6 Ways to Survive the Dog Days of Summer

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sun-622740_1920.jpgAugust has arrived and brought extreme heat to the Pacific Northwest. We are not accustomed to triple digit temperatures in this region of the country. There is evidence that extreme temperatures can affect mood, and high heat can increase aggression. According to research, intergroup conflicts increase by 14% while interpersonal violence increases 4% during peak heat cycles.

So, how do you keep your cool when heat strikes?

  1. Slow Down – Reduce the number of tasks and appointments to the minimum to allow time to move from task to task at an easy pace. Rushing increases stress and body temperature.
  2. Stay Inside – If you are particularly sensitive to heat, stay in as much as possible. If you don’t have access to air conditioning, keep shades and curtains closed, avoiding upper floors as much as possible. Remember heat rises.
  3. Drink Plenty of Fluids – We all need water for health benefits, but during hot weather we need extra fluids to replace what is lost through perspiration. Avoid dehydrating beverages such as caffeinated drinks and alcohol and increase consumption of water and iced herbal teas.
  4. Wear White – Wear white or lighter colored clothing which reflects the heat instead of black or darker shades which tend to absorb the heat.
  5. Eat Lightly – Eat smaller portions more frequently through the day to reduce strain on digestion. Avoid eating large meals.
  6. Cool Down Fast – Even with good intentions, we can sometimes over do it and end up overheated. To cool down fast, apply ice packs, cool compresses or cold water to the pulse spots on your body which brings down the temperature of your blood vessels and lowers your overall body temperature. Areas of focus included the neck, inner wrists, back of knees, ankles, top of feet, temples, inside bend of elbows, and inner thighs.

The impact of weather on mood can be reduced significantly by being flexible. Have backup plans for activities to do inside on hot days such as going to the movies or engaging in hobbies. Or, plan water related activities such as swimming or going to the beach and save hiking for the more temperate days.

Stay Mentally Healthy

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Some great ideas for staying mentally healthy!

Discovering Your Happiness

In this modern day and age we are constantly thrown into situations that require us to invest the majority of our time in order to have success. The crazy day to day lives that people are leading these days can result in serious health problems. Lack of sleep, high levels of contact stress, and no down-time are often contributors. It is so important to manage your time properly and make sure that even when you are working hard, your health does not end up suffering.

Here are 6 tips on staying healthy with a hectic schedule.

Follow these and you will enjoy a more balanced, positive and overall healthier work life!

1.Don’t Compromise on Sleep

If you really want to make sure your health does not suffer because of your routine, you should try your best to get as much sleep as possible. A common mistake that people make is that they…

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Embracing Radical Self-Acceptance

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One of my favorite DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) concepts is Radical Acceptance. It speaks to accepting something as it is, right now. Radical Acceptance reminds me of the title of an old movie ‘The Good, The Bad, The Ugly.”  It’s about letting go, not fighting against what is, and allowing things to be as they are.

Self-acceptance is like that. Letting go of shame, judgement, and self-doubt and embracing tolerance, trust, and forgiveness is the work of self-acceptance. It is recognizing that I cannot do everything or be everything to every person around me. It is allowing myself to live in the moment and know that I am doing the best that I am able right now.

Celebrate You

Acknowledging your strengths balances out your perceived flaws. For example, I can relish my creativity and still recognize that I am not gifted in other areas. GPS maps were made for myself and others who are perpetually directionally challenged. Create your own list of your strengths, skills and character traits and begin to celebrate how these shape your life.

Turn Off Your Inner Critic

We all have a running soundtrack in our heads. The inner critic has absorbed every negative thing that has been said to us or about us. At any time, the inner critic can pull up words or images from years ago to “prove” that we are not enough. Prepare yourself with your own arsenal of positive self-talk starting with your list of strengths. Use affirmations to center yourself and stay in the moment.

Surround Yourself With Love and Acceptance

Take an inventory of the people in your inner circle. Who do you spend the most time with? Does your support system include people who love and accept you? Who are the most loving and kind people you know? Reach out to these people and strengthen those relationships.

