Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ripple Effect

This morning I gave a workshop on the nutritional needs of children  for 10 directors of after-school programs around New York City.

I am feeling pretty inspired from it and thought I would share.

Part of what made today so cool, was that it brought together several of  my passions.

I have worked in the social work field in NYC for the past ten years. I care deeply about helping others. Especially those who lack access to resources. I have met some pretty incredible kids in my day. Kids who have tremendous potential, but can often fail to reach this potential because they lack the necessary support.

In my work, I have done my best to support these kids, believing in them and encouraging them.

My interest in health and wellness has been a more recent development for me. It  first arose out of a need to take better care of myself. I discovered how good it made me feel, and I have become passionate about helping others to do the same. Up to this point, this new branch of my career has been largely focused on working with private clients. Those that could afford to pay me for my services. However, I am now working to also integrate this passion with my work with children and non-profits.

A few weeks ago I did a workshop for non-profit professionals, supporting them to take better care of themselves, or risk burnout.

In today's presentation to the after-school directors, I got a glimpse at how I  had the chance to impact change on a broad variety of levels, and it was one of those rare moments where I could really feel that happening.

I started the presentation with some nutrition basics that could be applied to both adults and children. It quickly became clear that the directors in the room were really hungry for this information. To pass it on to the kids they serve, but also for themselves and their own health.

Most of the after-school sites represented today were in the Bronx. The Bronx has one of the highest childhood obesity rates in the country, with something close to 24% of kids having a BMI (body mass index) that qualifies them as obese. The directors present today shared heart breaking stories of children struggling with their weight, in some cases suffering from the first signs of heart disease, and families unsure of what to do and how to help.

The problem is complex and could not hoped to be solved in a 2.5 hour presentation. My goal was simply to educate the participants and share some tools and strategies to make simple changes within their program and begin to educate the families that they serve.

I need to say, that this was a great group of participants. And because of that we were able to get a lot done and the training went really well.  As we closed, I had each participant share a commitment that they were ready to make. What they shared left me astounded. I didn't have a tape recorder (obviously, since I don't tend to walk around with one of those) so I'll have to try and  paraphrase some of the comments and hope you can feel how significant these commitments are:

"We get super sugary lemonade delivered to our site every week. The kids drink gallons of it. I am going to ask them to stop delivering it and switch to water."

"I am going to start by improving my own diet and eating more vegetables!"

"I am going to put copies of the handout, How to Engage Kids in Healthy Eating, by the parent sign-out sheet every day this week for parents to take home with them!" (I created the handout and disseminated it at the training)

"I am going to implement a Healthy Party Guideline at my program and use some of these creative healthy snacks, instead of ice cream parties."

"I am going to lead a workshop for my staff on the benefits of healthy eating, using some of the visuals that we saw today." (I did an exercise with them that showed how much fat is in fast food and how much sugar is in soda - I'll explain and offer the visuals in an upcoming post. It's disturbing to say the least.)

How awesome is all that! So much momentum! Efforts towards personal change... efforts to put greater thought into the foods and beverages offered to kids... commitment to educating families and staff...

When I stop to really think of how many lives are going to be touched, I feel thoroughly humbled.

Plus, I had been paid decently for my time!

In the "about me" section of this site, I write, " I am continually struck by the ripple effect of one individual striving for growth.".

Today, I felt like I was able to watch this ripple effect build in slow motion, so that I was able to see how the swell rises and falls and creates yet another ripple.

It provided me with some much needed rejuvenation of spirit, and I hope some of that spreads out to you too.

Ok... can't resist:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Notes from the sickie ward

I work three days a week as a Social Worker in a public high school here in Brooklyn.This past week was school vacation. Besides the simple joy of working with teenagers, the vacation schedule is one of the best aspects of working in a school.

I am sad to report that my precious vacation, with its promise of time to focus on my business and upcoming workshops, organize my home, do yoga, and gain a sense of total well-being, has been lost to endless hours of sniffling and groaning in bed.

The 5 Things I learned from Being Sick:

1. I don't like being sick.

2. Lost is a supremely addicting show.

3. B can be a wonderful caretaker. In my sickness, he also realized how little he goes food shopping and has vowed to do it more. 4 days of sickness = domestic bliss. Worth it!

4. Though natural remedies are normally my go-to, Nyquil is pretty freaking awesome.

5. Planning a wedding + too much time on my hands = addiction to Style Me Pretty blog = who am I?
Since I don't have the mental wherewithal to write a proper post this week, I thought I would share a few of the interesting articles I have come across in the past month or so:

1. Confused about what to eat? This post from Marion Nestle should clear things up.
2. I was so moved and inspired by this guest post by Mary Jaksch on the great blog Zen Habits.
3.  If you haven't read this NY Times article about  Cavemen in the City you must...

I'd love to hear your thoughts on any or all! Also welcome are your go-to remedies for treating a cold/sinus infections (I'm still not totally out of the woods . . .) . . .

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I have a set of Angel Cards that I keep in a pretty box by my bed. Angel cards are about the size of your pinky finger and have different angels on them representing feelings or concepts like Compassion, Release or Humor.

