In a recent issue of the Atlanta Journal Constitution Helena Oliviero offered an article titled, Balance in Life Starts with you. Oliviero shared tips from various life coaches and wellness gurus. Gabby Reese, fitness guru, mom of three and entrepreneur, contributed these eight nuggets of advice for achieving balance in life. I added some thoughts about Gabby’s advice. Take what works for you and make it your own.
- Schedule exercise – Appointments with yourself are just as important as appointments you make with and for others. Write workout time on your calendar and show up for yourself just like you show up for everyone else. Think investment rather than chore.
- Plan meals in advance – Deciding what you will eat in advance makes it more likely that you will choose foods that help you feel your best. Last minute or convenience choices usually dishonor healthy eating goals.
- Leave work at work – Technology makes it easy to blur the lines between work and home. For many of us it can feel like we are always working, even when we are “off” Blurred lines between work and personal time can rob us of the rest time we need to restore and be our best.
- Decide what is important and write it down – It can be very clarifying to commit to personal priorities in writing. Use your list to stay on track and minimize distractions. As you make daily choices it can be helpful to look at your list and ask yourself – is what I am about to do going to move me closer to or farther from my goals and priorities?
- Concentrate on one thing at a time – Multitasking may seem like a good idea but studies show that doing one thing at a time is more efficient. Multitasking slows you down and increases stress levels.
- Keep only one calendar – Writing everything down in one place can make it easier to see all work, life and family plans so you can spread them out and not become too overwhelmed. Wouldn’t it be great not to be overwhelmed at all? Work on that!
- Schedule at least one thing you look forward to everyday – This is something just for you. Pick something you love – it doesn’t have to cost money – and find a way to fit it in for at least a few minutes everyday. It could be coffee on your deck with relaxing music or a book, yoga, a walk with your dog or a visit with a friend. Whatever it is, give yourself permission to make it happen.
- Set up some accountability – Ask someone who is emotionally healthy enough to be supportive of your self-care plans. Check in about how you are doing. You may even consider doing some things together. Maybe if your goal is to try a triathlon or learn how to swim, you can sign up and train together. It is harder to skip your workout when you know your fitness buddy is waiting for you.
There is a saying that goes, if it is to be it is up to be. That is especially true when it comes to taking care of yourself. It really is up to you. Make it happen for yourself.
With pen and paper close by take some quiet time to let a past resentment or hurt fully bloom in your consciousness. Notice how you feel – is your body tense, has your breathing become more rapid? Now pay attention to what you are telling yourself about what happened. You might hear something like, these things always happen to me or what did I do to deserve that or why is life so unfair? Write down exactly what happened along with all of your questions and feelings. Other questions to explore include:
As you go over past hurts change the question from why to now what. Asking why keeps you in a position of powerlessness because your focus stays on the person and the pain he or she caused. Asking why is not useful because you will never be able to come up with a satisfactory answer. Asking now what is a more useful question because it puts you in the driver’s seat. Now what reminds you that you can decide where you go and what you do next.
How does it help me to hold onto painful feelings?
How would it help me to let them go?
Was there anything I really could have done differently or is the feeling that I could have based on my current (older, stronger) self? This question is particularly important if you were abused as a child.
Did the person that caused the harm have the emotional capacity or willingness to treat you in the way you deserved to be treated?
Is there anything useful or good that you can take away from the experience?
Mine your past for lessons not excuses for limits. Don’t use past pain as an excuse for future mistakes and shortcomings. ]
Forgiveness does not mean the person that caused you pain is getting away with it. The behavior is still wrong and hurtful. But refusing to let it go does not change what happened. Often, it only limits what can happen because anger closes you off leaving little room for many of the good things in life.
Decide you don’t have to stay stuck in your pain because you are left without answers or apologies. You may not ever hear the person say what he or she did was wrong or you may never even get an acknowledgment that it even happened. Freeing yourself from a painful place is possible regardless of what the other person does or does not do. Waiting for them to make the first move will only keep you stuck instead of in your own power to change the course of your life.
The September issue of Yoga Journal cites a recent study that points the way to calm, even for those with a crowded schedule. In that issue, Yelena Moroz Alpert reports the International Journal of Yoga found you don’t need a whole hour of yoga to enjoy the benefits. According to researchers, self-described high stress study participants said they felt more calm and focused at the end of two weeks of sun-salutation for 20 minutes. They also said they felt less worry and more joy.
Why not give it a try? The key is to slow down and place awareness on your body in the moment. You can benefit from yoga even if you can’t bend and stretch like a rubber band – so no excuses. You don’t have to be able to touch your toes to boost your mood with yoga, you just need an open mind.
