Like many, I've been feeling overwhelmed with a constant reel of things I have to do running through my brain. With two part time jobs, plus a third endeavor in the works, volunteering commitments and parenting two teenagers who think they don't need me but really do (right?), I've split myself into so many roles that I've lost track of how to focus. I feel like all of these little strands that I've divided myself into are getting frayed and will soon break. When I was at my lowest point, a phrase popped into my head - "I need some space." I've applied this to many areas of my life over the past several months and it's really made a difference. It's still a work in progress, but here's what I've discovered along the way.
The biggest game changer is that I'm giving each commitment time, space and focus. No multi-tasking allowed (studies show that multi-tasking makes us stupid), even with the most inane tasks. When I say space, I don't mean physical space. It's space in my brain to focus on the task at hand. I set a timer for a certain block of time so I can still feel in control, but it allows me to get lost in my task, which is so amazingly freeing.
I've also taken Coco Chanel's fashion advice, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off” and have applied it to my obligation list. Does everything really need to get done TODAY? The answer is usually "no". Taking a long view and really assessing what has to get done by when has changed my lens on my "to do" list.
This brings me to my next area of creating space. "Just Say No" - remember that from the 80s? I know Nancy Reagan was referring to drugs, but what about also saying "no" to things that aren't important to me or that I don't have the energy for? Saying "no" means I have more time for the "yeses" that really matter to me. I'm trying to do more things that I want to do, not that I should do, which requires really listening to myself.
I've also added space between technology and my brain. I'm thinking of it as a tool, not a way to pass the time or distract myself. The only alerts I have is for text messages. My phone is usually on vibrate only. I don't allow myself to check email unless I have time to actually to take action with the emails (this one is really hard to do!). There's nothing worse than checking email, seeing something that you have to respond to without having the time to do so, where it will end up taking up space in your brain - adding to your to do list. I limit my social media usage and if I do go on, it's for a reason. It's to get information, not to pass the time. After all, if I was feeling so strapped for time, why waste it on doing something which always made me feel depleted, not restored? No thank you! I gained a lot of insight about creating space with technology by listening to Manoush Zomorodi on NPR. She even wrote a book about taking a break from technology called Bored but Brilliant. I highly recommend!
I still struggle with feeling frayed at times, but I think the tide is turning in my favor. Instead of it always being high tide in my brain, the tide is receding, giving my brain a break and some much needed space to be true to myself and really live my life. After all, as Annie Dillard said, "How we spend our days is, of course, how we live our lives."
P.S. I'm working on a broader concept for bringing simplicity, clarity and meaning into one's life. What started out as a way to help myself has evolved into something that I think will help others. I'm still in the developing stages of this concept and would love to hear from others who struggle with balancing life. Please take this survey if you would like to help me in my research! Thank you in advance!
I've recently started back working at the local library and my body isn't happy about it. It feels stiff and achey. Although I'm free to move about the library and don't have to be glued into a chair, there isn't a lot of movement baked into my day with the exception of shelving books.
I thought I could manage this by doubling down on exercise and movement before and after my work day, but it's not enough. For me, and most, I would argue, the secret to feeling well is to move THROUGHOUT the entire day. Get the blood flowing and the lungs working. The challenge? Making sure it gets done. Here's my solution:
My solution simply consists of a whiteboard (I just love the feeling of control a whiteboard gives me!) and a magnetized timer. When I'm at work or when I know I'll be doing something for a long period of time, I set it to a block of time (40, 50, 60 minutes). Once the buzzer rings, I have to do the items listed on the board. Every time I do the list of items, I mark it with a check mark (that feels good too). I'll change the movements every week. My goal is to do these movements at least five times a day, spread throughout my day. I'm still doing my regular workout in the morning, which includes some cardio, strength and Foundation Training. The difference is that I'm also building in movement throughout the day, instead of just at the beginning and end of the day.
