Communication Skills, Happiness, Learning, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Personal Development, time management

A Tool for Parents Interested in Better Time Management and Lifestyle Design.

Takeaway: This article shows how to gain some awareness (and better choices) in your schedule by becoming more aware of your speech

Copy of Copy of Copy of saturdaymarch 23, 20194_00 pm

Have you ever been at a friends’ house for a playdate and you wind up observing the interactions between your friend and their partner, noticing the differences, or maybe similarities in how they talk to each other versus how you talk to your partner?

It’s easy to observe others talking, but with practice, we can turn this same observation on ourselves, and in here is massive personal growth and self development.  The technique of becoming an observer of your own speech is powerful when it comes to better time management and lifestyle design.

Read on, especially if you struggle with saying yes, or you find yourself frequently overcommitted or overbooked and frustrated that you don’t have the space to act on things that are of higher priority (or interest) in your life.

If you think about it, we walk around with many thoughts and ideas in our head.  More than 40,000 of them in a day, actually.

Out of all of those thoughts and ideas, which ones do we choose to put out there into the world?  Which ones remain our “inside voice” ‘and which ones become our “outside voice.”  When you think about it that way, you realize that speech is powerful.

Nobody knows what is going on inside of us until we speak.

Technically ,we don’t commit to anything in our outside world, or bring our future into existence until we speak.

When you think about next week, you’re just visualizing it.

When you talk about next week, you are designing next week by talking about things, committing to things, speaking next week into existence.

We design our life by speaking, and there are a few “speech acts” that commit us to our future.

Making a declaration (next Tuesday I am going to a playdate with X.)

Making an offer (would you like to go to the zoo next Wednesday with the kids?)

Making a request (I’d like us to get outside more next week.)

Making a promise (I’ll get that back to you by next Thursday.)


An example is today, we are getting outside with our kids for some fresh air. Thursday is designed.  When did it become a plan versus a thought in my mind?

Last week.  Last week I said to my husband,

Me: we need to get the kids out for fresh air (vague request.)

Husband:  I’m off on Thursday, we could go out in the morning (declaration.)

Me:  How about we go to the zoo? (offer)

Husband:  Great idea! (accept)

So I:  *Put it in the calendar.

There you go.  An idea floating around in our heads that we both agreed on.  Then we designed our upcoming week with speech acts (a variety of them in this conversation.)

As you begin to think about this, and watch yourself in conversations this week, notice what your tendencies are.

Reactive Tendencies:

(your week is planned and you are left asking yourself, why do I have all this shit on my schedule that I don’t want to do?)

Do you make promises or offers to other people?

Do you tend to plan your week based on other people’s requests (that you’ve said “yes” to) or their declarations (letting them take the lead.) 

Proactive Tendencies:

You don’t make promises or offers.

(You declare your priorities and what you have capacity for and want to achieve in the upcoming week – yes that means putting it out there in speech 🙂 and you say No as well as Yes.)

You plan your week based on your own and your family’s requests (which brings me to an interesting point, do you KNOW what you need in your upcoming week and do you have the speech skills to not let other things get in the way? Can you say NO to other people’s stuff, so that you can protect and experience your own stuff?)


Questions for you to take away:

This week, I simply invite you (with this knew knowledge) to observe yourself and what your tendencies are.

How do they influence how your days and weeks unfold ?

If you are interested in designing a lifestyle and a future that works for you, how do your speech acts work for you in designing that?

How do they work against you?



Grounding, Happiness, Learning, Lifestyle Design, Personal Development, Spirituality

How to Become a Better Human Being.

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Book Club, Creativity, Grounding, Happiness, Learning, Lifestyle Design, Mental health, Personal Development, Spirituality

Design your Own Parental Leave

wildflower (1)Welcome back from the long weekend, everybody!

A thought for you to meditate on today, as you go about your day.

Story telling versus story making.

Think about where you want to be in 5 years.  Are there changes you want?  I’m guessing the answer is YES.

So let me ask you this:  Will that future version of yourself, living that future life, still be walking around telling the same stories about yourself?  The world?  The way things are going?

Will you get there if you keep telling all of those old stories, that keep you where you are today? 

Or is it time to start writing some new ones?  How can you shift a little bit of your day?  Your thinking? The way you talk about yourself? What you commit to doing with a friend this week?  Start writing some new sentences.

It’s your story. Take the plot where you want it to, but remember to pick up the pen first.




Free Life Coaching Guides, Happiness, health coaching, Learning, Life Hacks, Lifestyle Design, Mental health, Personal Development, Spirituality, Working Mom

What Does a Life Coach Actually Do? Ask Me Anything about Life Coaching.
Carina Huggins

Carina Huggins



I was chatting with someone the other day about being a professional coach, and they said to me, “so basically you listen to people’s problems and give advice?”

I stopped and thought about that for a moment. The answer that I gave?

“No, actually I don’t do either of those.” Hardly the reply my acquaintance was expecting.

We were having coffee, so there was time to explain.

I wanted to share this question tonight, because it was an opportunity to both clarify the art and science of coaching and address a common misperception. Two birds with one stone.

There are so many definitions of ‘coaching’ out there. Yes, there are some out there who solve problems, give advice and act in a consultant model (which are certainly excellent models) but what is it like with a professionally certified ICF coach?

Let me tell you, because it is an interesting distinction.

I don’t ‘listen’ to my client’s problems.

In fact, the actual problem doesn’t sweep me up the way it does for a client. Though I listen with my ears, as a coach, it is not serving you if I dive right in with you to the story and resonate with it, body mind and soul. When a client is working with a problem, they are swimming in it. I like the analogy of choppy water on a lake – A client is paddling, working hard, staying afloat, solving the problem, coming up for a gasp, and then another problem arises… from the same exact lake.

It’s not easy swimming in choppy water. A client’s problem can easily take up an entire coaching hour, and it is up to the coach to respect the client’s needs and goals for a session, have them know we truly hear them, but also know when it is time to gently guide them out of the water, and have them wade onto the shore. From the shore, together a coach and client can examine the entire lake from an outside perspective.

