Tips For Great Sleep

Sleep can be elusive for some. At various seasons of life sleep may be more difficult to come by, and for some of us (myself included), difficulty falling and staying asleep can become a chronic issue. With the holiday season in full swing, staying healthy is of utmost importance.  The seasonal ickiness has officially descended, and when you combine that with all of our holiday celebrations and obligations, it’s all the more important to focus on rest.

Sleep is imperative to functioning to the best of our abilities during the day. Beyond affecting our daily grinds, lack of sleep can also have detrimental affects on our health. Chronic sleep deprivation increases the prevalence of heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and depression. Here are a few ways in which we can increase the quality and quantity of sleep.

benjaminrobyn-jespersen-540757-unsplash.jpg

Photo by Benjaminrobyn Jespersen on Unsplash

1. Shut down, literally.

Turning off or setting aside the electronics at least two hours before bedtime will impact your ability to fall asleep as well as the quality of your sleep. Blue wavelengths benefit us greatly during the day by increasing our attention, reaction times, and brightening our mood. However, these are not qualities we want when we’re trying to settle in for a great night’s sleep. Try slowly shutting down earlier and earlier in the evening and observe how your sleep is impacted.

joanna-kosinska-470407-unsplash.jpg

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

2. Establish a routine.

Establishing a nighttime routine will signal to your mind and body that it’s time to wind down. This could include a routine as simple as reading a few pages in a book or perhaps enjoying a warm beverage like a decaffeinated tea or my favorite Cinnamon Pumpkin Warm Milk.

heather-schwartz-731014-unsplash.jpg

Photo by Heather Schwartz on Unsplash

3. Utilize Natural Resources.

If you’re having difficulty getting to sleep and staying asleep, there are a few all natural resources to utilize. Some of these include CBD oil (my favorite can be found here), Melatonin, Lavender essential oil (can find this here), and listening to recorded meditations.

I use CBD oil almost every night to keep my anxiety from creeping up and keeping me alert when I want to rest. Ensure you do your homework and find a high quality CBD oil to take advantage of it’s many benefits.  I also love to rub some lavender essential oil on my pillow or temples, and you could also diffuse it, put some drops of it in a bath, or create a bedtime room spray.  Taking some deep breaths of this soothing scent tells my nervous system it’s time for bed.

I pull out the Melatonin when I just can’t sleep and nothing else has worked. There are different dosages of Melatonin so keep that in mind when selecting this supplement. I recommend starting at a low dose, or even taking half a pill and then working up from there as needed.

rawpixel-1137676-unsplash.jpg

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

4. Move your body.

Moving your body regularly, whether it’s vigorous exercise or a walk in nature will help utilize energy during the day so your body can completely let go when it’s time to hit the hay.

I find when my body has been stagnant during the day it’s more difficult for my body to relax, as it has energy to burn. The key is to listen to your body and honor what it is telling you. Also keep in mind that body movement does not mean working up a sweat. Many times an extended stretching session on my living room floor is enough to give my body what it needs for the day.

 

Finding what works can be a fun experiment, and will also change depending upon life events, time of year, and more. By ensuring we are getting enough sleep, we are taking a major step in improving our overall health. Sweet dreams!

 

The light in me honors the light in you. 

Embracing The Holidays

With Thanksgiving a week away and the holidays in full swing, this is also prime time for diet talk, juice cleanses, low carb diets, and fasting to dominate social media feeds, television and radio commercials, and our general discussion amongst friends and family.

This time of year and it’s diet-obsessed energy always kicks my messaging into high gear, because I know what it’s like. I know what it’s like to be terrified of the food that will be before me that day, and the day before, and the day after. I know what it’s like to feel weak, like a failure because my willpower failed me once again. If you are feeling anxious about being around family and friends this holiday season, if you’re feeling anxious about this body you inhabit, and the food you may or may not be consuming- I see you and I hear you.

I also know that you deserve so much more than the experiences described above. You deserve to feel empowered in your body and around food. You deserve to be able to be around food- any type of food- and be relaxed. And you deserve to set healthy boundaries.

brooke-lark-385507-unsplash.jpg

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

I’ve listed a few simple tips below that may be helpful to keep in mind over the next couple of months.

