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PostHeaderIcon Should I Sacrifice Sleep for Training?

Over the years of being a trainer, I have noticed a marked difference between people who achieve the results they want and the ones who have a much harder time. Much of it has to do with how people eat and sleep on top of how they train.

Today I am bringing up the subject of sleep because I heard a motivational speaker say that you should sacrifice sleep in order to get the things you want. As a health professional, I do not agree with this statement due to the evidence I have collected over the years. You can sacrifice mindless television watching, video games, negative thinking and junk food, but one thing you should not sacrifice is sleep. A large number of studies have linked lack of sleep with obesity.

Proof of How Lack of Sleep Can Make you Fat

According to a study from the University of Chicago, people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to indulge in candy, cake and other sweets than they are in eating fruits and whole grains. Another study that appeared in “The Annals of internal Medicine” measured hormonal levels in people who do not get enough sleep with those who do. They found that sleep deprivation decreases levels of leptin, a hormone that tells you that you are full. It increases levels of ghrelin, a hormone that makes you feel hungry and makes you crave sweets. Additional studies followed how many snacks people who aren’t getting enough sleep eat. The conclusion was that people who are sleep deprived are twice as likely to eat unhealthy snacks.

Lack of sleep also causes stress, releasing the hormone cortisol which also causes us to crave high-fat foods. Cortisol also triggers survival mechanisms in the body that causes us to store fat in our abdominal area.

For more information on how stress leads to belly fat, check out this post:   http://heroestraining.com/?p=417

A study from Case Western University tracked the weight fluctuations and sleep habits of 680,138 women for sixteen years. They found that the women who slept five hours or less per night were more likely to become obese and the women who only got six hours of sleep a night were more likely to be overweight than women who got seven hours of sleep.

Researchers from the University of Warrick, England followed thousands of children and adults and found that sleep deprivation almost doubles the risk of obesity for adults and children. Another study from Stanford University found that people who sleep less have higher BMI (Body Mass Index) levels. In conclusion, there are a huge number of studies that show that lack of sleep can make you fat.

What is just as remarkable is a study conducted by Glamour Magazine to see if sleeping more will help you lose weight.  They enlisted seven female readers and asked them to sleep at least seven and a half hours each night for ten weeks. They were not allowed to change their dietary habits for those ten weeks. All of these women lost weight.

It is very difficult to train clients who are sleep deprived. They have absolutely no energy. I usually train them as a lesson and tell them that they need to get more sleep if they want to get results. When they experience how poorly they perform and how much they struggle, they realize how important sleep really is.

Sleep is Nature’s Steroid

Some recent studies are being done on HGH (human growth hormone) and how this helps people recover, stay young and gain muscle. When we sleep, human growth hormone is released. This is when injuries are healed, when children grow, when cells in the body are restored and when muscles are repaired to gain strength. If athletic performance or strength gains are your goal, then sleep should be on the top of your priority list. Sleep has also been called “nature’s steroid” by many health professionals for this reason. Before you start your intake of experimental HGH, see if you’re getting enough sleep first.

Sleep Increases Athletic Performance

Mah, Mah and Dement studied college swimmers. They tested their athletic performance for two weeks during their usual sleep-wake cycles. Then they tested them after they extended their sleep to 10 hours a day for 6-7 weeks. The results showed that the swimmers swam the 15-meter sprint 0.51 seconds faster, reacted 0.15 seconds sooner off the start blocks, improved turn time by 0.10 seconds and increased kick strokes by 5 kicks.

They also did a study on 11 male college basketball players. After extending their sleep for as much per night as they could, their timed agility sprint improved by 0.07 seconds; their free-throw percentage increased by 9%; and their 3-point field goal percentage improved by 9.2%.

They also studied seven Stanford University football players. They were tested before and after the sleep extension and their 20-yard shuttle run times decreased by 0.10 seconds. Forty-yard dash times also decreased by 0.10 seconds and daytime sleepiness and fatigue scores fell significantly.

Sleep also helps with memory, strengthening the immune system and alertness. This increases athletic performance, work performance, school performance, and wellness. It also makes you less cranky which should help with your relationships.

How Can I Get More Sleep?

–One of my favorite cures for insomnia is exercise or yoga. This helps release stress and burns energy that can lead to a better night’s sleep. Excess exercise can lead to burn out and insomnia so make sure you are getting just the right amount

–Get your life organized. Set aside time for checking emails, spending time with the family, eating dinner etc. so that everyone can get to bed on time.

–Take a warm bath or shower

–Try chamomile tea, which is known for its ability to calm the body, before going to bed

–The smell of lavender is known to calm the senses and release stress, making it easier to go to sleep.

–Instead of sacrificing things that are good for you, such as sleep, how about cutting out things that are bad for you such as excessive alcohol. Though it can make you feel tired, too much alcohol can mess with your sleep cycles.

–Tobacco is a stimulant that can make it hard to sleep

–Too much caffeine is a stimulant that messes with your sleep-wake cycles.

–Overeating can make it hard to sleep so give your digestive system a break. Also, don’t eat too much processed carbs or sugar right before bed

–Sometimes it is hard to sleep while hungry so a healthy snack like a fruit might help. Just don’t overeat.

–Too much television or video games can also lead to inability to sleep. Try reading a book before going to bed, meditating or listening to soft music. Even cuddle with a loved one.

–Take power naps if sleeping at night is not possible. If you have a hard time sleeping at night, limit nap times.

–Make sure your bed and pillows are comfortable

–Turn out the lights. Bright lights can fool the hormonal system into thinking it is still day time so avoid the television and other lit screens. Let your body know that it is time for bed.

–If you feel your inability to sleep might be a medical issue, check out AASM (the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.) Here is their website:

http://www.aasmnet.org/

How Much Sleep Should I Get?

These are the sleep guidelines according to the National Sleep Foundation:

AGE DAILY SLEEP NEEDS
NEW BORNS (0-2 months) 12-18 HOURS
INFANTS (3 to 11 months) 14-15 HOURS
TODDLERS (1-3 years) 12-14 HOURS
PRESCHOOLERS (3-5 years) 11-13 HOURS
SCHOOL –AGE CHILDREN (5-10 years) 10-11 HOURS
TEENS (10-17 years) 8.5-9.25 HOURS
ADULTS 7-9 HOURS

PostHeaderIcon Meditation: THE ILLUMINATED PERCEIVER VS. THE AFFLICTIVE MIND

Often we will be told to find “awareness,” but what does this mean? Yoga teaches that we can separate the parts of the mind. When we meditate, we find ways to observe our own reactions, subconscious impressions and emotions.

