How to Get Good Pause

Mindfulness is most
effective when it's woven into the fabric of our lives - not just when we need it most.

As a  longtime meditator , I thought I had a pretty good grasp of the value of taking time to pause during a busy day in a formal, intentional way - aka,  meditating .

Taking a step back from the rush of activity held  demonstrable value giving a bit of breathing room to make more deliberate and well-thought-out choices.  This fit well as a counter to my  misguided identification as a busy person.  It was something I noticed in others, too: with meetings booked back-to-back, four or five in a row, many of my co-workers opened meetings with a statement about having a hard stop or having to leave early for... another meeting. All of this was a clear and present validation of how in demand we were, and that itself encouraged us to remain in a  constant state of doing . Pausing provided the necessary break to that unhealthy cycle of rushed activity and failed attempts to  multitask .

I was wrong. Not about having a pause, but rather how I was approaching it.

Although formal  mindfulness meditation  practice can have a  profound effect
on one's health, outlook, and performance, it can be tricky to follow through if every time you try to meditate the thought arises: "I should be accomplishing something, right now!" 

How often do you feel you have plenty of time to "just sit" during your busy day, without a laundry list of tasks to pull you away? If you're like me, not very often, and you may notice that as you complete three tasks, five more fill the void, making it difficult to defend that time for mindfulness practice you may have carved out from the busyness. Knowing the value it brings often loses out to other demands on our time, and being able to live a life of enrichment.

The Solution? Mindful Moments v. Meditating
My solution had been to introduce a simple pause many times throughout the day. Rather than having an "inflexible" 30 minutes for a formal meditation session - and then not keeping it because of other priorities - just taking a few moments to pause, and liberally sprinkling those moments throughout my day, was the perfect solution.

Until it wasn't.
Though pausing did stop the flow of busyness, after that pause I jumped right back into the maelstrom. Pausing was like stepping off a moving train for a few moments and then jumping right back on it again.

So how can you really open up the power of pauses? Here are a few ideas to explore in your own informal practice:

3 Ways to Boost Your Mindful Pauses
  • Shift Your Focus
  • Get Curious
  • Manage Expectations
Find out more HERE.

"Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."

-Melody Beattie
Good Habits For the New Year

You don't need to wait to ring in the new year to start making self-improvements, because it's always a good time. Especially  if making resolutions isn't your thing , a better way to set yourself up for success is to commit to making and maintaining  small changes. In 2018 - or better yet, now - pick up these 10 good habits.
  1. Read regularly: It's no coincidence that some of the most successful people in the world, like Oprah and Bill Gates, share a habit of reading as much as they can. If one book a week doesn't sound doable to you, try even setting aside 20 minutes each day to get some pages in.
  2. Take breaks (in all senses): Instead of powering through your workday from morning until night, force yourself to step away from your desk for a few minutes throughout the day. Getting some fresh air can help you return more clearheaded. Similarly, avoid burnout by allowing yourself to take a day off when you most need it or by turning down plans to give yourself some time to relax.
  3. Be punctual: Being on time is one of the easiest ways to be courteous. It shows that you care and you won't be responsible for holding up the rest of the group's plans.
  4. Relieve stress: Whether it's through exercise or a creative outlet, everybody needs a healthy method of blowing off steam to keep their sanity in check. If you don't already, commit to doing an activity you enjoy once a week at the very least.
  5. Check in with friends: Many of us often let a month or three slip before reconnecting with a good friend. Shoot them a quick text debriefing key events that happened since the last time you spoke and have them do the same. That way, you won't have to wait until your next coffee date to catch each other up on your lives. Also, instead of saying "we need to get together soon," set a date right then and there to hold each other accountable.
  6. Check in with yourself: Instead of reacting to things that are now out of your control, take a step back to evaluate your current state. Ask yourself how you're feeling, what you need more or less of, etc. This will help prevent your life from seeming like it's spiraling out of control during more stressful times, and it'll allow you to give yourself what you need, when you need it.
  7. Do more of what you love: Making time for your passions and interests will only do you good. Not only will it bring you more joy, but it'll also help you achieve a better work-life balance that will be more beneficial in the long run. Don't feel bad about enjoying yourself.
  8. Give yourself praise: Self-deprecation is something we're all guilty of. It's easy to criticize yourself, but it's also a toxic way of thinking. Make it a habit to flip those negative thoughts into ones that highlight a positive quality you have. You should also take some time each day to think about a personal accomplishment you're proud of.
  9. Be thankful: The simple act of gratitude can have tremendous benefits for both your relationships and your physical health. When you're appreciative, it also puts things into perspective and helps you focus on the positives in your life.
  10. Take care of yourself: Take preventative measures in terms of both your mental and physical health. Whether that includes drinking more water, getting routine checkups, sleeping enough, or all of the above, making wellness a priority will only help you out.
Healthy Dinners in 40 Minutes or Less

Healthy and fast food? Yes, it's possible! These tasty good-for-you dinners from Food Network chefs are on the table in fewer than 40 minutes.

Asparagus and Chicken Stir-fry

Freeze the chicken breasts for 20 to 30 minutes and then thinly slice the chicken against the grain into strips. Toss the strips with about half the garlic and ginger, the soy sauce, sugar, 1 teaspoon of the cornstarch, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and the sherry in a bowl. Marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes. Mix the remaining cornstarch with the broth.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add the asparagus, scallions, remaining garlic, ginger, 1/4 cup of water, and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir-fry until the asparagus is bright green but still crisp, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
Heat the same skillet until very hot, then add remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add the chicken and stir-fry until it loses its raw color and gets a little brown, about 3 minutes. Return the asparagus to the pan and toss to heat through. Stir in the reserved cornstarch mixture and bring to a full boil to thicken. Mound the stir-fry on a serving platter or divide among 4 plates; serve with rice.

