In kindergarten, my desire to get up and walk around, my general restlessness, resulted in me getting diagnosed with ADHD. My parents didn't want to put me on medication. Instead, they decided to try experimental biofeedback therapy. The doctors also recommended that I exercise.
According to Healthline, "Exercise is a top nonpharmaceutical ADHD treatment, as it can promote dopamine release, improve executive function, and alter BDNF signaling. In children with ADHD, it has been shown to improve attention and decrease aggression and impulsiveness." From that moment on, my parents and I were on a mission to find which types of exercises I would most enjoy and could stick with.
For the next decade, swimming and water polo became a part of my life. After school, I swam for an hour. My weekends were dedicated to swim meets. In high school, I joined the varsity swim and water polo team and was either at the gym or in the water for at least four hours a day. Burned out after graduation, I took a break and spent the rest of my adult life in pursuit of exercises that I would enjoy. I quickly learned that elliptical machines and treadmills were not for me.
The types of exercises that work best for people with ADHD require a fast pace and ever-changing stimuli. I hate feeling like a hamster on a wheel and get bored very quickly. I've tried many different types of exercises and these are my favorites:
One year into the pandemic, in January 2021, my mental health was suffering. The pandemic had taken away my tried-and-true coping mechanisms and so much of what made me feel like myself.
I had lost a job that I was excited about, I hadn't seen friends in months, my usual methods of self-care and relaxation weren't available anymore. Then pile on three four-day weekends in quick succession with my kids during Thanksgiving and the holidays, with almost no time for myself and a method of birth control that wreaked havoc on my hormones....
I had turned into a person I didn't recognize: quick to anger, irritable, anxious, too exhausted to take care of myself. I didn't like who I had become.
It was in this season that my husband and I instituted Self Care Saturday (and weekly therapy) for me and Self Care Sunday for him. For the last two and a half years, we have protected these days ferociously. Almost every Saturday without fail, barring sickness, travel or a birthday party, my husband has taken our kids to his parents' house on Saturday morning from 9 am-ish to 2 pm-ish. On Sunday evening, it's my turn to take our kids to see my parents.
At first, I couldn't remember what I used to enjoy doing for fun and relaxation. Being alone and having time exclusively for myself had become so foreign to me. Who was I when I wasn't actively mothering, wife-ing, or working? What would I do when no one was demanding a single thing from me?
My self care days started slow: a shower, breakfast, TV and a nap. Some chores or errands that I had been putting off. Eventually I fell into a rhythm of asking myself every week what would make ME feel most cared for in these hours that I had. I developed a sort of self-care recipe that works for me and I thought I'd share it with you in honor of World Mental Health Day in case it gives you a few self care ideas too.
After watching my own kids spend hours coloring (and researching the benefits of coloring for adults), I decided to take the plunge myself.
According to the MayoClinic, "coloring is a healthy way to relieve stress. It calms the brain and helps your body relax. This can improve sleep and fatigue while decreasing body aches, heart rate, respiration, and feelings of depression and anxiety."
Some of my favorite photos are the ones I've taken in Paris so I thought I'd turn them into a coloring book for more people to enjoy.
\/ Click to Download Free Adult Coloring Pages \/
On December 6, 2021, I received an email in my inbox saying that I had been selected to purchase tickets for Adele's Las Vegas Residency, "Weekends with Adele." It was a long process which included submitting a profile to prove I was a "Verified Fan" and not a robot, winning a lottery to gain access to the Ticketmaster room in which I would have the opportunity to purchase a ticket IF THEY DIDN'T SELL OUT IMMEDIATELY.
Seeing Adele perform was on my 40 Before 40 Bucket List which I wrote on my 30th birthday, four years after Adele's previous album was released and she had no new music on the horizon. This was also before Adele damaged her vocal cords and announced she will take a break from singing. And in 2017, she said she will never tour again and had to cancel two of her shows due to a vocal cord injury. All of this to say, that if I wanted to hear Adele's voice live, it was now or probably never. I was determined to get tickets to this show because I do not live my life with regrets.
The original plan was for two of my girlfriends and I to go together. But when the time came for me to enter the Ticketmaster room and purchase the tickets, they were both at work and it was difficult to coordinate the logistics and all of the tickets got snatched up within minutes. I was disappointed and heartbroken that I might not have the opportunity to go to this concert. But I had the option of staying in the Ticketmaster room for an hour. After ten minutes, some tickets started popping back up for sale (probably from expired carts). Every time a ticket popped up, I clicked on it to try to purchase it, but it would be sold already. As the minutes ticked by, so did my hope. I had nothing to lose so I stayed in the room and kept trying my luck. By some act of god, with literally one minute left until the room closed and I got kicked out, a single ticket popped up and I purchased it without a second thought.
Happy New Year! This was hands-down the hardest year of my life but it taught me the truth of my own strength, the capacity of my patience and the depth of my love for my family.
This was also the year I finally started going to therapy weekly and realized recently that I had lost my joie de vivre. I had put aside many of my dreams in order to survive. It was almost like I was waiting for my life to happen to me, to become a “grown up” so I could do the things I've always wanted.