Some translations of the Yoga Sutras call the part of our mind that is able to observe itself, “the perceiver.” To me, the perceiver is the part of us that has common sense, a knowledge and acceptance of how things truly are. When we meditate, the perceiver is the accepting friend and counselor in our head. Someone once told me that common sense is not so common, but I think we call it “common” because deep down inside, we know the truth. The hard part is accepting it. Only when we are in touch with the perceiver, or our illuminated mind, will we react with common sense. If we are confused or overwhelmed with “afflictive emotions,” we will react in a destructive manner.

In this post, I will attempt to describe the difference between the perceiver and the afflictive mind in a way that we can relate to in our modern lives. I will also offer suggestions on how to tap into the perceiver while meditating or dealing with life’s problems.

The difference between the perceiver and the afflictive mind:

The perceiver is our true self. It is our higher state of awareness. The perceiver is enlightened and when we tap into it, we are in touch with what religious people call God. Non-religious people call it a higher power that can see and accept the way of nature.

The afflictive mind is not our true selves. It is simply the toxins that confuse us into being someone that we are not. The Dali Lama described it in a wonderful way. He said that our true selves are like pure water. The negative emotions such as pride, anger, hatred, jealousy etc. are toxins that cloud the water. However, pure water is still there. We simply need to rid ourselves of toxic emotions and we will find peace and knowledge.

If you are having difficulty tapping into the perceiver during meditation, simply tell yourself that you are not your anger and you are not your jealousy, etc. If you were not emotional, how would you act and how would you feel?

Pretend that you are talking to an objective friend, mentor, adviser, family member, or spiritual leader. What would that person say if you came to them for advice? If you were God or an omniscient being, how would you look at the situation?

The perceiver is detached from prejudice emotions such as greed, lust or hatred. Yet, detachment doesn’t mean that the perceiver is a sociopath or doesn’t care. It is the perceiver’s supreme love and compassion that makes it understand that all life is important and that we are all interconnected. Knowing this makes it want to help all living things and refrain from harming ourselves or others.

The afflictive mind identifies and clings to its emotions. When it is enraged, jealous, confused, or violent, it may say “this is who I am.” It may hang on to hatred for another country or person. It will unfairly side only with people who are like him/her. It cannot see how we are all connected. It grasps on to identities such as race, religion, politics and pride.

During meditation, focus on how we are all alike. We all live. We all suffer. We all feel pleasure. We all have bad days. We all get angry or frustrated. If you are having a hard time understanding someone who is being ignorant or rude, think of a time that you made a mistake and acted ignorant or rude and try to see yourself in that person.

The perceiver seeks peace.

The afflictive mind seeks trouble and drama.

When meditating, ask yourself if your thoughts and actions are bringing you to a state of peace, or if your actions and thoughts are creating more drama, confusion or trouble.

The perceiver spreads good karma. The definition of “karma” is actions and the result of what we do. Always seeking to do kindness and to spread peace, the perceiver creates success for him/herself. On a small scale, the ability to stay calm and make wise decisions brings the perceiver success in business and relationships. On a higher scale, people may gravitate to the perceiver and his/her wisdom helps people beyond him/herself. These actions also help future generations

The afflictive mind spreads bad karma. The confused mind attaches itself to emotions and reacts with violence, or trouble. This creates drama that could lead to altercations with friends, relatives, co-workers and the law. This bad karma will lead to lack of success and a sad life. On a grand scale, this suffering can spread to others, perpetuating the cycle of war and violence. These actions can be passed on to children and future generations.

Meditating on karma is a very serious matter. Look at how the actions of others have affected you. For example, someone might have insulted you and this has made you angry. In turn, you insult another. If this cycle goes on, it could escalate to more people. Make a choice to become aware and end this cycle.

Choose to smile instead. Say something kind to another. This kindness will spread and will lead to a better environment for you and everyone else.

The perceiver takes responsibility for his/her actions and seeks to find solutions to life’s problems.

The afflictive mind blames everyone and everything else for his/her problems. Passing blame onto others, he/she  relinquishes self responsibility and free will, never finding solutions.

When faced with a problem, take the blame off of others. Instead, take full responsibility. Start brain storming solutions. Ask yourself what you can do and search your mind for solutions. Maybe even research the internet. Write down as many solutions you can.

If we focus on the solution, the universe will reward us with solutions. If we focus on the problem, the universe will react by bringing more problems.

The perceiver is accepting and forgiving of the self and of others. The perceiver knows that the self and others have afflictive emotions. It knows that problems are temporary. It knows that these emotions do not represent who we truly are and it forgives itself and others, choosing unconditional love over judgment and self loathing. By not holding grudges and hanging on to afflictive emotions, peace is easier to find.

The afflictive mind gets angry and frustrated at itself. This makes failures and life’s problems bigger than they really are. It is also hard on others and gets easily insulted when other people have afflictive emotions. The afflictive mind just can’t let go and find peace.

When faced with the ups and downs of life, feeling guilty and beating yourself up will only worsen the problem.

Also, passing judgment on others only feeds the afflictive mind which is obsessed with anger.

Forgive yourself and others.  When you forgive another person, you do it for yourself, so that anger and loathing does not ruin our own life. You’ll be amazed at how much ending a grudge will allow you to focus on bigger and better things.

Ask yourself how the person who has wronged you has made you stronger and thank them for the lesson.

The perceiver understands when there is too much or too little of a good thing. It practices discipline and moderation. It treats the body and mind with compassion.

The afflictive mind may over indulge in pleasurable activities until they become destructive. It might seek to escape in drugs, eating disorders, alcoholism, gambling and other vices out of frustration and self loathing.

Practice awareness in everything you do. Pay attention to how you feel. Take a moment to breathe while you are eating. When exercising, take a moment to see how you feel in order to avoid injuries.

When escaping into drugs or overindulging in any act, ask yourself if this is helping your situation.

If you still can’t stop overindulging, seek outside help.

Because the perceiver has a higher view of the universe, it is stronger in character and principle. It is less easily swayed by suggestion, peer pressure or manipulation.

The afflictive mind is easily swayed by commercials, subliminal messages, insults and psychological conditioning. Some people seek therapy and yoga to find their perceiver because their lives have been controlled by negative conditioning in the past.  The perceiver can stand outside of the mind and see when it has been manipulated.

