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No time to unwind?

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Ah, the Fall – that beautiful time of year when the weather gets cold enough for jeans and a sweater, leaves begin to turn a palette of brilliant colors, and suddenly, we are racked with work, responsibility and an ever growing to-do list. Enter STRESS, that evil creature who creeps up on you like an animal of prey, paws and claws ready to squeeze you tight until your eyes are bulging. Suddenly, without warning, your short fuse has burned out and you’re snapping at the helpless Starbucks barista for taking too damn long with your half-caf pumpkin soy latte.

Stress is totally normal, we all experience it in every day life. The problem with stress is when it becomes chronic. Our bodies naturally respond to stress with a “fight or flight” response – adrenal glands release hormones like cortisol, adrenaline and corticosterone which give us an energy boost and strength to fight or flee. This makes sense when you are staring down a black bear, not so much when your boss is enforcing a nearly impossible deadline. When chronic stress is present, so are the stress hormones, wrecking havoc on digestion – increasing appetite and weight gain, nervous system – causing anxiety and depression, and immune system – leading to sickness, autoimmune diseases, and even cancer.

So, how do you take a time-out and manage your stress when there is no time to take? Here are a few suggestions to help you cope that take no time at all.

1. Take a deep breath. In fact, take 3.

Behold, the power of oxygen. When we get stressed, our breath gets shallow and our heart rate increases. The simple act of breathing deeply is like hitting the reset button on our psyches. Wherever you are, when you feel that tight grip of stress come on, close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Breath in through your nose, fill your lungs completely, and slowly exhale. Repeat two more times and slowly open your eyes. You’ll feel much better and it only takes 20 seconds.

2. Try adding an anti-stress supplement to your daily vitamin routine.

Adaptogens are herbal supplements used for centuries in Chinese, Tibetan, Ayurvedic and Native American medicine to improve adrenal health. Used regularly, they help reduce anxiety and fight fatigue by regulating cortisol levels and enabling the body to utilize oxygen more efficiently. Panax Ginseng, also referred to as Asian Ginseng, will give you an energy boost and is best used for occasional bouts of stress, while Holy Basil, is best used to combat the effects of accumulated stress over a long period of time. Rhodiola Rosea is the best for regulating cortisol levels – lowering them when they are too high and increasing them when they are too low. It’s a super herb that promotes heart health, brain function and fights depression and fatigue.

3. Go to your happy place.

Remember the time when you were carelessly happy, freely yourself, and full of love? Yeah, go to that place. Close your eyes and try to recall any and all details – time of day, temperature, who was there, what you did. See yourself surrounded by people you love and who love you. Don’t have a happy place? Damn, that super sucks – get outside immediately and lay on your back in the sun! Or, start counting your blessings. Literally. Focus your attention for a minute on what you are most grateful for – your health, your family, your friends, your home, your full head of hair – big and small, make a mental gratitude list.

4. Delegate

Ask for help. If there is simply too much to do in a day, call on a friend or family member for help. Ask another parent to pick up the kids, teach the kids to put their dishes into the dishwasher, hire a housekeeper, get take-out, whatever it takes. If there are pressing tasks that you simply don’t have time for, find a solution and get someone to pitch in wherever they can. In my experience, people are happy to help if you ask them. Just make sure to return the favor when you come up for air.

5. Skip the small stuff

Some things just don’t need to be done when you are under pressure – you taking care of yourself or clearing your plate to make more time for self-care is more important than making sure the beds are all made and the dust has been whipped into submission. Make a list, if there is something that is not urgently pressing, skip it.

Finally, don’t let stress and to-dos prevent you from enjoying the bounty of the fall season – the farmer’s markets are exploding with produce, apple cider and pumpkins abound, and the weather just begs for a stroll through the park. Find time whenever and wherever you can. The best cure for stress is to get out in nature, breathe in deep, and let it all go.

And if you do find yourself getting sick this season, check out my post on staying healthy during the fall.

