About 10 days ago, I woke up thinking I should cancel this trip. I’m a creature of habit, I like my daily routine, and usually get a little anxiety about leaving my kids, especially for a whole week…and this was the second week I would be away this summer. I also recognize this anxiety when it comes and know how to notice and name it without acting on it right away…boy am I glad I didn’t cancel.
Last May I wrote about wanting to ‘be better’ and I meant it. When I looked back at that blog, I realized I had some more thoughts about what it meant to follow that path I want to create for myself.. Deep down, no matter how great our struggles become, I don’t believe there is a human being out there who doesn’t want to be better at their life. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out the road to get there, there is so much noise and distraction between the voices of what other people think, that always chirping, self protective voice in our head, and the pull of the glossy ‘A roll’ life on social media, so I started thinking about the things I do that make me get better at my life…and cancelling trips wasn’t one of them.
We belong anywhere we are willing to step forward with confidence. Whatever moment we are in, our life story has brought us to that place, believe in it. Our belief in who we are, at our core, is more important than anything else we hear from anyone else, so be prepared to back it up with the work to keep that vision true. For me, that has meant taking the passion, precision, and care I put in as a mom, and using what I’ve learned to help other people. Parenting was a natural state for me from day one. Honestly, it was my greatest connection to being good at something and one of the reasons I am grateful I was able to have children young. Rather than those nervous moments so many new moms talk about, between the gut instinct and the community of parents from our church at the time, I felt such ease being a mom. I guess that’s why one baby turned into four over the next seven years so here are some more things I want them to know.
1. Work Hard, Rest Well - I love that I have gotten to a point where I trust myself to rest and know that it is part of the process. It’s freeing in a way that calms me, helps me sleep, and gives me better intuition on when to retreat and when to test my limits. It even let me pull an all-nighter in NYC this past week going from Central Park volleyball, to urban trekking all over the city (I have the blisters to prove it), to karaoke and all the way back to Atlantic City in time to see the sun rise. Didn’t think I still had that in me, but happy to discover that I did because my face hurt from smiling. And yes, I needed to rest after that one.
2. If you battle perfectionism, place the standard on the work put in, not on the result.. What does perfect effort look like? Consistently honing our intuition and listening to it every day. We know our own standard, even if it changes over time, or day to day. Effort is something we can control, and maximizing it always feels good, especially when we learn not to get it tied up with the result.
3. Quit blaming, at some point, the cards we hold are ours and we have to decide how to play them. This mindset also makes forgiveness so much easier, then we feel lighter and can see our path clearly. If you can’t let something go, check in with a therapist or a coach, don’t avoid or self medicate.
4. What other people think of you is none of your business. Don’t let what other people think get in the way of your self worth or the vision you have for a single day or your entire life.
5. Accept Others. Don’t try to change them, just choose how they fit into your life.
6. The best example you can be is to know what you love and treat it well. That starts with our own bodies and minds and radiates from there.
7. Find calm. If you read my blog, probably enough said there. Calm is the gateway to presence and our own potential. Slow down, breathe, find it.
8. Know that balance in life is a facade, but presence will always make you feel balanced. Don’t let yourself feel pulled in a thousand directions. To seek and desire balance is the closest we ever are to having it.
I’ve figured out that all nouns were not created equal. People and places are always greater than things. In fact, it’s the people and places that make the things worthwhile. Grateful for another chance to build community and connection and that my intuition guided me to NYC and Atlantic City because this life that looks nothing like I thought it would just keeps getting better.
With love & optimism,
It’s less about what our story is, and more about what we do to honor it. This is the line I have come up with to silence the voice in my mind when I start to think about how many other life stories are more challenging than my own. Without that reframe, that comparative line of thinking makes me live a little smaller, feel less deserving, and shrink my own voice. It puts a tightness in my voice, my life, and even in my body that doesn’t feel good. It worries what other people think of me, magnifies what I’m afraid of, isn’t what I want to teach my kids, and definitely doesn’t maximize potential. In short, it isn’t the abundance mindset that I have consciously battled to embrace. The good news is the growth is in the noticing and being able to reframe quicker each time the thought is there.
