SELF-CARE A to Z: KINDNESS & LAUGHTER

be kind

Tonight is the 5-week anniversary of the last time I left the office for the weekend, having sheltered-in-place ever since while trying to avoid anything contagious. I remember that day started with my body reacting physically and mentally to the panic-buying vibrations from the night before when I’d gone aisle by aisle trying to pull together a meal with the odds and ends left on the empty shelves. The shakiness resulted from my denial fortress being blown to bits and I scrambled to rebuild and reinforce. That morning before I even got to work, I needed to find a way to ground myself and bring myself back to reality.  The great news is, that two things besides COVID-19 are contagious: Kindness and Laughter.

Self-care A to Z challenge: Kindness

KINDNESS
The quickest way to forget about your worries and your strife is to help someone else – and you both win. I personally experienced this while doing a half-marathon I didn’t train for, towards the last 3 miles every step became a debate as to whether another one would follow. …Until I came across someone doing their first half-marathon whose feet convinced the rest of his legs that they should quit though his heart was still in it. By running with him fueling him with distractions and encouragement, we both finished. With any difficult situation, we need to push through the initial shock of the situation then deal with the pain.

Some of the best solutions I’ve seen coming from this quarantine involved creativity and kindness.  Obviously the many first responders have superhero volumes of both running through their veins and I’m so grateful for their incredibly selfless and dedicated actions.  At the same time, an army of kindness soldiers began their march organically and it’s growing. Everywhere I turn my neighbors sew masks, run errands for elderly neighbors and friends, share food or TP with others, check in with people, tutor kids, lead online classes – it’s magical to watch. Whether direct or random acts of kindness, start by thinking of 3 things you could do for someone in your neighborhood. It doesn’t have to cost anything, write a note, explain to someone how to do zoom calling or walk someone’s dog.

Self-care A to Z challenge: LaughterLAUGHTER
Believe it or not, when I first learned that my work was creating a dedicated corona virus URL, I laughed because it sounded so odd. It’s a defense mechanism that pops up at the weirdest times. Along with teaching me about defense mechanisms, Psych 101 taught me that when we smile, our body releases endorphins – whether we mean to smile or are forcing our smile. Fast forward a few jobs into my career and I found myself standing in a circle with co-workers doing a team-building laugh therapy session. After retrieving my eyes from the back of my head, I saw other people feeling as awkward as I felt standing up to take their turn to laugh, for no good reason. Not for long. Immediately the snickering started, which then translated into giggles, which spread like wildfire until even the person who forced the initial chuckle now laughed so hard that none of us could breathe.  The rush of endorphins intoxicated us, our abs ached so much that they inadvertently let go releasing stress and flooding our systems with oxygen.  We felt renewed.

Look for shows, listen to podcasts, really find something that will make you LOL – IRL!  I’m not suggesting you stick your head in a comedy sand pit and pretend like the world isn’t going crazy around us. It’s about balance. We’re more equipped to take in and absorb the craziness if we find a way to release it too.

Be well!

Laughter is the best medicine
What about you?

  • Do you do random acts of kindness?
  • Have you ever had a random act of kindness done to you?
  • What is the funniest thing you’ve ever heard?
  • This is mine (originally on America’s Funniest Home Videos)
  • Do you have a favorite comedian?
  • Do your kids laugh at your jokes?
  • Do you laugh at your own jokes? (I do)
  • Do you know any clean kid jokes?

This is part of a month-long #AtoZ challenge so subscribe above – we still have 14 letters to go!

SELF-CARE A to Z: JOURNAL

I realized somewhere between my own less-than- intriguing history class and raising a son whose interest in history is infectious that I’m actually fascinated by history. I eat up the personal stories, not just the names, dates, battles and memorable statistics. Just think, in a generation or two, people will be looking back at today, this week, this month, this year wanting to know what it was like to live through this time.  My purpose is to convince people to share their stories. Not everybody will write a memoir, some will write songs, some poetry. Just get it down in journals so people can step inside our lives, feel where we’ve been and understand why certain actions took place.

Write your truth...

You know who else starts to figure out our lives when we write things down in journals? We do. Something magical happens when we put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. The ideas stream out. Our thoughts, feelings, questions, fears, challenges, wins, etc.  Something may pop out that you aren’t even expecting. Run with it. A moment may choke you up. Take pause and feel it. Perhaps your emotions begin to run hot. Let them overflow. Going through these thoughts help them dissipate. Getting them out helps us release our burden of what we’re carrying around.

