Healthy Living: 5 easy ways to reduce stress

By Monica C. Voskamp

Hi there. 🙂

It’s been some stressful few weeks for me with the end of school term and also just life! I wanted to share quick & easy ways I’ve found a breath of relief in the midst of stress. If they can be a help to even one person,  that makes me smile.

Here’s 5 easy ways to reduce stress and hopefully make for a better day!

1. Meditation apps–this has been a huge help before exams and dealing with anxiety. The app I’m using is called “Simple Habit.”  (It has both free & paid sessions… I’m doing all the free ones 😀 )  The first one I did was called “Simple Habit Starter” a 5 day series of 5 minutes a day.  I love that it’s doable (only 5 minutes!), very soothing (I find Cory Muscara’s voice calming 🙂 )and this series gives a great basics of meditation. For me, I’ve been listening before I go to bed–to put me in a more relaxed mood, so extra bonus, I get a better sleep (Sleep is great for combating stress!)   It literally feels like I had a mini therapy session each day.  I noticed an overall more positive outlook on life and immediate sense of relaxation. Cory has this unique vibe of making one feel supported.  Highly recommend!

See link below if interested. 🙂

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.simplehabit.simplehabitapp&hl=en_CA

2. Short Walk in nature or outdoors— Again another thing that has helped with both stress and anxiety, but also motivation is a short walk. A few weeks ago, I started taking a short brisk morning walk (mostly since it gets darker fast now here in Canada so I wanted to make sure I got a least a little walk.) Not a morning person, I was surprised to find some benefits.  I found myself more energized for the day, a definite mood booster! In days I’ve woke with anxiety, I found a walk very grounding.  Again this is very doable–I only go for 10 minutes.  This is an incredible simple self-kindness! ❤

3. Cup of tea–It may be the “British wanna be” in me ha, but I’m all for a cup of tea and drink my fair share in the day (both black & herbal.. I even make myself a chai latte every once in awhile-yummy.) I find there is something soothing about heat, inhaling the steamy aromatic smells and the deep breathing that naturally happens with drinking tea (unless you are a chugger…then…well at least you’re getting hydrated. :P)

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4. Deep breathing–  Again, I find the guided meditation helpful, but during the day, I find myself consciously aware when my emotions intensify.  I catch myself and literally inhale a deep breathe and exhale. The benefit of this, your breath is always with you! You can do this anywhere, anytime and you’ll be amazed how taking a 1-3 deep breaths can refocus and calm you.  If you’re about to start a meeting, prepare for an exam, tackle a mountain task, give yourself the gift of 3 deep breaths and big exhales.  (I often think to myself this mantra: ‘Inhale peace, Exhale stress’.) It’s an easy mental reminder to invite peace into my life.

5. Smile–Honestly, just crack those pretty lips into a smile. 🙂 Even if you’re making yourself smile for no reason, I have a feeling the psychological connection to good times can be a boost in times of stress. Sometimes I’ll pull up either a favorite memory video or pictures of happy memories. This is often enough to make me smile & laugh. As my good friend tells me, ‘Be your own best friend!’ So be kind to yourself today.   The benefit of your smile can also make someone’s load just a little bit lighter too.  Smiling is a beautiful expression of humanity, one that you have the ability to do & give!

That’s it. I’m sure you already have your own ways to capture a sense of peace in this world of chaos.  (Feel free to comment below your own healthy stress release; it just may be helpful someone else!)

And, if you are feeling overwhelmed today…I’m reminding you: gift yourself with kindness. ❤ Inhale a deep breathe of peace and exhale all that worry and stress. You are worth every good investment!

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A smile from sunshiney days 🙂

Hoping your day feels a bit lighter!

-Monica

*Cover Photo Credit: Photo by Michelle on Unsplash

Always hope. Always believe. Always love. ❤

 

 

Poetry: ..the monsters limits..

By Monica C. Voskakmp

 

They were constricting.

Constricting faster than her heart could beat.

All this anxiety,

All this fear,

Constricting her very life beat.

 

Thoughts consuming,

Worries building.

Always ever only constricting her ability

To live, thrive and breathe.

 

Fear kept tightening its chains

Round her weary body.

Worry kept sucking the life light

Out of her soul.

 

What could she do with

Such masterminds of destruction?

How could she fight these

Monsters of demanding restriction?

 

She was weary of the fight,

Weary of the chase for greater things.

She trembled at the thought,

Perhaps the light of peace was a mere breathe,

Fading in the wind.

