Three Steps to Help You Transition Like a Champ

Do you struggle during transitions?  Ok good, you're human!

Transitions are naturally destabilizing moments when we either thrive to a new level or completely fall apart.  

I've found that self-care is a powerful tool to keep me steady and grounded, even within huge life changes.  Trust me, I'm using it now as I go through a HUGE life transition. 

Watch and learn my three steps to help you transition like a champ!

How To Handle Post-Retreat Blues + A Few Of My Self-Care Favorites

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Hello dear,

I hope this message finds you well!

Last weekend, I hosted the celebratory retreat for the spring session of Self Care 101.  As always, it was a weekend of radical honesty, immense strength and the transformation that is only possible when we feel truly supported.  It affirmed the importance of this work that we are bravely doing together as a community.

As always, I felt very humbled to watch so many powerful breakthroughs.  It’s an immense privilege to host and hold this kind of space.  During each retreat weekend I feel like I am floating a few feet above the ground.  There’s so much energy running through us all that I feel like I barely need to sleep.

And afterward, I am always really, really tired.  

I’ve hosted over 20 retreats - both local and international - and through these experiences I’ve learned that the energetic come-down after a really fulfilling retreat can be challenging.  Not only am I so tired, but I get frustrated with the people around me who weren’t at that retreat and don’t understand how profound it all felt.  

Then I get frustrated with myself.  How can I hold so much loving space for my clients and then turn into a brat when my partner asked how it all went?  The sh*tty voice in my head tells me that I must really be a fraud underneath it all.

The downward spiral can be immense and, in the past, has lasted for a while.  An awesome weekend retreat can easily turn into a week-long post-retreat funk.

However, this Sunday I caught myself.  As I trudged up my front steps, I could tell I was in a bad mood.  I was hot, I had a bag full of dirty clothes and almost no food in my fridge.  I missed the good energy of our retreat.  I wanted to curl up and cry.

So I did. Instead of fighting it or trying to unpack right away, I cried on my bed for a while.  Releasing so much emotion helped me feel a little better.  Then I had enough energy to wash off a sweet potato and stick it in the oven.  While it baked, I laid on my bed and watched an episode of the new season of Aziz Ansari’s Netflix show.  I giggled and I drank a glass of cool water.  I noticed I felt more relaxed, and watched another episode.  After it ended, I felt like enough of a human being to have a conversation with my partner, Micah, and share that I was feeling messy, which is always vulnerable for me.  Because he is a great listener who says wise things, I felt validated and connected to him, which made me feel even better.

Then I ate my sweet potato with butter and it was really good.  Simple food can be so helpful.

By the time I went to bed, I was back to feeling grateful.  Not only had it been an amazing weekend, but I had just guided myself through a normally tricky emotional time with a lot of acceptance and gentleness.

In short, I practiced what I preached, and it really worked.

For me, self-care is always the answer.  Sometimes that means devoting myself to a bigger cause, and sometimes that means being extremely selfish.  More than anything, it means taking the time to listen to myself.  My truest self will always reveal what she needs - be it service or solitude - to stay balanced as a human being.  The only thing is that she usually speaks in a whisper, so I have to really pay attention

That Sunday evening, I paid attention.  I practiced self-care.  I got vulnerable.  And it really worked.

So this Wednesday, I wanted to share a few of my favorite self-care resources.  These are the balms that soothe me back to myself when I am feeling overextended or tightly wound.  They guide me back to my steady point when I want to spiral downward.

A Few Self-Care Resources (slightly pregnancy-focused these days):

I’ve been experiencing pregnancy-related heartburn.  My homemade remedy is to eat toasted fennel and cumin seeds between meals.  (Note, I may have made this treatment up.)  In Ayurveda, these seeds are traditionally used to aid good digestion. I’m not sure how that translates to heartburn, except that it seems to be working for me.

Lately, I’ve been putting this song on repeat when I need an energetic pick-me-up.  It always does the trick.

I make this super-easy recipe at least three times a month.  I turn to it when I have nothing in my fridge but cabbage and eggs (for instance, right now).

Always, my daily long walks with this guy will be a favorite form of self-care.

So far, my favorite growing-a-baby books are: this book on Ayurvedic pregnancy, this book on midwifery, and this book on the imperfect art of having a newborn (this one is making me cry every other page).

For those living in DC, I just had the most fantastic dinner at this place.  I highly recommend saving room for their homemade gelato at the end of the meal.