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I haven’t always been the best parent to myself. Bad decisions aside, I used to be my own worst critic, hurling a ridiculous, endless litany of insults and harmful non-truths at myself daily. Accomplishing even the simplest of tasks required a drawn-out inner battle where me and my strong-willed inner child self would grapple for victory.

It went something like this:

 

Me: “Sarah, go brush your teeth.”

 

Strong-willed inner child self: “No! I don’t want to go brush my teeth. I hate brushing my teeth!”

 

Me: “Sarah, it’s time to go to bed. Go brush your teeth.”

Strong-willed inner child self: “No! I hate brushing my teeth!”

Me: “Sarah, this is ridiculous. You are a grown woman. Why do we have to go through this every single night? Go brush your teeth.”

 

Strong-willed inner child self: “No!”

And so on and so forth.

 

Some nights, she’d win and I’d go to bed with dinner rotting on my teeth. Most times though, I’d win and tumble defeated and minty fresh into an exhausted sleep.

This went on every day, at least two times a day, for the majority of my life.

Then, finally, I decided I was sick of it. I was sick of the insults, sick of the relentless battle, sick of feeling bad all the time.

I wasn’t getting anywhere by fighting and guilting myself into each and every task, and I sure wasn’t winning any popularity contests with my inner child by constantly putting her down.

 

Something had to change.

 

Now, I’ve read all the self-help books and all of the insightful information about changing your negative thoughts into positive ones by the sheer power of your will, but for some reason, these positive mantras soon gave way to the old and before long, I was arguing with myself in the bathroom mirror again.

Here’s how I fixed it:

I decided to be a supportive and loving parent to myself. I began to tell myself how proud I was, how much I was loved, how truly awesome I was. I listened to all of my complaints, secrets, worries, fears and dreams with an open and loving heart. I gave myself permission to feel my feelings and bought myself treats to celebrate even the tiniest of accomplishments. I gave myself permission to play and have fun. I told myself I was strong and for some reason, I actually believed it; believed it in a way that was deep and soulful and unbending.

And that is how I do everything now, from resisting the urge to hit the snooze button just one more time to brushing my teeth to overcoming my fears – by telling myself:

“Sarah, you are strong enough to do this.”

And I am.

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There is a 5K run happening in the city tomorrow and the thing that caught my eye about this particular one, was the slogan the participants are wearing on their t-shirts: “I’m skipping the New Year’s Day hangover”.

It’s cleaver and funny, but the thing that stands out even more, is that these people are choosing how they want to feel in the new year rather than what they want to attain. It seems as though it’s a trend that is picking up momentum.

Each year, we make these passionate, determined, optimistic, and sometimes desperate pledges to change ourselves. We set our sights on a goal and then feel disappointed and lost if it isn’t met. We as a society place so much emphasis on external attainment and external achievement – get married, get a job, get money, get a mortgage, get, get, get, get, get, get, get. But how can we possibly meet a goal and feel successful when there is another goal just beyond that one or a higher measure of success or another thing to get? How many times have we told ourselves, “I’ll feel happy when I…” only to get into that school or land that job and then postpone your happiness ever longer until yet another milestone has been surpassed?

So, this t-shirt got me thinking – what if instead of focusing our New Year’s resolutions on what we want, why not focus instead on how we want to feel?

We all want to feel healthy, creative, bountiful and happy. We all want to feel important. We all want to feel loved. So when you focus on the feelings and sense of well-being you wish to experience rather than the external achievements and measures of success, you are tapping into a much larger and stronger force. You are merging your desires with those of your fellow humans, creating community and camaraderie with those around you.

So try this – pull out a journal or a piece of paper and write “I want to feel” and then let your desires be heard. Focus on how you want to feel in 2013 rather than what you want to attain and not only you will welcome a rapid shift in energy that will help you and others move towards creating and experiencing more feelings of joy and love, you’ll also have the support of all of the rest of us who want to feel that way too.

Best wishes for a heartfelt and passionate new year!

Peace, love, and good feelings –

Sarah

My allergies are always at their worst during the fall season and the diminished daylight, dampness and cold usually lead to sinus infections and colds, lack of energy and seasonal depression. Over the past few years, I have paid close attention to what triggers these imbalances and what has helped to keep me healthy and productive as I navigate the shift from summer into winter.

