5 Ways to Find More Me Time

As you begin to take more time for yourself it can be hard to chose what to do without feeling guilt or even shame and selfish. So here are some ideas to help you take time for you and drop the negative feelings that may have long standing places in your psyche. Remember when you feel good you will pass those feelings onto to those you love.

1) Wake up slowly – read, drink a cup of coffee or tea, enjoy the quiet of your home before any chaos of getting ready for a school or work day. It doesn’t have to be a long period just quiet.
2) Do Yoga – or simple stretches and tune into your body and how it feels in the moment
3) Exercise – even if its just taking the dog for a walk
4) Hike – or get out in nature and follow her rhythms. I like to kayak or float this time of year and let the water be the guide to my speed. I make a conscious choice to go only as fast as the river flows.
5) Take a bath or spend some time at your private “home spa” – pick some treatments you would like at the day spa and do them at home in the privacy (and quiet) of your own home.

Taking Time For You is Not a Luxury

When you feel good you are better able to care for others, however I meet many people who feel like taking time for themselves is cheating. Honestly, that’s not the case.

You can’t help others if you are wiped out. Be it from work, school, home life, or an illness if you are overwhelmed your ability to help those you care most about can be compromised. Instead schedule time for you everyday. During this time do something that re-energize you. Maybe its a walk, reading, cooking (for fun not because you have to), a bath, time with friends, or other activity that allows you to “get lost” for a short period of time and regroup.

It doesn’t have to be a long personal session but it should be something you enjoy doing and it shouldn’t be something you feel like you have to do – no matter how much it might be good for you.

Letting Go of Perfect

Many of us begin our fitness path with an ideal. We have a vision of what we want to look like, achieve, and accomplish. Sometimes these goals which were so inspiring to begin with begin to weigh us down. Soon they become the albatross that doesn’t let us go and we no longer enjoy.

I was hiking last weekend with my family in the mountains of Colorado. We were taking a somewhat difficult climb for our three small children but figured they could make it to the high lake with plenty of breaks. At first all went as planned, but soon the “how much longer” and “I’m too tired to move” became a constant creating stress for all within hearing distance. Was it my 4-year-olds fault he was bored of this multi-hour walk (we have completed others just fie) or my 6-year-olds fault she preferred the flowers in front of her to the lake we couldn’t see yet? No!

Looking back the only problem was that we didn’t honor the beauty right in front of us because we were too focused on the goal. Along the trail there was much to be discovered and had we been less focused on the end result and more focused on the process we could’ve have seen it.

The lesson in it all was this: having a destination (goal) is good however you should also find the beauty along the road (the process of reaching your goal). As it was we never made it to the lake but were able to learn this lesson halfway in. On the return trip we spend much more time checking out flowers, waterfalls, rocks, mud-puddles, and views!

Your Life – In Balance. How to Find Life Balance

If you checked out Monday’s blog I hope you did some thinking over the last few days about where you might want to create better balance in your life. And if you feel pretty balanced right now you may want to think about strategies to keep it that way. Life has a tendency to cycle and the more tools you have in your toolshed to better able you’ll be to handle any curve balls thrown at you.

Here is an exercise I like to do in workshops to help create a visual of where life may be out of whack. I usually do it as part of a long workshop (more than 2 hours) so take some time with it and see what comes up for you.

Materials Needed:
Large piece of paper – make it work for you
Crayons, markers, or colored pencils – at least 3-5+ different colors
Some quiet time to think

Fold your paper into four quadrants – you can also use the back if your paper is small.
Across the top list your major areas in your life – give each its own color, for example:

  1. Work
  2. Home
  3. Me Time
  4. Social
  5. Spiritual
    1. etc – put as many labels in as needed to get a complete picture of your life obligations.

In the top left square – using a different color for each activity (work, home, me time, social, spiritual, etc) place your average daily schedule – from the time you wake up till the time you go to bed. Mine might look like this:
6am – wake up (me time – red)
6:30 – yoga (spiritual – green)
7 – breakfast (home – purple)
7:30 – shower (me-red)
8:00 – leave house (work – orange)
and on throughout my day – each activity has a connection to a larger area of my life and is colored coded accordingly.

In the bottom left quadrant draw a circle – using the visual of a clock (but don’t use the actual time numbers as your segments) begin to fill in the number of hours you spend in each major area of your life.
This may sound a bit confusing – but the idea is to take an honest look at how much one area dominates your life.
I like to start with one area
Count the hours I spend “doing” in that area
And color all my hours in one block – so I end up with a neatly shaded pie
Each color representing a different life area, and each area/color a different slice. It soon becomes clear which slices/areas dominate my life and which are lacking. In the above example I would have:
1 hour – me time
1/2 hour – household
1/2 hour – Exercise
1/2 hour – work

Once you have completed this exercise it is easy to repeat every so often to determine an objective look at how you use your time and what areas of life are controlling the majority of you. This objective look creates space for you to determine if the activities you spend the majority of your time on are the ones you want to be spending the majority of your time on and better able to make changes accordingly.

Creating Freedom

Ahhh, 4th of July is upon us. The time to celebrate our collective freedom, and I find it fitting to celebrate personal aspects of freedom as well. We are a lucky nation. Although, some would argue freedom is relative, I think today is a fitting day to celebrate your freedom. So as you sit by the water, cabin, backyard kiddie pool raising nothing more than your glass celebrate your freedom.

As our favorite weekend for lounging progresses use this time to let go and create your own personal freedom. First, think about the goals you have been reaching for. Are there any that have become stagnant and out dated? Get rid of them – free up your focus. Are your goals really reflecting where you want to go and who you want to be? If not, lose them with the next drop of condensation as it drips off your glass. Free up your conscience. Do you feel guilty about your progress, direction, sacrifices, or another idea surrounding your personal change? In my opinion guilt is useless, so chuck it, and begin to free up your shoulders, the place many of us hold tension and guilt.