Writing in a journalSo here are a few ways to get started:

  • MORNING PAGES: This practice, from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way (#afflink), is something I do it for a while with all intentions to last forever, until I don’t. BUT, I can return to it any time I need to pick them up again. Writing three pages first thing in the morning when you wake up means that you checked in with yourself first. You put yourself first.
  • BEDSIDE NOTEBOOK: Keep a notebook by your bedside. Use one side of the notebook to jot down any tasks you need to remember the next day (so that you won’t have thoughts keeping you up at night), use one side of the notebook to write down a few lines a day. Whether it’s writing down your dreams, or any lines that pop into your head first that day, it’s a great way to check in with yourself.
  • GRATITUDE JOURNAL: You could use the bedside notebook and replace the task list with thoughts of gratitude. Write between 1-5 things a day. Some people use social media rather than a journal. Whether you do it last thing at night or first thing in the morning, a daily dose of gratitude helps ground you and your thoughts.
  • ONE WORD: One word a day and collect them in a jar. On December 31 you open the jar and see everything you have to be grateful for or successfully got through.
  • CREATIVE WRITING PROMPTS: There are so many ways to draw up writing prompts. My friend would ask for a person, a place and a thing Mad-Lib style and then write a story from there.  I’ve compiled a HUGE list of journal prompts. I also post writing prompts on Wednesdays based on things that cross my mind that day.
  • BULLET JOURNAL: This started as an organizational tool and grew into self-help scrapbooks tracking everything from daily jobs to anxiety levels and nutrition goals to new habit milestones. Start with the basics. During times of uncertainty, it helps to take control over things you can. Later, walk through: precision planning portal.
  • BLOG: My blog started as a daily writing exercise to write for 10,000 hours to become a pro. I love that eventually, my kids will have a place to look back and see what we did together and the path I took them down and why. Our stories connect us with other people who may feel alone in their emotion, until they read your post.

That being said, just write it for yourself. The key is to get it out, finish your thoughts, don’t polish until it’s complete. Some things you write will help you make sense of your emotions, while others will set you free.

My pile of journals!

  • VESSAL FOR YOUR THOUGHTS: I love pretty bound journals for my important projects like memoir planning or bullet journaling because they feel important. I use a spiral notebook leftover from my kids’ backpack for morning pages. I date my pages because I stop and start regularly so it will help me remember dates later.
  • ORGANIZING YOUR JOURNALS: I got nothing.
    No, really, this is my biggest challenge. I’d love to hear your ideas. Some write from the first page to the last and repeat. I start a new journal for each project or class. I write down my creative ideas and then can’t create a system to help me farm them.
  • MY NEW LIGHTBULB IDEA: I’m going to go through each journal and do a table of contents – bullet journal style – capturing main ideas from the pages and margins. THEN I’m going to go to my one main bullet journal and do a journal page with a quick description of each cover and it’s contents.  Wish me luck or please intervene.

So as with this whole #AtoZChallenge for self-care, don’t try to do everyone of the ideas in this post – pick one and try it for 1 month. Then, reassess whether you want to keep going or move on.  Just journal!

Inspirational quote

What about you?

  • Do you journal?
  • Do you have a journal in every room for when inspiration hits?
  • Do you keep a tiny notebook in your purse?
  • What do you journal about?
  • Do you have a favorite style pen?
  • Do you have any favorite sources for writing prompts?
  • Who will burn your journals or submit them to a publisher when you’re gone?

Follow me on social media (buttons above) to get my weekly writing prompts and the books I’m reading!

Note: This blog post had one Afflink which means if you click on the link to check out the book, I will earn a few pennies so that I can collect the rest of Julia Cameron’s books but there is no additional cost to you.

SELF-CARE A to Z: INTUITION

self care isn t selfish signage

Photo by Madison Inouye on Pexels.com

Why do you need a good self-care practice? To help balance your life from the inside out. On a good day we receive challenges, dream up solutions, react quickly and restore order to our day. Our lives get busy, constantly changing – whether carefully choreographed or flying by the seat of our pants.  Our intuition helps guide us through the situations, assisting with answers to the challenges presented. It also lets us know when the outcome perhaps compromises that balance that could lead to us feeling stress and even anxiety and possibly rattling our confidence some. Personally, when it comes to self-care I feel like my intuition speaks to me though I don’t always acknowledge it, nor do I trust it.

But, these feelings set us into motion sometimes, or may overwhelm us.  We’re dealing with a pandemic more furious than we’ve faced before. At the same time, I feel that to quiet the information blaring at us, we need to take the time to be still and get in touch with ourselves and trust that we know or will find out the best way to get ourselves through this. I don’t feel like I’m stressed out but every time I return home from errands, I get mentally drained. I am convinced that if people turn inward, relying more on their intuition, perhaps they can lower their fears and anxiety a bit now and tomorrow. 

woman doing yoga inside a room

Photo by Valeria Ushakova on Pexels.com

If you’re like me, not totally sure about the strength of your intuition, here are a few simple things you can do to get in touch with your intuition or inner voice:

  • Meditation is key – dropping into ourselves – to stop the chatter, according to Lisa M. Zimmer, writer of “Digging Deep – Excavating your Intuition.” This practice is very simple, but takes discipline – there’s no easy quick fix unless the soul is ready to shift. If people are resistant to meditation, or unable to create a mindfulness practice, they will continue to search outside themselves for fixes. If we allow ourselves to drop within through meditation, starting by observing our breath, and feel through the frayed nerves to get to the other side, much will transform.
  • Notebooks to record your rambling feelings, insights, etc. and date them will help you sort through and recognize your intuition at work.  Lisa says, “You’ll naturally see things evolve effortlessly.” Diana Raab, author of Writing for Bliss, explains that journaling helps us tap into our intution. If you have questions, starting writing about it for a while and see what comes to the surface. Her article, “Using Your Intuition for Self-Care” does a great job explaining that there are four different types of intuition: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
  • Creative Visualization is what it sounds like. Visualize and mentally create what you want your future to look like (similar to what we did with vision boards). When you do this, it kicks the universe’s laws (ie: Law of Attraction) into high gear, that will tap into the various intuitions.  

