Kicking Off the New Year

Here we are kicking off a new year, getting a new start, a chance to begin a healthy new lifestyle!  To help you learn practical tips, articles and recipes for a healthier, more vibrant life - here is a wonderful resource from Duke Integrative Medicine Programs. As a graduate of their training and certification program, I can tell you they are top-notch! Please check out and sign up for their new blog at https://www.dukeintegrativemedicine.org/dukeimprogramsblog/

Watch the short video on habits! It explains in simple terms how habits are formed...both good and bad ones. It will help you understand how our brains can become automatically wired to continue a pattern without us even consciously thinking. The good news is....we can make a choice to change the unhealthy patterns we have and create new healthy patterns. We always can make a different, better choice! 

Enjoy the blog and let me know what you think of it!

2017 is the year for health!

2017 is the year for health!

Stress Less This Holiday

It's the holiday season! This is the time we celebrate with our family, our friends, our coworkers and colleagues. Many of us have meaningful traditions that hold a special place in our hearts. We are filled with wonderful expectations and plans. But with all that, we find ourselves over-worked, over-stressed, and possibly even dreading the holidays. Well...not this year!

Let's do this differently this year...let's all stress less this holiday! I invite you to approach the holidays differently this year. Ready? This year start with your well-being in mind. Radical, right? The only way you can really enjoy the holidays, the people, the traditions, and have it be fun is to start by being good to yourself.

How? Schedule self-care activities. You schedule all the other big important events and tasks...why not schedule you? If you don't, all the parties, cooking, shopping, wrapping, and running errands will take up every moment of your time. The scheduled self-care activities don't have to be long, just 10 minutes here and there can have a huge impact on your health and state of mind.

My gift to you is my free printable Holiday Self-Care Planner for you to use. Let's all celebrate the season with good health, a happy heart, and peace of mind. Wellness changes everything. Be intentional.

 

8 Surprising Ways to Get Your Mojo Back...Reenergize

Need to re-energizeLearn 8 simple tips that can help busy people reenergize during busy days. My life is great…I have the career I wanted, a supportive spouse, smart kids, two cars, but I am exhausted and not enjoying all that I have, let alone functioning at my best. Does this sound familiar?

 

Believe me, I’ve been there! My busy life is terrific, but I’ve gone through those times when I am not feeling wonderful, let alone healthy. This is a common experience among busy adults. We are up early and already feeling as if we are behind and tired. And, this is only the first 15 minutes of the day!

 

There is plenty of research out there that proves that as humans we can only really stay focused  and perform well for approximately 90 minutes. Then we need to seek restoration. Taking short focused breaks can help you get your mojo back. Turns out managing our energy is more important than managing our time!

 

If you want to feel you can perform at your best all day, achieve improved health, and feel greater happiness, then you need to manage your energy. This happens by increasing your energy capacity in four key areas: physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

 

Rub the sleep from your eyes and take a deep breath. Here are some tips for getting your mojo back. Some may even sound counterintuitive - just try them!

 

  1. Go outside for 5-10 minutes. I can hear you now, “What? I don’t have time to go outside because I have got to do …..”  Just take five minutes, go outside and breathe deeply.
  2. Every 90 minutes, get up, move to a new place (outside is great) and get a change of scenery for a few minutes.
  3. Stand up and do some simple stretches.
  4. Set a timer every 60-90 minutes. If you tend to get “lost” in your work and lose track of time,  let the timer remind you it’s time to move, stretch, and breathe.
  5. Switch gears. If you are struggling to get a task done, stop and go do something different! When you come back, you will be amazed at how refreshed you are. Now try tackling that “difficult” task!
  6. Eat a healthy snack and drink water.
  7. Change “channels” mentally and emotionally.
  8. Tap into your deepest core values. What is most important to you? Create a sense of purpose in your life.

 

Try some of these for a week or two and notice what changes for you. I believe you will find that you actually begin to enjoy your life, your family, and your work more. You will increase your energy throughout the day and actually do a better job of whatever the task is at hand. Taking the time to breathe and reenergize may be one of the most important things you can do for yourself.

 

Shirley Michl is a Certified Integrative Health Coach and owner of Intentional Wellness, LLC. Schedule a free 15 minute telephone consultation today.

9 Signs You Need Help Managing Your Stress and Energy

If it wasn't for stress I'd have no energy at allWondering why you are feeling burned out even though you are doing good things in your life?  You're working hard and you're successful. Maybe you even workout or walk (occasionally) so you're getting some exercise. But...you are still left feeling frazzled, fatigued, and always have that nagging feeling of never being caught up! This could be a sign you need help managing your stress and energy. If this sounds familiar, this post is for you. I was there! I had a great leadership position in my company, made good money, was in demand, focused on getting my certification as an integrative health coach, had great family and friends, and took decent care of myself physically, or at least I thought. And, I was completely stressed, drained, and began to experience health issues. Nothing felt as great or exciting as I knew it could. Why? Because I was doing a lousy job of managing my stress, and more importantly, my energy!

