Creativity as Self-Care: A Prescription for Fun

Creativity as Self-Care: A Prescription for Fun

Does your day-to-day life make you feel like you’re stuck in a rut? Do you have the desire to try something different but don’t want to change your whole life? Maybe a creativity infusion is what you need!

Think of creativity as self-care.

It has benefits that are good for brain health, body health, and it’s just plain fun! And who doesn’t need more stress-busting, brain-boosting activity?

Increasing the amount of creative activity in your life often involves some creative thinking. Real factors like time and money are often what keep people from exercising their creative muscles.

But with a little self-assessment and a bit of planning, you can get your creative on like crazy!

Getting started with creativity as self-care

How much time do you have? How much money can you invest in your creative endeavors? What roadblocks are in your way?

Understanding what your limitations are from the start is important. It lets you know that you’ll be able to keep up with whatever creative endeavor you undertake. And it will keep it from being disappointed, too.

As for WHAT creative endeavor to try, start with thinking about things you liked to do as a child. Maybe you could always be found with a pile of colored pencils around, drawing your world as you saw it. Or perhaps you were known as a fantastic storyteller, weaving tales to entertain friends and family. Or maybe you were the girl who loved pretend play.

(I was the latter. My whole childhood was made up of me being the teacher and my friends, brother, or stuffed animals being my students. Sometimes creativity and reality are tightly intertwined!)

You can also explore creative outlets that you wanted to do as a child but never could. Perhaps you dreamed of learning a musical instrument or taking dance lessons, but your family couldn’t afford it. Of maybe you grew up in a home that didn’t tolerate mess making. If you’re idea of getting creative involves lots of materials and a messy process, enjoy being in charge of your fate now!

How creativity bolsters brain power

Especially for women in perimenopause and beyond, engaging in creative activities fires up the brain centers to keep memory fog at bay. For most people, undertaking creative action– whether its writing or knitting or dancing– uses parts of the brain you don’t use in the rest of your daily life.By learning new things and asking your brain to work in unusual-to-you ways, you’re exercising your brain. Laying down new neural pathways is excellent preventative healthcare for your brain.

Creativity also reduces your stress levels. Lower stress has a cascade of positive benefits. For the brain, lower stress means less risk of dementia. For the body, lower stress means less risk of high blood pressure, weight gain, and heart disease.

Creativity as self-care is a can’t-lose experience!

Five Fabulous Fatigue Fighters

Five Fabulous Fatigue Fighters

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of women in perimenopause. For women who are used to getting things done and having plenty of energy all day, being hit with fatigue is rough. You don’t lose the desire to get things done. You just plain don’t have the energy to do them.

There are a number of reasons perimenopausal women experience fatigue. At the risk of gross generalization, almost all of them boil down to a hormone imbalance. Elevated levels of cortisol put the body into a state of chronic stress, and the easiest way for the body to survive is to carefully guard energy reserves. In your reality, this translates to fatigue.

And while you may be in the habit of reaching for a caffeinated drink or a sugary pick-me-up, stop! Those will only magnify your tiredness later. Even worse, they’re wreaking havoc on your hormone levels.

If you’re tired of feeling tired all the time, try these five fabulous fatigue fighters!

Drink some water

Hydration is key for staving off fatigue. If your body is dehydrated, blood volume drops. When blood volume drops, your heart works harder to pump blood throughout your body. The energy for that extra work has to come from somewhere! It’s being taken from your energy stores.

Try some deep breathing 

Most of us breathe shallowly all the time. When we fill (and empty) our lungs completely, we are flooding our body with oxygen. That oxygen wakes up the brain and the muscles. If you can work on conscious deep breathing for 3-5 minutes, you’ll feel revitalized.

Try this: Sit up tall. Inhale while counting to 4. Hold for a count of 4. Exhale for a count of 4. Keeping the breath deep, steady, and even is your goal.

There’s even better news for perimenopausal women about deep breathing. Breath work can help reduce hot flashes, too!

Move it!

Movement asks the heart to push all of that well-oxygenated blood around the body. Whether it’s getting up and going for three minute walk around the office or just standing up at your desk and doing some gentle stretches, the shift from being sedentary to moving enlivens your body.

Bonus points: Get outside and move around in the sunshine. Sunlight interacts with your circadian rhythms to remind your body that it’s time to be awake and active right now.

Grab a Snack

Eating a nutrient-dense snack can perk you up, provided you don’t eat too much. (That will send blood to your digestive tract, robbing you of the energy you’re seeking.) Nuts are a great option for a fatigue fighting snack. Their protein and fat will stimulate your energy without setting you up for a crash later on.