 

Chasing chasing, ever chasing a mind dream,

While constricting, constricting kept on happening.

 

No more fighting.

She couldn’t keep fighting,

this immense storm of insanity.

She could no longer deny

The monsters invading, overtaking.

 

Time to stop, look them in the eye

Tell them honestly who and what they are.

Tell them: they are NOT me.

 

They are NOT my masters.

They can only pretend, only threaten,

But their power is much less than she,

Their power is much less than she believed.

 

She tells herself anew,

I am me.

Perfectly flawed beautiful intelligent me.

I have a sunlight power to break free.

These monsters do not own me.

These monsters only can scare me

And lie that they are the king of me.

 

It’s time to stop resisting.

It’s time to start living

And working with every side of reality.

 

Monsters are real. Monsters can terrify.

But I am also a key part in reality.

I have the right to define

Who is me.

 

I’m am always me. Always me.

The life light in me remains far past the day I die,

My life light shines into eternity.

 

When I look here,

Into the hollow eyes of my monsters,

I look pointblank honestly.

And as I brave lock holding their eyes,

I find a new possibility.

My opportunity to see.

 

My limits are only what I choose to be.

My limits are only stopped by my own timidity.

My limits are really not limited.

My fears must be.

Always hope. Always believe. Always love. ❤

 

*Photo Credit: Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

Getting through Winter: the formula.

By Monica C. Voskamp

It doesn’t take too much work to make your life a lot better. My brother tells me this concept often. And I know it. And… I forget it. That’s why I’m here reminding you, because we often forget the most important things.

A little bit of effort continually leads to a lot of change!

Its mid February. It’s an easy time to pack on the pounds. To comfort eat. Eat to stay warm in this frigid snow globe of Canada!! It’s easy to get lazy and forego exercise..because hello, it is freezing cold out, icy conditions, windy. Did I mention it’s easy to lose motivation with those gloomy skies? It’s mid-February, the dead of winter when motivation is at it’s lowest. (At least in my books.) It’s the season of that blasted SAD mood alternating thing.  I hate it.

But THIS is exactly why I fight with greater resolute to not succumb to the ‘elements’…to the feelings..to the entire situation. Winter’s the perfect cop out.

It’s the easiest time to give up, because it’s the hardest time to keep on.

I’ve officially decided winter is not my fav season. Lol. I know…I’m 35 and only *now* I decided my favorite seasons. (I never wanted to be partial to the seasons. 😉 )  But while I DO love the change of seasons..I realized my best and worst options. Summer and Winter.

I love summer. I’m easily motivated. I exercise lots. There is warm golden sunshine and BEACHES… there are beaches people. (Can you tell I love the water? :D)

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Photo by Salvador Martin Yeste on Unsplash

It’s a little closer to the garden of Eden weather. It’s road trip time, lots of adventuring. The world is in full bloom and people mostly are in better moods…or maybe it’s just me ha.

Winter..I do not like winter. Yes, I love the magical snow and ice, but I have to look dam close for the beautiful continually.  I do not like the season because of the struggle it brings. I’ve seen one too many winter depressions..that got too close to the edge. And yes I feel I’m still holding my breathe because March and April have yet to come. I don’t like winter for the increased head pain. My head pain skyrockets in the winter for some reason. Depression and pain. Cold.  And oh…need I add the struggle to seek comfort in food…and hence I become a little more wubbly.

That’s enough to make me say..winter I don’t like the season of you. Because for me, its hard to just get through the day. My goals and dreams drift into a haze. I don’t have the energy to focus on more than getting through the day. (Depression a lot.. ya :/ ) My cognition skills go down the drain the higher my pain…not a fan of this.

But this is why winter is both my friend and enemy. It is the season I get to fight back. It the season that pushes me down, but also dares me to rise up stronger.

It challenges me. Winter provides me the opportunity to develop muscles I wouldn’t otherwise.

How do you find motivation in the dead of winter? Let me tell you.

1. Take care of you.

2. Take care of you.

3. Never give up.

4. Take care of others.

5. And, let others take care of you.

Read that well. I want you to embrace yourself in a hug. ❤

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Winter is a very specific time to remember to care for you and for others. Winter is the time to persevere. I know, someone has to be saying I hate that word! (persevere) Because anytime I’m going through a rough time, and someone times me just hang in there, just keep on. I’m like dam, I hate “hanging in there.” I’m not saying its easy. You know its not..I know. We both know.

