Building a Healing Toolkit

I previously shared the epic growth I experienced this summer and in it I spoke about how I currently move through negative emotions. The following is a very brief introduction to some of the tools that have now become ritual and habit to help me feel my best and breakthrough old patterns and beliefs. I have many, many more like yoga, journaling, reiki, and guides/coaches, but these are simple practices that you can start to sprinkle into your days. Like most things that add value to our lives - eating healthy, moving our bodies, maintaining relationships - these practices take time to build and require regular maintenance to see the benefits they can bring. Start slow and have fun exploring.

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Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a practice that brings you back to the present moment. By tuning into your body, the urges and messages it is sending, and the sensations it experiences through sight, sound, taste, and touch you are lured into the moment. Much of our struggles with anxiety, fear, and depression are due to a disconnection between our minds and our bodies. We are busy thinking and most often stressing over things that lead to a complete neglect of our body, what it is feeling and encountering. We’ve all driven our cars and noticed that we zoned out for miles, we left our body to do the work and wandered into an often stressful place in our minds, allowing ourselves to be distracted by stress. This separation between mind and body leaves us feeling dissatisfied, it means we aren’t present to our lives, instead life is flying right by.

When we bring mindfulness into our daily lives we begin moving from a place where mind and body are connected, resulting in more satisfying experiences. It only takes one moment of mindfulness for our mind, body and soul to become united in a moment of peace. These moments help us to feel connected and safe, hopeful and appreciative, instead of disconnected and lost.

How to:

  • Notice all of your senses while doing routine activities:

    • Driving

    • Eating

    • Showering

    • Cleaning

  • Use your non dominant hand for simple tasks to witness how strong our unconscious habits are, you usually don’t have to think about using your dominant hand to brush your teeth. This reminds us how difficult it can be to change without awareness and practice.

  • Play Eye Spy throughout your day to notice something simple like a certain color or trees. Or you can look for examples of love, joy, or fun being experienced by others throughout your day. Being mindful of simple things brings awareness to how easy it is to overlook what’s right in front of us.

  • Take a closer look at your food. Notice all of the attention, care and effort that was taken to get the food to your plate. This brings gratitude into our meals. It can also bring awareness to the food choices that we make, noticing when meals are filled with so many loving people and actions and when they are just looking to sell us something.

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Somatic Awareness

Somatic awareness takes mindfulness to the next level, going deeper to observe and explore ourselves through sensation and movement. Simply put, somatic awareness is learning to feel your body and interpret its sensations to provide the body with what it needs. The biggest benefit for me in this area has been learning to identify my emotions, noticing how an emotion feels in my body and then doing my best to name the emotion. Is this fear or worry? Is this guilt or unworthiness? Is this overwhelm or frustration?

Most of us were never taught how to identify our emotions. We were told that a smiley face means we’re happy and frown face means we’re sad. We were never taught what they feel like and in turn how to move through them. This awareness gives us the power to witness an emotion and then create what we need to move forward. Finding forgiveness if we’re experiencing guilt. Lightening the load if its overwhelm we’re experiencing. Leaving them unnoticed, or pushing them away because they are uncomfortable, bottles them up, forcing the body to speak louder (stronger emotions) or even scream at us with painful sensations or dis-ease.

How to:

  • Notice all of your senses while moving your body:

    • Walking, running, gardening, exercising, etc.

  • Name your emotions. - Anytime you have a strong emotion “good” or “bad”, begin playing with giving it a name. Is it fear? Anger? Worry? Happiness? Joy? Hopefulness? Use an emotional scale like this one to help.

  • Feel your emotions. - Get into a relaxed state (bath, beach, nature, post movement) and begin to explore what certain emotions feel like in your body. Conjure a thought or memory that makes you feel happy and notice where this show up in your body and what the sensation feels like. Play with all sorts of emotions, even the “negative” ones when you are in a safe place. I like to start with things like fear, worry, unworthiness and then move into love, happiness, and joy so that I end on a high note.

  • Create an emotions handbook. Combine journaling with any of these other activities, noting what emotions feel like and any other notes, including what balances these emotions.

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Meditation

Meditation is the act of stepping out of the busyness of the mind and instead bringing the focus to something else, most often the breath. This is the tool with the biggest bang for your buck, but for many it can be difficult to find a regular practice. Meditation is not the act of thinking nothing, its the act of not attaching or following our thoughts, instead letting them come and then letting them go. Eventually, this skill gets stronger and the detachment is easier to find and maintain. Often however, my mind is rather busy and its tough to find this feeling of release, so on those days my practice is to simply sit with my eyes closed until my timer goes off. Practicing first thing in the morning can be helpful for some as well as in nature or after movement.

