Sunday, February 9, 2014

How To Love Your Chaotic Life

This week, I got a request from a good friend of mine whose life is borderline chaotic (in my eyes at least). I’m always amazed at how well she juggles attending one of the best music schools on the west coast, teaching violin, being a part of a music sorority, and still getting in her 6 am spin class. My life has never even come close to being this busy and I hope she can picture me bowing down to her in awe.

Anyways, she asked me if I could write a post about staying healthy and sane when life is uncontrollably crazy. These are my quick tips to relax in a pinch, cook all your dinners for the week in one trip to the kitchen, and have a better outlook.

Relaxing In A Pinch

1. Alternate Nostril Breathing: Place your hands in the prayer position and put your thumbs on your nostrils and the edge of your pointer fingers on your third eye (spot on your forehead between the eyebrows). Start by closing your right nostril and breathing through your left. Then close your left nostril and breathe out through the right. Keep your left nostril closed and breathe back in through your right, close the right and breathe out through the left. In left, out right, in right, out left, in left, out right and so on. Repeat until you feel calm and ready to take on the day. It’s also great to do right before bed to let go of the day.

2. 4-7-8 Breathing: Sit up straight or stand and fill up your lungs and stomach in 4 seconds. Hold that breath for 7 seconds and breathe out for 8 seconds. Repeat this 4 times. The first time it will probably feel weird and you might get dizzy, but don’t give up on it. This is also great to do in bed lying on your back.

Change The Way You Think

1. Be realistic about how much time you have to get stuff done. If you think you can make and drink a cup of coffee or tea in 7 minutes, it just won’t happen. Either plan more time for your morning and evening routines or cut out unnecessary parts.

2. Plan one thing for yourself a day. Journaling is a great choice, even if you just spend 5 minutes making a list of the good and bad things that happened throughout your day. Another one is watching the sun set or rise, whatever works better with your schedule. Or even just making a hot beverage for yourself and do absolutely nothing else while sipping, except thinking happy thoughts.

3. When you go to bed, let go of the day. This is your time to relax and do nothing but curl up and unwind. At this point, there is nothing you can do about what happened at school or work and you can’t do anything on your to do list for tomorrow. This is not the time to beat yourself up for missing your workout or eating too many gluten free cookies. Surrender to your bed and get a great night’s sleep.

Soup Is Your Best Friend

Soup is incredibly easy to make, inexpensive, and easy to freeze and reheat. Almost every week in my meal planning I include a soup. You can vary between thick lentil soups, creamy blended soups, or brothy, chunky soups. There probably isn’t scientific evidence that they do anything more than fill our tummies, but I’m pretty sure they nourish the soul. What is better than a warm homemade soup in the middle of winter? Here are 3 of my top soup recipes.

1. This is a thick lentil soup that is vegetarian and gluten free, although you can easily add meat or make it vegan. I ate one bowl fresh and put the rest into 5 mason jars and froze them. Now I have individual servings of amazing soup. I prefer this hearty soup for lunch to get me through the afternoon sugar cravings.

2. Creamy winter squash soup is filling and delicious. This is a pretty basic recipe, but if you are willing to put in a little extra time, an onion and a few garlic cloves sauteed in butter takes this soup up a notch. Again, it’s vegan and gluten free but you can totally add some chicken or bacon or a few tablespoons of cream for a dreamy texture. Also, you can make this squash with any winter squash and roast the seeds while the soup is cooking.

3. This one is for the fans of chunky soups. If you don’t like sweet potato, you can use winter squash or regular potatoes. It was posted by Institute for Integrative Nutrition, so you know it’s healthy.

I’ve had all sorts of eating schedules throughout high school and college and working retail full time and I can tell you eating 3 square meals a day is a huge time saver. I used to eat one or two meals a day and snack in between and always be worried about unexpected hunger and my purse not being big enough for snacks. Now I eat a medium sized breakfast, a big lunch, and a dinner that is mostly vegetables. This system works so much better and I can go 4-5 hours between meals without wanting to rip someone’s head off. It’s better for your digestive system and you’ll feel more satisfied after eating. If you can’t follow a 3 meal system, make sure you can eat a big, fresh, warm lunch. It’ll cut down on the sugar cravings and the afternoon slump.

Whatever you do in working towards a more relaxing life is enough. Go easy on yourself because the little things do add up. Stay present in what you are doing and remember to say thank you to the universe just for being alive.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Love Notes Are My New Fuel

“What are you talking about? Everyone is creative, especially you,” he said, eyes squinting as he smiled.

“No, I’m not! I never have been and never will be. That’s just not who I am.” My fists clenched with my increasing anger.

“Yes, you are.”

“No, I’m not!” 

He rolled his eyes, let out a sigh, and gave up. He was my first high school boyfriend and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get him to believe the truth: I didn’t have a single creative bone in my body. I couldn’t convince him, because it wasn’t the truth, but it would be a long time before I knew that.

I always liked the idea of creativity, of writing poems, abstract water color, producing music, the list goes on. Fancy journals called to me like sirens, but one page would get a glimpse of me and the rest would be damned to blankness. I eventually just accepted my fate of being a logical thinker and nothing else. 

By the time college rolled along, I put up such a thick wall around this belief that Hulk would struggle to break it down, or whatever superhero the kids like these days. But then I found myself in Jim Toner’s class at the community college. His teaching methods were a bit unorthodox, to say the least, yet he was the best english teacher I’d ever experience (someday I’ll write an ode to Jim Toner for all the Columbia College kids). In one semester, he broke down this cement wall, and by the time my fifth class with him ended, he didn’t leave a single broken piece for me to shield myself.

This ridiculous wall was gone and I became an entirely different person. My new addiction was Pinterest and I could finally decorate a room. I’m pretty sure my mom questioned whether or not I was her child or if I had joined some strange cult. I was an entirely different person, a person I never thought I could be.

Today, I find myself writing love notes whenever the time feels right. I have a pen pal and a blog. I’m on the verge of taking voice lessons and dance classes. All because I finally allowed myself to believe what was true all along: I am creative. And now I am happy. Happy because I unlocked the door to the unknown and walked right in.