The dead of winter is the perfect time to give up, and the perfect time to show your strength. We get to choose. I have to choose. Every day.  We need to remind each other why we keep on, why to hang on. We need to remind each other with *hope*.

I get overwhelmed by my pain. I get overwhelmed with anxiety…I’ve had one too many nightmares this winter..I get overwhelmed by the simplest things. I wonder how I can be strong enough for the things that threaten to undo me…

I realized this:  I can’t do winters alone (well no season, but especially not winter!) I need good people in my life. It doesn’t matter if it’s only a couple close friends, I need the community of them. (&I forget they also need the community of me!)

We’re in this together…the fight, the pain…and the gain.

The other thing: I need to take care of myself. When my body, my mind give me hints that it is suffering,  it is reminding me: Take care of yourself.  And so I do. Sometimes I listen a lot slower than I should, but I remember what important at the end of the day.
Love. Hope. Belief.

We all need love. We all need hope. We all need the faith that these exist.

How am I finding motivation in winter? Well, I struggle. I wrestle. I read articles that are in line with my goals. I force myself out in nature (& am rewarded with rejuvenation!) I talk..no confide..in those few people who are my soul keepers. I let them tend to me. And I remember others. It’s not a smooth flawless happening…It’s days of all those things intermingling.

It telling myself some days: tonight you just need to skip that walk, skip that normal writing routine and watch a funny comedy.  I remind myself to laugh. I let myself cry.

Winter is a struggle, a bloody wrestling.

But in wrestling we learn, we grow our muscles. We encounter defeat. We encounter victory. Winter isn’t a fairy tale land, but it IS the perfect time to grow.

It’s okay if today you feel defeated. It’s part of the being in the ring of winter. Tomorrow is still there for you. Don’t measure your fate by today or yesterday.

Find strength and comfort in you are not alone. We are all here in winter. We are all in this ring. Take time for you, take time for others, and let others love on you. This is how we will make it. This is how we get from winter to spring. ❤

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Photo by TOMOKO UJI on Unsplash
Always believe. Always hope. Always love. ❤

*Cover photo credit: Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

 

The real issue isn’t the issue..

By Monica C. Voskamp

Why do we (continually) do things we regret? Why do we submit ourselves to a cycle of abuse when we abhor it so much?

In short, the moment of pleasure and immediate comfort is cherished more than the repercussions of pain and the work of resolution.

There are many reasons we do what we do,  why we *continue* to do it…but I think there comes a point to realize the glaring issue isn’t the real issue to deal with anymore.

The first time I was called fat, I was a little girl. It re-labeled me. It changed how I saw myself, how I acted and reacted in life.

These words hurt me. People failed me one too many times. I soon found something that gave me immediate pleasure: Food.  The problem was it never was enough.  Whenever I was conflicted, dejected, rejected, disappointed, I sought out this instant relief. However, this ‘relief’ brought me more misery…my body suffered physically and emotionally I never experienced healing from the hurt. Instead I self-soothed the way I first knew how.  I “protected” the hurt from any other “healing”. I think this is natural response. You’re scared. You were hurt. Its frightening to do something different with an area so vulnerable, so locked deep in yourself.

Still, food wasn’t the solution, but in my little mind it did the trick. However, it turned on me. Addictions do that; they turn on you. 

Yes there was a beginning point, a hurt, an injustice…something went wrong, but the things is it never got dealt with rightly.

We naturally look for fixes-whether in food, sex, alcohol, achievements, cheap thrills…you know your fix. You also know it’s not really a fix. It’s a “jimmy-fix”…what you do on old cars when you want them to last just a little longer.  That’s what we’re doing with addictions, just trying to make it through another day. To fix the problem feels too overwhelming.

If “jimmy-fixes” (quick reliefs) are ALL you are ever giving yourself, don’t expect success. Except survival, disappointment, more hurt. Don’t expect an improved relationship, the debt to be gone, the arguments to dissipate, the hurting inside to stop.  Don’t expect things to just get better.

We all know covering the surface scratch doesn’t repair the deep inner damage.

For years, I did ‘minor repairs’ for my emotional complex, my broken sense of identity.

I self-soothed through the quick fix of food. As I aged, I tried to approach my food addiction various times…. dieting, counseling, renewed resolutions blah blah blah. I saw some temporary results, but nothing lasting. I never had the guts to expose the real issue: the issue inside of me. I hated me. I didn’t realize this, till later. Truth is, I was way too scared to confront the hurt.

