Monday Mayhem: STRETCH!

I’ve always wanted to be a dancer.

It’s a truth that not many know about me! But there it is. In black and white now, for all the world to see. When I was a little girl my mom spoke often of putting me in ballet, but the cosmos did not align in my favor for many things that I wanted as a little girl.

Life happens.

You grow up. You tuck away your childhood dreams and go on.

I admired ballerinas from afar, attended Alvin Ailey performances and with my daughter watched the Nutcracker with awe and wonder.

Fortunately, when she expressed a desire to dance, I was able to enroll her in a little studio not far from our house and I’ve watched with awe and wonder as she’s developed grace and poise in a very short time. When I registered her for the summer the studio owner reminded me, again, that they offer “adult” classes and I told myself, again, that I’m “too old for this” now. My time has passed. I’m past my prime.

It would be a stretch to take ballet at my age…literally!

But, then I thought, why not stretch? Stretching is good! Physically, stretching increases range of motion, prevents injury and  improves balance, but psychologically? Emotionally? Professionally? Stretching can be scary. Reaching for goals that are not just beyond my reach, but beyond my zip code!  Extending myself to attempt things that are so far outside of my skillset that I have to do research before I can even start? No. My courage is a bit atrophied from decades of settling for tasks that fall safely within the parameters of my paygrade, from sticking with activities that lie limply under the canopy of my job description. So, the thought of crawling out from under that safe, yet confining space was frightening!

When atrophied muscles begin to move, the result is resistance. When we wander into unknown territory, the initial move is hard. To stretch beyond the comfort zone is to pull away from the familiar and to risk pain. That’s why it’s easier to stay where I am, to stick to what’s expected of me at my age, to settle, rather than to stretch.

But, there’s another reality:  if I do nothing I die! For years I’ve watched others do things I wished I could do. I’ve spent much of my life on the bench, observing from the sideline. At the end of my life will I be content to say, “boy it sure was fun to watch everyone else living their life!” No! It’s high time I get in the game and do some living myself!  Physically, if a person doesn’t move, they will deteriorate. Psychologically, emotionally and professionally the same is true too. Because anything that is not moving is declining; anything that isn’t living is dying!

The bottom line is, I have two choices. I can either get old or I can grow old.

If I get old I stay where I am, in my comfort zone, doing what’s safe, completing the easy tasks that I know I can do, never stretching myself to do any more or to try anything new. And every year I’ll get older.

Or I can step out of my comfort zone. Break away from what’s safe, challenge myself to tasks that seem too hard for me, stretch myself to do more than I think I’m capable of and to try new things that I never thought I could. And every year I’ll grow older.  I’ll stretch, I’ll change; hopefully I’ll be stronger and better for the effort and experience.

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So, what about you? Do you need to stretch? Have you settled into a safe space and allowed your literal or metaphorical muscles to atrophy? Maybe it’s time to peek out from under your canopy. In the meantime, if, you’ll excuse me, I have some stretching to do, my ballet class will be starting soon!

  • Learn more about the benefits of stretching from Prevention
  • Learn more about my favorite little dance studio Arabesque Dance Arts
  • Also, check out “Hi, I’m K” where I’ve uploaded pictures from my ballerina daughter’s birthday “spa” party!

*Want more Monday Mayhem? Click here!

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Monday Mayhem: Fight!

One of the most difficult things that I have had to deal with as a writer is the daily fight with demons.  They’re called  Doubt.

  • Doubt I’ll come up with a topic today.
  • Doubt I’ll ever be a good writer.
  • Doubt I’ll ever be a published writer.
  • Doubt anyone will read what I write.
  • Doubt anyone will be interested in my writing.

On and on it goes.  Those doubting demons attack daily. And so, before I can ever write a word, I have to fight.

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Which is why I have Mayhem Mondays, and especially why I have Revamp Mondays. To help in that fight…to strengthen my mind as I strengthen my body. Join me in the fight!

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FIGHT DEPRESSION WITH YOUR FISTS!

by Tanzy Chandler

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“I start each day with prayer and God reminds me that, “He has not given me the spirit of fear, but of power, love and a SOUND MIND”

I first started noticing symptoms of depression in my third year of college. I was used to being an athlete, but since starting college I wasn’t playing any team sports because of schedule conflicts and I started noticing a feeling of constant fatigue and low energy.  I was easily overwhelmed by the simplest tasks.  I was losing interest in the activities I once loved and started feeling hopeless about my future.  It was all very gradual. There was no traumatic event.  As far as I could tell, I had no reason to be sad, yet I was.

I started seeing a counsellor which I found to be helpful, but over the years the depression became more and more paralyzing.  I was numb on the inside, just going through the motions of life.

