Nourish and Forge Wellness

taking wellness beyond the physical

Tag: relationships

Coming Home

When my dad died in February, I lost all sense of home. I was half-orphaned — a gaping, black hole in my life and my being. 

Home has been tricky for a while. Long ago, it was my childhood house on a cul-de-sac; the place I did my homework and laundry, where I slept and ate and spent time with family and friends. Then, it was a city—Fort Collins for six years, Denver for seven.

At age 31, I moved overseas and became an expat. Home took on layers; it was not just locations, but people, emotions, experiences. Home was sensory—certain smells, tastes, and sounds. I lived a dual existence—intensely missing one home while working, and yearning for the other while vacationing—never quite feeling settled, but also knowing my life had expanded exponentially. Not always easy or pleasant, but f*%king beautiful.

My dad died seven months after I moved back to the U.S. It’s been nine months since then. I’ve moved three times in those 16 months; I’ve had a few jobs; I’ve hesitated to fully commit to a location, a job, a relationship. My life that had been generally stable and rooted become exploratory—home being something from my past, not my present.

Death is a thief. It stole most of what I believed to be true. It took away the illusion that everything would be ok. It snatched my lightness, joy, and energy. And then it left me crumpled on the floor, disoriented and disconnected. When the ground disappears from beneath you—what’s left? Home carried no meaning, no comfort for me for a while. Maybe until now, in my last few days of a couple nomadic months. I’m in Asia again, feeling at home for a moment or two in the embraces of expat family. Flickers of joy and lightness have shimmered in and out of my days, whispering promises for the future. In odd moments, walking to the subway or gazing up at all the tall buildings, I’m feeling something frantic inside me begin to slow and still.

This strange calm started in a beautiful valley in Thailand, where I came together with three teachers and fourteen other students on a five week journey that culminated in a yoga teacher certification. Sure, we did yoga, but beyond that, it was a fiery, spiritual experience filled with discomfort and empowerment, self-doubt and self-discovery. During our three day silent meditation retreat, a seed of knowing sprouted in me — what if home is not a place, not people, not experiences? What if it’s not a journey somewhere, but a journey within?

Home has been increasingly complicated for so many years. But, in this moment, it’s simple: I am my home. My heart is home; my soul is home; my path towards more love, more meaning, more growth is home. When I stop looking to home as a destination, but instead as a turning inward, it feels like truth. No matter where I go, I am home. So, it’s time to settle in, build my life here, cultivate deep self love and acceptance. Not easy or comfortable, but f*%king beautiful.

Before losing my dad, I wouldn’t have arrived here. I couldn’t have—I didn’t have the capacity yet. So cheers, Dad. I love you. Thank you for helping me come home.

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What I Learned at the Gym about Feedback

I haven’t worked out in 6 weeks.

I’ve been traveling in northern Thailand, repatriating from South Korea to Colorado, working on home improvement projects for my parents, and spending tons of time with family, friends, and my beautiful Colorado mountains.

So, when I walked in to my first CrossFit class four days ago, I was ready to get a good sweat on. The coach and people and facility were all nice. I received feedback and cues from the coach (in detailed English) which was something I had been missing desperately in South Korea. It was a good experience; however, I left feeling a little blue.

Here’s what I was able to pull out from the experience—the coach never told me anything I was doing well; he simply pointed out what I could improve.

Constructive feedback was actually what I’d been craving, but I realized that without the companion of positive feedback, I was a little less open to hearing what he had to say and a little less pumped when I left the gym.

What is interesting to me is that I am a seasoned CrossFitter—I know my knowledge and skill sets are solid. Even with this self-confidence, I still wanted needed a balance of positive and constructive feedback from my new coach.

I can’t imagine how defeated I would’ve felt if it was my first class. 

Let me be clear, this coach was a nice guy and had great suggestions. He was a good coach. However, as coaches and teachers, we tend to fall into a place where we focus only on what needs to be fixed.

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Herein lay that big ol’ slap-in-the-face reminder for me—speak positivity into people’s lives. All the time, ideally, but especially when you’re trying to help someone improve.

This is relevant in communication with loved ones. This is essential when in a teaching or coaching position. This is the core ingredient for people feeling connected and safe with you when they are in a place of discomfort or when they are stretching their limits.

Here are some practical ideas of how to get a great balance of positive and constructive feedback when interacting with others.

