In Honor of My Mother

It’s been six months since my mother passed away and I continue to hold her memory close. For those of you who don’t know, my mother was extremely passionate about her work in the field of mitochondrial genetics. She loved collaborating with her colleagues, sharing information, and discussing interesting cases. She especially loved teaching and sharing her knowledge. Even if you know nothing about mitochondria, after attending one of her lectures, you’ll soon become thoroughly interested because her genuine excitement for the topic is palpable and contagious. She herself was self-driven, purely for the love of learning and bettering herself as a person. She expected just as much from others, but not without compassion.

She instilled in me three important principles:

  1. She always told me I could do anything and be anything I wanted, as long as I put my mind to it. This profound faith in my abilities gave me a sense of empowerment that’s pushed me to challenge my limits and enabled me to accomplish all the crazy things that I’ve done. Now that I think about it, upon hearing about my crazy endeavors, my mother never doubted that I would actually carry them through and perhaps that’s what made her so cautious and nervous!
  1. She taught me to always do my best. As a young girl, I inherited my mom’s drive for perfection and would get upset if I fell short of it. My mom would comfort me by asking if I tried my best and if I did, then that’s the best and there’s nothing to get upset about. If I didn’t, then I would know what I needed to work on. Yes, this set high expectations for myself as I pushed myself to be better. At the same time, it taught me self-compassion as I learned to accept consequences without regret as long as I did my best.
  1. I distinctly remember a rare moment when my mother attended one of my basketball games and actually gave me coaching advice. She told me to be more aggressive. I suppose I must’ve appeared timid to her, never trying to get the ball or go for a shot. That comment changed my life, perhaps because even someone who doesn’t know much about basketball could see that I was holding back. After that, I attempted more steals and took advantage of shooting opportunities, even if I often missed. I even got in a fight (which, for the record, I didn’t start!). Though I doubt my mother meant for me to become feisty, I do believe she wanted me to be confident and take advantage of opportunities as well as be able to defend myself if needed.

These three lessons have guided me through life and shaped who I am today as I watched my mother lead by example. She put in a lot of hard work and in return, led a fortunate and accomplished life for which she showed gratitude daily by giving back to the people and community that supported her. She wanted to see her students and loved ones reach their full potential, try their best, and have confidence in their abilities. I hope that by striving to be the best version of ourselves, with my mother as our cheerleader, we can live with the same passion and joy as she did.

RIP, Mom. I love you.

If interested, you can read more about my mother’s scientific achievements here.

How To Create An Ergonomically Friendly Home Office

If you’re like many of us, you’ve probably found yourself working from home since the beginning of the pandemic. Here are some steps to create an ergonomically friendly home office.

STEP 1: Define your work area

The most important thing you’ll need is a desk or table. If you’re lucky enough to have a desk or table in a designated room in your home, then excellent! But even if you do, or did, you may sometimes get kicked out of that space or need more privacy. Others may find themselves at the kitchen or dining room table or even coffee table. Whatever or wherever the space may be, claim it!

If you need more privacy, you can create your own cubicle environment by breaking apart a large cardboard box or using poster board to designate your work area.

 

STEP 2: Find and adjust your chair

In this step, you don’t need to buy a fancy ergonomically-designed chair. Use whatever you have at home and notice how you feel in it. Have a seat in your chair at the desk that you chose and notice where your arms fall when you place your hands on the desk. Ideally, your forearms should be parallel to the ground and your elbows shouldn’t be lower than the desk.

If you find that your chair is too low in relation to the desk, stack some pillows or books on the chair to raise the seat as much as you need. If available to you, you can also place a slate or piece of wood or books under the legs of the chair to raise the entire chair up.

On the other hand, if your chair is too high, then you can stack some books on the desk to elevate your work space.

It’s important to play around here and notice how you feel in your arms and chest in order to find the appropriate height for you.

 

STEP 3: Adjust your computer monitor

Likely, you’ll be using a computer, in which case you want to be sure it’s at the appropriate height and distance. The top of the screen should be at or just below eye and the screen itself should be at least an arm’s length away. Of course, the bigger the screen, the further away you’ll probably want it.  You want to avoid having to turn your neck much to scan the entirety of the screen. It’s much more efficient to move your eyes instead.

If your keyboard is separate from your monitor (whether it be a desktop or laptop monitor), then you can adjust your monitor freely.