This pillow has converted me, begrudgingly, from a stomach sleeping to a side sleeper.  It hasn’t been the easiest transition, but every night is getting better.

As I mentioned above, I really like the second season of Aziz Ansari’s show, Master of None.  Each 30-minute episode is like a short story while they all still hold a larger plot line together.  I laugh a lot while still feeling like I am learning something about life.

I’m forever-obsessed with these microfiber cleaning cloths that make it really easy to clean up my kitchen or bathroom sink a few times a week without cleaning products (whose smell make me nauseous these days).

***

Perhaps these recommendations will spark a little inspiration for you. Perhaps you have a few of your own that you would like to share.  (Please do so in the comments!)

Mostly, they can just be a reminder that self-care is varied, and that you are important enough to care for in many different ways.  But you have to show up for yourself.  You have to listen. You have to let yourself in - on both your good and your bad days - and learn to enjoy your own beautiful company.

XO,
Gracy

The Self-Care Tweak that Gives My Weeks Meaning

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Hello there!

It’s Wednesday and, once again, I bow to the forces have have swung us around to another week.  In DC, this Wednesday is extra-sunny with a slight crisp breeze.  There’s a full moon this evening, so I feel an extra edge of energy in the air that’s difficult to put into words.  

I used to dislike Wednesdays - that middle, boring, low-energy hump day - and actually decided to send out my self-care newsletter on this day because it’s when I needed a little energetic pick-me-up.  I thought others might, too.

What I must reveal is that as a result of focusing on my self-care over these past years, I now really love Wednesdays.  I’m in a solid routine of volunteering at Thrive DC in the morning, followed by either acupuncture or brunch with a friend.  After I scurry home to write this newsletter, I take a walk with Poncho while my fabulous editor Meredith makes my words a bit more coherent, and I hit send around 3pm.  Then I do other work or relax for the rest of the day.

It’s definitely not a glamorous routine, but it’s a routine that makes me feel good.   And, if you are curious, I also have a routines for Mondays (finances in the morning and lots of time to relax through the afternoon), Tuesdays (meet with one local mentor in the morning and then take an online class with another awesome teacher in the afternoon), Thursdays (water my plants, talk to my mom, record a podcast) and Fridays (meditation group followed by breakfast with a friend).  

My weekends have their own flow to them, which give me lots of time to connect with my loved ones and excuse myself from technology.  I try to do less, laugh more and lose all sense of time for a least one of the days.

Of course, I vary my routines when needed. I intersperse them with lots of new, exciting activities as they arise, and also busywork when it’s required.  Yet, when I need them, my routines are ready to welcome me back home.  They are the kind of steadfast friend who always picks up the phone on the first ring.  They are so there for me.

My routines (the daily kind and the weekly kind) make me feel safe in the world, and ensure that my life stays fairly organized and consistently infused with meaning.  I don’t think I am over exaggerating when I say that I would be lost without them.

In Ayurveda, routines are taught as the building blocks of good health.  Our nervous systems crave consistency and become unregulated with too much excitement.  In a culture that is addicted to excitement, becoming overstimulated is easy.  

How do we know when we are overstimulated?  Well, we have trouble sleeping through the night and digesting our food (hello heartburn and/or constipation!).  Also, we turn into emotional monsters - either yelling at the people we love most or thinking we are the worst people ever to walk the earth.  We work really hard and still feel like we don’t get anything done.  

Of course, none of these realities are true or permanent.  Rather they serve as warning signs that we need to get ourselves back on track.

Consistency, especially when we are consistency practicing solid self-care, brings us back into a relaxed state of being.  Ayurvedic doctors urge us to go to bed, wake up and eat our meals around the same times of day.  This alone sets us up for fairly great health for the rest of our lives.  

I think these daily routines are a good place to start.  Once you begin to feel the flow that comes from regularity, then weekly routines can add an extra layer of joy and beauty.  Or if daily routines have never worked for you, perhaps a weekly routine could be a good starting point to achieve more consistency in your life.

Weekly routines help me maintain solid friendships, ensure I pay all of my bills, and tend to my spiritual path, not only in theory but by actually showing up each week.  Since each day is different and I keep lots of space open for newness, I very rarely feel bored.  Instead I look forward to the flavor of each day and know that it will come again next week.

Maybe you are reading this and thinking that doing the same things every week would be so boring.  You’d feel trapped, right?

When I hear this objection, I always think of something I heard from the ever-inspiring yoga teacher Kia MIller during one of her Yogaglo classes.  She said that until she knew discipline, she never knew true freedom.

