Clear the Clutter

I find that when I’m mentally cluttered (frazzled, overwhelmed, disorganized), my environment (my car, office, home, even my wallet and desktop) often reflects the mess. I’ve wondered if it’s the chicken or the egg…does the mess in my space create the mental clutter or is it the other way around? I’m guessing a little bit of both. What I do know is that the physical clutter is something I can take care of and at times can be easier to take action on. As I find order in my physical world, my mental world calms too.

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As we create systems in our lives from paying bills to meal planning to avoid the after work stress of figuring out dinner, we can find more sustainable order. No one size fits all, but slowly, I’m finding my groove with what works for me. As my physical world is finding more order (thanks to coaching, trial-and-error, reading, podcasts, you name it!) I’m noticing that intentional mental strategies are finding a place in my daily life. It is and will continue to be a work in progress, but so far it is creating a much gentler start to my day so that I am able to show up at my best, grounded and clear for my patients, colleagues, family and friends.

So my challenge to you…

  1. Where is clutter showing up in your life? Mentally? Physically?

  2. Start by cleaning ONE area up.

    Is your computer desktop littered with files you will “get to tomorrow”? If so clear it. Create folders of urgency, importance or those to look at on a “rainy day”. Delete redundant files and empty the trash can. Create a system so that every file you save has a home, action step or its gone.

    Do you have a hard time remembering to do a list of home exercises from your Physio or Chiropractor so instead of doing some, you do none and then stress about not doing them? Pick one. Commit to doing one when you brush your teeth or set your alarm before going to bed. You will make more progress doing a little than none at all, and you will reduce some of the “shoulds” in the list of things you have to do in a day.

  3. As your physical world becomes less chaotic, how do you feel? How does it feel turning on your computer and having a clear screen, or a concise folder of things that require your attention rather than splitting it/ distracting it among noise? How does it feel getting into a car that smells good and is clean? How does it feel knowing where that favourite shirt is when you get that unexpected invite out for drinks?

  4. Once your physical spaces are in order (or before, if it feels right) take a minimum of 5 minutes a day to declutter your mind. Focus on breath, stare at the clouds, centre yourself in gratitude or a greater intention for the day.

“Out of clutter, find simplicity.”
Albert Einstein

Waiting for Perfection

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It’s not hard to see that my blog writing has taken a back burner. I’m one who is full of ideas but when it comes to sitting down and articulating them in a coherent way I blank. To be honest I probably have about fifteen blog posts started, all of which go unposted because they aren’t “perfect”. They don’t flow or I wonder if its a topic that people will actually be interested in. Each week I push “write blog” into the next day, telling myself that “today is the day”. Well, today actually IS the day and I am committing to an improved blog contribution, to post things that I find interesting, hoping to resonate with those choosing to read it. I am going to post them even if they aren’t perfectly worded or are shorter than I’d like.

I’ve been reflecting on things I follow-through on, what unfinished business causes me stress, and where I’m being incongruent. I encourage my practice members all the time that it doesn’t have to look perfect to produce progress. Something is most often better than nothing. Of course in those circumstances I’m usually referring to healthy eating, stretching/ strengthening or overall physical activity, but doesn’t this apply to anything we are working to achieve? If I had written a page a day for the past year I would have 365 days of content. Small incremental (sustainable) steps are just as powerful (sometimes more) than a giant leap of commitment.

What things have you been “putting off” or procrastinating on? Is it no longer a goal? If so maybe let yourself off the hook and rewrite your next step. Is it because you are waiting for circumstances to be perfect or for it to be easy? If so, give yourself a firm deadline and a small incremental step to take. Once you start you will find that the hardest step to take is the first one.

Staying Active in Colder Snowier Months

If you are reading this in my hometown of Calgary right now, you are aware that we have received a way-too-early dose of winter. As the days get shorter, commutes get longer and temperature chills it can sometimes be hard to stick with any healthy routine. We begin craving heavier comfort foods and its easier to hit snooze and stay tucked into your warm bed then jump up to get out the door for a morning workout. It is during these hard, “I will tomorrow” days that we MUST push through and do it anyway. But how? It depends on your barrier.

“I’m just not motivated”

  • Find a list of indoor activities you LOVE to do. It may still be hard to get there but you know once you are there you won’t regret it. If not for the activity, for the community of people you will get to share an hour with. If you do well with intensity early in the morning, an indoor spin class can be great, or an indoor circuit such as “orange theory”.