I'm not alone in this. My clients experience this. Many colleagues experience this. Simply talk to people and you will hear how busy, stressed and overwhelmed they are. According to research:

  • It's estimated that 90% of health practitioner visits (conventional & complementary) are due to stress.
  • 75% of total health care costs are spent on preventable issues...lifestyle choices.
  • 40% of Americans are sleep deprived.
  • and the stats go on and on...

Do you recognize any of these 9 signs in yourself:

  1. Sign #1 you need help:  You wake up every morning feeling more tired than you did when you went to bed. You've tossed and turned much of the night. You couldn't stop your brain from going over your work deadlines or life issues. Even if you went to bed on time, it simply meant you were laying there in bed, not relaxing or sleeping.
  2. Sign #2 you need help:  You dread starting your day. It just feels like there is no joy or fun in your day. You begin to think about all the work waiting for you, what you still need to do, what problems are headed your way. Depending on your personal life, you may have kids to get up, feed, get to school, a long commute, a bad hair day...endless tasks and responsibilities simply to get to work and start your day!
  3. Sign #3 you need help:  You find little to smile about. With so much to do, so many meetings, deadlines, demanding boss, demanding customers...how can you smile. Oh yeah, and it's a bad hair day!
  4. Sign #4 you need help:  There is no time for lunch. You grab something on the go, probably fast food. Or you brought something and eat it at your desk while still cramming in your work. If you do go to lunch, you can't relax because of all that needs to be done in the afternoon, plus what did not get done in the morning.
  5. Sign #5 you need help:  You reach for your antacids...a lot! Your stomach churns and the familiar heartburn rages. You think this is just normal, after all, everyone else around you is complaining of the same thing! News flash...this is not normal or healthy!
  6. Sign #6 you need help:  You reach for your over the counter go-to for your headache...that has been with you all day. You typically find yourself taking a pain reliever for headaches multiple times a day at least 3 days a week. Big sign that stress is getting the best of you.
  7. Sign #7 you need help:  You work long hours everyday. You promised yourself you would leave at a reasonable time. You even promised your significant other, or your child. But, there is that IT issue, a new demand from your boss, that report that needs to be done. Or maybe you are on the project from hell. It sounded so exciting and promising at first...now it's a life force sucking project that has more problems than solutions.
  8. Sign #8 you need help:  You are tired, cranky and just want to eat and watch mindless television when you get home. You finally get home - and there it is, your second job!!! There is no rest, just more tasks to do! Your family wants your attention or you need to run the kids to their activities, get groceries, pick up the kids, write your performance review, mow the lawn, grab fast food for dinner....
  9. Sign #9 you need help:  You "have no time" to take care of yourself! You would love to get a massage, walk with your family and friends, workout, participate in sports, but there's no time for that. You can't even remember when you really had a physical check-up or got your teeth cleaned.

Do any or all of these sound like you? 

Most of us can relate to at least some of these at some point in our life. We've grown used to this. We tell ourselves it's the price we pay. It's simply the way it is. How many of us have bought into these beliefs along the way to adulthood? It is so easy to get so caught up in the demands of living, of achieving, of getting more...whatever the more is. We lose sight of what is really important. We focus almost entirely on what we need to do in the short term to get results, impairing our long term ability to be healthy human beings.

The Good News!

Yes, you can do something about this! You can get off that treadmill, at least enough to regain your energy and decrease your stress. Let's face it, there will always be stress in our lives. And stress is not all bad!  We all need some stress to motivate us to perform. Unfortunately, many are living in a chronic state of fight, flight or freeze because of stress that is not managed.

An important key to managing stress is learning how to manage your energy. Instead of focusing on how to manage your time, seek to manage your energy!

Watch for my next blog for tips on how to manage your energy.

 

The Cha-Cha of Life!

Cha-cha of lifeOk, I am a health/life coach so I am supposed to have my life figured out, be completely transformed into my great self and well on my way to achieving my BIG dream. Right? Well, theoretically that’s the plan, but the journey continues to challenge, surprise me, and cause me pain, confusion, and oh yes, joy!!! Cha-cha-cha. This is one of those times in my life when I feel as though I am doing the cha-cha. I move forward, things are flowing, then BAM! I get shaky, doubt myself, and move backwards. The syndrome commonly known as the cha-cha of life!  Things are shifting and changing…which is good and yet unsettling right now. Anyone else experiencing this? I am feeling on the verge of some great things about to happen for me both professionally and personally. So, why is it also causing me discomfort??

