fitness · holiday fitness · meditation · mindfulness · motivation · self care

Making Space: Day 2

Another day, another opportunity to make a little space for yourself in your schedule (and in your head.)

If you didn’t get a chance to try yesterday’s videos, it doesn’t matter a bit. Try a few minutes of the ones from today, or do a little movement on your own.

Just be kind to yourself about it, no matter what!

Here’s your gold star for your self-kindness efforts: ⭐️

I recently found this fun Nia energizer video and I just love it. There are only three people in the class and they are clearly having a great time so I had extra fun with the movement.

A Nia dance video from Bethama 37 showing three people dancing in a large room with a mirror at the front.

If meditation is more your style today, here’s one to try. Bonus: the video shows sheep grazing in a field!

A meditation video from the Calm YouTube channel that was apparently originally produced to be played during Uber rides. The image shows long haired sheep in a green hilly field.
fitness · holiday fitness · meditation · mindfulness · motivation · self care · stretching

Making Space Day 1: Let’s Start With Our Shoulders

Since my post yesterday was inviting you to make some space for yourself this month, I’ve decided to help you out with that by offering a short movement video and short meditation video each afternoon in December.

I figure that if you don’t have to search for and choose a video, it might make it easier to fit it into your day. And if you subscribe to the blog, it will even show up in your email!

You don’t *have* to do these every day, of course, (I’m bossy but I’m not actually the boss of you) but I’ll bet it will feel pretty good if you do.

Please adjust to your own schedule and abilities, of course, I don’t want anyone to get hurt!

First up, since I seem to hoard my tension in my shoulders and I assume other people do, too, here’s Doctor Jo with some shoulder stretches.

This video from the Ask Doctor Jo YouTube channel shows Doctor Jo doing shoulder stretches while wearing a blue shirt with a superhero dog on it.

And as for meditation, let’s give this one a whirl…ahem, let’s give this one a sit.

Please remember that you don’t have to automatically be able to sit quietly with your breath, that’s a skill that comes with practice. And that practice involves trying to meditate, noticing that your attention has wandered, and then returning to the focus on your breath. Returning over and over is PART of the initial process, it’s not a failure or a mistake.

A video from the My Life YouTube channel that offers a visual of gentle water with a guided meditation.

Feel free to check in to let me know that you did one of these videos, or any other movement or mindfulness practice, and I’ll respond with a gold star for your efforts.

And whether you do these videos or not, please be kind to yourself today. 🌟

fitness · habits · holidays · planning

Go Team: Give Yourself Some Space

So, tomorrow is the 1st of December.

Whether you are just finishing up the end of the year or you are getting ready for the holidays you celebrate, you probably have some extra items on your to do list this month.

When you combine that with the ambient time pressure that December generates, you end up not only having more to do but you feel like you have way less time than you need to do it.

When that kind of pressure happens and something’s got to give, we usually sacrifice something personal like our fitness activities, our meditation, or any breaks we might take to look after ourselves.

I wonder if you can avoid that trap this year (or at least not get caught so firmly) by making some space for yourself in your own head…and hopefully in your own schedule.

Maybe you won’t have time for your usual fitness routine but perhaps you could make space for some stretches.

Perhaps there will be too many people around for you to meditate, perhaps you could take a short walk, or do some doodling, or anything else that will put you firmly in the moment, for a moment.

Or maybe you can even go the other way and instead of shortening your time for yourself, you can find a way to create space to add extra personal time to your schedule. Committing to some yoga first thing in the morning or some meditative colouring right before bed might help you feel more at ease during the rest of the day.

I know some of you are reading this and despairing that there is no way for you to keep up any sort of a routine and you definitely can’t add anything to your day.

If that’s how you are feeling, then I’d like you to create space by letting yourself off the hook. Try to avoid telling yourself what you *should* be doing or feeling this month and embrace the feeling of running around. Sometimes it’s the disconnect between what you think you should be doing and what you actually are doing that causes the most distress.

