I don’t meditate. I think it’s “stupid” (quotes are there to indicate I KNOW it’s not stupid but I just can’t do it the traditional way and *feel* stupid when I try).
But at the gym the other night, as I was doing a modified Simple and Sinister (100 swings and 10 getups) and I decided to challenge myself with a kettlebell weight I hadn’t used consistently since, oh, 2018.
For the whole thing.
And I did it! And it was GLORIOUS. Why? Because the weight, heavier than I’d practiced in a LONG time, was the exact right amount of heavy that I needed to shut the noises in my brain off and focus on only one thing: The exercise.
Here are some signs you might need to be adding more load to your exercise(s):
Why more load? Short answer: Because ultimately you want the exercise you’re doing to change you in some way. Do what you’ve been doing forever and you won’t be changing or challenging anything.
Now, I’ll be the first one to tell you it’s not always about adding more pounds or kilos. Load can be applied by:
Why am I telling you this? First, because, left to our own devices we might not believe we CAN up the load and accept a challenge. And also it’s a really great way for me to brag about how I was able to use a 20kg kettlebell for 5 sets of Turkish getups for the first time in a long time... watch my not-so-graceful 4th round here:
And when I was done, I felt that I’d really performed an act of self care. It was the first time that day I was able to shut the voices in my head up and focus on ONE THING: doing the exercise. The load was just right. Not so light I could make my grocery list. Not so heavy I’d hurt myself. Just right to shut the noise out.
But. Like. They WERE.
I, like most of us, lived in a constant state of being reactive rather than proactive.
I, like many of us, indulged in lots of comfort food and beverages to deal with treading water with all of the demands of constant pivoting. Navigating the new normal has been like settling into a brand new country and getting the lay of the land.
But NOW: I feel like the land of the new normal is my new home and for the first time in three years, I can actually plan ahead.
Looking ahead I want to make sure I’m:
Sounds good, right?
Sure, I’ve done this all before but. To be honest, my brain is fried and I need some help to actually set the goals, make the map, and set myself up for success.
This is why I’m SO excited that TruFit is holding a workshop on Sunday, January 8th to work on all of that!
I’d like to invite you to come join me for some mega-productive life planning on Sunday, January 8th from 10AM-11:30AM, taught by Honey Bronson, RN and Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach.
We’re even starting the morning off with some grounding yoga (for all levels!) led by Sarah Bronson, founder of Yoga&.
It wouldn’t be a TruFit event without chef Jacquelyn Lord’s body- and brain-nourishing nosh, so there’s also that to look forward to.
It’s been a rough few years, friends. Let’s shake off that dust together and figure out how to THRIVE in the new year.
5 Really Good Reasons to Prioritize Exercise Between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day
Ah, the spectacular time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day: It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s six weeks that fly by so fast your head spins. It feels like weeks are shrunk into minutes. It feels like you’re being pulled in different directions every time you breathe. There are celebration plans with in-laws, parents, step-parents, step-grandparents, the pets, the office.
Between work, school, shopping, parties and engagements, family time, personal care appointments to make you look like you haven’t kept your hair in a bun for 18 months (are you getting stressed out yet?), it’s really easy to let the personal wellness and fitness fall by the wayside. It is simple to think, “Yeah, I’ll pick this back up in January.”*
Well. I’m a trainer. And my job is to tell you that you SHOULDN’T let the fitness drop off and I’m an expert, so there.
I hope you know I’m kidding. However… you really SHOULDN’T let your personal wellness and fitness drop off in the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s just because It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.
I even have five talking points to help convince you.
Exercise is a form of stress relief. We know this, especially after a workout. “Oh, wow, I feel so much better now!” Is what I often hear. It can sometimes *feel* stressful to try to get the exercise in but remember: It’s more beneficial to just move than to not move. Even if it’s a 5-minute dance party, a 15-minute Peloton ride, doing pushups every time someone on Succession backstabs a family member.
Exercise boosts your immune system. There was so much expletive-filled chatter among fitness professionals when gyms were shut down in 2020-2021 because we KNOW exercise can help make our immune systems more robust. How much exercise helps depends on the length of the workout and the intensity but, as I said above, it’s not going to help if it’s not done at all. If you want to know more, click here.