If you’re using a laptop where the monitor is connected to the keyboard, then the situation is less than ideal because you’ll inevitably be looking down. You’ll have to find a compromise between not reaching too far out with your arms and not having to bend your neck too far down to see the screen.  Experiment with how you feel to find the distance that works best for you, knowing that it will require some intermittent adjustment throughout the day.

 

STEP 4: Choose your accessories

The most common accessory you’ll be using is your mouse so you want to make sure it fits comfortably in your hand, no matter the shape.

Another common accessory may be a headset or earbuds for audio. This, of course, will depend on user preference but you do want to be sure that the volume isn’t too loud because sound is going directly into your ear and vibrating your eardrum. I suggest using an external microphone and speakers instead, if possible.

The other thing to consider is a keyboard pad to rest your wrists. This will take the pressure off your wrists and keep them in a neutral position when you find yourself typing away throughout the day. You can easily buy one of these or make one by folding up a medium size towel. While you’re at it, you can roll up a small face towel to use as a wrist pad for your mouse, too.

In this step, you’ll also want to gather everything you’ll need that’s specific to your work (ie, papers, pens, stapler, etc) and keep them within an arm’s length away.

 

STEP 5: Be body mindful

This is the most important step and I could probably write an entire article (or book!) about this step but I’ll try to keep it simple here as a reminder to be aware of your body and how you feel throughout the day. Perhaps set an alarm on your phone every hour to pause, reassess, and readjust.

Take a break from looking at the computer screen by looking away. Stretch out those eye muscles. Notice your head on your neck. Is your neck reaching forwards? Tuck your chin and roll those shoulders back. How about your bodily functions? Are you hungry or need to use the bathroom? Take care yourself! Get up and walk around a bit. Stretch out those legs.

 

When, and if, you return to the office, you can apply these steps to your work area there as well and perhaps re-evaluate its efficiency and comfort. In the meantime, happy working from home!

If you need help creating a comfortable home office or want more details about how to be body mindful, contact me here.

 

COVID got you down?

Social distancing. Shelter-in-place. Lock-downs. With the active COVID19 pandemic and closure of schools and businesses, are you one of the many Americans stuck at home feeling bored and restless? Our lives are suddenly disrupted without work or school as our usual anchors. Let’s take this opportunity to get back in touch with ourselves, our families, and nature. Here are some ideas to stay connected and engaged during this time of social distancing.

  1. Call or video chat with someone. Social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation. Call a friend, family member, or someone you haven’t talked to in a long time. Especially reach out to those who you know live alone. Everyone wants to feel connected, even if not in person.
  2. Cook more. With restaurants and bars being closed, this is a great opportunity to try a new recipe. Search eatingwell.com or epicurious.com for an abundance of options. If that sounds too intimidating, start simple with an online service like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh. They deliver the necessary ingredients right to your doorstep with easy instructions for a delicious meal. You’ll even be able to avoid the supermarket frenzy.
  3. Stay active. If you’re itching to move, there are lots of ways to exercise without going to the gym. Youtube has plenty of workout videos you can follow in the comfort of your own home. The options are endless with body weight workouts, kickboxing, aerobics, dance, taichi, yoga, etc. If you’re not a fan of exercise, there are always things around the house to be done (vacuuming, cleaning the bathrooms, mowing the lawn, etc). If you have children, play a game of tag, hopscotch, or hide-and-go-seek.
  4. Exercise the mind, too. I know perusing through your Facebook feed or browsing the internet is tempting but why not learn something new? Pick up a new hobby or get crafty. Try baking, knitting, cross-stitching, scrap-booking, drawing, painting, or model-making. Learn a new language so you’ll be ready to put it to use once the world is safe to travel again. Challenge yourself to a crossword, Sudoku, or brain teasers. For children, games like monopoly, scrabble, and chess are great avenues to foster strategic thinking and family bonding.
  5. Get outside. But avoid crowded public places like parks and beaches. Your backyard (if you have one) is a great place to soak in some vitamin D. Now that Spring is here, it’s prime time to get started on your garden. Pull those weeds, put down some mulch, and plant some flowers and/or vegetables.

As we head into our second week of closures, your household may have already developed its own daily flow and schedule. If so, kudos to you! If not, you’re not alone. Take some time to create a daily and weekly schedule for yourself and family that includes time for all of the above points. Let’s stay well together. But at a distance!

