Personalized Coaching with Dr. Amanda Morris
If ever there was a time to return to the table, it’s now. As I type, it’s been an hour since California was ordered to shelter in place. Here I am “sheltering” reflecting on all of the input coming in yet finding myself at ease during these unprecedented times. You see, about a year ago, The New Primal (a food company offering a line of clean cooking marinades, sauces and meat snacks) launched a campaign to promote a return to the table. A calling of sorts to get people gathered around their dinner table. A return to a distant time in which families and friends met often to share a meal together, subsequently creating a sacred space of connection. Because of this, I decided I needed to make the effort to gather up my family at least two nights per week free from screens, talk of schedules and whatever other bad habits we had gotten into. It’s been about a year and my family has definitely made progress.
My family eats, don’t get me wrong, but not exactly around the dinner table. Until 24 hours ago the table, served as my office, the homework table and the dinner table. Returning to the table, of course, does mean an actual table, but it also symbolizes reconnecting or for some, connecting for the first time to what matters. Neighbors, community, our loved ones, even ourselves. Twenty-four hours ago, myself, husband, 2, 5 and 7 year old moved into our forever home. Last night our kitchen table was the living room floor with takeout. Today I find my continuous pleas of “If only I had more time,” coming to fruition in a very intense and abrupt way. In a matter of hours, I find myself going from working 60 hours a week, down to about 20, with 3 little human’s schedules of dance, sports, church, school activities, errands, obligations and school on pause.
This doesn’t scare me. I do worry of course about what all of you most likely are worrying about; the economy, our elderly, our president and his team of doctors, advisors, school and state officials doing their very best to keep a global crisis as short-lived as possible. My heart is heavy for all of those scheduled for an upcoming milestone moment such as graduation or a wedding, but I also believe that how we show up for these times is how we honor ourselves and our families. When we show up for our families, it positively impacts our community. When our community is strong, it has a positive impact on our cities. When our cities thrive, America thrives and when America thrives we remain in a position to deal with whatever crisis we are faced with which extends to our allies as well. So when you feel hopeless, uncertain, confused or scared; remember, you are stronger and have more influence than you know.
If you find yourself asking what you can do, know there’s a lot. Start with limiting the news. By design, news is very repetitious. Reporters use intense language, shout and look for controversy. There is a rhythm of questioning that creates fear and uncertainty. That is the goal. Our body isn’t able to distinguish what is real from what isn’t. When you expose yourself to constant panic and “what ifs,” your body remains in a heightened state of fight or flight. This causes your body to essentially go into protection mode. Your digestion slows down, your heart rate increases, your ability to reason and think clearly is negatively impacted and you are more likely to react emotionally than logically. This also contributes to a chronic state of inflammation which directly impacts your mental health as well as your physical health. The news will be an on going cycle of what went wrong, what’s going to go wrong, what might happen, who’s to blame and 1,000 questions later- none of this really changes your current situation. What it leaves you with is hours upon hours of time exposing yourself to information that doesn’t serve you. Other than checking in on occasion for critical information you may need to be aware of, do your best to limit the news.
When I begin to feel anxious my mantra, which you are welcome to borrow, is this:
Where am I now? I’m here, I’m free, I’m safe, I’m breathing and I’m present. I can’t change the past, I can’t control the future. When I remain present I add value to my life. With every day I add value to my life I have a positive impact on someone else. By honoring myself I honor those around me. This is powerful! More powerful than you know. The same way negative information can trigger a mind-body reaction, positive information and thoughts can trigger a positive and peaceful mind-body reaction. Choose the information you take in and put out wisely.
Another way I honor myself is through food, which brings me back to the dinner table. Food scarcity is familiar to many Americans and even more so to those globally. However, many of us don’t know what if feels like to be faced with uncertainty about where our next meal will come from. The fear of not having enough can trigger panic. Please keep in mind that there is enough to go around. Every meal does not have to resemble Thanksgiving. Take this opportunity to appreciate the ease and access in which you typically can get your meal of choice at any given moment. A time to reflect on when you didn’t think about tossing the extra napkins stuffed in your takeout bag, or using a glorious amount of toilet paper without a second thought. There is beauty in contrast. Don’t focus on what you don’t have right now; reflect on what you did and know you will again be blessed with plenty, but hopefully with a deeper appreciation and more conscious consuming.
You don’t want to wake up three weeks or three months from now realizing you wasted your most precious gift; the gift of time. When we return to our typical days do you want to be fulfilled, rested, achieved and ready to take on what the day brings armed with your full self or do you want to wake up depleted, sick (both physically and emotionally) from worry, being of no use to yourself or someone else? If things go as predicted, it may be a tough road back. How do you want to show up for that? For those in our communities that will be giving all of themselves, working over-time, being away from their families, going on little to no sleep, they are going to need the rest of us to show up in full force for them.
