When it comes to our food choices, let’s cut the crap

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Making healthful food choices can seem like a burden. Let’s do something about that.
Part 2 in a series: What’s Weighing You Down?

It’s no secret that Americans are unhealthy. We’re overweight, overstressed and overmedicated, and our rate of disease is staggering. Our grandparents didn’t obsess over their food and avoided many of the medical concerns we deal with today. What’s up with that?

Well, a lot, actually. This has been an area of interest for me for several years, and, while it would be easier to let everyone cut through the crap and the controversies by themselves, I wanted to add my own bits of encouragement to the madness.

I promise, we have plenty to be encouraged about when it comes to our food.

I don’t claim to have all the answers. Not even close. But, as I frequently say, we’re all in this together. I know without a doubt that I’m my own worst enemy, and I need you to help me navigate, just as I believe you need me. And, sweet mercy, we all need Jesus!

food confusion
It’s time to stop being confused about our food choices.

The last time we talked about diet and nutrition, I revealed that my reader survey results surprised me a bit. The surprise wasn’t that diet and nutrition was the No. 1 topic of interest but that the responses were unanimous. (Well … until my husband’s answer screwed up the perfect score. Two factors there: Bruce doesn’t struggle with obesity – he’s underweight – and he didn’t vote until I was compiling the results and told him he had to. 🙂 Also, diet and nutrition got his No. 2 vote.)

Since I started putting pounds on my hips – and, later, other parts of my midsection – at about age 30, I’ve done a ton of reading on food, nutrition, weight loss and health. If you’ve struggled with it for any length of time, you probably have, too (especially if you’re female).

If you’ve read more than one article or book, you no doubt have run up against two or more opinions on what makes us healthy, unhealthy, fat, skinny or something in between.

AND IT’S CONFUSING!

And maddening. And frustrating.

It makes you want to cry or throw up or, at the very least, just throw down the book and eat an entire pint of Häagen-Dazs right out of the carton. I mean, seriously, who scoops ice cream from a pint container into a bowl to eat it? (If you have, please share your experience with the rest of us.)

(Interesting fact: spellcheck didn’t flag Häagen-Dazs just now, meaning: I spelled it correctly the first time. Which totally speaks to the fact that I’m a former copy editor and not at all that I’ve had a lot of experience eating the chocolate-chocolate chip variety of this brand of ice cream. I’m just sayin’.)

A few “facts” I’ve discovered in my years of research:

  • Fat is bad for you.
  • Fat is good for you.
  • Cholesterol is bad for you.
  • Cholesterol is good for you.
  • Reducing calories is the way to lose weight.
  • Calories are not all created equal.
  • Oreos are God’s way of showing His love for us (this one is indisputably true – I’ve done extensive research).

No wonder we’re cray-cray about what to do at mealtime.

I, for one, am ready to cut the crap and start digging down to the root(s) of our problem.

So … because I’m a “bottom line” kind of gal and I promised you some encouragement, here are two things to help you RELAX:

  1. Despite all the conflicting advice and the multimillion-dollar marketing campaigns that only serve to confuse rather than clarify, you can do a few things to start healing (and losing weight, if you need to). It starts with GUT HEALTH.

Fun fact: Did you know that scientists refer to the gut as our “second brain”? (We’ll find out why in the next installment. If you already know, feel free to tell us in the comments.)

  1. Of the dozens of books I’ve read, I have some recommendations, plus a documentary based on one of the books. Here are two of the books:

Passionate Nutrition: A Guide to Using Food as Medicine from a Nutritionist Who Healed Herself from the Inside Out by Jennifer Adler. Except for one section of the book that I could’ve done without, I love this book for its balanced approach to eating. Bottom line: Don’t obsess over nutrients or restrict certain food groups; instead, use “food as medicine” to heal your body and live a passionate life that allows you to enjoy food in moderation.

In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by journalist Michael Pollan. If you’d rather watch a documentary based on the book, rent or buy it here. Both are excellent, as is everything I’ve seen from Pollan.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan. I sure thought I had watched a documentary based on this book, but I must have been thinking of Food, Inc. Pollan is interviewed in the documentary, but it’s not based on his book. If you want to get FED UP, watch that video. (It has made me seriously consider becoming a vegetarian – and stop eating corn.) If you want to stick with our theme of encouraging info, skip the documentary for now! 🙂

What is the No. 1 question you would like to have answered with this series of articles?

Next up: Why is gut health so important?
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8 lessons I learned in self-defense class

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Friday night is usually kick-back-at-Nanny’s night. I get home from work, change into comfy clothes and relax for a while before Bruce and I head to my mom’s for a couple of hours of TV.

After a long week at the office, I’m ready to be brainless and lounge on Mom’s sofa while we watch cop shows. (I talk about that in Family, faith & Friday nights.)

But on a recent Friday night, I had to skip the vegging time in favor of a women’s self-defense class, organized by the women’s ministry leaders at my church. (Thanks, Maggie and Jody.)

By the time Friday evening rolled around, I was looking for an excuse to blow it off, not because I didn’t think it was important, but because I was so. stinking. tired. But I couldn’t shake the thought that someday, God forbid, I might have to employ the skills taught in the class. So … my pragmatic side won out, and I showed up.

