Give yourself some love

February is coming soon, friends. You’ve already started to see the stores fill with Valentine chocolate, not so long after many of us made pledges toward some type of new healthy habit for the year.

Actually, I’m not so fond of resolutions in the new year. January in Minnesota is hard. The weather is ugly, and though we are gaining a minute or two of light a day, it’s still dark. We’re all pretty over-spent and broke after the holidays if we weren’t so good at budgeting the year before. And most of us gained 2-3 (or 7-10) pounds since Halloween. Ugh. Those slim jeans don’t feel so great right now.

Well, bears hibernate! Why can’t we?!? Why were my ancestors so good at storing fat? Oh right, so I wouldn’t starve to death. Give gratitude to the ance(stores) who’s superior fat storage (and hunting skills) are the reason I’m here today.

Speaking for myself, and our human species. 😉

heart shaped chocolates
Chocolate does not equal love. No matter how much I love it. Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

February, month of romance rolls around and we feel annoyed because everyone seems to have someone. If we don’t have someone, what are we supposed to do with all this Valentine chocolate except eat it ourselves?!? I’m outing myself as a person who has struggled with eating and body image issues. SO many women struggle with this, the majority of us, as it turns out.

I keep reading about epidemic levels of loneliness in our society. I believe it. We may be the most “connected” in terms of our possible virtual networks, but this can crowd our ability to maintain our close relationships. Being a true friend (or family member) takes time and energy.

Having a handful of really close and healthy relationships (and/or a pet perhaps) outweighs dozens (or hundreds) of online-only friends. But in professional networks where loose ties are also meaningful in terms of opportunities, it is important to maintain a bit of both.

Food is one way some of us fill our spiritual loneliness, as I learned from Geneen Roth. The comfort it provides is  only temporary and gives nothing “back.” Friendships are for mutual benefit.

human hands illustrations
Photo by Matheus Viana on Pexels.com

And what do we do when we (introverts) feel overwhelmed and burned out by too much social interaction

We must learn to down-regulate our nervous systems. We must learn how to let go of what does not serve us. We sometimes must turn down social interactions, even with people we (usually) enjoy in order to take care of ourselves.

Our species simply has not evolved emotionally for the level of inter-connectedness we now experience on the planet. We once saw ourselves as isolated tribes. Now, we know that we are in this together. Kill our environment, kill our planet, we all perish. Not pretty.

What yoga offers to me (and others) are tools to balance our nervous systems. We can cope with our feelings of stress, our difficult emotions and even our physical pain. Most of us desperately need daily and weekly doses of quiet internal reflection to center and ground ourselves.  Even if it is for 3-5 minutes a couple of times a day, give yourself that opportunity.

Your loved ones will thank you. You will thank yourself. And the world will be better served if you are generous in caring well for your whole being. 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

This February treat yourself to (1)
I’m piloting this short class at work next month! So excited I can offer this in my department.

 

 

Forward and back we go

The older I get, the more precious time becomes. We look up in midlife (well around age 45) and say: Wow! How did I get here? Where did the time go?

Or in my case, you say it at 35, 40… and every year. I like to look back to reflect upon my life this time of year, and then also look forward and imagine where I’d like my life to go.

Sometimes life follows the vision I have had in my imagination. Never exactly, of course, but my intuition gives me “clues” about the future now and then. It delights me when these clues turn out to be correct.

Looking back over the decade during my holiday break, I am amazed and pleased with where I am now. Fifteen years ago, I was going through a separation and divorce, and some challenging times. I had confidence that I would figure things out eventually. But I also never predicted many of the successes and challenges that would come my way.

I am filled with gratitude for this beautiful life that’s been granted to me, where my efforts have led to fulfilling experiences. While I know the future will hold challenges, I am beginning to see how all of our life experiences are great teachers. What we learn, especially from hard times, becomes wisdom. What we appreciate continues to grow.

In the next decade, I hope to be even more fully present in my life. I plan to stay open to the possibilities and attentive to those experiences that bring me joy. I intend to fully feel and process my emotions, negative and positive. I will continue to be of service to people and to organizations that appreciate my gifts. And I will always remember what a privilege it is to live this precious life.

What are your intentions for the next decade? Hope you make it a great one!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Unwritten protocols

Hello Friends,

Happy Thursday!

I’ve been deeply immersed in a personal writing project so I am likely to post a little less frequently in the few months. I have come to enjoy my Sunday haiku, so I’m not giving that up. We all have much going on in our lives, and YOU are no exception. But I do want to keep in touch so if you do want to connect and I’m taking an offline hiatus, you can reach me via email.

Do you know the unwritten protocols of your organization?

In the meantime, I wanted to reflect on something I posted about last week, an incident in which I was blind-sided at work by something I never saw coming.

Now that I’ve had the chance to think it through I realized I had not respected the unwritten protocols that exist in this organization. As a clinical researcher by training, I have a love/hate relationship with protocols.

Protocols are awesome because they give you a clear definition of what needs to be done. They are written in language that is specific and precise. Since scientific experiments need to be reproducible and consistent in their execution, protocols are a necessity. When you work with human subjects research, regulations require protocols that are well-vetted, statistically validated and approved by an institutional review board or medical ethics committee.

Organizations often have “power protocols” also. These are the unwritten protocols that take typically 6-18 months at any organization or department (sometimes more) to learn. They are things like:

  • Having a PhD or M.D. counts (especially true in academic organizations).
  • If you have a choice to talk with the PI for a grant, or the chief of staff, pick the latter. She’s the one who actually gets the job done; he’s the name on the letterhead. In a university system, it’s fascinating to me how this mirrors a very patriarchal structure.

