Simplify

“And that’s the danger: When we fritter away our one and only life doing things that don’t really matter, we sacrifice the things that do matter.” ~Bill Hybels, Simplify

Here is a typical day in my life…..My alarm clock goes off (which would of course be my 19 month old Stella’s voice in the baby monitor asking for me) I hit the ground running. In a matter of minutes Stella has a bottle, the dishes are being unloaded from the dishwasher, the clothes in the washer are transferred to the dryer, the stove is on for eggs, the cutting board is out for fruit and that all has happened in under 4 minutes since I heard my baby angel cake’s voice.

That pattern of cramming that much activity, into that short period of time continues all day and does not stop until my head hits the pillow at night at which time I start to feel guilty for all the things I had not accomplished during the day. Sound familiar? What in the world right? Why are our lives operating at a Mach 10 speed, like we are millions of chickens all looking for our proverbial heads and realizing at the end of the day we only skimmed the surface of our “to do” lists – not even touching on the items towards the bottom that really mattered.

When I am operating at this speed, I need only to look at this video of Lily when she was about 20 months old….she is in our backyard smelling each and every tulip and once done, kissing each and every one of them goodbye, as though it was the only thing that mattered. She literally stopped and smelled the flowers. And isn’t that what we need to do? To slow right down and get back to the small, meaningful, enjoyable moments in life. Those are the times that we will cherish, the times that we will look back upon and be so thankful that we stopped spinning in a world that never does and just for a moment, we stood still, breathed in the beauty around us, took time to make that meaningful phone call, cancelled the class at the gym to have coffee with a dear friend, stopped for five minutes to be grateful for the view from the lookout, had the conversation with a spouse at the end of the night and resisted the urge to get to all the tidying done around the house.

We need to start stopping our “to do” list and start focusing on our “to don’t” list. To slow down, and enjoy the gratification an uncomplicated life has to offer. Will it be scary to not be over scheduled? Of course, our society tells us we need to be 5 different places at once and always be available for the next best thing. But in time we will gain a sense of meaning and purpose knowing that we have just as many hours in the day as Mother Teresa did and she spent all of hers doing what matters most – being with others, spending time with them and slowing the heck on down (pretty sure those are her words exactly). So do the same…..take time…..slow down…..smell the roses (or tulips!)

What one thing today will you put on your “to don’t” list today on the path to uncluttering your soul?

An open letter to Media,

Dear media,

My daughter is about to turn 5 – can you believe it? Neither can I, she’s growing up and heading into Kindergarten this year. As she turns one year older, she is one step closer to learning more about the giant that you are. Media, you have so much that you show the world, so much good, yet so much bad. You show us wonders of the world that words alone could not describe, you empower, you motivate, you inspire, but, at the same time you create insecurity, jealousness, contempt, unhappiness, hurt, fear, and pain through simple exposure. You are constantly morphing and growing new vines to entangle us and draw us closer to you, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, there always seems to be a new medium for you to maneuver your influence.

My plea to you today is that you show my daughter the good. I know that as she grows, she will be exposed, in various ways, by various means, to more sides of you, regardless of my efforts to prevent it. You will show her things that make her question and wonder about her value in this world.  You might make her think that by following your lead she can somehow change into the person you show her she ‘should’ be and gain popularity, status, admiration, fame, and acceptance. You can be the gun that pulls the trigger when depression, anxiety, eating disorders creep into her subconscious.

Instead, I beg you, please show her your amazing sides! Show her how what a great fortune we have to live in a free country with wide open spaces.  Show her that we live in a time where we are encouraged to be exactly who we are, just as we are, without changing anything! Tell her that she can reach her goals, no matter how high. Show her how big the world is and how much of it there is to be explored, and at the same time, show her that we are all connected in a way that makes the world all within her reach. Show her that she is loved beyond belief and tell her that she is perfect just the way she is.  Let her dream amazing dreams.

Hold your power delicately Media. Hold it ever so gently, knowing that you have so many young hearts and minds in your hands that are easily influenced, swayed and susceptible to your power. Love on my children and every other child in the world like never before. Pour out positivity and resist the urge to motivate by causing uncertainty. Help to raise a generation of strong, empowered, capable, hard working, socially and globally conscious citizens who are generous to others with their time and resources, who are slow to speak and slow to anger but quick to listen and respond with a calm sense of reason.

Am I giving you too much power Media? I might be…but if I don’t, I stand in the space of naivety, blindly believing you don’t hold any influence in the lives of our generation and the generations that have come before and will go on after we are long gone. Wield this power for good, to help us – citizens of the world – to see one another as fellow human beings, no one better, no one worse, all the same, working towards a common goal of unity. Unity in love, in purpose, in seeing the best in each individual and acknowledging that we need each other to lean on and lean in to.

Yours truly,

Kristin

Here’s a picture of my body….

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Oh, I’m sorry (#notsorry), is this not the picture you expected? I bet you were hoping that the picture I was going to post was one of my body – and although my right hand is most certainly a part of my body, it’s not the part you really want to see – is it? No, no, you want to see a picture of the parts that “count” – my stomach or thighs – right? The parts you can compare to yours. The parts that you can say are either bigger or smaller than yours, the parts of me that get into your head and won’t get out – because, be that my parts are better or worse than yours, you compare your parts to mine – I call it the game.