Protect your Sleep

Of course, the best possible way to fight fatigue is to ensure you’re getting the right amount of sleep for your body. Without proper sleep, your body suffers in a multitude of ways. Your brain is less sharp, your appetite signaling hormones aren’t as well regulated, and your fat receptor cells are all fired up. This trifecta of negative effects should be avoided at all costs!

Work to be as protective of your sleep as you are of, say, your wallet. Recognize that investing in good sleep pays great dividends.

While it may be hard to do things like give up vegging on the couch in front of the TV while you doze off, allowing your body to drop into sleep in a more supportive environment really does matter.

Wait…..were you expecting a fatigue fighting magic pill?

There isn’t one. But when you nail the basics of good health and wellness habits, fatigue falls away. Your energy levels rise, your mental engagement perks up, and you’re ready to handle whatever life throws at you.

So stop trying to overcomplicate things. If you’re ready to learn more and take action creating your wellness lifestyle, check out my ecourse Build Healthy Habits: Six Weeks to Wellness. Because when you feel better, you feel better!

Carry on, fatigue fighter!

Going Deeper with Aqua Yoga

Going Deeper with Aqua Yoga

Led by pioneering yogi Camella Nair, I was fortunate to spend a long weekend going deeper into aqua yoga study. The three-day intensive Aqua Yoga Specialist workshop was both exhilarating and exhausting.

It is always uplifting to be in the presence of women who are committed to improving the lives of others. We have all chosen yoga as our path to reach people often marginalized by traditional fitness programs.

Aqua yoga is wonderfully accessible. The buoyancy of the water allows people– regardless of their body’s ableness– to move in ways that gravity on land prohibits.

One of my favorite new-to-me concepts was using yoga straps as a sling in the water. I’ve used straps before to help people utilize the pool wall as an available surface. Using the strap as a sling to support the body, however, opens up so many new possibilities.

 

We spent some time exploring how aqua yoga could offer benefits to people who are wheelchair-bound. While recognizing that people utilize wheelchairs for a variety of reasons– some temporary, some permanent– there is also a wide variety of body movement we can offer them.

Perhaps the greatest benefit to the wheelchair bound is that gaining length in the spine allows the chest cavity to expand and the lungs to fill more easily. Imagine the release and relief of being able to breathe deeply while feeling supported by the water.

 

For people whose lower body is extremely buoyant, utilizing ankle weights and noodles allows the person to feel balanced in the water. The balance gives way to a relaxed confidence that the body is safe. The mind can calm and enjoy the support of the water in an unusual but nurturing position.

 

Playing with buoyancy and gravity is especially fun with how it relates to aqua savasana. The water is an ally of the parasympathetic nervous system. Allowing people to find calm and restoration in the gentle embrace of warm water is an avenue of healing we should all explore. Throw in a snorkel, and you can bliss out in ways you never thought possible!

 

Best of all, aqua yoga promotes inclusive community.

At its essence, breath, movement, higher intention, and honoring other peoples’ journeys are at the heart of yoga. I look forward to bringing this healing modality to even more people!

Aqua Yoga Fitness

Interested in more posts about Aqua Yoga? I’ve got a whole series for you!

Wish you could find Aqua Yoga classes in your area? Find out if there’s an Aqua Kriya Yoga certified instructor near you!

 

Fall Fashion for Active Women

Fall Fashion for Active Women

This post is sponsored by prAna. All opinions are mine.

Now let me be clear right off the bat: I’m not a very fashion-oriented person. I can’t keep up with trends, so I don’t even try. Instead, I choose to fill my wardrobe with well-made pieces that fit well and reflect my active lifestyle. Ain’t nobody got time for fussy fall fashion around here.

That said, my small but colorful wardrobe is packed with prAna clothing. prAna’s mission is to give people the option of reaching into their closet and dressing in items that reflect who they are. The versatile but classy clothing design makes for outfits that can be worn to work or on an adventure. And they’re deliciously comfy, too.

For fall fashion 2017, I was drawn to the Mantra Pant because they look light and breathable. I don’t have much use for heavy trousers here in Austin, but long pants that don’t make me sweat are hard to come by. Furthermore, the Mantra Pant is made of hemp, a sustainable fabric that allows me to be fashionable and kind to the planet at the same time.