Coaching is like finally deciding to clamber out and sit on the shore after battling the waves. I always tell potential clients that they must be able and willing to step into the mode of “a human simply being” and approach things with curiosity and an open mind. To be with themselves and be with the coaching process. Be willing to put some things into practice and be willing to stay accountable. If they stay in “human busily doing” mode with a strong desire for benchmarks, outcomes, a fixation on the goals, they are basically out there still swimming in the lake, just harder and faster. They won’t trust me enough to come sit on the shore beside me. They won’t develop trust in the relationship or go dive deep in session.

But back to the lake…

I am not listening to my client’s problem. I am listening with my ears to a client and their problem, yes but I am listening on several other levels, as well. I am watching the subtle shifts in body language, eye contact, gestures and posture. I am quite literally feeling the energetic shifts in a conversation and the associated moods and emotions. A client doesn’t have to tell me when they move into sadness or happiness in a story, the change in the air and energy of a room is palpable. I may offer this as a gentle observation to deepen awareness and context of the discussion, particularly if we are working not just on a conversation and logic level, but an emotional and intuitive level.

As I listen to a client, I am not listening to their problem. I am listening to the person behind the problem. The helpful beliefs, the harmful beliefs, the statements that shut down future possibility, the statements that open it up. The vast background of emotions, moods, experiences, and beliefs that have made this neutral event in this person’s life a problem for them that is keeping them from where they want to be.

And giving advice? Nope. Definitely not that either.

I don’t give advice in a coaching session.

After 3000 coaching sessions, I know for a fact, that the only true expert, the only content matter expert in that specific client’s life is themselves. Only they know precisely where they truly want to be, and only they truly know why their ‘right now’ is not doing it for them. I don’t have to wake up with them every day. They have to wake up with themselves every day for the rest of their lives. I think about this all of the time, because I really appreciate how profound that statement is.

It is a catalyst for ownership, responsibility and accountability in clients. Try it yourself. Write on a post-it note, “I will wake up with you tomorrow, and every morning for the rest of my life. Love, me.”

Giving advice doesn’t result in someone crossing the bridge from where they are to where they want to be. It simply gives them a brief glimpse of the other side, described by someone else. They don’t see how amazing it is.

What makes someone walk over to the other side of the bridge and truly step into their new life, finally take action and get results? Well, I can tell you it is not advice giving.

I cannot walk that bridge for them and shout out from the other side “It is amazing over here you should join me! Just start walking!” (by the way, a lot of coaches do this.)

However, I can walk alongside a client over that bridge. As we step over the cobble stones together we co-create what the other side looks like. We partner in helping the client gain perspective, awareness, clarity and choice. And when they get halfway over the bridge and slow down or perhaps move backward, we can deepen practices, accountability and move deeper to remove final blocks that have held them back all these years. When you are moving forward, you develop ways to move forward, but you also develop ways to fight the urge to move backward, to where you came from. To safety. Security. Familiarity.

This is another important piece of coaching; the call of safety, security, familiarity is strong. It is literally wired into the brain. As a client moves into new possibilities for their life and new opportunities, the brain will use its best tools to convince a client to return to where they were. Coaching is a dynamic process and this bump in the road shows up in different ways depending on the client. Recommitment to the original problem and way of thinking, with even more passion, rescheduling a session or a lot of “I don’t know”s in a session. These to me are not obstacles but opportunities. It’s an exciting indicator they are moving well along the bridge and the best work is about to happen.

I don’t give advice.

In fact, you are giving me advice on your life, where you want to be and how it is going to happen, and why you need help. I’m asking you LOTS of questions precisely so that you are in that place of giving me advice on you. I’m simply a highly invested partner on this journey of YOU believes you’ll get there and sees how that is possible (even if you don’t yet.)

The moment you step out of yourself and take that outside observer approach you’ll find yourself stopping mid-sentence and realizing what you’ve just said – then, you’ll realize the incongruency of what you just said with what your future life is supposed to be.

And then you’ll look away, perhaps sip at your coffee and I’ll thoroughly enjoy that moment, because it is a magical one. When it comes to a client having a true moment of insight, or an “ah hah moment” I know at that moment, whatever has been seen in your inner perspective cannot be unseen.

I am here as a confidential, supportive, professional partner in your journey. I’m here to have the conversations that you don’t get to have with anyone else, that dive deep inside to who you are as a human being. Unlike therapeutic or clinical approaches (healing, recovery, issue resolution) my time is spent focusing on your elevation, enhancement and growth.

Coaching is an evolutionary, forward facing process. We have all of the information in the world to get us to where we want to go, but we don’t, do we? And that is what coaching focuses on. It gets us there, and then acts as a catalyst for flashes of insight which will ensure you’ll never see anything the same way again and you won’t go back to old patterning or beliefs.

On a personal note, I think that at this time in our lives, we are all in deep need of deeper conversation, deeper connection and more engagement with who we really are. In the 2018 world of humans doing, we all desperately want to be recognized and engaged with as humans being. We are deep. We are growing, and evolving and going through massive shifts. We want someone to bear witness, to support, and be a partner in this process. We should have someone who can be that. It is tragic to experience this rich evolution in this lifetime and not share it with anyone, collaborate with anyone or use our experiences in turn to serve others.

Maternity leave for me has been the CRAZIEST personal growth, evolution, awakening.  Truly on body, mind, intellect, soul, spirit, love – on all of those levels I was cracked wide open, rebuilt and vastly different (in a good way.) Early parenthood is an accelerated growth incubator and it is a gift in that ALL of the above is revealed to you.  It is a wild ride, and I engaged with a coach during it, because I wanted to make sure I was clear on my dreams, the life I wanted for my fam, and wanted to let a few self limiting beliefs go.  I also worked with a psychologist to heal some old wounds, and endeavoured to undertake a variety of “great maternity leave projects” to keep my focus forward facing and fun!

Amidst the surface level day-to-day life of humans doing, we are all hopping online to have deep conversations, listen to podcasts, read books and learn. Have you noticed the explosion in podcasts, following shortly on the explosion of blogs? We are all humans being – yet we do it silently, and alone.

In my gratitude practices (5 minute journal format) I often note down the internet – I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to write and share and express my own deep internal worlds.  Motherhood can be lonely, I have a 3 hour window where all of my three kids are happy and awake (9-12) and then they turn into pumpkins and it’s go home for nap time.  Did I mention I work full time? So there’s very little time (and sacred space) to dive deep into these conversations.  I don’t think it’s our fault that we mothers are left scraping the surface of connection with surface level conversations.  We don’t have the time and space to go there, yet.  But, when in just a few years, that place will open up again we will have SO MUCH TO TALK ABOUT.

