The Importance of Morning Routines

The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve understood the power of morning routines – things you can do to really start your day off on the right foot. My morning routines have varied over the years, but the point is that I have one. I no longer roll out of bed and get on my iPhone. I take my time starting my day, getting grounded and centered.

These days, my morning routine involves:

  • Opening up the house to let some fresh air in
  • Feeding the squirrels
  • Taking Kolby for a stroll in the foothills (emphasis on the word stroll there… you cant move very quickly when you have to stop to wait for your dog to pee every 5 seconds!)
  • Feed Kolby
  • Make and drink my morning lemon water (juice of half to a whole lemon – or 3-5 drops of lemon essential oil, 1-2 tbs apple cider vinegar, fill the rest with water)
  • Morning meditation – 10-20 minutes of grounding, balancing my chakras, thanking the elements, praying, saying my affirmations, and sitting in silence for a few minutes)
  • Journaling
  • Checking in with myself and my body, asking what I and my body need today
  • Shower and start my day

My morning routine makes all the difference in my day. If I skip it, my whole day feels ‘off’ and I am much more in gerbil-on-a-wheel mode – anxious, not able to focus. But when I take the time to breathe and feel into my morning, ah….

I know, I know. You’re too busy for a morning routine. My full routine can take up to an hour, depending on the day. But I didn’t start that way. I started with 5 minutes. That’s it. 5 minutes before I even got out of bed. That 5 minutes made such a difference in my day that it became 10, then 15, then 30…

Take time for yourself every morning, even if it’s just 5 minutes. You are so worth it.

BodyLovin’ Goddess Guide to Essential Oils

essential oils and medical flowers herbs I started using essential oils years ago. I had already been using them as perfumes because my skin is so sensitive to manufactured perfumes due to the chemicals used in making these aromas. Essential oils, however, never bothered me.

Then a few years ago when I broke my heel, a friend of mine brought me some Deep Blue (a pain-relieving essential oil mix). I was hooked. As I got older, I became increasingly sensitive to chemicals, so I started using essential oils to make my own soaps, household products, skin care products, etc. Now I use them daily to stay healthy and maintain an optimal level of wellness.

I am so passionate about essential oils for mental, physical, and spiritual health, that I’ve decided to come out of the closet so to speak and share what I know about essential oils with you. Beginning this month, I will be hosting monthly calls about various topics and sharing how I have used essential oils to help heal a variety of issues.

This month’s call will be a basic overview of essential oils and will include a bonus ebook where I share my favorite recipes and uses for essential oils. I can’t wait to share these with you! I hope you’ll join me! (And no worries, if you can’t make it live. I’ll send you the ebook and replay!)

The first call is:

Date:  July 15th, 2015

Time:  7PM ET / 6PM CT/ 5PM MT / 4PM PT

 

Can a health problem be a guide to your purpose?

Doctor experiencing tension headache

Are you feeling dragged down by a health problem, whether it’s large and threatening or small and persistent?  I invite you to consider whether your health problem could be a guide to your life purpose, and thus a gateway to healing.

I know from hard experience that ill health can be deeply discouraging.  But I’ve also learned that it can point us toward the life path we’re really supposed to be on.  For me and so many others, our health problems call us to notice where our lives are out of balance, where our hearts feel malnourished, and whether we feel a passionate calling to serve a purpose that might seem surprising yet lead us to delight.  As I struggled for years with immune and autoimmune challenges, I discovered gradually that the more I honored my desire to connect with nature and teach others about linkages between our own wellness and the Earth’s wellness, the more my mind, body, and spirit came into alignment, and the more my heath improved.  My work and lifestyle have shifted in many ways and my health is better than it’s ever been.  I know it’s possible to say ‘yes’ to discerning how you can learn from an illness, use it for the good, and let it boost you forward into your highest and best contribution to the world.

