My Moment of Zen (or how therapy is the ultimate self care)

2020 and now 2021 was a year of a lot of changes for the majority of the world. All of our best laid plans in January mostly fell apart by Spring and we were left scrambling to figure out what to do from there. Not knowing when the pandemic would come to an end made future plans nearly impossible.

One thing that has helped me immensely is therapy. Being a busy professional made it almost impossible before (or so I told myself) but working from home and the availability of telehealth made it so easy to slip into my week.

Although so many people do it and get positive results from it, therapy is sometimes perceived as only something damaged people do or that talking about things don’t make them better. I think we all have a little bit of damage that we incurred throughout our years, especially in this year, but you don’t have to be teetering on the edge of a mental breakdown to get benefits from therapy.

What therapy has helped me do is reconnect when my life and do a lot of self-analysis on why I feel a certain way. Reestablishing this connection has made so much of my life better, even in this lockdown state. I am more in tune with my family, my physical well-being, my health and fitness journey and even what I am putting into my body.

The most insane thing in all the pandemic craziness is the plan that fell apart in January of 2020 revived itself in January of 2021 and I am exactly where I wanted to be a year ago. The difference between then and now is that I know a lot more about myself because of my journey in therapy. For that, I am extremely grateful.

Real Talk About Depression

The legal profession is ripe with stress, depression, substance abuse and other mental health issues. Add a pandemic to that mix, and the result can be intense. While the Florida Bar has had the Florida Lawyers Assistance program, it wasn’t until a few years ago that they, with the lead of the Young Lawyers Division, has made mental health a priority. Their Stigma Free YLD, with resources and testimonials from lawyers throughout the state, has made mental health a priority.

The hardest thing for people to understand about depression (even those that suffer from it) is that is goes beyond being sad. Your entire outlook on life is affected. You often feel hopeless and worthless. You don’t enjoy things you usually do. You think people don’t care about you. You often can’t see any good if your life because the depression is coloring everything with its lens. I have not been without my share of depression throughout my legal career but it wasn’t until a former professor and mentor, who was an incredible attorney and well loved by all, died by suicide in 2017. This made me and every other attorney in Florida realize that depression is a vile and often hidden disease that affects so many that we know.

I’ve never talked openly about my depression before but it’s been there most of my life. I’ve taken antidepressants for two different periods: early in my career and at the end of the time I was practicing law. It was tough for me to reach out for that help but it was essential for me to function at the level I needed to. Unfortunately I had an extremely difficult time coming off the antidepressants the last time, to the point that it felt like torture some days, so when I started to experience depression at the beginning of 2020, I was hesitant to go down that road again.

As you can imagine, starting 2020 with some depression did not set me up for success! A series of events coupled by the pandemic and the isolation made things extremely difficult. In the last year, I’ve suffered many major triggering points: a toxic workplace, a huge salary cut, getting laid off, and a period of unemployment. The pandemic had me worrying about my family members with Type 1 Diabetes, my elderly parents and in-laws and even myself, who has been susceptible to respiratory infections throughout my life. I rarely sleep through the night, often waking to take care of my daughter’s blood sugar or my elderly dog, and then struggle to get back to sleep because of racing thoughts. For months, I muddled through and just tried to ignore how I was feeling but sometimes your actions to mask the pain actually make it worse.

A few months ago, I realized I needed to get help. I had been trying to run away from my life because I couldn’t recognize the signs that I had slipped into depression again. My first step was to start therapy. Through this process, I was able to be introspective and dig down to what I was actually feeling. What I thought my problems were was what I had created to mask my actual feelings.

Was it an instant cure? Absolutely not but it was a good start. With my past experience with antidepressants, this time I looked to more holistic methods to help. I cut way back on drinking alcohol, I did the 21 Day Refresh eating organic and vegan foods and doing yoga every day. I joined a yoga book club discussing a year of self-care with a group of amazing yoga instructors and their students. After I finished the Refresh, I tried to keep 80% or more of my diet organic and plant based, keeping room for the occasional restaurant food. Although on the days I just can’t muster exercise, I allow myself the rest.

I just turned 50 and that really weighed heavy on my depression. I didn’t even realize how depressed I was until my therapist remarked on my sullen demeanor in our session right before my birthday. Luckily I was able to finally spend some time with my parents (yay for vaccinations!) and that helped. My husband, daughter and parents made a big deal about it with decorations and cake and it brought me a lot of joy. Everyone that reached out to wish me a happy birthday reminded me that I have a full life. I think birthdays are one day that Facebook is actually positive!