But in the meantime, I think it’s really, really important to talk now, endeavor to grow, enjoy the journey and have a partner in the process.

For a long time, I didn’t want to because of my own limiting beliefs and reference points, which I worked through and overcame with a coach. I can feel my old mind saying “Carina, this is a really long post and it’s way too personal” but my new mind says, you have a choice in whether to believe that or not, and you no longer do. You know the way to move forward is to share your deepest thoughts and insights and help people understand the profession.

I am here writing precisely because I decided to collaborate with a coach to dive into my deeper internal worlds and clarify where I wanted to go. I am eternally thankful for the rapid evolution and elevation it set me on.

I hope you enjoyed this deeper dive into the coaching profession. I write these from a totally authentic viewpoint of someone who was unsure what it was, went through being coached, and then became an Associate Certified Coach with the International Coach Federation.

I enjoy writing these because I enjoy sharing human stories and help people understand we are all connected and growing together.

To become a coach isn’t to figure it all out instantly, in fact, most coaches are on their own *fun* ( because it’s what they love to do) evolutionary paths. Every day they work through the same thing their clients do. Gaining some tools and insights, reframing, shifting their perceptions, priming their state, practicing awareness and choice. Even the greats like Tony Robbins or Oprah Winfrey do this. Every day.

If you are interested in gaining the tools, shifting your axis and a partner to work with the big shifts and evolution in your life, you are most welcome to shoot me a message.

And do leave a comment if this lands with you – or even better if you have an additional insight to offer that this sparked for you! Reading articles and engaging with others in the comments, let me tell you, has been (and still is) a fundamental part of my own growth path. My mission is to now serve others in their own growth.

Essays, Grounding, Happiness, Learning, Mental health, The Fourth Trimester

Why Moms Should Practice Getting into Flow State. Tips to Overcome Post Partum Anxiety.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to what the heck happens to us on maternity leave.  Why do we become so afraid of things that were simple daily functions before (unfolding the stroller for the first time?  Going out in public with a baby for the first time?)

Seriously, where does all of this total internal doubt come from?  Why is it so bad on maternity leave?  Who is this fearful anxious person and where the hell did she come from?  

It is a strange experience to have your first baby and consequently have the shell of comfort and security cracked wide open.

EVERYTHING is new and NOTHING is comfortable in the fourth trimester.

It’s only when you look back at photos of newborn baby two years later that actually ‘enjoy’ your baby and have warm fuzzy memories.  And when you realize that you finally feel good about your mat leave a year afterwards, you’re like geez, what was I so worried about?  

I’ll tell you right now, it’s not you, it’s your brain.  It is designed to worry and keep you safe and alive, not happy and growing. 

I have come to believe (now that I’ve done it three times) that this initial torment of maternity leave and new motherhood is A GIFT.  It teaches us to overcome our own brain and our own biological instincts.

It will take me a few paragraphs to lay this idea out, so bear with me. 

We don’t like to push the edges of our comfort zones.  This is exactly why personal training as an industry exists.  Trainers push us harder than we would go.   It is a very small % of the population who push themselves beyond their comfort zone in the gym.  Usually, those people are professionals.

Having a baby is like having a personal trainer who pushes all of your comfort zones – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

In addition to having all of our boundaries pushed, we get a bit messed up as well, because our day becomes one of many “human doing” tasks. Amongst all of the “doing” and “laundry” and “diapers” we retreat inside ourselves.  On maternity leave, our own internal chatter becomes a loud roar. There’s so much to do on the outside during maternity leave.  But there is SO MUCH MORE going on in the inside.  Massive love, massive fear, massive engagement, massive suffering, massive doubt, massive confidence.  It’s so confusing.

The fourth trimester is a time of contrasts.

There is rich growth + reflection + introspection.

There is also a hell of a lot of doubt, negative internal talk and fear.

Why? The brain and biology of a new mom screaming is a very anxious voice that is pointing out danger EVERYWHERE.  You can’t blame your brain.  It is collaborating with your hormones and nervous system to keep you and your baby alive and your hormones well tell you EVERYTHING IS DANGEROUS.  Your brain’s priority in the fourth trimester is not your happiness.  It is staying alive.

This is what your brain says to you in the fourth trimester: 

“F your sleep, you hear that baby crying?  YES.  I’m sending you panic hormones right now so that you hear every sound and snuffle, and you will definitely wake up to crying.  F your sleep.”

Your brain knows you won’t die with no sleep.  So it won’t let you.  See?  Your brain is entirely unconcerned with your happiness, your wellbeing or any of that.  It’s concerned with keeping you and babykins alive.  Basic needs.

So how do we manage this?

How do we prevent ourselves from spiralling down into a deep place of self doubt, isolation, anxiety and fear?

How do we make mat leave about growth and expansion rather than isolation and contraction?

 I really care about this topic because I contracted on the first, and somewhat on the second mat leave, and began to expand on the second and third mat leaves.

There are so many things to share with you but today, I want to share on Flow State.  It is a very specific, very intentional practice that SHUTS DOWN the parts of your brain that are concerned with doubt, self talk, anxiety, etc.  We have enough moments in our day where we worry and contract.  Let’s carve out some space in our internal worlds to trust and expand, and that starts with activities that put us in flow state.

If you’d like to dive into the science of flow state (they’ve literally scanned the brains of people in flow state) activities that get you in flow and how you can start doing it today, just click onto the next article.

If you read this article and thought YES, YES and YES this is me!  Then take the next step.  Learn about the science of flow state and start practising it in your life.  This is your first chance to practice growth and expansion on mat leave.  If you don’t click on the article, then you are staying where you are and staying comfortable. 🙂 That is okay too, sometimes we need to hold the boat steady, stop it from rocking.  But once it’s stopped rocking and we are ready to go somewhere, we need to put the sails back up.

(oh and sorry I HAD to use the Moana boat as an analogy.  I’m a parent of a 4 year old girl and Moana is AWESOME.  And the song lyrics are weirdly approprio for this article.)

Image result for moana boat
“See the light as it shines on the sea
It’s blinding
But no one knows how deep it goes
And it seems like it’s calling out to me
So come find me
And let me know
What’s beyond that line
Will I cross that line”
Happiness, Learning, Mental health, Personal Development, The Fourth Trimester

How to Overcome Post Partum Anxiety with Flow State. Recovery from Post Partum Depression.

