Tag: Mental Balance

Bored and Brilliant

Do people even get bored these days? I mean that in all seriousness. When was the last time you were bored?

As a kid I remember complaining about boredom all the time. School would get out for the summer and after about a month of freedom, the boredom would set in and I’d go whining to my mom. “I’m booorrreeeeed,” which loosely translates to “entertain me!”

Now, as an adult, boredom seems like a thing of the past. Who has time to get bored these days? There’s so much work to be done, adventures to go on, things to be read, movies and tv shows to watch! Not to mention those little moments of downtime which become filled with texts, Facebook, snapchat, trivia crack and candy crush! Seriously. There’s not enough hours in the day!

So with all these ways to occupy our time, why should we even want to be bored?

Well it turns out that boredom breeds creativity and brilliance!

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We should all strive to add boredom back into our lives, and the best way to do that is to cut back the amount of time we mindlessly spend on our smartphones. Instead of checking our phones every few minutes or keeping our faces buried in our phones when we’re in waiting rooms, we should use that time to stop and look around. Notice the world around us. Let that downtime give our brains a chance to generate some creativity!

NPR’s New Tech City decided to explore the connection between boredom (or lack of) and our smartphone use. They’ve invited listeners to join them in the challenge, which they’re calling Bored and Brilliant.

So how do we get an idea of how much time we spend on our phones? Well, you can download the app Moment. Moment will tell you how many times you pick up your phone per day and then how many minutes you spend using your phone.

I downloaded Moment about a week ago. I’m embarrassed to admit how much time I unconsciously spend on my phone!

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If you look at January 24th, I spent TWO HOURS on my phone! TWO HOURS wasted. I really want to scale back the amount of time I spend on my phone and refocus that time toward either “me” time or downtime.

The challenge starts tomorrow February 2nd! Each day New Tech City will send out a mini-podcast episode and a challenge for the participants. I’m really excited to take part in this project. I’m sure it’ll be an eye-opening experience.

So now that I’m almost done with comp exams, I’m ready to get Bored and Brilliant!

Here’s a sneak peek of the week ahead:

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C is for Coffee

The month of January was brought to you by:

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Phew! What a busy month it’s been and that’s why I haven’t had any time to update the blog! Basically, I’ve spent the past four weeks wrapping up my comprehensive exams. While they’re still not completely finished (I still need to defend them), I’ve jumped over the biggest hurdle of the process — writing them!

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Although blogging fell to the bottom of my priority list this month, I promise that my #Project29 goals haven’t completely fallen by the wayside. Despite the craziness and stress of comps, I did manage to keep up with my yoga and swimming routines.

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I’ve also been trying to meditate regularly, although it didn’t quite happen daily. In conjunction with the meditation, I’m in the process of establishing a regular morning and nighttime routine for myself.

Anyway! With comps almost behind me, it’s time to get my day-to-day life back on track. I’m going to dive back into my #Project29 list and get myself into a healthy routine as I prepare to transition to the dissertation phase of this PhD journey.

But in the meantime, I ran away to North Carolina for the weekend so I could fully unwind and relax after a stressful month/semester/year.

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Get Out of My Head

morning meditation:

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them and the point is to live everything. Live the questions… – Rainer Maria Rilke

I love this quote, because grad school and scholarship is all about the questions! We’re taught that questions are more important than the answers. So to come across this sentiment in a non-academic setting is refreshing and affirming.

Anyway, the other day an article titled “NIH Spends $100 Million on Mindfulness Research” crossed my Facebook feed. It basically reinforced all the other information that I’ve read recently about the benefits of meditation. To sum it all up, here’s one key quote that explains why we need meditation:

“Recent studies published by the American Psychological Association show that people who practice mindfulness live in the present, which leads to benefits like fewer depressive thoughts, significant stress reduction, better focus and working memory, and more cognitive flexibility, to name a few.”

One of the scariest things to me as a graduate student and someone pursuing a career in academia is how dependent I am on my brain. My livelihood depends on my ability to think clearly and critically. My ability to succeed in my field comes down to whether or not I have insightful ideas to add to the conversations going on in theatre studies. Obviously I want and need to take care of my brain.