While it feels good to get lackadaisical with our routines during the summer, I find that they are much needed in order to maintain stability during the fall. Establishing a regular sleeping, eating, working, resting, and exercise routine is key to staying healthy. As our bodies try to acclimate to the changes of the season, a regular routine assists in establishing a healthy rhythm.

In addition to planning, executing and maintaining a regular schedule, here are some of my tried and true tips for a healthy body, mind and spirit -

Getting more rest -

Going to sleep a little earlier, getting up a little later, or even giving yourself permission to take a nap in the afternoon is a great way to honor the natural slowing down we all feel as the days grow shorter. Additionally, stepping away from your desk to get some fresh air, taking a hot bath, or just curling up with a good book and a warm cup of tea is hugely rejuvenating.

Sinus Cleansing -

Neti Pots offer great relief for people with sinus issues. I use mine daily. A Neti Pot is a small ceramic pot that looks somewhat like Aladdin’s magic lamp. You can usually find one in drug stores, health food stores, or at an online retailer for between $10-$20. The basic gist is that you are pouring a saline solution into your nostril and allowing the fluid to flow out, essentially flushing out your nasal passages. It is a little challenging to get at first, but after a few tries, you will get the hang of it.

Oil Pulling -

Oil Pulling is an absolutely safe and simple way to cleanse your body of toxins. In the morning (I do this in the shower to maximize my time in the morning) put a tablespoon of sesame oil into your mouth. BE CAREFUL NOT TO SWALLOW IT! Swish the oil around in your mouth and back and forth between your teeth for about 15 minutes or once your mouth gets full. Then spit it out. Rinse your mouth out with water. And you’re done! Oil pulling has been noted to cure common diseases like allergies, colds and coughs, gum diseases, infections in the mouth, ear, nose, throat, eyes, and pains like headache, migraine, tooth pain, neck pain, back pain etc, allergic sneezing, lip cracking, and fevers. To read more about Oil Pulling go here: http://www.oilpulling.org/oil-pulling/

Eating seasonally -

In many places, farmer’s markets are at their prime. It is a great time to indulge in summer’s bounty by eating more root vegetables like carrots, parsnips, turnips, and sweet potatoes as well as squashes such as pumpkin, butternut, and acorn.

Switch out your morning smoothie for something warm and wholesome like porridge or oatmeal and be sure to eat foods that are warming and nourishing.

Energy Boosters -

Maca powder, raw cocoa nibs, and chia seeds have been my absolute go to for energy boosting during my more sluggish days. All are loaded with antioxidants and super energy boosting properties. In the summer, I add these to my smoothies. In the colder months, I mix them into my oatmeal in the morning.

Restorative Yoga -

It is really easy to get overstimulated in the fall, so when the weather turns cold, I begin doing more restorative and yin yoga.

Acupuncture -

My acupuncturist is a saint. I go for weekly appointments to stay in balance during the cold weather seasons. If you live in New York, I highly recommend him: http://harmonytcm.com/

Sunlight Therapy -

I just purchased a sunlight alarm clock. It is an alarm that wakes you up by getting gradually brighter. Completely key if you have a hard time waking up when it is dark outside. For others suffering from seasonal affective, purchasing a light box that mimics natural outdoor light is extremely helpful.

I will add more as the season continues. Please check back for more updates on staying healthy this season.

Be well,

Sarah

The cool, crisp autumn air has called us all into action – it seems that everyone is hard at work finishing projects and beginning new ones. The buzz of fall is all around us, ancestrally encouraging us to gather, store and organize in order to prepare for the long, restful season of winter.

The change in weather reminds us that it is time to ease away from the fast forward momentum of summer and to begin to slow down. As the days grow shorter, you’ll begin to notice a need for more rest than usual as your circadian rhythm is shifting along with the rest of the earth.

If you only have time for one pose a day, I suggest Savasana or Corpse Pose – the pose of deep relaxation. It is soothing to your sympathetic nervous system and relieves fatigue and anxiety and restores balance to your whole system.