When you feel strong feelings arise in you, think before you react. Look at your past and ask yourself how your past experiences could have positively or negatively lead to how you react to events today.

When you find yourself wanting to own something just because of commercial advertising, ask yourself you truly need that item and if it is worth the cost.

Turn off the TV and computer now and then to clear your mind of clutter. With the rise of social networking, websites such a facebook can lead to addiction.

The perceiver is the angel on your shoulder. The perceiver is the sensible part of yourself that tells you when you are getting into trouble. It is your higher intuition.

The afflictive mind is the devil on your shoulder. The afflictive mind doesn’t listen to its higher intuition and chooses the lower path which often leads to trouble and regret.

There is an old Native American parable that goes: There is a fight going on inside me between two wolves. One is angry, and full of destructive emotions. The other is happy, calm and full of love.

Which one wins?

The one we feed.

When you feel afflictive emotions rising in you, try not to feed them by seeking council with people who patronize them by perpetuating malicious gossip and hate. Tell yourself that you don’t want these emotions inside of you. Find friends that are objective. Surround yourself with positive influences. Keep practicing awareness. It will come in handy during challenging times. Keep books, poems, essays, mantras, letters or songs of wisdom handy and turn to them when you find yourself feeling negative. Over time, the positive and more intelligent and intuitive part of your mind will win over the negative and destructive part of your mind because you choose to feed it more.

For more insight on how I asked a family member to be “the angel on my shoulder,” check out this link:

http://heroestraining.com/?p=607

For more insight on  meditation, check out this link:

http://heroestraining.com/?p=206

For more information of the wisdom of the yoga sutras, check out this link:

http://heroestraining.com/?p=17

For more insight on the act of compassion, check out this link:

http://heroestraining.com/?p=502

PostHeaderIcon Release Neck and Shoulder Tension

Today, I’d like to address a subject that I see a lot in people, shoulder and neck tension. Many have told me that this is getting in the way of their fitness goals. I also see a large amount of shoulder injuries due to lack of strength and flexibility in the rotator cuffs. Another cause of injury is that many people use bad form due to lack of posture awareness or muscle imbalances that have not been addressed. Lack of core strength ’causes people to overcompensate by straining their neck and shoulders. Lifting weights adds stress to an already dislodged area, aggravating the issue. Another reason this has become such an epidemic is because people simply do not know how to relax. Living in a “no pain, no gain,” society has made us tense up, thinking that holding on to stress will somehow get us somewhere.
How did this happen and how can we address these issues?

Unfortunately, many of these problems start in elementary school where children are forced to sit in chairs for long periods of time. These chairs are rarely created to fit their size. They are also forced to carry heavy back packs. Sadly, I see many teenagers enter my classes with the kyphotic hunch of an older adult. To make matters worse, children grow up to be adults who live sedentary lifestyles, often making a living by sitting at a desk, hunched over a screen. A reliance on texting and portable devices has developed a society of people who spend more time hunching over a screen than they do anything else, not to mention the fact that we drive this way as well. If you watch a a toddler or pre-schooler crawl, walk, squat, lunge and pick things up of the floor, you will find they use perfect form. The imbalances start when television, video games, and forced chair sitting creep into their everyday lives.

Until recently we have evolved to move our shoulders, to hunt, throw and dig with our upper bodies. In our modern society, a lack of proper movement has caused the muscles that support our scapulae to weaken and become inflexible.
An average sedentary American doesn’t lift his hand higher than his desk. This lack of movement leads to inflexibility and weakness in our core muscles. Also, many people work in awkward positions, spending all day with their head thrusted forward to read the screen. This puts the alignment of the spine out of balance. The weight of the head (about ten pounds) causes the spine to fuse in an unnatural position.
The tightness this brings to the shoulders and neck can cut off nerves that run down the arm and into the fingers, causing pain and numbness in the wrists. Often, neck impingments are misdiagnosed as carpel tunnel or tendonitis of the wrists.
Shoulder tension can also lead to lower back pain. The misaligment of the upper spine, can cause the lower spine to curve unnaturally. So pain that starts in the neck can radiate into the arms and lower back. Tension in the neck and shoulders cuts of circulation to the brain, causing headaches. As you can see it is absolutely imparative that we address this part of our bodies. Fortunately, with proper movement and awareness, we can reverse this damage. I will be teaching all of the methods below in my upcoming Shoulder and Neck Release Workshop on March 3, 2013
Click here for more information:
NECK AND SHOULDER RELEASE WORKSHOP

How do we address imbalances in the neck and shoulders?

Ergonomics:
Since most imbalances and chronic pain are caused by things we do everyday, we have to look at how we move when we aren’t exercising. Are we contorting our bodies unnaturally in order to fit into our work spaces? We need to make sure that we can lean back on our chairs without curving our backs or stressing our shoulders. Our keyboards should be close enough to us so we don’t have to reach our arms out to type, causing tightness in the front of our shoulders. Are we hunching forward in order to read the screen or do we make the characters on the screen larger so we can see them while balancing our head on our neck where it should be?

Myofacial Release:
There is a sheath of tissue surrounding our muscales and organs known as “fascia.” This tissue gets tighter the more we move in the same ways. If we hold our posture in an incorrect position for too long, the fascia hardens in that position and it is very hard to release it. Also, our muscles can get swollen. This makes it very hard for blood to circulate. We start forming “knots” in our shoulders and neck that can only be released through myofacial techniques such as massage. Fortunately, we have found many ways to use self massage by using foam rollers and small balls so we don’t have to pay for a regular weekly massage. Once we have softened our fascia and reduced swelling in our shoulders, we are more able to move this area.

Add Mobility:
Seeing how our greatest problem is lack of movement, we should start releasing tension by moving this area. This brings energy currents, circulation and neuromusclular connections to a once dormant area. Over time, we start achieving more ease and mobility

Strengthen rotator cuffs and core:
The weaker we are, the more likely we are to get sore. The smallest things will ’cause pain. Most people have weak rotator cuffs (the muscles that surround and protect the shoulder blade) Due to lack of movement, these muscles lengthen and get weaker, making it hard for us to sit straight,with our shoulders back and down. In order to fix this imbalance, we must strengthen our upper back and the back of our shoulders by rowing, pulling down, or just drawing our upper back muscles down. It is imparative that we strengthen these muscles that protect our shoulders if we have trouble standing straight with our shoulders back. Doing advanced weight training with weak rotator cuffs can cause injuries in the lower back and shoulders.
Also, our dependence on chairs and machines has made our core muscles completely dormant. Often, people strain their necks to make up for lack of strength in their torso.