Who isn’t afraid of facing the overwhelming, of what caused the addiction and the addiction itself?

It’s more comfortable to ignore, to hide from the awful reality, than confront.

Long ago I pegged myself incompetent, unable, a misfit. These messages were reinforced with circumstances, with people in my childhood. The thing is I was also tuned into this channel defeat. I didn’t stand back and see the good input that was happening. Kids are pretty smart but they are also kids. They are ever absorbing, ever reinforcing and building their viewpoints of how life, how people should operate.

I think as adults, we have to revisit those pillars. What if we stood back and,

1. Acknowledge the initial hurt. (Sometimes going backwards allows us to go forward)

2. Create new life giving messages. (The way we think, greatly impacts our behavior)

3. Allow change in our life. (Addictive behaviors don’t promote healing, find something that does.)

This was me when I was 29 years old, 248 pounds. I was freaking out over my chaotic cycles of bingeing, looking for relief, but never getting any. I finally faced myself, the hurt, the real issue. I had come to hate myself…and that’s what needed healing. I had rejected myself based on other’s opinions and reviews of me. New messages in my thinking were needed, not more food.

The day I saw 248 pounds I told myself I needed to do something radically different.  I vowed I would do whatever it took.  I didn’t understand or have a complete grasp on the details right away, but I had a distinct turn in my mind.

This healing message dawned on me: Mon, you hold power in your hands. You CAN do something about this life-long battle.

I admitted the TRUTH of the situation: It was an enormous mountain.  It would take a lot of work.

I took responsibility: (The addiction) was MY mess. At the end of the day, only I could create lasting change.  I was now in pursuit of resolving. I was going forward, with fear no longer stopping me. See how much that revolves with me…”I” statements?  (Not to say, I didn’t ask for help along the way! And a phrase from the book of Psalms gave me a new motto….being a woman of “strong courage”)

The thing is I stopped making excuses for my addictive behavior and started with what what I could do.  I took my wobbly unsteady 248 pound insecure self and began short daily walks of 10 minutes, outside.

Previously, I had been used to exercising inside, hiding, I was too ashamed of my body, of my condition. I didn’t want people to see me.

Hiding never promotes healing. It breeds fear, shame, guilt and reinforces the same behaviors. You need to be found, unhidden in order to heal. 

 

The turning point of resolution, for healing is:

-admitting I WANT to deal with my situation.

-moving ahead, instead of spinning circles.

-seeing myself capable, instead of incapable.

-believing in success, instead of doomed to failure.

-aiming for progress not perfection

It may be debt. It may be the unspoken secrets destroying your marriage. It may be hidden addictions. Whatever issues are overwhelming you will best be healed when you look deeper within.

However, when it comes down to it,  many prefer to stay stuck. Many of us will suffer the abuse, the pain, the debt, the hurt of addictions INSTEAD of seeking resolution. Why?  Resolution requires a cost.

Resolution takes:  honesty. work. courage. new paths. letting go.

We can get comfortable in our struggles. We can become more SCARED of good changes than we are the pain, the problem. It’s rightly so.

You are going into a new territory. You are dealing with something sensitive. But a war was never won with a leader who was too scared of the risks, too scared to lose the comfort of what he had, too scared he would fail. He was already losing. He saw what he could gain, he admitted it would take more than his own power and resources. That leader saw a cause worth pursuing, and he pursued.

The thing to fear isn’t the issues or addictions, the thing to fear is your  own complacency.

As soon as you believe a cause is worth pursuing, you WILL do whatever it takes to win that battle. Even if you die still halfway in the process, you will have made successes. You will have covered new ground. You will have inspired others and gained new appreciation for yourself.

Courageous steps are never a loss, they are always celebratory.

My boss once told me this: you can always learn from your mistake and recover that ground.  But if you do nothing, it gives a bad impression, like you don’t care or aren’t willing to even try. Doing something is always better than doing nothing.  Wise words. That leader taught me this:

Don’t expect to execute immediate perfection in a new situation. Simply do something..do progression.

Facing the big mountains in our life isn’t easy. I’ve experienced it. It’s still hard…to be brave, to put in effort and forge my fears, but it’s also still rewarding, empowering,  life-changing, soul healing.

That is a good price to pay. When you believe in your investment, you WILL see revenue.

Stop overthinking the fears, spit out your pride and step into the progression, not perfection.

The real issue is more about you, and less about the overwhelming situation.  Are you willing? Do you want this bad enough? There are resources! There are other people on this planet to help you. But the thing is, it’s starts with you.

