Slowdown Showdown is an event us racehorses ignore. However, to have endurance and finish strong, a ‘whoa back’ is in dire order. Today I have four questions to help you figure out how to slow down before its made for you without your consent.
“She’ll be coming around the mountain when she comes.”
While writing this post a lyric from the old childhood song, She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain” got stuck in my head. ‘Whoa back’, she’ll be driving six white horses when she comes ‘whoa back’. Busyness can take many forms: a badge of accomplishment, a strained ball-n-chain , or simply a lifestyle without margin. When we get in busy-mode we have blinders in our peripheral vision, our backs are heavily weighed, and we kick ourselves to go faster. The term ‘whoa back’ isn’t in our vocabulary, so slowing down would be a crime.
However, at some point we will get bucked off and hit the ground. After we dust ourselves off we most likely will ask what the heck was that? Or where did that come from? Staying on the horse is about knowing when to say “not right now”. It’s about knowing where we need to slow down. And it’s about knowing how to do it.
1. What caused that?
I recently got bucked off of not knowing what caused my unstoppable manner. My schedule had no margin. If I wasn’t working on DMTE, I was working my second job, and if I wasn’t doing that, I was busy with some other project, and then finally…I would fill in the cracks with my family. My priorities were out-of-whack. The harmony of the many roles I played each day was out of tune. And the problem was that I knew I had too much in my schedule. Anyone hear me? I knew it, but ignored it.
Was I addicted to busy? Running from something? Trying to impress someone? I’m not 100% sure, but I know when I fall prey to comparison my schedule builds. If she can do it, I can do it. The word “no” doesn’t exist. The word “stop” is blasphemy.
How this happens.
During these comparison seasons chatting with colleagues and
hearing stories of massively insane schedules makes me wonder how they get it
all done. Am I doing something wrong? Am I not doing enough? Are they really
getting it done? This thinking catalyzes my expectations of myself, which can
be good and bad, but differentiating between the two is a challenge.
Why am I so tired?
This is mentality exhausting and frankly, its stupid thinking. No one is perfect. Who has it all figured out? No one is ever skipping down the Yellow Brick Road with all her ducks in a row. Everyone has different strengths. Yet, the problem with comparisons, whether it be on social media or in grocery store conversations, is that we don’t know the whole story. We don’t always see the condition of others’ hearts and how it weighs on their wellness. We just see the ‘yes man’ and subconsciously start to compete.
It’s a vicious cycle and a damaging one. We agree to things we don’t want to do, we fill our schedules to please others, and we constantly aim for perfection. But what happens to us in the process? What happens to our well-being? What happens when we’re running here and there and everywhere with no time to spare? Mistakes. Mistakes happen.
2. When do we know
when we need to slow down?
My red flags came from a variety of sources. One was my family voicing their opinion. Other flags blocked me from enjoying the outdoors like I used to. Another came from messages I heard in church or songs in my playlist. And the biggest one came from my body, the one vessel that makes it all happen. If there is one thing that will slow us down, it’s our bodies. My mistake was not listening to these messages. I kicked my butt a little too hard to try to go faster…literally, I got horrible piriformis syndrome which forced me to slow down, way down. Before the injury I knew I was exhausted mentally, spiritually, and physically, but I pressed on. And it got me nowhere.
The Bible talks a lot about slowing down, to take a Sabbath (Exodus 20:9-10), to just be (Psalm 46:10), and to come to Him who are weary and need rest (Matthew 11:28). These are just a few references in the Bible. But the Lord has a reason for teaching us how to slow down. He put it in the Bible so it must important, right? I believe one of those reasons is to give our bodies and minds rest so we don’t make big mistakes.
3. Where do we need
to slow down?