  • Prelude each constructive criticism with a specific validation of something done well. (If you forget, you can always add a positive at the end.)
  • Try using the word “and” instead of “but” to connect your affirmation and your constructive feedback. Example: “You have done such a great job practicing your sight words this week, but and if you want to get to the next level, we can work on your spelling words now.”
  • Visualize the person in front of you achieving their goals; verbalize that bright future to them whenever appropriate.
  • Don’t blow smoke up anyone’s behind. The positive affirmation can absolutely be something small and specific, but above all, must be true.
  • Finish each coaching/teaching session with a positive wrap-up statement that validates time, effort, and achievement in an authentic way.

In a world full of “not ____ enough”, we teachers/coaches/humans have the potential to spread light and possibility. As easy as it is to forget amidst the demands and details of “adulting”, it is essential that we shine light and kindness and affirmation into our fellow human’s lives.

Let this be your focus for a day, and notice the difference.

 

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Lessons from My Expat Life: Say No

It’s ok to be a party-pooper.

For reals. After several months of saying yes to, legit, everything in my first expat experience in Seoul, I had to learn the next big lesson: saying no. (A lesson I continue to work on refining in my life four years later.)

Upon arriving in a new country and home, it’s of the utmost importance to start making connections, exploring, trying new foods, places, and experiences. And the way you do that is by saying yes. Yes, yes, YES! It’s a totally normal and super-fun part of the process. The downside is that at some point, saying yes to every opportunity (going out, traveling, socializing, joining a committee/book club/sports team, etc.), becomes utterly exhausting.

Our social (not to mention financial) gas tanks are finite; eventually, they require more discernment. 

The surprising part for me was how difficult it was to start saying no.

The biggest reason? FOMO. The struggle is real. Secondly, my behaviors up to that point had built expectations—expectations that would be consistently challenged as I began to be more picky with my yesses.

fomoLet’s have a real moment here.

I didn’t choose this lesson; it was forced upon me. I loved saying yes to everything, but at a certain point I found myself so depleted that I had to change what I was doing. That’s when I had to start thinking about which relationships were important to me to build, which activities fed me in some way—I had to select my yesses and learn to say no to everything else.

Let me tell you, that sh*% is tough. People hate hearing no. And eventually, when you say no enough times, you stop getting the invites, and your insides squeeze a little each time you hear about things you used to be a part of. Ugh.

But, here’s the thing: the relationships you put more time and energy into deepen; the activities you focus on become more meaningful; your bank account, social gas tank, and zen quotient grow.

Four years in, I go out infrequently (and still experience FOMO often). I usually go to bed early and get up with the sun (grandma status and proud). I spend time reading and writing and walking outside. I have dinners with dear friends. I drink when it’s special. I workout a LOT. I rarely get stressed about teaching because I have time and energy to stay caught up and balanced. I sometimes teach fitness classes. I build a lot of puzzles. I take weekend trips, but not too many. I am more aware of myself and my limits than I’ve ever been.

I say yes as often as I can (because I love my community here).

But, I still must frequently say no because I am keenly aware of my energy gas tank, and I know that driving that thing past ‘E’ takes about three times as long for me to recover from. I try to be clear and honest and gracious when I say no.

Saying no is definitely not as sparkly and joyful as saying yes. But it’s just as important.

As an expat, I’ve become practiced at and grateful for this lesson. Saying no ain’t for sissies.

And it’s ok to be a party-pooper.

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Teachers: One Mindset Shift Guaranteed to Decrease Stress and Increase Joy

Seriously?! I just clearly laid out the directions. They’re on the board. We did a comprehension check. We’re five minutes into work time and they’re giggling and pointing at their computer screens. WTF?! Why aren’t they doing what I said?

I remember in my first few years of teaching, having a constant stream of frustration sprinkled with swear words running through my head from bell to bell. The source: students in my classroom not following my directions or doing what I had laid out for them (thoughtfully, in advance, with the best intentions for their learning….seriously….wtf?!).

Let me tell you (and my teaching peeps can chime in here) — this sort of existence is exhausting.

It is mentally and emotionally draining and just plain soul-sucking. By the end of the day, trying to control manage facilitate the learning and interactions of young humans in your classroom becomes a lost cause.

At some point, you just throw up your hands and say, “I give up”. You survive till the bell. Crank out some grading. Prep for the next day. Go home. Drink a glass or three of wine. Bitch to your teacher friends. Brainstorm. Wake up. Try again.

Now over the years, we teachers learn to take fewer things personally and have fewer emotional reactions to what goes on in the classroom.

I’ve always been strong at classroom management, but it took me years to cultivate a different INTERNAL reaction to mirror my calm exterior in order to decrease stress and minimize energy leakage.

