Nicole's Favorite (Mostly Free) Things!

Here is a list of some of my favorite, and mostly free resources that I love to share with people. If you utilize any of them, I’d love to hear if you found them helpful! And as I come across new things that I want to share, I will update this post so resources are easy to find.

  • Yoga with Adriene: You can find her online or my favorite way to connect with her is through her YouTube page. I initially found Adriene after several months of kinda intense training and she was offering a 30-day yoga challenge. I figured it would be a great way to come down from my training and tend to my physical needs in a different way. Adriene is funny, competent, human and shares yoga in a way that is understandable and relatable. To me she is a perfect combination of integrity and humanity in practicing yoga. https://yogawithadriene.com

  • Brene Brown: ok, this is one of those mostly free resources. There are many ways to get to know the work of Brene Brown. She has written several books, she has several different videos and TedTalks available online and a pretty freaking fabulous Netflix special called The Call to Courage. Brene touches on the human experiences of shame, vulnerability, risk taking, and being a better partner, parent, leader and human. She asks us to show up and to have the audacity of showing up as ourselves - flaws and all! So I say mostly free because you can find her books in libraries and she has an amazing website as well as many videos out there of her talking about her work. Obviously if you want the books for yourself (which you will!) or don’t already have Netflix you would have to pay for that, but for the content you get out of those things, I believe it’s well worth the money. https://brenebrown.com

  • Breath Work: here’s the deal and the primary reason I teach folks the power of their own breath. It is hands down the only resource that you can guarantee to have access to at all times no matter where you are. You can literally choose to become more aware and to link up with your breath for a specific purpose at any time. Walking into a serious meeting - take a breath. About to have that hard conversation - take a breath. Is your kid throwing a tantrum and you feel like you’re about to as well - take a breath. Nervous about walking into a new experience for the first time - take a breath. You get the point. Now there are a lot of ways to practice breathing and some cool biology behind why it works, but for now what I would encourage you to do is to practice deep breaths that fill you all the way up to the point that your belly expands. Those suckers are called belly breaths and just a few of them can help start shifting things in a subtle but powerful way.

  • Podcasts: I think podcasts in general can be a great resource, because it’s kinda like an intents library of options. Depending on your mood and what you’re looking for, you can search and locate inspiration, motivation, ideas, skills and information. Here’s a list of one’s I loved the most and listened to more than once.

    • Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations: Marianne Williamson: The Spiritual Purpose of Relationships.

    • Yoga Talk Podcast #63: The Yoga of Moderation with Bryan Kest

Finding vs Creating - A Balancing Act

Have you ever said this or some version of this? “I just want to find a better balance in my life.” Maybe you’re looking for a balance between your work and home life? Maybe you’re looking for a balance in your diet or exercise habits? Maybe you’re searching for that ideal balance of being a part of your family, while also honoring your own individual needs? I think this is common. In fact, I think most people are searching for some sort of better balance in their lives overall.

Here’s one of the issues I have with this “finding a better balance” thing though - where in the hell are you expecting to come across this thing called balance? Do you expect you might just bump into it one day and know it when you see it? Do you think it’s hiding under your bed and will just become glaringly obvious to you when you finally dig it out from under there? Do you think it’s just lying on some street corner waiting for you to walk by and pick it up?

Why do we feel that we have to be passive in finding a balance? I believe that we don’t - in fact if a balance is what we believe we need more of in our life, then what would happen if we created it? What if we looked at those parts of our life that seem out of wack and did something about it? What if you took control and made a change? I know it’s a simple concept but like so many other things in life, simple does not equal easy. But it doesn’t make it impossible either.

For example, at one time in my life I was spending a lot of time on the road going between different locations that I was working out of. I was often rushing out of one place and to the next, always feeling late and in a hurry and all the while trying to screen emails or last minute reminders via my phone on the way. It felt like a rollercoaster, which I hate by the way. At that time I couldn’t just completely change that I was working in several locations, but I could do something about this frantic, overwhelming drive from one place to the other. So I started leaving my cell phone in the back seat. I stopped trying to multitask as red lights. I drove in silence; sometimes to music. I paid attention to the day, the weather, the clouds in the sky during my drive. And you know what, it made a huge difference. It didn’t change everything about my day, but it did allow me to arrive at the next place without feeling dizzy, confused and overwhelmed as to what I was walking into. Most importantly, it was something in my control and it helped.

I’m wondering in your own life right now if there’s a place that you are feeling overwhelmed or that things are slightly out of balance for you. If so, I’m wondering what you can do about it. What small but meaningful action can you take, that is completely within your control, that can help you feel more like you want to be feeling? Where can you feel empowered enough to make some tiny adjustment to how you go about your day?

Here’s my challenge to you. What small action can you commit to today, that moves you closer in the direction of the life you want to be living? I’d love to hear about it!