This question is simply answered by paying attention. Where are you most stressed? What is occupying the majority of your time? How is your schedule affecting others? Are they agitated? Needy? Lonely? Perfecting balance in every area of your life is not a destination. It’s a moment. We can’t be everywhere at once, hence this blog post. There will be days when the schedule weighs heavier in one area than another, but the key is to recognize it. Quieting the mind and sitting in silence helps see where there is congestion. Slowing down a racehorse isn’t easy, so start with giving yourself five minutes of silence. This awareness helps you try harder the next day to find that harmony. Consciously be aware of how you’re using your time, you’ll see where it needs to slow down.
4. How do we slow
down before it’s forced upon us?
This is a great question. I’m still practicing on figuring it
out. One thing is for sure, we need to set boundaries. Setting boundaries gives
us permission to say ‘not right now’ or ‘no, but thank you for thinking of me’.
Boundaries give us our space to recuperate
so when we do say ‘yes’ we can be our best. You can say ‘no’ to others, but
it’s imperative to also say ‘no’ to yourself and the expectations you’ve
Racing with other horses is a game; it’s not a way to live. When
you’re coming around the mountain, see if you need to ‘whoa back’ before moving
A hobby are more than just a hobby. Have you ever gotten overwhelmed, in a funk, or frustrated about the pace of life? Who hasn’t? It’s going to happen and repercussions may bellow; however, a hobby can help quiet the roar and make you feel human again. But wait! I don’t have time for a hobby! I used to think that way, but after a little experimenting I found my hobby to be a super hero.
What exactly is a hobby?
It’s an activity that someone does for pleasure when they are not working. The hard part is knowing when to stop working! With a hobby, time is not ticking in your ear. You’re not looking at the clock to see when your shift is over. It’s your gift to self, so you can be yourself. When you’re under heavy stress our bodies produce more coritsol which can be harmful to your health. But when we’re engaged in, let’s say, a hobby, you’re producing the ‘feel good’ hormones…more on this
A hobby is a
type of recreation that rejuvenates your spirit. It’s an activity that
challenges you in a way in which you want to be challenged. You see, your hobby
is YOUR hobby. No one can tell you how to do it unless you welcome the
reasons to get a hobby:
meaning in your life.
creative juices flowing.
self-confidence and self-esteem.
something to talk about other than work.
This is a big one: helps prevent boredom when boredom can be harmful for you. Let me expand on this one: overeating, depression, drug use, looking at things you shouldn’t, or alcohol use usually come into play when we’re bored. Boredom and its adverse effects are going to get the best of us at times, but when we have a hobby we have an easy way out and can focus on that.
The icing on
the cake about a hobby is that it actually helps you do a better job at work.
CNBC posted an article about how a hobby can improve your
work performance. For one, it helps prevent burn-out. As said earlier, it helps
inspire creativity and problem solve. And here’s that word again, stress. A
hobby helps reduce stress.
Back to hormones.
Hormones are a love/hate relationship. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them. As said earlier, the most damaging hormone is cortisol which is produced in our bodies when we’re under stress. The good news is that happy hormones do exist; but to get them we must do a few things. There are four major blissful boosters: endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin. Each hormone serves a different purpose, in a nutshell, this is what they do:
Endorphins are essentially the body’s pain killers.
Vigorous exercise or even eating spicy food releases endorphins.
Serotonin is the mood mediator. Get outside.
Being in the sun helps our bodies produce vitamin D, which helps produce
serotonin. Or even low-intensity exercise helps.
Dopamine is a gratifying hormone, in terms of
goal achievement. It’s all about goals and achieving them to bring on the
dopamine. We set an achievable goal and go after it, when we reach it, dopamine
Oxytocin. This is the love hormone. I think my
husband has an abundance of this one! LOL. Physical contact, hugs, massage, and
sex release this hormone.
comes to your hobby, aim to achieve one of these hormones. Now if you want to
experience all the bliss boosters at once, you might want to look into “R5HHPJ”
as your hobby: Run 5 miles while holding hands with your honey, drinking hot
pepper juice from your water bottle…now that’s a hobby! Sorry had to throw it
some great hobby ideas?