Affirm Yourself

I am wholly wonderful. I do not have to be perfect for others to love me or to love myself. I accept myself as I am now, as I was yesterday, and as I will be tomorrow. I acknowledge my imperfections and am thankful for the journey I am on as I seek to love, trust, and accept myself more deeply each day.

 

Note: This post is part of the 2017 Kindness Challenge.

A Cup Full of Self-Compassion: Kindness Challenge Reflection

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Is your cup half empty or half full?

More important than how full is your cup, is WHAT is your cup filled with? There have been times in my life where my cup has been filled with negative thoughts, poor self image, and painful memories. When our cups are filled with negativity, self-compassion is impossible. Anything can become a weapon to tear away at our spirit.

Anyone who has travelled by air has hear the flight attendants give the standard safety message:

“Should the cabin experience sudden pressure loss, stay calm and listen for instructions from the cabin crew. Oxygen masks will drop down from above your seat. Place the mask over your mouth and nose, like this. Pull the strap to tighten it. Please make sure that your own mask is on first before helping those seated next to you.”

The message is clear. If you don’t have anything to give, you can’t be of help to anyone else.

I have found that in order to give of myself to clients, family, and friends, I must consistently check the status of my cup and purposely fill it with love and compassion. Taking time to care for my body, mind, and spirit is a necessity. And so is forgiving myself for the days when I am not my best self.

Those days that I don’t get everything done that I thought I should or when I said something that I later regretted, aren’t who I am. Compassion includes gifting myself the same compassion that I would offer someone else. I acknowledge my strengths and my weaknesses. I forgive myself. I care for myself. And when I do, my cup is filled with love and compassion which can freely flow out to those around me.

Kindness Challenge

This post is from Week 1 of the 2017 Kindness Challenge. For more information or to view other participants’ submissions, please click here.

Kindness Challenge Reflection: Self-Love

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Self-love can be a difficult thing to find when you have spent your life feeling “less than.” A history of traumatic events can lead a person to erect a concrete wall around their heart. Love for others is difficult, but love of self can become nearly impossible.

Short of breaking out a jack hammer, how do we overcome the negative thoughts and emotions that hold us back from loving ourselves?

Get to know yourself

Who are you really? What do you like? What are you really good at? Imagine all the questions that you would ask a person you’ve just met and want to get to know better.

I am a writer, a therapist, a sister, a traveler, and an activist. I am friendly, funny, curious and sometimes silly. I like coffee (and tea), fluffy dogs, and the beach.

Take responsibility for your life

Wherever you are today is where you are today. While you cannot change what has happened to you in the past, you can take full responsibility for the choices you make today. Your decisions today are not the fault of your parents, teachers and others that shaped your early life.

Begin a path of healing by seeking out respected therapists, clergy, or healers who can support you in taking responsibility. Create a circle of friends who will hold you accountable to your choices.

Set and maintain clear boundaries

Loving yourself means protecting yourself. Teach others how to treat you by setting clear boundaries. Practice saying “no” to events, activities, or requests for help that don’t fit in your schedule or interfere with self-care or important relationships.

Nurture yourself

Most children have caring adults devoted to cuddle, nurse, teach, and play with them. These loving adult relationships fill the heart and nurture the soul. As an adult, the responsibility to receive nurturing falls on you.

Create a list of enjoyable and soothing activities to try. Some ideas? Take a walk early in the morning before the neighborhood wakes up, slip into a warm bath with scented bath salts, savor a piece of dark chocolate alongside your favorite coffee, or slip into your favorite pajamas and fluffy socks before curling up on the couch to read.

Manage your health

Taking time to manage your health creates more time to enjoy your life. Loving yourself includes taking yourself to the doctor and dentist, taking medications on time, eating healthy foods, and getting adequate physical activity.

Create personal affirmations

Like anything else, learning to love ourselves is a process. Affirmations are a beautiful way to help us remain focused on the path we have chosen. Create your affirmation by thinking about what you want to manifest in your life.

Not sure where to start? Spend some time writing in your journal about how you want your life to be. While you are working on your own personal affirmation, practice one of these:

  • I am deserving of love.
  • I am at peace with my past and enjoy a life of balance and harmony.
  • I love myself; I am growing and healing everyday.