I couldn’t agree more.  My routines have set me free from so much hidden anxiety and FOMO.  Knowing that I am getting my basic needs mostly met through my routines helps me to relax and enjoy the spontaneous moments when they arrive.  The steadiness of my self-care has shown me a much deeper power within my own heart and gives me the courage to share it with others.

And I don’t think I am alone in this.  For years, I taught weekly group yoga classes and marveled at how the same students showed up at the same time to do essentially the same poses.  

In a culture that urges ongoing variety, this mundane routine was something that should have been boring.  But from the looks of concentration on my students faces, I knew they were hard at work liberating themselves from the harmful stressful patterns in their lives and in the world.  They were using the poses to feel better in their bodies, relax in their minds and tap into a deeper power within.  What’s boring about that?  

(Fun fact: I actually got to know my now-partner, Micah, because he laid his mat down in the same place during my Thursday night class at Yoga District for a few years in a row.  Although we didn’t begin dating until after I left the studio, I already knew he was consistent in his practices and dedicated to his own well-being -- both total turn-ons for me.)

To create your own weekly schedule, make a list of everything you want to do, need to do, and would love to do.  Think of the things that always fall through the cracks because there isn’t enough time. Make sure to list a few practical tasks, like looking at your finances and grocery shopping, alongside the really fun activities.  

Now choose three activities that you think would make your life more enjoyable.  Take out a calendar and consider when you could open up a bit of time.  Could you wake up a little earlier on Friday morning to listen to On Being and paint your nails?  Could you stay a half-hour later at your desk on Tuesdays so you can read up on investments?  Would your hilarious friend be open to meeting for a Thursday walk + smoothie during lunch?  

Schedule those three activities in and hold yourself to it for one week.  If you do all three, reward yourself (bubble baths and books of poetry are great rewards) and then try it again next week.  If it doesn’t work, try again next week with two activities, or even just one.  

Remember that change is stimulating and we must go slowly, even when changing our habits in positive ways.  A little change can go a long way, because not only will you reap the benefits of said change, but you will also create the identity of someone who is capable of shifting patterns and caring authentically for yourself.

With a little consistency, you will change the course of your life.  It won’t be immediate, but some day you will look around and see things differently.  You may discover that you now love the thing that you used to dread (believe it or not, I actually like looking through my finances now) or have become better at allowing joyful moments into your week.  

Before you know it, you might even discover that you actually love Wednesdays.

XO,
Gracy

My Hope

Oh great river! It's a blessing to have you in our city and I'm so sorry for the ways we haven't kept you beautiful. We are learning. Please give us time. 

This morning, I laid in bed listening to the rain falling and the rumbles of thunder farther away. I took Poncho for his walk and we both turned our faces up to the sky. There's a new life growing in my womb and I can't rush that, can't control it, really can't even protect this baby, even though I desperately want to keep everyone and everything safe forever and ever. 

So what can I do? I can pray. How do I pray? By feeling my smallness it in all. By not blaming others. But tending to my own plot of land as well as I can and knowing it's all so very temporary. I pray by listening to the rain and letting it wash away my fear, give me truer energy as I once again tip my face up to the enormous sky.

The 10-Minute Healthy & Delicious Recipe I Can't Stop Making

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Hello again!

Happy Wednesday to us all.  The sun is shining bright here in Washington, DC and I'm feeling good.  AbunDANCE -- the ladies dance party + fundraiser for Thrive DC -- went swimmingly (but definitely not perfectly) on Saturday.  

I'm feeling so happy about how it all turned out and just a few sighs of relief that it's over.  Sensing my relaxation, Poncho is looking at me longingly for a walk. His eyebrows urge: It's pretty outside!  Why are you still typing?  

As you may know, some weeks I love diving into the deeper aspects of our self-care process.  I've written about dealing with our mother issues and why it's a good thing that you're getting angry all the time.   I even made an emergency plan for when your pants feel too tight, which I am going back to these days as my baby-filled belly keeps expanding. 

This week I am going to indulge Poncho and rest my system a bit by keep this message short, practical and delicious.  Today I want to share a trick that helps me to eat well even when I don't have a lot of time. 

Do you find yourself in situations when you are way too busy to cook but still need to nourish yourself with really good food?  

Yes, me too.  So what do we do about that?

I think it's great self-care to have a few back-up recipes that you know you can make in less than 10 minutes.  In my arsenal, I have oatmeal (yes, I sometimes eat it for dinner and find it very easy to digest late at night), greek yogurt with almond butter + chopped dates, and the classic cheesy scrambled eggs.  

