Since my last birthday I’ve had anxiety about turning 40. This past decade has been filled with many amazing and terrifying moments and as much as I am happy to embrace “the new” the truth is the number 40 has had my stomach in knots.
The 30’s were without a doubt a juggling act. I welcomed 2 beautiful children to this earth, experienced career highs and lows, eventually putting it on hold to stay home with my babies, suffered 3 heartbreaking miscarriages, got married and divorced, boarded over 100 planes, travelled to 12 countries, explored entrepreneurial pursuits and for the first time have taken note of the changes my body is experiencing that come along with (dare I say the word) AGING.
I (like so many of us) have this burning desire to age gracefully. I don’t want to be terrified of this inevitable process. I should preface that when I say gracefully, I am not referring to appearance (although, if that could happen gracefully, I’d be pretty stoked). I mean inside my mind where I contemplate aging. I want to embrace the change and be my-best-self, but I got to this point where I needed to understand just how to do that.
As a Mom, and a single one at that, you can forget about yourself pretty quickly. Hours turn to days, days turn to weeks and weeks turn to months, quicker than they ever have before. So it got me thinking about how quickly a bad habit can form and how like the speed of light you can find yourself in a rut – be it socially, physically, mentally or emotionally.
So with 40 on the horizon, I decided to use it as an opportunity to check in with a number of “baskets” that I believe are important for overall health. I have been connecting with experts in and out of my network this year to discover my best self. Some of this discovery has been re-engaging simple concepts that are already familiar to me but needed to be reactivated, while others have been brand new. I believe self-check-in’s are an important part of staying on track. Originally I was planning to do this quietly but after many conversations over the past few months about the aging process, I have decided to share my journey. So join me on this adventure of discovering and sharing tools for finding our best selves and for me, taking the fear out of 40.
The following is a series of insights from a group of women who are reflecting on “finding our best self”. I will be posting their ideas over the coming weeks. Thank you to these beautiful souls for sharing their thoughts.
Meet Dr. Shalini Bhat. She is a Functional Medicine doctor and the Founder/Director of The Movement Boutique, a next generation wellness clinic located in a relaxing, spacious private studio in Toronto.
Dr. Shalini Bhat
My checklist for staying on track comes down to two things: Health and Happiness. A few of my current obsessions along these themes that I practice in my life and share with my patients are… DIVERSIFY. Financial gurus say this one all the time but I love this one as it’s true across ALL facets of your life. Diversify the foods you eat (we all tend to eat the same 10 or so foods over and over). Our foods should be from all colours of the rainbow, all different taste profiles and textures. It’s what ensures we get all the macro and micro nutrients we need in a day and all the right types of fibre for detox and our gut health. Diversify the people you interact with/follow on social media/take advice from. This will help you gain new perspectives and foster gratitude. Diversify the places you go/travel to, the ways you move your body and the activities you partake in. Taking in new sights, sounds, smells and tastes will create new neural pathways in your brain, foster creativity and keep you young. MONO-TASKING! You can’t be your best self at one thing while doing 5 others. In a world full of distractions, it’s pretty luxurious to allow yourself to focus on one task at a time. INTERMITTENT FASTING. For so many reasons from increasing insulin sensitivity, to your mitochondria and brain health, microbiome re-balancing and gut repair, to longevity and gratitude, I do an intermittent fast at least once a week. CONGRUENCY. Are the thoughts you think, the foods you eat, the emotions you feel and the activities you do similar to ones your “avatar best self” would think, eat, feel and do? Once you create your best self avatar, it’s important to check in and see that your habits and lifestyle are congruent with the person you are, and are striving to be. Set your expectations accordingly. Ultimately, it’s important to know where you want to be, so you can be headed in the right direction. If you are headed to California but you’re walking toward New York, you’re never gonna get there!
Meet Amanda Blakely. Mother to Atticus & Archer, Writer, Family Friendly Travel Expert, Founder of Petits Genoux and constant tourist.
Even though I still feel like a girl in her 20’s (and try to approach life with the same reckless abandon as my younger self), it turns out I too am almost 40. But with age comes clarity, self awareness and pretty accurate retrospection. What makes me happy is when I don’t stray far from the guiding principles or values that make me thrive. For me those are creativity, adventure, excitement and optimism. I am at my best when I am embarking on an adventure with my little tribe – whether it be bucketlist-worthy (like a recent getaway to Peru) or more local (I love weekends in Prince Edward County) or even just adventuring around our own city, there is something about the excitement, the break in routine and even the planning process that keeps me high on life.