My 90%

I’ve shared this before, but because it so rightly represents my life and because I’m convinced that I’m not alone, I will re-introduce/introduce to you the idea of my 90%. Here’s what it looks like in my life.

I like to be an intentional person. I believe that as much as possible, if I’m aware and intentional in my choices and actions that they will then mostly represent what’s important to me. It helps me to live aligned and to be congruent. As I make plans, commitments and set goals I go into them with the intentionality of doing them well. In other words, I’m not a half-ass type of person. But it never fails that despite my level of awareness and intention setting, a lot of what I do I tend to max out at the 90% and the last 10% of an action or task, well that seems to fall through the cracks. It’s a strange phenomenon that keeps showing up in my life. This past week has been an epic reminder of my 90%.

We have summer plans. The kind where you strive for the right balance of downtime and relaxation with fun. After a busy week, we planned a simple, easy get together with some friends. Sounded perfect. In reality, I completely forgot about it until the last minute and ended up having to rush, I made all this food and as I’m heading out the door realize that I had zero ice to keep it cool. Then I drove by 2 gas stations on the way, forgetting to stop and get ice too. Made it 90% of the way there, last 10% failed.

I’ve committed to doing a few self-empowerment and improvement things recently. Nothing extraneous but mostly related to reading and journaling. I’ve set reminders, scheduled time in my calendar. I get to where I’m going and realize that while I’ve got my book with me, that I forgot my journal. Made it 90%, last 10% dropped.

One of my favorites, I buy a new tea kettle for my office. I buy a huge assortment of teas to share. The first time I have a friend in my office space, I excitedly ask if they want any tea to which they say yes. As they begin to utter the word yes, I immediately realize I have no cups. A kettle, yes. Plenty of tea to choose from, yes. But an actual vehicle in which to pour and drink the tea, well no. I hadn’t thought of that. Made it 90%, last 10% - fail!

I could go on, but you get the point. But here’s my question to you. If this is your experience too, then what are you choosing to focus on? Is it the effort, energy, value and integrity that you put into the first 90%. The part that you did well, with love, grace and enjoyment. Or is it that last 10% that you fall short, mess up or overlook? Honestly, sometimes that last 10% bites me in the ass and it hurts. I let it be a disappointment. I shake my head at myself and say, “you did it again.” But with more cuss words. But my goal is to focus on what’s actually more important and what actually more truly represents me; that first 90% where I gave it my all, that I did it with kind and loving intention, that I feel good about. That 90% is bad ass and is where I know I’m in my groove with myself and the universe. It’s where I want to spend the majority of my time. And while I do occasionally make it all the way and pull off a finished product with a home run, more times than not I actually get to the 90%. And that’s ok. It’s more than ok, in fact.

We all have our examples of making it half way or majority of the way there, only to realize in the end that we didn’t quite pull it off. Why does this happen? Well, my choice is to recognize that it’s because we are human and we aren’t designed to be perfect. This is a shout out and a reminder to everyone pulling their 90% that you are perfectly imperfect!

Breath Work as a Coping Skill

Take a deep breath.

I need to walk outside for a breath of air.

I feel like I can’t breathe.

Any of those sound familiar to you? There’s a reason that breath has so many references to our emotions and how we’re feeing in any given moment. There are also some key reminders that I like to share with folks related to their breath and how to use it as a tool.

  1. We literally need our breath for survival. So it makes sense that it surfaces as a “need” when we’re feeling uncomfortable or scared. If our breath becomes shallow, rapid or irregular then we feel distress in our bodies. Because our brains and muscles need oxygen to optimally operate, eventually we have to find or create a way to reconnect with a more full breath. Think about running a short distance; what’s the first thing you may tend to do when you stop? Take a deep breath, right? That’s our bodies automatic way of slowing down our system and reconnecting with optimal breathing.

  2. Our breath can be linked to our level of self-awareness. To be fair, the majority of individual the majority of the time, aren’t aware of their breath. Because our breath is automatic, it’s easy to become disconnected from it and its power. Taking a moment to check in with your breath and to take a long, slow and full breath can do wonders for your self-awareness. It serves as a checkpoint for your energy, emotions, actions and reactions. A long and really slow exhale can also begin to activate the parasympathetic nervous system which begins to send messages to all areas of our body to slow down, calm down and relax. While this can be an automatic response sometimes, we can also use this type of breath to intentionally bring ourselves to a state of calm.

  3. Focusing on breath can be a great way to slow down. Here’s something to try. Close your eyes and begin to pay attention to your breath. Then begin to make minor changes to your breath to make your inhales and exhales smooth, even and full. After a few intentional breaths this way, begin to make them even more full by filling up the belly with air; really feel your belly button expand and move away from the spine with each inhale. Come back to a normal breath. Two questions after this exercise - how do you feel and how much could you really think about anything else while focusing on your breath in that way? Imagine how your life could be different if you took even just a few moments doing this before responding to a situation.