This week I walked into therapy thinking I didn’t have much to say…and then I talked nonstop for an hour, and it felt like five minutes. It was a stream of consciousness, and Mary didn’t have to say too many words, at the end she said: “I hope you found this helpful.”
The answer was yes, she has a calm and wise spirit and the words she does say are meaningful and inspired. Not to mention it helps me to hear someone say:
“Wow, Wen, you are balancing a lot.”
That’s a thought I don’t let in very often but it reminds me why I put so much effort into taking care of myself and how much I appreciate my abilities and my life.
It does us no good to compare our stories to other people, and the things I have researched, practiced, and stayed consistent with for my mind, body, and spirit have produced improved health and healing in my life that not only benefit me, but my relationships, and the world….I love the idea of the ripple effect. Regardless of circumstances in life, the healthiest among us are rooting for everyone to succeed. I’ve heard so many times that our thoughts are a culmination of the the five people we spend the most time with and while that has its roots in the truth, I think there is an extension from there. How we think and act is also affected by entire communities of people that we spend time with, lean on, and relate to. Their habits, mindsets, and choices have a direct effect on our own. Do they offer the right amount of challenge and support? Do they let us off the hook too easily? Are their habits and ideas things that inspire us that we can learn from and even emulate? Are they people we are able to speak our minds with while they hold space instead of judge us, or worse, cancel us altogether?
I have researched and practiced a lot of self care over the past five years and my go too people in these communities have become dear friends that I love because of the genuine connection we have made over our common interest in using the mind/body/spirit connection to become better people on and off the court. I can’t wait to show you the insight that I have captured with them on some new video conversations coming soon. As Lauren put it to me yesterday when I stood up from lunch at The Source in Hermosa Beach, and l let out more than a sigh because of a calf strain I’ve been struggling with,
“Well mom, you’re pushing 50 and work out like a 20 year old…she has a point, but I also know that everywhere I went this past week, the same words from my wellness community that support this habit of mine were the same:
“We are creating space.”
Most of the time that meant in my joints and tissues…breaking up adhesions and facia that are pulled tight because of my wonky body mechanics from old injuries that I choose to play through. So, I show up in these places and ask for help to unwind the tightness and give me a little more space…and every time they create space in my body, it creates more space in my mind and then for the other people in my life. It’s a win/win/win, no selfishness about it.
So this week I’m considering all the ways that I have learned to create more space in my body and my life for greater peace of mind, calmer conversation, and deeper connection and growth because the gratitude I feel to be able to learn from these ways of being, teach them to others, and live in this place is immense and energizing.
Ways to Create More Space in Your Body & Your Life
Stretch - I’ve said it before, we store our emotions in our bodies so if we don’t take the time to stretch them out, the less space we will have.
Breathe - If you take 10 deep breathes in and out, and are honest with yourself, you will feel the physical and mental space created by the down shift of your nervous system. Real healing that doesn’t cost a dime.
Yoga - Combine my first two suggestions and it will lead you to a your mat, a place where body and mind come together and infinite calm and potential are accessible at the same time.
Train Your Eyes - Choose where you fix your gaze. What we choose to look at can be expansive or constrictive. Focus on the moments, people, and energies that bring calm and enhance your day. I’ve noticed it countless times in the middle of a workout. When we challenge ourselves physically but focus on positive images and thoughts, we have greater stamina. Do that same exercise but think something negative and our ability to push through drops dramatically.
Sleep - When we are sleep deprived, we have a harder time staying present, and worry and even anxiety/depression have a chance to set in and take away space. Sleep is the foundation of health and where our tissues repair and inflammation dissipates.
Hydrate - On a cellular level, our body cannot communicate with our brain as well if we are dehydrated. This can leave us feel anxious, stressed, and unfocused.
Soft Tissue Work - Our bodies create compensating patterns over time. Find a specialist like a chiropractor or massage therapist who can unwind what is bound up in your tissues.
