“I love this picture because I felt so accomplished and free. I was at the top of the Storm Castle hike with a beautiful view in all directions. I felt alive and beautiful.” Anna Johnson, director of business development with the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce.“I chose this photo specifically because it was one of the only hikes I got to go on this summer after finding out I was severely anemic and having to recover from that. Once I started feeling better, I felt so empowered to be able to reconnect with my body and trust that we trusted each other.” Ruby Pauli, WIA intern.“Body positive: Accepting the body you have as well as the changes it may undergo throughout your lifetime. This also means accepting responsibility for figuring out what your body needs. I had just turned 30 (which was a fairly big deal to me entering a new decade) and decided to cut 10 inches off my hair. It felt great!” Dr. Kaley Burns, Big Sky Natural Health.“When you embrace all of you, you sit back and smile. You are so consumed with your own happiness and joy that the world around you doesn’t matter anymore. Embracing yourself means feeling 100% comfortable in your own skin. Once you gain that control, let your soul shine.” Kelsey Hash, Morningstar Learning Center executive director“Standing on Beehive Peak was both breathtaking and gratifying. The chance to gaze over the sea of mountains surrounding the summit and the basin below was earned by the partnership of my body and mind. I’m so grateful for moments like this—moments when I can truly appreciate how strong I am inside and out.” Emily Lessard, freelance writer based in the Gallatin canyon.“What I love about this photo is that I’m sweaty, wind-blown and feeling physically strong. I love climbing up mountains and trail running and appreciate my strong legs and butt to take me there. Also, when I’m outside moving and breathing, I feel peaceful, grounded and generally in awe of the world around me. Also, I love to rock ratty clothes circa 1995 because to me, what matters is how I feel on the inside and being mindful of my footprint on Mother Nature.” Jillian Martin, WIA intern.

Negatives to positives

Thinking about body positivity and self-care during covid and the holidays
“When people start to actually delve in and start to work on that self-love thing, it becomes extremely emotional and hard and kind of scary and challenging,” Dr. Burns said.

Ruby Pauli, intern with Women In Action (WIA) through a partnership with the Big Sky Human Development Clinic (HDC), tried to get a body image and self-compassion group started in Big Sky this fall.

It is a difficult topic to start a group about in general and getting any type of group going during Covid times, virtual or not, can be a challenge. “From my perspective, people are very much still in survival mode,” Pauli said.

The group would have served many purposes—providing a safe space for people to be vulnerable, addressing the negativity Pauli has noticed increase during quarantines or stay at home directives, and connection.

“People need that connection right now and there’s been a lot of rhetoric around gaining weight during quarantine and all of those negative things that come along with body image and social media, and it seems like it could be really beneficial for people during this time,” Pauli said. Social media is really good at telling us we are not good enough, even if it is strangely well-intentioned. Maybe influencers are giving advice on proper self-care or the right type of workout to do at home. As we absorb that and compare it to what we are actually doing, it may have a negative effect. Or the suggestions may serve as a temporary fix for a deeper problem.

Pauli explained that people do not like admitting to feeling alone or uncomfortable in their own skin. “I think it feels really scary for a lot of people,” she said.

Dr. Kaley Burns, owner of Big Sky Natural Health, agreed and pointed out that people are good at hiding from themselves. It is easier to write off these feelings than come to terms with them.

“I think we’re seeing it more with males as well and it’s interesting how it can present for people,” Dr. Burns said. Men may worry about not having the right amount of muscle or showing too much emotion and come to Dr. Burns wondering about testosterone. Women worry about gaining weight and consider different hormone treatments.

With her holistic medicine approach, Dr. Burns tries to use these concerns to get to the root of the issue, which can be low self-esteem.

Some of that low self-esteem comes directly from internal dialogue. “We can get so caught up in our own narratives that we don’t recognize when we’re talking to ourselves negatively because it’s so engrained,” Pauli said.

Her way to change this? Take out the nots. Instead saying I am not good enough, consciously tell yourself you are.

Dr. Burns provided a couple mantras to help change the narrative. Wake up in the morning and tell yourself everything is going to be okay, right off the bat. Say I love you to yourself throughout the day, especially if you start getting frustrated with something you have done. It might sound cheesy, but it is one way of switching negatives to positives.

Dr. Burns also advocated for switching apologizes to thank yous. Thank you for listening, or thank you for waiting, not I am sorry I am running late today.

There is this idea that in order to be more confident, a person has to figure out how to boost their self-esteem, Pauli said. Actually, she believes the key is to be gentler with ourselves and face our feelings. This idea is similar to one way many people understand self-care, which often is validated by social media.

Self-care is not immediately accomplished by putting on a face mask or taking a bath. That may be what a person needs in a particular moment, but the bigger picture is learning how to be more in tune with yourself to decide if you need a bath, or if you need some exercise.

“When people start to actually delve in and start to work on that self-love thing, it becomes extremely emotional and hard and kind of scary and challenging,” Dr. Burns said.

With the holiday season approaching, both Dr. Burns and Pauli encouraged people to check in with themselves and pay attention to what the brain and body need.

Maybe going the whole nine yards for Thanksgiving dinner is too much this year, or some healthier alternatives to tradition are going to better fit the bill. Both options and many others are completely acceptable. What is important is that you let yourself make adjustments that are going to be good for your well-being.

And let those around you know what you need. Pauli mentioned that applying positive changes can be difficult but having people around to lift you up and empower you can make a difference.

Through the holidays, coronavirus cases and residual election stress, focus on gratitude, both women say. It is one of the most powerful and positive forces available.

Big Sky HDC may be reached at this number: 406-570-3907.

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