  • Agree to meet a colleague or friend. Sadly we can easily let ourselves down but its much harder to justify if someone else is counting on you to show up.

  • Switch-it-up! If you are usually a high intensity person with your activities, maybe try a yoga class or go for a swim instead. Changing the pace may be what you need.

  • Download a playlist you only listen to at the gym. I do this through spotify and have a variety of playlists from acoustic chill, jazz, to more upbeat hip hop or dance. Hearing that favourite tune from 1994 can sometimes give a much needed boost

  • Listen to a podcast. This is also great for the commute TO the gym. Feeding your mindset with something constructive and positive can change your physiology before you even break a sweat.

“I can’t afford a membership to those fancy studios”

  • Make a home plan! Central Athlete is a great resource for a variety of exercises if you are strength training, but there are a variety of yoga classes on youtube, or membership sites that offer free or discounted intros you can try.

  • Many studios offer intro offers. Try a few and see what community and type of class pulls you the most!

  • Often studios will also have options to volunteer in exchange for a pass. Spare 3 hours a week for unlimited access. Sweet deal.

“I don’t have time”

  • We make time for what is important to us. Perhaps that Zumba class isn’t important to you, but the self worth you build by keeping agreements with yourself could be, or the tone and energy you gain along the way. Find the goal or intention that anchors you most and review as often as needed.

  • Set yourself up for success by preparing lunches, wardrobes and your gym stuff the night before, so getting out the door has fewer hurdles.

  • It does not have to be “all or nothing”. Sometimes the commute takes longer than expected and you’re cutting it close to get to a meeting on time. If you are unable to complete that workout as planned due to time, you have two options. Either condense it and put in 15-20 min of intervals or plan an extra workout that week so if one is missed or dropped you have your core plan still in place.

What will have greater affect on you? Action or non-action? Know what barriers tend to arise that keep you from moving (or following through with any of your healthy habits) and find options to overcome. The one work-out or one plate of vegetables isn’t what builds health just as the one missed workout or one fast food meal isn’t going to create disease. It is what we do consistently that matters most.

5 Thoughts on burnout & how not to

I’m currently finishing up preparations for a presentation this week to a local company about preventing burnout. I’ve done many presentations...stress reduction, eating well, lifestyle...and although the content I’m putting together overlaps a lot of that, somehow this topic resonates with me the most. Perhaps because I’ve been there. I know this stuff because I’ve lived it...and still do from time to time. But as any lesson in life, I don’t know that the point is never to fall again, but to gather tools along the way so we fall less often, fall less hard and get up quicker.

One of the daily rituals I enjoy (and yet still inconsistent with), is reading something uplifting as I drink my morning tea, as the start of my day. My favourite right now is to read one or two short essays from Timothy Ferriss’ Tribe of Mentors. The questions asked of 100 experts in their field are clever and applicable to anyone wanting to uplevel. I have come to believe over the years that there are no coincidences (thank-you Deepak Chopra), and those “that’s so crazy” moments of serendipity are in fact reinforcing that you are on the right path. So today, before I revisit my presentation, I grabbed Tim’s book and opened up to the next story. The bold quote at the top of the page reads “Burnout is not the price you have to pay for success” from none other than Arianna Huffington. I won’t rewrite the contents here because I truly believe this is a book that anyone would find valuable, but there were some key thoughts she shared about life and burnout in particular that I felt to be worth sharing here...and you can bet will be included in this week’s presentation also. Keep in mind I’m paraphrasing here, but this is how her words fell into my ears...

1. Express gratitude. Remember those who supported you when they had nothing to gain. She STILL sends a Christmas card to the banker who gave her a loan years ago when she (seemed to be) out of options. 

2. Put on your own oxygen mask first. This analogy is used a ton with coaching people to put self care as a priority. Arianna (may I use her first name?) describes her oxygen mask to be sleeping, meditating, walking, working out, etc. It took her collapsing in 2007 from exhaustion for her to see how important her wellbeing was to her productivity. She views taking care of herself as an investment (as we all should) that has pay-offs for years to come.