If you can say ‘December is utter madness and I am just rolling with it.’ things may go more smoothly.

Really, I just want you to be kind to yourself, whatever form that might take this month, or at any time.

Here’s your star for your efforts!

Image description: a large foldable paper star is hanging on a white door.​
This is my largest gold star, a large paper one that was a gift from my friend Catherine. Image description: a large gold foldable paper star decorated with spirals is hanging from a string on a white door.

fitness · motivation · planning · schedule · self care

Christine Is Trying To Take Her Retreat Home With Her

Ever since I wrote about doing yoga on my writing retreat last week, I’ve been considering my retreat state of mind.

A light haired dog is asleep, curled up on a grey and green bedspread.
Here’s Khalee doing a remarkable imitation of my relaxed retreat-brain. Image description: My light haired dog, Khalee, is sleeping peacefully, curled up on my grey and green bedspread.

It’s easier to write when I am on retreat, of course, that was pretty much a given. What always surprises me, however, is how much easier it is to do yoga, practice my TKD patterns, and to get out for a walk when I am on retreat.

I mean, obviously, it’s easier to do anything that I want to do when my schedule is fully under my control and I am the only person I need to take into account when deciding when or how to do something.

(In theory, it should be similar when I am home. Given that I work for myself, I have a fair amount of control over my schedule. My kids are practically adults so they don’t exactly need my supervision anymore. But I am part of a family, a household, so our choices do affect each other, at least to some degree. And given my personality/my ADHD, I will overthink (at least subconsciously) all the possibilities of how I might be disturbing someone else.)

And, aside from the schedule thing, when I’m on retreat, I only have so many activity options available to me. I can write, I can read, I can chat with my friends, or I can exercise. Having fewer choices makes it easier to rotate through them throughout the day.

When I’m home, I have so many things that I *could* be doing at any given time that I often have trouble figuring out what to do when. (Another personality tendency that is exacerbated by ADHD.)

If the above picture of Khalee is my retreat brain, my at-home brain could often be depicted like this:

A small dog walks on its hind legs through a convenience store. It looks like it is shopping. Text above the photo reads ‘decisions, decisions.’
Image description: a small light-haired dog is waking on its hind legs through a convenience store, looking from side to side as it hurries along. Text above the photo reads ‘decisions decisions…’

It would be pretty hard to make my home like our retreat space. I’m always going to have to factor in other people’s schedules and I’m always going to have different priorities competing for my time.

BUT…

I wonder how I could move my at-home mindset closer to my retreat mindset and help make it easier to get into exercise mode?

I guess I could deliberate reduce the number of choices available to me at any given time of the day.

And I could probably set firmer schedule boundaries for myself so I don’t spend so much time factoring in the possible effects I might have on other people’s schedules.

And I could definitely put fewer things on my to do list each day, to help me have more of that retreat-style focus.

I’m going to give it a whirl and see if these things help make it easier to break out of decision mode and into exercise mode.

How would YOU go about bringing a retreat mindset home with you?

fitness · flexibility · self care · yoga

At the perfect time, in the perfect place, Christine happily does yoga imperfectly

I was away on a writing retreat with some dear friends this past weekend (our group is called the Strident Women so you can imagine what a genteel gathering it was.)

image description: a downward angled view of a long lawn and some trees that far the viewers attention toward the water that is visible at a slight distance. It is a sunny day with  some clouds in the blue sky. There are two houses in the photo, one is between the viewer and the water, and other is partially visible on the right hand side.
Obviously a place of utter misery. (I’m kidding, of course, our retreat location is delightful.) image description: a downward angled view of a long lawn and some trees that far the viewers attention toward the water that is visible at a slight distance. It is a sunny day with some clouds in the blue sky. There are two houses in the photo, one is between the viewer and the water, and other is partially visible on the right hand side.

I did some writing and a lot of relaxing. I needed the break far more than I needed to get words on paper at the moment, so I spend a fair bit of time reading, drawing, doing yoga, meditating, and I even managed to practice my TKD patterns a few times.