Exercise is a way to get yourself some You Time. You’re busy taking care of things having to do with ALL the other people: Kids. Partner. Boss. Family. It’s easy to lose track of YOU during this time. If you’re able to, carve out whatever time you can to feed your body with movement. Not able to actually be alone? That’s OK. Even if you have a dance party with your kids, or attend a large group class, or work out with your partner: You’re still doing YOUR body a wonderful service and that can totally be YOU time!
Exercise boosts your energy**. When we’re tired, the last thing we want to do is move around and exert energy. But just like the smell of lavender calms our nerves, and Ted Lasso gives us hope in humanity, and eating lots of fiber keeps you regular, and I will say, “Strong glutes, long life!” at least once a day, exercise in the right dose boosts your energy! So get that class in, lift those weights, skip around your house, do two squats for every time Keith Morrison uses alliteration in Dateline, and tell me you’re not a little bit more bushy-tailed.
Exercise can help give you a sense of routine. Can I tell you how often I hear new clients saying they’re CRAVING for a regular routine in their lives? I haven’t done the actual math but it’s got to be over 75% of new potential clients. Our lives got turned upside down more than a few times in the last two years and a lot of us are grasping for something steady and constant. Making a point of working out x number of times per week, or to work out at y time of the day, or to see Your Favorite Trainer on Earth z times per month: That’s routine. That’s steady. That’s consistency and that can help you anchor yourself while everything else flies around your head.
*All of this being said: We’re all doing the best we can right now. If you made it this far into the post, and if you’re still feeling like you’ll be lucky to get 30 minutes of exercise in between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, guess what. That’s OK, too.
**In the right dosage. Remember: The harder you exercise, the harder you need to recover. If you’re running on empty, your exercise might need to be breathing on your back.
Ten Years, Ten Lessons
Ten years ago today, on June 23, 2011, my baby company was made an official LLC through the State of Washington.
IzzyFit is 10 years old now! It's a 5th grader! Time... If flies. Companies grow up so fast.
And I *hope* I've grown up with it. As I look back at the last ten years, I'd love to share with you some of the biggest lessons I've learned.
1. If you're not reevaluating how you do things every few years, you're doing it wrong. Follow the science. Learn from people smarter than you. Let go of what you thought to be true that's been proven wrong. Be transparent with clients about why you now think one way today when you did it differently the day before. Oh, hey, did you know your knees CAN go past your toes in a squat? Yeah! Go figure!
2. Strength training is for strength gaining, not weight losing. Weight loss is a fine goal if you and your doctor think it is necessary or you have (healthy) aesthetic goals. AND, at the same time, using strength training as a means to lose said weight is a study in using movement as punishment. Strength training should be EMPOWERING. It teaches you to take up space and OWN IT. It can help prevent injury and illness. So focus on the gains in the gym. Then, let's talk about lifestyle stuff that can get you to your weight loss goals outside of it.
3. Showing up matters. IzzyFit was born in June of 2011 and hit a crossroads in 2012. The relationship I was in at the time exploded into and I didn't know my next steps. Instead of staying in bed the morning after my Big Bad Breakup, I showed up to work and trained my clients. The new career that I'd both worked really hard for and given up a lot to change to was NOT going to be taken away by some stupid prick.
4. Everyone needs a coach. Life's demanding. I had trouble brushing my teeth twice/day during the pandemic because I was so tired. AND I'm supposed to figure out a program for myself? No, thanks. Thanks to the past year, there are now more ways to find personal training at any budget. Want a connection? Please email me, text, or set up a call so I can help connect you to the best option.
5. You're. Not. BROKEN. We all have physical differences, some that can make life harder than for others. And if a fitness professional ever points out all of your physical "shortcomings" and says they can "fix" you with their system: Run. They're trying to make a sale. You're not broken. You are where you are and our job is to help you move better. Meeting with your fitness professional should help you move forward and onward, not make you cry.