  4. Breath goes with you wherever you go. My favorite reason to helping people establish awareness and connection with their breath is because it is a limitless resource. You literally can tap into your breath, increase awareness of the quality of your breath, and begin to bring on a state of calm no matter where you are or what you’re doing. You may really enjoy sitting in a quiet space with eyes closed practicing your breathing, which is great, but you can also do it standing in the line at the grocery store, in work meetings, at the dinner table with your family, in the car with your kids. It resides in you for as long as you’re living, so it’s a resource that you can take advantage of at any time.

Like most things in life that we’re good at and our effective for us, breath work requires practice. I have found that the more people practice being aware and using their breath as a resource, that the more powerful of a tool it can be. It’s definitely not the only tool and it’s not going to magically change all things in the moment, but if you are consistent with some sort of breathing practice and can begin to find ways to connect to it in moments of distress, I guarantee that you will find it useful.

Peace, grace and brave hearts,

N

Wellness - what exactly does that mean?

So if you’ve visited my business FaceBook page, you may have noticed the name is Perfectly Imperfect Ways to Health and Wellness. When I started the page several years ago, I was looking for a space to share information and resources that supported folks in their pathway of being healthy and well in their lifestyle. Perfectly Imperfect continues to be really meaningful to me. My life is constantly imperfect, and I choose to believe that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Health to me is not just eating a specific diet or exercising, it’s about creating a lifestyle that supports me thriving in my life. Wellness, well I’ve come to struggle with that concept a little bit.

I feel like “wellness” has turned into a buzz word It’s an easy word to use to draw attention from people who are looking to have a sense of health in their life. But at what point does it become a little watered down? So I’ve thought a good bit about what it means to me and why it’s important.

To me it’s important to live a life and to support other’s living their lives in such a way that allows them to be their best selves today. That means making decisions that tend to all of our needs - physical, mental, cognitive, relational, etc. Today is going to look different than tomorrow and this week is going to look different then the following week ,so the decisions I make today are probably going to change from day-to-day and week-to-week too. Despite those changes though, there’s a general sense of consistency or some ongoing consistent effort that’s aligned with a larger goal. For example, there’s been times in my life when I’ve needed to spend energy managing my stress level. So today it may mean going to bed early to ensure I get plenty of rest. Tomorrow it might be generally eating healthy so I have the energy I need for my day but also maybe treating myself to some of my favorite dark chocolate as well. One day it may be a decent run and working up a sweat, while the next day it’s a long walk enjoying being outside. It means when I’m feeling stressed, prioritizing what I need to focus on so as not to stretch myself even further. You see there’s both flexibility to tend to my current needs but also consistent daily effort. It’s not always giving in to the immediate impulses that are actually likely to move me away from my goal. But when I do give in to the impulse, I am compassionate with myself and don’t get stuck there or beat myself up. I also need the capacity to slow down, to listen to myself and to be honest with myself about what I need. And then finally the courage to allow myself to meet my own needs. So for me living well is a combination of consistency and flexibility and it’s what leads to a state of health. It’s imperfect because I’m a fallible human being and regardless of how good this all sounds written down or reading it, like anything else it’s impossible to do perfectly every single day.

I wonder what wellness means to you and how you work towards a life well lived? Does your lifestyle of wellness result in a healthy way of being? Does wellness come easily or is it a real challenge for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts or comments on the concept of wellness! Leave a comment below!

Peace, grace and brave hearts,

N

Togetherness - the push and pull of relationships.

There is a natural push and pull when it comes to relationships. We are social by nature and humans thrive best in connection with one another. But relationships are hard and when we run into a challenge in them, sometimes our instinct is to back out. So what’s with that? Why are we drawn to them but simultaneously move away from the challenges they bring us?

I recently listened to Maryanne Williams say something that really resonated with me. To paraphrase her here she pretty much asked how can we be in relationship with someone else, if we are only thinking of ourselves? Relationships by nature ask us to give of ourselves, to be vulnerable, to take risks and to find opportunities to move beyond ourselves and be with another. But the reality is that this is scary. It asks us to be open to hurt and discomfort and to risk being rejected. I don’t know about you but I’m not particularly a glutton for pushishment. But I do want healthy and engaging relationships in my life. Don’t you? I think what we tend to forget is that we tend to only focus on our vulnerability, on the risk we are taking but in reality the other person is doing that as well. They are risking something by being honest with us, on being themselves and on opening themselves up to us too. In my work I find it fascinating how quickly couples can move away from recognizing this. When I ask them about how much compassion they show one another amidst their struggles, I often get blank stares. Looks that say, “oh yeah, I’ve forgotten about that.”