Not sure what hemp is all about? Here’s why hemp matters:


Even though the material and design appealed to me, I was a little hesitant to try the Mantra Pant because the reviews I read online said that the pant length runs really long. As a 5’3″ woman with a 27″ inseam, this wasn’t enough to turn me off of the light but flowy pant. I’m used to pant legs being way too long for me!

Sure enough, the Mantra Pant is long. Really, really long.

 

But, no worries. With a few quick rolls of the hem, they’re ready to go.

Now, before you start wondering why a crazy person would wear sandals with long pants, may I remind you that Fall in Central Texas means mid-70s temps. We like to pretend it’s cold by wearing long pants. (But we also revel in the fact we get to wear sandals nine months a year.)

At some point, I may hem the Mantra Pant to a shorter length. But right now I’m kinda digging the cuffed look.

I can already tell: the Mantra Pant is going to be a staple in my travel wardrobe. There are several design features that make it an ideal travel pant.

First of all, who doesn’t love an elastic waistband (with drawstring) and great pockets?! The lightweight long pant is perfect for wearing on often-chilly airplanes. I think they’re also a fashionable yet functional piece to wear in the evening when the temperature dips. Similar to linen, the hemp trousers can be a little wrinkly and still look fashionable. The black herringbone print fabric looks great with a t-shirt (like the prAna one I already owned)

or dressed up with a sweater.

The Deedra Sweater Tunic in the above photo is en pointe for Texas fall fashion. It is made mostly of organic cotton (with rayon, polyester, and wool). That fabric blend plus the attractive chunky knit means it’s not overly warm. I can wear it by itself most of the time, but on those really cold days (that’s under 50F for me), there’s plenty of room for a shirt underneath.

I can see myself throwing the Deedra Sweater Tunic on over top of a tank top to wear to/from yoga class. And because we all know there are errands to be run either before or after yoga, I’ll be far more sophisticated than my usual ten-year-old-hoodie look!

The rich dark plum color looks even more vibrant in real life than it does in photos. It’s a fabulous color for fall fashion! For someone not fashion trendy, the Deedra Sweater Tunics saturated color and uneven hem make me feel really put together without much (any!) effort.

And now for the great news…..

If you’re a prAna addict like me, I have great news! To share in the awesomeness of prAna fall fashion, you can receive 15% off your order at prana.com through November 24. If you’re new to the prAna brand, the coupon works for you, too! Give them a try and then let me know which prAna piece is your new wardrobe staple. Just use MBCKSF17 at checkout for your 15% savings.

While prAna clothing takes on any adventure, the items are first and foremost mindfully made in order to support fair trade and sustainable practices. I appreciate that prAna strives to make clothes that help us all thrive in any environment and embody our collective adventurous spirit so we can focus on what really matters.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see that I don’t need much motivation to praise prAna clothing. It’s pretty much all I wear.

Posture Hacks for Everyday Activities

Posture Hacks for Everyday Activities

posture hacks everyday activities

Why is moving through life with good posture so hard? Why are we so prone to schlumping on the couch?

Perhaps modern life is just too convenient. All of that comfort comes at the price of our posture.

But if posture really does affect emotions (and all science says YES!), then paying attention to how we carry out our everyday activities is worth some effort.

Here are a few of my favorite hacks for posture problems in everyday activities.

Posture Problems While Working

Check out your desk set up. When you sit at your desk, do your eyes look down at the keyboard? If so, you may be experiencing neck strain. Do your wrists break at the edge of your keyboard, or are they supported? Can you adjust the height of your desk?

Take a quick look at your desk chair. Does your chair encourage good posture or slouching? Does your chair allow you to sit comfortably without sacrificing alignment? Ideal ergonomics should allow for adjustable height and adjustable arms to help you work with your desk set up rather than against it. Posture isn’t just about the length of your spine. We need to consider how your body is working as a whole.

If you can’t splash out the cash for a fancy desk chair (even though they are totally worth it!), fix what you can to help you sit up straighter. Maybe it’s as simple as a lumbar support pillow. If you’re shorter than 5’3″, having a footrest under your desk takes pressure off the low back. You’ll be able to sit up taller and reap the benefits of a long spine– deeper breathing and a calmer, more thoughtful brain.

You may give some thought to a standing desk, too, if you find you’re a regular desk sloucher. But be warned that doesn’t solve your posture problems! You’ll need to tune in to how you hold your body and shift your weight while standing.

Posture Problems While Driving

Raise your hand if you spend a lot of time in your car.

(I’m raising my hand. You just can’t see me.)

Raise your hand if you have ideal posture while you’re driving.

(I’m not raising my hand. You’re not missing anything.)