In 2022, I will reclaim my exuberant enjoyment of life--my joie de vivre--and to rediscover my passions and what makes me feel fulfilled. After all that’s happened in the past two years, isn't it an absolute privilege be alive right now?!
My 10 New Year Resolutions for 2022
In late June 2021, I received an email from the editor of People Health, a health-focused special edition of PEOPLE that's distributed in doctors' offices around the country, with a print run of 500,000 copies. He wanted to know if I would be interested in sharing my battle with shingles and be on the magazine's cover.
My initial thought was that this can't be real. I researched his email address to make sure it was from the Meredith Corporation (it checked out), reread his email a dozen times, talked it out with my husband who convinced me to take the plunge.
"When else will you get a chance to be on the cover of a magazine?" He made a point.
Over the course of a month and a half, I was interviewed, I scouted “shooting locations” around our home and outdoor spaces and sent photos back to the photo editor and shopped for outfits for our family. When I would have conversations about tasks with my husband, Steve, and say things like, “People magazine wants me to send over outfit options,” we would both giggle.
On the day of the photoshoot, a crew of five people set up around our house, front yard and backyard. There was the hair and makeup person, the photographer, her assistant, and two guys in charge of lighting. A huge breakfast that could feed an army was delivered to our home at 7 am and set up outside. I was glammed up, Steve was helped to “look like he had slept for 15 hours.” The photographer gave a Facetime tour of our property to the photo editor who was in New York.
There was a wind machine, dance music, the photographer telling me to jump and swing my arms and smile big with my chin down (which feels very unnatural to me). Every 15 minutes, my nose was powdered, lipstick reapplied, stray hairs tamed. It was all very surreal.
Any latent hopes I may have had about becoming a model were quickly dashed as I exclaimed, “Modeling is too hard! I feel silly and awkward and I’m doing a terrible job.” Needless to say, I was NOT a natural.
After 2 hours of taking pictures, during which time Luna was our most cooperative child, we ended the photoshoot with a water fight in the backyard and it was amazing. I finally felt comfortable and in my element.
I never could have expected something as painful and terrible as Ramsay-Hunt Syndrome to happen to me and at the time, I felt like I was passing through actual hell. But I also could never have anticipated what I received in return: a much greater appreciation for my health and my incredible support system, the value of rest and self-care and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to share my story and be featured in a national publication.
I had to cut out all of the magazine except for the pages with my story so the file would be small enough to post on this blog, but you can read it here:
Exactly one year ago, I vowed to spend 2020 pursuing and practicing gratitude. At the time, there was so much to look forward to: a new job, a few trips to Disneyland, the wedding of one of my dear friends and all the festivities that come with it. I thought it would be a breeze to find something to be grateful for every day.
But the universe knew better. The universe knew I needed a challenge. Shortly after January 1st, it seemed like something went wrong in big and small ways every day. I was forced to do for a year what I had once considered emotional torture. Before this year, my worst day was a day spent at home. How was I going to find gratitude for a house that seemed to be falling apart, unemployment, sick family members, isolation? Little did I know at the time, focusing on gratitude would not only be possible, it would be the thing that saved me.
It’s never all bad just like it’s never all good. Even though it seemed like the world was unraveling around me, there were moments of pure joy and contentment in each day. What will I remember most from the last 365 days? The decadent meals, slowly and lovingly prepared; the giggle of an infant and a toddler; making eye contact with the love of my life when our child does something so cute my heart wants to burst; a leisurely morning with no plans that turns into a water fight; cozy movie nights cuddling under an oversized blanket; spontaneously blasting the music and dancing around the living room; making a mess while baking on Saturday mornings; impromptu FaceTime chats with friends and family at random hours of the day; cheese and bread made from scratch that we would have normally bought at the store; my kids becoming best friends little by little.
Maybe deep down in my core, I knew this year would be different and that is why I didn't make a list of goals like I usually do. Because I now know that any resolution I had made would not have been fulfilled. The expectations were low so the chances of failure were also low.
But oh, how I failed! This year broke me down into a million raw pieces that I sometimes didn't recognize. I felt like I failed as a mother, as a wife, as a daughter, as a friend, as an employee. Too many evenings, I looked at the clock hoping it was my kids' bedtime. Too many nights, I slept alone in bed because my husband was awake to take care of our infant, and too many nights, I dozed off during our moments together trying to reconnect. Too many dinners, we ate frozen food or take-out because I was too burnt out from cooking every meal. Too many times, I forgot to answer a text or wish my friend a happy birthday because the day slipped away from me. Too many hours wasted being distracted with anxiety, doom scrolling the Internet, expecting to find a glimmer of hope. Too many hours my kids spent watching TV so I can catch up on laundry or use the toilet in peace. And at nights when my babies were dreaming and the house was quiet and I had plenty to do but nothing to do right now, came the Great Exhale.