I have many relationships in my life that I feel this push and pull. The desire to be with them, to have a close and meaningful relationship but also the pull away from the relationship and more towards a sense of safety, comfort and ease. And while safety, comfort and ease in our lives is not necessarily a bad thing, it can’t be the only thing. As someone (actually many someones) has pointed out to me, very little growth comes when we play it safe and stay comfortable. So this brings me to ask you this -> are there relationships in your life that the push and pull is overwhelming in either direction? Do you have a tendency to lose yourself in a relationship and to compromise on things that don’t sit well with you? Do you have a tendency to self-protect and limit the closeness of your relationships? My sense is that we’ve all done a little of both and my hope is that as you learn and grow about yourself that you find that you can manage both callings - do be an individual and to be in relationship. I’d love to hear if this idea resonates or connects with you. Drop me a comment if it does!

Peace, grace and brave hearts,
N

Understanding Nervous System Regulation

Nervous System Regulation Skills can help everyone!

Nervous System Regulation Skills can help everyone!

Our nervous system is how our body sends and receives messages about how to respond to situations we encounter. Individuals who experience an over aroused or over excited nervous system, often have difficulty “turning it down” and finding a sense of calm, especially where there are real or perceived threats in the environment.

Teaching nervous system regulation is one way that I’ve learned to help individuals manage known and unknown challenges as they navigate their lives. Why is this important? In my experience, individuals whose sympathetic nervous system is over activated, tend to struggle with managing anxiety, decision making and an awareness of themselves in the moment. This can be situational or chronic. A chronically over activated SNS can lead to feelings of stress and exhaustion, mentally and physically, as well as issues with hormones, sleep, inflammation in the body, healing and immunity. Because one of the primary jobs of the SNS is survival, when this system is constantly active individuals also report struggling with decision making. This is because they are constantly in a “fight or flight” mode and they find it difficult to move beyond it in order to make a decision that is in their best short and long-term interest. Often what drives people to seek change or relief is the ongoing challenge of managing this intense and powerful feeling of reacting to situations for “survival.” They begin to recognize that surviving isn’t always the same thing as thriving.

Nervous system regulation is the practice of increasing awareness of your body and body sensations. It’s about intentionally increasing energy or activity in the body, being able to identify how that feels in the body, where your “edge” or limit is with it and then being able to use certain skills or techniques that can balance the nervous system by engaging the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Engagement or activation of the PNS is what begins to calm and soothe the body. It’s what tells us internally that “it’s ok to relax” and evokes feelings of calm and comfort. This is also where the fight or flight response turns off so we experience a sense of being able to respond to situations instead of react to them.

The good news is because there are skills and techniques that can help to quiet the SNS and evoke a response from the PNS, then this is something that individuals can learn, implement and begin to find a change within themselves as to how they navigate their world. It’s also an opportunity to feel more in control, more empowered and more confident about your decisions and responses to what’s happening in your world. If you or someone you know could benefit from learning more about this topic, reach out to me and let me know!

Words of the Journey

So I’ve been learning this self-employed, running a business thing as I’ve gone along. I know I’ve made some mistakes and I definitely know that there is a ton I’m missing, but for now I feel like I’m putting one foot in front of the other. My next step is going to be continuing to focus on putting myself out there to the public.

The reason for this is multiple to be honest. I know it’s important to be seen and for my work to make sense to others. This allows those individuals who I may be able to help to find me and feel comfortable reaching out to me. It also helps people access the care and help they need, whether it be from me or not, if they realize that help is available and that the stigma of therapy or going to counseling doesn’t have to be the barrier that keeps you from getting what you want in your life. I also know the journey of struggling, falling short and trying again and I want others to recognize that this is an ok journey to be on. In truth, we are all on it. Some people just hide it better than others.

So all that being said, moving forward you will hear from me. My thoughts, my ideas, information about my work, resources and probably some humor and good ‘ol encouragement for making through those hard days. I’d love to hear back from you with comments, questions, ideas, etc.

Peace, grace and brave hearts.

N

Inspiration from Within

The word "inspire" in Latin can be translated into "to breath" which I find fitting for the Rise Up Workshop. Not because I want you to be inspired by me, but I want for you to be inspired from within. Maybe that feels like a distant idea that's hard to grab on to or maybe you are already there and ready? Regardless of where you start, what I'm asking is are you ready? Are you ready to be honest with yourself, to take some risks, to do something different, to put in some work? Is there a guarantee - not really. I can't guarantee that if you do the work that a specific outcome will take place, but what I can guarantee is that if you put in the work and really commit to yourself that you will learn, stretch and grow. I learned a while back that you get out of something, what you put into it. So I'm challenging you to sign up and I'm asking that if you do, you really show up and put in the effort. You are so worth it my friends.