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(Source)

But sometimes, okay a lot of times, taking care of my mind and body comes last when you’re a busy grad students. When I wrote my #Project29 list meditation was one of the first goals that came to mind. I already know that breathing exercises and yoga help calm my anxiety, tension and stress, but somehow incorporating meditation into my life feels like a difficult task. I love the idea of it, but I struggle to put it into practice.

Well, the other day I stumbled upon Headspace. It’s a meditation app/program that is designed for everyday people. It’s not super new-agey and doesn’t feel hokey. Headspace is actually the brainchild of Andy Puddicombe. I’d seen his TEDTalk a while back and really liked his approach to meditation/mindfulness. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out!

The Headspace app gives you a free 10 day trial, but then you have to pay for a subscription. I’ve really like the sessions I’ve done so far and now I’m debating taking the plunge and paying for the app. I really do think that meditation would be a beneficial addition to my daily routine and I’ve never heard anyone say anything negative about it, so why not give it a shot?

Does anyone meditate on a regular basis? Anyone use Headspace? Or does anyone think it’s a complete waste of time? Just curious…

Wild Inspiration

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?”

– Mary Oliver, The Summer Day

Months ago, while looking for a present for a friend I bought Wild for my Kindle. At the time I had no idea that I’d be inspired by Wild or that I’d even connect to the subject matter. It took me months before I even considered reading it. It sat on my Kindle until something reminded me that it was waiting to be read.

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Earlier in the fall, I became overwhelmed with a feeling of restlessness — a feeling that actually inspired me to start #Project29. But even before #Project29, when I started reading Wild I immediately knew that I wanted to plan a multi-day backing adventure. I want to go on that sort of adventure precisely BECAUSE it would put me so far outside of my comfort zone.

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This afternoon my family and I went to see the movie adaptation of the book. Hilary actually read/listened to the book on her own and when she found out the movie would be released in December she started planning a time when we could go see it together.

I’m glad we could see it and experience it together. We’ve casually talked about going hiking together, especially since it’s become a hobby of Hilary’s, but now more than ever I want to make it a reality. I’m hoping that I can go visit her in May or June and we might be able to drive to Oregon and hike some of the Pacific Crest Trail together. Making the trip (or something similar) a reality would help me cross #15 off my #Project29 list.

So after finishing the book (this afternoon!) and seeing the movie, it seemed important to write about since it helped me work through that feeling of restlessness. It reminded me that I hadn’t been outside of my comfort zone in a while and that the way I was feeling was my mind’s way of gently nudging me to take some risks, face my fears, and embrace failure.

“Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told.”
– Cheryl Strayed

Katie and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Busy Two Weeks

The semester ended on Friday, but the last two weeks felt like they lasted an eternity! Somehow it always seems to work out that the two weeks between Thanksgiving break and winter break become filled with chaos, stress, and ALL THE THINGS. This last week in particular sucked because I didn’t expect it to be that bad, since for the first time in forever I am not in any courses. I think because I let my guard down, the week’s mayhem felt like a sucker-punch to the face.

Overall, I managed to keep my stress levels down during the last two weeks by making swimming and yoga a priority.

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I actually went swimming as soon as I got back in town from North Carolina. I knew that if I took too many days off, it’d be really easy to fall out of the habit. I didn’t even let the dead car battery deter me from going. After AAA came and changed my battery I jumped into the car and went to the pool.

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I maintained my yoga and swimming routine through this past Tuesday and then my schedule literally got so full that I couldn’t get to the gym unless I wanted to forfeit eating and sleep. Also, I take it as a good sign that on the days that I couldn’t get to the gym I was actually sad that I couldn’t go. I was craving satisfying feeling of the workout and the stress relief it provides.

And now that I’m back in St. Pete I want to keep up my fitness routine. So I called around and found out some places where I can keep swimming/working out. LA Fitness said they’d give me a 2-week pass and they have a pool at their facility. The YMCA also offers 3 day passes and some short-term memberships. Between those two options I plan to continue swimming while I’m on break.

