Transitioning to Self-Care

a road that runs between two small hills

Ten years ago today I started a private practice as a nutrition therapist in Austin, TX. I remember the excitement I felt just thinking about the lives I would help shape, the confidence I would help my clients build as they made better choices about nourishing their bodies.

But before I could even focus on my real work, I had to first traverse the reality that all health care providers face: navigating the system. Applying to be a Medicare provider, signing contracts with insurance companies, obtaining malpractice insurance, and complying with the ambiguous laws and regulations that relate to protecting personal health information–that’s what consumed most of my time.

To say the process was easy would be laughable; to say the process was simple, even more hilarious.

At one point, after many unsuccessful attempts at finding an answer to a question about the provider enrollment application with one of the major insurers, and after being unable to connect with anyone by phone, I drove to the regional office and waited at the entrance for an employee to arrive at work. Little did I know, the office wasn’t open to the general public, and although she was a bit surprised by my presence, one kind employee did answer my question.

And then there was the time I had a claim denied because I had forgotten to include the “plus 4” zip code on the form, something that wasted another 30 minutes of my work day.

And another time, I remember receiving a phone call from a man who sounded very concerned about his family’s health. He explained he’d been gaining weight, and that his wife and son had too. He was ready to make a change. He didn’t want to continue down the path he was on, and he didn’t want that for his loved ones either. But after completing the hour-long process of contacting his insurance company to determine his coverage details, and after discovering that his visits would only be covered for a diagnosis of diabetes (which he did not yet have), his response was that he would have to wait to schedule an appointment until he or one of his family members had a qualifying diagnosis.

Sure, you could make the case that each of us should value our health enough to find the means to care for ourselves properly. But the reality is, we pay a lot for health care already. And unless we get really, really sick, we rarely see a return on investment. The high cost of insurance and non-covered medical expenses make paying out-of-pocket for preventive services nearly impossible for most Americans.

And being a Medicare provider meant that I was legally bound to charge all of my clients the same fee, which also meant I couldn’t offer a discounted rate to cash paying clients. For obvious reasons, this didn’t sit right with me, and I eventually found other ways to reach those who weren’t able to access my services via the conventional health care system.

But I quickly began to see that a single provider practice, especially as an allied health care professional, in a system that doesn’t recognize the value of preventive care, was anything but viable as a business model–at least, not for the kind of provider I wanted to be.

And after realizing that many of the people who needed my help the most weren’t able to access my services, I began to consider new possibilities.

At the time, there was a new buzz word swirling around: coaching. A local organization that focused on helping individuals manage diabetes had begun using this approach successfully, and I started seeing more peer-reviewed studies reference things like “motivational interviewing” and “health behavior change.”

I began reading more about Martin Seligman’s work in the field of positive psychology, and the next thing I knew I was working for WebMD as a corporate health coach at Dell, working with employees at the company’s onsite clinic and fitness center.

I’m so thankful that I listened to my inner wisdom and transitioned to a path that is more aligned with my heart. It’s my mission to remove the stigma that’s often associated with self-care, and help more people see and feel the power that comes from taking ownership of our health and well-being.

When we remain open, we provide the space for amazing things to happen.

I’m currently in the process of developing a training program that’s designed to guide clients through the process of creating a personalized self-care plan, and my heart is absolutely overflowing with joy.

Are you transitioning to a lifestyle that includes more self-care?

Would you like to?

To learn more about this upcoming program that will be launching in early May, and to stay connected to Living Upp’s news and events, sign up to receive our periodic Warm Upp.

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Self-Care Challenge (Day 3): Expressing Gratitude

woman wearing a white shirt holding a gift with a red bow

My self-care practice for the day involved gratitude, an expression of sincere appreciation. Gratitude helps us develop and nurture the emotive dimension of our health – the aspect that deals with how we express ourselves.

With the holiday season coming to a close, it’s easy to gloss over the flurry of activities without savoring the beautiful moments we experienced along the way.

Most of us express gratitude by saying words like “thank you” when others say or do something we perceive as kindness. But often we do this so casually that we don’t fully experience it. When a store clerk hands us our change, when someone holds the door open for us, or when we type the closing salutation of an email, we express gratitude in a way that sometimes feels more procedural than heart-felt. Honestly, I’ve seen more authentic expressions of gratitude from drivers waving their hands excitedly while merging into traffic. 

At its core, giving is linear. It is an act of transferring something of value from one person to another, whether it’s time, money, words, or some other gift, without expecting anything in return. Though it has no agenda.

But when a gift is acknowledged, it becomes a much more powerful act because it brings joy to both the giver and the receiver. At that point, the expression becomes multi-directional rather than linear.

With that in mind, taking time to express my gratitude was the focus of the day, and I decided that hand-written notes seemed like an appropriate gesture for acknowledging the special gifts I received this Christmas. The process also allowed me to savor each of the gifts as if I was receiving them for a second time.

In many ways, putting away holiday decorations symbolizes the commencement of one season and the beginning of another. As I removed each ornament and packed up the last of the decorations for the year, I reflected on how blessed I am to have the best gift of all: supportive family and friends.

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Gratitude for Mrs. Lechman

I have been exchanging Christmas cards with my high school chemistry teacher, Mrs. Lechman, for the past 20 years.

Some people are just special – and you know it the moment you meet them. They are mentors, encouragers and challengers. They see our capabilities and push us toward them, and they don’t accept less from us. They make life exciting and fun, even when there’s work to do. Whether they know it or not, they have a profound impact on who we eventually become.