Self-care helps balance out what is demanded of us and what we take from this world to make sure we’re operating at full capacity. YES we should follow the stay-at-home rules, but then turn off the devices and trust your gut. You got this.

What about you?

  • Are you comfortable with relying on your intuition?
  • How do you get more in touch with your intuition?
  • Do you do all 3 of these practices, or just working on one to start?
  • Have you ever predicted something to come?
  • Have you read any earlier A through H self-care tips?

*To join the conversation in person, Follow me on Instagram @WanderWithSarah and join me:

  • Mondays, 8am for Coffee Inspiration – Just a quick jolt of positivity to start your week right!
  • Wednesdays, 5pm for Humpday Celebration – I’ll be reading uplifting passages from books and we’ll chat about them.
  • Fridays, 5pm for Happy Hour – Celebrate our wins – no matter how big – from the week and transition into a relaxing weekend. Sometimes I’ll have a special guest.

This is a part of an #AtoZChallenge so subscribe to find out what’s next. To work backwards, click here.

 

SELF-CARE A to Z: HELP


Sometimes, I ache for more “me time” to quietly sit and read, or journal, or just dream up some fun. Other times, I feel frivolous, chuckling away self-care like those other health trends feng shui and jazzercise (both of which I’ve tried). The truth falls somewhere in between. I don’t take it seriously enough so I don’t prioritize it – or maybe don’t prioritize myself – high enough to make it a regular practice.  To be honest, while self-care feels like a warm-fuzzy lazy day at home, it requires discipline to incorporate it in your life.

For me, I’m carving the habit into my routine by finding time in my day to look into and write about various forms of self-care this month. When the month is over, I’ll take a few that really resonated with me and try to carry them forward in the same time I carved out for blogging because I’m hoping by then, I’ll be craving self-care if I don’t do it. If I even just pick up one good self-care ritual from this month, it’ll be a win.

Right now, I yearn to restore the feeling of having any control of my environment and our lives (of today I’ve been quarantined at home for 4 weeks with two teens with an order to work from home for at least another 9 weeks because of #COVID19). Here’s an idea that may help…

Sew Masks

My pal Kimberly Rapp Kaminski sews masks for http://www.covidmaskup.com            a San Diego non-profit

HELP OTHERS
The beautiful thing about this time are all of the people helping others. Obviously the first-responders and everyone working for cures, immunizations or just caring for people towards their recovery or their last days are heroes.  We stay home to help not overwhelm our heroes any more than they already are.

Equally, so many grass-roots helpers pop up everywhere.  People help their elderly neighbors or those with compromised immunity to get food or needed medicines. Restaurants are feeding first responders or improvising to create fabulous all-inclusive meals for families to pick up or get delivered. People are 3D printing the longer plastic masks or sewing masks like crazy either for friends and family or I have a friend helping a non-profits sew a bunch of masks. Some friends share TP or even wine. People are giving blood, time to volunteer to hand out meals, or money to help students who may still be displaced and not yet able to return home.

I have another friend who did a puppet show from their front yard and families came one-at-a-time to see the show.  I have friends leading exercise groups, friends offering tutoring help. I’ve seen beautiful chalked sayings and cute teddy bears in windows for kids to find when out for a walk. Whatever helps us get through the next few weeks – although, I hope it will continue beyond this stay-at-home


HELP YOURSELF

At the same time, don’t be afraid to accept help, or ask for help. Connect with somebody if you need help right now or if you don’t feel safe. Be clear in what you need. They could help you find the right resource, help you research answers or perhaps help directly. I see so many people sharing on apps or bartering. I also see so many people willing to help stock food pantries, fill gas tanks or provide dinners for neighbors. 1 out of 9 people is unemployed. We will recover and bounce back. But, until then, we’re all neighbors.

Don’t feel bad taking time for yourself. The best way to be quick to react and fully functioning on a mental and physical level for whatever gets tossed in our path is by taking time for yourself.  Get everyone in the house onboard with what you need whether it’s a nap, or to get everyone working at the same time so you can play together later. Get family members to split more of the chores or cooking or perhaps do zoom yoga, guided meditations or reading as a family! a great thing for you to hand down to the next generation.

who works at hospitals

Thank you again to all the first responders on the front line!  Posted by a friend on Facebook. Sorry, don’t know original source.