Do you know about it? You probably do. You are probably such a great player of the game and don’t even know you’re playing it. It’s a game that is taking the world by storm, a game that kids are starting to play at younger ages each generation…. It’s the comparison game. We do it all the time. I was a great player of the game, and honestly, to this day, despite an undergrad and Master’s degree teaching myself and others how to stop the game, I still catch myself playing it.

It’s a sneaky thing this game…..it may start innocently enough by looking at an Instagram photo, or perhaps looking at the sculpted arms on your workout instructor, or the airbrushed body and whitened smiles of 26 celebrities starring at you as you push your grocery cart of diet/fast/healthy/comfort/____(insert food type here) food through the checkout, and the next step is thinking about that image you just looked at and wondering why you aren’t skinny as/fit as/strong as/stylish as/rich as/happy as/ (insert your choice of ” ____ as” here) and then you continue to scroll through more news feed looking at other things you don’t have and start to feel slightly less confident about yourself than you did before you looked at those images….but despite feeling a little less confident about yourself and telling yourself 5 things you love about yourself, you go back for more (how can you help it when the images are all so close within reach), you continuing looking at others Intragramed pictures of perfection, flipping through the pages of heavy airbrushed magazines and growing slightly more uncomfortable in your own skin with each image.

Now let me say, the thing about the game is that it’s not your fault that you are a player in it. We are born into a world where we automatically become part of the game without knowing it. It’s the “devil on our shoulder” or, as I call it, “the voice of ED” (eating disorders/disordered eating), telling us that we must be fitter/happier/more successful/richer/thinner/better/better/better and that, compared to others, we are fat/ugly/lazy/not good enough/worthless.

So here is my plea. Stop the game. *Get out of the game or the game will get you. How the game gets you will look different for everyone, but sooner or later, you will be gotten. Stop looking at images of the lives of other people – you are only seeing their highlight reel, not the behind the scenes of their lives. Start being thankful – purposefully thankful for what you do have in your life. Do you have a hand that can write meaningful words? Those that don’t would tell you to be grateful. Do you have legs that can move you from here to there? Cherish them, those that can no longer walk would want you to. Do you have a roof over your head? Celebrate it, so many long for that luxury. Do you have someone you love and someone who loves you in return? Hold on to them and be thankful – for there are many who have lost those they have loved.

And once you have stopped the game start changing it for others. For mothers, daughters, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, for those you love that you want to see thrive in this world. Be mindful of what you post and what you expose yourselves to. We may not be able to avoid magazines at the grocery store aisle, but we can compliment people we see in the grocery store (and beyond 🙂 on something other than their appearance, and we can start being the change this world so desperately needs.

If this post spoke to you and made you think about the lenses you see the world through – please post a picture of your right hand as a sign that you are making a small step towards stopping the game and starting the change.

People of the world – raise your right hand!

Where the heck did this come from?

Many people ask me about where eating disorders come from or why they develop in some people and not others. To be honest, there is no hard and fast answer to that question. At the time that I am helping an individual in the early stages of an eating disorder, we really don’t concern ourselves with the why or how the eating disorder began (the “etiology” if we are getting technical). We focus on the here and now and about getting medication (food) into the body and keeping it there (not engaging in purging behaviors) until the body has reached a healthy state.

I liken this to someone being ill with cancer. The first course of action is not to talk about the reasons why or the childhood factors that the individual may have experienced that lead to the cancer – that would not contribute at all the curing the cancer, what you would do is treat the cancer as quickly as you could with appropriate medication.

Once sustained health has been reached, we can definitely deal with the issues that may still be lingering and look at some of the issues that may have had a hand in contributing to the severity of the eating disorder.

The worst thing a parent can do when their child is affected by an eating disorder (ED) is to feel a sense of guilt and shame about their child’s eating disorder -that it must have been something they said or did that caused the ED. Parents of children with ED’s have no more reason to feel guilt than parents who’s child is affected by any other illness, be it cancer, cystic fibrosis or asthma, yet for some reason there is an enormous sense of guilt that parents of children with ED. This guilt debilitates parents to help their child; it takes away any sense of empowerment that parents might have to be the best advocates to restore health in their children.

This guilt causes parents to hand over complete control to health care providers who don’t know the heart and soul of the child, who didn’t raise the child and nourish the child from a helpless newborn to the person they are today. The guilt puts a barrier between the parents and restored health and I am here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way.

Parents are the #1 champion for their children overcoming eating disorders. No one knows, loves, cares for a child like their parents do. No one knows the books they love, the smells that make them smile, the memories that light up their child’s face like a parent does. No one can offer them the comfort, love and compassion that they need when fighting an eating disorder in a more soothing way than their parents can.