3. Reframe perception of time. This one is huge for me. I honestly always have felt this panic around “running out of time”. Even when I graduated at 25 from Chiropractic College, I felt I was late to the game (of work) and still feel that way at times. I think a lot of this is culturally constructed. In this context, she was discussing the parameters she had placed around work vs non-work time. She began to reframe what “work” time meant, and started to include walks and meditating and unplugging as part of her “work” because those habits were what enabled her to be productive, creative, effective and...happier. And isn’t that the grand poobah goal for all of us?

4. Changing your mind about something is one thing, but sometimes it is easier to start with a small action step to move us in the right direction. She gave two tech tips I love...one won’t be brand new but when I’ve done this, I had the best sleep of my life and got out of bed with ease. It’s as simple as plugging in your technology OUTSIDE your bedroom at night. NO scrolling through social media, or last minute emails. If you must remember midnight ideas, then leave a journal and pen beside your bed. But disconnect. The second, which was a new idea for me, is to periodically scramble the apps on your phone. She describes the benefit of giving you an extra amount of time to decide if you do indeed need to use their phone or if its more a boredom or habit. I’ve also gone so far as leaving my phone in my car if I’m waiting for an appointment. I’ve noticed things around me when my eyes aren’t glued to the screen and the biggest thing is that in a room full of people, no one is even aware of the person next to them. If I want to improve my connections in this world it wont happen by looking at my screen. From a neurology standpoint though, scrambling the apps on your phone or tablet is similar to taking a different route home. It causes the brain to pay attention and gets you out of the hardwired path you take each day. Any action that has novelty is brain food.

5. OK so, sometimes we can’t always be ahead of the game and lets face it. We all hit a wall from time to time. So what then? Typically that’s when we feel we have the least amount of time and often by then are in a headspace where solutions elude us and the downward spiral continues. SO what then? Arianna mirrors my thoughts on taking five minutes to breathe. If taking five minutes away from the task will make the next twenty more productive, you must pause and centre yourself.

There is so much more I could write on this, and I likely will, but these gems stood out. Start where you are, look to where you want to go and ask yourself if your current lifestyle and habits will get you there. If so, breathe and enjoy. If not, its in your hands to take one step (or one thought) in the right direction.

 

Choice Paralysis

A year from now you will wish you had started today.
— Karen Lamb
 

I don't recall if it was a podcast or an article I was reading, but I remember the message. The topic being discussed was stress and overwhelm. The idea being presented was that more choice equates to more stress - that too much choice becomes an opportunity for procrastination. Within more choice lies an inherent comparison of "what choice would be better" and the more options, the greater chance we will feel the potential of making the "wrong" decision.  In a world where we face multiple choices on career, companies, cities to live in, vacations to take, choices are abundant daily. The problem occurs when we become paralyzed by the many choices in front of us that we end up not making a choice at all.

Recently, I noticed that I have been getting "stuck" with my physical activity. I typically don't lack motivation to get moving but my problem is that I like doing everything. I like yoga, swimming, pilates, weight lifting, running (sometimes), cycling, spinning, I enjoy climbing, hiking, skiing, snowshoeing and even just walking. I have class passes at minimum 5 studios and have held a gym membership for as long as I can remember. Even if I decide on doing yoga, then I'm stuck on what studio I feel like going to that day. This choice paralysis has often resulted in me missing class altogether because I haven't made up my mind. 

Last week I was contemplating this and it was then that I remembered the discussion about having too many choice. I could see this was keeping me stuck. And so I made a decision to limit my choice. I cancelled my gym membership, decided to use up my remaining passes, and for the foreseeable future, focus on cycling, swimming and yoga. I felt a weight off my shoulders. I gave myself permission to "not do it all". I decided to trust that I would benefit from focusing on the activities that I most enjoyed and stop pushing myself to do things I felt I "should". 

I am a better human when I'm active. I'm a better human when I'm eating well and I'm a better human when I'm getting adjusted. These are facts. I do no favours by skipping that workout or by using indecision as an excuse to be lazy. In reality,  indecision is actually a decision to do nothing and that serves no one.

In your life, what are you not taking action on? Where can you simplify? What are the building blocks for creating the best version of you? Figure that out and then go do those things.  Do it for you (most importantly), for those you care about, those that rely on you and even for the coworker or stranger you may be inspiring without knowing. Take action. Do the work and get sh*t done. Move your body, eat well and get adjusted. It really can be as simple as that.