What about you?

  • Share some examples of helpers in your area.
  • How have you helped and how does it make you feel?
  • Have you connected with people more or less during this period of staying home?
  • How do you think we can help people feel better about asking for help when they need it?
  • Have you dreamed up something new that helps others as a result of the virus?

This is a part of an #AtoZChallenge so subscribe to find out what’s next. To start back at the beginning, click here!

SELF-CARE A to Z: GUA SHA

Jade gua sha tool

Thank you Mount Lai – love my gua sha!

I love beauty products, though I don’t always love the beauty industry. I don’t know which products to trust, but everyone is hawking their magic beans miracle fix. HOWEVER, I’m willing to try most items at least once (for as long as the product lasts).

Writer Ann Brasco demonstrates gua sha

Thanks to Ann Brasco for showing me the best sides of gua sha!

Today, I’ll explain a very beginner’s approach to Gua Sha for the face.  Gua Sha tools fall in the same family as the jade rollers you’ve seen in your friends’ fridge. So at first, I thought this was just a more manageable method of applying the rollers in a slightly different package.  I received my Mount Lai jade gua sha tool as a gift.  I tucked it up into my cabinet for a little while not knowing what to do with it until I saw one of my favorite writers Ann Brasco sharing her gua sha methods on social media.  She did a great job demonstrating, she has flawless skin, and I trust her judgement, so I followed suit.

The idea behind gua sha (and the rollers) is that you’re gently breaking up and redirecting lymphatic fluid build ups from under your skin and moving them along. Don’t ask me what lymphatic fluid is, but I know that lymph nodes are near your face and get sore when you’re sick, so getting rid of lymphatic fluid makes sense to me.

 

Now the gua sha’s flat shape, and the resulting flat edge of the tool, gently scrape and tug your skin and if you push harder, the muscles below.  This extra resistance helps your body break up release stagnant blood and stimulates cell growth to help heal the area – in other words, regenerate new skin with no wrinkles. OK, that was my mantra the first time that decided to try this.  After researching #guasha online, I found several demonstrations and immediately the tool seemed pretty self-explanatory but if you want a video, Mount Lai has one on their website.

This exercise had several immediate benefits.  First of all, it invigorated my face, almost like a facial.  Even while typing this 30 min. later, my face skin memorized how it felt on my skin. The exercise made me feel present because of the attention I gave it, and the resulting mild rush as I worked my way around my forehead, my cheeks, and my jawline. While it could be a regiment that grows faster with time, I don’t recommend that. Linger over it to let all of your senses react. But now, let’s go deeper.

Author demonstrates gua sha

It felt like standing up, stretching my arms except on my face. Relaxing…

The Mount Lai video used part of the gua sha tool to actually massage the area around our ears.  Now, I recently did acupuncture near my ears and they showed me how many pressure points are in and around our ears and using the gua sha tool felt amazing. I’ve been watching @wildling_beauty as well and she happened to tackle my problem area – these frown lines between my brows. She recommended an exercise that actually lifted the inner most corner of our eye brows and it felt like yoga or stretches for my brows. Something I never knew I needed.  Then, I moved the edge of the tool against the direction of my vertical wrinkles to try to help re-train my skin.

The blogger demonstrates gua sha on forehead lines...

BEFORE: See my brow frown lines?

I’m optimistic.  I’m now looking forward to tomorrow and pampering myself as soon as I wake up. I’m going to test it for the rest of the month and will circle back with “after” pictures to see I was able to lessen the dent of my wrinkles.

Thanks Ann Brasco for getting me hooked on gua sha.

What about you?

  • Have you tried Gua Sha before?
  • What is your favorite area to use gua sha on?
  • Did you know that they also use it on a larger scale to help with sore muscles?
  • Do you look at me thinking “Why is this lady rubbing a rock on her face?”
  • Do you believe in jade’s powers?
  • Have you read any earlier A through F self-care tips?

*To join the conversation in person, Follow me on Instagram @WanderWithSarah and join me:

  • Mondays, 8am for Coffee Inspiration – Just a quick jolt of positivity to start your week right!
  • Wednesdays, 5pm for Humpday Celebration – I’ll be reading uplifting passages from books and we’ll chat about them.
  • Fridays, 5pm for Happy Hour – Celebrate our wins – no matter how big – from the week and transition into a relaxing weekend. Sometimes I’ll have a special guest.

This is a part of an #AtoZChallenge so subscribe to find out what’s next. To start back at the beginning, click here.

SELF-CARE A to Z: EBB & FLOW

Woman floating in water

Right now our planet faces a very common enemy, this pandemic. Though everyone will process and travel this journey in very different ways, I feel many people peeling away the levels that created our identities and categorized us before and making connections on a human level – all while being told to physically distance ourselves. But after our emotions initially erupt and make us feel raw, there comes a strange calm amidst the storm. During these moments I ask myself, what am I supposed to learn from this lesson?  