Breathe in deep and count to ten. Exhale. Repeat. Repeat. The pit in my stomach eases. We made it through another day, another week, another month, another ten months. We survived.
Why Is It Important to Shop BIPOC?
While we make our shopping lists and begin making purchases, it's important to remember that marginalization of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) individuals and cultures can still be found in every aspect of society and it was painfully obvious as I was working on this gift guide. I saw cultural appropriation of authentic Indian spices and traditional Japanese tea sets. White people selling Boba Tea Kits. I also saw a gross number of companies whose stories included traveling to Rwanda/India/Guatemala, falling in love with what they found there and bringing that ‘knowledge’ back to America to start their business. That is the very definition of cultural appropriation.
The problem is that if consumers are not actively, intentionally seeking out shops owned and gifts made by BIPOC, they likely won’t find any. I spent hours researching companies to include in this guide and unfortunately, most people do not have that kind of time. A Google search for “leather dopp kit” yielded zero results for BIPOC-owned companies, at least on the first five pages. Virtually no one ventures past the first page of Google results and the #1 result captures over 30% of the clicks. In fact, only 0.78% of Google searchers click on something from the second page.
To further compound this issue, major gift guides from Buzzfeed, New York Times, Today.com, Good Housekeeping, etc. are sorely lacking in diversity. Most of their picks were from major brands on Amazon with a few small businesses sprinkled in. But this year, Amazon and Jeff Bezos don’t need any more money--during the pandemic, while small businesses are suffering and shuttering left and right, Amazon doubled its profit from $2.6 billion to $5.3 billion.
This holiday season, let’s support small, local and BIPOC businesses. When you purchase from a small business, a real human being smiles and does a happy jig.
Before March, my days were full of a buzzing noise of all the places I had to be, things I had to do and people I needed to see. In fact, in March, I had a social commitment every day of every weekend, sometimes even two commitments a day.
I was feeling overwhelmed and stretched thin, but I had no idea what to do about it. I have an impossible time declining invitations because I feel an immense sense of loyalty to my friends and family. Not only do I enjoy spending time with others as an extrovert, but I feel a huge amount of guilt at the thought of letting people down. On some level, I believe that if I don’t show up for my friends’ events, they won’t want to attend mine or be my friend anymore and I cherish my friendships too much to let that happen.
For that reason, I was a “yes mom” for as many brunches, parties, play dates, dinners and birthdays as was physically possible (and sometimes even more than was truly physically possible). I didn’t realize how stressful it was and what a toll it all took on my mental and emotional well-being until it was all stripped away.
My nonstop days of going to the park, to the zoo, to the library, to get coffee, to go shopping, to grab lunch with one friend and dinner with another were replaced with lots and lots of nothingness at home. The days got slow and quiet. One day melted into another until six months had passed by.
For many people who practice intuitive eating, joyful movement and gentle nutrition are the intuitive eating principles that we have the most difficult time with.
At least for me, exercise has been a sore spot for most of my life. I swam competitively starting at age seven until I was 17 and most of my weekends were spent at swim meets. In high school, I was on the swim and water polo team which meant I was in the water or at the gym from 5:30 am until 7:30 am and again from 2 pm until 5 pm. If we had a game, I didn't get home until 8 pm. I was exhausted and ravenous all the time--I couldn't physically eat enough calories in a day to sustain myself and my teachers forbade me from eating during class. The week before homecoming, I lost so much weight, my strapless dress wouldn't stay on. And I still vividly remember the guilt I felt (from my parents and teammates) when I chose to call in sick from one game during a tournament so I could attend my close friend's birthday party.
In senior year of high school, I quit the team because my body and my mind had simply had enough. And since then, I've had a complicated relationship with exercise. For most of college, I didn't "exercise" much at all unless it was a Zumba or Hip Hop Class and walking around the Santa Cruz Mountains for class. After college, I continued to brew in diet culture, using exercise as a form of punishment and means for weight loss. That lasted until I got pregnant with my son and didn't have the energy to move in the first trimester.
Fast forward a couple of years, I discovered intuitive eating and the anti-diet, Health at Every Size movement in September 2018. I was able to quickly and easy adapt almost all of the principles immediately, except for the joyful movement bit. Because I had been forced for so long to exercise to the point of exhaustion and use exercise as tool for weight loss, even the slightest sore muscle from working out triggered me. My muscles had PTSD. And that took almost two years to heal.
I still feel uneasy when I feel tight glutes or thighs from slightly overexerting myself, even if it is from moving happily. But what has helped me the most with this intuitive eating principle is redefining what exercise and movement mean to me in addition to defining my health and fitness goals that have nothing to do with weight loss. I'm done with the days of running on a treadmill or forcing myself to do push-ups and sit-ups for the sole purpose of burning calories. There are many non-weight loss benefits to exercise, but the one that resonates with me the most is being able to play with my kids for as long as possible, be strong enough to continue to pick them up and have enough endurance to run around with them. With those goals in mind, these are my expressions of joyful movement, the types of physical activities that truly make me happy and don't feel like exercise at all: