We are coming up on another round of New Year’s resolutions. Maybe the annual ritual of hopefulness doesn’t feel so hopeful because it reminds you of all the times you’ve promised to get in shape (save more money or some other goal) – but didn’t. Don’t fret, it is okay to feel hopeful in spite of past failures. This is a brand new year, give yourself a break. Besides, you are unlikely to do better by making yourself feel worse. Instead, forgive yourself for past failures; set small, measurable goals and begin again. You can do this.
Daring as self care
Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps. David Lloyd George quoted in Do One Thing Everyday That Scares You – A Journal.
In other words…go ahead and leap for your dreams. Go for your goals. Throw off the burden of unrealized potential, it is too heavy to carry indefinitely.
Learning how to say no
Why does it feel so hard to say no? Some common reasons are:
- It makes me feel strong, proud and important when others turn to me.
- I am afraid of starting a conflict or hurting the other person’s feelings if I say no.
- I worry that I might lose the relationship if I say no.
- I am embarrassed to say I don’t have the money if I can’t afford to lend it.
- I don’t feel like I have the right to refuse.
- I want to help.
- I always say yes, I can’t just start saying no now.
- I feel guilty when I say no.
If any of those reasons sounds like you, here are some suggestions for learning to say no.
- Practice letting yourself feel uncomfortable. Saying yes to someone else only because you feel guilty is a way of saying no to yourself, your goals and your needs.
- Establish short and long-term goals that you share with others. If no is not yet a complete sentence for you, it may be easier to refuse with a reason that points to your goals so it is clear you are being purposeful rather than mean.
- Focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t. For example, I can’t loan you money but I can help you brainstorm alternative solutions or explore other resources.
- Especially if you feel pressured, delay your response until you’ve had a chance to review the situation.
- Remember that you don’t have to rescue or save everyone all the time. Sometimes, deciding why your needs are important is the priority.
- Offer a compassionate no. Acknowledge the need and express regret that you are unable to help in the way requested.
- Remind yourself that your value lies not in what you are able to do for someone or give to someone. You are valuable just because you are you.
Ten things to do with a tax refund
It is nice to splurge when you have a little extra cash. It is important to save, too. Decide to use a portion of your refund to make your financial life a bit more secure. Here are some ideas:
- Create an emergency fund. Put at least $500 ($1,000 if you can) in an account that you never touch unless there is a dire emergency – as in rent, utilities or repairs on a car you need to get to work. Add something to the fund – even as little as $2.00 every time you get paid. You can also open a retirement account. Start saving with myRA, a retirement savings account from the United States Department of the Treasury. No costs or fees, no complicated investment options, no risk of losing money. Don’t worry, you can withdraw your money without penalty if you need to. Learn more at myra.gov.
- Pay down debts – if you have outstanding utility bills, medical bills, student loans, etc., now is the time to negotiate with creditors. Ask if they will accept a smaller, lump sum amount to pay the debt off so it doesn’t get in your way later. If you have a lot of debt that you do not realistically expect to be able to repay, consider using the money to file for bankruptcy. Talk with a credit counselor first, ClearPoint, formerly CredAbility, is a good resource – credibility.org. You may also qualify for an income based student loan repayment plan. In December of 2012, Obama signed into law a federal student debt relief plan called Pay As You Earn — PAYE for short. The program limits your monthly payment to 10 percent of your discretionary income. You may even qualify for loan forgiveness. Learn more at http://www.consumerfinance.gov/paying-for-college/repay-student-debt/
- Invest in your car – if your vehicle has been needing work, get it done now so you don’t find yourself on the side of the road later.
- Pay off any evictions – This is really important because you will be in a stronger position to rent when you are ready. Ask if you can pay a reduced amount. Get payment documentation in writing. Check your report for free at annualcreditreport.com to be sure derogatory rental history has been removed.
- Pay off fines – pay off or catch up any tickets, fines or probation fees.
- Buy a washer and dryer – trips to the Laundromat can be a drag. This may be the time to invest if your home has connections.
- Pay your car insurance in advance for the year. You might also make rent or car payments ahead, just be sure the creditor understands your intentions and credits the payments properly.
- Invest in your health – maybe you have put off visits to the doctor or dentist because you didn’t have insurance. Use a portion of your refund to have your body and teeth checked out.
- Invest in yourself – maybe you have been wanting to get your CNA, GED, or learn to be a bartender or hair stylist. Now is the time to get trained and licensed.
- Start a small business – do you crochet, make plates or jewelry? Use a little money to invest in some supplies. Use the proceeds to buy a few more. Get a PayPal account and sell your goods on Etsy, Amazon or eBay.
Self help for self care
About self help
Whether you are completing exercises in a workbook, reading the latest self-help book or article, or organizing a peer counseling/support group (may also be called a sister circle), you are engaging in self-help strategies. Self-help is a powerful emotional health tool because it requires an active, ongoing choice to face and work through challenges you are facing. Choosing self-help is like saying to a problem or challenge, I am still in charge of my life.
Take Action! Set up your own sister circle
Choose 2 or 3 other women and decide together what your circle will be like. Some ideas to discuss:
- Shared values around confidentiality and trust
- Meetings (when, how often, where, how long)
- Group goals (will your circle focus on a particular topic or problem like getting out of debt, parenting, or will it be more general)
- Expected commitment(s) from group members, etc.