This is the workout I’m doing at the moment:

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I’m still struggling with freestyle, so I’m committing myself to doing one of each of those 75 sets as freestyle. So I’ll do 75 freestyle, 75 breast stroke. Then 75 freestyle and 75 backstroke, etc. I end up exhausted at the end. I also figured out that you can track exercise (like swimming and yoga) on the FitBit and it will increase your calories burned, which translates into more Weight Watchers activity points earned. Pretty sweet!

I will also be going to my mom’s yoga studio. They offer vinyasa and all-levels yoga, but no hot yoga.

While I need to get my healthy eating habits back on track (those took a nose dive during Thanksgiving and the end of the semester), I know if I keep working out it will help prevent me from gaining weight (or too much weight) even when I make poor food choices.

Beyond exercise, what else has been happening?

Wrapping up the semester meant saying goodbye to this semester’s students. I felt so many warm-fuzzy-feelings. It was such a joy to meet and teach all of them this semester.

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If you had told me eleven years ago that one day I’d be back at FSU TAing and teaching play analysis, I would have thought you were crazy. I am so grateful for the opportunity to TA the intro for majors course this semester because it’s been a great reminder of my own journey to the PhD. Every day I am inspired by my energetic, enthusiastic, creative, passionate, and intelligent students.

December in Tallahassee is not complete without a trip to Dorothy B. Oven park. It’s pretty much my favorite place. I love all the lights.

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I went with a friend and we sipped gourmet hot cocoa as we strolled through the park.

And if you haven’t listened to Serial yet, then you’re really missing out. I binge-listened to the first six episodes as I drove from Tallahassee to St. Pete and the drive has never felt so quick!

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Photo source: http://www.newyorker.com/cartoons/daily-cartoon/daily-cartoon-friday-december-5th?mbid=social_tumblr

The forecast for the next three weeks includes LOTS and LOTS of READING. You know you’re a grad student when you rush to the library to check out a big piles of books hours before break starts.

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And finally, before all this happened I did manage to update about my technology cleanse in North Carolina.

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Technology Intervention

Is it me or does it feel really hard to completely disconnect from technology?

A wild and crazy idea hit me the other day. Here I am sitting in a cabin in the woods where I’m supposed to be reading for comps and instead I’m mindlessly playing candy crush and getting distracted on Facebook, so why don’t I spend a day— just one day—sans technology and disconnected from the world?

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The idea seemed easy enough at first, but now I’m having second thoughts. I realized how reliant I am on technology — my phone, iPad, laptop and TV provide endless amounts of entertainment, enrichment, and more importantly, they often help me do my work. A day with no technology would mean no music to listen to while I’m reading, no computer where I can write comp questions, no yoga videos on youtube, and no iPad to read PDFs or plays.

I originally came up with this idea on Friday and wanted to do it on Sunday, since I planned on watching the FSU vs UF game this afternoon. [Woo! The Noles won! Hooray for another regular season where we’re undefeated.]

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But then as today wore on, I started to talk myself out of the plan. I think the fact that I’m trying to talk myself out of this idea seems like even more of a reason to go ahead with it. I mean, why not do it? It’s just ONE day. I can read some of the books in the big bag that I brought. I have a journal and a bunch of fun pens, so I can write anything I need to by hand. I also brought exams to grade and they’re paper, so no technology necessary.

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I guess this will be a good way to find out how addicted I really am to technology. After my experiment, I should probably figure out some ways to disconnect more frequently but on a less drastic level.

Hopefully tomorrow I’ll have a ridiculously productive day of work. So here goes nothing!

A Non-Traditional Thanksgiving

I woke up this morning to snow falling in North Carolina. What a wonderful thanksgiving surprise!

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Yes, it’s barely snow, but to this Florida girl even a tiny bit of snow is magical! I love watching it fall from the sky. I also love North Carolina and this house. It’s my happy place. 🙂

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Last year we spent thanksgiving up here and Hilary was with us. This year it’s just me and my parents. I wish Hilary could have joined us, but she’ll be home for Christmas.

#TBT to 1992-ish and Thanksgiving 2013

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It’s been a rough year and we all needed a break, so we thought thanksgiving in North Carolina would offer a nice change of scenery. My parents are decompressing up here and I’m spending the time making some progress with my comp[rehensive exam] reading. I’ve hit a wall with my work and I really hope that getting away from Tallahassee might give me a bit of a “reset.”