Learn how to relax:
Living in a “no pain, no gain” society has made us create pain for ourselves. Our subconscious belief that pain will lead to gain has caused many people to hang on to pain, thinking it will lead to success. In reality, this tension is an obstacle to health and freedom. Fortunately, there are meditations and stretches we can do to change this pattern.

Breathing

Poor posture can constrict the muscles that allows us to breath deep into our diaphram. Since our body needs oxygen, lack of proper breathing can cause more lack of circulation and anxiety. This leads to more shallow breathing. Instead of using the diaphram, shallow breathers use muscles that lift the shoulders, causing even more strain.
For more information on how and why to breath properly, check out this link:
DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH

During my NECK AND SHOULDER RELEASE workshop, we will learn how to address these issues without relying on a massage therapist or chiropracter. This workshop is designed for people who suffer from chronic tension in the shoulder and neck while at work or during exercise. It is not geared to people who have an accute injury that may require a specialist or surgery.

During this workshop, we will learn to assess our own imbalances by applying techniques using ergonomics, mobility movements, myofascial release, core strengthening, relaxing stretches, breathing and meditation that teach us to let go of our stess and prevent us from being stressed out by others.

I will be providing the best information on this subject after many years of being a personal trainer, pilates and yoga instructor. I will also offer mind/body techniques I have learned from studying the Alexander Technique and chi kung.

If you are interested, please click here: RELEASE NECK AND SHOULDER WORKSHOP

PostHeaderIcon How To Prevent Injuries and Maintain Longevity

Now that the New Year has started, some of you will be coming out of a hiatus due to holiday stress or illness. Others will be setting New Years goals by starting up a new fitness routine or athletic endeavor for the first time in a while. This puts you at high risk of getting injured. During my career as a fitness professional, I have many students and clients tell me about their injuries. Most of these injuries could have been avoided. A few years ago, I wrote an article about what to do in case of an injury. If you already have an injury, see a doctor and read this article by clicking the link below:

WHAT TO DO IN CASE OF AN INJURY

Today I am writing an article about how to prevent getting injured in the first place. If we can prevent injuries, we will achieve our fitness goals faster because injuries often cause us to stop our routines or exercise with less intensity. While planning out your fitness goals, keep these injury prevention tips in mind:

Leave your ego at the door:

Before you start your work out, resolve to leave your ego at the door. I’ve seen the ego monster trick many people into getting injured. Humbly ask for help if you don’t know how to use a piece of fitness equipment. Do the safer modification in a group fitness class if your gut tells you that the other move is too advanced, even if it hurts your ego. Don’t pile on more weights than you can lift just because you want to impress a sexy woman who is in the same room. Trust me, she’s not looking at how much weight your lifting. Don’t compromise form in order to get the fastest time in the crossfit class. All of these things can get you hurt. The truth is, people don’t care what you are doing. They are worried about their own workout, so put your ego in her place and use common sense.

Always use proper form, especially when dealing with weights:

I have a rule that keeps me safe: If I can’t lift a weight with proper form, I don’t. Bad form puts your spine and joints in a weak position and adding weights to bad form will exasperate muscle imbalances, causing chronic stress and injuries. If you can’t squat with proper form, work on your muscle imbalances first, before you add weights. Find out why you can’t do it with good form. Maybe you have to achieve more flexibility in your shoulders. Maybe you can do a squat with good form, but once you add 100 pounds, your knees start to go way over your toes. That’s when you know that you’ve reached your limit. Give yourself time to get stronger before you add more weight. Maybe you can do 10 squats with good form, but after 11, you start to slouch. Then you know that it is time to take a break at 10. As soon as you lose your form, your muscles have given up and your joints will start experiencing wear and tear.

Achieve mastery one step at a time:

We learn to walk before we can run. When implementing fitness into your life, don’t attempt to run five miles on your first day, if you’ve never walked a mile in your life. Take into account what you are capable of doing and gradually add to that. If you are smart, your goal is to get fit for life. Set long term goals and take it one step at a time. This will prevent injuries and burn out. It will also make you more likely to stick to a fitness lifestyle permanently. After all, if you do it for only three months, you will go back to being unhealthy as soon as you stop. Add a bit more every two weeks to one month at a time.

Always warm up and cool down:

Years ago I got injured because I was a receptionist at a small yoga studio. I was allowed to check everyone in and take the last yoga class, but I had to walk in a few minutes late. I got an adjustment to my down dog before I had even warmed up. I got hurt. It may not seem like a big deal, but jumping into heavy weights or high intensity moves before your body is ready can get you hurt. If you don’t understand the science of warming up, please read my post on proper warm ups here:

WARM UP FOR INJURY PREVENTION AND ENHANCED PERFORMANCE

Balance–Always work the opposing muscles:

Our muscles tense up and get shorter in order to move our bones. For example, our biceps will shorten in order to flex our elbows in a bicep curl. When this happens, our triceps will lengthen and relax because it is on the other side. If we keep doing bicep curls without doing triceps extensions, we will have short and tight biceps and weak and long triceps. This is why we should work both muscles. If you do bench presses without doing rows, you will have short and tight pectorals which will cause your shoulders to turn in and may lead to a hunch back. Therefore, always do rows in order to strengthen your upper back and provide flexibility to your pectorals. If you always do abdominal crunches without working out your lower back, you will have tight abdominals which can cause your lower back to round excessively due to having a long and weak lower back. These imbalances can cause chronic pain and injuries, so always strengthen and stretch the opposite muscle groups.

Balance your fitness:

Speaking of balance, make sure that you aren’t overdoing it in one area of fitness and completely slacking in another. Our bodies need stability in order to protect our ligaments and joints. Therefore, only stretching without strengthening and stabilizing can cause loose ligaments and weak joints. However, only strength training without stretching can cause muscle stiffness and stress. Cardio and aerobic fitness helps circulate our blood, increasing our ability to recover. It also gives us stamina and strengthens our heart. In order to stay balanced and healthy, we need to balance out our fitness.