Whatever your purpose is, it matters to your health.  If your purpose is unfulfilled your body will tell you about it.  To heal, you need to look beyond medicating the bodily messenger or being frustrated with the messenger and instead listen deeply to its wisdom.  An unfulfilled altruistic purpose may be stifled underneath the surface of your mind-body-spirit system in such a way that your body tries to capture your attention via symptoms of illness.  An unfulfilled purpose may disrupt mind-body-spirit energetic integration, thus making you much more vulnerable to the other factors that can influence the development of illness (genetics, environment, diet, stress, etc.)  In indigenous cultures around the world, this phenomenon is called shaman sickness.  Those with shaman sickness have a powerful life purpose, typically involving healing or leading of some kind, that tends to cause health problems if it’s ignored.

By paying attention to both indigenous wisdom and modern insights, we’re learning that the threat of illness can be an invitation to heal at a deep level: to heal yourself, re-balance your life, and contribute to healing life on our planet.  We live in a time when people and the Earth have many needs.  Thought leaders worldwide agree that many of us alive today have the purpose of contributing to the Great Work (a.k.a. Great Turning or Great Transition) of re-balancing the human relationship to the Earth, restoring human health, and continuing to heal relationships within the human species.  In this era of crisis on the Earth, many of us are experiencing health problems related to stress, a fast life pace, our impoverished diets, and environmental toxicity.  Our health problems are reminders that life on our planet needs repair.

Your purpose may be simply to lovingly nurture your own body, stand up in moderate ways for the good you believe in, or care for your family or a garden.  It may be to create art to inspire others, to teach children, to become a health coach, to rescue animals, or to advocate for the restoration of your local waterway or forest.  The options are many.  Perhaps you have a larger calling as a leader.  What is important is to listen to the internal voice that may be begging you to honor or discover your purpose, and may be whispering to you that your health will be so much better when you do.

For more support with exploring how your wellness and purpose are linked, you can receive a free copy of “8 Ways To Know Whether Your Illness Is Pointing to Your Purpose, & What To Do Next,” by visiting http://mutualflourishing.org/?page_id=442

Remember, if you have a persistent health problem and you feel called to make some type of helpful contribution to the world, those are not separate threads in your life, but threads that are asking to be interwoven.  Your purpose is your unique way of being part of the life system here on Earth.  Aligning with it also may be a key to your health.

 

charaChara Armon, Ph.D. teaches about the connections between wellness and life purpose to help you discover your pathways toward health and service.  As a teacher, mentor, and scholar, she ignites attention to our opportunity to heal human and Earth health as the same endeavor, for mutual flourishing.  Find her at http://mutualflourishing.org, www.healingearthself.com/deephealingautoimmunity, and on Owning Pink.

How I Sneak in Self-Care

Day 29 - you are enoughI’ve been  getting a lot of questions lately about self-care. I think, as women, many of us were raised to view self-care as selfish. We typically put ourselves at the bottom of our list – if we’re on our to-do list at all.

But that doesn’t work. As Wynonna Judd once said: “You have to fill your cup. You then give away the overflowing, but you keep a cupful for yourself.” And no, it’s not selfish to want to take care of you. It’s like the old oxygen mask analogy on an airplane – put your own oxygen mask on before you help others with theirs. If you don’t have oxygen, you can’t be of service to others. Self-care is your oxygen. It’s essential to your survival. If you don’t take care of you, you’ll have nothing left to give. It’s your job to make sure your cup is overflowing (in other words, no one is going to do this for you).
I encourage you to make sure that you get what you need on all levels – physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally – every day.” –that’s keeping your cup full. But how do you do this when you’re so busy?

Start with 5 minutes a day. You can’t tell me you don’t have 5 minutes – get up 5 minutes earlier if you have to. Once that feels good (which I promise, it will!), then try 10 minutes, then 20, then 30. You get the idea.

What are you supposed to do to take care of you? Only you know what makes your soul sing, but here are some of my favorites:

  • Start your day with your favorite mantra or guided meditation – I start my day with a 10 minute guided meditation. I’ve been doing this for years and I love it!
  • Create an environment that honors you – I surround myself with windows, positive affirmations, my vision board, and pictures of things I love.
  • Make time to do the things you love each day and don’t let your endless to do list get in the way. – this is where that 5 minutes comes in. :)
  • Don’t overbook yourself and learn to say no. – I am the Queen of overbooking myself. So I started scheduling my me time in so I make sure it doesn’t fall off my radar.
  • Eat regularly. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to eat nourishing foods. I prefer to eat 5 times a day to keep my blood sugar regulated.
  • Listen to your body. – It knows what you need. If you’re hungry, eat. If you hurt, stop doing what’s causing you pain
  • Engage in positive self-talk – remember the sticky note challenge?
  • Unplug at least an hour before bed every day and preferably, don’t plug in until you’ve been up for at least an hour every morning – No checking email first thing in the morning while still lying in bed. Your brain needs time to unwind and time to wake up before you barrage it with your to-do list.
  • End your day in gratitude – I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal for years. There’s always something in your life you can be grateful for.
  • Take at least one complete day off every week. – As a workaholic I struggle with this one, but I feel so much better and recharged when I do.

That’s my list. What’s on yours?

What are Your Bare Minimums?

to do listApril was a crazy busy month – the kind of month I used to pride myself on because I could look at my accomplishments – everything I had achieved at the end of the month: launched an ecourse, held 3 sales calls, recorded 10 or so interviews, and received three awards – on top of my normal daily tasks. But at the end of the month, instead of feeling proud, I felt lonely; instead of feeling accomplished, I felt overworked and overwhelmed. Once again, I had done such a good job teaching everyone else how to be, that I forgot to Be myself.

So this past week, as April turned to May, I took stock of my life – looked at my goals – personal and professional. Took a hard look at my life. And this is what I figured out: Yes, I worked so hard that I won three awards in one month. Yet, while I am proud of my accomplishments, they came with great costs. In getting my needs met, in finding myself through work, I also lost myself. Once again I let someone else’s expectations define who I am and what I do. I forgot that I was a person of worth just because I’m me. And I was saddened. Because I did it again; because I thought I knew better. Because I fell into a trap of my own making once again.

So I sat down and wrote myself a love letter. It didn’t start out that way. I had intended to do some release work and write a letter to my ex. But as I wrote, I realized the person that needed to hear this most was me.

What came out of it was this. A self-care list – one that would assure I didn’t have another crazy busy month like April. A list that put me at the top. A list that prioritized my needs above others. Will I win any awards by following my own list? Probably not, but I will have my sanity, my sleep, and my sense of self at the end.

Bare Minimums

Daily

Eat 5-6 nourishing meals

Move my body

Am asana, pm asana, savasana

Two 10 min meditations/day

Unplug by 6 pm at least 5 nights/week

Sleep 8-9 hours/night – in bed by 10pm weeknights

Dance practice

Journal am and pm

Weekly

Workout 5/wk

Cardio for 20 min 2/week

One self-help course/module/week

At least one whole day off/week

Challenge food

Connect with moon

Monthly

2-4 massages/month

Pedicure

Full moon, new moon

Month at a glance

Biz course

Quarterly

Half day biz retreat

2-3 day weekend/mini vacation

 

What’s on your list of bare minimums?

If you keep putting yourself last on your to do list (if you’re on there at all), I invite you to join me for this month’s free call series: Awaken Your Inner Goddess and Get Your Mojo Back!

What Does Awakening Your Inner Goddess Have to Do with Your Hormones?

Woman Standing on ScaleThat’s a good question.

I did a podcast interview last week and we were talking about the fact that I help women of all ages, but most of my clients – even in my 30 days to BodyLove Program – are perimenopausal women (mid-30s to mid-50s). The interviewer asked me why so many women in that age range struggled with body image. I told him it had to do with their hormones. Which is when he asked, “What does awakening your inner goddess have to do with your hormones?”

Here’s the deal. Depression is more common in times of hormonal change like menarche and menopause due to the changes in our reproductive hormone levels during that time. For many women, this depression can lead to the breakdowns and break throughs that help them re-establish their connection with their inner goddess (see my free ebook for more signs and symptoms of this disconnection with your inner goddess). Perimenopausal and menopausal women are also prone to developing body image dissatisfaction and eating disorders as they become more depressed about their appearance and are more likely to report feeling fat. In particular women aged 40-60 are especially vulnerable to bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, and eating disorder not otherwise specified (e.g., compensatory (purging) behaviors for weight loss in the absence of full eating binges and despite normal weight, chewing and spitting out food), as they tend to both use food to cope and withhold food as punishment for being ‘fat.’

