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Frazzled to Free Blog

Insights to help busy women stop sacrificing their health and happiness to hectic schedules, and rediscover bigger, more fulfilling lives.

Health Books - Too Many or Just Right?

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A client recently sent me this photo which started me thinking …

I have a love affair with books.

Three bookcases line the walls of my office, our family room has been turned into a library and even the spare room has a floor to ceiling bookcase.  I regard books as companions and profoundly respect authors who have devoted their time and energy to expressing their vision.

Can you see the array of health books – dieting, de-stressing, de-cluttering and more? Interesting and useful, they represent just a tiny fraction of what’s available.
Google lists 312 million entries for dieting, 6.6 million for clutter control and 245 million entries for stress.

Yet there is a disconnect …

With easy access to this mind-boggling array of facts, figures, advice, tips and programs:
•    No one should have a weight problem
•    No one should have a messy home or workspace
•    No one should be stressed

Information, whether retreads or ground breaking, is not enough to guarantee that we will eat better, have a tidy home or live with less stress.

So information alone is not the answer.

All too often books claim to have THE ANSWER to weight, clutter and stress and provide simplistic solutions that:

•    Disregard your whole person – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual
•    Ignore your goals, desires and life story
•    Only work in the short-term
•    Discourage your own creative problem-solving

Perhaps the pivotal question is this: How many books on your bookshelf are prescriptive, telling you what to do, compared to the number that inspire you to trust yourself, access your inner creative genius and make connections that lead to the outcomes you seek.

In any case, whether they are prescriptive or inspiring, the books on your shelf demonstrate your willingness to ask for help, to seek more information and to acknowledge that changing old habits can be a challenge. Congratulations!

Like you, I can learn from the books I’ve acquired, use what seems appropriate and finally, evaluate the results without feeling guilty!

My bookshelf, lead the way!

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How to get clear about your boundaries for self-care and peace of mind

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“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” … Eleanor Roosevelt

 

Do you have a moat around your castle?

Typically these castles with their high walls and turrets were built with a huge moat around them as a protection from intruders. It was very effective. Friends were allowed to gain entry over the drawbridge, while foes were barred by the moat.

Now imagine that you are the castle and your boundaries are the moat. How do you regulate access to your personal space, and how do you determine what people may or may not do or say to you?

If you are experiencing numerous situations in which people are finding a way across the moat to the heart of your castle without your invitation, it may be time to strengthen your perimeter. When we strengthen our boundaries we experience less stress, less fear and gain the respect of others. When we allow our boundaries to become weak, we may attract needy or disrespectful people into our lives.

So how do we establish clear boundaries, and what do we do when someone violates that boundary?

Setting boundaries is a process of deciding what people may or may not say or do to you.

As an example, let’s look at boundaries around other people’s anger. Most of us have a boundary that says, “When you are angry, you may not hit me”. But what about “You may not yell or scream at me”?

Then there is anger expressed in the form of a joke; these are the subtle digs, put-downs, wisecracks and more indirect forms of abusive behavior. Where do you draw the line regarding what people may not do or say to you?

If this process is new for you, I encourage you to set bigger boundaries than you might actually need. Once you have set your boundary, it’s important to let others know.

Here are some examples:
•    You may not use abusive language in my presence;
•    You may not put me down, chastise me or make me wrong;
•    You may not make jokes at my expense.

If you have typically allowed someone in your life to make subtle digs in your presence, let that person know that such behavior will not be tolerated. The next time it occurs, you will remind them that they have stepped over your boundary.

If someone repeatedly violates your boundary, what can you do?

Here is a formula that might be helpful:

Inform: “Do you realize you are yelling at me?”
Request: “I request that you stop yelling at me right now.”
Demand: “Stop! I demand that you stop right now.”
Leave: “This is unacceptable behavior. I will not continue this conversation while you are yelling at me. I am leaving to protect myself.”