Acupuncture & Cupping - These two things combined create more space in our bodies by deactivating a heightened nervous system and ushering toxins out of our bodies. It’s been a go to game changer for me.
Reiki - Infuse your body and physical space with calm healing energy. I practice it on myself almost daily.
Foam Rollers & Hypervolt - a small investment compared to ongoing massage and chiropractic care but highly effective and creating space in the body if you use them regularly.
Expose yourself to Infrared and Near Infrared light - there is so much new science documenting the benefit of exposure to this healing light. From improved sleep, healthier skin, better cellular turnover, reduced inflammation, and other benefits, if it’s in your budget, it’s a long term care strategy that works. And better health always creates more space in our bodies, minds, and spirits.
Banish Multitasking - It takes us away from being present, stops us from noticing our habits and thought patterns, and makes us less effective instead of more. When we are trying to stuff too much into the minutes of our day, we are definitely short changing ourselves on space.
Set your clocks ahead 10 minutes - I’ve been doing this for as long as I’ve been in charge of a clock, and it’s the most practical way I know to create more space. Being late makes us anxious and rushed and takes away from a conscious process (not to mention the effect it has on other peoples space). Set the clock ahead, leave early, and enjoy the time on the back end to take a few deep breathes before the next space in your day.
Take phone breaks - Walk away from your phone for any amount of time. Let’s face it, these days it’s a challenge, it’s our second brain and the dopamine push that keeps us slightly unsatisfied and coming back for more. Without it in our hand, it is far easier to be present.
Identify your fears, and then figure out how you will push past them - fear will show up from time to time. The problem comes when we let them dominate us. Once we have identified our fear, what small thing can we do to begin to push past? It doesn’t have to happen overnight, but it does have to be actionable.
Spend time alone - For me this time is usually in the early morning, you’ve heard it said, win the morning, win the day and I’ve found that to be true. I heard on this podcast this week about Unwinding Anxiety that a 2014 study showed that people would rather shock themselves than sit alone with their thoughts. As an introvert, I love my alone time, but I have felt the scary place of being alone and feeling stuck. The challenge is to peel pack the layers of that space and not turn away from it by distracting yourself with something else.
Create a mindfulness practice - I do mine daily in front of my Joovv Infrared Light - oops, I guess that does count as multitasking, but it seems to be a great exception.
Make choices based on the alignment of your vision and values - Say no to things that make you busy but don’t align with that. If you don’t know your vision and values start journaling, take this quiz, or talk with a therapist or coach to help you figure them out.
With so many different stories, opinions, and options out there, the space we create for ourselves creates a calmness that can bring us closer together. With space comes intention, presence, and the ability to see clearly where we are meant to connect and create in our world. I started down this road to help my youngest child and ended up learning things that serve any of us who want to continue to get better, at sports or life, because the game plan isn’t all that different. I’m headed for Atlantic City next week for some more volleyball, and have a new website coming soon full of resources to help parents, athletes, and coaches connect and get better - body, mind, and spirit. Stay tuned, can’t wait to show you.
With love & optimism,
I grew up in Fresno so I’m used to the heat. Whether it’s hot yoga or a toasty day on the beach, I play and feel better when I’m warm. I love the warmth I feel when I connect with other people and their life stories. But in eastern medicine, heat, or yang energy, especially in excess is something that causes inflammation, pain, and wear and tear on our bodies, and when I showed up at my friend and crazy talented acupuncturist Amanda’s this week, I had a lot of heat that needed to escape.