Practising getting into flow state has been one of the most helpful tools in overcoming post-partum anxiety and the general fearfulness and mind chatter that has marked my three maternity leaves.

Today I wanted to share a bit of the neuro-science (in easy to understand language) and why we mamas should be intentionally practicing flow state activities (and the best part is, they are the things you LOVE doing and leave you feeling awesome.)

Hopefully this will give you an extra boost of motivation to get back into some self-care and activities sooner (assuming you’ve given your body time to heal + recover.)

When I first tried to get back into running, I did it from a place of “it’s probably good for me to be ME and get out of the house.”  However, understanding a bit of neuro-science and having solid scientific evidence as to WHY it helps, well, that’s a much more powerful motivator. I GET why it pulls me out of funks now, and tbh, I probably would have done it more consistently with my first baby had I known what was happening and why it made me feel so good (and less angsty.)

The more I study successful moms and people in general, the more I’ve realized that all of them have a flow state practice.  It’s like realizing you’re part of a secret society when you realize that all of these people do similar things.

So, the basics.  What is flow state?


“Flow” is a term coined by a psychologist who wanted to understand a particular state of consciousness that the brain can more into. This particular brain state evokes feelings of creativity & innovation, connection, deep enjoyment, confidence, and their internal chatter and negative emotions literally switch off. People who experience this state, come out feeling greater involvement, engagement and enthusiasm in life. Personally, as someone who studies metaphysics, I think this state of conscious is really about connecting in with our deeper intuition and creativity and the divine nature of ourselves that transcends the limits of our mortal side.

But… I digress.  Back to the science.

This book was published in 2008 but I’d say this has become a topic among the public only in the last 6 or so years.  technology has advanced too, and scientists now can get people to induce flow state and then watch their brain on a functional MRI scanner to see what brain regions are lighting up.

Figuring out what makes us happy, engaged and free of internal self-doubt?


Why, as mamas would we want to be in flow state? 

Because it boosts the brain centres responsible for:  Involvement, enjoyment, intrinsic motivation (Ulrich, Keller and Gron, 2015) and it tones down the brain centres responsible for negative emotions, self talk, self doubt, and attribution of negative emotions to oneself. (Grimm et al. 2009)

How do we achieve flow state?

The key is finding an activity that hits the right balance of being challenged (demand of the task) and our own skills.  Not boring, not overwhelming.  Just right.  There’s a saying in Scandinavian countries that I love “Not too much, not too little, just enough.

Moments like these are consistently reported as the most rewarding, expansive times in our lives.

They are not like the times where we are in a state of overwhelm (too much stimulation) or boredom and lack of stimulation.  In those suboptimal times, a part of the brain responsible for internal negative chatter lights up. Conversely, in flow state, that part of the brain switches off. I don’t go into it here but there are two very different cocktails of hormones and neurotransmitters that are released in these two states, as well.

Think about it in your own mat leave life. When does boredom or overwhelm rear its ugly head?  When do you experience crushing self doubt, anxiety, negativity, constant internal chatter, feeling wound up and defensive.

What tasks are you doing (or not doing)?

In overwhelm or boredom very different parts of the brain are activated.

Want more?  Watch this video on the Neurochemistry of Flow State.  

Have you noticed that you DON’T  feel these things after a task that challenges you a bit or requires your full focus and concentration? That your mind just shuts up. 


There you go.  Different parts of the brain are activated, and bathed in cocktails of hormones and neurotransmitters.  Go for the good one.  Cheers. 


Identify Some flow State Activities.

Think about this: Where it is the right combination of skill and demand for you? It’s a place where you feel strangely satisfied.  Other clues? Time disappears in flow state and often you are in full focus or concentration.  You are fully engaged and pushing your edges just the right amount, and you don’t have time to think about other things.

Some of my flow state activities are:

Trail Running, Mountain Biking (newly discovered) and Needle Felting (newly discovered,) reading and journalling my own insights.

A Concluding Thought on Flow State and Motherhood: 

In my experiments with induced flow state, I can say with certainty that experiencing flow is to experience a fog of total wellbeing and satisfaction.  Your internal anxious mom operating system (AMOS) cools down for a bit.  The chatter of angst, anxiety, self doubt, isolation, contraction and negativity are silenced.

As that system downregulates, a new system upregulates, the fulfilled mom operating system (FMOS.)  What is that one? It is focused on possibility, connection, happiness, opportunity, content, trust, and expansion.

THIS is where we should be most of the time.  To get it back, we need to practice it and refire those parts of our brain.  we need to make time for it every day, and treat flow state activities as worthy of our time, attention and protection in our ical.  Everyone in our life benefits from a Mom operating her FMOS system. Is it worth the time in your day?  Absolutely.  In fact, the research experiments I cited above had the participants in flow state for only 3 minutes!


Ankylosing Spondylitis Journey, Happiness, health coaching, Learning, Lifestyle Design, Mental health, Personal Development, Physical Wellness

My Favourite Resources for Ankylosing Spondylitis


Recently Diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis_

One of the podcasts I have been listening to as I begin my journey of understanding and addressing my Ankylosing Spondylitis disease and symptoms (I am in a bad flare at present) is the AS Natural Health Podcast with Michael Eisner which has been a wonderful resource.  There are 22 episodes available.  When I began suspecting I had AS back in December, I was in Kau’ai and I will always hold such good memories of listening to the first episode where he interviews Michael Smith (Episode 12) which I particularly enjoyed.  I’ve just finished listening to all of the episodes and I’m eagerly waiting for the next. It keeps me in such a good health / growth mindset and it is incredibly inspiring and illuminating to hear others’ journeys.  Put simply, it makes you feel a little less alone.  Statistically, AS afflicts hundreds of people in each city, but nobody I’ve spoken to has any idea what it is, or have heard of it.  And certainly no other ladies in their 30s with kids.  So, the value of Podcasts, among the many benefits, is feeling a bit less alone.  So thank you, Michael!  Keep doing what you are doing.

In my last post, I talked about how there’s two distinct paths you can go down in the days of diagnosis.