6. Before and after pictures are bogus. And I used to take them to help clients see progress. I even used a before and after sequence with a Client of the Month post and I still really regret it. Why? Because underneath the "look how far this person has come" congratulatory high five we give can lie the "OMG did you see that before? Ew." And that trend really needs to die. Why? Because that before picture was always worthy of love and acceptance and we spend too much time worshiping at the alter of thin.
7. I like strong butts and I cannot lie. Want to lead a healthy life into old age? Lift heavy to strengthen your glutes. Period. Here's more on why.
8. Don't put off exercise. I have a new client. She is 86. She walks up and down the stairs better than some of our much younger clients. She has been training consistently with a trainer for 20 years. It's never too late to start. Just start and be consistent.
9. Tacos are the best meal. Always.
10. Consistency is key. As Tony Gentilcore likes to say, the ideal prescription for exercise is 3x52, meaning we should all be moving three days/week for 52 weeks out of the year. Sound daunting? It might and that's OK. So we start where we are, work to hit our initial goal consistently, and work up to 3x52. Show up consistently and it becomes a part of who we are. Conversely, if we consistently start and stop, that also becomes part of who we are. The choice is ours.
I'm sure I'll think of other IzzyFit lessons I've learned along the way but I'd like to leave you all with my deepest gratitude. Without all of my clients past and present, and friends like you to write and provide content for, IzzyFit wouldn't even BE 10 years old. So thank you, IzzyFit Nation. Much love to you.
Ten years after my first side butt post, I figured it was time for an update with some other exercises.
I firmly believe the stronger your tush is, the longer your life can be. Here is why: The side butt (gluteus medius) is responsible for:
If your side butt is weak it can affect your:
If you’ve sprained your ankles a lot, have knee pain when you run or do any activity, have low back pain after long walks, have uneven shoulders, etc: It could all stem from a weak side butt!
When it comes to the body, EVERYTHING is connected.
One place to start working on the almighty side butt is right here in one of my very first blog posts ever (hey, it still stands up!).
The second place: Right in this blog post! Here are three more of my favorite exercises that target the side butt (and other fabulous places).
Side Plank Clamshells
Single Leg Deadlifts
This exercise is particularly challenging and if you’re finding that balance is a big challenge, check out these alternatives from Tony Gentilcore.
The THIRD place you can start working on the almighty side butt: By taking my Strong Butt, Long Life class! SIGN UP HERE!
Friends, it might sound like I’m obsessed with the booty. It would be more appropriate to say I’m obsessed with helping clients find their strongest, most physically stable self so they can enjoy their non-exercise life to the fullest!
Who’s with me?
Musings on the Emotions of Numbers
We all hold on to numbers. How much we weighed in high school. The dress size we were at in March of 2020 and the dress size we are at now. The number WW points there are in a bag of popcorn. Our highest output on the Peloton.
We remember these numbers for different reasons. Maybe we’re competitive with ourselves or others. Maybe we have photographic memories. Maybe those numbers stand for something deeply emotional in the back (or front) of our psyche.
The above photo was taken on April 12, six years ago.
Six years ago, I hit a personal deadlift record of 225lbs. And it made me feel like I was finally a legit fitness professional.
In this photograph, I weighed 122lbs. I needed to lose one more in order to go through a kettlebell instructor certification so that I could be tested using a 12kg bell rather than a 16kg bell (which was too heavy for me to do some of the tests with, which made me feel a little less-than).
Fast forward to four months later:
I’d felt like a BADASS on April 12, 2015.
And then I felt like a -- what’s the opposite of badass? Goodass? -- loser just four months later.
Numbers: They are meant to be black and white. They (like food) have no ethical value.
But, GOOD LORD, are we good at giving numbers all of the meaning in our lives!
As I’ve been philosophising on the six years between this photo and where I am now, here are some thoughts I’ve come up with:
If you are looking for some health and fitness guidance, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Whether I’m your right fit or don’t quite make the puzzle piece, I will point you in the best direction for you. You can make an appointment to call here or email email@example.com.
I will start this post out my using the word "unprecedented" only once. Right there in that first sentence! You're welcome.