1. Identify & Acknowledge Triggers

If we don’t identify and acknowledge what is triggering our feelings of depression, anxiety, or perhaps body shaming during this time of year (or any time of year!), we won’t be able to heal it.

This is a difficult journey because we have to come face to face with the deeper reasoning behind these feelings. However, once we get to this place, the healing can begin. You may know right away what may trigger emotions this time of year. If you do- excellent! If you aren’t aware of underlying emotions or triggers, journaling is a great way to identify and acknowledge. Simply put pen to paper and write about feelings or thoughts that have been arising for you lately. Don’t stop to analyze what you’re writing, just keep writing for 3-5 minutes. You could also ask trusted friends or family and they may be able to provide you with some insight.

Identifying and acknowledging is an amazing first step. Once we identify and acknowledge, we can start to pay attention to our feelings and emotions as they arise. At first we may only recognize them after the fact. This is fine- still acknowledge and sit with that feeling. Identify it- give it a name. Then perhaps you will be able to identify these feelings in the midst of the trigger, and maybe you’ll then be able to notice when they may occur before the trigger happens. Also keep in mind, you may never reach this point and that is ok! The power lies in identifying and acknowledging, not preventing the feeling from occurring.

derek-thomson-425630-unsplash.jpg

2. Set Boundaries

As the incredible Brene Brown says “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.” Wow, how powerful is that?!

If you find yourself at a place where you’ve had or attempted to have healthy discussions about your feelings and the environment remains toxic, it may be time to set some boundaries.

Setting boundaries is choice we make to no longer expose ourselves to an environment that is harmful or toxic. They exist to give us permission to establish or maintain our mental health.

The concept of boundaries often comes up around the holidays because much of the anxiety that is felt this time of year is related to being around family members that we may only be exposed to during this season.  Further, many of us are taught to suck it up, to tolerate it in the moment, only to walk away feeling shame, pain, resentment for the remainder of the year until it happens all over again. Yes, there may be some anger or pain in response to boundaries being set, but this time the energy of this response will be different- because you will be different. When healthy boundaries are set, you will be treated differently because you have established your value.

Even if this means no longer participating in the family’s traditional holiday celebrations, you have freed yourself of a toxic environment and can move forward in your new boundary-setting journey!

priscilla-du-preez-444000-unsplash.jpg

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

3. Eat Food

Yes, most of us are surrounded by and consume more food than we normally do on holidays like Thanksgiving. Sometimes we also have parties to attend with friends, events at work in which food is catered or provided by your fellow co-workers. Simply being around food and consuming food does not mean anything about you as a person. Not eating some food does not inherently make you better than others, and eating large quantities of food does not inherently make you less than anyone else.

Diet culture kicks into high gear around the holidays. I’m always amazed with the advertising of the average number of calories that are consumed on Thanksgiving. Just think about that- what is the purpose of this discussion? Does it change what you chose to consume that day, or does it only serve to make you feel worthless while doing so? On a day that is meant to stir feelings of gratitude for all that we have in this life, many of us expend that precious time and energy berating ourselves for what we’re putting in our bodies on one day. I also discuss how dangerous it is to label foods as “good” and “bad” here, and this is very apparent around the holidays.

Maybe this year instead of focusing on the food, take some deep breaths and look around. Look at the faces of your loved ones around the space. Feel your body and send gratitude towards it for keeping you here one more year. List some things you are grateful for, in that moment. And then eat.

 

The light in me honors the light in you.

Nourishment

The concept of nourishment has been on my mind and heart lately.  Perhaps it’s related to the changing seasons, and looking towards the holiday season in which food is such a centerpiece.

As you may be able to relate, the holidays can be times of so much joy and love, while also being times of stress and anxiety. The holiday season and large gatherings involving food still increases my anxiety and brings back memories of the eating disorder and all that those years of my life entailed. During those years, the concept of nourishment was foreign to me. However, as my relationship with food and my body has healed, I am seeking more nourishment in my food, my relationships, my life in general.

