Is Music Part of Your Self-Care Regimen? It Should Be!

Is Music Part of Your Self-Care Regimen? It Should Be!

As a child, I was surrounded by music. My mom was an elementary school teacher who led the school music program, and was also a church organist and choir director. My dad founded the local music festival and eventually became the president of the provincial music festival. I took music lessons –  lots of them (piano, cello clarinet, music history, music theory, and aural musicianship to name a few…). Music of all types filled our home – everything from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to Bob Marley.  (And, did I mention that both of my sisters are classically-trained pianists, with one having a PhD from Juilliard?)

So, it’s probably not that shocking, that as an adult, I have a real love of music.  However, what’s interesting to me is that I can already see it in my son who is just shy of two. He virtually came out of the womb ready to party whenever he hears music (and this week has started demanding to be taken to the piano on a daily basis so we can sing and play together). Even my husband who is tone-deaf (sorry hon!) loves music too. 

Given that love of music seems to be an innate quality for pretty much everyone I know, I thought it might be interesting to research if there is some reason for this. As it turns out – there is! Read on for my latest MindBodyGreen article for 6 reasons why you should add music to your self-care regimen.

When you focus on self-care, you probably make sure to eat nutritious foods, exercise regularly and get enough sleep. These are the basic building blocks of self-care, after all. And maybe, for bonus wellness points, you even include practices like regular massage, meditation, yoga, acupuncture and more in your self-care routine. 

But let me ask you this: are you including music in your self-care routine? You heard me right: music is a powerful force for healing and an improved sense of well-being. Here are six, scientifically-backed reasons why you should definitely consider turning on some tunes for a potent addition to your wellness regimen. 

1. The positive feelings evoked by music can be as powerful as sex, drugs or eating. 

Researchers at McGill University took fMRIs of participants who were listening to favorite songs. They found that during peak moments of music, the participants’ brains released dopamine. Dopamine is a hormone that is linked with feelings of reward (for example, it is also released in response to sex, eating and certain illegal drugs such as cocaine). 

Interestingly, dopamine was also released right before the peak moments in the songs — as if the brain was anticipating the reward to come. That’s why for many of us, listening to familiar songs can overwhelm us with positive feelings — we feel “high” because our bodies are literally experiencing a physiological reaction to the music we love.

Click here for the rest of the article.

Are You Fully Owning Your Fabulousness?

Are You Fully Owning Your Fabulousness?

Last week, I had the amazing honor of being named by MindBodyGreen and Athleta as one of the 100 Women in Wellness to Watch. Being selected amongst the ranks of such notable women as Arianna Huffington, Lena Dunham, Gabby Bernstein, Kris Carr, Jessica Alba, Jane Goodall, and a host of other fabulous ladies was an incredibly humbling experience, and one that provided me with two really important life lessons.

As I was talking about some of my self-discoveries with some friends, the consistent reaction I got was that the lessons really resonated with them, and that I should write a blog about it. So, here it is!

Lesson 1: The Power of Persistence

I have loved for quite a while. For anyone interested in a holistic approach to life, the website is rife with information on nutrition, exercise, mindset, and spiritual practices. So, last year, when I decided I wanted to write for them, and pitched an article about the role of spirituality in the workplace, I was thrilled when they accepted my post for publication.

Excited by my beginner’s luck, I wrote another article for them. No response. “Maybe I need to try another angle,” I thought, as I wrote and submitted another. Strike two. I composed another one. Crickets. This cycle continued for months – six to be exact. I honestly can’t remember how many articles I submitted, but suffice it to say that it was a lot.  Now I suppose that at some point, I could have given up on it, but I can be a pretty stubborn individual. Eventually it became a challenge to me, and I made a commitment to myself that somehow, I was going to get another article published. It actually became like sort of a joke to me – I was convinced my writing wasn’t that bad, so as I wrote, I was trying to determine the secret puzzle or password that would gain me admittance into the club again.

After taking a bit of a break, and licking my wounds, I decided to give it another go with an article about building your confidence (ironic, huh). And, this time when I sent it, it somehow came to my attention that they had changed their submission guidelines, and I had actually been sending my articles to the wrong place! So, I sent it to the correct address, and voila, it was accepted!