Several years ago, I spent a day writing a personal affirmation. I had been on a retreat that inspired me to accept myself and begin to thrive. Each year since, I have revised the affirmation so that it continues to be my guide. Below is my current version:

My life is an adventure and I seek new experiences.

I do not put off doing something until “later.”

I live my life to the fullest everyday.

I am healthy, beautiful and fit: I spend time doing rather than watching.

I am a warrior: I control the direction of my life.

I can accomplish what I set out to do.

I love myself and deserve to be treated well.

Kindness Challenge

This post is from Week 1 of the 2017 Kindness Challenge. For more information or to view other participants’ submissions, please click here.

Week 1| Self-Love

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Week 1| Self-Love

Week 1 of the Kindness Challenge has begun. This week we will be exploring Self-Love. Will you join me?

The Richness of a Simple Life

Attention Kindness Challenge participants!

In this post, you’ll find:

  • this week’s  theme prompt & exercise
  • a screensaver for this week’s theme
  • the reflection post prompt questions

If you haven’t signed up for the challenge yet and would like details about the challenge, click here.

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Making the Shift: An Evening Ritual

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Making the Shift: An Evening Ritual

harmony-1229893_1920In a recent post I discussed the value of a morning ritual to support focus, creativity, and peace. I have found that a brief evening ritual can support the transition from work to home.

Working in community mental health care can be challenging and sometimes stressful. It is important to set aside the content of the day and leave it in the office so that you can be fully present at home with family and friends.

I first recognized the need for an end of the day ritual when I was providing mental health services to children and families in their homes. I often ended my day at a client’s home before beginning the commute home.

On my hour long drive, I would find myself processing the contents of client sessions, planning my work for the next day, and reformulating treatment plans. I would arrive home worn out and mentally still at work.

After several months of my commute, I noticed a ramshackle barn about halfway between home and work. The old red barn had started to crumble and nature was doing its best to reclaim the space. Vines grew through the building, up and out of holes that had developed in the roof. I first noticed the barn when the vines began to flower in the spring. Hundreds of tiny white flowers blanketed the roof of the barn.

That ramshackle barn in the middle of nowhere became the trigger for my first evening ritual.

Rituals require structure to be effective and I created a simple rule that cared for my budding ritual. Each night as I traveled home from work, I allowed my mind to process and wander through all the sessions, meetings, and tasks of the day. However, when the old barn came in sight, all thoughts of work were relegated to the back of my mind and I turned my focus to the tasks of my life. My mind began to make dinner plans, consider the route for walking the dog, think about weeding the garden, and creating a list of things to pack on my upcoming vacation. If work thoughts crept in, they were shooed away and I refocused on personal thoughts and plans.

A couple of years ago, I made a shift in my work to clinic based treatment. This has created a number of changes in my life including eliminating a lengthy commute. However, with the loss of the commute also came the loss of my evening ritual.

My new ritual is just as simple, but takes place before I leave the office for the day. Each night after the last client has left, I straighten my office so that it is ready for the first client the next day. Chairs are realigned, toys replaced on shelves, and the markers and colored pencils are sorted back into their cups on the art table. I gather my personal belongings to take home and clear my desk of everything except my notebook. Taking a couple of centering breaths, I consider any tasks or ideas that I want to follow up on the next day and jot them in the notebook before returning it to the desk drawer. Having cleared my mind, I pull the cord on the lamp to turn out the light, lock the door and step out of my office door into my personal life.

Seeking Kindness: 2017 Kindness Challenge

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Kindness Challenge The news media, internet, car radio and even the person standing behind you in the grocery store these days can be the source of anger, frustration, fear mongering, or hate.

I grew up hearing my grandmother admonish all of her grandchildren with “you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” I never understood why I would want to catch flies, but I clearly understood my grandma’s intention: Be Kind.  A little kindness goes a long way towards lifting people’s spirits and easing difficult situations.

When I discovered The Richness of a Simple Life’s 2017 Kindness Challenge, I knew I was committed to this journey.  Below are a few of the topics we explore over the next few weeks. I look forward to walking this  path with you.

