Why I Quit My Job For A Check Off My Bucket List

I made the decision to quit my job in the middle of a date. 

It was November and the weather was just starting to change, an inescapable reminder that another winter was on it's way. As we sipped red wine and laughed over dinner, we talked about all the things we wanted to do with our lives. 

After coming from a lifetime of making excuses, my list was long. Ever since I was a kid, I've always put off experiences because of my weight. I wanted to do all those things, but not until I was thinner. Then, when I was diagnosed with MS, that only fueled my excuses. I was happy enough in my day to day routine that I didn't think about all that I was missing.

But eventually, the decline of my health made me hate my daily experience and all I could think about was what I was missing. 

Then, in 2014, I ran out of time. With years of severe chronic pain and a new cane in my hand, I knew that later was quickly becoming never and the sicker I allowed myself to become, the less I'd be able to do. 

From that summer forward, I put all my energy into healing myself and it worked! I lost the weight, ditched the cane, and I went back to work full time. 

I felt like I was on top of the world... except I wasn't. I'd put in more heart and soul than I knew possible to heal my body and the idea that I did all that to work just so I could sit behind a desk seemed preposterous! 

The lightheadedness from the wine kept me giggling, but our conversation felt heavy in my gut. My thoughts were racing and I couldn't stop thinking about how I was wasting time. How I could always get another job. How I needed to go enjoy my life, the life I'd worked so hard for. 

I knew, right there and then, that I was ready for something different. 

I couldn't keep myself together. I looked at him and said "I think I'm going to quit my job in January and go somewhere. Maybe South America." 

He immediately responded, "I absolutely think you should." 

It was the tiny bit of validation that I needed to lock in my decision. Now, I just needed to tell everyone else. 

 Visiting Machu Picchu in March 2016

Visiting Machu Picchu in March 2016

Quitting that job was the hardest thing I'd ever done. I loved my boss, my office, and my sweet parking spot right in the middle of Cambridge, but I knew that I needed to have an adventure. 

So I put in my notice and, the following January, I took off for Peru. 

Going on that trip alone was terrifying, nothing l'd ever done before, but at that time, it was the only thing that made sense. 

Life is short, but we make it feel impossibly long. The pain and suffering that came from living with morbid obesity and Multiple Sclerosis taught me that and I wanted, more than anything, to take advantage of the time I'd created for myself. 

I wanted to see the world, to push myself to new limits, to live my life, without waiting.

So, I did. And it was the best decision I ever made. 

For anyone reading this. I want to urge you to listen to your gut. To make decisions based on what would benefit your health and happiness. To stop waiting for the right time and to start experiencing what you want from life right now. Nothing is guaranteed, so what are you waiting for?

It's time to live your life, Without The Weight. 

With love & light,

Carolyn Rachel

How To Start Loving Yourself

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If you know me in person, you know there's two things I talk about AD NAUSEUM: Dating and self love. 

I'm obsessed with both, not surprisingly, because they're essentially the same thing. 

I know it seems silly, but it's important to love yourself. Really important. Based on my experiences through research, coaching, and self work, I'm a firm believer that you'll never be able to hit your goals (or maintain them) without developing an authentic relationship with yourself. 

I only know it because I've been working on the relationship with myself for a few years now and, I'm not gonna lie, it was really weird to start.

Most of the time, it felt uncomfortable and awkward. Kinda similar to my actual dating life, really, and I struggled HARD to accept it - even from myself!

But the moment I opened the door for a serious relationship with myself, one based on commitment, trust, and appreciation, I started to receive an incredible natural high.

I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. Let's bring it back to dating... 

It's similar to the high you get from starting a new relationship with someone. That giddy feeling. I couldn't believe that it was possible to have those same feelings by developing a relationship with yourself.  

Here I was, giving myself the love, attention, and care that I seek in a partner and I still got butterflies in my stomach, felt that excited/nervous feeling, and an all around happy attitude for life. It's that powerful high that develops into deep rewarding love and commitment. 