What I didn’t expect – at all – was how much fun I would have! Who knew those punching bags could handle all my pent-up aggressions? Who knew those church ladies could put a choke-hold on our instructors in the blink of an eye?

It’s great when you can have fun while getting life-saving instruction from a knowledgeable teacher. The two-hour class was over before we knew it.

I couldn’t take notes (too busy kicking butt), but I remember a few key pieces of advice from our teacher, Matt, plus some things that weren’t in the curriculum but came to mind as I walked away from class.

Of course, I make everything I learn into a “life lesson” that bleeds into other areas. These tips will keep you safe from an attacker and help you navigate relationships, business and much of life.

8 self-defense tips for staying safe and strong

  1. Be confident. In my opinion, this is the No. 1 thing you can do. (Notice I didn’t say cockiness; that backfires. CONFIDENCE.) When coming face to face with people – alone on the street, in a crowd, during a business meeting, whatever – look them in the eye. If you don’t feel particularly confident, project it anyway. Eventually you’ll get there. People respect that, and an attacker will think twice about approaching you.
  2. Expect the unexpected. Sure, in class we knew (most times) that Matt was going to “attack” us from behind. Even when he had us close our eyes, we still felt safe, mostly. But in a real-life scenario, you never know what someone is going to do. You have to keep your wits about you, stay calm, remember your training. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. 🙂 (Yoga is good for learning the habit of mindfulness and staying calm. Click here to read the lessons I learned from yoga.)
  3. Learn how to adapt. In the class, we asked Matt a lot of “what-if” questions. What if the attacker is a lot taller/shorter, has a knife/a gun, tries this/that? What if X, Y or Z maneuver doesn’t work? Bottom line: When you’re in real-life danger, there are no rules. Use whatever tactic will get you out of the dangerous situation (including running away). In the rest of life, there are times to stand up for your rights (fight), and other times you should recognize a no-win situation (flight). Know the difference.
  4. Practice. Just as practicing the moves taught in class builds muscle memory and mental agility, practicing these principles in other areas of life helps prepare us to handle whatever punches life throws at us.
  5. Stay healthy. This includes your body and your mind. A healthy mind means you’re alert to danger, including approaching bad guys, your own ego, and that plate of glazed doughnuts your office-mate plops down in front of you. A healthy body means you’re strong and capable of taking on life’s challenges – even big-fat-hairy-scary ones.
  6. Embrace community. There’s safety in numbers. A would-be attacker is less likely to approach a group. Don’t live life as a lone wolf; it’s safer and a lot more fun with others. It’s also a great place to learn all sorts of life skills.
  7. Don’t worry so much about being nice. A few of the ladies in class were hesitant to put the instructor in a choke-hold for fear of hurting him – or making him pass out! I admit, I was afraid of that, too, at first. But Matt has taught self-defense for a long time, and he knows his limits, so I believed him when he said he would tap me on the leg when it was time to let up. Thing is, you can’t learn it unless you practice it. In other areas of life, we (especially women) worry about what others think of us. My dad taught me not to worry about that. There will always be people who misunderstand and judge (“haters gonna hate”). As long as you know you’re doing what’s right, let go of others’ opinions of you. (I’m still practicing that one.)
  8. Trust your teachers. This starts with knowing which teachers you can trust, of course. Once you’ve figured that out, it’s time to learn from their wisdom. Just as we had to believe Matt when he showed us how to do the choke-hold – because he has years of experience – we have to trust others’ wisdom when we seek advice. If you’re looking to quality teachers, trust their advice.

I learned more from self-defense class, but I’m saving some of the tips for later. (Stay tuned.)

Meanwhile, I want to thank our instructor, Matt Sellers, and Joe Valadez, the workout guy he pulled in to act as another “attacker” so that we could learn to defend ourselves. Thanks for letting us punch on you, kick you and choke you!

And a shout-out to Without Limits MMA, where our class was held. Matt and his wife, Lisa, are the owners, and they offer a variety of classes. Your first week is free, and I took advantage of the offer and spent this past week in a ladies kickboxing class, which was – oh, my goodness – AWESOME! For more info, visit the Facebook page or call Matt at (870) 307-4515.

If you’re local to my area (Batesville, Ark.), stay tuned for updates; our church ladies plan to do this again in a few months. You’ll definitely want to sign up. I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

 

 

Have you ever taken a self-defense class? If so, what’s the No. 1 thing you learned? If not, what’s holding you back from signing up?

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What’s weighing you down? Part 1

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It seems I’m not the only one who struggles with issues related to food, nutrition and physical health. I did a quick survey of my subscribers and Facebook visitors recently, and I couldn’t have been more shocked at the results.

The struggle is real. I have to keep reminders visible so that I make good choices.

Not surprised that the No. 1 topic was diet and nutrition but that the consensus was UNANIMOUS. Everyone who replied to the email or visited the Facebook page wanted to talk about this topic next at To Well With You. (The choices were emotions/depression; finances/debt reduction; and diet/nutrition.)

Well … until I cajoled my skinny husband into voting. He picked a different No. 1 topic, but he said diet/nutrition was “a close second.”

Because Bruce ranked diet a close second, it shows that even underweight people struggle with food and nutrition issues. Bruce has Crohn’s disease, but he’s been super-thin all his life. And Candy, who commented on the Facebook page, said she had always been underweight until the past few years, and now she struggles with the opposite.