This is a
loaded question because you can make a hobby of your own; the trick to finding
one you love is to try some on. Here are some ideas of hobbies:
reading, couponing, writing, music, woodworking, organizing, auto work,
boating, horseback riding, hobby farming, candle making, photography, dance, wine
making, cooking, traveling, wilderness survival, Bible memory, drawing,
painting, decorating, gardening, hunting, fishing, camping, running, kayaking,
cycling, walking, surfing, sewing, essentially any sport, home brewing, collections,
puzzles, and pretty much anything other than work.
FYI – watching endless episodes on Netflix or being glued to social media is not considered a hobby, nor is something that can harm you. Remember a hobby is something that gives YOU personal enjoyment yet still a little challenge to enhance your well-being. A hobby could very well be the peacekeeper you’ve been looking for to help balance life. What’s stopping you? Let’s do more than exist.
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November is not the perfect month to be blogging about a garden…at least where I live. But it is the perfect month to blog about what my garden DID for me. Not too long ago I found myself walking to my garden, but I didn’t go there to do my normal tending of it. I went there to sit in the dirt. I had a troubled heart and felt like dirt, so why not sit in it too? If you don’t have a garden, don’t think this post isn’t for you. Each and every one of us has and needs a ‘garden’, maybe for the sole purpose of why I needed it on this particular day. Let me explain:
My heart was disturbed
I was completely dumbfounded of how I got myself in this state. Remember, as a kid, when you got in trouble from your parents…the flush of prickly heat bursting from your heart like a firework going off? Yeah. It’s that feeling when you know you really messed up. Believe me, this wasn’t an easy post to write; in fact I wasn’t going to write it. But it dawned on me that when my human-self learns something hard and valuable, I should probably tell someone…maybe it will help them in some way. So here it goes. I unintentionally hurt a dear friend of mine…I messed up. Part of me wanted to crawl into a cave, but the other half wanted to go to a place that knew me. So I went to my garden. As I looked over the rows of flowers and herbs I wrestled with scenarios. I tried to foresee the future. I played back my actions. Why did this happen? How did this happen? This came out of nowhere! My identity jolted.
In my garden that day, my gut was a trembling mess. My heart was anxious. I paced the walking paths and hid my face from my neighbors. As I dug for a tissue I knelt down and stared at the dirt. “Dear God, forgive me. Help me see the root of this action.” I blew my nose, took a deep breath, and got my hands busy. As I plucked little weeds and churned up the soil, layers of thoughts peeled off and exposed the truth. Wow, didn’t see that coming. How juvenile. We all have our adolescent times, this was one of mine.
His presence in the garden that day was strong; there is no doubt. I felt His comfort yet discipline. “What must I do to mend this mishap?” I asked Him. As I walked to the other side of the garden, face a dripping mess, Jesus’ words “the truth will set you free” squeeze my heart. But I don’t want to tell the truth, I’m embarrassed, I said. “If its freedom you seek, the truth will set you free”. After I wrestled with it for about 20 minutes, I dusted myself off and wound-up the courage to do just that…tell the truth. What do I have to lose that I already have lost? As soon as I expressed the truth-of-the-matter to my dear friend; my stomach stopped tossing, my mind stopped spinning, and I felt the imprisoned shackles unlock. I exhaled, and knew I made the right choice. Thank you.
Why you need a ‘garden’
A ‘garden’ is a place where we get our hands busy. It’s a place where we can be alone. It’s a moment in time where our soul is unguarded, where we can let it free and know it’s safe. It’s a place where we cradled the unique ability our Creator gave us. So what’s your ‘garden’? What place knows you? A workshop, craft table, mixing bowl, knitting basket, sketch pad, garage, what is it?