You are capable. You are intelligent. You are powerful. And your life matters.

Believe it. You will not regret it. 🙂

Always believe. Always hope. Always love. ❤

*Photo Credits: Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

 

 

Seeing Differently: 5 years in

By Monica C. Voskamp

Please don’t see me. That’s how I felt. I didn’t want to see me and I didn’t want others too. I wanted to somehow hide the entirety of 248 pound me. Try imagine adding 100 pounds to your size..(keep breathing!).. and think you can be invisible. It’s like being 2 people…seriously. Try fitting in a cafe booth!! That struggle was real.

Please don’t see me.” It was a lot of self thinking. I gave too much energy and anxiety over fear of people judging me and trying to reduce that fear. Yet I also had a message beating in my heart: Someone, anyone see me, hear me? But I couldn’t voice this well. I really couldn’t. It was a scary thought to be vulnerable, to express the true needs of myself. Here I was, adult age & body…yet struggling with the past 28 some years. I was carrying a childhood complex and past insecurities. Stuck.

Surrendering and taking ownership for myself ( the physical fatness) actually became the gateway to opening my whole self to health. You see, the more you confront and expose fears, lies, unhealthy mindsets and behaviors, the more you are opening yourself to freedom.

 

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Me in 2013

It’s 5 years since that “Me in 2013.”  Yes, I still have issues to work through…but this past 1/2 of decade has held so much growth in becoming my individual self, and being okay with me as me…me as a person, as a woman.

I am a woman. I know…it sounds like a gender statement haha.  Yes, I AM a female. 🙂 But I mean it in the way, that I’ve discovered, I am no longer a little girl; I am a woman. It’s been a journey of empowerment to discover I am MORE.  More than a helpless little girl.

This is me claiming who I am, not the little girl I knew, not the childhood fears, not the ghosts of the past. I am a woman. It is liberating to realize who I was then,  who I am now, and who I am becoming.

I am a woman. I’m capable of making my own choices, independent to make my own decisions, and responsible for the life I lead.  That’s a very simple and seemingly obvious statement for adulthood, but it’s something I’d never realized was mine.

 

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Me in 2018

There are many things I haven’t been taught I wish I had been. I can’t change that. My doctor was the first person to verbalize belief in me. I was stunned. She really believed I could do or become anything I wanted! My brother was the second person that spoke the same confidence. Then, I was the third. I suddenly realized I could make excuses for a million years of the things not in my favor and only see the odds…childhood trauma, messed up religious teachings, life impacting illnesses, 100 pounds extra… blah blah blah. 😛 Or I could flip the coin and embrace my coin.

As an adult, as a woman, it is now up to me to decide, learn, grow and be.  I have that choice, that’s quite the opportunity!

I do believe one should acknowledge the messiness. Sometimes that takes a LONG time.  (Example: me) But there’s more than acknowledging.  Action is the tough but also the best part. Plodding through and not letting any of the “messiness” hold you back leads to..is..healing.

5 years later I’m in a very different place.

The bonuses of embarking on loving me are many. I see:

…I no longer hate or despise myself!

-Seeing me.  I don’t wish to be invisible 🙂

-Enjoying me for me.

-Believing I am cut out to be a leader. Belief in myself!

-Wanting to take on challenges and opening to new approaches.

-Realizing it’s not all about me! I’m not alone in struggles, pain. This was an eye-opener. It’s an obvious fact of life…but something that finally hit me more.

And, remember that desperate inner “Someone, anyone hear me??”

-Finding a voice. I can speak up for myself, and for others.  Ironically, (lol), it does take *speaking* to be heard. 😉

My brother’s been my huge coach in encouraging me to express my thoughts freely and say what’s on my mind, instead of being fearful of people’s reaction or speaking to please them.  It’s called learning to be my own person, me. 🙂

In all those growths, there are still glitches! But as I heard recently, life is about “progress not perfection.” 🙂

5 years later..I see differently and I’m glad. I see a woman who is in the becoming.

I see love is action. It’s been a lot of brave, courage, fight, discomfort, joys…and commitment. Love doesn’t give up. Five years ago, it was a resolute heart decision: I’m committed to healthy living for the rest of my life. I knew I had to take action; it was enough of me praying for God to fix things, when He’s made me capable.  I’m on a wildly imperfect journey, but one of love.  And I’ve decided, love is the best vow you can ever make. For yourself…your whole self.., for your friends, family and for this life. ❤