It’s strange that as we start the 4th week parallel to our old lives, I feel like the shock and scare of it all died down a bit, for me, and I feel like I’m in this stage where I understand my job (stay home, keep working, look out for my parents or other compromised people, stay healthy). It feels as though we’re now in the part of this journey that we can plot on charts and navigate our course. It’s still a big deal, but not wrecking me like the first month did. April feels different thus strengthening my resolve to live this month differently. A big thing helping me through this has been online socializing and supporting my friends whether talking about the virus, their jobs, families or creative projects they’re working on. I’ve made an effort to be live online* this month to help make this a conversation and a supportive community.

Oprah on stage

Such an amazing day as Oprah helped walk us through inward exercises!

During my first online Instagram Happy Hour last Friday, one of my fellow #OMagInsiders Suzanne O’Brien, jumped on live from New York. We were reminiscing about having attended Oprah’s 2020 Vision Tour right as the COVID stuff surfaced – albeit in different cities – and how fortunate we were that it didn’t get cancelled. The tour centered around finding our purpose, focusing our intentions and committing to ourselves.  Suzanne reminded that the primary message that came from the tour started with taking time to be still, to listen and to grow. That mantra helps so much in regular situations to help figure out your purpose, set your intentions and commit to yourself, but especially now. 

EBB
One of my high school girlfriends shared a comparison of her previous calendar filled to the edges with events, sports, playdates, and school reminders to her current empty calendar. Though shocking on the one hand, because we still anticipate the bumps in the roads we were used to traveling, on the other hand we’ve been given the gift of time that we used to always wish for. The ability to pause while the never-ending pounding waves of life retreat a bit, rather than fighting to keep our heads up in the thrashing waves, means we can do a self-inventory.

Footprints in sand on beach

Many of us banked some time not commuting, not getting ready for work, not driving carpools, not stopping for coffee, wandering the grocery store aisles and buying gas. Sure a lot was dumped into our laps that weren’t there before and there is a learning curve while we learn to put our lives online, but at least we’re all at home.  I double dog dare you to fine 5, 15, or 30 minutes that you didn’t used to have that you do now. If there isn’t, then force yourself to try (and I will too). Start small and grow. Be still and seek balance. 

Clear your mind, see what keeps coming racing back. Be intentional with your thoughts. If you don’t know how to process the thoughts in your head, try free-form journaling – Julia Cameron calls them Morning Pages.  Use a pen – magic happens when pushing a pen over pounding away on your keyboard. See what drops out of your head! Just be present.

Quote from Oprah Winfrey

From #Oprahs2020VisionTour journal

FLOW
Then – you know this, say it with me – for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. So although right now the shore recessed far enough back giving us this quieter time, this mental space from our usual routine, when it returns to the shore, your progress – the flow – will be just as big. Considering how far inward we’re turning right now, you’re going to come back with lightning bolts, rainbows and confetti guns following you around!

I feel flow in two different ways.  I totally understand Oprah’s definition that flow comes from living a life so balanced that there are no obstacles, no resistance.  Until I reach that state of flow, I feel it the way Bruce Lee explains that we should be formless and shapeless like water – but recognize that water can flow or it can crash.

Woman sitting on ocean rocks

Maybe start there. Find a few moments. Picture in your mind what you would love the ebb of your life to look like, sound like, feel like.  Then, picture the same for when you’re in the flow. What are some things you definitely want to picture in that space. What are things you would exclude?  I feel like this is a good place to start.

We are being touched and changed on such deep human levels or possibly feeling unsettled enough to take a leap of faith. I can’t wait to see what you do next!

 

What about you?

  • How often do you make time for yourself?
  • Do you meditate?
  • Do you journal?
  • How do you define flow?

Let me know in the comments below.

This is a month-long self-care #AtoZChallenge blogging project, so subscribe and please join the conversation!  To start at A, click here.

 

*To join the conversation in person, Follow me on Instagram @WanderWithSarah and join me:

  • Mondays, 8am Coffee Inspiration – Just a quick jolt of positivity to start your week!
  • Wednesdays, 5pm Humpday Celebration – I’ll be reading uplifting passages from books and, if you feel like it, we’ll chat about them.
  • Fridays, 5pm Happy Hour – Celebrate our wins – no matter how big – from the week and transition into a relaxing weekend. I have more special guests lined up!

SELF-CARE A to Z: DANCING

A to Z footloose-without-music

Footloose (c) 1984 Paramount

The first time I experienced dancing where the emotions just blew me away was The Nutcracker with Mikhail Baryshnikov …on television. Through the screen of the box in my parents bedroom I felt the power of his dancing, the vulnerability of Clara, and the excitement, mischief and adventure they traveled together.  But the first time I felt the pent up then therapeutic release from a powerful dance came when Ren McCormack danced his ass off in the original Footloose.  Yep, Baryshnikov to Bacon in one beat.

