Why You Should Put Yourself First

Make yourself a priority in your own life. be happy!I know a few people who talk about how they don’t put themselves first because they love helping other people. I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that these are people who get sick often and have trouble in their personal relationships.

In the beginning talking to these clients and friends was a bit of a wake up call for me. Convincing them of the importance of taking care of themselves was futile. They seemed to hate the idea of self-care. Putting themselves first seemed an affront to them. When I heard these  people talk about it, in such a passionate way, I realized the flaw in this way of thinking.  And that I might have fallen prey to it a few times in my life.

It’s nice to feel needed. We all like it. There is a point, though, and I think it’s when your need to be needed supersedes your need to put yourself first, that it’s detrimental. It’s detrimental not only to yourself and your health, but also to the people around you. Often, the ones you’re trying to help.

I do love taking care of and helping people. It is in my DNA. My dad was a doctor, my sister and mom are nurses. I love caring for and healing people.

However, that can not  take the place of taking care of myself and taking care of what’s most basic to me. We do it, though, all the time. I feel like as a society, may of us are just starting to recover from bragging about how far down the list we put ourselves.

How often have you or a close friend bragged about how little sleep you’re getting or how over-worked you are? How many times have you put in 50-60-70 hours at work and felt extremely proud of yourself?

How many times have you dropped everything to bake for the school at the last minute? Or sew costumes? Or help out a friend, who basically needs your help because they dropped the ball in their own life?

There is nothing wrong with jumping to the rescue in any of these situations. It’s a problem, when you’re not taking care of your own needs first and foremost. It’s a problem when no isn’t a part of your vocabulary.

The key here is self-awareness and self-love. So many of these clients say everything is fine, even though, it’s obvious they’re run-down and overwhelmed by simple situations. They call and cancel because they’re sick. Again. Or they’re behind. Again. They’re running late. Again.

I understand. Believe me. I can often bite off more than I can chew. I like having a big life and I like filling it with the things that I love. I have some guidelines for myself, though, so that my life is rarely filled with other people’s needs over my own.

How rarely do you say no? No, is a complete sentence. No does not require an explanation or an excuse. You don’t have to feel like if you can possibly squeeze one more thing in you should say yes. It’s okay to say no, just because. You can say no as a matter of principle or because you just don’t want to. How does that make you feel?

How does putting yourself first feel?

If you’re not used to it might make you feel antsy or edgy. You’re uncomfortable? That’s a good thing. Learning to be okay with discomfort is a sign of resiliency. And frankly, most of us live lives with quite a bit of discomfort, so pushing it away is kinda wasted energy.

So, WHY would you want to put yourself first?

For me, it’s simple. Not easy, but simple.

When I put myself first I regularly engage in activities that I know will keep me healthy and happy. I eat better, I meditate, i get on the mat, my nails and hair look good. I take care of myself. I really give time to self-care.

When I put myself first, I  have the energy and the enthusiasm to be the person I want to be.  So before I say yes, I ask is this something that helps me be the person I want to be? Is it feeding my ego or is giving me  healthy experience/connection/opportunity that’s really enhancing my life? If it just feels good to be needed, it’s probably a place I should say no.

When I put myself first, I spend less time on the couch, less time recovering from whatever self-sabotage I’ve dreamed up for myself and can do the work I’m meant to do.

When I put myself first, I can be the best mom/partner/daughter/sister/best friend/neighbor that I can be.

When I put myself first, I’m a great example. I’m an example for my kids, for my clients, for my students, for the people around me.

The way that I feel; energized, happy, well-cared for, content, is a great example for me, too.  When things feel hard, I can remember this feeling and ride out the tough stuff, hoping to return to it.

The biggest argument I hear fighting self-care, self-love and putting myself first is that it feels selfish. You all know me well enough now. Would you call me selfish?

Share in the comments how you’re learning to put yourself first!

And if you like this work and want to do more, join me for Love Yourself Challenge over at our new community. It’s a quiet, peaceful place for reflection, community, connection, healing and learning.





Inspiration, how do you keep it?