It works the same way when you're making the connection with yourself.

When I started flirting with myself (I kid you not, actual FLIRTING), I realized how awkward I felt. As I pushed myself through self sweet talk, I started wondering WHY it was so uncomfortable. Shouldn't I be comfortable enough at this age to act weird without judgement while I'm home alone? 

You'd think... but instead, I judged myself hard. My mind was racing. I made fun of myself for looking stupid and I pointed out every single "flaw" I would have picked myself apart for had I been out flirting with men. 

Once I realized that the judgement I was feeling was all in my head, I forced myself to ignore it and persevere. 

I wanted to be confident and comfortable with myself. I wanted to enjoy my own company. And damn it, I wanted to think I was as sexy, cool, and dateable as I hoped any man would think I was. 

But as I pushed myself through the awkwardness, I started wondering where these negative thoughts about myself came from. Who said I wasn't good enough, cool enough, or sexy enough? Who said I was these awful things that I told myself in my head? 

Then, it hit me.

We're taught to hate ourselves from a very young age. Everywhere around us, we're bombarded by media, telling us that we aren't good enough (and here's a product to help change you into becoming a "better version" of yourself). We listen to other people complain about what they don't like about themselves, what they don't like about others, but we rarely hear people talking themselves up in a positive light. It's absolutely absurd!

As a society, we've set up social norms on what's attractive or worthwhile and if we don't fit into those standards (surprise, no one does!), we get upset and beat ourselves up. 

Once I realized that, I made the decision to counter those thoughts. I don't care what society has designed to be beautiful because that isn't my idea of beautiful. That's taking someone else's opinion and giving it such a high personal regard that it becomes a fact. A fact that works directly against me!

I knew I deserved better than what I'd been giving myself so I made a commitment to change in my best interest. I was finally going to be an advocate for myself because if I wasn't going to love myself, how could I ever expect anyone else to?

So, I turned away from the negativity and the hate and I poured all my energy into love. These are the steps I took and I highly suggest 

How To Start Loving Yourself in Three Easy Steps

  • Stop being so judgmental. The very first law of Deepak Chopra's Seven Spiritual Laws of Success promotes practicing non judgement. Now, that doesn't just mean judging yourself (although it's a good place to start!), but it applies to all people/situations. If you're in a place of judgment, it's hard to see things with love, and you have to break the cycle of judgment in all respects. Being judgmental is just perpetuating society's standards and we've already touched on how those standards are simply opinions. Make it a challenge to point out one nice thing about everyone you see each day, even if you don't like them. Make sure to include yourself in that daily challenge when you look in the mirror in the morning. By focusing on the things you like, you'll retrain your brain to start automatically looking for those things (and stop looking for things to judge!)

 

  • Take yourself on dates. YUP. I told you it was weird, but part of cultivating a relationship with yourself is through actually dating yourself. Get dolled up for yourself, pick something fun that you've been wanting to do, and then go enjoy it. Whether that's people watching at a cute cafe, checking out a museum, or taking yourself out to dinner - it's important to spend some time alone with yourself so you can get to know who you really are! 

 

  • Be mindful of your self talk. Obviously, I'll want you to tell yourself that you love yourself, but I know that can feel like a lot all at the beginning. There's no shame in moving slow (in fact, its encouraged!) and your self love can develop as you progress.... again, similar to a partnership. That being said, you're never going to like yourself (or love yourself) if you talk shit about yourself, whether that's in your head or out loud. Notice when you say things about yourself that aren't nice and then call yourself out for it. Point out the parts of you that you like and put your focus on that. Make it your mission to point out your positive characteristics as often as possible instead of harping on the negatives. 

This is self care. This is self love. This is the art of healing. 

And if you're struggling to say it to yourself, please know, I love you, sweet soul. 

Love & light,

Carolyn Rachel

How To Calm Down

“Stress will kill you.”

It’s something we’ve all heard before. You know stress is terrible for your health, but if you’re anything like me, you have ZERO clue how to manage it.

