Body Scan Meditation

Well, hello there…it’s been a while! 😉

Lots has happened in the last few weeks (including starting my new job) – I debated summarizing an update on the past month but will save it for a future post, as I’d really like to write about Body Scan Meditation.

It sounds very granola, doesn’t it? I’ve been having intense back pain and while I usually get a monthly massage my (amazing) RMT is on mat leave, so I’m about 2 months overdue.

Last night I had trouble sleeping and intense lower back pain…so I used the Body Scan Meditation technique (that I learned a decade ago taking a university yoga class for $18 – deal of the century!), and the results were pretty unbelievable.

There’s a few different ways to do Body Scan Meditation – but the steps I take are:

  1. Lie down, arms at my sides and focus on my breath (focusing on your breath takes some practice but some key tricks are breathing through your nose & feeling the sensation of your breath through your chest and other body parts).
  2. Focus on my left toes and imagine a warm sensation starting with my big toe, and slowly moving into the other toes, up through my foot, ankle, calf, knee, thighs and hip. As the warmth is moving, paying attention to how that part of the body is feeling.
  3. Do the same with the right toes/foot and all the way up the trunk of my body, fingers, wrists, forarms, upper arms, shoulders, neck and face.

The goal is to bring awareness to different points of your body and naturally release the tension. I’ve generally had some muscle relaxation, but last night I did this before bed (expecting it to last 5-10 minutes…………….it lasted 2 hours. TWO HOURS!) And for about 50% of the time my muscles were slowly moving themselves and working out the kinks without my focus (!!!).

It was like my body knew exactly how to move to bring itself back to it’s natural, relaxed state…and it was incredibly trippy to feel the muscles moving throughout my body and have my legs/hips/shoulders moving without my brain telling them to.

If you’ve ever had a massage where the RMT worked out the kinks or you could feel the knot moving down you’ll know it’s deeply satisfying. When your body/mind is working the kink out itself with no physical manipulation it’s on a whole other level.

It totally blew my mind.

A couple things I noted:

  1. It took a long time for me to get the initial warm sensation (likely because my body was so tense). Usually I get it in 5-10 seconds, but this took 2-3 minutes.
  2. There were several spots where it simply felt painful – the first time it happened I just kept breathing thinking “well this sucks” and to my surprise, after 8-10 breaths the muscle started to relax itself.
  3. My lower back/hips did the same relaxing/rotating cycle about 8 times (over the course of likely 1-1.5hrs). The sensation was in the glutes but had my legs and hips making small movements, almost like I was riding a bicycle in reverse.
  4. When my lower back was working out the kinks, I felt other kinks release at points in the back of my calf and feet…I suppose they’re all connected!
  5. Even as I’ve been typing this, if I briefly think about a body part (e.g. foot, calf, shoulder), the muscles twitch and relax themselves with little focus – probably because it had such intense practice last night!
  6. I wondered if this was more beneficial and effective at relieving stress than physical manipulation by an RMT.

Part of me thinks “I don’t get enough sleep already so to have my body use 2hrs of sleeping time to literally unwind feels semi-torturous” (it actually was semi-torturous with the pain and not knowing when it would stop, yet not wanting to stop my body from naturally relaxing itself).

So what do I do next?

  1. Increase my body awareness & mindfulness throughout the day. As I’m sitting on the couch, at the office, etc. – do a quick 5 second scan to see where I’m holding tension and release it.
  2. Do the full blown body scan again tonight and see what happens…instead of starting it at 1:30am (I know…I spent 3 hours folding laundry starting at 10:30pm…it was out of control and once I started I couldn’t stop), start it at 9:30pm or 10pm. A good trigger for me is to start it when I think I want to surf Facebook or people.com…things I think are relaxing but probably aren’t physically healing. 😉

If this is something you’d like to try do a google of Body Scan Meditation – if you’re a beginner there are various youtubes and recordings online (ranging from 2 minutes to 45 minutes) where someone will walk you through the technique.

Hope this helps for anyone else with body aches and/or stress!

Then…& Now

Last night was a bit rough – with C teething she was up from 1am-3am, which meant I got in and out of bed 3 times, with a trip or two downstairs for bottles and teething medicine.