When you are clear about your boundaries, and are willing to take immediate action to stop someone from violating your personhood, then you will give off an aura that says, “No one messes with me!”

What strategies have you found useful to protect your personal space from intruders?

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Making Self-Care a Priority - a lesson from gardening

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Our winter vegetable garden is growing lush and bountiful. We have been harvesting swiss chard, kale, asian greens, lettuce and an abundance of herbs. I check the vegetable garden regularly: How is it doing today? Does it need water? Are bugs eating the leaves? Are any of the plants sick? Do they need more compost or mulch?

It occurs to me that to be happy, healthy and whole, I need to do the same for personal wellbeing. I need to check in regularly and ask similar questions. Am I being mindful as I go through the day? How am I feeling? What am I thinking? Do I need more sleep? Have I taken enough time to meditate and to exercise? Am I eating well?

 If I don’t check on the vegetable garden for even a few days, the soil dries out, plants begin to wither and insects start taking over. If I don’t check in with myself and take remedial action, I can begin to slip toward unhappiness. Disconnection in body, mind, spirit and emotions does not bring peace and weeds of stress begin to grow.

Have you experienced the bounty of a vegetable garden? I would love to hear your insights on how you tend your personal garden so it grows lush and bountiful year round.

 

 

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Are Apps the Ultimate Stress Management/Life Enhancement Tools?

Does this scenario sound familiar?

You buy the newest health gadget that advertises weight loss through tracking exercise [10,000 steps a day] and eating a certain number of calories [calorie counting]. Sounds promising!

You’re no dummy! You’ve heard those claims before. Try to do two things at once and neither gets done well. So you decide to concentrate on one option – tracking your daily steps with a goal of reaching 10,000 per day.

You clip on the gadget and walk 10,000 steps on the first day – checking every so often to make sure you’re on target. Excitement builds. Second day… another perfect score! Third day … it’s a push, but you punch in those perfect 10,000 steps. Then life intrudes with schedule conflicts, responsibilities of home and work… Day 4, 5 and 6 go by, with no exercise at all. On day 7 how would you feel? Frustrated? Guilty? Ready to say you’ll pick it up again next week or next month?

If the above scenario sounds familiar you are not alone. Using technology as a tool to reach health and fitness goals, is like using yoga or meditation for stress relief. It only works when it’s used consistently.

These days there’s an app or gadget to track almost anything. Many are focused on losing weight through exercising more and eating less.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with tracking and if it works for you – keep tracking! But if tracking hasn’t solved your weight loss efforts …. read on….

Listening to those who love their handheld devices it seems that activity tracking provides useful, tangible information and an easy way to share successes or frustrations with others.

Funny thing though….Tracking is not what keeps us on track. Finding out where we’re blocked, our “Stress Points” is the key to staying on track with any activity. So it’s important to follow the clues to discover the sticking place.

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If you keep getting tripped up time and time again, here are suggestions:
1.    Becoming aware that you’re trapped in a loop – negative thoughts and automatic responses - is a very powerful first step.
2.    Resist the temptation to believe you are a failure because you stopped or could not keep up with the program.
3.    Can you see the real problem? What needs to change to prevent self-limiting feedback loops?
4.    Stay with the Stress Point, explore it completely, and mine it for new insights.
While it may be uncomfortable to identify and clear a stuck place, this is an opportunity to stay on track with your goals and dreams for what you want.

Apps surely have a place in the world of self-care. However, they are not a substitute for identifying and resolving the real problem – the Stress Point - and then finding sustainable, satisfying and enduring activities that you have identified as the best options.

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A Stress Reduction Back Up Plan

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After a day at work I love to bike along the trails near home to de-stress.  I use cycling to reflect on events of the day, gain insights and re-connect with nature.