A few years ago, I would have been frustrated at myself for ‘frittering away’ a writing weekend but I have gotten much better at being kind to myself and at responding to what I really need instead of what I *should* do.

Image description: a smirking selfie that I took before I started my practice outside today.​ I have messy curls in my chin length light brown hair, and I am wearing a black shirt with white lettering on the sleeve. My headphones are hanging around my neck. Behind me, you can see a reddish door and beige wooden siding.
Yes, I will still smirk in a perfect time and a perfect place. Image description: a smirking selfie that I took before I started my practice outside today. I’m a white middle-aged woman, I have messy curls in my chin length light brown hair, and I am wearing a black shirt with white lettering on the sleeve. I look a bit sleepy. My headphones are hanging around my neck. Behind me, you can see a reddish door and beige wooden siding.

And I’m grateful for that shift in my thinking because it meant I could thoroughly enjoy my weekend and I could be fully present to practice yoga imperfectly on the front deck on our last morning. It was slightly chilly but it was bright and the sun was shining through the clouds every so often and I could hear the waves nearby.

It felt it would be the most perfect time and place to practice.

It was.

Image description: a top down view of my crossed legs. I am wearing grey patterned leggings and black and white slip-on sneakers. I’m sitting on my blue patterned mat which, in turn, is resting on the weathered wood of the deck.
My new favourite leggings. They have pockets! I kept my shoes on because of the chill – another perfectly acceptable imperfect part of today’s practice. Image description: a top down view of my crossed legs. I am wearing grey patterned leggings and black and white slip-on sneakers. I’m sitting on my blue patterned mat which, in turn, is resting on the weathered wood of the deck.

health · mindfulness · motivation · self care

Christine is letting an app boss her around

I have been receiving the Action for Happiness newsletter for years. I usually read it at the beginning of the month, glance at the included calendar, and occasionally I refer back to it a few times over the following weeks.

Here’s the ‘Self-Care September’ calendar:

a multi-coloured Action for Happiness calendar with cartoon drawings of a clock, a person looking at photos, two people hugging, and a kettle, tea and cookies around the edges. This month's theme is 'Self-Care September' and each block of the calendar has a different prompt for self-care.
Image description: a multi-coloured Action for Happiness calendar with cartoon drawings of a clock, a person looking at photos, two people hugging, and a kettle, tea and cookies around the edges. This month’s theme is ‘Self-Care September’ and each block of the calendar has a different prompt for self-care. An accessible PDF is available here. Image source

This month, though, something made me give it a closer look and I finally noticed that Action for Happiness is on Instagram and that they have an app.

And even though I usually avoid letting apps send me notifications, I impulsively agreed to let them interrupt me. And I am really glad I did.

I am now on my third day of being bossed around by this app and I LOVE it.

It’s such a cool thing to get a reminder of one simple way to be kinder to myself today (I mean, that’s my kind (ha!) of thing anyway but it’s fun to get a prompt that I didn’t come up with.)

For example, here’s yesterday’s prompt:

Image Description: an embedded image from the Action for Happiness Instagram feed. There is a pink background and a simple drawing of a person with beard washing dishes in a sink. There are several dishes on the counter beside the sink. The caption says ‘Notice the things you do well, however small.’ The bottom right corner of the image appears to be folded back so there is a red triangle in that corner. A small white banner at the bottom reads ‘Action for Happiness.’

When I got that on Thursday morning, I actually took a moment to think about the fact that I’m good at remembering everyone’s schedule and that I was happy with the drawing I had made the night before. Without the prompt, I still would have known those things but I probably wouldn’t have taken the moment to consider them and I would have missed out on that feeling of satisfaction.

I’m looking forward to a whole month of being bossed into moments of happiness.

I think it will be really good for my brain and that has to be good for the rest of me too, right?

PS: If this kind of calendar seems vaguely familiar, it’s because I wrote about them before.

fitness · habits · rest · season transitions · self care

Working Outside: An Internal Debate

I’m writing this while sitting on my patio and wondering if I want to take my laptop outside for the rest of the afternoon.