So far, I've been doing this for the past few days and I feel GREAT! I'm even doing these exercises on the days that I'm not in the library. My body goes to bed at night thanking me for taking care of it ALL day. If you'd like to join me in this challenge, let me know and I'll help get you set up with everything you need, including a movement plan!
I've recently started teaching Foundation Training on the beach again and it feels better than ever in so many ways. This pandemic has certainly changed my lens on life and has taught me to appreciate the little things which are actually really big things, most notably the concept of community.
My regular students have come back with a big smile and eagerness to feel well in their bodies. It's so nice to see smiling faces after so many months of masks covering our smiles! I have some new students who are still unsure of what this movement practice is all about but they're intrigued. All of my students know that when they leave class they will likely feel lighter, taller, more connected to their bodies with less pain.
Our tribe is varied - we are men and women of all ages with different goals. We all have one thing in common though: we want to feel good from the inside out. We feel empowered to harness our body's potential for healing, wellness and strength and we're encouraging each other along the way. This community always welcomes newcomers with enthusiasm and acceptance so please join us if you want to see what it's all about! Your body will thank you.
With the pandemic, everything seems amplified. Good and bad. I, like most, have had many high points and low points over the past year and I'm realizing how much my wellness is affected by these hills and valleys.
I've recently been in somewhat of a valley and have been very overwhelmed with my life. I have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew. I wish I had more structure to keep my organized and disciplined with my time. But until things are back to normal, I have to hold myself accountable and figure this out.
I recently complained to my husband that my well has run dry. The more I've thought about it, the more I'm realizing what a great analogy a well is for one's "well"ness. There are three things that impact a well. The first is water flowing into the well from the ground. The second is the bucket emptying water from the well. The third thing that impacts a well are cracks and breaks in the walls.
I've been assessing my well and I'm finding it to be an amazing construct for me to use while in this valley of being overwhelmed. I can easily sort areas in my life into these three variables - water, buckets and cracks.
1. Water - for me, my well is filled when I get regular exercise, spend quality time with my family, connect with others in a meaningful way (I really dislike texting and social media!), breathe well, hydrate, express gratitude, help others and learn new things.
2. Buckets - I have many buckets in my life and I wouldn't have it any other way! My family, work, my dog, caring for my house and garden, helping others. All of these things take water out of my well, but that's okay! As long as I replenish the water!
3. Cracks - These are areas that need to be eliminated or resolved. Negative people, negative thoughts, whining (which I do often!), things that aren't serving me.
This "well" analogy is proving very useful to me in providing structure in assessing how and why I'm feeling the way I am. Both in my mind and in my body. I'm very lucky to have a good friend, Veronica Scanlon, who is not only an amazing yoga instructor but also a women's wellness educator. She and I are partnering up with the Little Silver Library to provide a Wellness Workshop to the community. We'll be talking about the framework of a wellness "well" and she'll provide lots of ways we can replenish our wells. This will take place on Friday, March 12th at 11 am. Please join us! You can email the library at email@example.com to reserve your spot!
Hey all you desk jockeys listen up! Here are some tips on how to create a dynamic workspace. Yes, I said DYNAMIC! That’s the key to alleviating back pain and neck pain from bad posture while working at the computer. As a former corporate gal turned interior designer, I have spent many hours locked in one position in front of my computer. Trust me, it’s a recipe for disaster! Your body needs to move to feel its best!
In my home office I alternate between standing and sitting all day long. Mostly standing, but sitting is okay too - as long as you do it well! I have a desk by Fully that adjusts from standing height to sitting height with the press of a button. Game changer! I have my screen set at eye level (using a stack of books) with my keyboard and mouse at a comfortable level where the bend of my elbows is little wider than 90 degrees. A wireless keyboard and mouse is key if you have a laptop. I recommend this one.
I take a lot of deep breaths throughout the day - in through the nose and out through the nose. Another game changer is taking Foundation Training snacks throughout the day. Keeping my mat out in my little Zen Den area is a constant reminder.