However, when I need something lighter, healthier and more exotic, I always come back to making my own Vietnamese spring rolls.

Does that sound hard?  It's not.  You can buy the wrappers at any health food or Asian food store.  Stick them in the back of your cupboard because they last forever.  This is good because they will always been there when you need them. 

Then, when hunger strikes, get ready to assemble.  Tear apart some lettuce, chop up whatever veggies you have in your crisper, and slice an avocado if you have one.  If anything else looks like it would work-- leftover salmon, noodles or feta cheese perhaps-- get that ready, too. 

Throw a spring roll wrapper in a pan of room temperature water.  Wait about 20 seconds and lift it out.  Fill the soaked wrapper with a small handful of veggies and roll the whole thing up like a burrito.  Lay it-- seam side down-- on a plate while you make a few more.   

(Don't worry if the wrapper still feels a little stiff when you are making your roll.  Give it another minute and it will get completely soft.  However, if you leave it soaking in the water for too long, it will get too mushy to work with.)

You get bonus points for making your own dipping sauce.  I make my favorite by throwing a handful of parsley (stems too), a tablespoon of nut butter, a tablespoon of nutritional yeast, a squirt of Bragg's, a bit of lemon juice and a few tablespoons of water into my Vitamix.  I turn it up to high for 30 seconds and voila: Asian green dipping sauce. 

(If that feels too complicated, mixing a little bit of soy sauce with sesame oil can also be pretty yummy.)

This recipe can be made vegan, raw, gluten-free and travels very well.  It works beautifully in warm weather when turning on the oven doesn't feel like an option.  I often wrap up my leftover salad from the night before -- after it's had a chance to fully marinate -- and I am consistently amazed by what a delicious spring roll lunch this makes.

So that's it.  That's my secret no-cook recipe.  I hope you enjoy it, perhaps share it with a friend, and remember that nourishing yourself doesn't have to be complicated or boring.  We just need to have skills that work and the reminder to use them during our busiest moments. 

With that, I'm off with Poncho.  Please have yourself a very lovely week and let me know if I can be of any service to you!

XO,
Gracy 

Just Dance...

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Oh we did it! AbunDANCE (the ladies dance party + fundraiser for Thrive DC ) was AMAZING. We raised almost $2000!! 

And we learned a lot, as the night went off with quite a few hitches...

For example, we showed up at the church that was hosting us to set up and found our party room filled with indigenous people protestors (and all of their sleeping bags/air mattresses) who had come for the climate march. We didn't know what to do and I just concentrated on not freaking out. 

Finally, after a bit of awkward waiting time and a few tarot cards, we were assigned a new space. From there our feminine power leapt into action. In about an hour, we transformed that dark church basement into a space befit for queens. 

So many wonderful ladies came out to dance and eat and be merry. New friendships were sparked at the dance floor and while taking photos and eating the food (omg the food!). 

Overall it was imperfectly perfect, the stuff from which good stories are made. Setting up this event was a lot of work for a lot of people. It's hard to quantify the exact value of it all but in my heart I feel it was worth it, so very worth it.

Feel Like You'll Never Be Happy? Read this!

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Hello again!

It’s Wednesday again. I am pausing to write and reflect on how self-care continues to open up my life, as I do most Wednesdays.  (In case you are ever curious, writing these newsletters helps refocus me as much as they may help any of you out there reading.)

In anticipation of AbunDANCE, the ladies dance party + Thrive DC fundraiser I am co-organizing this Saturday night at St. Stephen’s in Washington, DC, I’m reflecting on the abundance I feel in my life right now.  

Let’s summarize:  In the past six months, I….

-- got surprise pregnant with a great, great guy, and we both couldn’t be happier about it.

-- led a retreat to an Ayurvedic center in India with a group of eight amazing women where I received excellent prenatal care + necessary advice for my postnatal period.

-- faced failure, dove into vulnerability, and, by what felt like divine grace, filled my spring Self Care 101 program with 20 wonderful women (this session is going so well!).

-- within the first two weeks of looking, found a dream house to rent in the neighborhood we love (and has a fenced in backyard for Poncho!), where we are planning to have a homebirth and raise this little guy for at least his first year of life.

Wow, it’s a lot!

Normally, when I read lists like this from people, I want to envy them or hate them or at the very least, shut down my browser and eat a bag of popcorn.  The last thought on my mind is that perhaps I could have all of those wonderful things in my life, too.   