InspirationToday, over at our new community we’re on day 21 of Love Yourself Challenge and focusing on inspiration.

Life can get heavy for everyone at least part of the time.  It can get hard to want to take care of kids or go to work, or make dinner (man, dinner every night for kids, especially,  is a CHORE).

So, how do you come back to yourself? Assuming that you’ve created a life that you want and you’re just a bit off track, what do you do to get back on track?

If you need to make bigger changes, you can join me for BreatheOnline, the six week course to mindfully mange your mental health. There we learn new skills and tools to make your life more manageable and make changes so you can have the life you really want.

Today, I invite you to think about what inspires you. What quick little reads or soundbites make you want to get off the couch and cook or exercise, write that book or take the kids to the pool?

I’ve found that getting my brain in the right space first thing in the morning is key. If I start by reading the news (I never watch it anymore), I can downward spiral pretty fast. So, my first thing involves quiet reflection, morning pages and Melissa time. Then I can jump into what I need to do for the day. The difference between days I can do that and days that I wake feeling like I HAVE to get to work RIGHT NOW, is immense.

So what do I do? Let me be clear that I’m not perfect at this, or anything in my life. I’m not a doctor. I’m a woman who has been teaching yoga for 20 years and has anxiety. I teach what I know.

So what do I do? I have a list of things that I know can help inspire me. Now, I know a lot of tricks to help shift your bran chemistry, but we’re not talking about that. We’re talking Inspiration!

I have a playlist, called Melissa on Spotify. It’s  what I listen to when I need a little pick-me-up. I have a few of those playlists, actually. One for working out, I call Fierce. One for when I’m cooking.

I also have podcasts that I listen to that I know will inspire me to pull out my computer and get writing when I just can’t feel motivated.

I like to watch Giada DeLaurentis or Ina Garten when I need cooking inspiration OR my dear just found a bunch of old copies of Bon Appetite and that is wonderful inspiration.

I am someone who is deeply connected to place and I’m a pack animal, I like my pack. I have my places that I like to go to to get work done. Whether I’m in New York, Chicago or Lawrence, there are restaurants for when I need to return emails, libraries i like for research and writing, bars for creativity. I like to get out in the energy of people.

What inspires you?


Love Yourself Challenge

LoveYourself21-1024x585Over at A Yogi Kitchen at Mighty Network we’re in the middle of Love Yourself Challenge. It’s a month of journal prompts, yoga poses and mindfulness tools to help you open your heart to yourself.

We started May 15th, but due to technical difficulties, we’re behind, so you haven’t missed that much. Join us! You work on your own pace, so you can work to catch up or just star a few days behind. No worries.

Journal Prompt:

What can you do today that will benefit your future self?

It could be something simple, like a super nutritious, delicious meal. It could be doing an extra mile during your run today. It could be a massage, or an hour spent reading for yourself.

Want to check out this prompt and more?

Join our community for lots of mindful ways to  manage body/mind/spirit, get inspired, motivated and connect with like-minded yogis. We have topics, like The Mat and The Kitchen, where we talk about and I teach about Delicious Yoga and Mindful Food. For now our community is FREE, join us and join both the Love Yourself Challenge and  BreatheEcourse, the online Free course for mindfully managing mental health.


My Office Today, May 24.

The Palmer House lobby is one of my favorite places in Chicago. Over 20 years ago, when I worked at DePaul University, I would come here and eat my home-packed lunch. Or I’d take an afternoon break and drink hazelnut coffee as we did in the 90s. Now it makes me nauseated.

Today, I sit here and work with my Starbucks from the downstairs cafe. It’s my office today. It is grand and beautiful and inspires and motivates me. It is marble and wood, colors and soft lighting. It brings me back to my 20s. It brings me back to a time when a lot of things were different.

I’m sitting here, lost in a time before my kids, to when I was still married AND in love. It reminds me of when my life felt all in front of me and a time when my dad was still in this world.