If you need help creating a daily or weekly schedule, contact me here.

Mindfulness

“Every mindful step we make and every mindful breath we take will establish peace in the present moment and prevent war in the future.”

These are the powerful words of Vietnamese Buddhist monk, author, and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh who suggests that world peace begins with cultivating peace within ourselves through the practice of mindfulness.

“What is mindfulness?” you ask? Mindfulness is the act of being present and living in the moment. It’s about paying attention to what you’re doing while you’re actually doing it. You may say, “Of course I know what I’m doing when I’m doing it.” But, do you really? Do you notice the sensations in your body? Do you feel the emotions that come up? And even if you do, why is it important?

At the pace the world is going, including all the political upheavals, environmental calamities, and technological advances, our minds race to keep up. We often find ourselves going through the motions of everyday life, not thinking about what we’re doing or why we’re doing it but just going on auto-pilot. The stress of daily life begins to take a toll on us, and our bodies eventually let us know in a usually inconvenient way, by coming down with a viral illness, aches and pains, headaches, fatigue, etc. Mindfulness helps us stay in tune with our selves and our bodies, thus being better able to respond more timely and appropriately, and thereby improving our overall health and well-being. And, who doesn’t want to be healthy?

Now that we’ve decided that being mindful would be of great benefit to our lives and the world, we need to understand the attitudinal foundations for practice. Here they are:

  1. Non-judgment. Cultivate impartial observation to any experience, without getting caught up in our own opinions.
  2. Patience. Patience is a form of wisdom in understanding that things must unfold in their own time. It allows us to embrace change with compassion.
  3. Beginner’s mind. See things as if for the first time, with curiosity and being open to possibility. This frees us from expectations and judgment based on past experiences so that we can fully appreciate the richness of the present.
  4. Trust. By honoring and trusting your feelings and intuition, you take responsibility for your own being and become more fully yourself.
  5. Non-striving. Practice being instead of doing, without trying to get anywhere other than where you are now.
  6. Acceptance. Acknowledge things as they actually are in the present.
  7. Letting Be. Practice non-attachment, purposefully letting go of impulses and ideas and letting things be as they are.

Being mindful in every waking moment of every day doesn’t happen overnight but with commitment, practice, and intention, we can choose to approach each moment with the above attitudes and will begin to see positive changes in our lives and the world.

If you’d like more discussion about mindfulness and its attitudinal foundations and are curious about how to put it into practice, check out my events page for future workshops regarding this topic or contact me here.

SURVIVE THE HOLIDAYS

Image result for holiday stress

We’re in the midst of that time of year again when the air is filled with joy and happiness and yet sometimes we can’t help but feel busy and stressed. Are you scrambling to buy gifts, busy preparing the home for guests, or cleaning and cooking in massive quantities? Even if you’re not, how can you avoid getting caught up in the chaos of it all? Here are some tips to help you survive this holiday season and beyond:

  1. Breathe. You’d be surprised at how many of us hold our breaths or take small sips of air, especially in times of stress. So, if and when you notice yourself tensing up, slow down and take just three deep breaths. Notice how much calmer you feel when you remember to breathe. Read more about breathing here.
  1. Smile. You may be on a deadline trying to get the shopping done but please don’t be a Grinch. A smile can go a long way. If you get cut off in line, if someone grabs the last toy you were about to reach for, or if someone takes your parking spot, just smile and let it go. Watch how that smile changes yourself and others.
  1. Shake it out. Sometimes, the tension builds up so much that you just can’t take it anymore. In this case, it’s best to have some healthy outlets in place so that you don’t end up taking it out on others or harming yourself. Exercise, laughter, talking with someone, dancing, drawing, and doing a hobby are all great ways to relieve stress but if you don’t have access to those things at the moment, you can always shake it out (preferable in the bathroom or behind your desk so no one sees you). And when I say “shake it out,” I mean let your whole body loose and SHAKE IT OUT! Now, doesn’t that feel good?
  1. Be present. Through it all, be present and in the moment. Be the eye of the storm and notice the energy around you. Enjoy the time with family and friends or the peace and quiet if you are alone. Savor the flavors of the delicious meal that you or someone else has prepared. Soak it all in for this moment is all we have and soon this too shall pass.

May you survive and THRIVE today and every day. See you in the New Year!