So take a moment and think about all of the things you would do “If only I had more time.” If safe and accessible to you- Do them!
Gather around your table in whatever form that takes. Look at your kids, talk with your partner or spouse, send a letter to a loved one, read an amazing book, write an amazing book, move your body, take the time to try out or practice mindful eating, anything that is going to build you up. This is how you can help. This is how you can do something about this pandemic.
Please take the time to honor and acknowledge this opportunity for clarity and reflection as you go into these next few weeks. I hope your table is everything you desire it to be.
Dreading the pressure of New Year’s resolutions? Read my non-traditional guidelines to help you achieve success and have fun while doing it.
Starting over. I ran three miles about a month ago. It was rough. Some might say three miles is a great accomplishment but just 6 months earlier I had completed my goal of running a half marathon, pushing three little monsters in a triple stroller. My youngest daughter has just turned one and getting my health back was part of my postpartum goal. I was feeling strong, mentally healthy, and proud of myself for finishing the race. I never ran again. Not at all. Until last month.
There were a million valid reasons as to why I stopped running. When I saw the picture this morning that had been taken during my 5K it got me thinking about goals and reflecting on how happy I was that I wasn’t afraid to start over and set a new goal for myself. Goals do not always need to be big and it’s okay to stop and start again. If I would have become stuck in my whoa is me, feeling sorry for myself that I could no longer run one mile comfortably mode, I never would have taken to first step that lead me to this picture and the awesome memory with my kids. To me, the definition of failure is not trying. How about you?
Have you ever sabotaged a goal before you even started it? Told yourself that new year resolutions are not worth it because you never finish them anyway? Perhaps listed 5,000 reasons why you could never meet your goal before you put down one reason why you could? Are you afraid of failure so you tell yourself that you would rather not try to begin with? If any of these sound familiar, you are not alone. Before you give up on yourself and your goals consider the fact that feeling overwhelmed and discouraged is very normal but it doesn’t have to dictate your behavior.
There are a million tips available online for meeting your New Year’s goals but consider some of these helpful but uncommon tools to give yourself a head start this year.
Keep a positive growth mindset. Language can be an incredible tool for change, both positive and negative. How we define ourselves has a direct outcome on our behavior; so if we start our day viewing ourselves as a failure, there is only room for one outcome. Any guesses? Failure. Label yourself as a capable individual that WILL meet your goal.
Avoid all or nothing thinking. The best thing you can do for yourself is not to get stuck in common pitfalls of unhelpful thinking styles. An unhelpful thinking style is a label we apply to ourselves or a situation that is not based on fact, but we have decided it’s true regardless of contrary evidence. These thoughts are typically automatic and take work to reframe. Ask yourself if your thought is based on fact or opinion. Then see if there is another way of looking at the situation and consider an alternative viewpoint. For example, perhaps you didn’t meet your weekly goal, but did you keep a positive mindset? Did you complete 2 out of 5 days? Did you remain committed despite not meeting your weekly goals? Chances are you did make progress, you did not fail and you are closer to meeting your long-term goal.
Don’t get stuck in the past. Staying stuck in the past keeps us from moving forward. We become so focused on what went wrong that we don’t put enough emphasis into what can go right. It’s okay to reflect on past events but only to identify strengths and areas you can build off of and learn from to help you move forward.
When creating your goals use these tips to avoid setting unrealistic and unmeasurable goals.
1. Be very clear on your goal. Write it down. Break it down into steps that you will need to work up to your goal. Create an outline of steps you will take daily, weekly, and monthly and celebrate each level of success.
2. Don’t be afraid to redefine your goal once you get into it. Perhaps the way you originally wrote your goal doesn’t seem as important or isn’t as realistic; modify it. There is a fine line between justification for giving up on a goal that you can meet but choose not to put in the work versus a valid reason to modify it. Only you can truly know if you are selling yourself short.
3. Be clear on why you are choosing your goal. Is the goal really important to you or are you being influenced by the “should police?”
4. Visualize how it will feel when you meet your goal. Get out of your head and tap into a deeper sense of allowing and experiencing the visceral joy of meeting your goal. Tap into this feeling when you get discouraged or off track.
5. Keep others in mind when you start to feel selfish for taking the time to work on your goal. When we improve ourselves we automatically create a positive ripple effect in the world around us.
Show yourself some love and make a commitment to set a goal, or several goals this upcoming year. Feeling motivated? Start now. There is nothing that says you need to pick January 1st as your start date. Changing your habits is no easy task and challenging yourself to try something new for the benefit of health is a win regardless of the outcome. I may not have run 13 miles over Thanksgiving but I ran 3. My kids didn’t care what I used to be able to do, they cared where I was that day. They were in the moment celebrating my gift of freedom to work toward personal goals and experiencing an awesome morning with their Mom. I’m so happy that I was willing to accept where I was that day versus staying stuck where I came from!
