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What does icing have to do with healthy habits?


I had two different speaking events last week, one for elementary school educators and one for psychology undergrads at a large university. I was struck by the differences between the two groups but also the similarities in what we, as stressed out humans, are dealing with right now. We're awfully hard on ourselves, and many of us seem to think we're handling a bunch of things inadequately.


A few of the common themes:

  • I'm overwhelmed with my responsibilities.

  • I should be doing more!

  • I'm stuck and don't even know what I want.

  • It seems like everyone I know is managing, and I'm the only one struggling.

  • I should take better care of myself.

  • I should stop thinking of myself and take better care of everyone else!

We need to give ourselves a BREAK. What if what we really need to do is less, so we can get our bearings for a minute? When "self-care" becomes yet another strain on the to-do list, we've lost the thread and defeated the whole point. Self-care that feels crappy doesn't qualify as helpful.


We've been living under severe restrictions for the past year during one of the most stressful times in modern history. Is it any wonder we're exhausted and confused? And, if we're being honest, the drip-drip of chronic stress started long before the pandemic hit, so of course we don't have bandwidth for arduous changes right now!


We don't need willpower or discipline to get through this, we need a thick layer of pleasure, joy, and freedom wherever we can find it... and it is entirely possible to find all of those things in healthy ways that also feel liberating. (See below for ideas!)


When we're stressed out, our response is often to take a hammer and a nail to the situation to FIX it. But the message that came through loud and clear last week for me, as I listened to these two very different groups of people, is that—at this moment—we don't need hammers and nails. We need icing and sprinkles.


Self-care should feel more like pleasure than pain! That doesn't mean it can't be healthy or even challenging, but it should feel like a shot of energy or relief, not a chore.


What are your current needs, and what are some ways to meet those needs that feel more like icing on the cake than bars on a jail cell?


Habits are routines that help us manage daily life, and we have the power to choose new ones. It's not all that hard to be consistent with them if they feel good. At the beginning, we just need reliable reminders to step out of the fog and engage with them.


If you want to spread some icing on your days with a new habit or two that helps you breathe deeper or get clearer or feel healthier, what can you try? And what will help you remember to follow through? Write it down or tell a friend. That way you won't close this email and forget all about it.


All icing, no hammers please. What makes you feel more alive? Do more of that!


Much love, Sarah

17 Ways to Shake Things Up from Physical Disobedience:


"Changing the position or velocity of your body literally opens your mind... When you’re caught in the vortex of indecision and can’t think straight, try any or all of these:

  • Get up in the morning, and start your day with fifteen minutes of walking or jogging or stretching or biking or yoga or meditation or dancing or boxing or singing.

  • Eat breakfast.

  • Pack snacks.

  • Climb a hill.

  • Climb a wall.

  • Jump rope.

  • Swim.

  • Learn to juggle.

  • Learn to knit.

  • Take a public-speaking class.

  • Call a friend to kvetch and stretch.

  • Plank.

  • Hula-hoop.

  • Do a handstand against the wall, or if you can’t do that, lie down with your legs straight up the wall.

  • Visit a park or mountain or beach you’ve never visited before.

  • Lie in bed and kick and scream and lose your shit. Full-on temper tantrum. It’s highly therapeutic.

  • Keep doing all of these things, and anything else you can think of to get your body moving in new directions, until you figure out what to do next."

Also, if you need a pick me up, send yourself some flowers! A client told me about Farmgirl Flowers this week: woman-owned, eco- and socially-conscious. They sell and ship only locally-grown flowers from growers in your area. If you're in Nashville, reach out to Green Linnet!

According to Time Magazine and the American College of Sports Medicine, a lot of us have switched to a combo of low-cost outdoor and web-based fitness activities, and it's doing us a lot of good.


"Numerous studies have shown that virtually any amount of physical activity, done at any intensity, can help prevent chronic disease, boost longevity and improve mental health. (A stroll around the block or a 15-minute YouTube yoga class really does make a difference.) Outdoor physical activity seems to be especially good for both the mind and the body."


Whatever outlet you've found to move and breathe may be serving you better than you think. We'll have more options again soon, but for now, there are lots of cheap and easy ways stay active.


I've been walking around the neighborhood, capturing glimpses of spring wherever I can find them. It's an annual ritual, but this year it holds special meaning. As my friend Josh told me, spring "feels like renewal on a whole new level this year."

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Past posts can be found HERE.

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