Then, after a back injury, my doctor encouraged me to start exercising in order to strength my back and lose weight, so I started riding my bike a couple days a week and I was reminded that my body was craving physical activity.  But a leisurely bike ride was not enough.  The more I exercised, the more intense I needed the exercise to be. I joined a group led by  a trainer who incorporated weights in a circuit training style cluster of functional exercises.  I quickly became one of the strongest in the group, in part, because I was driven to push myself to heavier weights and more challenging exercises. After being with that group  for a few years I later discovered crossfit, which is defined as functional movement, constantly varied at high intensities. It combines HIIT, powerlifting, Olympic lifting, gymnastics, and plyometrics. Every single crossfit workout  gave me that natural exercise high that I was craving.

After an intense workout my mood almost instantly improves.  Exercise has been known to cause a release of endorphins in the body which increases the serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain.  My husband always tells me that he can tell when I’ve had a good workout because I come back from the gym smiling.   Those chemicals are directly connected to our mental health.  Our bodies were designed to move!!  THAT IS HOW GOD CREATED US.

Our mental, physical and emotional health are all intertwined, so exercise is critical for a strong mind.  It may not be weight lifting for everybody, but I’ve found that lifting weights releases the right amount of endorphins which starts that positive chemical chain reactions that improves my mental health.

In 2015 I had foot surgery and I was very concerned about my mental health during my required bed rest period.  I knew that weight lifting and high intensity exercises were my “antidepressants”, and was afraid of how my mood would change without the ability to stay active. My doctor  prescribed antidepressants during that time to help my mood while I was recovering. To be honest, I’m not really sure how much it really helped. Maybe a little, but they were no substitute for my exercise routine. After being on the meds for a year, I gained 15 pounds and wasn’t nearly as mentally at peace as I had been while I was exercising. Once my surgeon cleared me to begin lifting weights again, I weaned off the medication and signed up for my first crossfit competition.  The weekly training required to prepare me for the competition was just what my mind and body needed.

If you are reading this and you are struggling with depression then I highly recommend that you begin exercising regularly–3 days a week at minimum. Find a trainer or fitness friend that can teach you how to incorporate lifting weight safely and effectively into your routine. Not only will it improve your mental health, it will also strengthen your body and help you to manage your activities of daily living with more ease.  The key, however, is consistency. You can’t do it once in a while; you must do it regularly in order to see the benefits.

I start each day with prayer and God reminds me that, “He has not given me the spirit of fear, but of power, love and a SOUND MIND,”so I can attack each day with hope and courage!

Happy Monday!

Mayhem Monday: Dreams & Determination!

My niece and nephew graduated this weekend and, of course, I’m super proud of them! They each chose a different path, but both tore through the academic wilderness and emerged unscathed–well, they survived anyway. After all, what’s a war without a few batttle scars?

Victory is the child of preparation and determination.

(Sean Hampton, actor)

They were priveleged with great parents who prepared them for their successes, who equipped them with all of the necessary tools–private schools, summer camps, extra curriculars–as well as the intangibles like love and security.  Yet, Tyler and Greg had to find their own way in college. Mom and Dad couldn’t study for them or finish their assignments. Once the foundation was laid, the building was up to them.

The “Different World” can be a scary place when you’re facing it all alone…

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Funny thing is, a different world is where Greg and Tyler are NOW!

Kids often think that preparation is the time at home.  To an extent that’s true, but what my niece and nephew are about to discover is that they’ve actually been in a safe haven all this time. College is just an extention of home. It’s still a place of preparation as professors and administrators dictate courses and curfews (especially when you attend, as they did, a parochial school affiliated with a highly conservative religious organization.)

Oh yes, the real world is still waiting…

But I’m proud of them, nonetheless.  I know they’ll make it.

We’ve done all we can to prepare them–we, the parents, the aunties, the professors, the surrogates.  Now we’ll watch as they spread their wings, and we’ll hope that the determination that brought them this far will carry them the rest of the way!

And for all the other Tylers and Gregs out there, setting out on your own, just know that life is full of surprises. Your future may or may not turn out the way you envisioned it, but you can be sure that success is possible if you stay open to the many ways it may be manifested. For our Mayhem Monday motiviation, check out Laura Berman Fortgang’s TED Talk on “Finding Your Dream Without Looking at Your Resume!” And I wish you all Godspeed!

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Revamp Monday: God is in the Gym!