Sure, the music in that scene absolutely influenced the audience’s emotions and gave us a rush of chills. But the dance that he did (while obviously choreographed for the film) came across as such a spur-of-the-moment release of pent up physical energy and emotions! At the end, he shook loose all of his frustration and left all of the negative emotion on the dancefloor.

Oprah quote about dancing

Here are the reasons that I feel dancing may be one of the best self-care methods:

  • QUICK MOOD ENHANCER: Again, music already dictates moods, picks up the pace or helps you relax. When you dance, you accentuate and interpret what the music communicates with your own movements, releasing endorphins that make you smile – almost instantaneously.
  • RESTORE CONTROL: A lot of anxiety and stress comes from things that are changing and spinning beyond your control. Whether taking lessons or letting the music dictate your moves, dancing a) Redirects your brain, taking your mind off of whatever threatens to raise your blood pressure, b) As the music changes, you do control the movements of your body and often adjust based on the changing beat.
  • BUILD TRUST: As you feel your body keeping up with the music, sometimes the moves come from a more subconscious level or you’re learning new moves in a class so you’re trusting your growth and your skills as well as your body that you won’t wind up flat on the floor.
  • BE PRESENT: When you dance around you feel your place on this planet, whether you’re hopping around on your toes, spinning on your back, or have your feet firmly planted while moving everything else, you feel gravity and its impact on your body. You’re grounded.
  • FEEL FREE: At the same time that you’re grounded, dancers have the ability to defy gravity, leap in the air, move faster than the beat of the music, or move their bodies in ways that we may not even comprehend. There are no limits to what you can do in the name of dance.
  • STEP OUTSIDE YOUR HEAD: Some of us become completely different on the dancefloor. Whether dancing like nobody is watching, or strutting your stuff through the middle of the Soul train crowd, sometimes we meet people we didn’t know we had inside of ourselves that pleasantly surprise us.
  • DANCING KNOWS NO AGE: Whenever I hit the floor, I bring the moves from when I was 15 – though I know my kids call my dancing, “Oh mom! [eye roll]!”

Absolutely, some of these points contradict each other but that’s what makes dancing so magical. Every time you get your body moving, it brings a totally different experience and end result.

A girl dancing

I have a friend, on TikTok as @AuthenticBecky, who almost daily brings a burst of sunshine to my feed with her kitchen dancing!  First of all I aspire to move like her, I love that she gets her hubby and girls involved!  I asked her what motivates her to do the videos and she said “Dance has always been my salvation, and my daily routines in my kitchen bring me instant joy.”

a to z dance steph

@authenticbecky on TikTok

What about you?
Why do you think dance is great as self-care?
What is the song that you can’t sit still to?
Do you dance alone or with others?
Do you take dance classes, do choreographed dances (like line dancing) or just let your body decide?
Does your music of choice to lift your mood fit in with the usual genre you listed to or is it a total departure?

 

 

 

SELF-CARE A to Z: CLEAN HOUSE

For me, if I make it to the third day of forcing a new habit, then I know there is a really good chance I can make it to the finish line. So here we are, the third time in a row that we’ve focused on self-care. The third chance to put ourselves first. …or, maybe after the job, the kids, and the pets, but we remembered to take a few moments in the day for us.  If you’re already like me and curious to see just how far this can go… I have a book for you. 100 Ways to Love Yourself by Taura Stinson – a woman strong enough to be so vulnerable with her words that you can’t help but be moved. Not only will you be moved by her story but you’ll be moved to action on your own behalf.

Full disclosure, I have not read the entire book yet. I’ve flipped through and skimmed the ideas and love where Taura went with the book. It’s like one of those amazing all-inclusive kid activity books that I loved growing up that features stories, lessons, puzzles, and brain-twisters to entertain me no matter what mood I’m in.  The difference is that this book not only presents amazing examples pulled from Taura’s life, but amazing suggestions and lessons to help you get closer to you.

The true reason that I have not gotten through the entire book yet is because I don’t want to rush through this book. I am taking advantage of our stay-at-home order to linger over each exercise and ponder my responses to uncover parts that have been buried or hidden. For once, I’ve got the time. Sure, I’m still working and caring for my family, but with no commute or going out, I have the time. I am giving myself a makeover, starting with making myself a priority.

Before any makeover, one must assess what they like in their space, what they hope to change or get rid of, what they hope for in their beautiful new space.  Then, you move everything out that you won’t be using so you may start with a clean, open space. This book refers to cleaning your spirit house.

You know you’ve felt the burden of carrying around things for years that don’t serve you. I know I have. It’s true, I don’t know what to do with all of my spiritual, emotional and mental tchotchkies but knowing that we’re going through things together with Taura’s voice gently guiding me from the page, it will be a smooth exercise.

So think to yourself, sort things into 3 piles: Keep, Giveaway or Trash. If you can figure out what to giveaway or trash, you’ll only have the things that you want to keep in the end. Be generous, give away the lessons you’ve learned in life – good ones or bad ones. You’ll possibly save someone a hard lesson, you’re freeing up mental space, and when you’re helping others, that alone already lifts your spirits.