So get up, breathe big and move! Your body will thank you! Message me if you struggle with this and I’ll help you figure things out!
Here's a picture of my home office (which used to be the kitchen in the original house).
Just for fun, below are some "before" pictures of the space. Big transformation!
I don't think this room had see the light of day in years. It was coated in grease and filled with stuff - including dead mice in the ceiling panels! This space was the one that really confounded me in terms of design. I knew it wasn't best used as a kitchen but wasn't sure how to fully use it. It ended up as my office and zen den. I find that they go hand in hand and it's now one of my favorite spaces in the house!
I started a journal about three years ago. Once I had gotten my chronic pain under control, I knew good things were ahead and I wanted to document my journey. There was nothing that could stop me! Well, not exactly, but I knew things were going to be different. At the end of every entry, I wrote down what I was grateful for, trying not to repeat myself. After a few weeks, something in my heart and mindset changed. It brought a whole new lens to my outlook on life.
You see, I’ve always been a complainer and a worrier. While I love a good challenge and embrace change, I like to whine and worry. Challenging myself every day to find something that I was truly grateful for took me out of my endless reel of what was wrong.
This act of gratitude has helped me so much during the pandemic. I've been furloughed from my job at at the local library, my in-person Foundation Training classes have been negatively impacted and my kids are mostly in virtual school but I’ve been able to keep my spirits high because of my daily gratitude journal entry. During the pandemic I’ve added something that I’m hopeful for. Hope is what we need to lift us out of this hole. To give us the energy to keep going.
I’m really worried about the long term effects of this pandemic, particularly on our children. I hope I can help this generation of kids in some way in the future - whether through my job at the local library or through my movement classes, I hope I can make a difference!
P.S. Here are a couple of journal writing tips. The first is to combine it with something that you do every day, no matter what. For me that's drinking two cups of coffee first thing in the morning. I grab my journal as I'm pouring my second cup of coffee. I learned this tip of combining habits from the Feel Better Live More podcast by Dr.Rangan Chatterjee, which I highly recommend! The second tip has to do with the type of journal. I think it's imperative that the journal lay totally flat while open, has a nice feel with lines to write on, and pages that aren't too big! I like the Moleskin 5" x 8" size. Happy journaling!
I've spent the last three years working on two major restoration projects. One involved my body and the other involved a 1903 home. I've had a chance to reflect on lessons that I've learned along the way, so I thought I'd share them here. Let's start with lessons from my body project first. After all, without my body in good working order I wouldn't have been able to take on the house project.
Lesson 1: Pause and Listen
If you are experiencing pain, stop and listen. Rule out the serious stuff with medical practitioners and listen. Your body is trying to tell you something.
It was January of 2018 when I was at my breaking point. I was in an endless cycle of neck pain, ocular migraines, TMJ, daily motrin, finally resulting in an ulcer. Nothing was improving despite PT, acupuncture and daily exercises. I was chasing the pain and masking the symptoms without addressing the problem and ended up in a worse place.
Luckily, I stopped and listened to my body and I found an amazing translator to help me through this process. It was called Foundation Training and I am forever grateful for it. It opened up a conversation with my body that I had never had before.
I realized that I had to change the way my body was moving. That's brings me to my next lesson - Move Well.
Lesson 2 - Move Well
I used to be a workout addict. I would workout daily - cardio, weights, yoga, sprint triathlons. Then I would go to my computer and work for HOURS. I considered myself to be very active but in reality, I wasn't. I was only active for about 2 hours a day. For the rest of the day, I was holding myself in bad positions at my desk, in the car, even doing my daily chores. Yes, I was working at an ergonomically perfect workstation, but I failed to move. My lack of good movement created a "locked" body that I would then take into a workout. I was loading a broken machine.