Start slow and build, maybe starting with 5 minutes and building to 20 minutes. There are so many types of meditation - mindfulness, love and kindness, mantra, yoga, self inquiry, inner child, future self, past self, movement, and many more - but the foundation for most of them is finding that gentle state of release. Guided meditations are helpful when the mind is really active (search YouTube, or use an app like Headspace or Calm).

Meditation benefits can be found anytime the mind shifts out of the chaos of wild thoughts and into a relaxed, often in the body, state. This can be found while doing the dishes or taking a shower, during flowing activities like paddling or yoga. My favorite way to meditate currently is through sound. I love to find a sound that is strong enough to hold my attention, but subtle enough that it doesn’t trigger new thoughts. Noises like crickets, the ocean, a fan, an air conditioner, or the humming of your refrigerator are great options to begin playing with.

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Self Care

Self care was the first healing tool that I truly embraced and it saved my life. It showed me just how little care I was actually taking care of myself. Sure, I was going to the gym and eating my vegetables, but I was also using alcohol, food, men, shopping and Netflix to avoid any discomfort that I found in my everyday life. Self care allowed me to nurture myself into feeling better, without the negative ramifications that usually showed up after using one of those old tools to “relax” or feel better.

It can seem selfish to spend time on yourself when work needs to be done, others need to cared for, others need much more that you do, and when there is so little time left for ourselves, BUT you may have already experienced the wall that we can hit when we neglect our own health - mind, body and soul. Spending time on your wellness shows that you care about how you feel. It shows others that you are a priority and that they can do the same. Self care is an act of service to all. Even more, this self care practice blossoms into the most amazing self love :)

How to:

As always this is your practice. Keep what works and leave what doesn’t, but do give something a solid try. These practices are cumulative in nature, so you gain the benefits after you’ve built some momentum. I’m a fan of 14 or 30 day challenges to really get the feel for what a tool can do for you.

Summer of Self Love


I had an epic summer. Sure, I traveled to new places and experienced some truly amazing things, but the real beauty of my summer was the epic healing journey that happened at the end. The following is the story of my summer that included a secret rendezvous with a man and… alcohol. My goal was to have a summer of self love and by the end I thought I had ruined all efforts of spending the summer loving on myself, when I found my time and energy being directed towards a man and my emotions taking me all over the spectrum on a daily basis. However, as I often am reminded, we get what we need to learn from and if you’re present and aware you can use these lessons and turn them into healing and growth. I did indeed find so much love this summer, just not in the way I ever expected.

The Trip

Having a blast in the BVI

Having a blast in the BVI

It all started with a 10-day catamaran trip to the British Virgin Islands. My plan was to use this trip to go deeper into my thoughts and emotions, to use the power of being out in ocean to heal and elevate my the personal and emotional growth that I had been cultivating since the beginning of the year. So after, purchasing my ticket I began to plan for the trip.

I had a few reservations going into the trip. First, I was going with an old friend that I had had successful vacations with in the past, but who was from my old life, the life I created while drinking. I was confident that I could get through the trip without alcohol but knew that there would be lots of drinking involved. Secondly, I decided to break a year long bout of celibacy with this friend, on this trip. I took the previous year off of dating and sex to get a closer look at how I tended to show up in dating scenarios and what I was looking for in a relationship moving forward.

As we boarded the boat I was so stoked for this experience and grateful for my friend who always knows how to bring the fun and the adventure. The first few days were loaded with lots of quiet time and settling into the rhythm of living on a boat. The group was vibing well and I felt so great. What happened next was something I never expected, I drank, ending a two and a half year period of no alcohol and shifting the gear of the trip towards enjoying the local cocktails. I drank Painkillers while floating in the ocean. I drank beers while chatting with locals. I drank while dancing during a full moon party next to a giant bonfire. I sipped rum for hours while watching shooting stars with my friend on top of the boat. I drank for 7 of the 10 day vacation.

I surprisingly didn’t find myself beating myself up about this decision. I decided to relax and recommit to my teetotaler ways once the trip was over. I did however notice a really big shift in how my body felt. I spent moments each day nurturing her and listening to her, witnessing exactly how my mind, body and emotions were reacting to the alcohol, something I never had the tools to do before.

There is one more piece to this puzzle that I need to share before going into what I learned. While stargazing with my friend we decided to give dating a try. We recognized how much fun we always had together and realized that we were both single, which was never the case before in our four year friendship, so we decided to give it a go. We briefly discussed what we were looking for in a relationship but some of those details my have been lost in the copious amount of rum we were consuming while finding shapes and words in the clouds that were shining so bright in the night sky thanks to a full moon.