Each night before I go to sleep, I close my eyes and I reach my hand in to pull out a card.

Once you pick an angel card, the rest is up to you to interpret. The card could represent an area that you need to work or something you are doing well with. The card can also simply serve as a reminder to feel the particular sentiment that it represents.

I just like it as little magical thing to do at the end of my day. Something sweet before I drift off to sleep.

So, the other night I pulled the box over and rested it on my chest (this detail becomes important later) and chose a card: Flexibility is what I got. It didn't resonate with me particularly but I placed it on top of the box and put the box back on my dresser.

The next morning as I disrobed to get into the shower I saw something fall to the floor.

I looked closer, and saw it was this...

Somehow the Love card had snuck out of the box without my knowing and burrowed down into my PJs. What a great reminder that you can find love in the unlikeliest places! And just a few days shy of Valentines day.

I consider myself to be a very loving person, but when life gets busy it is easy to get caught up in the day to day and forget to really connect with love. Not just romantic love, but love love. Tenderness, appreciation, allowance, patience, support.  Love for others. Love for ourselves. Love for our bodies and minds.  Love for nature and our planet.

I know many people who despise Valentine's Day. I certainly have in years past. It can be a painful day whether you are in a relationship or single. That's largely because of our expectations about what the day should hold.

But I can't think of a concept that is further from love, than expectation. OK, I can think of some things further from love, like violence and stuff, but you know what I mean.

This Valentine's Day, rather than getting trapped in hopes, disappointments or expectations about how you should feel, or what your day should look like,  see if you can view it as a celebration of Love. Whatever that word means to you in your life right now. Cook a delicious dinner. Get a massage. Journal. Do something unexpected for someone - a partner or a friend.

Have some frickin' fun. This is LOVE we're talking about people. 

Like this story that my friend just shared with me:  Her boyfriend loves doing the NY Times crossword puzzle, so she went online and made a special crossword puzzle for him with all words and clues referencing their relationship (trips they had been on, etc.) Then she woke up early and got to the paper first and pasted the puzzle in for her boyfriend to discover later.

How cute is that?

My not quite as cute thing that I am doing for B is about to happen right now.

B always edits my posts before I send them. (So I am writing this now knowing that he will read it later tonight, and be surprised)  He is usually tired and would rather just relax, but he always rallies to support me.

So... I wanted to publicly thank him for his contributions to in. Wellness. And as my way of celebrating him, I am now going to post the picture of the 204 he bowled last Sunday. B is not normally a good bowler, so this was really exciting for him. He was in the zone and I was so proud of him and I love him!

So, go forth and be loving!

Here's an amazing video to send you off with. It was made by recording street musicians from around the world:

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Burnout Prevention 101

So, it's 9:46pm. It's been a full day and a full week.

I met with a new client on Monday.

The Shake Off had it's finale on Tuesday night. (These women rocked it by the way. "I have a totally new morning routine!" said one participant about her new commitment to morning stretching. Others increased their exercise, gave their afternoon snack a makeover and carved out more time for creativity.)

Today I worked a full day with my teens, had a conference call in the afternoon,  and then scurried home to make a quick dinner before seeing evening clients.

Now weave wedding planning through all of this.

I am tired.

One of the several projects that I am working on right now is an exciting workshop to be held at Fit 4 Life on February 15th.

The title?

Burnout Prevention 101: A workshop for educators and non-profit professionals

I think it might be time to start listening to my own advice and stop burning the candle at both ends.

I am really excited about this workshop though, so I'll steal a few more minutes to tell you about it.

We have designed this workshop especially for teachers, administrators and non-profit professionals.

Having worked in the NYC school system and in non-profits for the past ten years, I know how tough this field is.

The problems are complex and often unsolvable.  The stress is high and the resources to help are few. Add to that that people who go into "caring professions" tend to put others needs before their own, and you have the recipe for burnout. In this field, the only way to last is by becoming an expert care-taker for yourself. You can only give fully to others, when you have taken care of yourself first.

In Burnout Prevention 101  I'm going to arm participants with valuable tools to increase energy, manage stress, and add more fun into the day. Participants will:
✔  Get easy to follow meal and snack recipes that will give energy all day long.
✔  Participate in a fun, stress melting fitness class.
✔  Discover the hidden causes of stress.
✔  Learn which common foods can actually exacerbate your stress.
✔  Learn the top 5 stress-reducing stretches for the workplace.
✔  Practice easy fool proof techniques to help you manage stress at work and at home.

For all the details and to register click HERE!

Please also feel free to contact me with any questions.

For those of you that can't attend, I promise to include little snippets from the workshop in future posts.

In the meantime, here are my top 5 ways to unwind after a stressful day:

5. Watch a fluffy TV program
4.  Cook a nice meal
3. Take a bath
2. Have a glass of wine (red, and in moderation of course)
1. Go to a yoga class or to the gym (especially the steam room!)

What are your top 5 ways? Post 'em as a comment so others can benefit from your wisdom.