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We arrived last night and after settling in, I totally crashed. I slept like a rock and woke up this morning refreshed and relaxed. Overall, it’s been a lazy day. I decided to take the whole day off and I’ll get to work tomorrow. In between the laziness, we made a lovely thanksgiving meal with all the usual staples — corn soufflé, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes,and canned cranberry sauce! I also made a crustless pumpkin pie, since I wanted pumpkin pie but I didn’t want to waste a bunch of weight watchers points on it.

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As I thought about writing and expressing what I’m thankful for this year, I almost decided against a thanksgiving day post. Of course I’m thankful for my friends, family, the chance to pursue my passions, but I try and express my gratitude towards those people and things I love all year long. I don’t wait until thanksgiving day to be grateful for everything in my life. Although, I have to admit that after recent events I am more thankful than ever for my life and the time I have with my friends and family.

So I thought I’d write about things I’ve recently realized I’m thankful for: weight watchers, yoga, and swimming.

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While I’ve been doing weight watchers since the beginning of October, I’d gotten a bit distracted and hadn’t been able to get to meetings for the first part of November. I really find that going to meetings helps keep me on track and refocuses me every week. So last week I made it a priority to go to the WW meeting run by my favorite leader. Not surprisingly, I’m so glad I went!

It turns out that the topic from the week before had been about setting new fitness goals. During the meeting Danielle asked if anyone had met their goal and how they felt about it. While I hadn’t set a goal, I realized I felt kinda crappy because I’d slacked off on my exercise for the past few days. So I set a new goal in the meeting to get back into my fitness routine. Going to the meeting gave me the boost and motivation to get my butt to yoga AND swimming that night.

I also decided that I definitely wanted to find time and go to the meeting before I left for North Carolina. IMG_2835

The meeting gave me some smart ideas on how to enjoy thanksgiving without gorging myself too much. I ended up making the crustless pumpkin pie, inspired by someone at the meeting. I also drank lots of water and snacked on apples with cinnamon before the meal. And as per holiday tradition, we went for a walk after the meal.

Perhaps even more than weight watchers, I’m thankful for yoga and swimming. Both have become forms of exercise that allow my mind to disengage and relax, while I give my body a workout.

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I’m hoping that this isn’t lust or a temporary fling and instead my feelings for yoga and swimming develop into a lifelong love affair.

I also had a mini-breakthrough in yoga the other day when I was able to do full wheel pose! It’s a pose I had previously been able to do and had lost the ability in recent years, so when I pushed myself up into wheel I was so happy! There are a few other poses that I want to be able to get into, but I’m just not there yet. Perhaps that’ll be a post for a different day.

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I’m making progress with my swimming, as well. I’m still struggling with freestyle, but I like that it’s challenging. I’ve been going swimming three or so times a week and I feel really good about it.

Last Sunday I might have even overdid it. I went to hot yoga in the morning, then went swimming and walking on the treadmill at night. My body was sore the next morning. Oy.

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I’m actually looking forward to getting back to Tallahassee so I can get back into my yoga and swimming routine. But for the time that I’m up here, I found some yoga videos online and I’m planning on walking in the mornings and evenings.

And on that note, I’m going to resume my laziness and do some reading on the couch.

PS – I’m pretty sure Sirius is the most thankful of all. This year he found his forever family and gained a fur-brother. 🙂

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Awake My Soul – Yoga and a Summary of the Week

“And now my heart stumbles on things I don’t know
My weakness I feel I must finally show

In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
And where you invest your love, you invest your life.
” – Mumford and Sons, Awake My Soul

I first discovered Mumford and Sons when I lived in Washington. I tend to associate writing my thesis with sitting at Starbucks or D&M coffee and listening to Mumford and Sons (and Florence + the Machine and Laura Marling). Five years later I still love Awake My Soul by Mumford and Sons. Through all the ups and downs, the changes and growth, I always come back to this song. I love everything about it.