2020 was a whole lot of a whole lot for all of us and, as I like to do at the end of each year, I sat down to reflect on these last 12 months of IzzyFit. The highs. The lows. What we can leave behind. What we can look forward to. And, like I do with clients (talk about life stuff), I'm going to share what came to the surface. Here are my Top Six lessons from 2020:
1. The Laws of Thermodynamics Are Real. Very Real.
In VERY basic terms, the law states that if you want to lose weight you need to expend more calories than you're taking in and if you want to gain weight, you need to take in more calories than you expend. And sometimes "want" is a funny word and the weight loss, gain, or stall "just happen" (but not really, because: Science).
I most definitely gained the COVID 19. I mean, I actually HAD COVID-19 all the way back in the first week of March but then I made it official by gaining the weight, too. Why? Because all of a sudden I was working from home, hardly moving, and drinking 2 glasses of wine every night. The. Law. Is. Real.
I've come out on the other side now. I'm doing the work to choose things other than becoming one with the couch while clutching my pretty wine glass. I'm training three times/week and choosing a tasty light beer after work. (And I talk about this and exhaustion here; if might resonate with you or someone you love.)
In any case: If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. In fact, your favorite personal trainer might also be very, very human, too ;) (I'm going ahead and declaring myself your favorite personal trainer, BTW, hope that's OK.)
2. Don't Knock It Until You've Tried It
I would have scoffed at the idea of doing virtual training on March 1st. And then, by March 20, I had a training schedule that ONLY consisted of Zoom training. And you know what: I love it! I mean, nothing takes the place of being in person with people I care about, but being able to continue to coach my IzzyFit crew from the comfort of their homes has been a blessing, honor, and a blast.
The real point here is: Is there anything nutrition or fitness-related that you've sworn up and down you'd never do? Or thought was "good for them but not for me"? If you tried that thing out, what would you guess the best outcome might be? The worst? Now, what might the value be in trying it, knowing you can bail if it really isn't for you?
3. Creativity Is Our Only Limiting Factor
My personal training teacher taught us this: When it comes to programming, creativity is our only limiting factor. Clients went from pushing sleds around, deadlifting 100+ lbs and throwing medicine balls against the wall to having very minimal equipment at home. Did that stop us from sweating and being sore! Heck NO! We made it work!
Some of my favorite at-home equipment: Wine bottles, towels, pets, children, suitcases, pillows, beds, coffee tables, ladders. Heck, my brother-in-law created dumbbells by pouring concrete into milk gallon bottles. Again I say: Creativity is our only limiting factor. Here are some of my favorite examples:
4. Wearing a Mask and Lifting Weights: It CAN Happen!
Strength coach Tony Gentilcore likes to say that lifting weights isn't supposed to tickle. If that's the case, I'd like to point out that if you're OK squatting and lunging and doing pushups because they make you stronger and healthier (movements, I might add, that don't feel anything like floating on an inflated unicorn in a pool while sipping a mai tai), then adding a mask to the workout won't make that much of a difference*. So. Just do it. Wear that mask.
*Wear that mask while working out UNLESS your health dictates otherwise. Obvi.
5. Take Time to Reflect
It's funny how this year felt like we lived 10. Looking back and trying to differentiate March from April to May is hard. A lot of weird shit has been normalized (sometimes I forget I'm even wearing a mask and I don't think I'll be able to break the habit of talking to myself in a grocery store any time soon). And, while stuffing this year down the loo and giving it a good flush sounds like a good idea, I think we all deserve to mine from it the gold.
Take out some paper, a pen, and a timer. Give yourself 90 seconds for every prompt. Write your answers down to some or all of the following:
1. My favorite memory from this year was:
2. I'm proud of myself for:
3. What was the nicest thing someone did for me this year?
4. What was the nicest thing I did for someone else this year?
5. Who had the biggest impact on my life this year?
6. What could I have done, if anything, to make this year better?
7. My support system consists of:
8. What do I want to do differently next year?
9. If I can go into January of 2021 with one word in mind, what would it be?
6. "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while you could miss it." - Ferris Bueller
BONUS: I HIRED TRAINING ASSISTANTS!
A special thanks to Kaia, Scout, Sophie, Denali, Captain, Tillie, Walter, Oreo, Sweetie, Pumpkin, Ouch, and Bama. If the pet mom or dad are home, the animals WILL join in. This is also scientific law.