It boils down to one simple mindset shift: be curious.

Yep. That’s it. Be curious.

It is actually the opposite of most of our instincts, which is to see what is happening, make an assumption, followed quickly by a judgement, followed up by a snap decision and action.

Generally, my assumption has been that my students are off-task for whatever reason and that is bad. I then would quickly interfere, urging them to comply through a verbal warning, a dreaded “teacher look”, or a conversation in the hallway.

(Note: I’m always thoughtful of a child’s dignity and do my best to never publicly shame or punish.)

With these methods, I had a high success rate. However, my attempts to get them back on track through coersion always ended up feeling like an empty victory. And I still felt drained at the end of the day.

So here’s the shift I’m asking you to take. Before you get stressed and force them back on track, get curious.

Here’s how you do it. Remember this phrase: Slow down, C.I.D. (pronounced “kid”). Just a few, simple steps, and you will be on your way to more joy and less stress in the classroom.

  • First, SLOW DOWN. 
    • When you notice things you don’t like or expect in your classroom, pause. Like a reaaaally long pause. Bring awareness to what is happening in your head. RESIST making ANY assumptions or judgements.
  • Next, get CURIOUS.
    • Begin to wonder what’s going on. Say to yourself, “I wonder…” without any judgement or evaluation whatsoever.
  • Now, INVESTIGATE.
    • Watch from across the room (make sure you’re not scowling at them, but sneaking peeks neutrally). Wander over. Eavesdrop. Smile and ask a question related to either class or what they are talking about. Ask directly what they’re up to—middle schoolers are incredibly blunt, honest creatures when you are direct and they aren’t scared of punishment. Take this opportunity to learn something new about them. (As I’ve practiced this, I noticed that the assumptions I would make without investigating are often wrong. Students are frequently asking questions or discussing a personal connection they are making to the work. Just as frequently, they are not. And that’s totally ok!)
  • Last, DECIDE.
    • Ok, after getting curious and investigating, you think you have a handle on the situation. Now, you get to decide how to wrangle them back in like the awesome brain children that they are. After chatting with them about that totally gross Youtube video for a minute, find a creative way to connect their conversation back to your content. Or share a story about yourself that connects to the situation. Or share a time when you’ve struggled to stay focused and a method that works (or whatever circumstance your dealing with). Or even simply lead them back in to the work with an overly dramatic, awkward segue and a big, cheesy smile.

Here’s why “Slow down, C.I.D.” works.

It takes power out of the equation. I am not convincing them to get refocused through coersion. I am meeting them where they are at. I am interested in who they are, what they are doing, and why. I am noticing and validating their needs, as well as reinforcing my own. When you take power out of the equation, the stress disappears.

It breeds connection. When I take time to listen, observe, and chat with my students (even especially when it’s off-topic) it builds trust. It builds relationship. It helps me know them better, which enables me to connect my content to them more effectively. It helps them know me better, which results in higher engagement in class.

It’s joyful and fun. Teaching is way more joyful and energetic when we spend a little time on silliness. Hearing the latest pop culture gossip or telling a funny story gives our brains a needed break (it’s science) before we get back into the work. “Slow down, C.I.D.” provides perfect windows for silliness, because kids will never be perfect and there will always be opportunities to connect and then practice the sly redirect. *cheesy point/mouthclick/wink move*

So, next time you are feeling stressed or drained due to things in class not going the way you expected or wanted, try out “Slow down, C.I.D.”

  • Slow down before reacting.
    • Get CURIOUS
    • INVESTIGATE
    • DECIDE

I still get to use this every day of teaching. For the sake of teacher entertainment, let me share today’s shenanigans. We had about 25 minutes of drafting time today in my 8th grade English class. I was conferring with students, feeling like I had this Friday in the bag—students were engaged, on-task, and writing their tails off.

Then, I came across this vision in the back corner. Yes. He was dead asleep with his body contorted into angles I didn’t think were possible past infancy and with his face smashed solidly into the wall. (His nose was bright red from the pressure when he woke up.) I mean…c’mon, people. This is hilarious.

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Due to the trust and relationship built our class from “Slow down, C.I.D.”, he readily admitted he only slept two hours last night (and most nights this week) because he’s up all hours, gaming. We had a good laugh, and I resolved to “invite” him to work at the standing desk area for future sleepy days (and advised him, for the sake of his growing body and brain to get some sleep tonight).

I’d love to hear from you. Shoot me an email or comment below.

What other parts of teaching stress you out or drain your energy and joy?

What strategies do you have in place that help reduce stress and increase joy in the classroom?


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