The concept of nourishment is a complex one, but one worth exploring. I love the word itself- it’s so complex and there are so many layers to it. Nourishment includes not only food and water, but also the quality of our relationships with friends, family, nature, and more. To be nourished means being fully present. If we’re rushing through meals, conversations, and life in general, can we say our life has a nourishing quality?

Utilizing the following prompts may also help in examining the amount of nourishment in your life:

  • What makes you feel good? How often do you engage in this?
  • When do you feel nourished by food? What circumstances would make your meal a more nourishing experience overall?
  • Perform a nourishment inventory.Examine the following parts of your life and how nourishing they are. These can include the following:
    • people
    • places
    • thoughts
    • feelings
    • substances

 

The concept of nourishment has challenged me to take a look at areas of my life that lack nourishment, and what actions I can take to improve the quality of these experiences. For me this often includes slowing down and being present during meals, and being more mindful of actively listening when I’m with friends.

What do you think of when you think of nourishment? I’d love to hear how this concept resonates with you!

 

The light in me honors the light in you.

Cinnamon Pumpkin Warm Milk

The cooler temperatures have finally arrived and it looks like they’re here to stay!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am currently on a healing journey after being diagnosed with Dyshidrotic eczema. On this healing journey, I’ve been examining the foods I eat and have been going back to basics. I feel my body is needing a massive reset due to the amount of inflammation it has been experiencing. Reducing this inflammation and preventing future flare-ups involves keeping things simple- my food, my commitments, my life in general. I am honoring my body and giving it what it is requesting of me.

Throughout this journey I will be sharing recipes, successes, and lessons with you! I have enjoyed playing with new recipes and finding so much pleasure in returning to basic foods. It’s amazing how quickly our sense of taste can change when we allow it to by integrating new foods into our diet.

I have felt called to utilize some Ayurvedic recipes to heal my body.  One recipe that I’ve really been loving is a warm pumpkin beverage that is based on Ayurvedic medicine. I can do another post devoted entirely to Ayurveda, but in general, Ayurveda is one of the world’s oldest and most sophisticated mind-body healing systems, originating from sages in India. Ayurveda is much more than the food you put in your body, but food is extremely important in how our mind, body, and spirit are balanced and connected.

drink2.jpg

I have this warm milk beverage at the end of the evening, before bed. The combination of the pumpkin puree, cinnamon, and warmth are the perfect signal to my body that it’s time to rest and prepare to sleep. I have been struggling with difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep for several months now and this beverage has allowed me to sleep without any medication.

drink4

drink1

SERVES 1

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups milk of choice (I am a non-dairy consumer so I chose almond or coconut milk)
2 tbsp pumpkin puree
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tbsp fresh ginger, finely grated (about 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger)
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp coconut sugar (add more or less according to your desired sweetness)
1 tbsp coconut oil (optional)

Instructions:

  1. In small saucepan, combine all ingredients except coconut sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer for 5 minutes, whisking occasionally, until completely heated.
  2. Optional: Froth with an electric frother.
  3. Pour contents into mug. Add coconut sugar for desired sweetness. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Drink warm.

drink5

I find that the amount of coconut sugar my body craves is different each day so I save that step until the end. This is a lovely ritual to close each day. Do you have rituals to end each day? I’d love to hear them!

I look forward to sharing many more stories and recipes with you as the end of 2018 approaches! Let me know what you think of this recipe as well- I’d love your feedback!

 

The light in me honors the light in you.

A New Adventure!

I’m so excited to announce that I’ve been accepted to the Institute for the Psychology of Eating’s Psychology of Eating Coaching Program! I will begin this new adventure in October and I’m counting the days!

I knew that an empowering coaching program was in my future, but finding a program that was the right fit for me was not an easy process. I spent hours upon hours researching coaching programs. I knew I couldn’t enroll in a program that trained me to provide meal plans to clients, as that strategy doesn’t align with my values and mission to empower individuals to get in touch with their intuition and learn the origin of their cravings.