One is fear, fixed mindsets, believing that this problem is permanent, incurable and pervasive, and one that IS your life. I dabbled in a bit of this for a few days and it was a bit terrifying.  Oh, and my flare was terrible, I didn’t sleep, and I made terrible nutritional choices that I KNOW don’t work well with my body (those I knew pre-AS diagnosis.)

The other path is courage, growth mindsets, believing that you have been pain free and you will be again, that it is a very fluid and impermanent condition, that it is only a minor piece of your life.

I decided that the only acceptable path for me is the latter path, and I began to seek out people, podcasts, blogs, resources that would help me begin this journey of rich growth and deep personal healing.

The internet is so amazing, because there is something for every belief, and EVERY path you want to take in tackling this diagnosis and your symptoms.

From my listening to podcasts, reading blogs, watching videos, participating in facebook communities and connecting with others who have healed there are a few pieces I’m adding to my toolkit in the coming days, and it has been a really fun enlightening journey so far (if there’s one thing I really enjoy it is learning.)

So, here are some really helpful resources if you, like me, have been diagnosed with AS and have decided the latter path is the only one forward.


Michael Eisner of the Ankylosing Spondylitis Natural Health Podcast interviews people who have successfully put AS into remission. This is what I started with, while I was on maternity leave, listening to each episode on walks with my baby (bonus:  hour walk and stretching!)

Peter Winslow and the Community of People at AS Victors.Com who share their successes.  There is a vast library of resources. I can’t wait to read Winslow’s Heal for Real book.  One thing at a time though.  It’s deep work. Don’t dive into all of these resources at once!   His blog is a wonderful resource as well.  Take a topic at a time.

Ralph Ruiz, Professional Life Coach and his Website & Facebook Group, Mindbody Healing.    His Youtube video series AS I see it is amazing and so deeply insightful.  Honestly, buy a journal and work through things with him.

I am currently (very slowly) working through John Sarno, M.D. Healing Back Pain:  The Mind-Body Connection.  This is kind of my main starting point of immersion.

This book is confirming so many things I was beginning to suspect and many describe this book as “blowing their world apart.”  Again, deep work and insights.  I personally am reading it on kindle because, well, small children, but wish I had a paper copy so I could write ALL over it.  I am highlighting so many things in this book and going to my “healing journal” with thoughts, insights and things to process.

Finally, the most important book and resource in this process?

Screen Shot 2018-08-08 at 8.56.58 PM.png

A blank one.  My mermaid journal. I bought this in Kau’ai in December when I decided I was ready to begin this healing journey.  The true work is the inner work, and by putting pen to paper, I am finding that I am able to access deeper thoughts, and feelings, and dive deeper into unconscious and subconscious beliefs, programming and repressed things which I am sure on many levels have contributed to this inflammation and pain.  As I work through things, have insights, collect knowledge or experience shifts in my observer / the lens I see through, I record them here.  With doodles, pictures, even long rambling free writing sessions to allow things to come through my hand and the ink flowing on the paper.  This, this is the single most important piece.  If you’ve never bought a journal or had the chance to bring this practice into your life, perhaps now is the time. 🙂  Pick a beautiful one that speaks to you, and find a nice pen.  You deserve it.

Essays, Happiness, Learning, Life Hacks, Lifestyle Design, Mental health, Personal Development

Mental Health on Maternity Leave – How to Know if You are Doing Okay

Over the last few years I have been diving deep into mental health, resilience and grit. When I was completing my Masters Degree at the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies here in Calgary, I had the opportunity to do some research into these topics, and that fascination has continued to this day – both inside and outside of work.

I have researched and done professional training (I highly recommend taking the Working Mind course if your employer offers it) and have studied and practiced many of techniques.  One I still use regularly is a box breathing technique taught by, and for, Navy SEALS that regulates the autonomic nervous system.

I believe that any coach worth their salt, should endeavour to put their own tools into practice and really understand what they are talking about on a somatic, emotional and mental level. I believe they should stay on top of research into human psychology and mindset, and I believe they should use their knowledge to translate advanced ontological tools into easy to understand techniques that a client can apply daily to their lives and take forward into their futures.  Coaching isn’t teaching – it is empowering a client to cut through their own fog, uncover deeper self-awareness, reconstruct their mindset, re-pattern habits and reach their potential through intentional practice.  Sometimes I may introduce a client to a model, research, or information that helps them have a shift in mindset, knowledge or awareness such as a technique or research study if that helps them and fits with their goals for coaching.

I have studied mental resilience, mental toughness, grit, persistence, whatever you would like to call it and have read through many resources put out by the United States Marine Corps, the Department of National Defence as well as research journals. In fact, rather than paying someone else to teach you, the best, best way you’ll ever learn in life is by seeking out the information yourself, teaching yourself and practicing it. This is the foundation of a powerful learning technique called Inquiry-Based Learning.  My pet peeve is getting into fancy inacessible langauge, so for our purposes, let’s just call it google-based learning with the assumption the places you are going to for information are a bit more legit.

Paying for courses is simply a way to speed up the packaging and delivery of information and researching stage and it saves you a few hours. I strogly believe in reading books.  First, you can take them at your own pace, second you can write all over them, and third, you immerse yourself inside the author’s mind and get a true feel for the content.  I think of it like steeping my brain in (name author here) tea.   When I am frazzled, I’ll crack open a book by Thich Nhat Hanh and come out thinking like him (because I have been while I read his work.)

Depending on your time and of course, budget, courses are a valid route. When budget allows, I enjoy taking them, and you’ll come out with great information.  But remember, you don’t have to have a big budget and access. To deeply immerse yourself and get that information locked deep in your mind, hunt down for it yourself and start practicing.

I highly recommend any material by Mark Divine through his mental training program, Unbeatable Mind.  Start with the book.  The Kindle edition (you can read on your phone or laptop) is less than coffee.  $2.50 (!)

Note:  Affiliate link to Amazon – by using this link to hop over to Amazon, you are directly supporting my blog, so I thank you in advance if you decide to go there via this button.  

I wanted to share one of the models that is employed quite extensively across the military and that is the Mental Health Continuum Model.  When I first was introduced to this model I figured, hell, if they use this on battle-hardened soldiers, this is definitely going to be good for Mums.  By the way, I will fully state here that I think Mums are the toughest people around.   Right now. Hands down.  Tough as any soldier.

