpts from The Lord of the Rings trilogy to mark stops along the way. I had gotten about 1/4 of the way (somewhere over 700 km), so this year’s goal will be to re-read the books, and go on social walks or to do errands as often as possible (ideally at least once a week, but I may choose to cycle instead). I am not going to bother with another tracking app beyond what is already on my phone, or to push myself to do anything as physically demanding as the women in this picture.

The legs of three women in black leggings and brightly coloured sneakers walking up a rocky path. Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash

I am resolutely refusing to set any sort of goal around riding, as Miss Fancy and I have not been getting along well lately. She resists being caught, and it has been so long since I have ridden that I worry my technique is what is making her cranky. I don’t want to set myself up for something I will hate doing. My daughter bought me a couple of lessons for Christmas, so maybe that will help once I schedule them for March or April.

Circling back to Christine’s original post about making space, I have decided to read one magazine a week. I have a weakness for magazines that pile up beside my bed. If I read one each week, that gives me quiet time and (eventually) a little physical space. It’s not quite meditation, but it will do.

Part of the large stack of elderly magazines I plan to read this year as my form of meditation.

It is not in my nature to stay in the reflective mood of this “between time”. Even as I wrote this piece, I found myself considering what I could more or differently, despite having spent much of the last year trying to accept that I am getting older, I can say no to things I no longer enjoy, and I don’t have to say yes to every new idea or challenge. Thank you Christine for having spent an entire month encouraging me to make space for myself. I didn’t try a single one of your exercises or quick meditations. In fact, I didn’t think I needed that space. I was wrong – I just needed to figure out what it meant for me. I am going to hang onto that reflective feeling for as long as possible, and give myself a gold star for my efforts.

Hand holding a gold star.
Photo by Hikarinoshita Hikari on Unsplash

Diane Harper lives in Ottawa, where she is slowly learning that balance is more important than juggling all the things.