You may need to revisit the values conversation periodically until you find just the right group groove. Sister circles are a great way to invest in your well-being, be accountable for your choices and goals as well as be heard.
Why not give it a try?
Support for Self Care
There is no one right way to ask for or get support. The only thing you can do wrong when it comes to support is try to do without it. No matter how strong, smart, talented or resourceful you are, you need the support of others. Even if it has been difficult in the past, don’t be afraid to rely on support. Look for support among friends, co-workers and family.
Be careful to choose people that care about you and are emotionally healthy enough to give and receive support. You can also look for support from strangers, such as in a support group.
What is a support group?
A support group is a gathering of people around a problem, period or theme for the purpose of sharing ideas, encouragement, resources and experiences.
Support groups are great because they:
- Are good places to be heard. Use this time to be honest about what is on your mind, what you need and how you are feeling.
- Offer safe space to explore your feelings. Chances are someone in the group has felt the same way and can relate.
- Are places where people know what you are going through. It is easy to feel isolated or like you are alone when you don’t have support.
- Can help you get unstuck because you are sharing information and ideas that give you motivation to move.
- Support ongoing personal development because you get encouragement to try something different.
- Are a great chance to give and get a pat on the back.
Find support groups at local community centers, at non-profit agencies, in the local paper, online, in faith communities or through employee assistance programs. Or you can start your own support group.
Protecting your emotional health
We all understand the importance of protecting our physical health by eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise and adequate rest. What we don’t think about as much is the importance of protecting our emotional health. Taking care of our emotional health is important because our attitudes, how and what we think, play a big part in shaping our experiences, our worldview and even our accomplishments.
Just like the food pyramid is designed to help us make the best dietary choices for our physical health, the personal care pyramid helps us make the best choices for our emotional health. The building blocks of the pyramid are self-care, support and self-help.
Much as the words suggest, self-care is about finding ways to gentle, loving, affirming, nurturing, supportive and encouraging of ourselves. There are many ways to practice self-care. Here are some suggestions:
- Check in with yourself throughout the day. What thoughts and feelings have been coming up most for you? Can you identify their source? Is there anything you need or are ready to do about your feelings? Pay attention to how you are feeling and what you are saying to yourself.
- Take regular, deep breaths. Sometimes this is all it takes to calm and refocus yourself. It is okay to do this several times a day. Know what works for you and when you need a time out.
- Make your emotional well-being a priority – you are important enough and no matter how busy you are, you have the time. Decide to make time for things that nurture and restore you.
Check back tomorrow for eight more self-care tips and later in the week for more about support and self-help.
Push past a weight loss plateau
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.
And if only one more hour…? Those may not be the exact words, but that is the gist of a quote I came across several months ago. I cut the words into a small strip of paper that is now pinned to a bulletin board in my office.
We all know that death is inevitable. We hope the day is far away. But what if it isn’t?
Reading those words reminded me of how precious time is. Still, I squander time and take my relationships with self and others for granted. I refuse to abandon the superfluous, choosing instead to occupy myself with things, thoughts and activities that really don’t matter.
Perhaps it sounds cliché, but for those of us with seemingly endless days ahead it is very important to live in a way that, at least occasionally, considers the question – and if only one more hour…? It does not seem reasonable or prudent to take for granted the gift of health or time. Everyone does not get to enjoy these gifts.
Some of us are, inexplicably, given more time. It seems a shame to squander it when so many others wish desperately for another, day, year, or decade. Assuming you have it how will you make the most of it?
Living intentionally invites us to consider some of life’s larger questions. So, if only one more hour…? How you answer may uncover some clues that help you improve the quality of your time, your choices and your life.
“You can go your own way”
Women are making some strides politically and in the corporate world, but what about socially? Not so much.
There remains an underlying vein of discomfort – even guilt – as we break away from long loathed limits. “Having it all” comes up often, but that isn’t the real issue. The real issue is having the freedom from cultural pressure to identify and choose what we want. Then to actually go for whatever that is without apology.
The dreams our great-grandmothers, grandmothers, and even mothers, dreamt are becoming real. We have more choices about what we can do, but not as many real choices about how we can be. There is still a great deal of tension related to identity, gender socialization and life choices.
For example, do we choose from the multiple roles available to us (employee, mother, leader, wife, partner, etc.) or does the cultural current simply carry us along until we settle into these roles. How do they fit together and how do we reconcile the sometimes conflicting responsibilities of each? How do we find (and use) our voices when our subconscious minds still believe on some level that women should be accommodating and made of the requisite sugar, spice and everything nice?
The next frontier we conquer must be social and cultural norms. Our job as women with more choices is to actually embrace and exercise them without regard for the cultural limits that keep us in conflict with ourselves. You know the limits. They show up in our willingness to speak up for everyone except ourselves; torment us whether we work in or outside the home, encourage us to stay in unhappy relationships, and fill us with doubt about our life choices.
The fear of cultural backlash can make it difficult for women to be honest about who they are and what they want. We worry about being perceived as a “ball buster” or a bad mom. We worry about how it will look if we are single, without children or divorced. We worry about fitting in and about not upsetting the status quo. We’ve had a lifetime of worrying about the right way to be a woman. That will not earn us a second life. We will still get only one.