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Corpse Pose/Savasana -

Lie on your back with your legs stretched out along the floor. Place a blanket under your neck or knees if you wish or cover yourself if you are cold. Place your arms comfortably at your sides with your palms turned upward. Close your eyes and let everything relax. Breathe normally and rest for fifteen minutes (perhaps set a gentle alarm). When you are ready to come out of the pose, bend your knees and roll slowly onto your right side. After a few breaths, gently push yourself up to a comfortable seated position.



As we navigate through this busy, shifting season and ever increasing demands for our time and energy, it is important that you replenish your body by doing absolutely nothing for fifteen minutes every day. Even if you cannot take the time right now to practice other poses, this one is exceptionally key.

“Before you try to keep up with the Joneses, be sure they’re not trying to keep up with you.”

–Erma Bombeck

 

Take a moment to fill in the blank:

 

My life would be better if _________________________.

I will feel successful when I  ________________________.

If only ___________________, then I’d be happy.

 

There have been many times in my life when I believed that the secret to my happiness was “somewhere out there”. Just the other day for example, I had a moment where I honestly believed that my life would be greatly improve if only I bought a pair of $200 pants from Anthropologie. I mean, I NEEDED those pants. My future happiness depended on it! But, I didn’t buy the pants. And surprisingly enough, my life didn’t fall apart on the spot. After I left the store with my bank account intact, I took a walk in the park, found a sunny patch of grass and laid on my back to watch the clouds. And in that moment, I felt truly happy.

 

In this media driven society and in a city like New York especially, we are continually surrounded by people who are more talented, have more money, wear hipper clothes, have hotter bodies or prettier faces or cooler hairstyles… And we want what they have. We hold ourselves up beside them in comparison, and we feel bad when we inevitably don’t measure up. But of course! How can we feel happy when we continue to feel that we aren’t good enough just as we are?

 

Yoga has the power to teach us sustainable happiness – The second of the eight limbs of yoga is the Niyamas, translated as the observances or how we treat ourselves. One in particular, the second of the five Niyamas is Santosha or practice of contentment. When we let go of our desire for something someone else has or something outside of ourself, we step ever closer to finding true contentment and happiness. Santosha requires our willingness to enjoy exactly what each day brings and to be happy with whatever we have, whether that is a lot or a little. It requires daily practice, but over time, we uncover the hollowness of achievement and acquisition; while material wealth and success aren’t evil, we learn that they can never in themselves provide contentment.

 

This doesn’t mean killing  your ambitions or life dreams – Santosha instead helps you destroy all the unnecessary ambitions – things you don’t need. Without the mindless chatter of desire and longing, you have more energy to work on your dreams and ambitions with a pinpointed mind.

 

Get started on your path towards contentment right now – begin by focusing on your breath. With your eyes closed, allow yourself to feel whole and perfect, just as you are, right at this very moment – not once this or after that, but exactly as you are right now. Carry that with you as you move though your day and keep in mind that you, yourself, exactly as you are, are supremely beautiful.

 

Namaste,

Sarah

Yoga Pose for Contentment:

Warrior II

 

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From a lunge, turn your back heel to the ground and come up to standing. Open your arms parallel to the ground with your hips and torso facing center and your eyes gazing out over your front hand.

In this pose, your back hand is reaching into your past, your front hand is reaching into your future and your body is firmly rooted in the present moment. Breathe and connect with where you’ve been, looking towards where you’re going, but remain in the now, feeling the sensations in your body and mind.

 

Tomorrow, I will be assisting during one of New York City’s biggest yoga events – the Times Square Summer Solstice.

Thousands of people will converge on Times Square beginning at 7:30am to celebrate the longest day of the year by doing yoga in the middle of one of New York City’s busiest areas. It is an event not to be missed.

I will be assisting teacher Dana Flynn during the 7pm yoga class.

Pre-register for a class and check out more information here: http://www.timessquarenyc.org/events/solstice-in-times-square/index.aspx

 

Happy Summer Solstice and hope to see you in Times Square tomorrow.

 

~Namaste

 

 

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