To top it all off, our high activity levels in childhood make most of us able to “get away with” eating foods that probably are not the healthiest options. Then sometime in our late teens or early twenties we realize that we aren’t “getting away with it” anymore. Pounds start to accumulate around the middle, commonly called the middle aged spread (although it starts in the 20s for most people – and, thanks to my hormones, it started in high school for me!), and we wonder where we went wrong.

So what does awakening your inner goddess have to do with your body image and your hormones – and even your weight? As it turns out, just about everything!

Of course, the question then becomes: Okay, I can blame my hormones. Now what? Tune in next week as I start to unravel the answers to that question.

Meditation 101

meditationThe minute the gong sounds on my favorite meditation, I start relaxing. By the time my 10-, 20-, or 30-minute session is over, I am relaxed, rested, and ready to face my day.

 

But it wasn’t always this way. For the past several years, I made a New Year’s Goal of meditating for 20 minutes once a day. This year, for the first time, I actually realized my goal and consistently maintain it. I meditate first thing every morning for 10-20 minutes and again at night for 20 minutes.

 

What does it do for me? In a nutshell, it calms me down. Having suffered from anxiety most of my life, I am constantly looking for ways to reduce anxiety that don’t involve popping a pill. Suffering from anxiety is kind of like being a hamster on one of those little spinning wheels. Your brain never seems to slow down. As a result, your body never slows down either – it’s constantly in fight-or-flight mode. While that might actually be helpful in a life-or-death kind of situation, few of us actually find ourselves in one of those these days. Instead, our minds and bodies are constantly gearing up for the “big threat” that never actually comes. Not too good for the body. Or the mind. Meditation can stop anxiety in its tracks by stopping the fight-or-flight response . A big plus for an anxiety sufferer like me.

So how do you start? There are a variety of ways you can meditate. Some work better for me than others.

 

  • Meditating on the breath – This is the most basic type of meditation and one that is easy to learn. It’s as simple as breathing, literally. Begin by focusing on the breath. Where do you feel it in the body? The chest? The belly? If it helps, you can count your inhalations and exhalations. See if you can make it all the way to 10 before your mind wanders off.

 

  • Mindfulness meditation – If your meditation practice feels like an exercise in torture, mindfulness meditation might be a good option for you. Mindfulness meditation is a simple observation – of your breath, your thoughts, the way your body hurts when you sit on your meditation cushion. There’s no judgment here. It’s more of a, “Huh. Would you look at that? There I go thinking about the fight I had with my ex again. Isn’t that interesting?” I like this form of meditation because it allows you to detach from the emotions behind what you’re feeling. You’re a third party to your life for just a little while. Pretty cool, huh?

 

  • Guided visualization – There are a variety of guided visualizations out there. These are another great option if you’re trying to quiet your monkey mind. Basically, the visualization leads you through a journey, giving you something to focus on besides your unruly thoughts.

 

  • Heartbeat meditation – This one is similar to focusing on the breath, except instead of focusing on your breathing, you focus on the sound or feeling of your heart beating.

 

  • Candle meditation – If you are a visual person, having an object to focus on can help you calm down and redirect your attention. Simply light a candle (or any object that would hold your interest for a few minutes), sit about a foot away, and keep your eyes and mind on the candle flame. Watch it dance and play. Now switch your attention to the floor or wall behind the candle. Can you see the reflection/shadow of the candle flame? How is it similar or different from the actual flame?

 

Meditating, like anything else, takes practice. I still have days where my mind refuses to settle down, and that’s okay. The point is to show up and keep trying.

 

If you’re saying to yourself, “But I don’t have time to meditate,” think again. Start small – we’re talking 5 minutes. Who doesn’t have 5 minutes? And if you’re thinking about saying, “I don’t,” then find 5 minutes of another activity you can give up. Checking email? Getting on Facebook? Watching TV? I promise your 5 minutes will be much better invested in meditating than in any of those other activities.

I noticed the effects immediately upon starting meditation. Within 2 months, I was able to half the dosage of my anxiety meds. Within 6 months, I halved the dose again. I hope to be off of them altogether by the end of the year. I think I can spare 5 minutes for that.

Is Food Your Coping Mechanism?