So when I went to this hot yoga class over the summer and the instructor ended the class with Awake My Soul it struck a cord within me. I walked out of that class with my body, mind and soul feeling nourished. This past year has been particularly difficult for me. There was a lot going on in all the different facets of my life and a lot of changes happening around me. I was out of sync and in need of something, but I didn’t know what. For me, leaving that yoga class was similar to my experience of going to church. Church usually leaves me feeling mentally nourished and stimulated. But for me, with yoga the experience is more complete. I’m challenged mentally and physically. I look inside myself to find strength and peace. I reflect on my place in the world and the life I lead and I set intentions for the class and the week ahead. I’m working on committing to going to Sunday morning hot yoga and making it my “church” time.

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Today’s class was particularly challenging. I really struggled to bring myself into the room. My balance was also way off. I had a hard time doing poses that usually cause me no problem. The more I stumbled in the poses, the more frustrated I got with myself. I kept telling myself that there’s no judgement in yoga. No judgement of myself and no judgement of others. It was then that I realized that my mind kept wandering to all sorts of stuff. I was mentally writing this post, thinking about the work I needed to do today, and reflecting on recent conversations with friends. Whenever my mind wandered, I struggled to hold the poses. In order to really hold my body in the poses I needed to be mentally in the room, not just physically.

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The class was also hard because it was the instructor’s last week. She’s moving to Denver. I really connect with her energy and the energy she creates in the room. She changed the way I look at yoga and how yoga factors into my life, so I’m going to miss her. I actually got a bit emotional at the end of the class, which really caught me off guard.

Looking back on the past week:

Wednesday Afternoon Adventure – #29
Onward, Ho! – My first accordion performance!

I haven’t been quite as productive as I would like and that’s causing me to be frustrated with myself. I need to work on putting aside judgement and just accepting what is and being okay with that.

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My NaNoWriMo writing keeps being shifted to the back burner and I end up too tired to do it at night or forgetting about it all together. So I’m continuing to work on that goal this week.

  • Goal – Write every day this week

I also need to refocus myself on my healthy eating habits and tracking my food through the Weight Watchers app. That priority has slipped a bit between meetings, holidays, and other stuff.

  • Goal – Track my food every day this week and avoid any sugary desserts or treats

In conjunction with the healthy eating, I did manage to work out several times this week but I would have liked to do more.

Monday – Swam 800y + treadmill
Friday – Swam 800y
Saturday – Went for a walk, 9k steps
Sunday – Hot yoga

I did write out my work out plan in my planner, so hopefully that will help me stay committed to the work out routine. The top is the goal for this upcoming week (well, Thursday-Sunday) and the bottom is what I did this past week (Thursday-Sunday).

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  • Goal – Stick to the proposed workout schedule that I’ve laid out. Only exception is taking one rest day in the middle of the week — Thursday?

To end this post, I want to end with the closing words that Charlsy uses at the end of her hot yoga class.

I may not be who I ought to be.
I know I’m not all that I want to be.
But I’ve come a long way from who I used to be.
And I won’t give up on becoming who I know I can be!

Trying Not to Break the Streak – A Weekly Recap

I might go get my nosed pierced today? The opportunity presented itself last night when a friend mentioned that she was going with another friend who wanted to get a piercing. She was considering getting her nosed pierced and when I mentioned my desire to do it she said I should join. The other people I was with also told me I should do it! I’m pretty sure I’m going to do it, unless I’m told that I can’t go swimming with it. I’ve been on such a roll with the swimming thing that I don’t want to do something that will prevent me from going. I know myself and if I can get myself into a good rhythm with things, then it’s easy for me to stay on track. But the minute I take a day off or something gets in the way it becomes a challenge for me to get back in gear.

But first, if you missed any posts from the past week here’s a recap:

# 5 & 6 – Committing to Listen
# 17 – The #Project29 Version of NaNoWriMo
#& & 10 – Duathlon Day
# 25 & 29 – #29 – To Pierce or Not to Pierce?
#21 – Why the Accordion?

So looking back on the past week I’m pretty proud of my accomplishments. I’ve been very active and even in just a few weeks I can see the benefits from swimming and yoga. I feel much more relaxed, but also happy with myself for making exercise and mental downtime a priority.