Learn to differentiate muscle pain from joint pain:

A gold medalist once said that our muscles protect our joints. Once you feel that your joints are in pain, stop. This means that your muscles have given up and you are just putting stress on your joints. If you run without overdoing it, the cartilage in your knees will actually get stronger. However, if you push through joint pain, you will hurt yourself and wear out the cartilage in your knees and hips. I have been applying this rule to my life for years. This is also a great tip because most of the complaints I hear from students regarding injuries are joint injuries due to overuse. Overuse injuries can be avoided if we stop when we are supposed to.

Vary your training:

I stated earlier that we achieve mastery one step at a time. Try not to stop at step one or two. If you do the exact same exercise for many years, you could still get hurt. Maybe the first time you did a particular routine, you felt massive changes in your body, so you kept doing it for years. Then one day, there is an emergency that requires you to move in a different way. Since your body has been programmed to move the exact same way for years, you get injured. The brain and the body are connected by a vast system, but habit can cause some connections to disappear completely.

I also suggest you practice functional moves so that you can use them in everyday life, such as learning proper technique for picking things up off the floor so you don’t hurt your back. Learn to use your muscles in different planes of motion because you just might need to move that way during an emergency. I have had students thank me many times because the moves I taught them have helped them in emergency situations. As I get older, I become more reliant on cross training because my body can’t handle doing the same moves everyday. Moving in different directions gives some of my muscles opportunities to rest while I work out others. Remember, the fitter you are, the less likely you will be severely hurt during an accident. So in order to keep from getting hurt, stay fit.

Weigh the risk of competition:

Many people get hurt during competition but some will say that it was worth it. Before you are about to break your ankle while crossing the finish line in tenth place, weigh the risk of competition and know how far you are willing to go to win. A professional athlete makes millions of dollars putting his body on the line and has the best orthopedic surgeons at his disposal. You have to ask yourself if finishing that marathon or getting beaten up in an amateur cage match is worth the risk of injuring yourself and being out of commission . Ask yourself why you are competing. If you join a marathon to lose weight but break a leg and gain all the weight back, is it worth it? Maybe winning a competition is a life long dream that you are willing to sacrifice everything for. Only you can decide what is best, but definitely premeditate on the risks before you go in the field. Then you will know if it is okay to risk it all and when to ease off and let someone else take the spotlight. Of course, if you want to reduce your chance of getting injured during competition, train smart. Strengthen your muscles so they are ready for the abuse they are about to take. Don’t compete without practicing and training like an athlete. I’ve seen many weekend warriors break bones or wreck their bodies because they competed without training for the event.

Don’t forget recovery:

Make sure you are getting enough nutrients for growing muscles and for recovery. Make sure you are giving your muscles adequate rest and time to adapt, and that you are getting enough sleep in order to avoid overuse injuries or fainting episodes caused by fatigue or low blood sugar.

For a short post on recovery, consistency and why some people practically kill themselves but still don’t improve check out this link:

WHY AM I NOT IMPROVING

PostHeaderIcon Be Kind, For Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle.

Today, I took a yoga class with Chaz Russ and burst into tears in happy frog pose… again. The first time this happened, I was taking a hip opening class with Vinnie Marino at the Wanderlust Yoga and Music Festival.

The trauma I hold in my hips, thighs and lower back stem from abuse, fear, poverty, anger and athletic injuries in the past. Some of these issues go back years and are invisible to me until I focus all my attention on those areas. When I indulge in my own practice, and experience my own pain, I become more compassionate towards everyone else living in this world who ever had to suffer. I become so grateful that I found the yoga path and that I share the same room with people who are going through the same thing. Years ago, I thought I was alone.

There is a famous quote that has been attributed to Plato and John Watson (aka, Ian MacLaren) that goes: Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

This quote is my mantra of teaching. It is also the hardest part of teaching. I know that people come to class expecting to suffer. I know how hard it is to have a body that might have been neglected or traumatized by injuries, aging or disease. The courage that it takes to focus on something that most people choose to ignore is immense. When we challenge ourselves with any fitness regimen, we have to face our greatest weaknesses. We have to fight the demons and the shadows that put us down because we aren’t as energetic as athletes, or strong as superheroes or beautiful as supermodels.

When I say, “isn’t this fun?” while teaching a class. It’s a bit of a Zen koan. I am poking light at our suffering. After all, I wouldn’t want to make things worse. Also, I’m sending you a subliminal message that will hopefully make you want to come back. Yes, I know it’s not always fun but if I can shift your awareness for a moment by saying this, sometimes your grimace turns into a smile and when this happens, it makes my day. I think there is a reason why the pose that makes me cry is called “happy” frog. These funny names are chosen to make light of our struggles. Even though we have to face ourselves and our suffering, we don’t necessarily have to dwell on them.

A woman once told me that she was cycling up a mountain and really struggling to get to the top. She said that when she reached the peak, she heard my voice in her head saying “wasn’t that fun?” I was so pleasantly amused by this story. I am happy that she heard me say this over anything negative.

That being said, I still understand that we are all fighting our own battles, whether mental or physical, outward or inward, in public or in private. When you come to me with your questions and ask me about the trauma you experience in your body, I am grateful because it makes me realize that I am not alone in dealing with my own trauma.

Ian MacLaran expressed this state of compassion well when he said:

This man beside us also has a hard fight with an unfavouring world, with strong temptations, with doubts and fears, with wounds of the past which have skinned over, but which smart when they are touched. It is a fact, however surprising. And when this occurs to us we are moved to deal kindly with him, to bid him be of good cheer, to let him understand that we are also fighting a battle; we are bound not to irritate him, nor press hardly upon him nor help his lower self.

I shall put my heart on my sleave share an excerpt from my diary. This was written a couple of years ago, after experiencing a huge crying fit during Vinnie Marino’s hip opening class:

He had us sit with one leg bent back and the other straight to the side and we had to fold into the center.  I don’t know why it hurt so much.  Probably ’cause I actually hurt myself a while ago, long story.  I found myself adjusting myself a lot and then it happened.  This uncontrollable sobbing just spewed from me.  It wasn’t sorrowful.  I hadn’t just dealt with loss.  I honestly can’t say what it was that made me cry but I cried and cried and continued with the class.  I’ve cried before in yoga. I cried once during shavassana after doing a heart opening workshop.  But this was half way through an hour and a half class, and the funny thing was, I couldn’t stop crying.  I was in a class of a hundred, in a huge tent overlooking the mountains.  Everyone was in their own world on their mat.  I didn’t stop crying until the end of class.