Unfortunately, we aren’t really taught to manage stress. We’re taught that stress is a marker for success. The more stressed you are, the harder you’re working. The harder you work, the more success you’ll have.

But the truth is, copious amounts of stress are doing you more harm than good and actually limiting your ability to reach success in your goals.

 

That’s why I wanted to put a little cheat sheet together for you.

External stress is inevitable in life. Tough things are going to happen, but stress doesn’t come from the “stressor” itself, it comes from how you respond to it.

When something stresses you out, it triggers a signal in your body that there’s danger (fight or flight). It makes you release hormones to provide fast burning sugars for energy and promotes inflammation around your cells and tissues to cushion them from potential physical harm.

But stress also creates some personality shifts.

Have you ever been stressed so you snap at someone you love? Or maybe you binge eat? Or maybe you break down and cry from the pressure?

Or maybe, you do all three!

If these swings happen to you, trust me, you are completely normal. When you release those hormones, they’re doing more than positioning you to be physically able to escape. Those hormones are signaling different parts of your personality to show up and defend you from having to deal with the pain of that external stressor based on how they learned to cope through your life experiences.

Check out Internal Family Systems to learn more about this concept.

But, it’s amazing if you think about it.

Even when you’re doing something that isn’t beneficial for you to hit your goals, your body is simply doing it to protect you in some way, shape, or form! Your body is just trying to have your back. 

 

That’s why we need to learn how to manage our stress and work with our different personality parts to retrain them to turn to more effective coping mechanisms.

The best way to do that is to calm down and there’s a very specific breathing technique to take you out of your danger zone and into your calm state.

So, do this with me.

Go ahead and sit or lay in a comfortable position.

Take a deep breath in and allow your chest to inflate.

Then exhale.

Do this 2 times.

On the 3rd round, breathe in and let your chest and rib cage inflate.

Then exhale from your rib cage, then your chest.

Do this 2 times.

Finally, allow your chest to inflate followed by your rib cage and finally, fill your belly with air.

On the exhale, allow your belly to contract, then your ribs, and lastly, your chest.

Say it to yourself:

Inhale - Chest… Ribs… Belly...

Exhale - Belly… Ribs… Chest…

Repeat a few rounds until you feel calmer, more focused, and in control.

By expanding your belly, you’re sending signals to your brain that you’re not in danger and you can be put in your calm state (your parasympathetic nervous system).

That’s it. Basic, free, and available to you any time of day or night. 

If you do decide to do this, feel free to start slow. Doing it once a day for 5 minutes is a great start (and it's how I started when I was first developing my routine). 

If you try this method, let me know how it goes!

With love & light,

Carolyn Rachel

 

 

 

How To Start A Meditation Routine

I started researching meditation the day I yelled at my dad. 

Now, don't misread me... my dad is THE BEST and we're super close (BFFs!), which makes it tough to admit - I used to yell on the phone with him a lot.

It's not that I was mad at him, I was just going through too much. When I was really sick, everything felt like an uphill battle. I'd have complete meltdowns over every little thing because I felt so weighed down by the stress of my illness, the stress of my weight, hell - the stress of my life... I just didn't have the patience for the natural curveballs of life! 

My dad was willing to take the brunt because he knew how much stress I was under (he's actually the best dad ever) and I used him as my personal sounding board day after day.

One night, we were on the phone and I was on one of my usual tirades. 

I was crying, yelling, and arguing with every solution he offered until the true reason for my issues came out. I finally yelled:

"DAD. I DON'T CARE ABOUT THIS. I JUST HAVE NO STRESS MANAGEMENT SKILLS."

I heard it loud & clear the moment it came out of my mouth. When we hung up, I took a few deep breaths and thought - girl, you better get some!

I googled what I could do for stress and hated what I saw. Meditation? Mindfulness?

NO THANK YOU. 

I didn't have the time to "slow down" and the idea of sitting still made my skin crawl. 