As a counsellor, a large part of my role is removing the guilt that a parent feels and replacing it with a sense of empowerment, a sense that they are the best people to help their child recover. Reminding them that when their child was sick with the flu, they new – intuitively – how to renourish their child to restored health, and in the same way, when their child is ill and suffering with ED, in conjunction with a team of health care professionals, they can once again restore their child to optimal health.

By giving parents back the confidence they once had to raise healthy, vibrant children, they can end up being the exact medicine the doctor ordered.

Never, never, never give up. ~Winston Churchill

Wise, wise words from an old friend of mine (at least I like to think we would have been friends back in the day), Mr. Winston Churchill.

One of the hardest struggles in recovering from an eating disorder is the frequent feeling of taking two steps forward and three back. Be it a rogue comment from a cashier, an overwhelming feeling of panic surrounding a meal, an unexpected life event can all send an individual with an eating disorder reeling and feeling like they are back to where they started, just when they thought they were making progress.

An eating disorder (ED) often grabs a hold of a one’s life slowly, and at first it can be so seductive, he (ED) eases his way in, “oh, wouldn’t it be great to lose five pounds”, “I think I’m going to try going (insert favorite diet fad here)”, “I think I’m going to start training for (insert exercise option here)”. For most, those statements wouldn’t be a big deal and after a five pound loss, or a shift in what the composition of your dinner plate looks like, or once a race is complete, it’s onto the next change, like putting a deck on the patio, planning that trip to Europe, or thinking about a career change. For others, it can be the start of opening the door just a crack to let ED in to their life, and once he’s got a foot in the door, it’s only a matter of time before he makes himself extremely comfortable in your house (a.k.a. your body) and he starts rearranging your life around his agenda and before you even know it, you’ve been taken hostage, ED is in complete control.

I really don’t believe anyone sets out to have an eating disorder. They are truly horrible and take up room in every ounce of your being when they are full blown. They make you miserable, sad, depressed, anxious, isolated, trapped.

Having ED move into your life is really like being in an abusive relationship – you never entered into it thinking every detail of your life would be taken hostage and controlled, but alas it happens, and though you want to leave the relationship, ED locks all the doors and dangles the keys in front of you and tells you there is no way out. But I am here to tell you, there is a way out ED, there is always a way out.

See as much as I don’t believe anyone sets out to have ED control their life, I also don’t believe ED attacks weak people, that is much too easy for him. He attacks those who have the most to offer this world. Those with a message, a sense of purpose, those who want to better the lives of others. ED wants to get in their way and stop the positivity and greatness that would be spread through those he attacks. So even in the darkest room, there will always be a glimmer of light for those trapped by ED and all you need to do is move to the light and chip away the wall until more and more light begins to break through. It may take weeks, months, years to chip away at ED’s barriers – after all, it took him that long to move in – but over time, the walls will be broken and light will burst forth for all to see and ED will have no choice but to get the heck out of there and let your light shine!

Did you know counselling is synonymous with being awesome?!

The emotion that floods most clients when they contact me for the first time is fear/shame/anxiety/embarrassment followed by a deep, wonderful, relaxing sense of total relief…..they have made the first step, and to quote Lou-tzu, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” For most, contacting a therapist/counsellor/friend/fellow human being who has “been there, done that” is that first step. When thinking about therapy, most wouldn’t assume that it can be awesome – but alas, it absolutely can!

For so many, New Years resolutions include working on their bodies, spending countless hours spinning, shredding, lifting, pumping yet few lists include spending even a fraction of the time we spend working our bodies working out our minds – and yet we use our minds all day, every. single. day and for some, we need to get back into the practice of working out our minds as much – or perhaps more – than we are working out our bodies.

So then, now that half the year is through, may I challenge you to a New Years “we’re half way though” resolution to work out your brain. I challenge you to commit over the next several months to train your brain. Your own personalized program will be as unique as you are and can start with a variety of steps that may look like:

  • picking up a book to better help you understand Boundaries in your own life
  • subscribing to Podcasts you can listen to on your commute or when the kiddos are down for a nap that cover an area where you need personal strengthening
  • unselfishly taking 39 minutes to yourself at the end (or start) of the day when you get to do exactly what will charge your batteries
  • taking a break from social media (perhaps for a day, a week, or ideally the whole summer!)
  • taking time to understand what fills and what drains your proverbial tank and then get busy doing more filling and less draining
  • investing in a relationship you have been neglecting
  • creating a budget (as painful as the process may be to start), it will give you a solid foundation of what you are working with and how you spend your money as a family
  • starting a gratitude journal and writing down or saying out loud, five things a day that you are thankful for
  • Creating time limits of how many minutes (not hours!) a day you will spend on your phone
  • or my personal favorite….book a coffee with a counsellor

These are just a handful of ideas to kick start your focus on working your mind out….

In his New York time bestseller, “What the Dog Saw”, Malcolm Gladwell quoted a Yiddish Proverb, “To a worm in horseradish, the whole world is horseradish.” and so it is with life, unless we are able to bring ourselves out of our current situations and see – from an outsider perspective – what we are dealing with, little change will happen, we will always feel like that worm in horseradish. This summer, make it your goal to gain fresh and new perspective. Get out of the horseradish and start living the life you have dreamed of!