After a particularly exhausting day, I donned helmet and gloves, jumped on the bike and started off. Click, Click, Click went the front wheel….. It sounded like a bearing needed to be replaced. I turned around and headed back home. Darn, I still needed to deal with accumulated stress. Rather than giving up on cycling, I grabbed Bob’s bike and took that for a spin (okay with him). Up the steep hill, across a deer haven meadow, over the dam and around the duck pond. I arrived back home feeling refreshed and clear-headed.

Do you rely on a specific activity to help you manage stress – such as zumba at the gym, biking, a dance class or swimming? Have you thought about what you will do if that activity is not open to you when you need it? When a class is cancelled, or when it’s too hot or cold outside? Not having Plan B in line the minute you need it might prolong your stress.

Do you have a back-up plan for your most important stress-buster activities? Will it be as effective as the activity it replaces? 

What “Plan B” strategies have been the most effective for the Holiday Season?

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Reframing: how to shift from annoyance to gratitude

When Bob returned from an organic grocery store he shared this incident.

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He found long lines at checkout. Eventually he was next in line. Just as the cashier rang up the sale of the preceding customer, a man holding an unappetizing root in his hand dashed up. He seemed very distraught, so Bob let him go ahead. After handing the root to the cashier, there was an issue with identifying the product and time dragged on.

The customer and the cashier bantered back and forth, while another staff member returned to the bin for a price check, further upsetting those in the queue. Eventually the transaction was completed. When Bob reached the checkout counter, the cashier apologized for the delay, explaining that doctors had given the man only 6 months to live. The special root he purchased was from Asia, and he hoped it might help him live longer.

Bob’s story shifted me into remembering very real blessings. My problems seemed very small in comparison. Can seeing your own situation a little differently today soften your heart toward someone who upset you?

Such is the power of gratitude.


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Mindfulness Stress Relief - Lessons from a Cat

She walks along one side of the aisle, bracketed by basil, dill, and parsley, as I walk down the other. We glance at each other with that quick, subliminal inventory we use in chance meetings. “Healthy kitty, fur glistening.” “Busy shopper, winter gardener.”

Later we pass one another going in opposite directions. She had attended to cat priorities, and I, strolling toward checkout, push my cart full of kale, chard, lettuce, tomato and trays of fragrant herbs. What the heck, meeting twice means something. I kneel down and stretch out my hand.

Tabby accepts the gesture. She slowly walks over to me and brushes against my hand. I scratch her head gently between the ears. Purring softly Tabby lies at my side while I stroke her fur.

With a final pat I stand up and return to my cart. Tabby gets up, walks to the end aisle display and rubs against it indulgently, then stretches her body way out, about yard long, it seems.

Tabby decides to sit down on the walkway to groom herself for a couple of minutes – legs, paws, tummy and even her back. Satisfied, she gives a mighty yawn, lies down, rolls onto her back, limbs outstretched. Only the occasional twitching of her tail suggests she is still aware of her surroundings.

Totally relaxed. No expectations of me or passersby, the past or the future.

Happy to be where she is right now, enjoying every minute.

Thank you, Tabby, for the reminder!

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Exercise R.I.P.?

Can you relate to a client’s journey “home”?

Jill [not her real name] had just returned from a week-long cross country visit with her parents. It had triggered conflicting emotions. While she dearly loved her mother, returning to an old environment of being controlled turned her tummy into knots as IBS flared up.

“Now Jill, you ought to ….” “Taste just one bite of this delicious cookie …” “Don’t you remember how much that used to upset your father?”

A typical casualty of these trips was her fitness program – stretching, meditation before breakfast and a walk/jog in the late afternoon. All of this seemed to go up in smoke during her visit home.

Yet the most recent visit had been different. No, she had not been able to meditate or exercise during that week, yet Jill had found the resolve to confront her mother – gently but firmly.

“No Mum, that doesn’t work for me.” “I’m sure they are delicious but I’m not eating cookies at the moment.” “I need some time alone right now.”