Life, age, hormones, medical problems, stress … they’ll do that.

I didn’t struggle with my weight (besides the typical female lament, “I’m fat!” when I wasn’t) until around age 30. (I can remember noticing around Christmastime a few weeks after my birthday that my butt was bigger than I had realized. It happens slowly …)

I’ve put off writing this series because I wasn’t sure where to start. I know I’ll be opening a can of worms once I get going, and where do we stop?

But I’ve opened the can, poured hot sauce on it, have my fork ready, and here we go.

A couple of people you’ll be hearing from as we take this journey together:

  • Dr. Margaret Rutherford, the clinical psychologist I referred to in my email to subscribers. She has a wonderful podcast, SelfWork, that makes me feel as though my best friend, mentor and sounding board are all speaking directly to me. Dr. Margaret practices in Fayetteville, Ark., and I met her through the Arkansas Women Bloggers community. I’m excited that she immediately accepted my invitation to help us sort through the noise and the mess of our thoughts and feelings around food. I’ll be asking her about emotional eating and lots of other stuff, and I hope you’ll feel free to ask questions, too. Dr. Margaret developed an eating disorder when she was in college, so she’s been there, y’all. Here’s her latest blog post, an excellent discussion of the emotions around food. (Tip: It really isn’t about the food.)
  • Dr. Beth Milligan, a medical doctor who’s been my friend since seventh grade! Dr. Beth was my personal physician when she practiced in North Little Rock, Ark. She’s since moved her practice and I moved to another town, so we only see each other on Facebook nowadays. Dr. Beth makes me laugh, and I always enjoyed looking at the autographed pic of Tom Selleck on the wall of one of her exam rooms! Dr. Beth wasn’t as surprised as I was that the survey respondents were unanimous about nutrition as their topic of choice. She has treated a lot of people with weight issues in her years of practice. I can’t wait to glean a few nuggets of insight from her. (And there’s bound to be a laugh or two.) We’ve been saying we need to collaborate on something, so I guess this is our chance! Here’s a link to Dr. Beth’s website.
  • Other clinicians or experts yet to be determined. I’m a podcast junkie and I love to read, so I’ll provide you with some good resources to check out. I’ll also reach out to others who can talk us through some of the topics we want to discuss.
  • You. I’d love to tell your story, share your insights, discover what you’ve learned, or maybe just support you in this community if that’s what you need. As I often say, WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER. I believe God made us for community, and He has brought us together to learn from and help each other. If you’re brave enough to be interviewed for a future post, I’d love to talk to you. Contact me here.

Friend, I have SO many thoughts running through my mind as I write this. I’ve been bouncing ideas around in there constantly since getting the survey results.

Please give me your feedback. Do you have questions? Advice? Share them in the comments, post them on the Facebook page or send me a private message. We’re gonna tackle this can of worms, one bite at a time.

Pass the hot sauce.

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Life declutter: My switch to safer personal-care products

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If you’ve known me for more than 30 seconds, you know these things about me:

  • I’m on a mission to declutter pretty much everything about my life (physical, mental, emotional, financial, you name it). I started calling this journey #lifedeclutter, and I’m a bit obsessed with the idea. Not that you can tell it to look at my workspace, but I’m getting there. It’s a process …
  • I care about “clean” everything – clean environment, clean eating (I have my own definition of that, and it’s another area that’s “in process”), clean household, bath, cosmetics and skin care – everything.
  • I’m a researcher by nature. Or maybe by training (which came first …).

So, knowing those things, you wouldn’t be surprised to hear how wildly excited I was to discover the answer to my quest for cleaner skin care and cosmetics.

Without boring you with the details, I’ll just say that several years ago I went on the hunt for a brand that I could feel good about putting on my skin. I could never find one that was safe enough to justify switching from the major brand I have represented for nearly 18 years. Nothing ranked so much safer that I would want to give up that other brand in favor of it.

Until now.

Now, I’m thrilled to have found this new brand: Beautycounter.

SAFETY ADVOCATES

After researching “non-toxic cosmetics” and doing my due diligence – including a comparison of other products and brands with my longtime brand (using in the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database) – the name Beautycounter kept popping up.

The clincher was that Beautycounter is actively pursuing laws for safer personal-care products.

In fact, 450 Beautycounter Consultants across the United States and Canada met with their elected officials in March, urging them to pass more health-protective laws on the beauty industry (there hasn’t been a major law passed in the U.S. since 1938). Here’s a 1-minute video that shows a few of the consultants talking about visiting their elected officials last month.

WHY DOES IT MATTER?

Many products – more than we will ever know – contain ingredients that are known or suspected to cause cancer, hormone disruption, skin conditions and other health concerns. You might think makeup and skin-care products are only skin deep or that “a little bit doesn’t matter,” but some of them absorb into your body, and the cumulative affect can create havoc on your health.

For me, it’s been a years-long and continuing process to clean up my household and my body … still a work in progress.

But when I know something is harmful, I can’t ignore it.

‘THE NEVER LIST’

Beautycounter has a Never List, “made up of more than 1,500 questionable or harmful chemicals that we never use as ingredients in our products. This includes the 1,400-plus chemicals banned or restricted in personal care products by the European Union, plus additional chemicals where information screened by Beautycounter indicates a cause for concern.”