I’m currently battling a sinus infection so sleep is precious, and it’s extra tough to roll myself out of bed in the middle of the night…but while rocking C to sleep at 2:36am I realized a couple of differences between how things were when I was working full-time and how they are now, since making the decision to resign.

Then…it’d be just as hard to get up in the middle of the night…but while doing so I’d be focused on “how can I meet her needs and get her back to sleep quickest”. While rocking her my mind would be racing with “how long is this going to last?…how am I going to get up at 6am?…how is this going to affect what time she wakes up and whether we can get out on time?…is she going to wake up J and the whole morning’s going to be a messy race to get out the door?”. My mind would be racing and focusing on how to compose and implement a mini “Crisis plan” to reduce the crazy that would inevitably ensue.

Now… I was focused on “How can I meet her needs” & trying to tune into her feelings – was it pain, was it wanting closeness, was it wanting to spread out in her crib? While rocking her I savored holding my 20+ lb baby, enjoying the quiet of the night, stroking her hair, and being thankful that while this midnight wake was going to make for a tougher day, that at least I had some flexibility to adjust our morning timing and not immediately proceed into production mode at 6am sharp. I prayed as the moonlight shone into her room and gave thanks to God for my beautiful, healthy family; for amazing access to healthcare and medication; and for being able to enjoy moments like late night sickie babies. Don’t get me wrong – we still had a schedule to follow and places to be…but it’s much different trying to corral everyone out the door by 7:30am vs. 9:30am. I still have more things on my to do list than I have time for today …but without the added stress of also having more things to do at work than I have time for.

Not everyone has the ability to do this – and I’m thankful we’ve been fortunate enough to make critical decisions to create a life that works better for us.

I realized that the greatest learning (& gift) I’ve gained from leaving my full-time job – is the ability to be present. To actually see what is right in front of my face, enjoy, and be thankful for the current moment. That’s not to say everything is sunshine & lollipops – it’s tough trying to balance making dinner, playing with the kids, cleaning, changing poopy diapers, and reading your kids well enough to know when a toddler whines “I don’t want a nap” it means “I need a nap before I am implode!!!!!!!!!!!”. But I have more opportunities to be present with the kids and be intentional about how I shape and influence them, instead of being half-present, and half-planning how to make the next few hours go as smoothly as possible.

I’ve also learned that while change is difficult and defining decisions are tough to make – things happen for a reason, we all have a unique path, and things will work out.

To use my friend’s words, by some “miracle”, I’ve just accepted a part-time finance role. It’s a 5 minute drive from home, 4hrs/day and I’ll be able to work during school hours – which gives me the opportunity to spend time with the kids before and after school, while also having time for my career. It also happens to be with an institution I’ve talked about working with for the past decade.

I came across the posting fortuitously – and while I did put forth my best efforts to land the job, I know that this is not just some lucky coincidence and not totally my doing – this was part of God’s plan for where I was meant to be. It came much sooner than I anticipated (and maybe even wanted), but it is 100% a blessing that I’m immensely thankful for.

Tough times are challenging when you’re in the moment – it’s only in retrospect that you see how those times either shaped the person you’ve become, how it created opportunity to accept the next thing, or how it gave you skills to apply for that job 2 or 3 steps down the road. Without making the decision to resign from my previous role I would not have come across this role and would not have had the time or head space to prepare my resume or for my interviews…the resignation was necessary in order for me to successfully land the next thing.

Change is tough – but it’s necessary to get to where you want to go, and to get to where you’re truly meant to be.

Daily Snapshots – Day #24

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

I am grateful for … sleep when your body needs it. Whether you have a baby waking in the night…stresses that are preventing you from falling asleep…too much to do in too little hours…or an illness that’s wearing your body down, sleep deprivation is something we usually can’t control but completely impacts how we function and react to things the following day. So when you can get the sleep your body’s telling you you need, you’re pretty darn thankful.

I am hopeful that… I recognize that that the only expectations I need to fulfill are my own. I’ve realized that everyone has different perceptions or interpretations of events, and each person builds their own assumptions or truths based on their perception…I struggle when someone views events in my life and draws truths from them that are different from mine – because I then feel there’s an expectation that goes along with it and I likely won’t meet that expectation. Actually, I assume there’s an expectation that goes with it and put that pressure on myself. And challenge myself to … set some short/medium/long term goals to get clear on the expectations I’m striving to fulfil. I also challenge myself to increase my self-awareness to and in a given situation do a mental pause and check-in to see if my feelings are based on fact or on assumptions. I think this can be tricky because you don’t always realize you’ve made an assumption…but let’s give it a go.