I used to tell my clients that it was like being on the airplane: you need to put your own mask on before you can help someone else. So my advice to those that are feeling down: seek help in whatever form you can and feel comfortable with. I think therapy is great but you have to find the right therapist. You may need to try a few but don’t give up. Surround yourself with those that love you at your best and your worst. If you need medication to help, get it. Remember that alcohol is not medicine and can make you feel worse (and mess with your sleep). It’s important to remember that there is no one antidote for depression so you have to figure out what works for you.

You may feel alone, but you would be surprised how many people have suffered. I am just one lawyer to tell my story, but there are many stories on the YLD website. You can also find the stories of celebrities like Kristen Bell, Chris Evans, Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, Harrison Ford, Lady Gaga, Dolly Parton , Michael Phelps and more.

MOST OF ALL, IF YOU ARE FEELING LIKE YOU MAY HARM YOURSELF. GET IMMEDIATE HELP. THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE IS 800-273-8255. HELP IS OUT THERE.

My Favorite Workout: Walking

I love walking. Enjoying the outdoors, walking the dogs, window shopping. Walking is also very accessible. There’s a reason why there are so many fitness trackers that encourage 10,000 steps per day. It also doesn’t involve many accessories. If you have a comfortable pair of shoes, you are good to go.

When we lived in a building downtown, I walked everywhere. I estimate I could walk upwards of 5 miles or more each day. I walked the dogs around Lake Eola each morning, walked my daughter to her preschool, then walked across downtown to my office building. There were several months where I was walking to her school for lunch. We walked to the grocery store on the other side of the lake, we walked to dinner, we walked to the park and playground. We walked everywhere! That was definitely the least I have weighed since I hit my 40s.

Once we moved to the suburbs, I would still walk my daughter to school but the 7 block walk fell to 1 block. The daily 1 mile dog walk around the lake was 1/2 a mile around the neighborhood (and sometimes not even that since we could just let them out in the backyard). I had to drive to the grocery store and to my office. My daily movement dropped drastically, even with other exercise programs!

I still prefer to walk over driving when I can. When I am visiting my client law firms downtown, I often park and walk from building to building. I’ve even worn through the bottom of my shoes! I love vacations to places like New York City or Las Vegas that encourage a lot of walking. I also love to spend the day at Disney with friends, walking a ton!

There are also many health benefits to walking, aside from the obvious weight loss. The Mayo Clinic says that walking can lower your blood pressure and your blood glucose levels, can lower your stress levels, can improve your memory and cognitive functions. Walking can be part of your self-care routine as well.

This is also a very pandemic-friendly exercise and can be done by just walking out the door. So try and add this great exercise into your routine!

New Year’s Resolutions…Part 2

My last post detailed my annual tradition of setting goals versus resolutions. Part of this process is reviewing past goals. As I started this ritual, I realized I couldn’t do this year like I had in the past.

I decided to take this year month by month. I think especially since the status of the world seems to change so much week to week, this will make things more realistic.

I’m excited for 2021. In January, I’ll be sharing all the stuff I’m doing, including Dry January, my first Diet Bet, my 21 Day Ultimate Reset and how I’m doing with my new workout program.

Giving Yourself A Little Grace

So I’ve been giving myself some grace. Some grace to not update my blog because I’m not feeling especially inspired. Grace to stress eat cake the week of the election. Grace to skip a workout because I’m tired. Grace to realize that despite all of this, the world kept turning and I didn’t fall apart! The alternative would be spending more time in the fetal position than is healthy.

Part of being healthy goes beyond just caring about your body. You have to consider your emotional state, including how much bandwidth you have to take on certain situations. Especially when we are dealing with post-election craziness and a global pandemic, you have to be fully aware what you can take on or more specifically what you can’t.

So as 2020 winds down, let’s all remember to give ourselves some grace every now and then!

My Favorite Workout: Yoga

Yoga is one of those omnipresent things that it seems like everyone has tried at least once. One of the things I love about yoga is it strengthens your body and your mind. It also helps to stretch out all my muscles I make sore while I’m lifting weights. It can be your only method of exercise or you can fit it into a cross-training schedule. It is perfect for active rest days. I am pretty sure I do at least a few down dogs and crows every day just to stretch!

Total Zen

I was fortunate to experience my first yoga class on a rock pier jutting into the ocean in Jamaica. The teacher was an Expat hippie with dreadlocks down to her ankles. It was so amazing and zen, especially at the end, sitting in Shavasana (corpse pose which has you lying on your back, still, at the end of each class) at sunset. I honestly thought this is what yoga was all about.