You see, I have three kids in three different schools, and they’re each in about two million activities. I decided if I was going to be spending so much time driving, I’d better start paying attention to my posture.

And that’s when I learned this life-changing bit of information…

Take a look at the floor of your car by the driver’s seat. In addition to the brake and gas pedals (and clutch if you’re old school), you’ll see a bit of black rubber in the upper left corner. Do you know what that is?

That’s where your left foot goes!

No, really.

If you put your left foot there– and not tucked under your right leg or curled up on the seat with you– your pelvis is level. Your spine can sit tall. You are in the most balanced posture. Not only that, but your chest will lift rather than be slumped to one side. Doesn’t that sound ideal for an activity where your reaction time is everything?!

There’s another simple way to improve your posture while driving. Raise your rear-view mirror slightly. You’ll force yourself to sit up taller. It’s really as simple as that!

Making these two small changes will greatly improve your posture while driving.

Posture Problems While Doing Dishes

I know, I know. No one likes doing dishes.

(Except for my grandmother– she grew up during the Great Depression, and she always said dirty dishes meant she ate.)

But at the end of a long day, a sink full of dishes often induces some pretty poor posture. Even if all you’re doing is rinsing before putting dishes into the dishwasher (hallelujah!), I’m guessing there are a few posture problems that pop up.

First of all, notice where your shoulders are as you’re holding that heavy pasta pot in the sink. Most likely, your shoulders are up somewhere near your ears. If you can teach yourself to lift with your biceps (in your arms) rather than from your shoulders (and trapezius), you’ll be able to maintain better posture.

Pay attention to where your feet are relative to the sink. If you’re standing too far away from the sink– perhaps because you don’t want to be splashed– you’re likely putting undue pressure on your back. Even if you’re hinged at the hips, your shoulders are likely rounded far to the front. If you stand up nice and close to the sink, you’ll be able to work with a more open chest and reduce the pulling on the low back. And now you have a reason to wear that apron your mom sent you, too.

After you nail good posture in everyday activities, make sure you understand how good posture during exercise boosts benefits.

 

Does Posture Really Affect Emotions?

Does Posture Really Affect Emotions?

posture affects emotions

Stop schlumping! Stand up straight! Your mom wasn’t trying to nag you or make you look like a prom queen– she knew your posture affects emotion.

Erik Pepper is a psychologist at the University of San Francisco, and his work focuses on how emotions and thoughts affect energy levels and posture AND how energy levels and posture affect emotions and thoughts.

Our brains receive information from neurons all throughout our body. And the way we hold our body sends the brain particular messages. This is one reason why many people feel emotionally down after a day at work. All of that sitting (and slouching in front of the computer) is sending your brain a message of depressed energy.

Think about it: when you’re excited, your body automatically stands taller with your chin higher and facial muscles engaged. You have open eyes and a relaxed, smiling mouth. When you’re angry, though, the closed posture of crossed arms, slumped shoulders, and clenched jaw sends your brain a very different message.

Your posture embodies your emotions, but your emotions are also sending your brain a message, too. Your brain responds by releasing a hormone appropriate for the situation. That’s the neurological feedback loop at work.

Have you seen Harvard professor Amy Cuddy’s TED talk about Power Poses? In that 2012 presentation, Cuddy raised the idea that by taking particular postures, we can trigger the brain to release beneficial hormones. This concept changed the way people think about how posture affects emotion.

If you can hold your body in ways that actually make you feel more confident and assured, shouldn’t we be practicing that all the time? But like most things in life, our posture is habitually rooted. Changing it, even if we know the benefits of doing so, is hard work.

I think, though, that’s where the real power of Power Poses lies: they are used in specific, trigger events where we need to psyche ourselves up. If we can turn our attention to how our posture affects emotion in big situations, that will raise our awareness at other times as well.

To put it another way, the link between how posture affects emotion is a two way street. Emotion also affects posture. We can use this to our advantage!

The next time you’re feeling low– whether it’s mentally low or physically low– stand tall. Whether you choose to simply hold a power pose or go for a walk (or a skip!), you’ll be flipping the script your brain is writing.

This is not just exercise moving blood around the body to reinvigorate you. This is you taking control to send your brain a message.

And if you’re really feeling like embracing the spirit of how posture affects emotion, take a cue from our Friend Phoebe and let your body take the lead:

http://edzika.tumblr.com/post/60457397622

 

If you’re interested in posture, check out 3 Ways Good Posture During Exercise Boosts Benefits.

Posture and Emotions