So, I just kept on keeping on, getting stressed and having meltdowns. As you can imagine, this was amazing for my health (Hello, sarcasm!) and life felt a little harder with each passing day. 

I didn't know how to get myself to meditate. I tried, but it all seemed so overwhelming, so I focused on the part of my wellness plan that felt easier: diet and exercise. I started feeling better and losing weight and my stress felt a little lighter. I was definitely happier, but I could tell my lack of stress management skills was still making me sick. 

I felt lost and stuck, so in 2016, I quit my job to have an adventure. I decided to travel around the US for a bit but I wanted to do something more. Something wild. So, I decided to head to Peru.

The plan was to spend 5 weeks in South America. Two and a half with a friend and then two and a half on my own. I wanted to see the sights, but I also craved spontaneity. I wanted to wander around and find experiences as I journeyed through. 

Before I left, I only booked two things: Gate tickets to Machu Picchu (of course) and a 5 day silent meditation retreat.. I knew I needed to learn how to do this, away from all distractions, and what better place than on an island in the middle of Lake Titicaca?

While I was on my retreat, I discovered what it felt like to be calm for the very first time in my life. Within a day, I had no MS symptoms and by the end of the retreat, I was unrecognizable to my friend and her family because of how much weight I'd lost. 

I knew then how important it would be to keep this up, so I came home and made it a mandatory part of my routine. I struggled with keeping up with it, making it a habit, but after lot's of trial and error... I figured out how to begin a meditation routine at home. 

Now, I want to share my top 3 tips with you! 

If you're desperate to manage stress but feel intimidated by meditation, these tips are FOR YOU!

Three Tips To Start A Meditation Routine

1. Start with 5 minutes. You don't have to start with 30 minutes of morning meditation, that's actually CRAZY to ask anyone to do! Start with 5 minutes and build up from there. Everyone can find 5 minutes in the morning (turn off instagram and set your timer!) and it's the absolute best way to clear your brain before a busy day! 

2. Listen to a guided meditation. Having a voice to guide you makes it SO MUCH EASIER to focus! There are apps like Headspace, Insight Timer, or even Youtube where you can find easy to follow guides!

3. Simply follow your breathing. Thoughts are going to come into your head and distract you. That's TOTALLY NORMAL. The trick to meditation is noticing that you've gotten lost in thought so you can come back to your breath. In the beginning, this is honestly HELL, but don't get frustrated... every time you do it, you strengthen that muscle in the brain to build focus. I promise it gets easier, practice makes perfect!

When I came home, I started with 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes in the evening and now, I do 30 in the morning and 30 in the evening. My stress levels have dropped SIGNIFICANTLY and the benefits are amazing. I feel confident, aware, healthy, and ready to take on WHATEVER the universe throws at me. 

Do you have any tips or tricks that have worked for you? Comment below and let me know!

With love & light, 

Carolyn

 

How To Work With Your Heart Rate

Note: If you don't want to read the whole story, skip to the bottom to find out how to calculate your heart rate!

Last May, I was given an incredible gift. I went an entire day without pain. 

I couldn't believe it. 

My mom was visiting me for Mother's Day and I was so excited, I ran into her room and jumped on the bed, my eyes filling with tears. I hadn't gone a day without pain in almost a decade!

I went to bed that night with my heart full of gratitude. I couldn't sleep. I didn't know how long this could last and I wanted to appreciate every single moment. 

Luckily for me, that day was just the beginning. With the pain gone, I started noticing other symptoms that I'd forgotten about. Symptoms that had been drowned out by the constant tidal wave of severe chronic pain. 

But before I knew it, those symptoms started to dissipate as well. I prayed every night, swimming in gratitude and not asking for anything, because I was already getting so much more than I thought possible. 

It got to the point where the only time I was getting symptoms was when I exercised.

