Posts tagged #mental health

The Importance of a Pause

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I recently took on a new position here at the Pearl Day Spa, which has me taking on more hours and duties. I love keeping busy and accomplishing projects at the spa, but I feel the increased pace leaking into the rest of my life. More time at work means less time to get stuff done around the house. Less time for that means close to no downtime. Life has a sneaky way of getting hectic.  It may not happen intentionally, or even suddenly. Gradually more commitments are added to the calendar, and before you are aware of it, you’ve agreed to 20 events in a weekend. Okay, well maybe not 20; more like 5. But in the midst of all these events, albeit fun, you still have to keep on top of those naggy little tasks of life, like laundry and cleaning and eating and sleeping. In a crazy, hectic, tumultuous life, it can seem impossible to have any downtime. “Downtime?  You mean shirking responsibilities? That sounds like a selfish luxury I don’t have time for!”

WRONG. Downtime isn’t a luxury, it’s imperative. 

Taking a moment to press the pause button allows you to process. Think of the last book you read, or the last crazy thing you watched on Netflix.  You most likely set the book aside at some point, or pressed pause to catch up. In these instances, we allow ourselves the space and time to collect our thoughts, emotions, take a bathroom break, and then continue. So, why then, do we not use this throughout our daily schedules? 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American works 8.5 hours a day. That doesn’t leave much time for family life, errands, or self-care. But when under constant stress, the body has less time to use the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls a slew of bodily functions when at rest: digestion, hormone production, et cetera. The constant stress of a hectic schedule can also lead to an increased likelihood of mental illness, such as PTSD and Anxiety disorders. All of this can be alleviated to some degree if one remembers to pause. 

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Pausing can mean different things to each of us. For me, it means a massage every two weeks. It means laying in my hammock outside while my dog runs around the yard. It means taking a walk around the block on my lunch break. For you, it could mean making time for a pedicure on the weekend. It could even be as simple as waking up before the kids and drinking your coffee in sweet, sweet silence. I would argue that the simpler the pause, the better. Sitting in silence with your eyes closed (better known as meditation) is one of the most fruitful pauses you can take, and it takes so little effort. I would argue that for a pause to be effective it should:

  1. Not take significant action on your part-- vacations are WORK!

  2. Be something that solely benefits you

  3. Is the only thing you do during that time (no multitasking allowed!)

What might pausing look like in your life? I highly encourage you to look closely at your average day and find times or spaces in which you can make a pause. Schedule it into your calendar if you have to. Allow yourself the time to pause and do something that is relaxing, de-stressing, and most importantly-- not important!



Posted on August 22, 2019 and filed under Healthy Living, Mental Wellness, Self-care.

Tossing and Turning? Try these Sleep-Improving Tips!

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There are few things more precious to me than a good night’s sleep.  I mean it. I pride myself on my ability to sleep at pretty much any time of day for any length of time. Okay, for all my bragging about sleep abilities, even I have restless nights of tossing and turning. It’s not surprising-- one in three Americans have reported difficulties falling asleep or waking frequently throughout the night. Our hectic lives can often wreak havoc on our sleep cycles, and it can take a lot of effort on our part to rectify the damage.  Scroll down to read some methods to getting more restful and sustained sleep.

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One of the biggest factors of our lives affecting sleep is stress.  The constant go-go-go of the standard Modern American lifestyle impacts our sympathetic nervous system causing it to be constantly upregulated.  This upregulation is helpful in the hustle and bustle, keeping us moving and alert, but when it comes time to sleep, our body needs time to downregulate. Allowing our parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for functions like digestion and healing, to kick in while we rest is critical for a happy and healthy body.  But in a stressful “constantly on” world, it is increasingly difficult to downregulate, which can cause-- you guessed it-- insomnia and other sleep troubles. If you find your mind racing, or feel anxious around bed time, try some of these downregulating activities:

Meditate for 10-20 minutes. Meditation is a really great way to override your nervous system to allow for calm and relaxation.  Need some guidance? Try a guided meditation app, like Headspace or Calm.

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Yoga. Light physical activity like gentle yoga an hour before bed can help the body begin to downregulate. Specific yoga positions, like forward folds and bends are particularly beneficial in calming the nervous system.

Put away the screens.  Phones, computers, and even televisions emit blue light, which interrupts the body’s natural cues to begin getting sleepy.  I recommend turning off at least two hours before bed, and do something else, like some light reading or maybe that yoga I mentioned before.