I had opened the communication channels during a project in which I was gathering feedback. But I did not bank on the fact that, while I was trying to be system-agnostic in my analysis, the department wanted me to fix the tool they already have rather than to select the best tool.

Now that I understand what they want, I can execute on that. I may not agree with the decision, but others with higher grade levels are determining the parameters. And that’s where I encountered one of the unwritten protocols at this institution: if grant money has been used to build a tool, it would take a LOT for us to abandon the tool.

Lesson learned. Onward.

cristy@meximinnesota.com

Wellness Wed: Motorcycle, open road and 2 fresh-air junkies

As Minnesotans prepare for the State Fair start on Thursday, we reach a symbolic end of summer. I spent some time reading blogs from 2017, and enjoying the past 2 years of my writing journey. So I edited a favorite post from December 2017 for Wellness Wednesday. If you’re reading this – head outside! Enjoy your summer! Stop reading! 🙂

***

In July of 2017 my husband (then fiance) and I took a trip around Lake Superior, starting on the Minnesota side from the Twin Cities and running clockwise. It was a wonderful journey, made precious by the fact that we had never made that trip before, and the fact that my husband had taken care of 95% of the planning beforehand.

cycle-with-camper-in-schroeder.jpg
Camping trailer, VTX, and our bear canister.

He even re-furbished a motorcycle camping trailer that we were able to use for 6 out of the 10 nights we were away from home. It would have been 8 nights but we opted to upgrade to a hotel on two of the nights when the campgrounds seemed to soggy for us as 40-somethings who enjoy comfortable beds. With hubby doing 100% of the driving, it was important for him to get adequate rest. See how good I am at justifying my desire for comfort? 😉

We wanted to explore one of the wonderful treasures of our Midwest home: Lake Superior. We love Canada and have traveled many times to Thunder Bay and that area. The first time we traveled there was just after we had gotten engaged, and we stayed in the McVicar Manor B&B. I am sad to see when I look online that this may have closed. I know Dorothy and Tom, the owners at the time, were planning to retire.

McVicar Manor
McVicar Manor B&B

Perhaps it is a seasonal closing, as I know they do spend some months of the year traveling.

In any case, hubby found many great camp sites where we could stay all around the lake, as well as a B&B in Sault Ste Marie and some other hotels where we spontaneously stayed when we encountered rain a couple of days in July.

At the start we arrived in Canada during their national holiday, just before the U.S. Independence Day holiday. It was Canada Day, eh! And we found an abundance of people camping, with Canadian flags on display at campsites. The provincial park system in Canada is amazing, and has generally more secluded sites than the typical American camp groud.

My favorites were Sleeping Giant Park and Lake Superior Provincial Park. Hubby took this wonderful photo from Agawa Bay in Superior Park, where we camped right along the shoreline. It was gorgeous, and quite warm that evening. But we started a camp fire anyway, because it is our tradition.

Agawa Bay - Superior
Original photo taken by husband of mexi-minnesotana in 2017. Use with attribution only.

The views from the Canada side were rather spectacular and hubby has hours of unedited video from his Go-Pro which attached like an antenna to his helmet. I kept teasing him about looking like a Martian with that darn thing stuck to the helmet.

Awww, but this is why I keep reading that spending money on experiences rather than things proves to be the most satisfying. There is the excitement and anticipation of the event, then the event itself and then recalling fond memories of the event.

Where are you planning your next vacation? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

O Canada
O Canada! Another view from a similar vantage point, taken by mexi-minnesotana.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wellness Wednesday – Travel mantras

This post is edited from the original one posted in May of 2018. It seems appropriate for the season of summer and holiday travel. 

***

Today I will head home from my work visit to Mexico City. It is good time to write out some of my travel mantras, as reminders to myself to enjoy the journey.

travel mantras
Photo credit link

That’s the first one, actually: Enjoy the journey.

Here’s another one I like: Remember, everyone is fighting their own battles. There are struggles we may not see, that may affect others’ behavior.

The best one, when stress or anxiety come up is: Breathe, just breathe. It is all okay.

When I am practicing mindful awareness of my surroundings, I also like to remind myself of all that I am grateful for: the opportunity to travel, a kind word or smile I may receive as a gift from a stranger, and a life in which I am privileged to see into the window of other cultures as part of my work.

What’s your favorite travel mantra? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Workplace Wellness – find your friends

One of the biggest drivers of employee engagement is having someone who you consider a good friend (or sometimes best friend) at work.

Or at least that’s what I used to read about when I was an operational manager at Medtronic. I was a little skeptical. But I think I understand what all those employee engagement surveys are trying to say:

It is important to have colleagues that you trust at work, people who may, over time, become friends. I certainly felt like I had a lot of friends at Medtronic. It’s one reason why it was so hard for me to leave.

WORKPLace wellness on wednesdays

At the University, I am only 2.5 weeks in. I feel like I have a lot of “potential” friends, and people who share common interests. It takes time to form relationships. I am not expecting to adopt a bestie right away. It might take 6-12 months before I find out who my real friends are. People tend to be polite in Minnesota, and it’s not always easy to discern who is a true friend.

Also I sometimes encounter people who are excessively concerned with titles and prestige, so they are likely to wait it out a bit before being too warm and friendly. As a “newbie” in this organization, I don’t have networks yet. I am untested, though my boss told me that the people I had met so far gave her positive feedback about the impression they had from our first meetings. So I will count that as a win.

In any case, I think I am fairly good connecting people and ideas. But like anything, I am being patient with it, since I know that every work place culture is different. I am confident that all of this will shake out eventually.

Back to the mantra I used a couple of weeks ago: You have time. 🙂

Happy Wednesday, friends!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com