The discomfort is being fueled by my old belief pattern of I am not good enough and should be doing better. My business should be growing by leaps and bounds. Yet I should have the time I want to grow myself in other ways. I should do all this really, really well…probably perfectly. I should not be feeling anxious. After all I am an experienced coach right? I have been successful in my life professionally and personally right? And….I realize I am “should-ing” myself into a state of stress!!

Yep, some old patterns are rearing their ugly little heads and not helping one bit!!!  So, what do I know? Nothing is perfect in life. I know this, so it’s about time I accept this for myself…really accept it. If I stop the negative runaway train in my head and think about all that I have done and accomplished I actually get a better view and perspective of myself.

If this sounds familiar - try this. Write down all the things you have accomplished, achieved, done…everything positive. Now just sit and take it in. Amazing isn’t it! Was it perfect? Never! And, you still did some amazingly beautiful things in your life. And, so have I. Let’s practice this reframing and just enjoy the dance of life!

Fall...Time to Let Things "Fall" Away to Make Room for Possibilities

Falling leavesHere we are...it's fall! Many of us are out enjoying the cooler air, seeing the leaves turn, and watching nature begin to slow down to come back refreshed in the spring. Now may also be a great time to let some things fall away in your life so you can "awaken" refreshed. Autumn is the time for letting go. Gardens and trees let go of their fruits, vegetables and leaves. Nature's life cycles provide great metaphors for our own life cycles. What do you need to let fall away from in your life? Is there a hurt, person, memory, feeling, or situation you need to let go of? Or perhaps you are thinking of all the things you "could've, should've, would've" done. Maybe you have seen others achieve what you hope for or are living the life you want. It's time to make room for your possibilities.

The autumn equinox is the perfect time to strive for balance. That may mean you need to let go of something in order to make room for more balance in your life. Now is the time to STOP!!! Stop living in autopilot just going through all the motions. Now is the time to let all the excuses, self-blame, hiding instead of really living fall away. OK, it does take courage to face yourself, take stock of yourself, truly yourself, what you are about, doing, or not doing. Only you can let the negative, self-limiting beliefs go and get the courage to take the steps toward your personal vision and fulfillment. I've done this, I know how hard it can be. I also now know how liberating and refreshing it is to strip away all the excuses, truly examine myself, what is true, what is not, who I am, what I love, and begin the "falling" away of all that does not serve me so I can be on my intended journey.

It's so easy to become lulled by excuses for not living up to our own possibilities. Yet, we all have a choice...always! You can choose to continue to make excuses or to make a change. So with the weather changing, it's a good time to begin making your own personal changes and open yourself up to who you are meant to be. If you are ready to open your personal door to honor yourself and put the energy and attention into making room for your possibilities...keep reading and answer these questions:

  1.  What is my vision for myself?
  2. What are my dreams?
  3. In what ways do I hold myself back from living my dreams or moving toward my vision?
  4. What are my excuses?
  5. What am I afraid of?
  6. Where did those fears stem from? Are they the truth?
  7. What will I gain if I choose to work towards my vision?
  8. What will I lose if I choose to work towards my vision?

Answer these questions from your true inner self. There is no right or wrong answer...only what is for you. If you find fear is holding you back or there is someone or something that you need to let fall away in your life, it's time to challenge yourself. Reach to find your inner courage, your truth. Allow yourself to release what needs to be let go of. Release comes many ways, perhaps permanently, or maybe just for awhile. Once you release what is holding you back from truly living, you begin to make room for possibilities! Isn't it time to say "Yes" to life?

If you are ready to begin letting go of what holds you back, I am happy to speak with you. Schedule a meeting with me from my website and let's talk! Coaching is my passion and I am confident that in working together, we can open up your possibilities! You are worth the investment in yourself!

Possibilities now is the time

Top Reasons Why You Should Hire a Health-Life Coach

1 Conversation could change your lfieCoaches have been around for a long time and have become very popular in the last few decades...for a good reason! Now health-life coaches are increasingly being sought out and hired by many people. But just what is a health-life coach?  This is an coach who has been trained and certified in supporting people in reaching their optimal health and fulfilling life. Health is not merely the absence of disease or symptoms. It is a state of optimal wellbeing, vitality and wholeness. Given this, every aspect in our life can either contribute to our total wellness or can detract from it. These life aspects include nutrition, exercise, rest, job/career, personal development, spirituality, relationships, physical environment and mind-body connection. Using a health-life coach is often the fastest, most effective way to reach your optimal wellness and success. A coach is a powerful influence in your life in helping you understand yourself, what barriers are in your way, and motivate you to work on your priorities. Being within ourselves, it's hard to have a neutral opinion on what we need to work on, or how to get where we want to be - a health-life coach can provide an objective perspective and provide help.