Then, with laser-focus, relentlessly grab things and throw them away with vigor!  Everytime you’ve second guessed yourself or replayed something in your head wishing you’d said something different. Every person you’ve crossed paths with that didn’t end well. As Oprah says, “Give up the hope that the past could have been any different.” Let it go. Slam dunk into the trash.

I’m not going to lie, turning the mirror and microscope on ourselves challenges us. But do a thorough job, be honest with yourself, feel the emotions that may get shaken loose, and move forward. Only 99 lessons to go! So grateful that Taura wrote this book!

What about you?
Do you have any exercises, mantras, or meditations that you use for introspection?
Have you read this book or Taura’s other book: 100 Things Every Black Girl Should Know
If yes, what was your favorite exercise?
When was your last a-ha moment?
What is something about you that others would be surprised to learn?
When was the last time you surprised yourself?
What are you doing to make yourself a priority while staying-at-home?

This is a month-long self-care #AtoZChallenge blogging project, so follow along and please join the conversation!

 

SELF-CARE A to Z: BREATHING & BOUNDARIES

I’m so grateful that this stay-at-home order means no driving through LA traffic to get to my job and no sitting in the parking lot of the grocery store each night wondering what the heck I’ll prepare for dinner. I know how fortunate it is that my job translated so easily to my home and I hope it will stay relevant with this new normal. I easily spend less money on eating out, clothes and gas.  But I’d be lying if I told you this staying home in our PJs all day felt like the best comfy cozy day on repeat.

The first week found my two kids and me stumbling all over each other in our tiny home. I imagined that from the outside, our apartment must have been sighing and expanding as we struggled to renegotiate real estate in our home. Some daily rituals fell in easily like me making coffee for my son and me each morning. I now make bacon a Monday ritual. I make sure each of the kids’ comfort food is for dinner at least once a week. But other rituals wore me down and distracted me – kept threatening to knock me off the course I struggled to remain focused on. 

 

Also trying to teach my cats boundaries…

Starting the second week at home, for my own self-care, I immediately set boundaries. If this is the first time you’re reading my blog, you may not know how bad I’ve always been with boundaries.  This birthed another hill for us to climb as a family who were not used to me drawing such defined lines, but we also learned that on the other side of those boundaries, the physical and the mental, we found room to breathe.

BOUNDARIES
We’ve set both physical boundaries limiting our workspace to our desks with the goal of being able to walk away from our desks when we finish work and not turn in a different direction and see something new we need to work on. Still, our desks also hold our recreational or home management stuff as well but I’m careful to keep my work even more organized than my bills and taxes. We obviously have strong invisible boundary around the house right now that we’ve learned to live with. 

Although my work and my kids’ school exists online now, after the first week of sleeping in a little bit, I set time boundaries returning to my regular work hours and insisted the kids do the same with their school. They now know that if they want my assistance on something (including meals) it needs to be outside of my work hours.  Most days I do stop to make lunch, but if the kids want something else, they make it themselves. I’d give us a B- on this with an E for effort.  

Mentally, we’re setting boundaries between work, family and alone time. We’ve picked the show Brooklyn 99 to binge watch as a family and committed to take a short walk walk each day. I forced me time with this #AtoZChallenge to blog more and the kids love playing their games. I’ve tried other self-care boundaries by not working over the weekend and on Sunday focusing on a fun cooking challenge while avoiding news and really limiting my social media.  This change especially extended my weekends and fills my spirit, spilling over to Mondays. 

BREATHE
In my mind, my wellness fantasy includes meditation, yoga, breathing and yoga pants. …and, coffee. While I’ve joined the sisterhood of stretchy pants, I’m nowhere near mastering the rest. Once, while attending a yoga class led by @yogawkala, I embraced breathing because of the attractive learning curve – like, I already know how to breathe, right?! Turns out, the first time I did this, I thought I may pass out or suffocate. But after doing the cycle twice, I felt such an immediate difference that I was hooked. Additionally, I do it anywhere, silently without anyone knowing it. If anything, people usually know when I need to take a break to breathe because when I’m intensely working on a project under a strict deadline, I’ll forget to breathe then suddenly suck in a ton of air or start singing songs without the tune, just breathing the rhythm.  

Another area I’ve found that focusing on breathing really makes a difference is with exertion. This can be when you’re lifting something heavy and exhale to help your muscles get that extra surge of energy. Or if you’re out walking or running and purposefully breathing to make sure your body gets enough oxygen so you can go farther and exhales enough CO2 to avoid cramps.  Now that I think of it, maybe I mastered a bit of a moving meditation because while I’m walking, focusing on my breathing and trying not to trip or get too close to someone, it takes my mind off of work and other stressors. Especially right now when breathing sounds scary, filling up your lungs with air then releasing it makes me feel more alive than anything.