Meet Dr. Danielle Martin, family physician and vice-president, medical affairs and health system solutions, at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto. In 2013, Danielle was named one of the Toronto Star’s top “13 People to Watch” – and watch they have. Appearing regularly on CBC’s The National, where she unpacks the latest in cancer research to physician assisted dying, Danielle is a strong advocate for removing barriers to care. She is also the author of BETTER NOW (Six Big Ideas To Improve Health Care For All Canadians). Here is the link to her book: http://6bigideas.ca
Dr. Danielle Martin
I am my best self when I advocate for others.
One of the things I have found about the conversation about self care is that it is easy to assume that expending energy on causes we believe in is a “drain” on our internal resources. The logical extension becomes that the only way to be good to oneself is to do for oneself. Yet the research on volunteering, meaningful work, and living in community is clear: we are our best selves when we feel part of something larger than ourselves. Of course we all need to sleep enough, eat well, take breaks, spend time with our families and recharge. But the act of providing support to another person or spending time on a project that is meaningful is also an important way to maintain perspective and to connect meaningfully with the world around us. In my own work (paid and volunteer) I meet extraordinary people, I learn, I am humbled and moved, and I contribute. There is no doubt in my mind that the version of me who does those things is the best version of me I know!
Meet Christine Russell. A true goddess. This beautiful soul is the co-founder of 889 Yoga in Toronto, a Mama of 2, a DoTerra tribe leader and honestly one of the most grounded and sparkly souls I know. When you are in a room with this woman, she instantly makes you feel fabulous about life and even yourself.
Your best self is within you. It’s already there. We need not find it. We need to awaken it! Layers piled up of our lives, our stories, excuses, routines, responsibilities, guilt, block us from experiencing our truest, best selves. Mine gets blocked all the time. The key to navigating your way back to your best self is to wake it up! My favourite tools for a “wake-up” are: my essential oils (Peppermint gets me every time!); a brisk walk in nature; yoga to shift the energy in my body; pranayama breathing exercises to re-organize my energy and emotions (I love ‘Breath of Fire’ rapid quick breaths in/out of the nose, as you pump your belly by drawing it back towards your spine on the exhale); and quiet meditation to go inward and tune-in. When I get steered off center, these are the quick technologies I’m using in the moment to move me closer to my best self. And I’m SO grateful for them. A quick shift in energy for me, thanks to these tools, can shift me from getting anxious or frustrated, to quickly aligning me with my truth.
Meet Joanna & Marketa from Just Shut Up And Try It Ferments.
Joanna & Marketa
Their entire line of ferments was created for the whole family to enjoy. All of the products are raw, organic and small batch. Handcrafted in Toronto.
Joanna Biafore is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner (CNP), who is passionate about providing tailored nutritional counselling for the whole family. Joanna specializes in pediatric Nutrition and gut health.
Marketa Mervart is a health and Fitness enthusiast who was raised in the Czech Republic on the ancient art and craft of fermentation.
“Finding your best self” for us means finding the time to do things which make our souls sing. It’s listening to the right voice when that inner saboteur has finally gone quiet and no longer convinces us that we can’t do, what makes us happy.
It’s about finding balance, forgiving ourselves and others, embracing life and loving our people with every ounce that we have. It’s about not taking ourselves too seriously and embracing mistakes because we know they make us smarter. As mothers, it means letting the little people in our lives watch us mess up and recover because we know it will teach them to be resilient. Lastly, remembering to nourish our bodies, hearts and minds with good food, music, nature, books and adventure. Life is meant to be lived.
Meet Devin Connell. Co-owner of Delica Kitchen, Co-Author of Two Dishes Cookbook, Creator, Recipe Developer, Mother.
The process of planning a delicious meal from start to finish has always been a way to centre myself. Whether it is a simple family supper, a backyard BBQ or a formal dinner party, the process of just thinking about how to put a meal together puts me at ease. I suppose it’s rooted in the notion that I just love to take care of people, and the best way I can do that is through feeding them. It’s not just about the food, it’s much more holistic than that. It begins with where I source the ingredients from, followed by how and where I set the table. Will it be plated or family style? What will make someone feel most comfortable, at home and at ease. The act of cooking itself feels like a primal act of love. Food certainly is about sustenance, but it’s also about feeding your soul and about nurturing people that care about. If I’m having a particularly challenging day, I actually seek out meals to cook that might take me a little longer … allow me to relish in my time in the kitchen. It’s the heart of my home and my happiness.