5262932_sHave you ever had the following thought? “Food is my best friend and my worst enemy.” A recent national survey found that half of Americans report more stressed than they felt five years ago and 43% use food to cope. Emotional eating is one of the hallmarks of hormonal imbalance for women in their mid-30s through mid-50s and nearly every woman I see experiences it at some level.

Why do women emotionally eat? Many women are chronically stressed; this means they suffer from higher levels of cortisol. Thanks to all that cortisol, when we’re under stress, we tend to crave foods that are high in sugar and fat as our bodies are trying to store calories to help us prepare to fight or flee. Of course the problem is that you usually can’t fight or flee from whatever your stressor is (e.g., lost keys, waiting for the cable repairman).

So when it comes down to it, we are biologically driven to eat foods that help us ‘cope’ in ineffective ways. We don’t realize this, though. All we know is that we want chocolate and we want it now.

From a psychological perspective, emotional eating usually falls into one of two categories: avoidant or emotion-focused coping. Avoidant coping is just what the name implies – you avoid dealing with the stressor. Eating when you are stressed so you don’t have to deal with the problem is an example of avoidant coping using food. As you might imagine, avoidant coping is rarely effective as the problem is still going to be there once you’ve stopped eating.

Emotion-focused coping using food can be equally ineffective. When we engage in emotion-focused coping, we are attempting to make ourselves feel better by addressing the emotions the stressor provoked rather than the stressor itself. So if you get in a fight with your significant other and, instead of talking it out, decide to comfort your hurt feelings by consuming a chocolate cake, that would be an example of emotion-focused coping using food. Again, not super helpful in this situation. While you might feel better after eating (or not – you might feel guilty if you ate something you have labeled as “bad” or eaten too much), you still haven’t fixed your problem.

You see where I’m going with this, right? Most of the time our problems are within our control to fix – cortisol, be damned – and eating is likely not going to help. Thus, what we should be doing is focusing on how to fix our problems. That’s where problem-focused coping comes in. As the name implies, the basic premise of problem-focused coping is this: “Have a problem? Fix it.” So if you have a fight with your significant other, wait a little bit to calm down and then go back and talk it out. Don’t turn to food to comfort yourself because that’s not actually addressing the problem.

I know, I know. That sounds great, but how can you make that change? I’m going to warn you: it’s not going to happen overnight. If you’ve been turning to food as your primary coping mechanism for 40 years, you can’t expect it to go away overnight. I wish it was that simple, but for most of us, it’s not. After all, we have biologically trained ourselves to crave our comfort foods.

So what should you do?

Step one : re-evaluate your response to stress. As I said earlier, most of our problems are fixable and most of them are within our control. So very first thing you need to do is Stop. Right when you begin to feel yourself getting stressed out, Stop for just one minute. Then ask yourself, “Is this going to kill me?” The answer to that question is likely no. Then you move onto the next question:  “What can I do about it?” That brings us to…

Step two: take a deep breath. Do it again. When our bodies are all wound up, it can be very hard to focus on what to do right now to fix your problem. It works best if you can stop that stress response in its tracks by giving your body the cues it needs that the stressor has passed (no stressor, no food cravings). As deep breathing is counteractive to gearing up to fight or flee, it can be an effective way to calm down enough that you can actually deal with the problem.

Step three: decide HOW to cope. Yes, it’s up to you. While it may seem like it happens automatically, it only happens this way if you don’t give yourself any other option other than to act in a way you’ve previously dealt with that stressor. In other words, if you’ve conditioned yourself to eat chocolate cake every time you fight with your spouse, the next time you fight with your spouse, guess what? You’re going to find yourself automatically reaching for that chocolate cake. Unless you give your body, and mind, permission to do something else. In the meantime, know that you DO have a choice in the matter.

 

What Does It Mean to Nourish Your Body Temple?

Midlife-woman-close-up-300x200Growing up, “nourishment” meant eating whatever Mom fixed. As I was raised on the standard American diet, that usually meant some kind of meat, maybe a vegetable, and some bread. All of that was fine and good, but what I really wanted was dessert – and my glass of milk. If I could have lived on milk and dessert, I would have been a happy camper!