We need this kind of information and training, but in all honesty, sometimes we are intimidated by this stuff. I remember walking into my first Crossfit Gym in 2010 for example and it was all five finger death punch and tattoos and ripped guys and it was terrifying for me, then I realized once I got to know everyone how wicked, approachable and normal they all were and that “intimidating” was just a story my head had made up. In fact, they have come to me for advice over the years, too!

So the model… bear with me… you may roll your eyes and think “here we go, another check list of things you should do for mental health, uggghhhh I already do those.”  (trust me, I find that frustrating too) but this model is different.

It made me think in a different way about my mental health.

I don’t think about how I am doing on a “good to bad” scale anymore.  I no longer think about mental health in a linear sort of way either. Hell, I don’t even rank it anymore.  I think about mental state movement.

I’ve learnt that ‘mental health’ is complicated as fuck.  You can be great in one area, not so great in another.  You can think you are doing awful, but then you are doing wonderful in another area . This leaves you confused.  You’re left wondering whether you’re just looking at things wrong, and it’s a matter of perspective, or if things are bad and this is some kind of weird response wherein you ignore what’s going wrong. It is so confusing.  Mental health is incredibly complex and a model is woefully inadequate to describe our inner worlds with five bazillion layers and complexities.

The mental health continuum model is about which direction you are moving in and that is an important concept.  A USEFUL concept.

If you asked me, “Carina, what the secret is to happiness, life elevation, fulfillment, whatever you want to call it but that which we are all working towards”   I would tell you that it is about accessing and maintaining this magical type of energy that infuses your whole being.  It’s not actually happiness, happiness is a side product of it.

This is where it gets tough for me because it’s hard describing this correctly in the English language.  The energy we want, is one of engagement and expansion.  It’s a really difficult energy to describe, but when you have it, you know you are in the right place.  You are interested in things, engaged, enthusiastic – yes you are being challenged and there’s some shitty times- but it’s got an upward “feel” to it.  It makes you want to be alive.  It’s when you are working toward a goal.  It’s when you are learning and growing and changing, it’s when you are looking forward to something.  Those are times you are in this energy space.  Even when you experience a setback and you’re picking yourself up and dusting yourself and the tears off, that’s where you want to be.

Think back through your life, do remember a time when you fell in love with a new hobby or activity and you couldn’t get enough? Even though you were awkward, and learning, and it was up days and down days, and days you wanted to quit, you knew intrinsically that you were moving forward in life and you were really quite excited and engaged?  There was something that lit your soul up, wasn’t there?

That’s that energy that I doing a terrible job at putting words around.

You see, mental health isn’t where you are on a scale.  It’s about whether you are moving forward or backward and which energy you are holding.

Forward energy:  Engagement + expansion  + fulfilment.  Green.  

Backward energy.  Disengagement + contraction + emptiness.  Red.

Mental Health Continuum Model - University of Calgary

Image credit:  The University of Calgary SU Wellness Centre.

The model is presented on a scale, but really try to focus your attention on what it means to move toward green or away from it. Energy.

There are so many ways that we understand what it means to be mentally healthy.  The key is understanding our baseline and whether you are moving forward or backward.

For example, one small facet of mental health is social life.  Some people have a small, close set of friends and are more introverted.  Their baseline looks different from a life of the party extravert with a wide range of acquaintances.  The key is to be aware of your movements within your benchmark… to what extent are you moving toward green or red?

Can you see how this diagram describes that energy I was trying to put words around?

It’s tough because the model above uses the words “healthy” and “ill” which gets clinical and makes us think it is a cut and dried thing.  I learnt over the last few months that raking your health is a terrible idea. For a while I was of the mind that my body was completely broken after babies.  That did NOT work let me tell you.  It made ALL of my symptoms worse and I had a pity party.  I choose to be of the mind that I am going green. I am improving my health, moving forward and upward.  I’m going to the green.  

Green is reaching out, expansion, elevation, growth, upward and forward.

Red is isolation, contraction, deflation, regression, downward and backward.  It just makes you feel, well, kind of ick. 

Another thing I like about the fluidity of this model, is that it normalizes fluctuation.  Our mental state changes ten times a day!   It ebbs and flows over a week, a month, a year.

The amount of mental health information we have access to is amazing these days, and the normalization of mental health has been a gift.  However, we have to be super duper careful in these times to not get into a fixed mindset, label ourselves and get a bit “stuck.”

It’s also hard to manage the information overwhelm because nowadays you can read stories about anxiety or ppd, and you are left thinking wow, so much of this is my story.  Does that mean I have it too?  At what level do I get help? does it go away? Etc.

(I’ve written extensively on post partum depression by the way, so feel free to read those if you are in that place and not sure whether to see a professional.)

It is super important to outline that we dont all live and stay in green, nor should we.  We shouldn’t be all great, all the time.  We need to be ill sometimes, we need to be injured sometimes and that goes for mental health as well as physical health.

Nature goes through seasons.  The bright lush greens of summer give way to contraction, withdrawal and less vibrance in autumn, and dormancy in winter.  EVERYTHING in nature goes through oscillations or wave patterns.  Forward and backward, upward and downward.  We are are part of the natural world.  In. out.  Expand. Contract. Breath in. Breath out.

This model shows you that there is optimal state and reacting state –  and it is okay to be moving between those and constantly correcting.  The key is being aware of that movement.  Which way am I going? 

I myself went through a BIG funk January through to May and I finally really got my groove back in May / June as I started trail running and getting out in nature again (it really is a key to my mental health.)

In May I found myself returning to this model, genuinely worried I was experiencing post-partum depression again and wanted to look at the indicators of moving into the “injured” zone of mental health.  I started looking at which parts of this model indicated I was regressing, and which ones I could correct.

Most of my changes centered around physical activity. I made some corrections to physical activity and physical health (I’m working on a laundry list of injuries and pain sources) and can confidently say I’m moving forward in the green direction.  I don’t “rank” myself along this continuum though, I just ask myself, “am I doing things that move me toward green, and away from red.”

This model empowers you to self-assess how you are doing.  Resist the urge to assign yourself a place on this model, because we all move back and forth.  Remember, we are part of nature and oscillate.  The key is to ask yourself, which direction am I going?  Which energy am I experiencing and in which areas of my life?

Having this model also encourages you to evaluate the tricker parts.  If you are in orange and going toward the red zone it’s a great chance to reach out.