During our session together Jill criticized herself for not continuing her exercise program [Healthy Body Petal] and only briefly acknowledged the power of standing up to her mother by listening to her own, inner parent [personal boundaries/Peaceful Mind Petal ].

Here’s the thing: Being happy and living a healthy lifestyle are not limited to eating right and exercising. From a holistic perspective, wellness incorporates body, mind, spirit and emotions, and any time you grow in one area, you are surely growing and moving toward your goals in other areas.

Can that be enough?

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A couple of questions that may be helpful:
•    Have you recently gone back “home” to visit a parent? How would you rate your experience within the Petals of the Stress Free Blossom? Were you able to maintain a Healthy Body, Peaceful Mind, Vibrant Spirit and Balanced Emotions?
•    Were you able to let go of an apparent “failure” within one Petal while acknowledging real progress within other Petals of the Stress Free Blossom?

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#1 Question to ask before overeating or bingeing

dreamstime_171423882Driving back home after a very tough meeting that required firing an employee, I felt sad. Following an old pattern, I began to think about comforting foods.

I would stop at the supermarket to buy a croissant ham sandwich, a bag of something crisp and salty and some chocolate bars - all to eat in my car.

As I pulled into the parking lot I asked, “what if I didn’t buy any of those foods right now?” That slight pause allowed two insights to surface:

Insight no. 1: None of the foods I intended to buy were foods I would typically choose to eat.
Insight no. 2: What I most needed was to release the built up tension resulting from the lack of sleep and the intensity of the meeting I had just left.

Faced with a choice point, I pushed back the car seat and took a 20 minute nap. As a result, the stress dropped from about a 9 down to a 2 – without those extra calories.

Have you recently felt like buying, eating, or doing something you know is not in your best interest?

Perhaps you are tempted by a great outfit in a designer boutique, even though finances are tight.

Or, you may go by a French bakery and smell the aromas of freshly baked muffins. You want to buy one…. even though you know you can’t stop at eating one. 

What about when a co-worker repeatedly turns up her music in the next cube? You are at the end of your rope, and are ready to give her a piece of your mind.

When you have an urge to act compulsively, can you pause, even for a few seconds, take a breath, and ask: “What if I didn’t?”

•    What if I didn’t buy it, right now?
•    What if I didn’t eat it, right now?
•    What if I didn’t say it, right now?

A moment’s reflection might provide an opportunity to make healthier and more balanced choices.

But if you choose otherwise, please remember that there is no failure here, just the opportunity to gain more insight about yourself.
I’d love to hear how you have managed emotional responses to triggers.

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How Yoga can Overcome Stress at a Gym

Fotolia_30888006_XSI am rushing to yoga class – (yes! I really do see the irony). I’m rushing to arrive ahead of time and join the queue outside the mind/body studio waiting for the earlier class to finish.

Glowing students trickle out slowly, savoring the moment, as we stampede into the room to grab a spot on the floor. Forty-five of us are crammed into the small space… wait… two more people arrive and we make room for them…. Then more late arrivals enter. We squeeze together again. The room is small, the temperature is rising and sweat is already dripping off my body.

How territorial I become about my little space. The woman on my right is too close – As she practices a pose, her arm crosses my mat and wacks me on the thigh – she apologizes. The feet of another woman are inches from my face.

I try to settle onto the mat as the class begins but I feel distracted, uncomfortable and slightly claustrophobic.

The music begins. We move through yoga postures, breathe deeply, and follow the soothing voice of our yoga instructor. I marvel at how she can configure her body into so many flowing poses.

As the class progresses, I feel tensions lessen and melt into a peaceful, mental space. No judgments, simply an expansive state where everything is okay. I feel an enormous sense of love for the yoga students surrounding me. My heart expands.

I feel no separation – we are all one.

I would love to hear if you've had a similar experience in a yoga class.

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Have You Fallen Into a Social Media "Time Sink"?

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Many of my clients want to make positive and healthy changes in their lives. Yet they say that the single most important barrier they face is “not enough time”.