The Results

Drunk Selfie

Drunk Selfie

Returning from the trip was definitely a challenge. My poor body felt like absolute trash and my emotions were back to rollercoaster status. I completely understood why drinking became such a constant before. More alcohol was the simplest way to quiet the discomfort, and so more was always consumed. When I originally quit drinking it was a slow drying out and I felt crappy for at least 6 months. I had never had the starkness of my healed mind, body and emotions experiencing alcohol again. It was an opportunity to really feel the effects of alcohol. It took two whole weeks to find myself again.

The relationship was also a challenge. Before the trip I was simply looking to spend time with my good friend and returning I suddenly had a committed partner, which I also hadn’t had in two and a half years. My schedule was compromised, self-care was slightly neglected and I found myself swimming in all sorts of old relationship patterns. This too was a chance to see where I had grown and where I still had old stuff mucking up my thoughts and emotions.

The Shift

Reflecting on my summer.

Reflecting on my summer.

After two months of dating, I was now back in my place of really paying attention to my thoughts and my words and noticing my emotions, and what I began to notice was this relationship, while so much fun (combined with really good sex) didn’t feel right. I found myself feeling more like a friend or even a mother figure instead of a partner. My partner and I have struggled with open communication in the past and in the relationship we found the same struggles. While I did see myself trying to be open and honest, I was still in it and didn’t quite know what was making me feel so off, but I knew that I needed to step away from the relationship to figure it out, especially since we were struggling to spend time together and to connect on a deeper level.

I sat quiet and set an intention for the discussion that needed to happen. I found myself feeling sick with worry and stress, so I took really big breaths while driving to his house and then upon entering said those dreaded words “we need to talk”. I began to explain what I could through streams of tears and then we hugged and I left. I immediately began to sob as I drove away. I knew it was the right decision but I couldn’t get a handle on the tears flowing so I just let them flow.


The Lessons

Post healing session on the beach.

Post healing session on the beach.

Break the Cycle

Shortly after ending the relationship, I was able to sit with my thoughts and emotions in meditation to uncover why I had such a strong emotional response to a 2 month relationship ending and what I found was such a relief. In the past I never stepped out of a relationship honestly. If I felt something wasn’t right I would self-sabotage the relationship until the other person decided to end it or until it just go too bad that it exploded. The reason I felt such a wave of emotion is I HAD BROKEN THIS CYLCE!! I used my emotions as a compass and had the challenging conversation to end our relationship before things went too far and I would lose him. He is such a special person that taught me so much and I hated the idea of losing him as a member of my team. I wanted to honor him and myself by stepping away. It is still too soon to know if I will have him as a friend moving forward, as he has yet to truly communicate with me about how he feels but I know that there is no ill will or bad blood between us and that is good enough for me right now.

Never Dim Your Light to Connect with Others

After reflection I was able to recognize that I drank on that trip to help he and I connect. I brought myself back to my old ways to comfort him and ensure the trip was “fun” for him. Because he has yet to do the work I have done, it was very hard for us to truly connect when he was drinking and I wasn't. Add in my empath qualities of feeling others emotions and before I knew it I was down in the energies of drinking. Moving forward, I will do my best to never dim my light in order to make others feel better. This does nothing but lower my frequencies and hinder my ability to spread love and light, which is what others need way more than me jumping into their low vibes with them. You cannot make yourself sick enough to heal someone else.

Alcohol is Such a Waste

While I would never recommend anyone in recovery jump off the wagon, I do value my experience with drinking this summer so much. Ever since I quit drinking I’ve had the stupid FOMO feelings of missing out by not being able to drink. After reflection I recognized that each time I drank there was a very short window in which I really felt great - vibing to music, soaking up the beauty of the setting, and laughing and connecting with all the others drinking - but ultimately, that window was maybe a few hours. The two weeks it took for me to get back to myself was way too much time and effort to be wasting on simply finding balance again. I’d rather spend that time and energy on creating my best life, on thriving instead of simply surviving.

Forgive Yourself for Past Mistakes

There is another juicy chapter to this story that led to me learning this lesson. One week after ending the relationship I went out with a friend for her birthday. We ended up at a bar downtown, a place I rarely find myself unless there’s live music or other activities involved. As I walked into this bar, I began taking in the scene and my eyes locked on a tall beautiful bald man walking towards me. This man was my ex. Not the recent short term ex, but the last real relationship from two and a half years ago, the man I originally quit drinking for. There was a short moment when time stopped and we hugged. Time began swirling back immediately when he asked if I wanted to meet his new girlfriend. He and I have remained friends and I have known about this new girl for a while. She and I have even communicated about our four legged loves so this was not a huge surprise but none the less, not what I was expecting to happen within minute of walking into this bar.

Everything went swimmingly. She was so sweet and we chatted for a few moments. Throughout the evening I would find myself casually glancing over to see if they were still there and I noticed strong emotions building when I saw his hand on her low back and her being the one leaning up against him. No tears were flowing, which was such a relief but I definitely felt something bubbling up.

I went to the beach two days later with the specific intention of working through these emotions. What emotions were they? Why was I feeling them? How could I move forward? What I discovered was so amazing and immediately released a sharp pain that had been living behind my right shoulder blade, a sensation that was there for most of the end of our relationship.

So what were the emotions? I felt upset that I had taken his love for granted and ashamed of how I treated him. I realized I was still holding onto anger at myself for not being able to love him with my whole self back then. I also realized that I was incapable of loving him that much because I didn’t know how to show up for love, how to receive it and how to fully express it.

So I laid back on the beach and began breathing into my heart until I felt the sensation of love buzzing strongly, and then I found my old self in meditation, the version that dated him, and began hugging and holding her. I told her I was grateful for all of her tenacity and her ability to do the work that was in front of her. I found gratitude for his love and his part in helping me to step away from alcohol. I thanked him for his role in shaping my soul and sent him and his new girl love. I reminded myself that soul mates come in all shapes and sizes and that his love was needed to find love for myself. This also reminded me that I can have deep love and that my next soul mate will get to see me as I am now and not that old version.

Recognize your growth!

The last lesson that unfolded on the beach for me was to find gratitude for all the hard work I had done over the summer. To find appreciation for all the tools I now had from all the hard work I’ve done over the past two and a half years and to celebrate the growth and beauty I have found in myself and in this work. I sat and shed more tears for showing up for myself and then enjoyed the beach for a few more hours in this love I had cultivated. I jammed to loving tunes, ate nourishing snacks, swam in the ocean and gave love to Mother Nature by collecting trash along her shores. The old me would have downed a six pack of corona and not witnessed any of that love.

The Process

I will share the exact process in another post, as this one has gotten a little lengthy but it all starts with listening to your thoughts and words, naming your emotions and getting curious about what they are creating. We have the power to heal ourselves and to create whatever we want.

Food Pyramid Revamp

As individual humans, we will all have individual dietary needs. Add in specific goals and it really starts to vary from human to human. There are however a few things that will help all humans to feel better. Below is my revamped version of the food pyramid. Take a peak and then let me walk you through each level.

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First off this pyramid was designed to represent your daily intake of food. Each time you build a meal, build from the bottom up. As you work your way up the pyramid, the quantities decrease.

Hydration

The base of all nutrition and foundational for feeling good is hydration. Dehydration contributes to fatigue, foggy-headedness, headaches, and body cramps. All of these will make things more challenging when trying to live a healthier life. Tips for drinking more water:

  • Invest in a water-only container to travel with you always.

  • Invest in a home water filtration system.

  • Start with a glass first thing in the morning.

  • Add lemons, limes, oranges, berries (frozen fruit works too).

  • Every time you sit down at a bar or restaurant order a water and drink it.

  • Get your water in early so you don’t wake up 10 times to pee each night.

Vegetables

The next layer of all healthy diets is vegetables. Despite what type of nutritional plan you are aiming to achieve, vegetables should make up the majority of your plate. They are filling and low in calories making them perfect for finding a healthy balance. They also make your skin look amazing and give you energy to move through your day, workout included! Green vegetables get bonus points as they have more actual electricity in them, which is why they help power your body so well. Tips for eating more veggies:

  • Roast a bunch of seasonal veggies and add to meals throughout your week.

  • Keep a bag of kale on hand to make quick salads and to add to soups and smoothies.

  • Keep frozen peas, edamame, and veggie mixes on hand to add to meals quickly.

  • Eat something green with every meal!

  • Find dips and spreads to dip them in for healthy snacking.

Protein

Next up is protein. The amount of protein will depend on your size and goals. Protein helps to build lean muscle, which boosts your metabolism naturally. Shooting for 20-30g of lean protein per meal will get you a good start on hitting your protein goals. Tips to upping your protein intake:

  • Before you stress too much about how much to eat, find out how much you’re consuming right now. The best way to do this is to track your food for a few days to decipher your starting point. Apps like Loseit or LifeSum work great.