Limit the Caffeine, Sugar, and Junk Food.  What goes into your body is just as important as what you do with it.  Caffeine has a huge impact on your ability to sleep restfully throughout the night.  Some studies have shown that ingesting caffeine up to 6 hours before bed can reduce your total sleep by one hour a night.  Sugar can also rob you of precious sleep, which can even increase your blood sugar, posing a long-term risk for diabetes. So put the cookies down, eat a healthy snack if you must, and limit that coffee to the morning.  Your body will thank you for it.

Get a massage. It can be difficult to get comfortable in bed and sleep restfully if your muscles are tense and sore. Massage not only helps soothe any physical issues you might have, but can also have a huge impact on that nervous system that’s stuck firing on all cylinders.  Schedule a massage once a month to keep the continuing benefits going. I’ve heard of this really great place called the Pear Day Spa….. :)

Sleep can be elusive to some, but hopefully some of the tips above can set you up for a more restful night.  Of course, not everything can be fixed with some yoga and less coffee-- if you have persistent sleep issues, it could be time to speak with your doctor about potential medical conditions.  

Posted on June 12, 2019 and filed under Self-care, Healthy Living.

Stressed Out? Try "Forest Bathing"

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I have this habit of spending the vast majority of my time indoors. I even semi-jokingly refer to myself as “indoorsy,” preferring to spend my free time inside rather than out in nature. But often, I find myself feeling stressed, anxious, and tired. A high-stress life of modern society can leave one feeling frazzled and depleted. When we get caught up in our daily lives hustling from one task to the next, not only does our nervous system get tired, but we can experience a sort of “tunnel vision” that has us only half experiencing life.

Here in Eugene, I feel so fortunate to live somewhere with such abundant greenspace. Just being able to sit by the Willamette and soak in the sights and sounds of nature is a little magical.  And as the weather slowly warms up and the sun peeks through the clouds, spending time outside in Oregon becomes even more enjoyable. Even my “indoorsy” self has something to enjoy outside here: the Japanese concept of Shinrin-Yoku, or “forest bathing.”

“Forest Bathing” is the idea that spending time in the forest (or whatever natural setting you might find yourself near) can positively influence your health. Proponents of Shinrin-yoku claim that the connection with our natural surroundings promotes mental and physical well-being.  Through mindfulness, observation, and sensory exploration, forest bathing can help lower stress and bring mental clarity. In studies, test subjects who took a 40-minute slow walk in a forest showed lower levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) than those who did the same physical activity in a lab setting. Pretty neat, huh?

Shinrin-yoku, at its core, does not only provide benefit to the individual, but also to the forest. The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy (ANFT) describes Forest Therapy as:

“...not an extractive process, where we treat forests as a "resource" from which we extract well being for humans. Instead, it is a deeply relational practice, characterized by a sense of loving and tender connection.”

“...not an extractive process, where we treat forests as a "resource" from which we extract well being for humans. Instead, it is a deeply relational practice, characterized by a sense of loving and tender connection.”

Now, I’m not usually one to feed into pseudoscience, but this makes some sense. It comes down to compassion for your surroundings-- when you benefit from your surroundings in a meaningful way, you tend to take care of it more. Regular Forest bathing walks provide you with a firsthand account of the health and welfare of your surroundings.  Is there trash everywhere? Can you hear birds and other wildlife? Having a mindful experience in nature opens you to small details you might otherwise miss, and gives you the opportunity to take action to take care of the environment which you find yourself in. You win, the forest wins, the birds win-- everyone wins!

The next time you find yourself depleted or stressed, take time to find nature and experience Shinrin-yoku for yourself.  Interested in learning more about Shinrin-yoku? Visit the link below for articles and lots more information from the ANFT.

https://www.natureandforesttherapy.org/

Posted on March 4, 2019 and filed under Mental Wellness, Healthy Living.

Vision and Positive Change

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I am a big proponent of challenge and growth. Like a video game, I sit down, focus, and make an attack plan to make it to the next level. Inevitably, I level up—which feels amazing, but once I feel comfortable on that level I can sometimes feel lost. How could I work so hard and so focused to only end up lost?

Well, It turns out I wasn't as focused as I thought. Ouch, ego blow! I guess I am just going to have to dust myself off,  and come up with a better action plan! So, what is this woman talking about? Valid question...

Have A Clear Vision: I think this is where a lot of us can begin to get lost. It's easy to say, "I want things to be better!" "I want to make more money." "I want to be a faster runner." But in what way specifically do you want things to improve? A dear friend of mine always asks, "What are the measurables?" You may be asking," What the heck does that mean?!" But it's quite obvious. What can be measured. What data/information is present? What do you want to see change?  For example; Say, "I want to increase my monthly income to $X dollars a month... or... I want to increase my client retention X% this quarter...or I want to decrease my mile time when running." The fun with visualization is you get to make the rules. It's your vision. Go nuts! Dream Big! Why not? And write it down...somewhere you can go back and find it. That's key. It feels really good to go back and see what you wrote down and see how far you have come.

