Relax for a Delicate Few

Don't forget to stop and smell the roses! (A rose from my Dad--straight from his garden :) )

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“Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Do you often find yourself rushing around, running errands, cleaning your apartment, or going out with friends without taking a moment to slow down and really appreciate the day? This whole “slowing down” concept is something I’m constantly reminding myself to work on, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. After all, we live in a fast-paced, results-driven world. Between going to work, maintaining an active social life and taking care of a family… sometimes relaxing or slowing down just doesn’t seem possible.

 

That’s why every now and then we need a little reminder about just how important it is to give yourself a break. After all, relaxing is HEALTHY (seriously…the research says so!). Practicing some form of relaxation each day has been known to decrease anxiety and stress levels by reducing cortisol while also increasing happiness and life expectancy.

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And let’s be serious.

Who doesn’t want to live a longer, healthier, happier life??

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Anyone who knows me is probably thinking “Girlfriend…PUH-LEASE! You should take your OWN advice!” And I totally hear you! I should! Those closest to me would most likely agree that I’m the type of person who moves a little too quickly through life. I’m the kind of girl who writes daily “to-do” lists, follows a strict workout schedule, can’t stand sitting still for more than two minutes at a time, is always looking for a new project to tackle, and sets the alarm before 7:30 on the weekends. Most recently, I’ve been keeping myself extra busy by testing out new recipes to create for this blog :)  (That doesn’t really count though, because it’s what I choose to do on my “down time”).

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So am I a control freak? Perhaps.

Efficient. Yes.

Happy? Sometimes.

And that’s exactly where the problem lies.

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Being happy “sometimes” just isn’t enough. Not for me. Not for anyone.

We deserve more!

 

I often find that my regimented lifestyle is both a blessing and curse. Maybe you find the same is true with yours. Do I get things done on deadline? ABSOLUTELY. This is great when it comes to work. However, being so organized and strict with my daily schedules certainly has its drawbacks when it comes to spontaneous social situations or simply allowing myself to (gasp!) do nothing at all.

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Case in point: Cancel my evening spinning class for drinks out on the town? Probably isn’t going to happen without some serious coaxing. The mere thought of not following my schedule seems incomprehensible even though deep down I know I’d truly LOVE (and want!) to have some fun and catch up with friends. Sure, keeping up a daily work, workout, or any other organized routine is healthy, but sometimes doing the same thing over and over again can become unfulfilling. Before you know it, time is just passing by…

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That’s precisely what happened to me.

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When I looked at the calendar and realized June was more than half way over, mild panic began to set in. My mind started getting WAY ahead of me and my internal dialogue sounded something like this…

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“Oh my gosh. NO. That date CANNOT be right! It’s Father’s Day this weekend?? I need to go home. Wait, it’s almost the end of June! How did this happen? The Fourth of July is in a couple of weeks, that pretty much marks the peak of the summer. Then there’s the weekend away with the girls. I am still SO not ready for bathing suit season! And then I have the boyfriend’s birthday to plan and cookouts to attend. Plus, I need to make sure I’m getting down the Cape to visit my family. And what about my friends? I really need to see them more. Maybe I should plan a college reunion. How am I going to do this all!? Summer will be over before I know it!”

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See how easily my mind went into TOTAL overdrive? As you can probably guess, as soon as my thoughts ran away with me, I immediately started to feel more anxious, stressed and depressed. Ironically, when you get too overwhelmed and think too far ahead rather than staying in the moment, it can actually be more difficult to get anything done at all. And who wants to be overwhelmed all the time? I for one really want to full-on enjoy my summer (after all, it’s my favorite time of the year!).

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In fact…

I want to enjoy every day!

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And whose to say you shouldn’t be able to enjoy every day? So, right then an there I decided to make myself a promise. I promised to practice mindfulness and “staying in the moment” at least once every day. I may not be ready to go full-out yogi quite yet (don’t worry…yoga is on my list of mindful activities to try this summer) but I am ready to make myself try something new or relaxing each week with hopes that it will connect me to the present and ultimately benefit my mind, body and soul. I urge you to try it too :)

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My first mission?

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Connecting with nature!

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As I briefly mentioned above, my typical Saturday morning routine means getting up at 7:30, watching/reading the news, making breakfast, checking e-mails and blogging before I head off to a couple of my favorite fitness classes at Healthworks Fitness Center. Sometimes I even have enough time to whip up a batch of pancakes for the boyfriend before he gets up ;) .  Strangely enough, I actually enjoy getting up nice and early. I don’t get to sit and eat breakfast or watch the news during the week, so this “me time” is something I truly look forward to. The rest of the day is usually full of working out, cleaning up and running around taking care of errands. This weekend, however, my boyfriend had another idea…

 

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Strawberry picking!

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Back when I made my Oh So Sassy Strawberry Shortcake, I was doing some research on the heath benefits of strawberries and I discovered that June is prime strawberry-picking season. I made a comment about how I’d never been strawberry picking before, but I’d LOVE to go sometime. Well, the boyfriend remembered (I know…cue the collective ‘AWWWs!’) and after checking around the area, he discovered a farm roughly 35 minutes away from us was having their Annual Strawberry Festival this past Saturday. I knew I’d have to skip out on my favorite fitness classes and rearrange my typical Saturday schedule to go, but it was such a sweet idea and it sounded like so much fun that I couldn’t say no.

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Plus, it sounded like the PERFECT way to relax and spend a beautiful Saturday!

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Ultimately, we (okay…I) decided the grocery shopping could wait, and the laundry and dishes would just have to be done at a later date. Today…I was having FUN! We hopped in the car and took off to Connor’s Farm so we could spend the day together :) .

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There’s just something SO fun about being outdoors and getting your hands dirty once in a while. It’s like being a kid again :) Plus…it’s just so fulfilling to actually be able to see where your food is coming from with your own two eyes and (please excuse the pun) to take home the fruits of your labor ;) .

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Plus…they just taste so DARN GOOD!

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This little strawberry picking experience got my wheels turning even more about WHERE our food comes from. Be sure to keep an eye out for my next post which touches upon this whole idea of farm-to table food and the safety of our food industry.

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This weekend excursion was my first–of hopefully many–attempts to break away from routine every now and then, enjoy the world around me, and embrace each day for what it truly is…

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Beautiful.

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Healthfully yours,

Ashley Michelle  

 

Sources:

The Mayo Clinic: How to be Happy

Mindbody Relaxation

Stress Management

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