Providing someone with a meal plan does not empower them- it simply tells them exactly what to feed themselves. My goal is to find the root of an individual’s cravings- to help people trust their body again, honor the body’s cravings, and learn to eat when hungry and stop when satisfied. Unfortunately, programs that empower individuals in this way are few and far between.

Once I discovered the Psychology of Eating coaching program at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, I knew I had found a program that aligned with my philosophy of empowerment.

In less than a year I will be a certified Mind, Body, Eating Coach and I couldn’t be more excited. The last couple of years have been guiding me to this program and have solidified my life’s purpose to empower individuals to heal their relationship with food and with their bodies. I will be utilizing yoga, meditation, Vedic Yoga Thai Bodywork, essential oils, and eating psychology to tap into the incredibly powerful intuition we all have within us.

I can’t wait to continue to update you with my progress, and to announce when I will begin to accept clients!

The light in me honors the light in you.

Love Letter To My Body

Now that we’re deep into the months of summer, I’ve been reflecting on my relationship with my body over my lifetime, particularly in relation to the seasons. The summer season was traditionally a season of manic ups and downs, depending upon the reflection I saw in the mirror, the number on the scale, or the food I had consumed. The past few summers, however, have been seasons that I simply allow to come and go. I honor my body as it is in that season of my life and continue to treat it with love.

I suppose as I develop to nurture my relationship with food and my body, this is a natural result, and can also be easily overlooked. I am taking a moment to pause and celebrate how far I have come because there were times when I truly never thought I could have the relationship I have with my body. For that I am eternally thankful and grateful!
In honor of these reflections, I have written a love letter to my body.

 

To My Uniquely Perfect Body,

Wow, what a journey it’s been so far!

First, I come to you to humbly ask for your forgiveness. Although I don’t have clear memories of loving and appreciating you prior to when I started hating you and then harming you, I do remember days of childhood where I felt completely comfortable within you. Memories of wearing colorful swimsuits as an 8 year-old without feeling the need to cover up; of coordinating daily outfits that included shorts and tank tops throughout the summer without picking apart each piece of flesh that was exposed.

Remember when I sunburned you so badly at cheer camp in eighth grade…? Me too. Sorry about that. I was only trying to toast you slightly. Unfortunately for you, it would take me years to realize we are both much happier sitting under the umbrella, with a big floppy hat and sunglasses.

Throughout the years we’ve definitely been through our ups and downs. There are too many years when I told you how disgusting you are, while abusing you day in and day out. But all the while, you were there. You’ve always been there for me, talking to me, supporting me, healing yourself to show me how strong and amazing you truly are. I only needed to listen.

Years went by and then slowly, very slowly, I started to see you differently. I began to eat  foods based upon what you needed. I started to drink more water and less alcohol. And I felt you responding to me with love and comfort, which only made me want to continue to provide you with more abundant goodness.

When we finished our first 10k… how amazing was that?! I could feel my heart pumping with enthusiastic euphoria- asking when we could do that again! And in the dim lights of a yoga studio, when I started to feel you again. When tears of gratitude, shame, and support overflowed down my face. And I could hear you whisper to me “Stay here with me, and we can find each other again. I want our healthy relationship back. I’m here.”

I can’t wait to continue to discover more of you, and all of the amazing things that we can do together.  May I continue to come as I am to my mat, and to live each day to fully embrace this body I’ve been blessed to inhabit.

With gratitude,
Jessica

 

The light in me honors to the light in you. 

Earning Food: Mindful/Intuitive Eating

How often do we feel guilt even before we’ve started to eat certain foods? For some of us these foods are carbs, or chocolate, ice cream, even fruit- the list is never ending.

I am reflecting on the concept of “earned food” as I savor a piece of dark chocolate with blueberries. Years ago, before I learned mindful eating/intuitive eating practices, I would have devoured this chocolate, perhaps reached for more without pause, and then berated myself mere moments later- demeaning myself for my lack of willpower and loss of control.