Now, Onto 2021
What's ahead? Well, I speculate that winter and spring will look much the same as it has which means clients will keep getting new programs every month, we'll keep using things around the house to work out with and training with the windows and doors open at the gym (good thing we Evanstonians are good at layering!).
And we'll continue making our health a priority.
There's not a lot we can control in life but we CAN take some stuff -- exercise, nutrition, and rest -- into our hands. And I'm here to help.
Ready to join me? Reach out by scheduling a call here, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call/text 312-497-8999.
Cheers to 2021, friends!
The Exhaustion Is Real
I took the above photo after an 8-hour day on Zoom. I can't NOT take pictures of my animals and I also stayed in this position for a good half hour. And I might have also been counting down the hours until bedtime. (Yes, I have a bed time. It's 8:30PM. Which is earlier than my bed time when I was 8 years old.)
My therapist pointed out last month that the running theme in our sessions was me feeling super exhausted all the time. From May through the end of September I did not work out. At all. And I felt so guilty about it. But I also felt a tremendous amount of dread about the act of it. The truth is that after 4-5 hours of Zoom in the morning and then after lunch I would just fall asleep. For, like, two hours. And still be tired enough to get myself to bed before or on time.
Lack of sleep was obviously not my problem here. 2020 was. And, let's face it, the past few years as well.
You know how some people, after a really stressful event get the flu or a cold or a cold sore or have other weird physical stuff happen? Well, I'd never considered that for me, sleep has been the way I've helped manage my stress. My body needs to just shut down and turn off. Does this resonate with anyone?
So let's get back to the not exercising part. I've already said my/our bodies react to stressful events by feeling things like exhaustion but sometimes we experience other negative physical sensations (like dread) to things we think we "have" to do. That negative physical sensation? It's a gift our body is giving us to tell us we need to recover from something. Trauma. Non-stop pivoting. The political climate. Schitt's Creek being over.
For me the thing I felt I "had" to do was work out. It seemed WAY too hard a task to accomplish this summer, though. At least, the way I'd been working out pre-Covid. So I wallowed in this cycle for quite a while until my motivation meter crept back to a place where I felt I was ready to do something. And over the last 10 weeks, I have been slowly working my way back to what I was doing in the "old days". And it feels GOOD.
Exercise IS medicine. Even when we feel in our bones that we just can't do it. The key is finding the *right kind* of exercise at the *right intensity*. Can you do a 20-minute walk outside? Awesome! Can you stretch for 5 minutes? Your body will thank you. Can you only lay there at the top of your stairs with your animals at your side? Practice being kind to yourself and be OK with it. You'll feel different eventually.
If you've fallen out of your regular routine lately and can't seem to get your groove back: Be kind to yourself. Your groove might just need to look a little bit different right now.
I like to compare the newness of mask-wearing to learning the Turkish Getup for the first time: At first it makes no sense, we do it all wrong and it feels pointless but as we practice it time and again we realize that, actually, it is not as uncomfortable an endeavor as it seems to be, we notice we incorporate some of the movements into our everyday lives and it just becomes something we do because it makes us stronger.
Masks are going to be here for a while which is why today I'm showing you a few tricks to make you feel more confident in your balance. Masks aside, the truth is that if you've had changes to your vision in any way -- cataracts, macular degeneration, any other not-fun condition -- you've likely noticed a huge difference in the way you move through your world, specifically with balance. While with a mask we lose some of our peripheral vision, some of you might also have lost some vision in the center of your field of vision or you may see floaties in one eye... I could keep going.
The loss of balance can be incredibly scary and that's why I'm here to bring you exercises you can do to help it get stronger! Balance is skill that needs practice. It is not something you have or don't have! So let's get to work!
Neck Nods & Look Arounds: 3 Variations
Variation 1: Just the Eyes
Balance is a reflex. It is not a posture, it is not something we should muscle through. Through a combination of what our visual system, proprioception, and vestibular system, we get balance! And (dumbing this down to my level) this means that:
- Where our eyes go, our head generally goes
- Head control is essential for good balance
- Head control affects our inner-ear (vestibular system) and where our joints/muscles/tendons thing they are in space
Learning to move better and feel better includes working on all of these systems together with exercises like neck nods, look arounds, egg rolls... the moves I keep making videos of!