While that sense of “no time” is a perception, it can seem very real indeed. In reality, any given moment can expand to provide the time you need.

Have you noticed that time really isn’t static at all? It’s more like play dough. You can squeeze it down tight into a little ball or you can stretch it out and expand it – bigger than before.

One problem is that the perception of “no time” comes from not being present to what’s going on inside ourselves.

We know the positives and negatives of too much T.V. watching. While it can be relaxing and de-stressing, it also eats into available time for real self-care.

But isn’t there an even more insidious time waster that can eat away your precious minutes and hours? A monster that encourages you to sit more, eat more and stress more and leave self-care by the wayside.

Yep! It’s the world of Social Media, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, Apps, Email – all keeping our focus “out there”, “busy”, and “distracted”.

Have you fallen into a social media time sink hole? How can you tell?

•    Do you find yourself surfing the internet and suddenly realize that an hour has gone by?
•    Are you frequently checking for social media posts?
•    Are you constantly looking for the next email to drop into your box?
•    Do you answer your mobile device even when you’re in the midst of a conversation with someone live?

How can you reap the benefits of technology but leave its negative consequences behind? It really depends on whether you allow technology to dominate your life or whether you choose to take charge. 

Here are three questions to help you decide:

•    When are you willing to be interrupted by technology? Anytime? Any place? No matter what you are doing?
•    How exactly are you being affected by texting, posting, searching, linking, scanning?
•    Does social media take time away from your self-care?

Is technology using you and trapping you in a time sink? Or are you using technology? How would you like it to be?

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Chewing gum for dieting?

Most of the diets I've tried in my "past dieting life" restricted the number of calories I could eat, but gave me one loop hole. I could eat all the so-called "free foods" I wanted - cucumber, celery, carrots, sugar-free candy, popsicles and chewing gum. And I took full advantage!

Looking at these "free" foods from a strictly caloric perspective, this idea makes sense. Most diets are based on a reduced calorie intake. Once you've eaten your quota for the day, and you still want to put food into your mouth, what do you do? Eat calorie "free" foods, of course!

I've found that these "free" foods are not as innocuous as they might seem, especially for those of us who have an issue with overeating or emotional eating, and who want to break free of these behaviors.

Here's a suggestion: The next time you eat a "calorie free" or "reduced calorie" or "low calorie" food option, let it pique your curiosity.

Some mindful questions to ask are: "What am I feeling?", "What's going on right now?", "Am I truly hungry?", "What do I really need in place of this food?"

Fotolia_15254500_XSI gave up eating chewing gum on a regular basis and now chew it very infrequently as a breath freshener. I realized that most of the time I pulled out a stick of gum, unwrapped it and shoved it in my mouth, I suppressed a feeling I did not want to acknowledge.

I began to understand that chewing gum soothed and calmed me down and helped me center myself temporarily. I now have other ways to get back to my center -  journaling, meditating and movement practices.

The next time you reach for food - even the calorie-free variety - and you know it's not out of hunger, see if you can get to what's really going on.

Stopping for just a moment to look at something as simple as a piece of gum, before you put it into your mouth, can be a key to opening a treasure chest of insights and ideas that will help you to live your life diet free.

Diet programs and advertisers often advise eating all the calorie-free foods you want. Go ahead, they say, it's only chewing gum. But is it?

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One Log - Three different life perspectives

Riding on the hike and bike path I came across a fallen tree blocking my path. It had been weakened by numerous storms and finally given way.

I picked up my bike and carried it over the trunk. Returning, I repeated the process, stepping over the huge obstacle and found myself thinking, "I'm glad this big old tree didn't fall on someone!"

Others made comments as they neared the fallen tree: A walker said, "Now here is something to make my walk more interesting!" Another said, "Those lazy maintenance people - don't they do their jobs anymore?"

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One fallen tree, a neutral event, and three different interpretations.