When we’re feeling troubled where do you want to go? Our ‘garden’ opens her arms. She knows that when we get on our knees, we need her touch. She knows we need to get busy, so little projects present themselves. It’s quiet. We’re focused. As we work, the surface looks brighter. It feels good. But as we move throughout the ‘garden’ and dig a little deeper we find a few deep rooted invasives. These weeds have been there awhile. Seeds from their fruit are ready to plant themselves. Is that what we want? The thistles on the stalk pierce our touch. We may step back for a bit, but find that if we gently grab the very thing that hurt us, we’ll then have the power to wrench and wrestle it free. Our garden understands the pain that comes with breaking free. So she prays. And because our soul is defenseless to her love, we feel the hope she prayed for. It’s in our garden where tears nourish her beauty. Where truth be told. And where strength and might persist. It’s a place to rejoice when we pull the weeds out and plant new life in its space.
Our next step
Our ‘gardens’ do more than entertain and strengthen our talents. They listen, they heal, they comfort. I’ve got some questions for you: What is keeping you captive? When are you going to do something about it? Who do you need to talk to? I encourage you to visit your special place this week. When you’re there, whisper loud enough for you to hear, and talk about what imprisons your heart. All you’re doing that day is getting the frustrations out. Then revisit your place again later in the week. Get your hands busy. And ask God for help. You may not hear anything right away, but as you live your life over the next couple weeks be aware of your surroundings, open your senses. He’ll talk to you and give you the answer.
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Stress got you? Two years ago I accidentally deleted my entire website. The uninvited hot, prickly stress-wave crashed on my face when I saw ‘File Not Found’. It’s in these stressful moments when we start talking out loud to ourselves, “WHAT THE? NO!!” Stress can make us do funny things with our actions, words, and even our bodies. But I’ve found one thing that fights stress with a punch. It’s so simple ANYONE can do it TODAY.
Building my own website was my choice. I wanted the challenge. Doing something like this requires time, learning, and creativity. It had been a journey of gratifying moments and ‘oh crap’ sessions. That night was one of those sessions…OOPS. One accidental click, GONE!
Stress is like a leech that won’t detach.
It saps the life out of us. So how do we manage this life sucking Jabba the Hutt from our bodies? First of all, I hate leeches. Years ago I went on a fishing trip in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota. It was an amazing trip, but guess what we used as bait? Leeches! I screamed every time I TRIED to bait my hook…the leech latched-on to my finger! Do you think vigorous shaking of my hand and screaming got the leech off? Apparently leeches don’t have ears. My husband had to pull it off for me.
What if we could see stress attached to our bodies? We’d probably do a better job at managing it. Stress is the cause of many aliments. It’s because cortisol, the stress hormone, has a hay-day in our bodies. Chronic high levels of cortisol contribute to IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), heart disease, anxiety, high blood pressure, hormonal imbalances, autoimmune disorders, sleep disturbances, the list goes on.**
The way to detach stress is to naturally fight back with things that decrease those levels, right? Easier said than done. So get this…some people will use things to manage their stress that actually causes MORE stress! I’m talking about eating a pint of ice-cream, sugar filled gluten rich desserts, a bag of salty snacks, alcohol, smokes, or pills. Sure, in the short run those things might help; but in the long term the leech is feasting off those inflammatory substances. All those foods inflame your innards. Without awareness or portion control, that inflammation can lead to physical issues = STRESS! It’s a vicious cycle. Believe me, I know!
I wanted to fix my website immediately. But all I could do in that moment was intertwine my fingers and pray. I needed someone to pull the leech off. So why not ask God. As calmly as I could I prayed, “Dear Gracious God…wait a second, OH GOD. AH! I DELETED MY WEBSITE!! HELP ME FIGURE THIS OUT. PLEASE! AMEN.”