This is what we’re taught to believe: that eating “forbidden” foods is a sign of weakness. The diet and fitness industry has made millions of dollars on the concept of good carbs and bad carbs, good starch and bad starch, good fruit and bad fruit. I call bullshit.

When we are out of tune with out body, we are reactive in nature. Have an uncomfortable feeling? Reach for the brownies. Got rejected? Unload a bag of potato chips. It doesn’t have to be this way. By introducing practices such as meditation into our lives, we begin to gain the ability to become an observer of our thoughts, feelings, and emotions, as opposed to being a slave to them. When we gain the ability to view our thoughts as simply additional information, we can then view them in a more holistic way. Sometimes they may still mean you reach for the brownie, and that’s great! The difference is this time you’re fully aware of why you’re craving that particular food, and you can eat it more mindfully, with gratitude for what it’s providing to your body in that moment. Then when you are satiated, you can be done eating and move on. It truly can be that simple.

Food is not something to be earned, it is an energy source to be consumed and utilized to allow us to live our lives to our fullest potential. How incredible is that?! The next time you have an overwhelming craving, perhaps take a moment to breathe into it. Ask yourself where the craving is originating and if that’s truly what you need. Perhaps you need a nap, a bath, or a hug instead. Listen. And then proceed as your body is directing. Continue to practice this as you can and see how your relationship with your mind, body, and food evolves.

 

I would love to hear your experiences with mindful/intuitive eating!

Words To Share

The following poem by Marianne Williamson has spoken to me currently. Just last night I printed this poem and framed it to place in my office. I need to be surrounded by these words right now.

It also reminds me of this post about the fear of success. I hope you find what you need in these words as well:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.
We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us;
It’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we’re liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

 

The light in me honors the light in you.

I Love Myself, Therefore….

“I love myself, therefore…” how would you complete this sentence?

How does that sentence make you feel? Do you instantly start to feel anxious or uncomfortable? Great! Lean into that. Why does the thought of loving yourself bring up these feelings? Often we live our lives from the perspective of limiting beliefs that, over time, we have accepted as truth. The real truth is these beliefs are lies- messages we have been told growing up, maybe from scorned lovers, or messages fed to us from the media.

Some of these lies may include “You’re not good enough”, “You’ll never have enough money”, “Thin is beautiful”, “Conflict is bad”, etc.

It is so easy to continue these limiting belief loops, well, because that has been our norm. They’re so ingrained in us we don’t consciously think of them, unaware of how powerfully they affect how we perceive ourselves and the world around us. And by choosing to change these beliefs, we are choosing to fight our brain patterns (I’ll do another post on how the brain is affected by our thoughts), which takes time and consistency.

By choosing to change these beliefs, we are choosing to make a difficult decision. But if our normal pattern includes berating ourselves day in and day out, should we simply allow this to continue? Think about it this way: If you said the messages that you replay in your head out loud to a loved one, hopefully they wouldn’t continue exposing themselves to that type of abuse. So why do we consider it acceptable for us to continue to constantly belittle ourselves internally?!  Making the difficult decision to change this thinking is so worth it. This is your life we’re talking about.

So let’s take a look at how we can start to change these belief patterns….

Mantras are a great way to start to challenge limiting beliefs. Mantras can be created for a year, a month, a moment- there’s a mantra for any season or situation! At the beginning of this year I wrote out the mantras from which I wanted to live out each day. I focused on one in particular and made it a point to repeat the following mantra hundreds of times per day: “I love and accept myself exactly as I am.” 

The prospect of saying a mantra hundreds of times per day seemed excessive at first, but I quickly realized it paled in comparison to the number of times per day I was telling myself numerous limiting beliefs.  And those limiting beliefs became even more apparent to me when I started to challenge them.  For a while, and perhaps even now, my limiting beliefs- those lies that I have been told and have told myself- have been screaming at me. Attempting to derail my relationships and keep me from fulfilling my true potential.

Some days I don’t feel like this mantra is truthful in any way. But I continue to speak  it anyway.  Some days I am exhausted from fighting to simply love myself, and other days I realize that my worldview has been starting to shift to a perspective of love.  I realize I am looking at people around me from a place of peace and humanity as opposed to a place of judgement. I realize I am listening to truly listen, not simply waiting to drown another in my opinions. And I know this all stems from me choosing to love myself first.