This grieving thing is a weird game. Everyone’s parents die. It’s not shocking or surprising. I’m not overly sad and I don’t miss him all that much. However, for every breath I took up until two and a half months ago, my dad was breathing too.

There’s a song by Sara Thomsen that goes, The air that is my breath is the air that you are breathing. And the air that is your breath is the air that I am breathing. That song, By Breath, keeps running through my head and makes me think of my father. And it hurts.

I’m surprised that it hurts, and not surprised. We had a complicated relationship and I didn’t need to see him all the time. I didn’t even need to talk to him all that often, but the idea that he doesn’t exist anymore is tough.

I’m not naive. This isn’t about him. This isn’t about wasted life or forgiveness. It’s completely about me. About me being a certain age, the age that one gets to be when one’s parent dies of old age. It’s about a big part of my life being over. It’s about  being okay with knowing that you don’t get the parents you think you should get. You get the parents you get and everyone is a little disappointed at one point in their life or another. And more than that being true, it’s about being okay with that being true.

This month I’m doing the Love Yourself Challenge over at Mighty Network. I am teaching,  explaining, cajoling, begging people to take care and love themselves and I am trying to remember to do that too.

Self-love/self-care is one of the hardest things I teach. I can’t make someone love themselves. they have to believe they are worthy on their own, in their own time.

As I’m accepting my dad’s death, limitations and failures, I find a new freedom in loving myself and feeling worthy . As we’re learning big, big, long held secrets I’m not ashamed, alarmed or embarrassed. Who he was, what he did and who he hurt has nothing to do with me. As hard as it was for him to love me, it was even harder for him to love himself.

As I’ve been grieving, so many people have reached out. Some to just check-in. Some to tell me they relate and understand. Others just to let me know I am loved and cared for.  I’ve had many who’ve thanked me for sharing this journey, even during the raw parts, without a lot of editing. I’m so grateful to you all. Thank you for walking this part of the path with me. 

It’s because you held this space for me, gave me your love and support that I’ve had these big shifts. I’m so grateful. Thank you.


My Office May 10th

i woke up at 3am because I wasn’t packed. I had a surprise out of town visitor for a few days, which was lovely, but threw my schedule off. Then I took a Lyft, two planes and a drive to get to Lawrence, KS. Got to the house and there were people working, so I kept driving and arrived here, 715, my favorite Lawrence treat. The smoked trout crostini is my all time favorite dish.

Waiting for a college friend to join me and then I get to see the boy after school. A whole week of single parenting, which means just mother/son time!!

So, this is my office today. I’ve gotten away from posting these. The last few months have been an upheaval with lots of change and shifts. As always, it’s never a finished product. It’s always a wonder to see where the dots connect. I think My Office Today Series should come back.

I’m behind. That feels like always, so perhaps, as my friend Sheila Pai has tried to teach me, I’m right where I belong.

Thanks for being patient with me and always checking-in. There is so much going on. I don’t usually do this in the blog, but I feel compelled to catch you up on all the upcoming events.

Tomorrow we practice together in Lawrence, KS! So looking forward to this. As you may have noticed, I don’t think like most people. It’s taken me a long time to see this as my gift, my super power. Ni surprise that this shows up in my work and I don’t teach like most people. My students ask where they can find someone who teaches like me and I don’t have an answer for them. So excited to teach a regular old yoga class, like I used to in Lawrence. MelissaYoga is at OmTree Shala, 12:30-2p. There is still room to join us!

Sunday, we begin to mindfully manage mental health in new ways with BreatheEcourse, a Free 7 day class full of yoga poses, nutrition, breath work, journal prompts to help you put together a plan that works just for you.

Tuesday, May 15th, we start Love Yourself Challenge that goes through June 15th. It’s a whole month of journal prompts, breath work and yoga poses to help you balance your heart chakra, love yourself more and better and put self-care in the forefront where it belongs. It’s Free and in addition to the daily emails, it’s a community for support, sharing and connection.