It felt as if my fingertips went numb. Whoa, what is happening to me? God is that you? Angelic song filled my house as divine power struck my body. Light beams shot out of my fingertips. I started levitating. Wait. Wait. See how stress can make you think funny things. As much as I wanted the Beauty and the Beast resurrection, I knew it wasn’t in the plan. In fact, God did answer my prayer. But in a way I didn’t expect. He nudged me to move. Christy, manage the stress, before managing the problem. I closed my eyes. Inhaled a deep breath and exhaled slowly. I was afraid to touch the keyboard, so I took that as a sign to step away. My desire to go outside to sit next to my favorite tree was unstoppable. Strange? Eh. Kind of. But with good reason…
According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, spending even just five minutes around trees or in green spaces, helps lower blood pressure, reduces stress, improves mood, instills focus, accelerates healing, increases energy, and improves sleep.* And you wonder why I craved to get outside…
The article goes on to say, “Numerous studies show that… simply sitting looking at the trees reduces…stress-related hormones… Looking at pictures of trees has a similar, but less dramatic, effect.” *
I trusted that instinct and sat next to my blue spruce. Its soft yet firm pine needles combed my sweaty palms. The sky was black and peppered with stars. My body relaxed. Heart quieted. I was reminded of how big our world was and how I was making this little mistake bigger than the world! Within a matter of minutes calm came over me. “Hi God, it’s me again… thanks for getting me outside. I needed that.”Have you figured out that one thing that everyone can do to fights stress today?
Here are 5 additional tips on what to do with stress:
Admit it. Say, “I’m stressed out. ___ is causing my stress.”
Say a prayer… Your Creator may need to remind you of something.
Find your happy OUTDOOR place and go there… the beach, woods, prairie, park, yard…
Create an environment at work that promotes peace.
Pictures of the beech, mountains, trees, sunrise, a garden…whatever nature scene speaks to you. Put a picture or two in your office, cubical, or wallet. Have it handy.
Start incorporating an outdoor recess at work or home, whether it’s exercising, reading the paper, walking the dog, playing with the kids, a lunch break, just get outside. J
This may sound too simple, but you’ll find it’ll make a BIG impact. The next morning I mended my website mishap. It so happened, I found a back-up on the server. But I wouldn’t have been able to figure that out without a clear head, a good night’s sleep, and a little time outside with my trees. Do your existence a favor, get outside. What is one thing you can do this month to make that happen?
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Curious about YOUR wellness and how to make it AWESOME!contact me today.
Every year I have an off-month. Typically it occurs after Christmas. Now that the huge holiday is over, “normal life” makes its way to back earth…whether from heaven or hell. Wouldn’t it make more sense if December was my off month? Probably, but it’s not.
When there are lots of projects and deadlines to be met we go into fight-or-flight mode. We anticipate the gratification of getting things done. But when distractions come into play, our “zone” gets off course, cortisol enters our bodies. Memory gets foggy, throats get sore, and digestive tracts get out of whack. Cortisol is the ‘bad stress hormone’.*
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nobody can bring you peace but yourself.” This year I was on a quest to destroy my cortisol-feeders. My strategy? Awareness. I simply paid attention to the little things and did something about them.
Here are 5 discoveries that fed my killjoy:
The step-counters. At first I found it curious. But then it became an obsession. I had to reach my 10,000 or it wasn’t a good day. = DISTRACTION. I applaud the creators for getting my attention. I took it off.
Social Media. “I’ll just check it”, then 45 minutes later I’m like “What just happened?” = DISTRACTION. I accomplished nothing! I set a timer.
Health. My body got tired of ME ignoring it. My small health issue was turning into a major DISTRACTION. I changed my diet and workout.
My purse. Wow, this was stressing me out. It was awkward on my shoulder. Too HEAVY! Not organized. Weird zipper. = DISTRACTION. I changed my purse.
Paper Clutter. Junk mail, receipts, sticky notes, magazines, sale ads, newspapers were all over the house. = DISTRACTION. I got a recycle bin.
When the big “task” (Holidays or end of the school year) is complete, cortisol levels go back to normal. Everything is fine, right? Not necessarily. Think of a wave approaching shore. When a wave breaks how does it hit the beach? It crashes, sand and shells stir, water splashes. It takes time for the water to settle.
The wave of cortisol might be gone, but our bodies take a lot longer to recover. Needless to say February is my crash month. Sickness is EVERYWHERE, my body hurts, and everyone seems Vitamin D deficient…I live in the cloudiest place on earth, Michigan.** February may be the shortest month, but to me it feels like the longest.