Since then, I have become a regular contributor with them, complete with great feedback from the CEO of the company and a relationship with one of the editors. If you had told me that either of those scenarios was in my future during my six-month drought, I would have thought you were crazy. And now, to have been included as one of their #WomeninWellness to Watch is absolutely delicious icing on the cake.

The lesson? I think Elbert Hubbard says it best: “A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success.”

Lesson 2: Own Your Fabulousness

(Full disclosure: I am still a work in progress with respect to this lesson).

The day after the list of women was published, I went to my pilates class. While in the midst of doing the tree exercise on the reformer, the receptionist walked over to our group and said in a conspiratorial tone, like she was the keeper of a hot piece of gossip, “Guess what I just saw?” Then, she spilled the beans about having just been online, seeing the list of 100 Women in Wellness, and coming across my picture.

My response? In a moment of “physician heal thyself,” I found myself feeling a little embarrassed, not wanting to make a big deal out of it. She continued, “The list was of all these amazing women from around the world – get it girl!” Then, as everyone around me asked me about the work that I did, I knew I would need to do some future self-reflection, because I found myself wanting to take the spotlight off of myself, and just get started on my side sit-ups (one of my most-hated pilates exercises, behind teaser).

The moment ended, class finished, and during my ride home, I had some time to think. “Why was I so embarrassed?” I asked myself. The realization was almost immediate. I knew that even though I am fully aware of the research (and I deal with this issue with clients all the time), I was exhibiting the confidence gap that is shown so often amongst women. So, despite all the positive feedback I have been getting about my writing and the contributions I was making to clients and businesses, there was a part of me that felt that I might not really belong on the list. After all, the women on the list were really fabulous – heck, I had even seen some of them on Oprah – what was lil’ old me doing there?

Having that recognition was a great wake-up call for me, because as someone who believes that we are life-long learners, it gives me something else to work on in my self-development efforts. As I continue to play a bigger game (as I encourage my clients to do), there are always layers to peel back and discoveries to be made to ensure I can embrace all the great opportunities that are coming my way. I’m grateful to have had that reminder to check myself for any upper-limit problems.

My lesson here? The eloquent Marianne Williamson says it so well: “Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, like children do.”

So, I’m committing to fully owning my fabulousness. I hope you’ll make that commitment to yourself too!

4 Ways to Ensure You Fulfill Your Potential

4 Ways to Ensure You Fulfill Your Potential

In my latest  guest post for MindBodyGreen, I discuss four common attitudes that get in the way of people fulfilling their dreams – and what you can do about them. I hope you enjoy it!

Is there anyone who doesn’t ultimately aspire to live a life filled with enthusiasm and passion? We all want to make the most of our talents and become the best versions of ourselves we can possibly be, right?

I’d say yes, as would most people, I think. But then why do so many of us settle for a life of mediocrity, in which we spend our time yearning for bigger and better things instead of actually going after them?

In my experience, there are a few pretty common obstacles that get in the way of living in a way that fully supports becoming the self-actualized person we were meant to be. Do you see yourself in any of them? If so, I’ve offered some potential remedies …

1. Fear of failure

Our culture teaches us that failure should be avoided at all costs. So, instead of taking chances out of a place of excitement and passion, we choose to stay safe so as to avoid putting energy into something that doesn’t guarantee a successful outcome.

Sure, this approach may help us to avoid the possibility of making a “mistake,” but it often prevents us from experiencing self-trust, joy and fulfillment.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Strategies to Deal with Work-Related Stress

Strategies to Deal with Work-Related Stress

Is your work stressing you out? If you find yourself in this category, you are certainly not alone! It seems that for most people in the work world, their professional obligations contribute to their stress levels. Read on for an overview of important things to know about the why, how, and what to do about your work-stress.

What Causes Work Stress?

In my discussions with clients, it seems that there are several usual subjects that increase their stress levels. They include:

1. Companies doing more with less

As organizations continue to streamline processes to manage their budgets, many of us are finding ourselves with increased workloads and being asked to do more with less.

2. The ubiquitous smartphone

While most of us can’t imagine life without these handy gadgets, they also have the unfortunate side effect of making us available 24 hours a day.  As a result, demands from work (via email) are more likely to intrude into our lives and make it more difficult to set boundaries.

3. Inboxes from hell

Because emails are incredibly easy to send, co-workers and clients can frequently send messages where face-to-face communication would be more effective.  Consequently, many professionals find their inboxes inundated with so many emails that they have a hard time keeping up.