The teacher just gave us the poses and let us experience them.  He played very specific folky music with very significant lyrics.  Almost as if the songs were guiding us through.  I remember lyrics that dealt with letting go, with being okay with who we are.  One song said, “I know you’re in love.  I can see it in you.”  He didn’t have to explain anything.  The crying didn’t stop and I was okay with it.  I was breathing deeper than I ever did in my life as I struggled through the poses, yet I wasn’t struggling.  I was letting go of something that had wanted to be released for a long time. I once wrote in a blog that we are in love with everyone we have ever been and change is hard even if we are changing for the better, but its okay.  We’ll change when we’re ready.  I would deepen my poses, then ease off, then deepen them.  I kept breathing and experiencing everything and I felt that nothing else mattered than that moment and the crying was ecstatic almost.  I couldn’t be happier.

At some point, the teacher made us do happy frog and Danny started sobbing too.  I don’t know if it was because I was.  At the end of the class, I learned that other people had cried and Danny also didn’t know why he cried.  It just happened.  This was one of the most profound yoga experiences I ever had because it was completely out of my intellect.  It was pure acceptance and experiencing.  The only thoughts that went through my head was that I’m okay and that everyone is okay.  It was complete non-judgment and I loved everyone in that moment and it was okay if they were ready or not ready and it was good enough if they tried and I thought of my friends who were struggling with one issue or another and I thought, “they’re okay.”  No one was at fault for anything.  I also thought that we could all put our energy towards self destruction or doing things that would lead to growth, like yoga.  I felt cleansed after that.  That was the true beginning of my vacation, a real shift from my everyday tasks.

PostHeaderIcon Yoga and the Art of Letting Go

Last week, I took a yoga class with Chaz Russ for the first time. Chaz quoted Joseph Cambpell in the beginning of class by saying, “we must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”

Chaz explained that a caterpillar must, one day, shed its skin in order to become a butterfly. If we are to mature and grow in life, we must “shed our old skin.”

We tackled poses such as eagle or cow. We crossed our legs tight and bound our arms; so when we finally opened up and let go, it felt so good. I could feel myself shedding my skin, not just the trauma and stress I hold in my hips and shoulders, but the silly restrictions I have put on myself by planning out my life.

At a young age, I created an identity for myself. I was to be an edgy artist. After many years of hard work, I realized that the lifestyle of an actress didn’t suit me at all. This was my decision, yet I have found myself beating myself up for never making it.

I guess I’m at that midlife crisis age when we realize that we aren’t the person we always thought we were.  All the creative visualizing that I have done in the past, regarding who I was going to be in the future got shattered by the lessons I learned along the way. I’m so much more now, than the person I ever thought I could be.

I never knew I would grow up to be a fitness professional. I never imagined the growth and contribution I have achieved from completely re-inventing myself.

So, I ask myself, does it matter if I become a successful billionaire if all I cared about was that goal and learned nothing along the way? Or is it the quality of the journey itself that matters?

How did I love? Did I appreciate life? Did I enjoy the view or was I so preoccupied by my plans for the future that I missed out on all the little moments in between?

Do I bind myself to identities and expectations the way I bind myself in my poses? Do I sometimes forget to release the bind, let go and open up?

Am I so set on sticking to one path that I lose my sense of the adventure, forgetting that other paths may open up?

I am reminded to enjoy the feeling of my yoga practice, to appreciate the serenity and peace that it brings me, and not to beat myself up just because every pose isn’t perfect.

PostHeaderIcon Don’t Hold Your Breath

“Fatigue… muscle aches and pains, sighing and yawning, poor concentration, headaches, insomnia, chest pain, dizziness, feelings of panic or loss of control, gastric reflux, pins of needles, bad breath, bloating, anxiety etc.  If you look at these things, think of the drugs that are being sold for those symptoms on a daily basis.  It’s in the millions and millions and millions, potentially billions of dollars potentially a day just due to the symptoms of faulty breathing.  Remember breathing is chi cultivation and breathing is the most primal form of movement there is so learning to breath is the first step of learning to move.”—Paul Chek

When I was a young girl and I played my Jane Fonda aerobics tape, I would laugh whenever she said the words, “don’t forget to breath.”  It seemed like such a simple and automatic thing.  After working in the fitness industry, I have learned why she always says this.  People hold their breath all the time and this can lead to hyperventilation.  The worst thing we can do is starve our body for oxygen.  How we breathe determines how much energy we get and therefore, how much energy we have.

Studies have shown that only 50% of people use their full lung capacity.  When the body is starved for oxygen, it goes straight into flight and fight mode, otherwise known as stress.  When we are too tense to breath deep or when we are gasping for air during a workout, studies have shown that free radicals enter the body.  These toxins speed up the aging process.  This is counterproductive.

Below are some reasons why most of the population does not breathe properly:

Improper posture: Our spine moves with our breath and our posture determines how much oxygen we intake.

Tense muscles around the back and lungs: When our ribs, abdominals and shoulders are tight, air becomes unable to fill in our lungs.  Our muscles and organs are designed to move flexibly and expand as air enters our body.  Muscle imbalances from bad posture or strengthening some muscles more than others can cause this.

Stress: Stress causes us to panic and start breathing through our mouths, making our breath quick and panicky.  This causes the breath to become shallow so it doesn’t reach the deeper receptors in our lungs.  Most amateurs breathe through the mouth when they try to run fast or workout hard.  However, if you watch the fastest athletes in the world, you’ll see that their breath is controlled and smooth, allowing them to intake more oxygen so they can move efficiently.

For some of us, it is difficult to think of how to breathe while moving.  For these types, taking extra time to understand the breath is crucial. Just understanding how to inhale and exhale while lifting weights means the difference between having enough oxygen and energy to fuel our workouts and not having the energy to make massive improvements.

By learning how to breathe properly, we can cure ourselves of anxiety, stress and fatigue.  On a higher level, by learning breath control, we can use the breath to control the subconscious mechanisms of our body such as heart rate, blood pressure, and the autonomous nervous system.  This can bring us incredible power and self-healing and athletic abilities.