Isn't that just the way life is too? How often do we project onto situations and circumstances previous experiences and beliefs? Rain is just rain. To a business woman and her family on the beach for one week of the year, rain can be an unwelcome visitor. To a farmer with a field full of parched crops, rain can be a Godsend.

There is a Zen saying, "The obstacle is the path." What obstacle is in your path and how are your interpreting it?

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Stress in the kitchen: How Insights can help with clean-up

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A big brown stain surrounded the faucet of a bathroom sink. I scrubbed and scrubbed with various cleaning products. I pulled out a toothbrush and rubbed harder... Nothing would make that unsightly ring budge!

While not the biggest priority in my life, I wanted it gone nonetheless.

A frontal approach was not working - time for creative problem-solving.I stopped working harder and let my mind wander.

I remembered that we have "hard" water that can leave a crust when it evaporates. I thought back to a school experiment when we dissolved limestone with vinegar. I decided to pour a little vinegar in the sink and let it sit there for a few hours and the stain lifted off and was completely gone.

Sometimes when I push to make things happen the way I want, I may not get the outcome I desire. Yet when I let go, allow and apply a bigger perspective, then things seem to go more smoothly.

If I hadn't allowed my creative side to be with the problem I might be still scrubbing that sink! I'd love to hear how you experienced an "out of the blue" insight to a vexing problem.

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Ready to Move Beyond the Dieting "Quick Fix"?

Does your life seem to be moving so fast that short-term solutions to vexing problems like not enough time or weight gain are tantalizing?

Many of us on the upswing of a yoyo diet lost weight, only to see lost pounds come roaring back, sometimes multiple times since our teen years. Rather than considering that the dieting process may be at fault, we might blame ourselves for not having the willpower to stick with it.

We keep trying the same solution over and over but in different guises - high protein diets; low fat diets; low-calorie meal replacements - looking for the quick pay off.

What is this "quick fix" mentality all about and why is it so enticing?

I think it promises hope that we can change quickly, it allows us an immediate strategy. It takes our minds off what's really going on.

In the words of one of my clients, "I want an easy button!"

Fotolia_24920792_XSIf you sidestep the magnetic pull of the "quick fix" and yoyo dieting and look underneath it - what might you find?

If you have a weight issue, you may find a seething cauldron of emotional issues, a lack of self-love and a fear of the unknown. What will life be like at your optimal weight? If you have low energy or feel drained by a primary relationship, struggle with family issues, or work in a job that no longer reflects personal goals - how will your life change if pounds lost stay off?

Here's what I've discovered.

If I'm unwilling to look beneath the surface, I will remain stuck, in limbo, and far from the life I have dreamed. However, if I'm willing to dig deeper, access my unique insights and take action, the benefits can be enormous.

The solutions that will work long-term are those that come out from your own insights to understand the challenges you face ... and shift them.

Whatever problem you are facing, are you willing to look beyond the "quick fix"? If your answer is yes, what will be your first step?

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New Year's Resolutions - tips for dieters who want to break free

It's January and the Internet is full of recommendations to manage holiday weight gain and the winter blahs.

Are you, as I am, being bombarded by these types of "I know what's best for you strategies on how to lead a healthier life?"

Here are some examples of what I've seen. "Set realistic goals", "Shift your thinking", "Cut back", "Keep track of your progress", "Develop a positive attitude", "Watch portion sizes". I don't necessarily disagree with any of these prescriptions in themselves, but two things bother me:

The first - someone is telling me what to do from their particular viewpoint without understanding my particular situation. And the second, it just isn't possible to plunge into such advice all at once.

Attempting to make too many changes at one time can be a recipe for failure... and this we want to avoid at all costs.

Most of the weight loss prescriptions center around food and exercise. These are important aspects for any weight loss program. The challenge lies in following the details of individual daily plans consistently - hard to do.