For more quick and healthy dinners click HERE.

A 12-Month "I Am Strong" Challenge Better Than Any New Year's Resolution

While  New Year's resolutions  are often well-intentioned, the sad truth is that they usually fall out of focus. Have you been there before? We certainly have. So what's a more actionable way to meet your goals every month? Mix it up and have a clear objective month by month, rather than for the year overall.

January Challenge:  Try a New Workout

February Challenge: Compliment Yourself More

March Challenge: Set a Strength Goal

April Challenge: Pack Your Fitness Schedule

May Challenge: Gratitude Journal

June Challenge: Strong-Body Diet

July Challenge: Kick and Combat

August Challenge: The Buddy System

September Challenge: Meditation & Affirmation

October Challenge: Learn a New Skill

November Challenge: Heat Things Up

December Challenge: Give Back

Find out more here
OR a similar 12 month selfcare plan can be found here

I Don't Want To Be An Empath Anymore: How To Reclaim Your Power Over Emotional Overwhelm, Build Better Boundaries, And Create A Life Of Grace And Ease

"If you're tired of waiting for things to get better, and you're ready to step into an 
easier life as an empath, don't wait any longer. Dive into this book. It's time to turn 
your curse into the gift it was always meant to be."

Free kindle edition found here.
7 Ways to Sneak in a Holiday Workout

With the holidays and new year around the corner, Americans have travel on their mind. Many people find that during holiday travel, their workout regimen seems to get thrown out of whack.
Fortunately, with a little proactive planning, you can maintain your fitness level, no matter where you are.

1. Do a "Condensed-but-Intense-Workout"
Customize your own 30-minute workout combining three lower body workouts (squats or lunges) and three upper body exercises (modified push-ups or chair dips).

Warm up with exercises like marching or jogging in place, then do 10 to 20 repetitions of a lower body exercise and 10 to 15 repetitions of an upper body exercise. Follow this with a minute of jumping jacks or jogging in place.

Repeat this routine two or even three times and then try a variation of abdominal crunches, low back lifts and stretches.

2. Rehearse Your Routine
Practice makes perfect, so in order to be familiar and comfortable with your routine, do it as often as possible.

3. Get Active in Airports
If flight delays leave you with extra time at the airport, take advantage of it. Store your luggage in an airport locker and take a hike through the terminal.

4. Bring Tubes, Bands and More
Don't leave out fitness equipment when you're packing for a trip. Bring fitness videos, comfortable walking shoes, a bathing suit or other gear that you can fit in your bag. Inspirational memos from a trainer or a motivational CD could help you get moving.

5. Get a Jump Rope
Jumping rope is a great way to get in a few minutes of intense cardio workout and it can be done just about anywhere. If you don't have a jump rope, try climbing flights of stairs instead.

6. Plan to Relax
Don't overdo it. Staying fit is important, but don't lose sight of the real reason for the holidays spending time with those who are important to you. If you want to do both, involve the whole family in a yoga or tai chi exercise to unwind.

7. Ease Back Into Your Routine
Depending on how much you worked out during your travel, you may need to gradually ease back into your old routine. You may want to consider using lighter weights or decrease the intensity or the duration of your workouts until you can return to pre-trip conditions.

 Tips to a Stress Free Holiday Season
Each year we feel a mix of joy and anxiety when we approach the days before holidays. The holidays can bring stress starting in November and go straight through until the new year. 
We experience a combination of stressors related to financial costs of the holidays, family coming to stay and the conflicts it may bring, and the stress of trying to have the perfect meal and holiday all together. If you're one of those people who feel the pressure of the holidays, here are 8 tips to help feel balanced, happy and stress-free:

Remember what the holidays are really about-
 spending quality time with family, friends and loved ones. It's about giving love and joy to others. Watch your expectation; make sure they are realistic. We try for perfection during the holidays and we tend to forget what the holidays are really about. 

Take care of you- during the busy holiday season, we forget about ourselves.We worry so much about setting a nice table; buying and cooking the food; decorating the house; buying the presents; etc., we forget to take a time out and spend some quiet time alone. Yes, it's the season of giving to others, but make sure to put yourself on your priority list and put yourself high up on the list.

Ask for help- there is no reason why you have to do everything on your own.  Delegate this holiday season. Ask each person who is coming to prepare a dish or a dessert. Don't feel guilty about it. Each year have everyone make it a point to help each other so everyone can enjoy the holidays. Delegate the clean up from the dishes to vacuuming the house. If everyone chips in, it won't be so bad.

Watch the signs- listen to your body. If you are noticing any of the following signs then it's time to make changes:
  • Change in sleeping habits
  • Change in eating habits
  • Feeling irritable, moody and unhappy
  • Exhaustion and fatigue
  • Panic attack symptoms like dizziness, heavy chest, heart racing, headache, feeling nauseous, hot and cold flashes
  • Physical signs such as headaches, stomachaches, joint pain and low immune system (catching frequent colds and illnesses).  
These symptoms are all warning signs of too much stress and anxiety in our life. This is a sign to slow down and take a time out.

Read more here.
Richmond Tacky Light Tour 2017

The RTD Tacky Lights page is your guide to over-the-top holiday light displays in Richmond, Virginia. Brought to you by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, our annual list is your guide to the best tacky lights in the area. The RTD Tacky Lights Page has a map and pictures of all the Tacky Lights houses around Richmond. Find out more here.
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