I didn’t really start taking regular classes until after I had my daughter. I had gained 54 pounds with my pregnancy and when she was six months old, we relocated to Orlando. I signed up for the local YMCA and started attending yoga classes there. Taking classes three times a week, along with regular walks, helped me shave off those 54 pounds and then 10 more! I felt strong and clear headed. My favorite teacher (no deadlocks on this one) would put a lavender scented towel over your eyes while you were in Shavasana. Again, total zen!

Since then, I’ve had private classes in Las Vegas (surprise that I was the only one that signed up for the 8am yoga class), a giant class outside on top of one of the office buildings in downtown Orlando, tried out the Beachbody Yoga, a few apps including one called Pocket Yoga and quite a few yoga DVDs. The favorite DVD (also available online) is Body by Bethenny which is shockingly good for a celebrity exercise program, especially the core section. Yoga is so versatile that it translates to so many different modes.

You can even do virtual yoga! My friend Kelly is a yoga teacher in at the Yoga School of Miami. Unfortunately, I was never able to take her class because of the distance but now anyone can! Just sign up here. With Kelly, you get Pink Floyd, David Bowie & Prince, which is an awesome way to do yoga! Check her out. She does yoga teacher training too!!

Photo by Cedric Lim Ah Tock on Pexels.com

Yoga is perfect for all fitness levels and ages as well. There are even programs specifically for kids. I have heard many times that there is no ego in yoga. You only try and improve yourself each time your practice. I have also found the others in my classes are only encouraging. At the Y, we would have time to practice stands, whether it be shoulder stands, head stands or even a handstand. It would usually involve lots of laughter and cheering when someone achieved the stand that had been working on. I always leave yoga a happier person then when I started! So where some people don’t enjoy working out at gyms, yoga is a much more inviting space for group fitness.

So get your yoga on!

What to do when the plans go out the window

I love to plan. I am a planner. One of the things that has been so difficult during the pandemic is the cancellations! In the beginning, events would cancel slowly. Things started getting crossed off bit by bit until there was nothing left. I eventually just threw my old planner away and started fresh. Even then, I was only putting in new events with a sticky note.

Even without a pandemic, things often go off the rails. You forgot an ingredient for a recipe, you have work dropped in your lap or you don’t feel good enough to workout or cook that meal you were planning. This last weekend, we had rented a boat for a day of fun but found out late Friday that our reservation had been cancelled due to mechanical issues. I also had a migraine Saturday and Sunday which made my planned workouts impossible. Fast forward to Monday morning which is the first day of virtual school for my 5th grader. Not only do we have the expected glitches with 200,000 kids all signing on at the same time, but then our power goes out in the house! No WiFi, laptop battery running low and no A/C!!

When things like this happen, the most important thing is not to panic. Being a lawyer, you always have to think on your feet. When there’s a problem, just stay calm and think what can I do to fix it. I know this is easier said than done but if you can make it even a tiny bit better, you’ve done something. The root of the panic really boils down to not being in control. The quicker you can get some of that control back, the better you will feel. Another big thing is to drop the expectation on yourself of perfection. No one, I repeat, no one is perfect. Everyone is out here just trying to do their best.

So our boat trip turned into a day at the beach. Not quite the same but it was still a lovely day with the family and we chose a beach that we knew wouldn’t be super crowded. A bonus was the sea air and the ocean water helped keep my headache at bay for a bit! When we got home, my body was telling me I needed rest, so I just shifted my planned workouts a bit and I will be finishing 21 Day Fix tomorrow instead of yesterday. I had to drop the expectation of finishing perfectly.

We didn’t give up on virtual school this morning either! We got the laptop hooked up to my cell phone hot spot and just as she was about to run out of battery, the power came back on! If we hadn’t had that stroke of luck, we would have moved on to another laptop and hunted down any battery packs we could. We did the best we could with what we had!

Here’s hoping that our crazy streak is coming to an end but if it’s not, we will just continue to do the best we can! It’s all we can do.

Eating Out and Not Going All Out!

Eating out (or in the pandemic, ordering in) is always a treat. You don’t have to cook and you can pick something you can’t cook! How can you accomplish this while still eating healthy? If you’ve ever been to some place like the Cheesecake Factory with it’s over-sized portions, you know sometimes it’s hard not to over-eat. Plus, you’ve got sides and bread and sauces and desserts, oh my!

Now overindulging everyone once and a while never killed anyone’s overall nutrition, even if it might have given you a stomach ache. A lot of people probably eat out most weekdays for lunch and you don’t see people measuring out portions at a restaurant. I know I used to take clients out for lunch or drinks multiple times a week. So how do I choose what to eat?