What about you?
How are you with boundaries?
Has it been easier or harder while the stay-at-home order has been in place?
What boundaries do you set that you absolutely won’t budge on?
Are you better at setting mental or physical boundaries – or both?
If you live alone, you still need boundaries – are they different or the same?
How does your body let you know when your boundaries have gotten too relaxed?
Have you tried any breathing exercises that you like or feel like it’s all in our heads?
If you have any breathing exercises that you like, share them here!

This is a month-long self-care #AtoZChallenge blogging project, so follow along and please join the conversation!

SELF-CARE A to Z: ART & AFFIRMATIONS

For many of us it’s been about three weeks with our outside-the-home lives uprooted and shoved into a corner or taking over our houses. Did you ever think you could cram your work office, your kids school, their daycare, your animal farm and an aisle of Costco into your place and make it work? Well you did, so give yourself a pat on the back! 

You’re not seeing double, that’s two laptops.

The sudden derailing from my precisely scheduled life, hurtling straight for the shapeshifting unknown, rattled me. I’ll admit that I was in shock for the last three weeks just pressing on and celebrating little wins like “I didn’t leave the house today” or “I finally got an Amazon Fresh delivery time!” Now we’ve turned the corner into the next month and our lockdown, or its rhythm, has finally started to feel familiar. Still, with no end-date in sight, I am staging an intervention on my own behalf to stop worrying about all of the things I cannot control and focus on what I can – caring for myself.

My dream Me Time is spent reading!

I constantly dream about self-care – crave it, strive for it, plan it into a busy weekend, but am not the best about following through. So this month, I’m challenging myself to focus on it for 30 days and will share what I find through an #AtoZChallenge – plus will include a few bonuses at the end of the month. I don’t expect you to try everything every day. That sounds exhausting!  Try one, or a few, let me know if they helped or not. Did you do them alone or with friends? My goal here is to connect people who deserve to take some time for themselves – especially through a stressful time like this – and just check in with each other, start a conversation! Most posts won’t be this long, I just had a lot of ‘splaining to do.

 

My kids got in touch with their creative sides last weekend.

ART
As always, through the fear of the unsettled and unknown, rays of positivity peek through. With everyone essentially being sent to their rooms, they’re being forced to play with their toys, or dive deep into their imagination. I’m seeing more creativity during this confinement whether it’s finding a new way to exercise or teach the kids, or learning creative ways to connect. Seeing blocks of European families sing or exercise together warmed my heart.

We’re also shaking loose our shells that we used to present and protect with. What’s left underneath feels raw but allows the sunshine to reach those hidden ideas. In her book Big Magic*, Liz Gilbert shares the story of a professor who asked his writing student, “Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes!” Sometimes expressing ourselves through art feels easier than verbalizing the emotions rocking our body. Then, when you do, the dose of courage will carry over to all parts of your being. 

#TheKindnessRocksProject #RedondoRocks

You don’t need an overflowing art supply closet in your home. Grab a pencil and paper and doodle. Use water and a paintbrush on the sidewalk. I’ve seen adorable colored chalk mosaics! Make card castles with playing cards! Walk around your neighborhood and take photographs to document the quiet streets!  Cook! Paint kindness rocks! So many ideas!

#boldmoves

AFFIRMATIONS
Why do people feel guilty scheduling time for themselves? Often, especially during stressful times, people drop anything that feels like a luxury, instead focusing on the necessities. Besides checking in on your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers, don’t forget to check in with yourself. Be your own best cheerleader with affirmations!

Cheryl Strayed, Brave Enough

I’ve heard of a lot of different ways that people do affirmations. Some people call it a mantra, or a theme song, or even a soundtrack. Some people cut inspirational quotes out of magazines and put them on a vision board, others write them in a bullet journal or stick them on post it notes on their bathroom mirror.

Cheryl Strayed, Brave Enough

Start small. Think of your favorite movie quotes, your favorite song lyrics, your favorite authors or inspirational speakers. You’re bound to find favorite 1-2 line statements that cause you to pause and ponder the meaning. If you still can’t think of any, check out these statements that have helped me.

 

Take time to smell the roses…

I’m determined to use this period to live life differently. I’m going to do morning pages, more often than not. I’m going to listen to podcasts and read books. To force me to commit to myself, I’m going to schedule it in. 

 

  • Mondays I’ll share a little burst of inspiration over coffee.
  • Wednesdays I’ll read inspirational and motivational book excerpts that helped lift me up to celebrate making it halfway through our week.
  • Fridays We’ll gather, rant and rave about the week, about the new self-care things we tried, and kick off the weekend feeling the strength of our own presence.

Details will be on my social media so follow along if you are hope to find a self-care ritual simple enough to fit into your life.
Instagram: @WanderWithSarah Twitter: @WanderWithSarah
Facebook: Makes Me Wander   Pinterest @MakesMeWander^

*The two books I referred to were Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic (tonight’s book read on Instagram) and Cheryl Strayed’s Brave Enough.

Note: These afflinks provide you a link to buy but it won’t cost you any extra money – though I may earn a few cents towards my next book.

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