If you do a google search of “wellness model” or “wellness diagram” you can get some ideas of areas of your life to think about when you look at this model.

Personally, I like the 8 dimensions of wellness from the Mental Health Association of Portland below. In my own work with clients, I’ve developed my own.

Think about the key components of wellness in your life.  For me, this model is missing “creativity” it’s a barometer of how I am doing.  I also like to get more specific, so I’d break down emotional into “family” “marriage” and “friendships” – all three of those areas are very important to me – and I like to think about whether I am progressing or regressing in those areas.

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Image Credit: Mental Health Association of Portland

When I went through my springtime slump I withdrew very much from my social life, felt disembodied when I was out with friends, and felt myself being distant with my family.   Feeling that negative, slumping energy on all three domains was a big red flag for me that I needed to course correct.  I started working with a psychologist, ramped up my health efforts and got the hell outside.  All biggies for me.

A fun activity that you could even do is draw a bunch of circles, much like the above and label them with the key components of your life.  Inside each, draw a green arrow point up and a red arrow pointing down to represent forward momentum or backward momentum.  I do this with my students all the time and it’s a very enlightening thing to do.

Even though it’s common sense and fairly obvious to do activities like that, there’s something to be said about putting pen or pencil to paper and really reflecting.

So until next blog,

Keep moving forward.




Essays, Happiness, Learning, Lifestyle Design, Personal Development, Spirituality

36 Pieces of Knowledge I’ve Collected Over 36 Years.

1.) Treat all people as kindly as you’d treat a young child.

2.) Quick short blasts of cold air (or water) will bring vitality back to the body.

3.) Sunshine and fresh air is the most important vitamin to take.

4.) Let them eat dirt.

5.) Always make eye contact and say hello as you pass people. Who knows, maybe they will open a door for you, maybe they will decide not to rob you that day and choose the grumpy old man instead.

6.) Everything in life oscillates and moves in waves.  Up and down, back and forth.  Feelings, emotions, moods, fitness, body fat, you name it.  Everything in nature is seasonal.

7.) Consult the bristol stool chart.  You should have a healthy poop every day.  If you don’t, you’re not eating right for your body.

8.) If you would like to change your situation, decide to do the opposite of what you usually do in every decision that comes your way over the next 24 hours.

9.) Ask before assuming.  If it would be rude to ask, you shouldn’t be assuming in the first place.

10.) Judging is a spectator sport that won’t affect the outcome of the game.  You’ll just piss people off.

11.) Having children is the most advanced degree you’ll ever take.

12.) Keep dating your spouse.

13.)  Intentionally make time to laugh every day.

14.) Find 3 songs that can instantly change your mood and energy.

15.) If you use it everyday, spend the money and get a good quality version.

16.) Interrupt the patterns of negative people by asking them what they enjoyed or appreciated about today.  You have the power to engage in conversation, shift conversation or walk away from it.

17.)  Learn about the ego, its need for control and how it wants to separate you.  Learn how it shows up in you, what that is like, and how you can let it go.

18.)  Stress is the difference between expectations and reality. Adjust one or both.

19.) Every time you cross the threshold of a door into a new space or environment, ask yourself what energy you are responsible for bringing into the room.

20.) You’re only supposed to climb mountains, not carry them around on your back.

21.) People pick up more from our body language and energy than from our words.  Don’t just develop your vocabulary.  Seek to develop your body language and your energy.

22.) If it creates fear, it’s a sure sign you should do it because you’re touching the edges of invisible fence you’ve built for yourself over the years.  Hop over it.

23.) Never allow yourself to become stagnant.  Keep growing, expanding and experiencing.

24.) All cells in your body turn over and grow anew.  It’s never too late to heal your body.

25.) Feed the bacteria in your body.  They eat green stuff and vegetables.

26.) Walking is singly most underrated activity.  It is a gift.

27.) Never buy the nicest sports gear.  Start with the crappy stuff and learn with it.  When you get good, you have earned the right to good quality gear that you will appreciate 1000x more.

28.) Spend less time researching and buying gear, and more time just going out and doing it.

29.) There is a low, medium and high price point for any material object you could ever need.  Only choose medium or high price points for things that align with your desired life and values.

30.)  Everything in our exterior world will change.  It will all come and go.  Learn to love and take care of yourself, to find peace within you.  Ensure that you are never dependent on love or happiness acquired outside of yourself from others.

31.) It is only when your own cup is full that you can pour from it for others.

32.) Write out your absolute perfect day or future lifestyle.  Great!  Do those exact things today.  A daily practice will soon become a habit.

33.) Take a chance on your intuition a few times.  The more it proves right, the more you can trust it and hear it. When an opportunity presents itself and it seems uncanny, it’s a sure sign you should jump on it.

34.) Always maintain the curiosity and playfulness of a kitten with a ladybug.

35.) Learn how to put yourself in a disposition of lightness and laugh at yourself, so that you’ll never go down the road of taking yourself too seriously.

36.) The way you interpret life has been formed through a variety of people, places and events.  Though you cannot change your past, you can choose which interpretations are getting you where you want to go, and which are holding you back.  Only keep the ones that will write a beautiful future.  You are the author of your own life. Are the chapters going somewhere or the same over, and over again?


Happiness, Learning

How to Have a Great Maternity Leave: How to get over being a rookie mom that makes mistakes.

Today I’m going to address some of the barriers we have to learning.  I see students run up against barriers to learning when they are immersed in courses at the University level. I wrote an article about it on Linked In today, but I decided to adapt it for the Great Maternity Leavers too, because this is such a big topic for us.

On maternity leave we are learning how to be Mums, but I’ve noticed there is an absurd amount of pressure to be perfect and that we cannot make mistakes.

Here’s the messaging:

There are no mistakes in motherhood and there’s expert answers for everything that will apply to all parents and all babies. And that expert advice will fix your problem, because of course, you can control babies and predict them and structure them.

Errrr… No.

So let’s UNLEARN THAT first before we talk about being a learner. Learning is about unlearning as much as it is about learning.

How many of you had a moment with your baby when you learnt something new and in your mind you silently berated yourself for not knowing better.

Oh hi, yes, I’d like to my hand up about fifteen times on this one?