(I never saw that much concern by the makers and promoters of my old brand.)

This makes me happy, and I’m proud to represent (and use) a brand that’s concerned with safety and transparency, going so far as to advocate for more regulation in its own industry!

Founder and CEO Gregg Renfrew says, “My dream is for all people to have access to safer products.”

I feel good about putting Beautycounter products on my body, washing my hair with them, cleaning my face and prettying up with them. Bonus: They smell AWESOME! The smell-good comes from fruit extracts, so you might get a whiff of orange when you rub on the Citrus Mimosa Body Butter, or you’ll close your eyes and swoon at the scent of coconut oil when you use the Cleansing Balm on your face. Or maybe you’d like the heady jasmine of the Plumping Facial Oil. It’s all good.

No artificial fragrance, “chemical smell” or other scary stuff. Just pure, clean, amazing-smelling deliciousness.

Want to know more about the company? Click here for the rest of the story.

And click here if you’d like to shop with me or get more info. (Thank you in advance.)

What products or practices have you changed in the interest of your health or that of your family? Leave a comment to share. And please share the post. 🙂

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Tips for better sleep, Part 2

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In Tips for better sleep, Part 1, we talked about several ways we can make sleep happen. In the interim, I’ve been depriving myself of sleep to get some essential work stuff done. Go figure.

Let’s continuing counting sleep:

8. Make your sleep space cool, comfy and calm. Some would tell you that your bed is for only two things: sleep and (that other thing, if you’re married). They’ll tell you not to watch TV in the bedroom, not to do work while you’re in bed … and lots of other no-no’s. I love to read in bed until I get sleepy, but I don’t think that counts as activity; it actually helps me fall asleep. I’ve stopped reading on my blue-screened devices, though (see next tip). Some would argue that watching TV helps them fall asleep. If that’s you and it works, more power to ya. Just be sure the volume doesn’t wake you up later (better yet, set a timer to turn it off if your TV has that function).

Keep the thermostat in the 60s when you’re under the covers; you may have to experiment with the temp that’s best for you.

If you’re a light sleeper (as I am), you need a dark, quiet room. I wear a sleep mask, and I keep two fans blowing; one of them is really loud. The fans are strictly for white noise; I have them pointed away from my body.

For travel, I used to take a small fan with me, but I broke my favorite little fan a couple of years ago and haven’t found a replacement that’s loud enough; that was before I discovered the White Noise app for my phone. Ahhhhh.

9. Turn off (or dim) your screens at least an hour before bedtime. That “blue light” emanating from your devices disrupts your circadian rhythm and hampers sleep. Warm that blue glow to a golden one. On my computer, I use an app called f.lux, which changes the screen color depending on the time of day (toward bedtime, it also pops up a message that says, “You’re waking up in [x] hours”; an hour later, it updates me again). On my phone and tablet, I have the settings adjusted. If you don’t want to use apps, get some goggles (two of my sources in this post provide links to the same pair on Amazon – and, no, I am not an Amazon affiliate). This article goes in depth about the disruptive effects of artificial blue light.

Image courtesy of Hyperbole and a Half, http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com
Image courtesy of Hyperbole and a Half, http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com

10. Use essential oils. Try lavender, vetiver or chamomile, or consider a blend of several oils. I get mine from Rocky Mountain Oils* (after doing research on quality and other considerations). I use the Tranquility blend from RMO; I rub it on my chest and the soles of my feet at bedtime. You can also diffuse these blends in your bedroom (I haven’t tried that yet) or sprinkle a few drops on your pillow.

*FYI, I’m not an affiliate of Rocky Mountain Oils; I just believe in the quality of oils and the customer service from this company, and they’re less pricey than those of the multilevel-marketing brands.

11. Take a nap when you need it. I take a nap as a routine. As I said last time, the conventional wisdom is that a short nap (what they used to call a “power nap”) is better than a long one. I maintain that it depends on the person and the circumstances. My blogger friend Jim helpfully emailed me a link to an article on the benefits of naps. It, too, recommends shorter naps but allows that longer ones can be beneficial:

“The longest naps – lasting about 90 minutes – are recommended for those people who just don’t get enough sleep at night. Since it’s a complete sleep cycle, it can improve emotional memory and creativity.”

I fall into that “people who just don’t get enough sleep at night” category. Hence my Sunday nap, in which the goal is two hours. #ilovenaps

Also, advice from Becca at my church: When you’re getting ready for a nap, treat it like you’re getting ready for bed. Get under the covers; just lying on top of the bed will not give you the maximum level of comfort you need for restorative rest. I told Becca she was “preachin’ to the choir.” I change into my nightgown, crawl under the covers, put my sleep mask on, turn both fans on and make sure my bladder is empty (sorry if that’s TMI).

12. Have a small, healthful snack an few minutes before bedtime. You heard that right; it’s OK to eat just before you go to bed IF you follow this guideline: Make it small, and include a good fat (organic nut butter, a small handful of walnuts) and a healthy carb (small piece of fruit or veggie). Skip the protein, as this can interfere with sleep.