Exercise can ease depression or anxiety by giving you a mood boost, a feeling of control and/or serving as a complement to prescriptions. Here’s how:
- Exercise provides a distraction from troubling thoughts. When your mind is racing it can feel like you are trapped in a painful thought spiral. Getting active can interrupt this spiral by shifting your focus from your mind to your body in motion.
- Exercise gives you a feeling of accomplishment. Many things that happen throughout the day feel like they are beyond our control. Deciding to head for the gym or for a walk around the block provides a positive focus with immediate positive feedback. You benefit from pride in making and keeping a promise to yourself as well as the mood boost of being active.
- A Harvard Health Publications article titled, Exercise and Depression asserts that regular exercise improves mood in people with mild to moderate depression. Researchers believe this is because exercise releases endorphins, chemicals that impart a feel good effect as they course through the body. You may be able to reduce symptoms of depression with just a 35 minute walk, 5 days a week.
- Exercise may also offer some people alternative or complementary options for managing anxiety and insomnia.
If you are looking for a fun way to boost mood, banish depression and ease anxiety, exercise is it. Countless studies have shown that exercise is like medicine. Use it as your personal prescription to not only look your best but to feel your best, too.
So the scale has stopped moving. You are beginning to imagine that you can feel the pounds creeping back on. That initial feeling of pride and excitement is fading and discouragement may even be settling in. What’s a weight loss warrior – (and sometimes weight loss worrier) to do? Extend your exercise plan to include your body and your mind. This is a crucial period in your weight loss program. The way your body uses and stores energy (i.e. food/calories) is changing, so you will have to make some changes, too. Your attitude will be what keeps you moving forward when you don’t have the reward of watching the numbers on the scale drop. You can push past this plateau by staying positive and using the following tips.
Celebrate your accomplishments
Sure you wanted the weight off yesterday, but weight loss takes time and patience. Give yourself credit for what you have been able to accomplish so far. You are making important lifestyle changes that will serve you well for years to come. The rewards are not only in the weight loss but also in the daily choices you are making to improve the quality of your health. Good job!
Revisit your commitment
What is your motivation for losing weight? How will your life be different when you have reached your goal? Staying focused on where you are going can make getting there easier – even when there are challenges.
Keep a food diary
Most of us have a tendency to underestimate food portions and caloric intake. In other words, we eat more than we think we do. Keeping a food diary can help keep you honest by making you more aware of what you eat, including mindless eating. Write down every single piece of food you put in your mouth because every bite counts. Since your metabolism is changing you may need to further reduce your caloric intake to push past the plateau. Let technology help. There are a number of easy to use apps that can help you track meals and calories at home or on the go.
Change your exercise plan
To push past the weight loss plateau you will have to outsmart your body in its quest to maintain the status quo. What does that mean? At the same time you are working to change your body, it is trying to stay where it is most familiar. Move past the plateau by shaking up your exercise plan. The old weight loss formula still holds mostly true – move more and take in fewer calories. Now, not only will you need to take in fewer calories you will need to move more and move differently. Bodies quickly adapt to exercise routines, which can reduce the level of exertion and calories burned. Burn past weight loss road blocks by varying your workout; for example, if you have been walking, walk faster or jog for several 30-60 second intervals. You may also want to add a day (4 days instead of 3) or a new activity (spin class or aerobics) to your weight loss plan.
You are on the right path. Be careful not to let this temporary stumbling block knock you off the weight loss wagon. Continue with your exercise plan and healthy eating habits. Be sure to get adequate rest and drink plenty of water. Avoid comforting yourself with high calorie foods. Remind yourself why you started this journey in the first place. You aren’t just losing weight; you are also losing old habits and old ways of thinking. Time and patience are required. Hang in there.
You don’t have to be a size two to cut your risk of diabetes or to be healthier. According to John Hopkins Medicine losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can reduce your risk of diabetes by 58% . That is only 10 to 20 pounds if you weigh 200. Go ahead and get started on your fitness plan. Exercise is a great way to practice self care because it feels good and it is good for you.
Start by setting small goals
You have probably heard the expression – a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Why not make fitness a part of your journey toward wellness? Think of health changes such as losing weight and inches or committing to a self care fitness plan as points along the journey. Establish mile markers along the way to keep yourself feeling encouraged. Here are some examples:
- I will start my exercise program on August 1 and exercise at least three times a week for 30 minutes for the next four weeks.
- I will lose five pounds in the next four weeks.
- I will lose three inches in the next four weeks.
- I will be able to run for 30 seconds without stopping by September 1
Although your overall goal may be to lose twenty pounds you are more likely to be successful if you set smaller goals along the way. Setting incremental goals keeps you encouraged because you give yourself the opportunity to see results and experience success quickly. You are also more likely to stick with your plan, which means you develop trust in yourself about doing what you say you will do. Use the feeling of being successful to motivate yourself to keep going or push even more. Before you know it your doctor will say you are safely out of the danger zone.