I mean, if you were sitting here, would you want to make yourself go work inside?

A view of a backyard patio, plants, lawn and trees
The view from my seat under my patio umbrella. Image description: a photo of one side of a backyard deck with a view of a red shed with white trim, a patio chair with a red cushion, a variety of potted plants, some grass and trees, and my dog, Khalee.

Yet, as someone with ADHD who does freelance work from home, I already have to put a lot of effort into reminding myself that there is a time for work and a time to relax/be at home. I generally try to limit where I work so I have environmental reminders to keep me on track.

So, if I start working in my relaxation space, am I going to blur that line I have worked hard to draw?

On the other hand, I have done lots of work outside in the past. I don’t really remember if it made it more challenging to keep that boundary or not.

And while I have enjoyed my deck in previous years, I hadn’t put as much effort into creating a restful backyard before. My new deck and an increase in my planning capacity (thanks to an increased dose of ADHD meds last fall) has helped me plan and create a much more enjoyable space this summer.

I don’t know if I should draw stronger boundaries around this restful space or if my environment would help me work with more ease. If I could work with more ease, maybe it would be easier to draw a line under my tasks for the day and move on to my hobbies and relaxation.

In the past, while writing or doing other office work outdoors, I have managed to create a good rhythm for my day – working in short sessions and then breaking for yoga, other exercises, drawing or reading. That’s probably a healthier way to work than trying to force myself to focus for long periods. There would be less sitting and more movement, which is always good for me.

But, maybe I could make my workday shorter if I told myself to stay inside for X amount of time and then go outside to exercise and/or relax?

Am I overthinking this? Almost definitely.

Does it have to be all one or all the other? Probably not.

I still think it is worth asking myself all of these questions though.

I am trying to be more conscious of the choices I am making and of the patterns I am following. I want those choices and patterns to contribute to my overall fitness, my health, my happiness, and my peace of mind.

I’ll probably try working outside in small amounts and see how it affects my sense of relaxation the rest of the time.

In the worst case scenario, it won’t work out and I’ll have to redraw my boundaries. I can always use more practice at that.

Image description: a GIF of a person’s hand drawing a line on white paper with a black sharpie marker and then the sharpie rolls away.
Image description: a GIF of a person’s hand drawing a line on white paper with a black sharpie marker and then the sharpie rolls away.

PS – Yes, I am aware of the irony of being outside while composing a post wondering about whether I should work outside but writing for this blog is in a grey area between work-work and recreation so really it’s kind of fitting that I am writing it on my phone while outside.

fitness · flexibility · habits · self care · stretching

Backing it up: Christine treats the symptoms and the cause

My plan for February was to do a little work on my upper back mobility every day.

Alas, that plan did not take into account the fact that February messes with me every year.

A small elderly woman sitting in a living room chair is shrugging with one  arm and holding a cup and saucer in her other hand.
Picture it, February 2021… (Image description: A GIF from the TV show ‘Golden Girls’ in which Sophia Petrillo, a small elderly woman in a stripped dress who is sitting in a living room chair, makes a dismissive shrugging gesture with one hand while holding a cup and saucer in her other hand.)

(I can’t really explain how it messes with me. It’s some sort of mid-winter slump combined with an odd sense of shortened time. Anyway, I have made note in my calendar to take it into account next year!)

But I didn’t get upset with myself about being less diligent than I had intended. I just did my stretches, movements, and yoga whenever I had the capacity and wherewithal to do so.

It turns out, though, that my lack of capacity for daily work on my upper back actually helped me to identify one of the underlying causes of my tight muscles.

Since I was aware that I wasn’t doing the stretches and everything that I intended to do, I really started paying attention to when and how my upper back felt the worst.

And observing that ‘when and how’ led me to realize that not only was my chair in my home office too low and at a bad angle for my back but my monitor was at the wrong height.