Image courtesy of Hyperbole and a Half, http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com

13. Avoid caffeine and other stimulants. You knew that one, though, right?

14. Consider natural supplements, and make sure they’re high quality. I take 400 mg of magnesium at bedtime. Here’s the one I took until recently, before I went back to this less-pricey one that I’m equally pleased with – it doesn’t contain fillers or other unnecessary ingredients. Another alternative is Epsom salt, which is magnesium sulfate. Please consult your doctor if you have a health condition such as diabetes or heart disease. Also, start with a lower dose until you know the outcome, if you know what I mean (magnesium is a natural muscle relaxer and can be used as a laxative).

15. Experiment with pillows; get a new mattress. I have a 20-year old neck injury, and over the years the pain and stiffness have had an increasing impact on my sleep. I can’t tell you what type of pillow is best for you, because I’m still figuring that out for myself. But consider that part of your problem may be your pillow. And if your mattress is old and saggy or lumpy – or full of dust mites, mold or other toxins – consider replacing it.

16. Deal with your allergies. Sinus pressure hinders my sleep much of the time. This is another area I haven’t quite got a handle on, so do as I say and not as I do.

17. Don’t let your pets sleep with you. This is another area where you should do as I say and not as I do. We’re way past training Pepper to sleep elsewhere. She’s old, blind and tiny, and she needs help getting onto and off the bed. She used to be able to climb the stairs to the bed, but since she fell off a few months ago, she’s afraid. And I’m not going to force her to sleep elsewhere and listen to her bark all night. (She already barks way too much during the night.) My dog is a head case. So … do as I say, not as I do.

Up next: As my #lifedeclutter continues, I have a new thing to tell you about. Heck, I’ll probably announce it on the Facebook page this weekend, so head on over there and Like the page, scroll through the posts and get to know how we roll there. While you’re visiting, share something about yourself.

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Tips for better sleep, Part 1

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Image courtesy of Hyperbole and a Half, http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com

When we last met up here, I tried to express, without making the post a statistical snoozefest, that sleep is important. (I wanted you to get to the end of the post before you zzzzzz…..)

As we all know, lack of adequate rest can cause all sorts of problems, from brain fog to accidents to dumb decisions to chronic stress and disease.

Yucko.

Today it’s time to talk about how we can make sleep happen. I asked for a few ideas in the comments here and on the Facebook page, and I think most of you must have been taking a siesta, because I didn’t get a lot of response. Or … you’re like me and have so freaking much going on in your life and on your computerized devices that you didn’t notice I was asking. 🙂  Actually, I posted the question twice and got a little feedback on the other one, but no actual tips. So the feedback comes from my personal experience and that of a couple of people I talked to.

We could learn a lot about rest from dogs. When they’re tired, they sleep. Pepper really knows how to get her zzzzz’s.

As for my own advice, with all the talking I do about my love of naps, you might think I consider that the No. 1 way to get rest.

Nope.

Naps are a stopgap. They’re secondary to getting a good night’s rest in the first place. So how do we do that?

Let’s count the ways:

1. Take it seriously. The first step to fixing the problem is to admit you have one. Admit that it’s not cool to burn the candle at both ends. Talking about how busy you are and how little sleep you “need” – and thinking it makes you more important than those who try to get the recommended seven to eight hours a night – is crazy talk. It’s popular in our culture, but it’s still crazy.

2. Maintain overall good health. This one’s tricky. You become healthy by getting adequate rest by eating healthy foods, exercising and keeping bad stress to a minimum by getting adequate rest. Yep, I said that. It’s circular.

3. Have an evening routine. I told my hairdresser, Natalie, that I was looking for sleep tips, and she shared hers:

She starts getting ready for bed at 8:30 p.m. It’s nonnegotiable (just like my Sunday nap). She takes a relaxing bath with a “lavender scented bath soak,” dims the lights to “create a complete relaxation zone,” then she “lubes up” with a soothing lotion. And she goes to bed right after, so as not to re-stimulate her brain and body with other concerns. Natalie understands the importance of good sleep, so she makes her nightly ritual a priority. Smart woman. (I may have to remind her of this nighttime routine after the baby arrives in a few months! Yep, she’s expecting her first.)

4. Do a few minutes of yoga or deep breathing. A while back, I found a gentle, 26-minute evening relaxation sequence from Yoga Journal that makes me feel soooo relaxed at bedtime. Try it! If you don’t want to do yoga, sit in your chair (sit up straight, like your mom told you to) and spend 10 minutes breathing deeply while clearing your mind of its stressors – heck, clear it of everything except the reminder to breathe in … and out … deeply. And you don’t have to wait until bedtime to lower stress with deep breathing; practice it throughout the day. Here’s how:

Sit up straight and tall. Breathe in through your nose for about 4 seconds. Then breathe out through your mouth for about 8 seconds (a 1:2 ratio). Do this half a dozen times, and try to incorporate the practice into your day as you recognize that you’re tense. You can even do it at your desk or in your car (parked, please).

Image courtesy of Hyperbole and a Half, http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com

5. Count sheep. Or 5’s. Candy, via the Facebook page, said she uses various mantras but recently has seen “counting by 5’s” to be effective. Count backward from 1,000 and see how far you get. Count your blessings (that could be a post in itself!). Count anything that will help you relax. Just don’t count your worries.

6. Practice biofeedback. My hubby isn’t really the person to ask for sleep tips … except this one. I asked him to share:

“I learned the essentials from a theater-type who taught it to acting classes to help students marshal energy for diving into their roles.

“To begin, stretch out on your back on the floor or comfortable surface, close your eyes and be still for perhaps 30 seconds. Quiet room, perhaps gentle background music. … Then consider the outer reaches – think of each toe in turn for a few seconds, imagine a wave of tension flowing out of it or, inversely, a wave of rest/comfort flowing in. Tension being released, jitters being damped down, calm settling in; if you can feel the pulse in a toe, think of slowing it. After toes, fingers. Ankles, wrists – work your way to the middle.

“The middle is your heart rate and your breathing; as the outer reaches settle, you’ll be needing less work from heart and lungs and you can send them the same soothing wave signal and should be able to slow the rates. … Let go and sleep easy.”

7. Keep the same bedtime. Try to hit the pillow at approximately the same time each night (or morning, if you work the night shift), even on your weekend. Resist the temptation to stay up late when you don’t have to work the next day.

Homework assignment: 1) If you have a great sleep tip, share it in the comments or on the Facebook page. I already have 10 more tips written and waiting for the next post, but I can always add more. 2) In the coming week, try one of the seven tips mentioned above, then return here next report back here. 3) Share this post.

Up next: More sleep tips.

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Are you getting enough sleep?

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We’ve all heard plenty of statistics about the devastating effects of sleep deprivation.

This post won’t be heavy on statistics, partly because stats can vary widely and I’m confident that what I’m presenting here supports my argument for more rest.

And also because statistics can be boring and might put you to sleep.

Oh, wait

(If you’re reading this close to bedtime, feel free to stop and go to bed. No, seriously. Your sleep is more important than finishing this post right now.)

If you think I’m referring only to extreme sleep deprivation (pulling all-nighters) as “devastating,” understand that chronic sleep deprivation (even just a little too little on a routine basis) hampers proper functioning.

Over the years, studies have presented evidence of:

  • Impaired physical performance. Athletes who sleep adequately have been shown to perform better than those who don’t, and the same holds true for all sorts of activities. Some studies have compared sleep deprivation to drunkenness above the legal limit for alcohol. Do you want to be on the same highway as a driver who’s had too much to drink … or too little sleep? Or, worse, do you want to be that driver?
  • Impaired judgment (see previous item). Maybe you’re an accountant and mistype a number, and the IRS goes after your client, who sues you. Or maybe you’re a medical student and you ruin someone’s life – and your career. Maybe you make the wrong decision in a social setting and end up pregnant by a stranger – or with a sexually transmitted disease. (Extreme examples? You be the judge – but first get a good night’s sleep!)
  • Crankiness (not that I would know anything about this 🙂 ). Relationships suffer: family, social, spiritual, workplace. A bad mood and impaired judgment can lead not only to lawsuits and diseases but an unhappy, dysfunctional household and other relationship problems.
  • Overeating and weight gain. This can be the result of hormone imbalance and cravings – and I’m not talking carrots and celery sticks. Under-sleeping can lead to a rushed schedule and food on the run, and emotional factors that lead to overindulging or unhealthful eating; It can be from impaired judgment, the need for comfort and a host of other physiological factors.
  • Immune system impairment and chronic illness. Even an excess of caffeine (coffee addiction, anyone?) can have unfavorable effects on your health. A friend’s loved one – a young man in his 20s – died because of prolonged excessive consumption of energy drinks, which included megadoses of caffeine. I know of a coffee variety called Jet Fuel; if you’re jet-lagged, choose sleep over caffeine.
  • Depression. Before I came out on the other side of my depression – in the mid-1990s – I was working a 4-to-midnight shift; I’m a morning person, and I never felt rested in those years. Besides depressed, I was cranky, angry and critical about everything around me. Do you think I was a fun person to be around? (NOTE: When I worked through the depression, I still had the crazy work schedule, so I’m not blaming it solely on sleep deprivation, but it played a role.) Fortunately for Bruce, I had worked through my depression before we started dating. He knew me in those years, though, and he worried about me.

If you are depressed, reach out to me (or someone else you can trust) and we’ll talk about ways you can get help. I’m not a clinician, but I can point you to some resources. (My pastor’s wife and a good, in-depth book and companion workbook were my lifeline; for you it may involve medication and/or another type of solution.)

IF YOU ARE SUICIDAL, seek IMMEDIATE help from your physician, your pastor or someone else you can trust, visit the confidential National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call the Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 (toll-free numbers are also available for Spanish speakers, hearing impaired, veterans and people in emotional distress related to “natural or human-caused disasters”).

http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now

SO … HERE’S WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD.

About 10 years ago, I started requiring a Sunday nap to get through the week. It was not long after I started The Worst Job I’ve Ever Had (I still have nightmares about it). I was stuck in that 60-hour-a-week job for 11 months, and I’m convinced it would have killed me if I hadn’t broken free.

I’ll tell you that story some other time (such as: in my last week there, I was diagnosed with a heart condition that eventually led to surgery). But today, I want you to think about YOUR story.

Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do you feel tired all the time, or much of the time?
  • Do you get cranky, hangry (hungry/angry) or forgetful more than occasionally?
  • Do you feel achy or breaky in your body … or your emotions?
  • Do you drag your butt out of bed – and off to work or school – every day, and the feeling lasts all day, every day?
  • Have you ever stopped to think about the amount of sleep that is optimal for your body and brain? It varies with age and other factors – small children need about 13 hours; teenagers about 9 ½ hours; and adults about 7-9 hours – so you need to figure it out if you don’t already know.

I’ve written about the importance of my nonnegotiable Sunday nap and my designation of Sunday as my Sabbath. For you it might be a different day of the week, but YOU NEED A SABBATH.

If your schedule is too busy for adequate rest, you need to figure out a way to change that. The past couple of weeks here at To Well With You, we’ve talked about margin (which includes saying NO to nonessentials) and decluttering (which includes the admonition to take a break from unproductive habits to clear some space for mental calmness). Today, it’s rest. (Next week: ways to get more and better sleep.)

Homework assignment: Ask yourself what ONE step you can take in the coming week to make a change in your sleep habits and satisfy your body and brain’s need for restorative rest. Post a comment here or on the Facebook page. Your idea just might spark a good habit for someone else.

Next week we’ll consider some ways we all can make changes, so come prepared to share your ideas and let us know how your week went. I’ll share our collection of ideas in the next post.

We’re all in this together, my friends. Now, go have a restful week. Zzzzzzzzzzz.

Resources:

 

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What is your ‘life score’?

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michael-hyatt-quote-progress-only-starts-when-you-get-clear-on-where-you-are-right-nowDo you sometimes have trouble seeing the forest for the trees?

I seem to be in that state of mind a lot more often than I’d like.

I’ve set many goals over the years (physical, spiritual, financial, business and otherwise), but sometimes I get so caught up in the overwhelm of life that I have trouble moving forward.

Sometimes I need help to gain clarity on where I stand so I can get to where I want to go.

Most of life is a journey, not a destination, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t set goals, work toward outcomes and assess our progress along the way. (That’s the journey.)

Progress, not perfection, is a phrase I’ve had to cling to when I catch myself falling back into my perfectionistic tendencies.

For nearly two years, Michael Hyatt, his team and their resources have helped me have more clarity as I work toward a more effective, confident version of myself. (I want to use my own little corner of the internet – here at To Well With You – to help you on the journey toward being the person God intends for you to be, as well.)

As Michael says, “What you don’t measure, you can’t improve.”

If you’re not already in the habit of assessing where you are, Michael’s free LifeScore Assessment will help you get started. It’s a measure of 10 interconnected areas of your life.

I just took the assessment and scored 70.

This simple tool, where I was asked to rank myself on a scale of 1-4 in 10 categories, pointed out areas where I’m doing great and areas I might need to put some more thought and time into developing (such as physical health and finances).

The results were very encouraging, because they gave me a base from which to work.

I’d love it if you’d take this quick assessment and share your results and any thoughts with me (either in the comment section of this post, or in private by emailing me).

If you’re honest with your self-assessment, you might just be pleasantly surprised at where you are, or maybe you’ll decide to reach out for more tools (accountability buddy, perhaps?) to nudge you toward making some needed changes.

We’re just four weeks (FOUR WEEKS!) from a new year, a time when many people like to start fresh and move with greater focus toward self-improvement.

Personally, I look forward to 2017 as a year to #focus and #bebrave.

What are you looking forward to in 2017 – or for the next four weeks? If you need some ideas, take the assessment and share your thoughts.

And, as always,

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The Well Well Well Project – what’s for lunch?

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PrettySaladJust thought I’d check in with you this evening before heading off to bed.

I’m gearing up for an awesome week, and I want the same for you.

I have a few items on my to-do list for Monday (I’m sure I won’t get them all done, but I’ll get more done than if I hadn’t made a list).

ToDoList07112016On the elimination diet I mentioned the other day, I have attempted to set myself up for a successful week. I started the Whole 30 on July 1 (a Friday), and I’ve been on vacation since that evening. I start back to work on Monday, after a successful 10 days on the plan.

OrangeSlicesI didn’t realize it when I scheduled my vacation, but that was the perfect set-up. After surviving Day 1, a workday (I came home for lunch and fixed myself Whole 30-compliant snacky foods), I’ve been home for meals and couldn’t be more happy with the results. (I’ll tell you a couple of the things that are improving – besides weight loss – at the end of the week.)

For now, I’m sharing with you some inspiration, in the form of my lunch for the next couple of days (when I make a salad, I throw in whatever veggies and fruits I have on hand, and a lot of it comes from the farmers market); a snack (I’ll have half a boiled egg and some raw almonds with half of the orange pictured at right); and a wish:

May your week be filled with healthful, delicious food, positive thoughts and the knowledge that God loves you beyond your ability to comprehend.

Tell me in the comments: What is your game plan for this week? If you don’t have one, pause for 5-10 minutes to think about one way you could make a positive change in your life. (Baby steps.)

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The ‘Well Well Well’ Project – life declutter

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This is embarrassing. I hope you appreciate it!
This is embarrassing. I hope you appreciate it!

It’s time to take my “decluttering” mission seriously.

In that vein, I’m going to be painfully, brutally, embarrassingly honest.

(I can’t seem to do life any other way.)