Over the years I have felt compelled to share my journey with Mrs. Lechman – where my career has taken me, the adventures that I have been on and the blessings that I have experienced in my life. And she has shared her journey with me as well. It started out as a way for me to express my gratitude for the role she played in the successes I have enjoyed. Now I simply look forward to hearing from her each year, to hear how she continues to be such a bright light in the world of those around her.

She has since retired, but it was her unique presence in the classroom that made chemistry fun for me. (I cannot say the same about my experience with organic chemistry in college, however.) She was passionate about the periodic table. She was enthusiastic about balancing chemical equations. And she was always coming up with interesting ways to show us how chemistry existed in the real world.

I’ll never forget the first day of class. We, an awkward group of freshman, apathetically shuffled into the room and found a seat that would be ours for the duration of the year. An unmistakable chemical odor welcomed us like a smiling Walmart greeter. There was a large periodic table secured to the wall on the left and lab stations were scattered throughout the perimeter of the room. At the front, a large piece of white paper was taped to the blackboard. Mrs. Lechman promptly began class with an introduction of herself and what we would be learning that year. Afterward, she grabbed a bottle filled with a mysterious liquid and began spraying the white paper. After a few minutes, the words “Chemistry is fun” appeared in bright colors, and I knew then that it would be an interesting year.

Who in your life has influenced who you have become? And how have you shown your appreciation?

 

When Leaving Is Really Arriving

I quit my job.  

And if you’re like most people, you probably assume that I have another job lined up with a looming start date staring me in the face. 

Nope.

That scenario couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead, I’m taking some time off to plan my next adventure. (I told a few people that I was taking a sabbatical to be a stay-at-home chicken mom. In a way, I guess that’s true.) 

How did I arrive at this decision, you ask? As with many things in life, we often come to a place where we just know it’s time to move on. For me, it’s always been something I feel from an inward place. A restlessness. My heart was the first to sense it and by the time my inner whispers had turned into shouting pleas, I knew it was time to go.

You know that whole thing about trusting your instincts? Yeah, it’s real. Listen.

But, seriously, how do you know when it’s time to walk away from one thing and toward another? When you begin to spend more of your time thinking about what else life has in store for you…it’s time. 

The truth is, sometimes you have to quit things to start new things.

You have to leave in order to arrive. You have to push yourself into those uncomfortable situations to learn new things and to grow. 

The most difficult part about my decision was the realization that I would also be leaving an amazing team that I was blessed to have an opportunity to work with. On my last day, they presented me with this framed word cloud–a collection of words my team felt best described me. It is one of the most heart-felt gifts I’ve ever received, and I only hope that I will be able to live up to those inspiring words. This is the last email that I sent to them, and I hope they know what an impact they’ve had on my life.

Hello Dear Friends,

There are no words to fully express what my heart is feeling today. I am both excited about what the future holds, and saddened to be closing a chapter of my life that includes such an incredible group of talented individuals. Before I go, though, I want to share a few words that will hopefully serve to remind you just how amazing you are on a day that feels particularly challenging…

You are powerful beyond measure.
Seriously. Honestly. You are. You have totally surpassed my expectations of what I thought this team would be capable of when I accepted this role two years and 5 months ago, and your passion and dedication are the very reasons why this program has been a success. When Jen sent this video out to our team roughly 3 years ago, it gave me goose bumps. It still does today.

You are mentally tough.
I’ve never quite fully grasped the term resilience. I mean, I know it refers to our bounciness and the ability to deal with what life throws our way, but I’ve never really liked it that much. I much prefer mental toughness–maybe just because it sounds more fun–but either way, you are the essence of those words in so many ways. You are flexible, accommodating, service-oriented, determined, problem-solving individuals. You don’t sweat the small stuff. You roll with both change and resistance. You make adjustments when you need to. You see the bigger picture. I have never worked with a stronger team and I have never been more impressed by another group of women.

You are scary-smart.
The amount of knowledge that exists among you is frightening. All of you have differing areas of interest and passion, and you share that knowledge with one another constantly. I bet collectively, people could find health information more quickly by asking one of you than by searching the internet. Seriously.

You live your values and principles.
You walk the walk. You show people how it’s done. You sympathize when they struggle with the idea of trying new things. You give them courage to explore their potential to achieve their goals. You encourage them to keep trying (and keep trying and keep trying and…). You experience their frustrations with them. And in some cases you may be one of the only positive, supportive individuals in their lives.

You are models of gratitude.
Your gestures of gratitude do not go unnoticed. The kind notes you send to your teammates, the encouraging and supportive words you express to your participants, the way you do it with absolute authenticity…it’s a gift. It’s something that others don’t just see with their eyes, they feel it within them.

You are a blessing to the lives of others.
Having the opportunity to work with all of you has been both an honor and a blessing. I wish you all the best as you continue to grow in your careers and I know that you will do great things. You’ve just scratched the surface…

While leaving has been bittersweet, my hope is that I will be able to create more space to breathe, to live in the moment and live more intently. Plans are already starting to come together, in fact. Isn’t it amazing what you can accomplish if you give yourself enough room?!?

If you are starting to hear those whispers…feeling restless…daydreaming about what your heart is telling you it wants to do more of…then read on. Living Upp is a place that I wish existed many times throughout my life as I’ve faced difficult decisions. 

When you find a trail that looks beautifully aligned with your heart, it’s okay to explore it.

I am certainly not an authority on anything but my own life, but I am giving you permission to give yourself permission to do the same. Are you ready?