But some of us are prone to dizziness which can make those movements just too challenging. SO: To work on head control, we take it down a notch and just start working our eyes!
This might look strange but, trust me, it's still a great way to feed your nervous system some good information that will help you stand tall.
Try doing 10 of these looking up and down and 10 side to side.
Variation 2: Kneeling
Do about 10 of each to make up one set.
Variation 3: Standing
Do about 10 of each to make up one set.
Slow Cross Crawls
Coupling single-leg balance with some good-for-the-brain cross-body action is SO JUICY!
Of course you can do standing cross crawls in a variety of different ways but if we're talking about becoming more confident with our balance and walking while wearing a mask, I really like this variation:
Do this for 1-2 minutes
Did you know that the biggest reason people trip and fall while walking is because they drag their feet? As we age, we tend not to pick up our feet when we walk around, even walking toe-pointedly. (I just made up that term. I mean to say some people not only drag their feet while walking but also their TOES which, you know, causes people to trip and fall).
I love this exercise because it helps us practice picking up our feet (and you can channel your inner Monty Python fan while you do this)! It also combines single-leg balance, mobility, and forces us to move in a plane of motion we aren't used to (sideways).
Simply step over 4-5 "puddles" in each direction left to right 4-5 times to make up one full set.
We spend a whole lot less time on the ground as we age, don't we? This means we stop practicing getting up from the ground and if we fall (especially at a later age), we might not know how to get back up.
This is why I am a big proponent of practicing "falling" down and getting up in a safe space so we get used to it! You can do this exercise using all of your hands and feet but to make it more fun, I like to practice getting to and from the ground with the use of either one hand or none!
The only wrong way to do this exercise is if you get up or go down in a painful way. Have fun with this.
Put a timer on for 1 minute or 3 or 5! Whatever you do, just practice.
My friends: Masks are here to stay for a while and winter is coming. Let's all stay as upright as we can.
(Like these? Please share this post and let me know what comments or questions you might have in the area below!)
We Can Do This: 6 Ways to Take Care of Your Mental Health and Fill Your Cup Like a Boss
NOTE: THIS BLOG POST WAS WRITTEN BY MY GOOD FRIEND AND LA-BASED MARRIAGE AND FAMILY THERAPIST ELISABETH ABBOTT. PLEASE ENJOY!
As a psychotherapist specializing in trauma and anxiety, I’m seeing an uptick in depressed, anxious, and panicked feelings in my clients — and to be honest, in myself. Here are a few of my best mind-body practices for surviving this … let’s just say challenging period.
Track your sensations
We’re accustomed to tracking our thoughts and feelings. (Sensitive over-thinkers, put your hands up! I’m raising mine.) But many of us don’t have a lot of practice tracking sensations that occur below the neck. It looks like this: While I’m writing this piece, I’ve got butterflies in my stomach, my shoulders are tensing up, and my feet are comfortable and warm in my furry, squishy slippers. The words we use to track our sensations might not always make sense, and that’s OK! Your chest can feel purple, your knees can feel full — any sensory description is valuable as long as it feels right to you. We don’t necessarily have to interpret the sensations. In my case, I don’t need to figure out whether my stomach butterflies come from excitement or nerves; just noticing them non-judgmentally helped my stomach to settle down. Developing a habit of tracking our sensations gives us insight into the wisdom of our body. It lets us know what’s working (my slippers) and what might need more attention (adding a cushion to my chair released the tension in my shoulders).
What’s one thing that makes you feel safe, calm, or just 4% less terrible? That’s a resource for you. This is going to be different for everyone. It seems like my entire social circle is making sourdough bread and posting it on Instagram right now. That thought fills me with cold dread (though the eating part sounds great). Instead, I’m sitting with my dog on my lap, stroking his soft fur and listening to his breathing. I’m noticing that my deep breaths are synchronizing with his, and there’s a pleasant warmth in my belly. The pleasant sensations are what tell me that my dog is a resource for me. There’s a tenet of solution-focused psychotherapy that says, “When something is working, do more of it.” Looks like more dog cuddles are in my future.
Do you hate when someone tells you to “just breathe” as much as I do? This is a little bit different, and it’s backed by neuroscience. Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. Now breathe so that your lower hand moves in and out, but your upper hand stays put. You don’t need to count, or even to breathe particularly deeply — just make sure you’re breathing into your belly. Do this for a while, and notice how you feel. Here’s why it works: when our nervous systems go into emergency mode, or fight-flight-freeze, we breathe rapidly and into our chests. When we breathe into our bellies, our nervous system signals to our brain that it can shut down the fight-flight-freeze response and move back into resilience. If you’re breathing into your belly, it can’t be an emergency.
Anxiety, worry, and fear exist in the future and in the past. Grounding refers to bringing one’s attention to the present moment by using your five senses. There are a number of ways to ground. Notice how your body is making contact with a surface: how does each part of your body feel when you’re sitting in a chair? Lying down on the floor? Leaning against a wall? For example: When I’m sitting in this chair, I notice that my feet feel heavy on the ground, my back feels solid against the chair, and my hips want to move and shift in order feel more comfortable — there, now that I allow them to shift, they can sink in and allow the chair to support them. When sensing your body doesn’t feel good or safe, you can also ground externally. Look around you, and count all of the blue things in your field of vision. Slowly notice and describe each blue thing to yourself before moving on to the next. You can count any color or any object, as long as you’re noticing what happens in your body as you do.
Use your five senses
Another way to ground is by changing your sensory input. Have you been drinking hot tea? Drink a glass of cold water. Notice how it tastes, and how it feels in your mouth. Smooth some fresh-smelling hand cream on your hands; notice the texture and scent. Adjust the lighting (open your blinds, or close them), and notice what happens for you on the inside. One methodical way to use your senses to ground is a short five-senses meditation, which goes like this: Describe one thing you can see right now. I can see the trees through my window. They’re bright green, tall, and gently waving in the breeze. (It’s important to do this slowly and describe what you’re sensing with lots of adjectives.) Now repeat this process with your other four senses: touch, smell, taste, and hearing. Using each one of your senses and then describing it with lots of adjectives takes us from our brain’s limbic system (our fear-response system) into our prefrontal cortex (where logic and executive functioning lie), and helps to bring our nervous system back into resilience.
Dance it out
For distance-learning students and working-from-home adults, Zoom fatigue is real. My son’s second-grade teacher has instituted mandatory “brain breaks,” during which the kids get out of their heads and into their bodies. In our house, we use this time to play Just Dance on the Nintendo Switch, a game where we work up a joyful sweat to songs from Lizzo, Bruno Mars, and a host of 80s/90s hits — and he thinks he’s getting away with something because it’s a video game! Connecting with my kid and with my body, plus those euphoria-inducing endorphins, make this the best part of each day. If you don’t have Just Dance … just dance! I highly recommend the 80s dance party Spotify playlist.
Adjust your expectations
I hesitate to say “lower your expectations,” but lower your expectations. We are going through an unprecedented global crisis. The world is having a collective trauma response and processing untold amounts of grief. Even if you haven’t become ill or lost someone you love due to COVID-19, you have likely been affected by job or financial instability, putting off important life milestones, stressors regarding role changes or family conflict, difficulty obtaining food or supplies, missing friends and family, a lack of (or too much!) human touch, or even just missing your routine. All of these things impact our ability to concentrate while working from home, to be a present parent/spouse/coworker, or even to take care of ourselves. These aren’t normal circumstances, so why are you holding yourself to your normal levels of productivity, or even to your normal mood? Help yourself to remember that survival is more than enough right now. That loaf of sourdough, or literally any completed project — is extra credit.
Elisabeth Abbott is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Los Angeles. You can reach her at www.fulfillinglifetherapy.com
Join IzzyFit on Social Media!
Or connect with Izzy by email at email@example.com
Copyright © 2020 IzzyFit Personal Training, LLC, All rights reserved.
Become a Part of IzzyFit Nation!