Every year Writer’s Digest comes out with their “101 Best Websites for Writers” and I LOVE flipping through the pages of those issues then surfing the web for the latest sites and resources. There’s just so much fantastic stuff out there for writers! There’s the traditional stuff like critique or discussion forums and “everything agents,” job listings and writers’ conferences.  But then there’s the non-traditional, inspirational, stuff, like the creativity portal which offers a slew of brain teasers and visual prompts to spark the imagination, or coffitivity.com, a site that provides the background noise you would hear in a coffee shop–you know, in case you can’t get to an actual coffee shop to do your work!

My point is that Writer’s Digest has the same idea that I do.  We recognize that writers need all kinds of resources. Yes, we need to talk about writing, but we also need inspiration that will motivate us to write! That’s what Mayhem Mondays are all about! I’m trying to get us motivated to do the work that we were meant to do!  That’s also why I’m glad to have Tanzy back again to inspire us to keep pushing–whether it’s pencils or power squats!

GOD IS IN THE GYM

 In my experience, I’ve found that physical activity has the ability to mimic many of my personal spiritual experiences. My intangible journey of faith suddenly takes on shape, form and weight, when I’m in the gym.

The heaviness of the bars I press, remind me of the heaviness I feel at times when raising my arms to praise God. Struggling against the burden of complacency to honor Him through worship.

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Running miles, up and down hills on the treadmill as my heart aches in my chest. Step after step in agonizing fatigue, mirroring the deliverance I’ve been desperately pursuing. Pleading for the finish line to come into view.

The rope I grasp to pull my body vertically against gravity, is not unfamiliar to the ditch of depression I’ve tried to pull myself out of, time and time again. Muscles of hope burning as I grip tighter and pray harder that I can make it out this time.

The delicate yoga poses I hold are identical to the moments that I am expected to be still, and know that HE IS GOD.  Breathing deep and slow, as I patiently wait for God to instruct me to change position.  But until then I am forced to make still my anxious thoughts and trust in my creator.

For me, physical movement is capable of materializing my walk with Christ. God is indeed present with me in the gym.

Speaking to me on the bike trail.

Whispering to me with each lap in the pool.

Lifting with me rep after rep.

He helps me as I battle against the voice that says, “You can’t do this”. The spirit reminds me, “I can do all things”. In my world, he resides not only in the church, but also in the gym and Exercise is my reasonable act of worship. It’s my way of giving God praise for the gift of my body. It’s His way of  teaching me that I can overcome any challenge he calls me to face.

Physical fitness is the language God uses to save my soul.  A strong body is simply a side effect.

Tanzy Chandler

Founder of REVAMP FITNESS

Thanks, Tanzy!

Tanzy Chandler joins us on the first Monday of every month. Check out her article “Demote the Scale” and her YouTube channel! Also, for more Mayhem Monday Madness, check back every Monday and throughout the week for writing and word play.  Also, check out my  recipes  (I have a new kale salad that’s yum!) and energizers, ’cause you can’t write–or exercise–on an empty stomach!

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Monday Mayhem: 6 Ways to be Unstoppable!

They say youth is wasted on the young.

I would agree.

When we’re young we think we know it all, that life is simple and our success is guaranteed…

As I look into the wandering eyes of graduating seniors whose only thought is what design they’ll put on their graduation cap, I chuckle to myself. If only that were the most difficult decision they’ll be faced with in the coming months and years!

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I just pray their high hopes and lofty aspirations are not dashed against the rocks of grad school rejection letters and not-so-tweet-worthy entry-level jobs.

I’ve been there.

My lofty dreams were to author books, but life led me on a long detour of learning experiences. When I first stepped onto a college campus I was prepared to make my mark, but I had no idea what the future had in store…

So, here I am, all these years later with novels yet unwritten, but I have a clearer focus. While I’ve managed a few accomplishments along the way, I could be closer to some of my personal goals if I had just realized a few things a little earlier in life.  I wasted a lot of time worrying about what others thought and living my life according to unrealistic standards.  Now that my perspective is different,  I’d like to offer the young people who are gazing out the windows at their imminent futures 6 things I would tell my younger self if I could because

if I knew then, what I know now, I would have been unstoppable!

  1. Don’t let anyone discourage you from doing what you love—even if you have to do it as a side gig, keep doing it!
  2. Get used to hard work–it doesn’t end after final exams!
  3. Hone your networking skills—success is ALL about who you know
  4. Look for opportunities—paid or unpaid–in your field, or related to your field
  5. Don’t snub the small stuff–all experience is valuable. You have to start somewhere! The more you do, the more you’ll figure out what you want to do and what you’re good at. The more you experience the more you learn, which is what makes experience so valuable!
  6. Never stop learning.  Don’t ever think that you will reach a point when you know “enough”. There’s always more to learn. Once you stop learning, you stop living.

And, I’m all about living life to the fullest. So, go be unstoppable!

Happy Monday!

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