My body got used to this "locked" way of holding itself, something Dr. Eric Goodman, the creator of Foundation Training, calls "complacent adaptation". I had to unlock my body and unwind it against gravity. I changed how I was moving and sprinkled good movement bites into my day - all day. Luckily I had my translator, Foundation Training, along with the book on the subject, True to Form, to guide me through how to do just that. Brushing my teeth, walking my dog, driving my car, working at my computer, even cooking and doing laundry. My body responded very well to this new way of constantly moving. My body felt supported, light and long. I had never felt so good.
Through this process, I even changed how I moved from the inside out using my breath. That brings me to my next lesson - Breathe Well.
Lesson 3 - Breathe Well
I never used to think much about breathing. I always took breathing for granted and figured that all breaths were created equal. Shallow, deep, fast, slow, mouth, nose - it was all the same to me. Good air in and bad air out. Boy was I wrong.
Turns out you can influence your body's physiology with your breath. I just finished reading Breath by James Nestor and was amazed at how important breathing is to our wellness. Probably the most important thing. Read this book if you want to improve your wellness with little effort.
A big part of Foundation Training is Decompression Breathing, where you use an expansive breath to decompress your torso (and axial skeleton) and create space for your muscles and joints to move properly. When you combine this powerful breathing method with movement, magic happens.
Breathing well also creates a certain calmness to the mind and body, allowing yourself to listen and be patient.
Lesson 4 - Be Patient
This should probably be number 1 because patience is key when trying to restore your body. When you're patient, then you can also be kind and compassionate with yourself. You'll also become curious. Because you're not judging yourself and you're listening, you can allow your curiosity to unfold and lead you into new ways of doing things. You can also re-discover your past.
Lesson 5 - Find your Inner Child
This is a new lesson for me. I've realized with the pandemic how much I treasure what I experienced in my childhood and how much happiness and comfort it brings me now. What stands out the most is my relationship with nature. Almost all of my best childhood memories take place outside. Building forts and making mud pies with my sister. Soaring on the playground swing. Riding my bike. Climbing rocks. Skating on Great Pond. Sailing in Maine. I am so grateful that, at 48, I can still do all of these things.
These five lessons (Listen, Move Well, Breathe Well, Be Patient and Find your Inner Child) are still things that I need to remind myself of on a daily basis. Whenever my body starts complaining, I pause and apply these lessons and get back on track. It's a daily practice but one that I'm grateful to have found.
As a kid I was constantly re-arranging my room, sometimes weekly. My mom and I had a pretend business called “L&M Moving” aka "Lisa and Mom Moving”. She was such a good sport and let me do whatever I wanted as long as I didn’t harm the walls or floors. I never bought anything, except for a horrible white particleboard bookcase/desk that I insisted on getting when I wanted to be a cool teenager. It weighed about 200 pounds so it was cursed many times during these moving projects. I had my bed in so many places. In front of the closet, creating an awesome fort in my closet, in the middle of the room, on the diagonal. You name it, I put it there. What I loved about re-arranging my room is that I could create all of these new possibilities with the same furniture.
Reality set in and I left for college and climbed the corporate ladder, which left me uninspired and unfulfilled. I married my college sweetheart (the best decision I've ever made), had two kids and became a stay at home mom. I had never been happier but felt like I hadn’t tapped into my fullest potential. I decided to do something about it and started an antiques business in a co-op shop in Red Bank. I loved it but wanted to do more so enrolled in an Interior Design program through Parsons School of Design in NYC. It was a dream come true! I opened my own design firm, LSW Design, built on the principle of adding soul, style and function to their homes by using what my clients had, buying what they loved and empowering them to listen to their inner voice. Business was thriving, but I was not. My body was in pain and I couldn’t get ahead of it. I had to make the hard decision to pull back my business and and focus on healing my body. It was up to me to make myself better.
Once I got my body back on track, life presented me with the ultimate design challenge. Saving and restoring a 1903 house in Little Silver, a gem of a town along the Jersey Shore. Here’s are a few pictures of what it looked like.
