Relax in Pure Michigan this Winter

With the holidays coming to an end, it’s the perfect time of year to take a break and find ways to relax in Pure Michigan. We asked Shann Vander Leek, an internationally recognized life coach, about ways she finds relaxation and happiness in Michigan.

What’s your favorite way to relax? If it’s by spending a day being pampered, be sure to check out Spa | A Pure Michigan Winter in our winter video series.

Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am an internationally recognized life coach, certified by the Coach Training Alliance. I partner with clients all over the world. I study Hatha yoga and am a Union Yoga, certified Yoga instructor.

I have a lifetime of professional experience as a successful broadcast media consultant, sales coach, leader, entrepreneur, business owner, marketing specialist, volunteer, voice over announcer, and life-skills trainer. I am a prolific reader, blogger and a published best selling author.

I love to engage individuals in compelling conversations that inspire them to play much bigger, and live fuller, more meaningful, and happier lives. I know engaged, fully expressed people leading purposeful lives have a big impact on the world. Life Coaching is one of the most powerful agents of positive human change.

I am happily married 20 years, with 1 amazing daughter, 1 mouthy Siamese cat, 1 spaz-face bunny, and a life full of people and places I am grateful for.  I live with my family in the Village of Suttons Bay, where we spend our free time exploring Leelanau County. The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is our weekend playground.

Q: The holidays are a stressful time for many people - what advice do you have to help people relax, unwind and rebalance after this hectic time?

The best advice I can share is to listen to your body and pay attention to how you feel. If you are stressed and exhausted, you deserve to rest and take care of yourself. When you ignore the signals from your body, you will get sick. Don't wait until you are completely maxed-out to care for yourself. I suggest clearing the calendar of as many extra-curricular activities as possible in the month of January. Lighten your schedule and focus on self-care activities that you find relaxing.

We forget that we can give the most when we are well rested and living the lives we love. We can be the best partners, parents, business owners or colleagues when we are feeling nurtured, fulfilled, inspired and self-expressed.  We can have the biggest impact on social and community changes when we are in balance.

Q: Are there any specific places that you like to enjoy relaxing activities?

I am a big fan of Pavlova European Salon and Spa in Traverse City. After the holidays I plan to enjoy a delightful European facial from Bonnie (my favorite Aesthetician). I practice Pilates at BE Pilates and Massage Studio, and schedule regular body work and massage therapy at Sacred Ways Healing Arts. 

Q: What are some things that people can do to keep themselves balanced all year long?

1. Discover Joy Spotting! 

Make a luscious list of 5-10 things that bring you joy every day. At the end of the day, take a few minutes to journal your discoveries. My family and I often share our top five lists over dinner.

Here's a few items from my luscious list for today:

The way my husband says "Good Morning Beautiful," the sunrise over the bay, the twinkle of lights on our Christmas tree, listening to Phillip Phillip's new album, being kind to a friend, delicious food, a (saved from our summer garden) Geranium with hot pink flowers, and finding the perfect present for my daughter.

2. Schedule time each day to be quiet.

As little as 5 minutes of quiet time can make a difference in your life. Simply close your eyes and breathe deeply several times to relax your mind. Find peace while listening to a guided relaxation like Transition to Calm that can be found on iTunes or Anxiety Slayer. If you work in a high-stress job, lunchtime can be a great time to escape from your responsibilities at work and claim some peace. Consider driving to the nearest body of water and enjoy your lunch break while watching the waves ebb and flow.

3. Move your body every day.

To stay in balance all year long you have to move your body. Walk your dog, go to the gym, take a yoga class, run, stretch, dance, play! Move your body in some way each day and you will sleep better, stay healthier, and free lower your level of stress.

4. Treat yourself to a special extravagance at least once a month.

This could be dinner and a movie, a massage, a weekend getaway, a chance to sleep in. Anything goes. You deserve something to look forward to at least once a month. 

5. Make quality time for your family.

Create family traditions, eat dinner together, take time to really listen and learn more about the people you love the most in the world. Is there anything more important than bonding with your loved ones?

Three pitfalls to avoid at all costs...

1. Learn to say No.

We all tend to take on more responsibility than we should, which can create stress and take us away from living in the moment. Getting caught up in a cycle of 'I have to' vs. 'I want to' can be destructive. It is Okay to say no thank you.

2. Learn to set healthy boundaries with people.

Do what you can to stop yourself from getting tangled up in the daily drama of another person's life. Caring doesn't mean diving in to solve someone's problems. Being a good listener and a fantastic hugger, is a much better use of your time and energy.

3. Identify and limit your time spent with "Energy Vampires."

People who regularly rant, rave and complain about life, politics and work can tap out all of your positive energy. Steer clear of these folks whenever possible. Life if too short to spend time with negative people. If you must spend time with Energy Vampires, do your best to find some humor in their antics.

Implement these ideas and enjoy a balanced and fulfilling life after the holidays. 

Q: Many people tend to get the winter blues or hibernate inside during the winter months - what are your recommendations to help with this?�

I used to suffer from the winter blues which are sometimes referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder. I made a few simple changes that have greatly improved my state of mind during the darkness of winter.  

1. Get outside for at least 15 minutes on sunny days to treat your body to a healthy dose of Vitamin D. Add a D3 supplement and/or foods rich with Vitamin D3 to your diet. Vitamin D3 can be found in fortified milk, salmon, sardines, egg yolks etc. Vitamin D3 is a vitamin and a hormone that our bodies need to remain mentally balanced. Think about how good you feel when you soak up the sunshine.  Ask your doctor or pharmacist about the health benefits of Vitamin D3.

2. Purchase a full spectrum light for your desk. The winter blues can be averted with full spectrum light therapy.  These lamps are often on sale this time of year.

3. Relax and surrender to the slower pace of winter.  

Q: What are some of your favorite winter activities?

I enjoy snowshoeing in the woods, hiking, and capturing images of the snowy shores of Lake Michigan. My husband enjoys snowboarding at Crystal Mountain with our daughter.

Q: What do you love about the Michigan in the winter?

Michigan winters are incredible. I love the snow covered landscapes and the quiet of the village after a fresh snowfall. I love knowing we can go sledding at Bahle Park and walk home to hot cocoa and roaring fire in the fireplace. We can choose to participate in the Friday night "live" events in Traverse City along with a full line up of winter concerts and festivals. The beautiful thing about Michigan in the winter is that you have loads of activities to choose from all season long.

Q: To you, what is “Pure Michigan”?

Pure Michigan based is the crushing beauty of my surroundings. The majesty of the forest. The gentle rolling farm land. The beauty, and bounty of the great lakes. The gorgeous seasonal landscapes. I could go on and on... I am blessed to live in northern Michigan, one of the most beautiful places on Earth.  

If you’re looking for relaxation this season in Michigan, why not visit one of our state’s many spas? Learn more in Spa | A Pure Michigan Winter, from the Pure Michigan winter video series.

Shann Vander Leek  is a transformational life coach, Yogini, and author of Life on Your Terms. She is the founder of True Balance International, co-founder of Anxiety Slayer, and creator of the Transformation Goddess Experience. Unconventional and delightfully curious; she coaches professional women in transition to live life on their terms and create more balance in their lives through life coaching, self-care and creative expression.  Visit Shann's website at for her free special report, Navigating Through Transition.