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Support The Vision: Spend time daily. Even if it's 1 minute or 10 minutes. Call it meditation, or prayer, or write it down, or have mantra you say out loud. It sound weird, but it's important. Tell the  people in your circle; friends, family, coworkers.  This creates accountability, which may feel like pressure. But to make a diamond of coal we need pressure. Pressure can also be called motivation. This feeling of pressure is in your mind. Which can be challenging in it's own right. Then, like your Vision, you remember, "Hey, this is mine! I am manifesting change and it feels hard. And that's OK!  Much of what is worth doing is not easy. It takes determination. You will not regret working hard. You will not regret staying focused. You will not regret being loyal to your vision. Conversely, walking away from your vision (because it feels difficult) may create a path of regret or self defeat. Good news though, it is completely natural to loose focus, and the gift with energy and thought is it's never to late to star all over again!

Open your your heart and mind for the change:  Open yourself up to the notion that you could be experiencing greater success. Yes, this may be sounding a bit "self-helpy/cheesy",  but it's a necessary step. It's difficult because it's not an A, B, C, 1, 2, 3 situation. It's not cut and dry. I can admit this part was challenging for me since I'm a  Type A person who prefers consistency and clear cut path.  But once I decided I was all in with my vision I rolled up my sleeves and asked myself, "OK, what can I do differently today?" One of my recent vision goals was to increase my retention percentage in a recent quarter. I'm going to be real honest here; it was a bit of an ego blow to acknowledge that I needed to improve in this department. You see, I fancy myself quite talented in my trade and thought, "Hmpff! Me need to improve?! But I was killing it! Right?!?" Oops! Looks like I had allowed myself to get a little too comfortable. Ouch! Again, it is not easy to admit this to you. I have spiritual practice and part of it revolves around the letting go of the ego. Well, the joke was on me.  (Insert Laughing at self! Hahaha!) And in the spirit being really honest, I was not initially laughing. I was irritated!  But, I looked myself square in face (literally and metaphorically) and  asked myself why I had this resistance? Why was I limiting myself...Oh Boy! Eureka! That was it! I realized I was placing limitations on my potential. Upon seeing this I was then open to acknowledge that I was a little scared. That's all...just a bit of fear.

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Put The Vision To Work: Make that dream do some heavy lifting. Treat it like a science experiment. This is the fun part. What I loved about this process was I could just pick one thing at a time, and simply try it. Then sit back and see what happens. I looked at my daily work practice and tore it apart. I consulted with others in my field, asked questions and tried new things. For example, as a massage therapist we do a lot of listening. I made a specific goal to ask more open ended questions and listened better. I followed through with clear questions about the clients' expectation for the massage. And when the appointment was over I asked direct questions about  the issues originally brought into the room and if they felt like they were addressed. This helped! Of coarse I was already doing this with clients, but my process was not as distilled and focused as it could have been. Another thing I tried was writing directly to my clients, going the extra mile as they say. I wrote to them about difficult things they were facing in their lives, about progress we had been making together in their treatment, or simply to say 'Hello' and thank them for their loyalty. Every day I thought about my clear vision. I spent a small amount of time "manifesting it" through meditation (again, call it what you like to match you). Then I opened my mind to the idea that it would work. And at work, I took to making small and significant changes. All said it was simple, but not always easy! I also suggest giving yourself grace when taking on new challenges. Growth isn't always linear. There are ups and downs. There is quiet a bit of two steps forward and one step back...but you are moving forward. Be grateful to yourself for growing.

I'm Happy to report that my retention vision Goal was reached.  Yay! It feels amazing to see the hard numbers in front of me (though I still have room to improve and I plan on it) Honestly, it's a little spooky and wild and beautiful! Now I know this really works. One of the many gifts of self growth and challenge is that it never ends. One may feel annoyed by this, but choose to feel excited about it!  And now I'm armed with this wonderful 'How To' for visualizing and making positive growth and change in my life. Will it be hard work?  Yes. Am I stoked to see where this wacky adventure takes me, Absolutely!

I'm excited for you and for me! Cheers on the road to success!

May You Be Well,

Lily Lunnemann

Posted on March 4, 2019 and filed under Self-care, Mental Wellness.