I enjoyed … a lovely evening with a new book club. It was so luxurious to chat with 3 wonderful, intelligent ladies, eat amazing snacks, sit by a beautiful fire, and connect. I love being a mother and watching my children grow, but in those moments where I’m with friends and  get to “just be Tiffany” (e.g. be present in conversations, actually taste the food I’m eating, learn more about people’s lives, etc.) – I feel like I’m grounding myself and opening my eyes to other ways I can learn & grow as an individual.

Previous Challenge: I am hopeful that… I continue to empower myself and recognize the good & learnings from each situation, instead of focusing on the bad. And challenge myself to … love myself unconditionally (hopefully forever and ever, but especially over the next 2 weeks as we anticipate change).

Update on Previous Challenge: Over the 2 weeks I was finishing my job I reminded myself of advice my friend Suze gave me, shortly after I decided to leave. “Don’t be a hero.” So many times I wanted to leave everything amazingly perfect and to put 200% into doing everything…and her advice helped me give myself permission to not over-extend myself, to do a great job and work hard (but not work myself silly over it), and to cherish the time I had with fantastic co-workers. By taking away the tendency to set high expectations for myself, it gave me an opportunity to love myself more and just focus on the things that truly mattered.

To My Daughters: Change is Tough, But Here’s What I’ve Learned…

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Dear J & C,

Three weeks ago I had a frank conversation with my manager. After 4 months into a new job that I loved, with people I enjoyed working with and prospects for a bright future I made the difficult decision that the job was a great fit for me and my career aspirations, but it was not the right time in my life.

There were lots of factors that came into my decision – unforeseen circumstances with the job, spouse with extremely long working hours, kids who are 1 and 3 years old…but at the crux of it all was that being in this job (combined with the above) didn’t allow me to prioritize our family time and balance first.

Racing through the day just to get up and do it all over again the next day is a common theme with all families, but the extent I felt I was tolerating my children (harsh, but true) vs. being present with my children didn’t align with my personal goals and made me re-examine my life choices.

While I made changes at the job to improve things, it became clear after the first 90 days that I would either need to invest significantly more time in the job to perform to the level of standards I hold myself to…or I would need to choose a career that allowed me the flexibility to put our family’s priorities first.

This decision was extremely difficult, but I came away with some key realizations. Realizations that took a fair amount of blood, sweat, and tears, and I want to make sure I pass them on to you. Here are a few lessons I learned (or re-learned) through this experience: Continue reading

Daily Snapshots – Day #23 (Late post from Feb 23rd)

“Be proud for what you are, rather than for what you have.”

I am grateful for … strength, for opportune timing, and for understanding & supportive people. For people who sincerely want the best for me and remind me of my limits when I’m tempted to push as much as possible. For safe travels.

I am hopeful that… I continue to empower myself and recognize the good & learnings from each situation, instead of focusing on the bad. And challenge myself to … love myself unconditionally (hopefully forever and ever, but especially over the next 2 weeks as we anticipate change).

I enjoyed … an impromptu visit with a close friend while attending an out-of-town conference. While it was 40min “out of the way”, the 1hr we caught up & supported each other was completely worth it.

Previous Challenge: I am hopeful that… I prioritize rest this upcoming weekend. And challenge myself to … focus on taking care of myself in the now, instead of focusing so much on taking care of others and pre-planning for the future (if that makes sense). That sounds kind of brutally self-centered, but everyone needs some time to rejuvenate and refresh. And let’s be honest, between work messy-ness and toddler tantrums I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed these days.