Try these exercises at home to test your breathing capacity:

Lie down on your back and relax.  Let go of any need to control your breath.  Just rest your hands right below your belly button and feel how naturally the breath rises and falls in your belly.  If your belly does not rise and the breath is in your chest, you are a shallow or reverse breather.  Most people will have the breath rising in their bellies.  Now stand up and put your hands on your belly and see if the breath still rises in the same area.  At this point, many people stop breathing in their bellies because they are not as relaxed while standing.  The key is to ease unnecessary tension in your body.  You might have to do some exercises or yoga poses to help relieve this tension.  You can also try deepening your belly breath while lying on your back and then imitating the feeling while standing.

Some people are reverse breathers.  This is a disorder that is caused by sucking in your abdominals while you breathe in.  The abdomen should expand as you breathe in so the air has room to enter.  Reverse breathers do not allow air to travel to their diaphragm and get less oxygen than they should be getting. If you are a reverse breather you may have to learn some exercises to free the energy blockages in your body so you can breathe naturally.

This second exercise helped me tremendously in regards to applying proper breathing to cardiovascular exercise.  Many people deal with poor breathing during intense exercise due to nervousness or unnecessary tension while working out the heart.  To help cultivate your breath while active try this:  While you walk, count how many steps you take while inhaling and exhaling through the nose.  Try to increase the number of steps per one complete breath.  If you can take one full breath over 18 steps, you have great respiratory fitness.

This month, I will be holding a workshop on mastering the breath.  Click the “events” section above for more information

By Rhea Morales

PostHeaderIcon What To Do In Case of an Injury

In all my classes, one of the the most frequently asked questions is what to do after an injury.  Today I am addressing this question with 3 basic steps:

Step 1: RICE:  When an injury has first occurred, the protocol we are all taught to use is R.I.C.E.  This stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation.

Step 2: Restore Mobility:  When swelling subsides and most of the tissue has healed, we start to move that area again in order to retrain the damaged tissue.

Step 3: Restore strength, stability and flexibility to the area and scar tissue.

On step 1: Often a person might over do it. They hurt their muscle and want to fix it right away.  They wonder if they stretch it, would it get better?  If you had a torn rubber band and you stretch it, would that heal the tear?  The best thing to do when you feel you might have torn a muscle is absolutely nothing.  Movement can aggravate an injury and we must give the body a chance to heal.  This is why REST is the first step.  We ICE the area for no longer than twenty minutes on and off to reduce swelling.  Sometimes we COMPRESS the area by providing a brace or wrap to prevent the area from moving and aggravating the injury.  ELEVATE the area if you can to restrict blood flow and swelling.  For example, if you sprained an ankle, put your feet up.  The first stage can last from one day to many months depending on the severity of the injury.

On step 2: The next step is to restore mobility.  Understand that the body is made to heal.  However we need to help it along.  When a muscle is injured, often the neurons that send messages to the brain become damaged.  We need to move that area to restore our reflexes.  Also, movement brings blood flow and energy back to the area which will assist in healing.  In general, if the movement hurts, don’t do it.  You may still be damaged and you do not want to aggravate an injury.

On step 3: During the final step, take some time out of our week to restore strength, mobility, stability and flexibility to the area.  If we do not do this, our damaged tissues may have healed but they will stay weak.  Because they are weak, they will be more likely to get re-injured.  Also, babying one area of the body may cause muscle imbalances as we over compensate by making our healthy muscles and bones work harder.  This too, can lead to more injuries.  A good physical therapist should work with you and provide you with proper exercises to bring strength and mobility back to your injured area.  This may include massage (to soften inflexible scar tissue), weights (to bring strength back to weakened areas), balance poses (to restore stability and balance and to help protect joints), static stretches (to restore length to muscles and tendons), and movements (to restore mobility).

If injuries do not get better, the cause could be one of four reasons:

Reason 1:  The injury ‘caused major damage such as bulging discs that pinch on nerves, a muscle that tore completely off or  a dislocation that needs to be corrected.  This may require the attention of a medical specialist or surgery.  It is always smart to get testing done such as x-rays or an MRI right away so that you know exactly what is wrong.  If you know what is wrong, you and your doctor will have a more solid idea of what to do about it.

Reason 2:  Not giving the injury a chance to fully recover or coming back too strong.  Some injuries take longer to heal than others.  Returning to a fitness routine too quickly will not give the body a chance to heal.  Overuse injuries are caused by never giving your body enough rest.

Reason 3:  Improper alignment.  Doing an exercise improperly, such as squatting and lunging while letting the knees bend over the toes, can exasperate a condition.  Talk to an expert and make sure you are doing all of your movements correctly.

Reason 4: Failure to effectively warm up and cool down.  warm ups lubricate the joints and send blood to the area you will be exercising.  Some warm ups are necessary to recruit more muscle fibers.  Cool downs gradually take blood out of the area to avoid cramping, swelling and stress to the muscles and heart.  Starting and ending an intense work out too suddenly can be dangerous.

By Rhea Morales

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PostHeaderIcon Turning Stress Into Strength

With her permission, Ellie Miraftabi, MFT. Ph.D. has been gracious enough to allow me to post her article on my website.  Ellie is a licensed psychotherapist and coach.  Thanks for contributing, Ellie!

Turning stress into Strength

By: Ellie Miraftabi, MFT. Ph.D.

Today I want to discuss self-care and turning stress into Strength. More psychologists recognize that self-care helps them be better caregivers.

There are self-care basis –eating right, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly – and more luxurious ones. Using them all

If you do just one thing, make it exercise.   Psychologist’s research and clinical experience show the critical importance of weaving exercise into your life. Research on the topic overwhelmingly points to its physical and mental benefits: Not only does regular exercise improve physical problems such as diabetes and high cholesterol, but it has distinct mood and cognitive advantages as well, including ability to combat depression and anxiety. Treat yourself to a massage and /or learn to massage your neck, shoulders, and feet.

Do any one of your favorite sports, especially one that involves a pretty setting such as skiing, sailing, or horseback riding on scenic trails. As you engage in the physical activity, pay special attention to the sensory experiences that are involved. Be conscious of every sense –sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.

Cultivate your mind, bodies and spirits through exercise, meditation, a balanced diet and self directed thinking, instead of reacting to outward pressures to advance professionally. This approach comes from various aspects of Buddhism, including:

  1. Nonjudging. Get beyond thinking of people and situations as good or bad. Achieve a more neutral, observant state, often with the help of meditation.
  2. Patience. Set a steady pace. Think before acting, Avoid quick or automatic reactions.
  3. A beginner’s mind. Open your mind. Listen to and learn from others.
  4. Trust. Start by trusting people. Only distrust them when you have valid reason to.
  5. Acceptance. Recognize that some people and things will be as they are.
  6. Letting go. Know when to rest, to withdraw or to stop, and allow yourself to do. Nonstriving. Focus less on the future and more on the present moment and the job at hand.