Keeping up with New Year's Resolutions

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Chances are that, by now, you have fallen off the New Year’s Resolution bandwagon. Research shows that almost 80% of New Year’s Resolutions are ditched before the second week in February. Overly lofty goal and aspirations can quickly fall by the wayside once the holidays are in the rear-view mirror and we settle back into the routines of our normal lives. I always start the year with a list of goals, and usually by the end of the month I am back to my old ways. This year, I made a resolution to eat fresh veggies every day (we’ve got a long and complicated history). In order to maintain these goals long enough to develop into healthy habits, I have noticed that two things help me to rediscover my aspirations: mindfulness and acceptance.

Mindfulness is a critical tool to that helps us to stay aware of our actions and thoughts.  It can be invaluable when setting and maintaining New Year’s Resolutions. Being mindful to the reasons why you chose that goal can hone down what is really important to you in the coming year. Instead of deciding to exercise more, examine what it is that makes you want to exercise more.  Why has it not happened already, and what do you need to change in order to attain this goal? Mindful examination of behaviors may lead you to create different resolutions. Instead of telling myself I need to eat more healthy, which is vague, it really comes down to adding more vegetables to my diet. When you feel as though you are falling off the wagon, ask yourself, “What am I doing that is detrimental to my efforts?”  It is way easier to microwave some leftovers than make a fresh salad, but is that necessarily the best for me? Mindfulness brings you to an objective place to analyze your actions and habits in order to move forward again.

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“To err is human; to forgive, divine.” Creating new habits is really difficult and takes time. Acknowledging this is the first step to helping achieve those New Year’s Resolutions.  They don’t come overnight, and they will have obstacles. Accept slip-ups with grace, forgive yourself, and make the choice to get back in the game. By doing this, you not only show compassion for yourself, but allow the faults and failures that lead to true change over time. This helps gently reaffirm your original goal. It is fine to have a week or even longer where your goals fall by the wayside; that doesn’t mean that you have failed. Failure only happens when you stop picking up where you left off.

I hope you have success in your goals for 2019. If you slip up, remember to accept your obstacles with grace and keep on keepin’ on.

Posted on February 14, 2019 and filed under Mental Wellness, Self-care.

The Value of (Dis)Connection

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When was the last time you ate a meal alone without looking at your phone or computer? If you are like the vast majority of people, myself included, electronic devices have crept their way into every aspect of your life. The average American spends close to ten hours a day in front of a screen—TV, phone, or computer.  That adds up, and can be detrimental to your physical and mental health.  Beyond being a distraction, this tech-heavy lifestyle can affect your health and wellbeing in numerous ways—but it doesn’t have to.  Here are some ways to turn off and tune back into real life.

Limit & Be Discerning

When you begin to limit the amount of tech-time throughout your day, it becomes apparent how often we tend to mindlessly indulge. Is it really beneficial to binge watch Law and Order for eight hours straight? Certainly not—I can think of a lot of things to instead that have a better impact on my mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing.  Making impactful choices allows you to take control of the technology in your life, rather than becoming the proverbial slave to it. For example, once a week I only watch television I can learn something from—Nature docs, cooking shows, that sort of thing—for only an hour or so rather than all day.  This way, I feel good about the content I am watching, and I have time to put what I learn to good use.

Practice Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh often tells the tale of savoring a cookie as a child.  Sitting in his front yard, he would take his time eating and being present to all his surroundings.  In much the same way, we can be present to whatever it is we are doing, be it eating, walking, or even scrolling through Facebook.  

First, only do one thing at a time. In our crazy, hectic world, multi-tasking is so encouraged that we tend to forget just how to do one thing at a time. Instead of juggling three things at once, try instead sitting in the present with one.  Don’t check your email while scrolling through social media and watching TV in the background. Instead, do one thing with your full attention, and notice all the subtleties of it.

Second, slowwww dowwwnnnn. The average user looks at an Instagram post for one second. What’s the rush?  Try this—the next time you are looking at Instagram (or Facebook, or anything online) give each post 10 seconds.  Look at all the details, read the captions, give it some thought, and then when you are ready, move on to the next.  At first 10 seconds might seem like a lot, but you will retain much more information, and be more mindful in the process.

Check out— even for a little while

Taking breaks from the constant inundation of social media, news, and images can have a great impact on mental and emotional health. Consider designating one weekend a month as a “screen-free” weekend.  Take a hike, spend time face-to-face with loved ones, or even schedule a spa day as a way to honor the present moment away from distractions. By engaging in activities in which phone use is either discouraged or impossible, you engage more fully with your surroundings.

Can’t commit to a full weekend? Try enacting a screen curfew for yourself.  Studies have shown that the blue light emitted by handheld electronics such as phones and tablets can have a dramatic effect on your sleep cycle. By shutting off all the screens at a certain time in the evening, it can alleviate these effects, and promote deeper and more restful sleep.