Update on Previous Challenge: Wow, I wrote that 21 days ago (3 weeks)…and I gotta say…I kinda nailed it. 1 week after I wrote that I (somewhat impromptu-ly) went on a ladies retreat/weekend. I shortened the 2.5 day trip to 1.5 days to reduce impacts on the family – but it was the perfect amount of time. I had a fantastic time and came home refreshed…and then things with the kids went a little haywire 10min in, and that “vacation glow” wore off pretty quickly…..but it was still great! 🙂 I’m also proud that I’ve made some difficult decisions over the past few days. Things have been tricky and while my nature is to grit my teeth and push on, over the past 3-4 years I’ve learned that while I think pushing on will make me feel better and more accomplished, sometimes the pushing on will just push you over. As I was reflecting on outcomes from the decision

When you’re right in the middle of it…

I’ve blogged before about how I experienced antenatal depression and how sharing my experience helped to heal.

While it isn’t easy to be vulnerable and open yourself up to potential judgement, it’s easier to share your historical experience with depression and how you overcame it than to share when you’re right in the middle of it…when you’re still in a fairly vulnerable spot. Where you’re susceptible to well-meaning folk who might say “just think happy thoughts!” which makes you want to give off a “resting b*tch face” that would make them want to quietly tiptoe backwards away from you.

But here I am saying – I am right in the middle of it. And it’s tough.

For me, depression is this unwelcome familiar feeling. The feeling that your body is heavy, your emotions are numb (because what you really feel is so unpleasant that your attempts to numb the bad feelings unintentionally numb the good feelings too). When you logically know that things will work themselves out and that you can only control what’s in your control…but even with that knowledge you can’t control the emotions that leave you in a constant Eeyore-like state.

It’s subconsciously pulling out all of the stops so your outer appearance “looks normal” (and others have said you look like your usual self), but inside you feel bits of your soul and happiness crumbled inside your body. It’s “just not feeling yourself” for extended periods of time…hoping that you’ll “feel yourself” today. but feeling like at any point in time you’re not too far from shedding a tear or unintentionally snapping at someone. And you’ve done both a few times over the last few weeks.

It’s telling yourself don’t give up, you can get through this, there are so many benefits to just sucking it up and getting through this, just stick it out a bit longer because things are bound to turn, I know you can do this……………………………but not knowing when things will turn, and if you’re at a point where continuing down this road is throwing good money after bad money…or if you’re at a point where it’s time to make a different choice.

It’s exhausting.

It’s tempting to end this post on an optimistic, chipper note…as if to say “This sucks, but look at me – super rational, ambitious, goal-oriented woman!!!!!” – complete with a charming grin, wink and thumbs up.

But let’s not say that.

Let’s say that I’m a work in progress and that that’s okay.

Let’s just say that I’m prioritizing sleep and exercise, to try to naturally battle it, I’m keeping commitments to a minimum (but spontaneously spending time with friends when I feel up to it), and I know that if I continue to feel unhealthy months down the road, that I will need to make some intentional decisions to limit stressors & ensure my health doesn’t suffer – for both myself and my family.

And that’s okay.

Daily Snapshot – Day #22

“We can give ourselves a fresh start whenever we want…we just need to give ourselves permission to do so.” (Is it wrong to quote yourself? Last night, this phrase was a welcome reminder after a stressful work day)

I am grateful for … a church that believes in promoting inter-faith dialogue and that actively seeks out opportunities to work together with our Muslim neighbors. On a regular basis. Not just in response to terrorist attacks.

I am hopeful that… I prioritize rest this upcoming weekend. And challenge myself to … focus on taking care of myself in the now, instead of focusing so much on taking care of others and pre-planning for the future (if that makes sense). That sounds kind of brutally self-centered, but everyone needs some time to rejuvenate and refresh. And let’s be honest, between work messy-ness and toddler tantrums I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed these days.

I enjoyed … the mint Aero bar I devoured with my lunch.

Previous Challenge: I am hopeful that… I spend the hours of my day intentionally and focus on my priorities, instead of falling into old habits. And challenge myself to … see when I’m falling into an old habit and pause for a moment to ask myself “Does this make my family healthier or bring value to their life? Does this make me healthier or bring value to my life?” Does this bring value to someone else’s life?”

Update on Previous Challenge: I felt like I did a pretty good job on this! Minus some facebook surfing yesterday, for the past few days I was very mindful of what I was spending time doing at home. And it was really either cleaning, laundry food prepping, spouse time, or catching up with people on the phone…yesterday was a difficult day and sometimes you lean on the crutch that has supported you in the past.