If you have begun 2013 trying to exercise regularly and eat right but are having a difficult time sticking with your chosen regimen, you might want to consider this option:

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Since we are multi-faceted, made up of a body, a mind, a spirt and emotions, focusing on just the body doesn't make sense.

Instead of focusing on eating a certain number of calories per day, perhaps you might want to consider working with your thoughts and beliefs [mind] and determine what might be holding you back. If you choose to focus on [spirit] you might take time out each day to gain insights by meditating or asking for guidance in your unique way. Alternatively, you might explore how stress derails you when you commit to a healthier lifestyle [emotions].

While it is counterintuitive, sometimes we are so frantic to solve a problem that we get in the way of seeing a deeper meaning.

Taking a few steps back gives us  breathing room to build a stronger foundation to tackle the stickier problems and find the once-and-for-all solutions. It doesn't mean nothing's going to change!

When you take care of your overall wellness you expand your capacity to come up with new solutions and you start to have more energy to tackle your specific challenges.

So, if you often begin a New Year by choosing a program that focuses on food and exercise, but it hasn't worked for you, consider this approach. I'd love to hear about your new insights and solutions.

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Stressed out or Burnout: Are they different? [Part II]

Fotolia_41184530_XSBurnout is the end product of a long gradual process and can occur at work or at home.

Are you at risk for burnout at work?
•    Do you feel overworked and undervalued, with little say in how your day goes?
•    Are job expectations unclear, and do they vary unpredictably?
•    Is your work monotonous? Or is it rush and rush, with one deadline after another?
•    Do you see an unending stream of crises, about which you have no control?
•    Are you using alcohol, smoking, drugs or eating as a way to cope?

Are you at risk for burnout at home?
•    Do you have enough quality sleep?
•    Do you have people you can rely on for emotional support?
•    Are you working too much, without time for relaxation, and eating right?
•    Do you have too many responsibilities, without enough help?

Reverse the downward spiral of burnout
Recognize the problem, and decide to take action to end burnout. An initial step in the healing process requires that you see the problem as real.
 
Find or rebuild your emotional support network with people you can rely on to hear you. People who support you unconditionally can be some of the most effective assistance in overcoming burnout.

Slow down, reevaluate commitments, and give yourself time for reflection and centering. Your support network can help you reframe the problem of not enough time to re-evaluating your priorities, not only the immediate ones for your job or your family, but also the long term direction you want your life to take.

Employ stress management techniques. Stress management can be a key to regain balance in your life. Please remember that the most effective approach to stress management addresses the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional aspects of wellness.

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Stressed out or Burnout: Are they different? [Part I]

                                       
Stress…We all know what this is, don’t we.  Whether it is happening today, or whether it happened last week, emotional stress seems to be part of the landscape. If intense stress has been going on for a while, we might admit to feeling “stressed out.” But when does stressed out become burnout?

Can we detect warning signs of burnout, before it’s too late?

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Stress differs from burnout.
Chronic stress – stress that goes on for months or even years - can exaggerate mood swings, leaving us short-tempered and hard to live with when our “hot buttons” are triggered. Chronic stress impacts how we deal with personal relationships, including spouse, partner, kids, parents, coworkers or even checkout clerks.

Stress keeps us awake at night with worries that don’t go away. It seems as though everything needs to be done at once. Tasks become hard to prioritize, and they all seem important. Often we respond by trying to do more, working harder, longer with the hope this effort will free up time.

Chronic stress harms health.
It increases women’s risks of diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, obesity, stroke, anxiety, depression and perhaps premature aging. It can worsen pain, and symptoms of fibromyalgia and IBS. The immune system takes a hit.

Burnout – a different beast from chronic stress.
Burnout is stress pushed to the limits. Burnout stands as the far end of the stress spectrum. It is so treacherous because women may reach the end of their endurance without consciously knowing it.