To truly embrace learning and a path of change as we embrace motherhood, we need to be gentle with ourselves and realize we are constantly learning and growing. We’re not supposed to know it all. So why are we so hard on ourselves when we don’t?!

And then we feel resistance to learning too, because we don’t want to look like an idiot. In parenting we are terrified of not knowing what we are doing – probably because it’s a dependent human in front of us.

We must take an honest look at our obstacles to learning, shine light on them and then choose to tackle them head-on.  The fear of judgement and our own egos are an intense hurdle to overcome, especially in the hyper judgemental world that you enter when you become a parent.

EGO is a word I bring up because in this world of learning, it rears its ugly head over and over. Our egos have a strong hold over us – and it is reinforced by our fear of judgement from others  (which is the ego’s work too.  The ego wants to have everyone love us and think we are amazing, lol.)

There’s an external battle. There are so many moms out there who are SO quick to judge and stand on their high horses, right?  Especially on the interwebs.  You cannot make any mistakes as a mom.  Their egos are running rampant.  They spend so much time judging others to make their egos feel good. But when people are judgemental to others, they are equally judgemental of themselves, and secretly they in turn are terrified of being judged.

They are locked in a really bad cycle.

One thing I’ve noticed as I became a mum, is that it feels like all of a sudden I became an item of public interest.  The public feels it can comment / judge my mothering and offer their feedback – in the grocery store, at the park, etc.

There’s also the internal battle. The ego convinces us that making mistakes and learning will disadvantage us in life. It throws out all sorts of thinking patterns to avoid the situation.

Did you know our thoughts create a stress response in our body (threat responses) to further convince us not to engage in discomfort?

All of a sudden, it’s making sense that there is so much pressure to be a perfect mum. The pressure comes from two angles – external (society) and internal (ego.)

This specific barrier has a nasty effect – it blocks us from learning, and immersing ourselves in a new experience.  It also blocks us from the practice and repetition that allows us to embody and master a new area of learning.

You didn’t walk into your degree thinking you knew it all and that you would be graduating in one month.

I can give you a really good example of learning and practice and how all of the above stuff comes into play in real life.

I love rollerblading, and it’s a key fitness activity for me.  I’ve been doing it since I was 6 and am good at it.

When I had my babies, I decided to start rollerblading with the stroller.  But, it took a few weeks to get the courage up.  I hit a barrier to learning.

Internal barrier:  What if a fall and look like an idiot?

External barrier:  What if people think it is wrong that I am rollerblading, or worse, what if I fall and people see me falling?

Those two barriers made me procrastinate and procrastinate.  Eventually, I got the courage to do it and eventually, each time I went out, the discomfort faded away.

I’ve got to tell you though, I had to face my fears.  I have people shake their heads at me (usually mums) – but I also have people say “that is AWESOME! Good for you!” (usually dads.)

And guess what? I DID fall.  I wiped out on my rollerblades with the stroller.  The fears came true.  People jumped out of their cars and ran over, horrified. Babykins was fine, strollers are designed for safety, too.

So uncomfortable.  Mistakes. Learning. Inner and outer judgement. But because I learnt to rollerblade with a stroller and faced (and survived) those fears, it means that now, I get amazing exercise, my kids have an absolute blast in the chariot, and I am a happier and healthier mum that gets to be around  longer for the kids.

Now, let’s put the story aside, let’s get back to the meaty parts.

A key to overcoming your learning barrier is first becoming aware of when this barrier occurs and how it shows up in your mind.  And in what areas of your life is this triggered?

Your awareness will grow. Me? I am always a bit intimidated to participate in meetings or conversations with new people of high intellect.  I have worked through acknowledging this discomfort, engaging with it, understanding where it is coming from and choosing to go for it anyways and add my two cents.  It has become easier over time, to the point where I have moved from crippling shyness to easy, enthusiastic networking and engaging conversation.

How does it show up for you?  What do you think?

I get excited when coaching clients reveal this struggle. This, right here is fertile ground.  Their reflection and awareness is the best sign.  It is the first stage to growth and overcoming learning barriers.

The next part is what do you do in that moment.

How do you override the ego and biological systems that are conspiring against you?

They want to keep you in a net of security and safety.  They don’t want you to learn or grow.  They tell you “don’t go rollerblading!”  “don’t try to install your carseat you won’t get it right and you’ll get in trouble”  “nah, put off figuring out how to unfold your stroller until there’s noone around.” 

When you dig in and get uncomfortable often enough, it begins to silence the ego.

This week, choose to do something new with your baby.  Something small (figuring out that moby wrap) or maybe something big (figuring out the configurations of your stroller – I cried my first time.)

This is called embodiment.  When you practice being uncomfortable enough that the body thinks “ah, I’m familiar with this,” and the ego shifts from a shout, to a whisper.

All of the super mums you know who easily embrace challenges, new baby carriers, going on hikes or just doing really cool things that intimidate the bravest of us – they are so used to getting uncomfortable that it doesn’t phase them anymore.

They still feel uncomfortable, but the ego doesn’t overrule everything with its shouting.

The second technique is to actually put yourself through a thought experiment.


Do you know anyone in your life who never challenges themselves, never learns, who cycles through the same pattern with a fixed mindset, every day in the bubble that they have created for themselves?

Do you know anyone in your life who challenges themselves, is always learning something new, who has a growth mindset and is constantly upgrading and evolving their life?

They are two very different stories, aren’t they?

What if you were too scared to leave the house,  try out that new stroller, what if you worried so much about your baby crying in the grocery store you avoided it?  What if you used to love hiking and don’t do it anymore because you are afraid of the weather, or stumbling, or the baby crying? What does that feel like in your gut if you imagine giving in to the fear of judgement and your ego? What does your life look like five years from now.

What if you figured out that new stroller (but you definitely cried as you watched youtube over and over) and finally got the hang of it, and your baby got used to it, what if you found a new freedom in going out each day with it?  What if you had a nutritious meal, because that time you went to the groceries you took a deep breath and rolled with the baby crying?  What if you rediscovered the joy of hiking and rediscovered a way to feel like yourself again? What does your life look like five years from now.

A fork in your road. Two choices.

Keep pushing the edges of your comfort mama, you’ve got this. It gets easier.  Stay steady on that path to growth and evolution.

Acknowledge it’s totally uncomfortable and be ok with that.  Know that great rewards come with great challenges.  It is so worth it.

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