Week 1 | Self-love

Week 2 | Self-compassion

Week 3 | Self-acceptance

Week 4 | Kindness role model

Week 5 | Choosing kindness

Week 6 | Kindness without expectation

Week 7 | Grateful for kindness

PS: If you are interested in joining on your blog or on social media, click the link above and you will be routed to The Richness of a Simple Life’s blog.

Now, go in kindness

A WARM Morning Ritual

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IMG_0409Those who know me well are cognizant that I do not naturally lean towards rituals, habits and organization. I thrive in creativity and fluidity.

However, in my professional practice, I have discovered the value of daily rituals. I have come to discover that well planned rituals can create smooth transitions from home life to professional life and back again.

My morning ritual has metamorphosed over the years and settled into a simple four part practice: WARM.

Write

Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way encourages a daily writing practice she calls “Morning Pages.” Part journal, part mind-dump, these three pages of long hand writing help to clear the mind of all the extraneous information, fears and concerns. It creates a clear space to begin the day.

Affirmations

Affirmations are an effective way to focus our intentions for our lives and our work. They support healthy change affecting mind, body, and spirit. I use a combination of 2-3 affirmation statements each day which correspond with my desired growth in my professional life, personal life, and physical health. Affirmations can be modified as needed to support current goals.

Read

Knowledge is power. While working to establish the University of Virginia in 1817, Thomas Jefferson wrote “that knowledge is power, that knowledge is safety, and tht knowledge is happiness.” Reading a variety of materials increases knowledge. I encourage reading of professional journals, novels, literature, non-fiction, meditations, spiritual texts, and more. An additional benefit, according to the University of Sussex, is that just 6 minutes of reading per day can reduce stress levels by 68%.

Meditate

Meditation reduces stress, increases clarity and creativity, as well as increasing mindfulness and tolerance. Meditation does not have to be a complicated process. There are numerous articles and books written on beginning meditation, but a couple of simple ways to get started is by setting aside five minutes to focus on deep breathing, listen calming music and focus on one element of the music, or combine with affirmation work by focusing on your affirmation with each breath.

Take some time this week and begin to develop or refine your own morning routine. Add or change one element at a time to make sustainable changes. Feel free to comment below on your current morning ritual or on the impact of any changes you make.

3 Ways to Have All the Time in the World

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“I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.”  ~ John Burroughs

We all have the same amount of time allotted each day. In fact, time is one of the few resources in this world that is equitably distributed. Yet we constantly hear the same refrain “I don’t have enough time.” To be honest, this is often my own lament.

Like John Burroughs, I find that I have more projects, ideas and plans that I would like to accomplish than can realistically fit into 24 short hours. And while I may never accomplish all the things that I want to think, do, read, see and experience, I am committed to doing my best to check off the list.

1. The Rule of Three

Take a few minutes each evening to look over the to do list. Decide what is absolutely critical for the next day. Enter these into your smartphone’s task list for tomorrow or write them on a 3×5 card and tuck it into your wallet. These are the three things that you have now committed to completing, no matter what life throws at you. And it will.

As difficult as it is, I have had to acknowledge that I cannot complete everything on my list everyday. So I don’t. But, I commit to completing the three most important. I have decided to accept each day as it comes, filled with many tasks and interruptions that I didn’t have planned: the computer crashing, the long line at the auto service, running out of tape while trying to mail a package. These things just have to be worked around.

And yet, more often than not, I find at the end of the day that I have completed the three things that I committed to accomplish. Even when I haven’t completed them, I find that I have made significant headway and can easily finish them off the next day.

2. Create a Morning Ritual

Aristotle is quoted as saying “We are but what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” I, however, am often quoted as saying “I don’t do mornings.” But, I do. I have to.

Mornings are hectic. There is a lot to be done in a very short time. Getting to work on time creates a singularly specific deadline. Plan to start the day with a simple ritual that eases you gently into the day. For me, this includes settling in with my cup of coffee, journal and spiritual reading for thirty minutes of inspiration and contemplation. Do what works for you. Take a walk, play uplifting music, have breakfast on the deck or mediate.

3. Be Kind to Yourself

Recognize that you are not perfect and never will be. And, most importantly, know that it is going to be okay. Nobody else is perfect either. The goal is to have a plan, do your best and give yourself grace when things don’t go as planned.