An adult man dances in an oversized Adirondack  chair.
My chair wasn’t quite this off-kilter but once I started paying attention it felt like it. (Image description: A man dances while seated in a comically over-sized red Adirondack chair. It’s a sunny day, there is greenery nearby and a few buildings are in the background.)

So I elevated my monitor and I switched out my chair for one that was less fun but better for my back.

Now, I’m not saying that this fixed the problem entirely. My upper back still needs me to do the stretching and yoga. I still need to pay attention to how I’m holding myself and how long I am sitting in one position.

But addressing that underlying cause of at least part of the problem has made an incredible difference.

It’s not just that my upper back feels more mobile and less tight, I feel better overall. I have had fewer of the specific type of headache that generates from a tight upper back and I feel more relaxed.

So even though I didn’t follow my exact plan I still got where I needed to go.

And I’m calling that a victory.

A person in a yellow,tubular costume waves their arms as they walk through booths at an event.
It’s a very wiggly victory, apparently! Image description: a person in a yellow tubular costume with a happy expression on it waves the long skinny arms of their costume while they walk between booths at an event.
self care

It’s World Kindness Day and Christine H is HERE for it.

November 13th is World Kindness Day and I jumped at the chance to post about it. 

I think our world could use a lot more kindness

We could be kinder to ourselves, to each other, to our communities and to the environment. 

However, while the readers of this blog might enjoy some ideas for specific ways to be kind to others, I suspect that many of us need the reminder to be kind to ourselves.

Image has multicoloured text that reads 'The world is full of kind people. If you can't find one, be one. World Kindness Day 2020. The 'O' in world is replaced with an image of a planet Earth surrounded  by a circle of gold hearts.
I contend that starting with self-kindness equips you to be a kinder person overall.
That’s not the only reason to be kind to yourself but it might be extra encouragement to try it.
Image from https://inspirekindness.com/world-kindness-day

In my coaching practice, I spend a lot of time talking to people about how to be kinder to themselves. When they object (and they often do), thinking that to be kinder to themselves is being selfish or letting themselves ‘off the hook’, I like to borrow this quote to make my point.

“It is moral to treat people with decency, respect, compassion and kindness, Well, “people” includes you! You have as many rights, and your opinions and needs and dreams have as much standing, as those of anyone else in the world.”

from Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time. Rick Hanson, PhD.

I’m not a philosopher so I’m not equipped to take on a debate about whether Hanson is right about the morality. I am, however, an advocate for kindness in all forms and that quote resonates with me. 

It is good, and it is good for you, to be kind, especially when you are being kind to yourself. 

This isn’t about ‘letting yourself off the hook,’ it’s about being compassionate about your circumstances, your capacity, and your needs. 

It isn’t about being selfish. It is not selfish to recognize that you need and deserve care just as much as anyone else. 

So, what does this have to do with Feminist fitness?

Everything.

Being kind to yourself includes taking good care of your mind and your body, in whatever way makes the most sense to you.

For some people, that means taking a long run.

For others, it’s spending time on the yoga mat.

For you, today, being kind to yourself might mean meditation or journaling, it might mean rest or creative relaxation, or it might mean pushing yourself to work out (or work harder) even though you don’t particularly feel like it.

Being kind to yourself (and to others, in fact) is not about finding an easy way out. It’s about being compassionate and it’s about serving a need. 

So, on World Kindness Day, I invite you to consider what you really need from yourself today and do what you can to meet that need.

I understand that your time may not be your own. You may not have the ideal resources at your disposal. But, I hope that you can find at least one small way to meet your own needs today.

PS – Self-kindness is especially important if you are currently coping with Covid-related restrictions or isolations. Be very compassionate with yourself, do what you can to help yourself through this with as much ease as possible.