I’m going to show you pictures. (Embarrassing pictures.)

This is such a big deal to me (and to you, I hope) that I’m giving this sucker a name: The Well Well Well Project.

I’m doing this for two people-groups:

1) Me.

2) You.

Why did I list myself first, when my purpose for this blog is to help others live their best lives?

Well, you know how the flight attendant always instructs you to don your own oxygen mask first, before you help your child or other helpless loved one do the same?

Same principle applies here: I have to help myself so that I can help you (does that make you my helpless loved one?). I can’t guide you on how to declutter your life without doing it myself first. With pictures. (Ugh.)

That’s my oxygen mask: starting the ball rolling on my own mess. It’s also how I’ll be able to tell what works and what doesn’t, what I can recommend and what you can skip, plus other helpful information. (With humiliating pictures.)

My desire is to dispense with everything that’s cluttering my life so that I can live it without regret, confusion, delay, displaced priorities or any other kind of stress. And I want that for you, too.

WHAT’S GONNA HAPPEN

Here’s what I want to declutter:

  • My home (household items, personal files, finances, car and property).
  • My body (with exercise, healthful eating and weight loss).
  • My mind (family calendar, freelance scheduling, email inbox and other things that tend to stress me out on the regular). This one is the real challenge.

Most of the process involves purging the unnecessary and organizing the necessary (after deciding which is which). I have many sources to draw from (I’ve been reading declutter/organize books and articles for years), and I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

This will require a lifelong maintenance plan, but let’s get the clutter out of the way first. We can learn about maintenance along the way.

I’ve already started this process in a few areas:

This chick has a lot of running shoes, no? (But you should see her husband’s collection!)
That’s a lot of running shoes, no? (But you should see my husband’s collection!)

1) Home: A year ago, I reorganized my bedroom closet (just mine; I didn’t touch Bruce’s). I wrote a bit about it on my other blog, including a “before” photo (above), but I never finished the whole-house project. I’ve been taking baby steps along the way (started working on a kitchen purge last month), but this time it’s going to happen – by Dec. 31. Period.

(What’s gonna be different this time? My expectations about how much I can get done at one time and how much time I have to write and post pictures about it. Also, setting a deadline makes a project much more likely to be completed – so the experts say.)

2) Body: I’m on Day 7 of a 30-day elimination diet (one that excludes potential “trigger foods” in an effort to find out what might be causing certain physiological problems). I’ll tell you more about that in a future post, but I can say that it is a CHALLENGE and I’m glad I’m on vacation this week. Being home makes it sooo much easier.

3) Mind: The best nonfiction book I read last year was Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. I wish I could say I had published a review of it, but that was one of my “good intentions” that I didn’t follow through on.

One of my failures to follow through involves my blogs (I’m probably cray-cray for having two, right?). For instance, I finish a great book and intend to review it, then I don’t. Or I start a great book and decide to write a multipart series on the book’s sections, then I write one post and don’t write the others (or finish reading the book). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, anyone?

Sometimes I think I have attention-deficit disorder (maybe I do), but a lot of it has to do with blogging and freelancing on top of my full-time day job. My schedule is overloaded, and my mind can’t keep up with the clutter.

BOTTOM-LINE IT FOR ME, SISTER

Here’s how I envision this project:

  • I tackle a particular area, take pictures (if appropriate – I will NOT be posting pictures of me in my underwear for the weight-loss portion), post here and on social media (this is going to get interesting) and basically humiliate myself – all for you (and, yes, for me).
  • You decide to join the fun by tackling a challenge in your own life. (Don’t worry; we won’t expect you to post pictures of you in your underwear, either.) Your challenge can be about ANYTHING you want it to be. Maybe you need to get into the habit of flossing your teeth every night (I finally started doing that this year, and I’ll tell you later about the two things that helped). Or maybe you want to start eating better. Maybe you need to start going to bed an hour earlier each night. Or cut out the late-night Oreos (not that I would know anything about that). You just pick a thing and tell us about it.
  • Or you wait awhile. Maybe you know you need to change some things but you’re not ready yet. I hear you, my friend. Change is hard (I believe I said that once before), and no one can make you ready before you’re ready. I’m here to hold your hand, though.
  • Expect at least one post a week. I’m not going to promise more than that (see? I’m learning), but I might write more if my schedule permits.
  • Let’s figure out together whether this needs to be a bigger thing: Do we need our own Facebook page, Instagram challenge, Pinterest board? Crisis hotline? Pint of Ben & Jerry’s? (Oops – nevermind that last one!)

Tell me what you want and need. Better yet, tell me what you’re going to commit to. Then you can tell me what you need.

Life is hard enough on your own; let’s do this together.

SOME RESOURCES TO GET YOU STARTED

Here are a few books I’ve read, apps I’ve used and websites I’ve visited over the years that have helped me along the journey to sanity. In fact, I plan to read a few of the books again. Take a look at some of them if you need help deciding what to tackle.

IT’S YOUR TURN

Ready? Your first assignment, once you’ve decided what you’re ready to tackle (something small, like flossing, or something big, like eliminating processed sugar from your diet): Tell me about it in the comment section.

Let’s do this!

(On social media – Twitter, Instagram, Periscope, wherever – use the hashtag #WellWellWellProject.)

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