Here is a collection of simple, common-sense strategies for transforming mental and physical tension in energy that is creatively and efficiently expressed.

    • Take time to be alone on a regular basis to prioritize your activities, reevaluate your goals, check your intentions, and listen to your heart.
    • Take a deep slow breath often, especially while on the phone, in the car, or waiting for something or someone. Use these moments to relax and revitalize yourself.
    • Do something each day that brings you joy, something that you love to do and that leaves you refreshed.
    • When you’re concerned about something, talk it over with someone you trust, or write down.
    • Say no when asked to do something you really don’t want to do.
    • Appreciate how everything changes from moment to moment. Welcome changes as an opportunity and challenge to learn and grow.
    • Take yourself to a beautiful natural setting such as a park, the beach, a lake, a river, or mountains. Focuse your eyes on the beauty around you. Pay attention to the array of colors in nature.
    • Visit a public garden. Let your eyes roam over the flowers and exotic plants. Go up very close to the flowers and examine the petals and leaves. Look for the intricacy of design which is the hallmark of natures’ work.
    • Go to a movie or rent a video that has been praised for its cinematography. Pay particular attention to the scenery, the costumes, and the technical mastery of the film.
    • Go to a concert of your favorite music. Close your eyes and marvel at the blending of sounds and rhythms.
    • Learn a variety of relaxation techniques and practice at least one regularly.
    • Become more aware of the demand you place on yourself, your environment, and others to be different than they (you) are at any moment. Demands are a tremendous source of stress.
    • If your schedule is busy, prioritize your activities and do the most important ones first.
    • When you read your mail, act on it immediately (e.g., files it, send it back, toss it, etc.)
    • Create and maintain a personal support system –people you trust and feel as ease with.
    • Take a soothing bath by candlelight. Bring a portable radio or tape player and play your favorite music softly. Perfume the bathwater with warm, scented bath oil or bubble bath. As you immerse yourself, focus on the pleasurable sensations you are experiencing
    • When sleeping, keep the room as dark as possible.

You don’t need to wait until you are in the mood to do these activities. Stimulate your sensory path ways precisely when you are not necessarily in the mood –when you are feeling down. By putting the behavior first, your mind and your mood will follow.

Get psychotherapy if you need or want it.

Dr. Ellie Miraftabi is a licensed psychotherapist who works with individual adults and couples in California. Her office is located in Moorpark. She also serves as a personal coach, assisting clients both inside and outside of California via phone in generating and reaching goals to improve their quality of life.
(805) 357-6855
elliemiraftabi@yahoo.com
www.moorparkcounseling

PostHeaderIcon Meditation (A Running Into Reality)

I’d like to address a common misperception I have heard from the public in their attitude towards meditation or people who meditate. This misperception is that practitioners of meditation are escapists. They meditate in order to escape reality. They escape to the mountains or to retreats in order to get away from things because they cannot handle life. This misperception is contradictory to the true meaning of meditation. To Quote Psychologist and Mindfulness Expert, Larry Cammarata, “meditation is not an escape from reality but a running into reality.”

Meditation is not worrying about what we said or what other people said in the past nor is it thinking so much about the future that you ignore what is happening in the here and now. It is not escaping reality by becoming addicted to a substance, cause, person or mindset. It is a running into reality. Meditation is focusing on one thing with utmost clarity. It is being aware of the present experience with acceptance.

Why is this important? Have you ever had a hard time focusing on one thing? Practitioners of meditation call this “suffering.” Often, we dwell on matters we have no power over. We dwell on our anger and insecurities. We can’t stop thinking about what this or that person said. We worry about our future and what needs to get done when we should be doing what needs to get done here and now. As a result, nothing gets done. Because of this, we feel guilty. This leads to more suffering. Meditation helps us end this suffering.

All meditation is, is focusing on the present moment without judgment. It is important that we do not judge ourselves or others because our “ego” can lead to suffering. In yoga class, if we take the focus away from our bodies or breath and focus on how the lady next to us has a much prettier pose than we do, we will suffer. This suffering will diminish if we focus only on our own breath and feel the workings of our own body. Putting extra focus on our yoga practice and not on our egos will lead to a more fulfilling practice and a sounder mind.

If we take some time out of the day to focus on something as simple as our breath, the mind will clear itself from other worries that cause us suffering. Studies have shown that sixty percent of our population does not breathe properly. Shallow breath can lead to many diseases such as high blood pressure, anxiety, and other stress related disorders.   By focusing our mind on something as simple as our breath, this can calm our physical anxiety. Our minds will also find stillness as we have taken our focus away from our worries.

If you have a problem that just keeps bothering you, meditate on that. It is amazing how running into reality can help us solve the root cause of the dilemmas that cause us so much suffering. During my yoga teacher’s training, we had an assignment to write about several meditations. Some of us meditated specifically on a problem that bothered us. Those of us who meditated on a problem either found the solution to the problem right away or learned that we never had a problem to begin with. Taking a few minutes out of the day to run into reality, saved us countless hours of worrying and suffering.

Another benefit of meditation is cortical thickening in the brain and growth of neurons. This shows that meditation strengthens the activity of the brain, creating mental hardiness. In terms of physical meditation, focusing on the present moment leads to physical hardiness. A great athlete is focused on nothing but the moment when he is scoring that winning goal. Future success is a byproduct of his ability to focus on the moment.

The best advice I have received on how to balance motherhood with my career was to focus on the present always. When you are with your family, put all your focus on them. When you are at work, put all your focus on your work. When you are relaxing, focus on relaxing. Organize your time so you know exactly when and what you should be focusing on. This philosophy worked for the successful woman who told me this and it has been working for me. Worrying about your job when you should be spending quality time with your kids is futile. Worry about your job when you are doing it. This is the key of living a fulfilling and stress free life.

As far as escaping reality goes, if you need to take time to yourself to sort things out, I can see nothing wrong with this. Sometimes our environment can be toxic and removing ourselves from it in order to find clarity can be an intelligent step to take. I have done this in my past and the experience has changed my life as it has helped me to know my true purpose.

So if you are brain fried from clutter, take one thing — anything, and focus on it. Try it and let me know how it goes.

By Rhea Morales