I think that obviously, those people are different from me.  They had happier childhoods.  They have insanely good metabolisms.  They don’t have bad hair days.  

Yet, I am living to tell this tale, and from within the abundance I am currently receiving, I have a few things to report.  My hope is that in sharing them, they might help you feel like an overflow of abundance could happen for you, too.  

1. It all feels very imperfect.  Due to hormones and my changing body, I’m not sleeping well at night, and so I lay awake often.  During this time, I think a bit about what other people think of me.  I still get nervous I will say the wrong thing to my boyfriend and he will stop liking me.  Or I worry that he will say something that is a dealbreaker for me, and I will have to figure motherhood out on my own.

Most weeks, after I send out this newsletter, I feel all cringey for a while.  I’m convinced that I’ve said too much and people won’t like me.  The sh*tty voice in my head takes advantage of this vulnerable moment and really digs in with its claws.   

My solution to being upset by this voice is to just let it talk as much as it wants.  It has its opinions and it’s allowed to express them.  The most important thing is that I rarely make decisions based on those negative opinions.  Instead, I think about my bravest, most beautiful self, and I make decisions that would make her happy.  

I speak openly to my boyfriend about everything I am feeling, even the hard stuff.  I hit send on the newsletter and go for a walk outside to soothe myself through the cringey period.  Once I feel grounded, I come home and start again.

2.  There’s a lot of letting go in the process.  So much is being born in my life right now, in both the literal and figurative sense.  It’s all so happy and amazing, except when it isn’t.  

When it’s not happy and amazing, it’s really sad and hard.  That’s because things are dying in my life in order to make space for the new.

So many dear friendships feel different right now.  It’s hard to find time for as much social connection.  Conversations can feel strained, and people are feeling distant.  I’m pulling back into myself, which I know is upsetting some people.  My inner people-pleaser is freaking out a lot of the time.  

Yet, as much as I hate disappointing other people, I know I am doing the right thing.  I am listening to myself more than ever.  It actually doesn’t feel like it’s a choice.  Rather, a primal force inside of me is forcing me to let go and make space.  I follow its lead and feel the grief within the joy.  

LIfe is complicated.  Emotions are nuanced.  Opening to this subtly helps me move through the day-to-day with my self-esteem intact.  Denying it makes me suffer even more.

3.  Self-care feels pretty much the same.  I go to bed each night around 10pm.  I drink warm water in the morning upon waking.  I spend at least a little time stretching, oftentimes while I’m still in my pajamas.  I cook for myself every day, not because I have to but because I enjoy it.  The peeling, simmering and kneading calms me down and reminds me that I am loved.

When I am feeling shame or feeling bad about myself in any way, I reach out to people I trust.  These people reassure me that yes, I am a perfectly imperfect human being, and yes, I am allowed to struggle in the pursuit of growth.  After our talks, I always feel so much better.

I know my self-care will change a lot when I become a mother.  It’s already shifted significantly since becoming pregnant (for example, my former no-snacking habit is now snack all the time, with great urgency and glee).

Still, I believe the backbone of my self-care practice will remain the same.  I will continue to make little changes and celebrate my progress.  I will surround myself with healthy, supportive people.  I will work toward gentleness and let myself start anew each day.

***

And like that, I believe I will keep manifesting a beautiful life.  I will continue letting the love in and celebrating the growth of life, as it wants to live itself out through me.

But what I will never do is pretend that it’s easy.  Because of this, I will keep telling the truth about how hard it can feel to manage our abundance.  This is not because I want to add an extra layer of hardness into life, but because naming a thing can often take away its crippling power.   

I want everyone to know that thriving doesn’t have to look or feel perfect.  We don’t have to strive so hard for it, or beat ourselves up when it doesn’t happen right away.  

The real work is letting down the walls we’ve built, and being willing to love what we find inside.  Once we take down the barriers we’ve constructed against life, the happiness naturally rushes in.  It cools our feet and lifts a smile upon our faces.  There’s nothing to defend in those moments.  We just are ourselves, naked, delighted, reborn.

More than anything, I believe this is true.  If it’s anything, my life is my testament to the natural flow of goodness that is available to all of us.  My guess is your life is, or will be, too (yes, even you).

Just do your best today.  Let it hurt where it hurts.  Drink your water and let it all go as you are drifting off to sleep.  As always, tomorrow will be a new day.  You’ll have another beautiful chance.  It’s never too late to start again.

XO,
Gracy