As your shoulders loosen roll them back a few times and then forward a few, follow that with some shrugs, and finally roll them up, back, and down into their natural alignment. As you do this you’ll open up your chest and free your breath. Take a deep breath. Feel your chest expand and your body respond as the oxygen penetrates your cells and you activate your relaxation response. Free up your mind and let go of all those thoughts that keep repeating in your head. Let go of worry and anxiety; just be. Today is all about just being. Relax and let go of all shoulds and coulds and free up your schedule. Feel your skin relax and rest as you free your body and allow space for all parts of you to relax in kind. Don’t worry about places you would like to change or see differently in the mirror, toss the ideal and free your expectations. Accept who you are today for all your greatness.

Freedom, it rolls off your tongue nice and even. Bask in the ease of the word and let it become your motto for the day. Do not get caught in the mind game of how difficult it is to let go of those thought patterns and pre-conceived notions, those pesky ideals of who and how you should be. Today allow yourself the pleasure of being just as you are, today, in this moment, without shoulds, coulds; have-tos. Keep the thoughts flowing through your head and make it clear they are not welcome to linger and sour your day of wonderful, sweet freedom bliss.

Bedtime Routines

For some hitting the hay comes easy. For others it becomes a struggle night after night. Here are some ideas on how to get to bed easier.

From the time we are babies the experts preach bedtime routines. This doesn’t change as we get older – I think we just quit listening as closely.

Enjoy Mario, He’s pretty funny and has some good things to add to your routine!

Routines help us adjust to our activities of daily living so we can trigger physical responses without too much thought. Think about how you respond to a favorite song, a smell, or your drive to work automatically. Creating a bedtime routine can work wonders for those trying to get enough sleep on a consistent basis.

Here are some ideas:

  • Dim the lights around the house
  • Play restful / soft music – music effects our heart rates – think group x class – that’s why they keep the tunes pumping. Not what you want at bedtime. Pick something that soothes you and slows you down.
  • Light candles
  • Use a calming scent – lavender, chamomile, etc – in linen sprays, candles, or sachets
  • Take a warm bath
  • Read
  • TURN OFF THE TV & COMPUTERS – the screens are actually moving in ways your eyes and brains have to keep up with. So even when we may feel it is unwinding us, too close to bedtime it keeps our brains working hard making it harder to transition to sleep.
  • Drink calming or herbal teas
  • Invite your family to participate in the routine by reading together, sharing quiet stories about the day, or just being quiet
  • Practice yoga or other breathing / stretching activity

Whatever you choose to do use the same routine each day – creating a pattern of your behavior allows the body to become more in tune to it. This allows the body and brain to shift into the pattern easier. If you want to be able to shift into sleep easier try using the same music, smells, and activity routines each night to create a pattern for your bedtime.

What’s Sleep Got To Do With It?

So I’m a little behind this week! I was traveling and I needed rest when I got home. What’s so important about sleep? How does a good nights rest help your weight loss efforts?

Not only does getting enough sleep help your body restore as needed it can help you maintain a positive outlook on life. When your body gets enough rest you are more likely to make better food and exercise choices to support your health goals. It has also been shown that when the body is sleep deprived it tends to crave more high glycemic carbohydrate foods.

High glycemic foods are those that quickly impact your blood sugar levels. This is no surprise considering simple carbohydrates are our bodies quickest energy source. However, these are also the energy sources which may be short circuiting your diet. Things like white bread, sugary drinks, and candy may help you feel more energy for the short term but leave you more tired after the “crash”. Typically they contain less nutrients and cause you to consume more calories in order to meet your caloric needs.

Less sleep also contributes to the grand ole’ excuse of “I’m just too tired to exercise”. If you are too tired and choose watching TV on the couch over a brisk walk outside often enough – the pounds are going to pack on. A solid exercise program can help you get good sleep, too.

When we exercise our core body temperature rises. If it goes up it must come down. Research has shown as the body temperature comes down it is a trigger for sleep. By adding cardiovascular exercise (aerobic) in 5-6 hours before bedtime you may help your body prepare for and fall asleep easier and for a more restful sleep. Be careful in choosing your exercise times, as too much vigorous exercise too close to bed can have the opposite effect causing you to stay up later and shorten your sleep time. Because we are all different some may benefit from a morning exercise routine and others afternoon or evening.

We haven’t even talked about the hormonal effects of sleep or lack there of on the body which can impact how full we feel and how our body signals to eat. Both having direct effects on our caloric consumption, our waistlines, and our ability to exercise.

Bottom line – get your zzz’s for optimal health. Next time we’ll have some ideas to help set the stage for bedtime success.

Change Is Hard

But that doesn’t mean you can’t make it happen. You can and why not start today.

Change is hard. It is very hard. The truth is, changing is harder than staying the same, regardless of how I might beat myself up for failing to change. It is easier to continue smoking, eating poorly, or being sedentary even when I know these things are bad for me. Our food choices are based on their ability to fuel our bodies, release “feel good” hormones, and satisfy us, and we seek out activities that provide us pleasure. Pleasure is a personal choice which may not have anything to do with what is best for us.
If you are going to make a change in your life you have to be ready for discomfort – at least for a short while. In the beginning it will seem easier to go with your old routine rather than try a different activity. It will also feel better (comfortable) to stick to the old. Starting something new usually requires a little risk, a little uncertainty, and a little discomfort. The key is to be ready for this discomfort and accept it. Deal with it and use it to your advantage.