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that nourishing yourself is so much more than what you eat. It’s how you treat yourself in every aspect of your life. How you talk to yourself and about yourself to others. How you take care of yourself at a very basic level. What it really boils down to for so many women is their self-worth.

Here’s the thing. I used to think that I nourished myself. I mean, I ate. Not always high quality food, but back then food was food. So I should have been good to go, right?

No. What I’ve come to realize is that by “nourishing” myself with fast food or whatever’s cheap or on sale at the grocery store isn’t nourishment at all. Furthermore, settling for what’s cheap or available sends the message that you’re not worth nourishment.

Think about it. If you’re going through the drive through at McDonalds to grab lunch (which I used to do on a regular basis in my 20s), you’re sending yourself and your body the message that the dollar meal at McDonalds is all your worth. Even worse, you’re not even worth sitting down for an actual meal. No, you’ve got to eat and run, so to speak, so you won’t be late for your next meeting. No wonder I had so much digestive distress in my 20s!

So what does it mean to nourish yourself? Here’s what it means to me:

  • Eat 5-6 high quality meals per day with lots of veggies and fruit to keep my blood sugar stable and hormones happy
  • Unplug each night no later than 7pm (preferably 6pm) so I can relax and unwind from my day – I love to read each night before I go to bed (and work-related reading doesn’t count! It’s got to be something I enjoy that relaxes me)
  • Do some sort of movement everyday – usually yoga and some sort of fitness class (Fitmania Bootcamp is my favorite right now)
  • Get 8 hours of sleep each night
  • Treat myself to one self-care appointment each week (e.g., massage, yoga class, hair cut)
  • Talk to or spend time with girlfriends every week
  • Reach out to friends and family and ask for help when I need it
  • Show myself the same respect I would show a loved one – I still struggle with this one
  • Get out in nature some every day – I like to take my dog for walks morning and night in the foothills
  • Meditate every day – usually morning and night

My list may or may not resonate with you. These are just a sample of things that I have learned nourish me on a daily basis. And I am so worth it and so are you!

What’s on your “nourishment” list?

Why Are You So Unhappy with the Woman in the Mirror?

sad woman
We’ve been talking for weeks about Facing the Woman in the Mirror. But have you really looked at her?

Recently I was a guest on a TV show called Idaho Living. We were talking about what happens when we go try on swimsuits in front of the dreaded dressing room mirror. True confession: the last time I tried on swimsuits was 4 years ago and I almost had a meltdown when I realized how big of a size I had to buy.

But I guess that’s the reality of living in a size 00 world (Seriously? How can you be a size 0, let alone a size 00?). If you’ve never heard me hop on a soap box, this is it: we keep getting told that we have to attain standards that aren’t even realistic. Even Cindy Crawford recently came out about this and released un-photoshopped photos of herself. Yes, she’s a gorgeous woman. But, guess what? She has a belly, stretch marks, wrinkles. She’s human! Not that you’d ever know that from looking at a magazine cover featuring her – all of those ‘flaws’ have been airbrushed or photoshopped out. (And don’t be fooled to think that men have it any better – just take a look at Men’s Health or GQ).

I am not immune to this pressure. I was a senior in high school when I realized I was fat. My love of desserts started catching up with me (my way of coping with my father moving in with his mistress). My skirts were getting tight, people weren’t telling me I could be a model anymore, and I started hating the woman I saw in the mirror. Then I discovered the gym, and that began a 24-year battle with an eating disorder.

As I’ve recovered from that eating disorder, I’ve realized how important it is to love the skin we’re in. Our bodies are amazing miracles. They allow us to breathe, our hearts to beat, our food to digest, and we don’t even have to think about it. Yet, we criticize the woman in the mirror for not being perfect. Kind of silly when you think about it, huh?

That’s why I decided to devote my academic career as well as my company to fighting this unrealistic standard of ‘perfection,’ of ‘beauty.’ To learning to love that woman in the mirror again. And you can to. I get so many questions about body image and food issues that I have decided to gift you with 3 free calls all designed to help you heal your relationship with food, your body, and yourself. Go here to find out more and to sign up.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Stop the struggle. Learn to love the skin you’re in. Learn to love you. I hope you’ll join me.