A week of travel, not enough sleep, relationships, and life logistics weighing on my mind without my usual outlets of hot yoga and volleyball for a couple of days, and I showed up at my appointment without much calm, yin energy. In short, I needed support, because what I do for myself on my own wasn’t cutting it. That yang energy can feel intense, it causes my shoulders to ride a little higher and my jaw to clench with tightness that I can feel when I wake up in the morning. If I didn’t take the time to feel how things show up in my body, I wouldn’t have the motivation that I do to make it better. To me it is the evolved version of being tough. Writing is part of that journey to self awareness too, and I am passionate about it because it has helped me feel and see my own progression over the past five years, just like the breath and movement I talked about last week. Without it, I wouldn’t notice the little signs of growth that are easy to take for granted like how easy it is for me to go places by myself now like I did on the 4th of July where I made lots of new friends, or the progress I’ve made being able to share my stories out in the world. Life is too short to live shut down or less than honest so this week I tried to take inventory of a few things life has taught me lately:
I’m a different human than I was five years ago, and yet more intense in the ways that have always been me. I’m feel deeply, but I’m not dramatic. I’m fiercely independent and hate being told what to do, yet also extremely coachable. I’m stubborn, but it can be used for growth and good. The beauty that makes us unique lies in our contradictions and gray areas and not everything has to make sense all the time. It’s the little things that count and connect me to the people I love and I’m grateful to have my kids and friends, old and new, in my corner. If you are looking for more connection in your life, raise your eyes and smile at people, ask questions, you never know when you will discover a new friend.
As humans, we are always works in progress, we don’t have to be perfect to build connection with other people, but we can only build lasting relationships if we are honest - that includes the happy and the more difficult communication that exists happens between us. I’ve learned that some of the hardest conversations are a dance, trying to figure out with grace for ourselves and others, what is ours to own, what to say out loud, what to hold back, when to hang on, and when to let go. Relationships are work, but they also have a beautiful honeymoon period, so I will always savor that.
To quote my friend Chrissy:
“As spiritual and human beings, we long for connection, and the hope of love is still alive in you and that is a beautiful thing that sometimes feels like an ache.”
Those words were too beautiful not to document. Man I love her and our conversations and we go the distance on mind, body &
3. Humor is a salve for everything. We have to be able to laugh at ourselves with others about what we know, what we think we know, and what we don’t know yet. It keeps us from taking ourselves too seriously, even if you are a thinker like me. I love having relationships where we can laugh together…I mentioned this in a post this week about my kids. When people feel safe and loved, laughter comes easily, and has the ability to heal so many wounded parts of ourselves. If you can’t find it in your relationships, keep engaging and looking for it every day because it is a game changer.
I’m a big believer that life is relative, it’s what makes my life with four kids just as hard and fruitful as someone with a completely different experience, but sometimes I realize that I still stuff down what is hard, and hide it under that mirage of calm, until the heat makes it’s way to the surface. I’m still learning how to work with this fire that has a tendency to rise up in me. Thanks for helping me merge it with my real calm Amanda, I’ll keep working with this heat of summer.
With love & optimism,
Our bodies are containers for our emotions, and when I move, mine like to spill out. It’s why I tear up frequently on my yoga mat, feel the greatest joy on the volleyball court, or have felt the salt or chlorine water absorb my tears without anyone else ever seeing them. I shutter to think what my mind and body would feel like without the sports I love because over time, without release, those emotions harden and take up space in our joints, tissues, and muscles in ways that cause us physical pain and hinder our performance and relationships over a lifetime. I’m often amazed that even though I do feel the aging process, my body and mind feel better than they did ten or fifteen years ago. Maybe it’s because I sleep better without babies in the house (COVID has keep the teenage late nights to a minimum), but the more I move, the more confidence I build in myself and my life plan and find the energy to move it forward every day. It’s why I am passionate about teaching younger people that sports aren’t just about what we do with our bodies, but how we connect them to our minds and our spirits that enrich our lives in ways that are hard to explain the first time we pick up a ball or dive in a pool. Life can be tough from a young age, and the neurotransmitters released in our brains when we move play a huge role in regulating our mood and teaching us how to manage our stress. Not only does movement allow us to release our emotions, the connection it builds between our mind and our body develops our creative space where some of the worlds greatest inventions and philosophies are born. So often I wish I could invent a transcriber for the thoughts I have when I play volleyball, practice yoga, or swim laps. Especially for athletes, breath to movement is active meditation that allows us to find the place we belong in this world. Flow induces some of the greatest ideas and story connections that retreat to the farthest reaches of my brain when I return to sedentary life. I’ve taken to using my voice recorder on my phone to try and get a few of these thoughts down just as I finish because it’s in those moments that my insides and my outsides come closest to matching, and that is one of my favorite feelings in the world.