4. A sense of urgency that rivals Usain Bolt’s

The pace in the corporate world is such that many employees are constantly under tight deadlines.  I have heard people express that they feel like they are “running on a hamster wheel” but that they don’t see any viable options for getting off.

5. Spinning too many plates in all areas of life

Trying to find a suitable balance between professional and personal obligations is an ongoing challenge for many people. Thus, some of us can become overwhelmed by all of our responsibilities, and the feeling that we should be doing a better job of managing it all.

The Behavioral Effects of Stress

Most of us tend to be at our worst under stress.  For example, when some of us are under stress, we become more irritable or terse, and sometimes may say things we later regret.  Others of us may be more prone to withdraw and isolate ourselves.  And, while some of us are able to keep it together at the office, our significant others or kids may suffer the results when we get home when they deal with our easily annoyed, hypervigilant, or less social self. I have worked with clients who have ruined their marriages as a result of getting overly caught up at work and either taking their stress out on their spouse or becoming so preoccupied with work, even when they were at home, that their families felt neglected.

Many of these behaviors can be attributed to our biology.  When we are under stress, our sympathetic nervous system (which is designed to activate to assist us in “flight or fight” situations) gets activated.  Some of the physiological symptoms associated with this are increased heart rate and breathing rate, increased muscle tension, decreased digestion, and dilated pupils.

In addition, our brains work differently at these times.  Activity in the frontal lobe and temporal lobe decrease.  The frontal lobe is responsible for what is known as “executive function” which includes activities such as planning, cognitive flexibility, abstract thinking, and being able to inhibit inappropriate actions.   Decreased executive function is the reason why we often say things we wouldn’t normally say or engage in maladaptive behaviors (e.g. excessive eating, drinking, spending, etc.) when under stress.  Two of the behaviors associated with the temporal lobe are speech and language.  Have you ever been so stressed out or overwhelmed that you couldn’t express yourself properly, no matter how much you tried?  That’s why!

In addition to the behavioral manifestations of stress, there are significant negative effects that stress can have on our bodies (I will address these in future posts).

How to Manage Your Stress

So now that you’ve acknowledge that perhaps you could benefit from doing something about your stress, what do you do about it?  Here are some suggestions for you:

1. Guard against being a workaholic

We are designed for balance, and as a result, working all the time generally works against most people. So, I encourage you to be very intentional about setting boundaries.  For example, for one of my clients who was constantly taking work home with him to the extent that it was negatively affecting his relationship and burning him out, we made a contract that he would not work at all from noon Saturday to noon Sunday.  I check in with him on that so that he is held accountable for what he has committed to.

2. Exercise regularly

I know from personal experience how much better I feel when I am working out regularly.  When you are busy, you may feel that you don’t have the time to fit in a workout, but I recommend you force yourself to find the time to do it at least a few times a week.  You can even trick yourself into it by contracting with yourself that if after doing five minutes of cardio activity you don’t feel like doing it any more, you can just stop.  What I find is that once people start exercising, they can make their way through 20-30 minutes of it, and they almost always feel better after it.

3.  Meditate

I recognize that the idea of meditation can be intimidating or unappealing to some people, but remember that you can start small.  Anyone can sit with their eyes closed and concentrate on their breath for five minutes a day.  (And if you don’t feel that you have 5 minutes a day, than that is even more reason to make the time). Meditation is called a discipline and a practice for a reason – it takes practice and discipline to get good at it.  however, the results are incredibly rewarding, and it is associated with reduced stress and anxiety as well as good outcomes for a host of physical issues.

4. Practice Gratitude

Sometimes when we are under stress, we can get excessively negative.  Although stress can make you less prone to want to practice gratitude, it is the perfect time to try a gratitude journal.  Research has shown that by taking the time at the end of the day to write down 3 things for which you are grateful, you will achieve greater happiness.

5.  Take Vacations

Again, when people are burning the candle at both ends, they sometimes feel they don’t have the luxury of taking a vacation, but if you find yourself in this camp, that is all the more reason to carve some time out to recharge  A burnt-out employee is no good to anyone, and skipping vacations are actually linked to greater risk of death!

Try out these strategies, and watch your sense of well-being improve!

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