I loved to lift heavy, do sprints, and run up the stair master. Anything that made me feel strong, powerful, and soaked in sweat, but it left me with numbness in my feet and heavy fatigue. I'd been doing this workout for years, despite the plateau on the scale, but I felt I needed to keep it up if I was ever going to finish losing weight. 

I brought it up with my doctor and we made a deal. He told me that, if I start getting symptoms, I should take a break and drink some water. I agreed and made the promise.  

Just the next day, I'd had a rough time at work and I was READY for a workout. I hopped on the stair master and set it to a level 7, essentially running up the stairs.

Oh man, it felt great. Hip hop music pumped through my headphones as sweat started pouring through my shirt. I was absolutely crushing it and the stress of the day was just starting to melt away when all of a sudden, my feet went numb. I hadn't even been on the machine for 5 minutes!

But, I'd made a promise, so I stepped off the stair master and grabbed some water. As I stood there, waiting for some sort of sign that I could get back on, I realized how hard my heart was pounding. I decided to take my pulse and realized... I have no idea what that number means, so, I did what anyone else does when they don't know something - I googled it. 

I discovered the different heart rate ranges and how, by pushing myself so hard, I was putting myself in my fight or flight stage. My body didn't understand why I was literally running up the stairs and it immediately assumed that I must be in danger.  Why else would I be pushing myself so hard? 

When you're in your fight or flight, there's a bunch of chemical reactions happening in your body, but I'll simplify it for the sake of my long winded story. 

In regards to this conversation - fight or flight does two very important things. First, it burns your sugar stores so you have enough energy to either run from or fight an attacker. Second, it creates inflammation around your cells and tissue, just in case you get tussled up in an attack or a fall from running. 

By stressing yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally, you're constantly burning sugar which means, yep - you guessed it, those sugar stores need to be restored as soon as you're out of your fight or flight state (and into homeostasis). That's why we all get that craving around 4pm to hit the vending machine for carbs or sugar and why binge eating is so prominent at night when you're at home in front of the TV. 

You can be "good" on your diet all day, but if you push yourself too hard, you will have no choice but to refuel. Your body's desire to survive is significantly stronger than your willingness to hit a goal. 

I stood there at the base of the stair master in shock. All these years, I'd been working this hard just to make it even harder for myself to hit my weight loss goals! I was creating inflammation in my body which stimulates my immune system AND setting myself up to binge! Sure, I was burning calories and building strength, but they were calories that I'd most likely make up (and more) later that night!

To say the least, I was pretty upset, but then I had another thought. If I was in my fight or flight, I was also stimulating my central nervous system so that my brain and spine could tell my body how to react to "danger". Not only was I creating inflammation, I was literally stimulating my disease and the numbness in my feet was my body's way of telling me I was going too hard. 

I couldn't believe it, but it made so much sense. 

That night, I researched how to monitor my heart rate effectively. I quickly discovered my "fat burning range" and decided to try it out for the entire week. 

Turns out, I didn't need the whole week to see results. 

The next time I got on the stair master, I had to drop the speed from a level 7 to a level 1. It was brutally slow, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that I was actually sweating more than I did when I was running. Best of all? I did the entire workout without any MS symptoms. 

Breaking binge eating came later, I still had to reprogram that habit, but working on it became significantly easier after I stopped making it a chemical demand. 

Now, it's been almost a year since I started monitoring my heart rate and not only do I avoid symptoms during my workout, but I go completely symptom free almost every single day. I still have this disease, but I no longer have to live in the experience of it, and that has been an incredible blessing. 

My target heart rate range is 115 - 133 beats per minute because I'm 29 years old. You can find yours by finding 60 - 70% of your max heart rate by following a simple equation. See my example below and then do it for yourself! 

(220 - 29) x .6  = 115

and (220 - 29) x .7 = 133 

It's too simple to ignore and if you struggle with binge eating or have a disease that is triggered by inflammation, you're doing yourself an injustice by not following your heart rate.

Do you monitor your heart rate? If so, comment below and let me know what benefits you get from it! 

With love & light,

Carolyn