  • Familiarize yourself with high protein foods that meet your requirements (vegetarian, vegan, paleo). Lean meats, fish, eggs, cottage cheese, yogurt, oats, tofu, beans and veggies all provide decent amounts of protein.

  • Combine protein filled foods together to up the amount in each meal.

  • Invest in a high quality protein powder to supplement when needed. You can add this to smoothies, healthy baked goods, and more. Make sure the powder is a decent quality by checking out the ingredients list… the less ingredients the better. Also, ease into a new powder as these can trigger stomach issues in some.

Fruit

Fruit shares the same row on the pyramid as proteins because once you’ve filled your plate with veggies and protein, fruits can be a lovely way to add flavor, fiber and nutrients to your meals. They are naturally higher in sugar than veggies so start with the veggies and then sprinkle in some fruit to curb sweet cravings and fill you up with vitamins and minerals! Tips for eating more fruit:

  • Add a piece to your breakfast - frozen fruit works great here too!

  • Keep fruit handy for snacks - bananas and apples are my go to.

  • Try something fruity instead of sugary for treats.

  • Add some to your salads.

  • Eat with the seasons to keep it fresh and interesting.

  • Familiarize yourself with fruits with lower sugar (carb) levels to help you reach your goals - I love this article for that!

Fats

Healthy fats make you feel full and help you to burn body fat. The same way that heavy greasy food is filling, healthy fats allow you to feel satiated without all the grease and calories in a slice of pizza. Most people do not consume enough of these while trying to eat healthy and therefore, end up feeling hungry and that’s no fun. **Beware of the quantity! They are up high on the pyramid because they are high in calories, meaning you need less of them to get the benefits. Tips for increasing healthy fats:

  • Add avocado to everything!! Sandwiches, salads, smoothies, toast, rice bowls, get crazy.

  • Add nuts and seeds to salads and homemade dressings or pestos.

  • Keep a bag of nuts on hand for a quick pick me up snack. **Monitor portions.

  • Use chia seeds, flax seed, olives and olive oils.

Grains and Dairy

Grains and dairy are good IF your body can tolerate these foods. It is not a given that each human can eat these foods. Our bodies were not originally designed to eat processed grains or dairy everyday so it is rather normal to need to limit or eliminate these foods from your diet. If you have regular stomach troubles I’d recommend reducing these foods from your meals to seeing how you feel. Most of these foods are to be eaten in smaller quantities and less frequently for optimal health.

  • Try different kinds of grains - oats, quinoa, brown rice.

  • Eat full fat dairy, just less of it. - Eating small quantities of full fat dairy will help you increase your healthy fats and be more filling than that zero calorie yogurt filled with empty calories and sugar.

  • Try nut milk, coconut milk, oat milk and other substitutes when needed. **I like almond milk for baking or cooking, coconut milk for adding creaminess to soups, smoothies, battering fish or tofu & making whip cream. I really love oat milk (this brand specifically) for my morning coffee.

“Fun” Foods

At the tippy top of this pyramid is the “Fun” foods. I personally think all food is fun if you really start to play and get creative with flavors and recipes, but this category contains the foods you would typically eat during a holiday or at a party. These are foods that are treats. Be sure to treat these treats as TREATS, not as your fifth meal everyday. Indulge in these foods to curb cravings but also pay attention to how these foods make you feel. There are other ways to celebrate so keep that in mind when faced with a room full of treats :) Tips for consuming fun foods:

  • Indulge in small quantities and eat it slow. Savor and indulge slowly.

  • Invite a friend to indulge so you can split something.

  • Make homemade versions of your favorite treats (preferably with the best ingredients you can find/afford).

  • Don’t keep binge worthy foods in the house, make a special trip/date to indulge wisely.

  • Take a pause before you consume. Ask your body if it even wants it. Make a tea, a drink a glass of water, or take a walk first, then see what the craving is telling you.

Last words…

No matter what your eating plan or intention is (high carb, vegan, keto, paleo, low carb, see-food diet, lol), all plans will need your body to stay hydrated in order to get results. Vegetables, healthy amounts of grains and protein, along with adequate healthy fats are all required to find the healthiest you. The only thing that changes is the is the percentages of these foods, based on your goals and your biology. Tracking your food is the easiest way to get results, but not required for every day life. If you are trying to create healthy food shifts you must know your starting point. Then you slowly tweak as you learn more and more about what YOUR body really needs to feel its best. Stay curious. Be kind. Be patient.