First, if I know where I am going to eat, I always check out the menu in advance. Most restaurants will also have their nutritional information online as well. You would be surprised how many times you will look and the salad is NOT the best option. If you look at the menu beforehand, you can meal plan while eating out! I also ask for dressing and sauces to be on the side and I usually ask for them to go easy on the cheese!

Another trick is to order a side salad, with dressing on the side, to eat prior to your entree coming out. I love Seasons 52 because you can get a delicious salad with a smaller flatbread as a “pick-two” type of meal, you are eating veggies along with the indulgent pick. I also skip soda or tea and just stick with water, normally with a lime.

Many restaurants also have lighter menu options, even the Cheesecake Factory! You can also substitute out some items that are processed or high in calories for other, healthier options. Our favorite burger place has turkey or vegetarian option that you can put over a salad. You can substitute a lettuce wrap for a bun or if you can’t live without a bun, take off the top and eat the bottom only.

I’ve even been known to order from the kids menu, which isn’t always easy to do when you eat in but getting takeout (or ordering room service) makes it easy. The portions are much smaller and manageable and most times mirror something on the main menu. They are also much less expensive, especially from room service!

A great example is our Friday night taco order. While my husband ordered 3 tacos just as the described, I ordered mine on a salad. The shells alone are over 300 calories and almost 60 carbs! Did I miss the shells? Absolutely not. I did take off a little of the cheese because there was A LOT of cheese but it was amazingly delicious and I was nicely full, not overstuffed.

What are some of your tricks when you eat out?

When a pandemic gets your nutrition out of wack

Did you start out when the stay-at-home orders came down thinking you were going to learn new skills, cook amazing and healthy meals and get that six-pack you’ve always wanted? I know for me, I was more stressed then ever, working from home and trying to help my daughter with distance learning while running a household and dealing with my husband working longer hours than normal. It was so stressful!

I don’t know about you, but this is my first pandemic so I wasn’t sure what to expect! I think we’ve all had a bit of tears, a bit of boredom, a bit of alcohol and a lot of Uber Eats! OK, probably a lot of alcohol too! What we probably haven’t had as much of is fruits and vegetables!

At a certain point, I decided we had to get back to a little bit of normality. No, we didn’t head to Disney last weekend when they opened and we still haven’t eaten at a restaurant but I am back to meal planning, although it’s a little different than before. Where I would cook 6 chicken breasts in the Instant Pot on Sundays and divvy them up for the week, I am taking meals day by day but I map out what we are going to eat on which days. I also keep lots of vegetables on hand to roast or steam. Our favorites are broccoli, carrots, asparagus and zucchini. I also make a large salad and split it up into small containers. My husband likes to grab one and eat it while dinner is being prepared and I usually eat one as part of my lunch.

Cooking lots of veggies!

I keep my grocery list on my Amazon Echo, so as I see things are needed, I can just say “Alexa, add broccoli to the shopping list” then access the list from my phone while I am at the store. There are also a lot of other grocery list apps you can get on your phone or put it right into your Instacart order as the items come up. Just make sure you have a list so your planned meal doesn’t get derailed and then temptation to eat that frozen pizza overtakes you!

The meal planning sheet, which I purchased from the Pop Flex store, has a grocery list you can write on the side which is easy to tear off and bring with you. The back is also stick so you can put it on the fridge. There are a ton of subscriptions you can buy to help with your meal planning as well. I have used the 131 Method and subscribe to the Monthly Fix on Beachbody, both which layout a weekly meal plan for you along with a shopping list. I also use a macro tracker called LifeSum which has several meal plans you can choose from. I usually don’t follow these meals plans to a tee, but I do pick the meals that I know everyone in the family will like.

This week, I am going to be doing a 3-day refresh to help kick my sugar cravings that have re-emerged since the pandemic started. This does blend well with what my family will eat. I just add a protein to their dinner while I will stick with the veggies. I will link a rundown of the 3-day refresh here for those who are interested.

Another trick is that I plan for leftovers. One of my daughter’s favorite recipes is a homemade Mac & Cheese with flat egg noodles. I put that in the meal plan for Wednesday night and they can eat that Thursday night too since it makes a large pan. I always fill the cooking sheet with veggies to roast as well so we have those for lunches (or even breakfast) and snack for days.

Here’s a peak at my meal plan for this week. It’s a little light because of the 3-day Refresh, which is just a lot of fruits and veggies. The stir-fry is a classic, easy recipe which you can look for on the site soon! You will also see a plan to order from UberEats on Friday, which is a nice way to treat ourselves after a long week. There’s always a healthy way to eat out so stay tuned for tips on that as well.

I always say putting a plan together is half the battle! So happy meal planning and please stay safe and healthy!