Pretty awful, right?!?! The thing was, the possibilities created the same excitement I had when I was a kid re-arranging my room. This house was calling out to me to save it. Builders were swarming, wanting to subdivide the lot and build cookie cutter houses. Luckily, we had a lot of equity in our existing home. My husband was game and I had a great contractor that I had used for projects in the past. We just had to pull the trigger.
Stay tuned to see how it all turned out!
Happy New Year! Tis the season for resolutions! Diet plans, cleanses and extreme workout regimes. Do you know what I say to that? "No thank you!”
As I’m nearing 50, I’ve realized that the secret to good health is LISTENING to your mind and body. So many answers come from within. The hard part is listening - not ignoring or numbing or denying. Listen to what makes your body and mind FEEL GOOD, and good things will flow.
Three years ago, almost to the day, I found myself in a situation where I wasn’t listening to my body. I was dependent on acupuncture, daily Advil and constant icepacks to keep my neck pain at bay. I used to spend every night wishing I could cut my head off just to relieve my neck pain. I developed an ulcer from the daily Advil (one pill a day for five years will do that to you!) so my doctor prescribed muscle relaxants and then, when those didn’t work, opioids to help me with the pain - $2 for 50 pills with no warning from him - what?!?!?!!? Luckily I had the sense not to take them.
Here’s some more background for you. I had been struggling with countless injuries for over 30 years and could never get ahead of them (knee, back, shoulder and neck). I did all the right things - ate well, worked out daily and put my health first. I cross-trained - sprint triathlons, yoga and weightlifting. But I was digging a deeper grave for myself because I wasn’t moving correctly. Yes, I was going to the gym for an hour a day and walking my dog twice a day, but in between I was sitting in front of my computer in a locked position. Then I would dive into my workout without unwinding my body.
Thankfully, I finally realized that being dependent on others to make myself feel good wasn’t working so, by chance (I think the universe working in mysterious ways), I dug out a book that had been on loan to my neighborhood friends for years. It was a book on Foundation Training. I had dipped into the practice years back to address my back injury and it worked like a charm but then I passed the book along to friends. I didn’t keep it up and went back to my daily grind.
With the Foundation Training book back in my hands, I started with a few exercises every day and could feel my body responding. Foundation Training opened up a conversation with my body that I had never had before. Within a few weeks I felt like a completely different person. I felt supported, powerful, nimble and the best part - it was addressing my pain. I wanted to learn more. There was a certification in Santa Barbara happening that next month so I booked it. I went with the hope that I would learn tools to get my body back on track. I came home feeling like Wonder Woman.
At the time, I owned a thriving antique and interior design business so I never expected to become an instructor, but once I experienced the work firsthand from Dr. Eric Goodman and his team, I had to share it with my community. What a gift! To be able to share this amazing work that brought me back from the brink.
I now treat my body with newfound respect, patience and kindness and it’s paying me back in dividends. It’s karma at its best. The greatest gift this holiday season was going on a New Years Day hike with my family feeling SO ALIVE! Cruising up very steep terrain feeling in complete control of my body! Carpe diem!
My sole goal in teaching Foundation Training is to help people make THEMSELVES feel good in their bodies. To feel strong, nimble and confident.
Foundation Training gives YOU the TOOLS to put yourself back in the driver’s seat of your wellness. Here's how you can learn more...
It’s been almost three years since I had my breakthrough moment. I had a thriving business helping clients create “feel good” homes. The problem was that I had been struggling with neck pain for over a year and reached a point where I couldn’t escape the pain. It put everything into perspective for me. I finally realized that your body is your forever home. If your body doesn’t feel good, then nothing matters. You are miserable and cannot function properly. You can’t enjoy life. So I took a break on the home design front and focused on repairing my body. You can hear more about that journey here.
Fast forward three years and I’m able to reflect on so much in life that I think a lot of people can relate to. That’s what I hope to share in this blog, called HomeBody.