I got hot and sweaty everyday! Here’s my activity for the past week:

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Monday – Treadmill for 30 minutes, swam for 35 minutes
Tuesday – Open Flow yoga
Wednesday – Flow+meditation
Thursday – Swam for 40 minutes/800 yards
Friday – Treadmill for 35 minutes, swam for 35 minutes/roughly 650-700 yards
Saturday – Open Flow Yoga
Sunday – Hot Yoga
Monday – Treadmill for 35 minutes, swam for 35 minutes/800 yards.

This is the swim set I’m working on right now. I ordered a book called: The Waterproof Coach: The Waterproof Workout Book for Fitness Swimmers and Triathletes. It’s waterproof and has a mix-and-match set up, so I can customize my own workout. It’s nice to have a plan when I get into the pool. It’s been helping keep me on track and it makes keeping track of the distance I’ve swam a lot easier.

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Over the next week I need to continue to make swimming, yoga, and walking a priority. I’m also starting to see how the increased activity is helping my weight loss. I generally have pretty good eating habits, but sometimes they need a reality check. Am I eating out too much? Am I indulging my sweet tooth too often? Are my portions too big? Cutting out processed food and eating a balanced diet is something that I’ve been working on for my entire 20s.

I need to maintain my activity levels this week, but in addition to that I really need to shift my attention a bit to other projects like NaNoWriMo and reading more. I’m struggling with getting in my writing, even thought I’m only trying to write for a total of 20 minutes a day! I know I can do better than that!

I also found some time over the past week to play around with the accordion!

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It’s fun using a book that Nain used. In some ways it’s like having her teach me the accordion, even if she isn’t actually here.

The other biggish thing that came up this past week was getting a flat tire on the interstate.

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The experience made me realize that I’m a bit helpless when it comes to changing my own tire. So I told my dad that in addition to learning to drive a stick shift (#23), I also want to learn how to change my own tire.

So what are my goals for this upcoming week?

I want to continue to maintain my level of physical activity. I want to actually write for 20 minutes a day for NaNoWriMo. I want to work on establishing my morning routine. I think having a set morning routine will go hand-in-hand with meeting my writing goals.

Committing to Listen

Listen to your body when it speaks to you. Why is this such a hard concept to put into practice?

I tend to override what my body is telling me to do, begging to me do, with whatever my brain thinks is actually the best course of action. Shockingly (or perhaps, not so shockingly) my body happens to be a lot smarter than my brain. If it needs to my body will bring me to a crashing halt, even when my brain is telling me to keep going.

In yoga classes, the teacher with often say to only do a pose if it speaks to you. They’ll suggest to back out of a pose if your body disagrees with it. This idea of listening to our bodies and conversing with them has stuck with me over the past few months of doing yoga on a semi-regular basis.

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The older I get the more I realize that my body communicates with me on a regular basis. I’ll get headaches from stress or I’ll feel anxiety in my chest or sometimes I just feel like crap. Usually the way I’m feeling directly correlates to whatever external things are going on in my life.

The other day I stumbled across a blog entry that really hit home. It was titled, “Is commitment the missing piece of the happiness puzzle?” In the blog the author talks about committing to her yoga practice, but then she broadens the discussion out how in our society we are offered so many options that it becomes overwhelming and thus makes it difficult to commit.

This idea of committing or rather having a hard time committing really struck a chord with me. I’m committed to my work and finishing the PhD program. I’m committed to loving and being there for my friends and family. I’m even committed to taking care of Sirius and Charlie. But am I committed to taking care of myself? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Why is it that when life gets stressful the first thing to go out the window is my healthy eating habits and my exercise routine? It seems like one of those things that’s superfluous or a reward, but really it’s the aspect of my life that keeps me grounded and balanced. Exercise and healthy eating habits keep me happy, healthy, and sane.

In the past few weeks I’ve been doing great when it comes to making smart food choices and working out on a regular basis and you know what? I feel great! Sure I’m stressed and I feel a bit guilty that I’m not making as much progress in my work than I’d like, but I don’t have headaches or any of the other physical symptoms of stress.

So my challenge to myself is to work on listening to my body. Next time I feel like I’m too busy to exercise, I need to really look at my time and see if there is something else I can cut from my schedule before I sacrifice my workout time.

And on that note, I’m off to hot yoga!

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