You may be experiencing burnout if:
o    Every day seems hopeless and problems seem insoluble – every day is a “bad” day
o    The sense of guilt and failure seem overwhelming
o    Motivation goes out the window
o    You feel helpless and used up. Dreams and hopes vanish
o    You feel detached and depressed. – “Who cares, what difference does it make?”

Burnout hurts
Women experiencing burnout do worse emotionally, financially and physically. Burnout is related to emotional eating, uncontrolled eating, pain and depression and women who are burned out are more at risk for illness and depression.

Are You at Risk for Burnout? [Part II] .... coming soon!

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Part 2: Tips for talking to doctors: 6 ways to help you reduce stress and feel better

Guidelines to help patients find stress relief

In Part 1, I described the problem of non-adherence: 50% of patients do not follow doctors’ advice.  I suggested stress, the daily energy drains that limit what patients can do, create a logjam.

The solution: Seek guidance to tap into own creativity, ingenuity and intuition to deal with stress before loading up on medical advice.

 

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Let’s switch over to your visit to the doctor’s office.


Ask your doctor 6 questions to help you manage stress --- before accepting a prescription

1. Will you encourage me to identify energy drains? Doctor, the stress I’m under may be related to what you think is my health issue.

2. Will you encourage me to identify strategies I’ve used to deal with this stressor?

3. Will you encourage me to explore what’s really bugging me.

4. Will you encourage me to set realistic goals? [A healthcare provider can help the patient set a realistic goal that she feels comfortable in achieving.]

5. Understand that I may, or may not, act on the goal. Will you respect my choices? [A healthcare provider can encourage the patient to see each choice as an opportunity to learn, never a “failure.”]

6. Will you follow up this meeting? Healthcare providers can offer support, helping the patient recall every victory, and helping lifestyle changes stick.


How did you feel after talking with a physician or with a staff member about your health issue? Did you have time to get your needs met? How do you think doctor-patient interactions can become a healing partnership?

Reference
 “Insight-motivated Learning: A Model to Improve Stress Management and Adherence in Chronic Health Conditions.” Robert A. Ronzio and Patricia A. Ronzio, Austin, TX. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal 2012, volume 11, pages 22-28.

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Part 1: Manage Stress before talking to your doctor - How Insights help prepare you for an office visit

Why medical (and other expert) advice often fails

We face a huge problem: Only 50% of patients follow prescribed treatments for vitally important health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease or chronic overweight. Another way of saying this: One out of every two people ignores medical advice when told what they “should” do.

Are you one of those statistics? If you have trouble following a doctor’s orders, maybe it’s not your fault!


Stress may prevent patients from following prescriptions and one-shoe-fits-all advice.
Stress short-circuits the best of intentions… whether at home or at the clinic.
If you are too stressed, too tired, or too preoccupied with daily energy drains – maybe you don’t have the bandwidth to add more information?

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So what is the best way to manage stress and plug up energy drains?
Think about it… Who knows your particular circumstances better than you? No one else. Who knows your past victories and challenges. You do. Who carries untapped ideas in her brain? It’s you.

The best solutions live within you, the patient.
You are the genius to manage stress. Your creativity, ingenuity and intuition have always been part of you. Now is the time to help nurture that part of you, neglected far too long.


What does it take to tap into insights and creative problem solving? 3 ingredients to mix (at home or in a doctor’s office):
    1 Tsp of free time: Mentally unplug from a hectic schedule to give yourself a     little breathing room. -- Creative solutions need room to ferment and grow.
    1 Cup of supportive listener: Someone who validates your thoughts and     feelings, withholds judgment or personal commentary. -- Compassion and trust     are your compass points.
    ½ Tsp of humor. Flick on the humor switch. -- Most people can think more     clearly after lightening up.


Have you found it easier to deal with problems when you are more relaxed, or with someone who is? Does a solution come easier, when you have time to sleep on the problem?


With whom do you feel safest when trying out a new idea? I would love to hear your experience with this.

Watch for Part 2: Insight learning guidelines to prepare yourself for talking with your doctor.

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