I am still primarily focusing on this one main mantra, and have also included the following mantras throughout the day, even if only first thing in the morning and before I go to bed.

“I am willing to change”

“The thoughts I am thinking and the words I am declaring at this moment are creating my future”

“I release all resistance”

“Everything I need to know is revealed to me”

“Everything I need comes to me”

“I am young, youthful, and full of vitality”

“Money flows to me in abundance”

“Everything I touch is a success”

When we change our perspective from one of untruths and limiting beliefs to one of love and acceptance, we start to see our entire world change. Because our perception of the world is changing. A world we did not allow ourselves to see starts to reveal itself to us. Beauty and good and love are here, but it’s not until we love ourselves that we are able to truly see it surrounding us.

How would you complete this sentence “I love myself, therefore….”? Simply put pen to paper and write without thinking- without letting those limiting beliefs creep in. Write all of the ways in which you choose to treat yourself and others, from the perspective of love. Then write a mantra and don’t give up on it or yourself. Speak it to yourself 300-400 times per day (yes, seriously). It’s not too late to save yourself from your beliefs. Your truth is fighting to be discovered again.

 

The light in me honors the light in you.

Seven Years

I have so many drafts of this post written that I feel it will take a year for me to edit it into a format in which I am both satisfied and comfortable.

I started this site as a safe space to share the messy parts of life. And I wouldn’t be authentic in this mission if I disregarded this universal pull to share this very messy chapter of my life.

This year, October 15 marked seven years since the day of my wedding. This year I took back the power of this date and as such officially changed it’s significance in my life. As a result, this has also been the Universe’s unwavering signal that it is time. It’s time to move into the next chapter that this life has in store for me. And Universe, I see you. I hear you. I feel you. And I openly accept this invitation. In fact I can’t wait. I feel like I’ve been waiting for this invitation for years now, but I also recognize that it has not been until now that I have been ready. Friends, my body is buzzing just thinking about this next step. And I can’t wait to share this next chapter with you.

I know the Universe will guide me toward the next piece of myself in which I should reveal.  All I need to do is wait, listen, and follow it’s direction. For now, this is all that I am able to convey effectively.

Seven years ago I walked down the aisle of my church and had a vision for what my life would look like. Today I am unrecognizable from that woman, and on October 15th of this year I graduated from yoga teacher training.

I’ve been envisioning myself, in my lace wedding gown, in a room alone, before my father saw me, before taking those steps toward my future husband. I’ve been asking myself if I would change anything about those quiet moments, and what I would tell that young woman anxiously waiting to start her new life.

As cliche as it sounds, I could never tell that bride to do anything but take those steps, knowing that yes, you will be betrayed by the person at the end of that aisle. You will feel pain, loss, emptiness. You will find yourself alone, with no money, surrounded by strangers in an unfamiliar city and state.


And slowly (very slowly) that city will become your new home. And one day, alone in your empty apartment, your new friend will come over with her boyfriend and they will give you an old television and microwave because these are luxuries and you can’t afford to purchase either of these items on your own. And then one weekend your parents will visit and you’ll be embarrassed because you don’t own any kitchen chairs or a couch but they will take you to Home Depot and your dad will buy you tools and he will fix your kitchen table. And your mom will cry the entire way back to Michigan but you won’t be privy to that information until months later.


And then, beautiful girl, then one day you’ll walk into your first yoga class. And all of the pain will come back- years and years of pain. But this time it’s different. This time instead of running from it, you lean into it. All of it. And an entirely new world will unfold before you. And you will never be the same.

If I could speak to that bride today I would tell her that she’s in for one hell of a chapter. That the world will fight to make her heart hard and that she will go into battle, but she’ll be fighting for softness and vulnerability. Fighting for hope and grace. And what she’ll find is that hope and grace have been seeking her the whole time, and for all of her days, they will never leave her.

 

The light in me honors the light in you.