Here are 5 strategies that have worked for me to combat the “crash”:
I set a daily routine. Routines help reduce anxiety, we sleep better, and we are more productive.***
I’m keeping a food journal and paying attention to how my body feels after I eat something. I give it at least a week+ before I draw conclusions.
I make a ‘daily to-do list’ that includes errands and simple things like laundry and walking the dog.
I make sure to get outside every day for at least 20 minutes.
I cut out (as much as possible) disturbing TV shows and movies, even the news. I know bad stuff is out there; I don’t need to be reminded of it day and night.
Taking charge of your existence needs awareness, self-discipline, and time; but it’s all worth your sanity. What is one thing you can change today to help fight stress and its crash?
I’ll never forget the time when I was 10 years old; I reached for the flour in an overhead cupboard. My fingertips were millimeters away from the canister. One… more… bit… CRASH!
I was successful in getting the flour down, but it wasn’t in the canister… it was on my head. I stood there and sulked as my older sister laughed at me. She called me “Casper”.
Back then my dream was to become a baker. I loved making cookies, more so eating the dough… but I enjoyed mixing simple ingredients to make something quite delicious.
My baking dream might have fizzled away but my need to create has not. To truly feel alive I need to create something; whether it’s cookies, a garden, a writing piece, or simply drawing a picture on my son’s lunch bag. It is gratifying to see what my imagination can create.
Being creative isn’t just for fun. Creative thinking can solve problems, help us perform better at our jobs, help with depression, and it can help make a difference in peoples’ lives. Look at music, art, dance, and literature… what are those talents trying to do? Matthew Barnet has a great answer: “Fulfilled artists do not paint or sculpt for the sake of creating more art. They do it to move people and challenge them to see the world differently. “*
Want to know what’s scary? From CreatingMinds.org they say our creativity fades away when we don’t use it. As in the Bible it says, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything…” Matthew 5:13. (NIV)
In our busy lives, it’s important to take a time-out to be creative; to take a small step in becoming the unique person we were intended to be. Not just for ourselves, but for the sake of others.
The creativity light still has a glow in us. Let’s blow on the flame to make it brighter. There is no better time than now to get our hands busy; our minds will love it, our hearts will feel good, and we may incite someone’s perspective.
One of my favorite things to do in spring is plant a tree or two. I grew up with trees surrounding me. I loved it. When I didn’t have anyone to play with me, I went outside and played with the trees. No I’m not a major tree hugger. I’m imaginative. The trees kept me company, they were my audience when I performed, they listened to me, and they taught me about pollen. HACHOO! Some 30 years later I still adore trees.
There are about 3 to 6 billion trees cut down globally per year. That’s a lot of trees! No wonder our atmosphere is so polluted. Mahatma Gandhi has a valid point, “What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.” Trees reduce air pollution, they enrich habitats, they bring beauty to the eye, and they shelter and comfort us in many ways. To help enrich our home, soul, and Mother Earth we can certainly recycle paper products which is good, but what would be better is if we could also plant a few trees.
Seven years ago I got a sapling from a co-worker. He had got it as a promotional item. I asked, “What are you going to do with that tree?” He said he was going to toss it unless I wanted it. I think you can guess what my response was. Instead of planting it out in the backyard right away, I planted it in a clay pot. This tree lived in the pot for three years before I planted it in our front yard…see picture at right. I still gave it some food and pruned the bottom branches so it would grow UP rather than OUT. Every time I look at the tree, it reminds me of not only saving it from the depths of the dump, but that I am making a difference. “Trees are the best monuments that a man can erect to his own memory. They speak his praises without flattery, and they are blessings to children yet unborn.” – Lord Orrery, 1749
Try something different this spring, plant a tree in a pot and take care of it for a few years before finding a place to plant it. Don’t worry there is always a place to plant a tree. You will be making a big difference by planting a tree. “In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.” John Muir
Maybe the tree can represent an important time in your life?
Make sure the tree gets plenty of sunlight and water. Bring the tree indoors during the cold winter months.