It’s that time of year. Office parties, school events, trips home, grandma’s special dessert, champagne toasts... you know the drill. The holidays can make some giddy with anticipation but trigger others into a flurry of anxiety about how they will manage all of the temptations of eating all things.
Before you jump head first into a tower of sugar cookies, find some quiet time and set your intention towards what you enjoy most about the holiday season. For example, seeing loved ones, watching Christmas movies, attending a religious gathering, baking, etc. Tap into the emotions that arise when you think of these things and be mindful of how you fill your calendar. Set your intention to remind you to prioritize what matters most. Use this intention to help you slow down and enjoy these things by being present.
So what is indulgence? It’s basically allowing oneself to enjoy the pleasure of (insert favorite things here). While this may sound enticing, the key is to indulge mindfully and with intention. What this means is that you make a conscious and deliberate choice before acting on a behavior. When you do choose, remain aware of how you are feeling. Do this objectively, meaning don’t internalize or assign a good or bad value to yourself. Do your best and then consciously move onto the next activity.
For most of us indulgence and food go hand in hand. Picture a glistening table, with mounds of food, piles of cookies, a backdrop of clinking glasses, and the dreaded aftermath of guilt that often follows. The trick to avoiding this trap is looking around the table and seeing the friends and family that surround the table. By indulging in experiences and people you will wake up rejuvenated not depleted. The spiritual and religious beliefs, gratitude, conversations, and shared memories are the real reason for the season. This year make a commitment to indulge in experiences while occasionally adding in your favorite holiday treats. Use food to enhance the experience, but don’t make it the main event.
As you set your intention for this season, consider the following tips to help add more meaning to your holiday.
*Volunteer your time. Volunteering offers help to people in need, worthwhile causes, and benefits your community, but the benefits can be even greater for you. Did you know that volunteering and helping others can help you reduce stress, improve your mood, and provide a sense of purpose? It’s a win-win!
*Host an event and ask the guests to bring a dish that represents their family history or that is a reflection of themselves. Have everyone share the story behind the dish during the meal. Indulge in the emotions, history, and tradition behind the meal; eating just enough to feel satisfied but not sluggish.
*Holidays are about traditions and with traditions come food. It’s okay to indulge in your favorite treats but be mindful of this process. Eat without guilt. As they say in Whole30 land, food is not good or bad it’s just food. The trick is eating just enough of your favorite dishes to feel satisfied. Follow a few strategies for in the moment success by Melissa Hartwig in Food Freedom Forever to indulge without consequence.
- Deep breaths. Stop, take a few slow breaths, proceed.
- “I can have it later.” Can you have this food later? If so try waiting 15 minutes, an hour, etc.. If you still want it have it but the pause will help decrease impulsive eating.
- Employ distraction. Take a break, walk away, start a conversation, basically don’t stand all night over your favorite dip and question why you can’t stop thinking about it.
- Savor it. Sit down, grab a plate, eat slowly, have fun, and enjoy.
- The one bite rule. Was it amazing? Have another bite. Not so much? It’s okay to stop. If it’s not worth it don’t keep eating!
*Finally, skip the negative self-talk. Whether that little voice is criticizing how much you have eaten, how much you didn’t get done, or worrying about making everyone happy, tell it to stop. Self-criticizing is so last season! We are headed into a new year that welcomes self-acceptance and self-love. Most of the time this negative voice comes from ourselves, not others. Give yourself grace and let go of the unrealistic expectations this year. How about indulging in self-acceptance for a jump on your new year’s resolutions?
However you choose to celebrate this holiday season, may it bring peace joy and comfort to everyone around your table.
In health and happiness, Amanda
Hello and welcome to my blog! Thank you for taking the time to get to know me. I am looking forward to connecting with you as I finally start to make time to share my knowledge on health and wellness.
I am a licensed psychotherapist and behavioral coach. That means I went to school to get a Bachelor’s Degree, a Master’s Degree and Doctoral Degree in psychology and marriage and family therapy. I completed 3000 hours of clinical experience, passed two licensing exams, and have to complete 36 units of continuing education every two years to maintain my license. I hold my license in CA where we have some of the highest standards of education and licensing requirements in the nation. In addition, I have studied health and nutrition in depth. I am a certified health & wellness coach and have earned a certificate as a level one nutrition advisor from Sanoviv Functional Medical Institute. Last but definitely not least, I am honored to be a Whole30 Certified Coach.
I am in the process of finalizing my website, www.coachingwithdramandamorris.com. I am passionate about physical and mental health and their interconnectedness. It is through health that we set the foundation for ourselves, our families, and the world around us. It's the starting point for achieving your goals, whatever those may be.
Please check back soon for updated content.
In health and happiness.