Finally, June 10th we’re starting another session if BreathOnline. This is the online version of Yoga for Anxiety and Depression and the longer, more in depth version of BreatheEcourse. It’s a huge deal at $180 for six weeks of tips, tools, community and connection to help you find some ease and manage times of high emotion. Learn yoga poses, dialectical behavior therapy skills, journaling, nutrition, mindfulness and breath work to help soothe your nervous system, quiet and clear your brain and manage some of the sometimes debilitating symptoms; insomnia, muscle aches and pains, nausea, headaches just to name a few.

Wow! That’s a lot, but I’m super excited. After my dad’s death it’s taken me awhile to get back in the swing of things. I am finally feeling like I can put in full days of work. I feel inspired and motivated for us to dig deep together and do some really big healing.

2018 has become a year for making big changes. I so hope you’ll join me!

You can join BreatheEcourse and Love Yourself Challenge by dropping me an email, and join BreatheOnline by heading over to http://ayogikitchen to the Breathe page and making a payment, which secures your spot and gets you the first email.


The Top Way I Stop a Panic Attack

This post is an email from the October session of the free BreatheEcourse; mindfulness to manage anxiety, depression and PTSD. Enjoy! 
4 Day BreatheLet’s work on DBT!. But first a quick word about journaling.

If you’re struggling with the journaling, as I know some of you do, set a timer. Set the alarm on your phone. Write just for ten minutes. I know that sometimes we pressure ourselves to  write down every single thought and then it feels like we started an avalanche.

There are no rules to journaling. You don’t have to capture every thought or every moment of your day. You write what and how much you want.

It’s like being on the mat. You’re in the moment and you notice what you notice. We don’t have time for every pose during a session and that’s okay. We don’t even get in every pose we know and usually we don’t get to practice a pose for as long as we’d like. So just write and don’t get overwhelmed by thinking it has to be a certain way.

Okay, so we’re just going to talk about my favorite dialectical behavior skill. It falls under TIP.

Temperature change
Intense Exercise
Progressive relaxation

I know you think we’re going to talk progressive relaxation. Nope! My favorite TIP skill is temperature change. It works like a charm for me. Before DBT no one ever told me that I could stop panic attacks. i was just supposed to get better at enduring them.


Remember, our goal is to move into Wise Mind. (Wise Mind is when we’re not engaging in black or white thinking, but settling into the place in the middle; the plaid place) When emotions are feeling big, we want to run towards Wise Mind.

Let’s take two people. Let’s pretend they’re in a relationship and they’ve had a huge fight. And they happen to be complete opposites. One is very analytical and fact-based and the other is very creative and feelings-based.  The person who swings towards Emotion Mind is crying and feeling sick and feeling like everything is over and is completely in their feelings. This person my seem hysterical and beyond talking to. The person who tends to Reasonable Mind is having trouble accessing their emotions, is gathering facts and weighing pros and cons to decide the next step. This person may seem like they’re not engaging cause they’re already analyzing the facts and already thinking about the next step.

So it’s January and one person goes for a walk in the cold and the other hops in the shower. A cold shower. This blast of cold shifts both their brains’ chemistry and soothes their nervous systems. Individually, they move towards Wise Mind.

termperature changeThe Emotion Mind person is able to quiet the big feelings, be not quite so much in the high emotion of the body, but into what is really true for the body, move a bit into the head and gather some facts, moving more towards that middle ground. They realizes that despite this being hard and feelings being hurt their partner is generally kind and loving and they have survived fights before and this will pass.

The Reasonable Mind person is able to get out of the head so much and move into the body/heart. They feel the hurt and pain of fighting with their love and can say, I really don’t like this feeling. I don’t want to do this anymore.

Because they were each able to move into Wise Mind, they were able to come to a place where they could value each other and the relationship and maybe even take some steps to ensure this fight doesn’t repeat itself.

Now, I just like that outcome. It didn’t have to be that way. They could have moved into Wise Mind and the Emotion Mind could have gathered facts and decided that these fights are happening way too often and this isn’t the kind of relationship they want. Reasonable Mind could have got into their emotions and decided that it hurts too much to fight like this and it’s not worth it.