Alignment, it’s something that every human is looking for whether they realize it or not. That feeling of freedom to be who we are, without shame, guilt, expectation, or the need for validation happens when the way we feel on the inside and the way we are understood from the outside match. It’s the place where we live out our purpose, we stop blaming other people for our feelings and experiences, and learn to take responsibility for our own life. I’m confident that if more of us could find it, there would be a lot less addiction in the world…from drugs, to alcohol, even social media and video games, because we find that space of feeling safe being exactly who we are and the comfort we find being in our skin becomes a rewarding experience. Even just moments of alignment give us a visionary’s point of view on our lives, then what other people think or do matters less to us and we organically find humans that are meant to be in our space to support us.
By this point, we know that there is no life that is untouched by trauma, but the upside to that troubling fact is that there is no greater catalyst for growth than pain. Pain shows up to motivate us to do something…stop drinking, lose weight, exercise more, whatever that next right thing is…just do it. But since I know it’s not as easy as Nike made it sound, here are some things I’ve learned about healing along the way:
From a traumatized place, it’s hard to imagine what a healing, more confident, and trusting version of ourselves looks like, so do the next right thing, take just one more step, you don’t have to conquer it all at once. Make small promises to yourself that you will keep and build trust one decision at a time.
Don’t ask too many questions of others about what that next step is, learning to trust our own intuition is part of the healing process, especially if you have been surrounded by doubters. I know this from experience, and while I have made tons of progress, I still find myself second guessing sometimes only to realize that my first instinct was the right one.
Start to dedicate time to relationships that feed your growth and distance yourself from people that create a drained feeling in your space. Don’t be surprised if it feels selfish or you take that criticism from others…this healing version of you is going to feel different, to you and to them.
Take care of yourself on a cellular level. Mediation, a breath practice, good quality sleep, hydration and nutrition make a difference in the way your mind and body communicate. Recently, I’ve added red light therapy from JOOVV to my recovery routine too - and the difference I feel (and can even document because of my Oura Ring HRV data) is incredible. More calm, sustained energy, better movement on the court, and the added benefit of healthier skin and better sleep make this product one of the best investments I’ve made in my health yet. The better our body and mind can communicate, the more gentle our healing journey will be.
Don’t let other people define you. We carry around ideas in our head about our own disposition based on outdated ideas from what people have told us our whole life. The truth is no one knows us better than we know ourselves, and if we have a gut feeling that something needs to change, we have to trust ourselves enough to listen and change it. If you think you should speak up more, do it. Turn scary into invigorating and make it happen. Healing is found in breaking the mold of how we have responded to life up until we decided those responses were leading us astray.
Learning to hold complicated emotions without bailing out by numbing or lashing out is a maturity process that is life changing. Don’t run away or numb your feelings, not only does it keep us from finding alignment, so much generational pain is caused when we take that road. Deeper understanding and better relationships are on the other side of this commitment to yourself. Breathe through the discomfort, we are always stronger than we first understand.
As a kid, 4th of July was my favorite holiday outside of Christmas. It was swimming pools, popsicles, and pool parties. It’s changed a lot over the years, I’ve found myself missing the volleyball tournaments that dominated the last five 4th of July’s (minus COVID of course). The South Bay has it’s own style of the 4th that isn’t exactly mine, but I’m happy tucked in, watching Wimbledon, and wishing all of you a happy and healthy 4th filled with the kind of celebrations that make this country a better place for every American. Being the optimist that I am, I know that we will be a fit, strong, and healed country if we can figure out how to move and breathe through all of this together.
And some happy lyrics for your 4th…. God Bless America!
Photo Credit: @sarahdemuthphotography