Against an orange background, the words 'Be The Change' are written in white above an image of Earth surrounded by gold hearts. The words 'World Kindness Day 2020; are in the bottom right corner and the O in the word world has been replaced by an image of Earth surrounded by gold hearts.
You can start by changing how you treat yourself and work outwards from there. image from: https://inspirekindness.com/world-kindness-day

I’ve got lots of back-up on the benefits of self-kindness, by the way:

Using the Practice of Self-Kindness to Cope With Stress

12 Surprisingly Powerful Health Benefits of Being Nicer to Yourself

21 Simple Reasons to Be Kind to Yourself

Being kind to yourself has mental and physical benefits

The Five Myths of Self-Compassion

A complementary approach: Being Kind to Others Is Being Kind to Yourself

More from that angle: Just One Thing: Be Kind to Yourself by Being Kind to Others

fitness

Self care for mental health in a pandemic

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about looking after your mental health and well being during the pandemic. Since I work a lot in the area of mental health wellness and policy, I try to live the practices I learn about to manage everyday stress.

One of the things I have been sharing with friends is the need to grieve the loss. Our way of life has changed, and most likely, permanently. What happens in the next few months and after that is anyone’s guess. Some people may find Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance — a useful way to process all the feelings.  Also, regardless of how I have listed them here, it’s not a linear process.

javardh-FL6rma2jePU-unsplash

The pandemic, though, is not everyday stress even if we are feeling it every day. I thought you might be interested in some of the things government agencies in Canada and elsewhere are offering to help. I’m quite glad to see the variety of material as we have had to deal with a lot of stigma when it comes to mental health and illness.

The relative openness about mental well being is a positive thing we should recognize and is an important part of the WHO’s recent updates. Their focus these days is on emphasizing that physical distancing does not mean social isolation. They also recognize the importance of building psychological resilience. I hope some of the links that follow are helpful to you.

The public health system in England has come up with 14 things you can use to protect your mental health.  Here’s a super-condensed version:

  • Consider how to connect with others
  • Help and support others
  • Talk about your worries
  • Look after your physical wellbeing
  • Try to manage difficult feelings
  • Manage your media and information intake
  • Get the facts
  • Think about your new daily routine
  • Do things you enjoy
  • Set goals
  • Keep your mind active
  • Take time to relax and focus on the present

For the science-minded among the readers, here’s an interesting article looking at what we have learned from past epidemics. The authors focus on what we can do better going forward and why we need to also apply psychological first aid when working with people in our communities during this time. The article considers the impact on providers as well as people in the community. They write:

The outbreak of pandemics has a potential impact on the existing illnesses, causes distress among caretakers, and affected persons and leads to an onset of mental symptoms among the young or old, which is possibly related to the interplay of mental disorders and immunity. In order to avoid the mental health effects of the COVID-19 infection, people need to avoid excessive exposure to COVID-19 media coverages, maintain a healthy diet and positive lifestyle, and reach out to others for comfort and consolation that the situation will soon be contained. Everyone should maintain a sense of positive thinking and hope and take personal or group time to unwind and remind the self that the intense feelings of fear, panic, and anxiety will fade. Additionally, seek information from reputable government sources for information and avoid the spread of erroneous information on the internet.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada has put together a website offering evidence-based information and links from across the country. Their focus is on providing information you can trust: “In times of high anxiety and stress, it’s more important than ever to safeguard your mental wellness. That includes stemming the tide of non-essential information (my emphasis) and paring down your news consumption.”

Another Canadian site comes from the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health. They offer a variety of coping strategies to deal with the stress and anxiety you and others may be feeling. What I liked about the site was their recognition that not all tools will work for everyone equally: “Some might apply to you and some might not – or they may need to be adapted to suit you personally, your personality, where and with whom you live, or your culture. Please be creative and experiment with these ideas and strategies.” CAMH also recognizes that a key factor driving ur fear, anxiety and stress is the uncertainty that underpins our lives today with respect to the virus.

I hope you find the material in the selected links helpful. Remember to connect to people you care about, to look after yourself, to take time to focus on the good in your life and to wash your hands and take appropriate precautions. Be well, stay well.

MarthaFitat55 lives and works in St. John’s Newfoundland and Labrador.