Both are valid outcomes because they came from Wise Mind. The opposite might be that Emotion Mind, crying and screaming ran out of the house and called all the friends that were going to say that their  partner is a louse and doesn’t deserve them. The Reasonable Mind might have started a pros and cons list, leaving out emotions and decided that the best thing is to break up. In a few days when they moved more towards the middle ground they might both regret their decision. Some regrets can be fixed. Some can’t.

I’m a huge fan of Temperature Change. Years ago, before I took DBT I was in the beginning stages of a panic attack. I couldn’t catch my breath, I was sweating, my heart was pounding, I was nauseated. I got afraid, which is the worst thing you can do for a panic attack. If you start to fear it coming on, you just make it grow. So I was snowballing fast.

I was with my ex, who grabbed the biggest bowl in my cabinet, fill ed it with ice and water and told me to plunge my face. I really don’t like super cold, so I resisted. He was adamant. I did it once, came up gasping and he made me do it again. I did it again and when I came up it was like someone had covered me with a heated blanket. I felt this warm calm. My breathing had slowed down. My heart stopped pounding. I wasn’t sweating anymore. It was amazing! I couldn’t believe that a panic attack stopped completely. It sold me on DBT. I signed up a few months later.

I highly recommend DBT to anyone who’ll listen. It honestly changed my life.

I love what I teach and believe in it, but the DBT program is amazing. If you’re interested in learning more DBT skills from a yoga teacher consider signing up for BreatheOnline, which starts January 21st.  If you like the group therapy vibe, check out your local mental health facility. Occasionally some therapists teach it one-on-one, but Marsha Linehan says if you’re not getting it from a team of therapists, it’s not DBT.

2018BreatheOnlineWhat can you do to shift your brain chemistry? Try a few things. Change your Temperature. Run around the block as fast as you can for some Intense Exercise, especially great for anger emotions. Go to YouTube for some Progressive relaxation recordings. Keep a list of the tools that work the best for you.

Post that list somewhere you will see it over and over again. The fridge, the medicine cabinet, on your dashboard.

Happy Managing!

Contact me to sign up for the Free BreatheEcourse. Drop me an email. Or, if you’re ready for deeper work and an opportunity to practice the skills and tools while getting support, community and connection, join me for BreatheOnline!


What If You Planned For The Unexpected?

Wednesday!I’m in the middle of teaching BreatheEcourse, the free seven day course to manage anxiety, depression and PTSD with mindfulness skills and tools. In a little over a week, I start teaching BreatheOnline, the six week version I developed from Yoga for Anxiety and Depression to do the same, but slower and with more depth and opportunities to practice the skills and tools.

So, I’m thinking a lot, everyday, about managing stress, mental health, life.

Over at BreatheOnline, we check-in on Wednesdays to pause and take an assessment of the week.

How’s your week going so far? You probably had an idea on Sunday or Monday of what the week would look like. Take a minute to pause, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. How does the reality of the week measure up to the intentions set at the beginning of the week?  Are you feeling worried about getting everything done this week? Are you feeling like you’re on track to have a successful week?

This is the day that you can pivot, shift or keep on keeping on.  This is the moment to set intention again. Wednesdays get a bad rap, but they the perfect day to reset, to begin again, to redirect.

Life happens and things are out of our control. People get sick, there are snowstorms, cars break down. We anxiety, depression and PTSD people can let that derail us. Rather than be surprised by the unexpected or stressed or upset that we can’t control life, what if you planned for the unexpected?

What if on a daily basis you left blank places in your calendar as cushions for the unexpected? So when your kid calls during a meeting to tell you that she forgot her cello, you actually have space to shift things around and help her out. What if daily you said to yourself, I need to prepare for the unexpected and you meditated and drank an extra glass of water? What would preparing for the unexpected look like for you?

Join us January 21st for BreatheOnline. Get six weeks of practicing mindfulness tools and skills as well as connection and community! At the end of six weeks you have a plan to help you manage stress, mental health, life. Get a free one-on-one session with me to help you create that plan and receive custom yoga poses and breath work to ensure your success!.