There are many reasons why you should hire a health-life coach to make positive changes in your life. Here are the top reasons why:

  1.  Help You Understand Your Strengths...and Weaknesses. Many of us do not recognize our strengths and can over-emphasize our weaknesses. This leads to an imbalance in our understanding of ourselves, our feelings and beliefs about ourselves, which directly impacts our behavior and life! Some of us are confident in our strengths, but unsure how to begin addressing other areas of our life. A health-life coach can help you uncover both your real strengths, how to leverage those, and how to deal with weaknesses to be more successful. Your coach can help you create an action plan that helps you move forward.
  2. Help You Discover What You Truly Want in Your Life....Your Vision and Your Core Values. This provides both motivation and inspiration to begin taking the steps leading to your vision. Once this is clear to you, your coach will help you identify your focus areas and priorities to begin developing a realistic action plan with steps. Without this clarity you risk just going through life only focused on getting through each day without making each day truly count to reaching your passion.
  3. Help You Break Through Your Barriers to Optimal Health and Life. There will be barriers and obstacles to overcome in achieving the life you deserve. Most of us consider only the external barriers....how will I fit this in to my already overloaded schedule? Those will certainly be there and your coach will help you focus back on your vision/values and think through how to overcome or work-around those types of barriers. However, usually the most significant barriers are internal. Once you begin working with a health-life coach, she/he will help you to connect to your internal limits and habits that hold you back. This type of self-exploration is critical in truly understanding, accepting, forgiving, and changing to achieve your best self. We all have developed habits and self-limiting beliefs from early in life. By looking deeply inside honestly and openly, you can then begin to change your thoughts, feelings and self-talk to overcome internal barriers. Yes, it is possible!
  4. Hold You Accountable. A health-life coach will make sure you are completing all your priorities and will coach you through procrastination, lack of motivation, and other limits you place on yourself. It's easy to get discouraged and lapse into old behaviors when you are moving down a path alone, but a coach will truly partner with you by holding you accountable and responsible for the things you have committed to do and help you get to your desired outcome.
  5. Get You Results, Faster. A health-life coach can help you clear through the distractions of life, lack of motivation, well-worn excuses, and self-limiting beliefs to get you results! The added benefit here is that your coach can do it in a way that helps you to get through to the end result faster...to your optimal life. You could spend days procrastinating for all types of reasons, but if you are preparing to meet with your coach...you will likely begin taking the steps you committed to on moving forward. There is something very powerful about someone holding you accountable, especially in a truly supportive way.
  6. Help You Be You! This means once you begin working with a health-life coach, she/he will get to know you very well. The coach may be the first person you confide in and share some personal information with. A coach works to establish an open and trusting relationship where the conversations are held in strict confidence. During this process, your coach can open your eyes to the real person you are and the person you can continue to grow to be. There is nothing more wonderful than discovering  who you truly are, what your passion is, and what lights you up about life. When you invest in a health-life coach, your are truly investing in yourself...and that alone is worth it. It is all about YOU!

There are so many benefits when it comes to hiring a health-life coach and I encourage you to give it a try. If you're interested in hiring me as your coach, I'm happy to speak with you about it. Just schedule a meeting with me from my website. Coaching is a passion of mine and I am confident that in working together, we can together build the life you truly want and deserve. You are worth the investment in yourself!

Coaching

FREE Webinar: "3 Strategies to Manage Overwhelm"

Are you feeling overwhelmed by all the demands in your life? Is stress running your life? Are you just surviving day-to-day instead of thriving? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you will want to join me on a FREE webinar - "3 Strategies to Manage Overwhelm!"

This will be a live webinar on May 7th, 2014 at 12 noon EDT.

You can expect to receive 3 practical strategies that you can apply immediately! Why continue to feel overwhelmed and stressed, when you can feel in control and know that YOU can do something to get your life in better balance.

Sound good? Let's get started! Here is the link to register for this webinar http://www.intentionalwellnesscoach.com/3-strategies-manage-overwhelm/

If join me live on this webinar you will receive a special offer to join my "Re-Ignite Your Spark!" online group coaching program at a $100 savings!

Momentum...a Force for Success

3-2 The quintessential initiative that keeps anything moving forward in life is the idea of increased momentum. Momentum refers to movement that builds and builds and builds, it builds into success and it builds until there is nothing left but positive aspects in its wake. To be honest, momentum is truly able to turn anything into something that is completely extraordinary. Momentum, as a whole, is integral for individuals to welcome and take note of, because it does actually define where we are all going in our lives and where we will eventually end up. We need momentum to thrive and we need momentum to grow and move forward. In regards to personal freedom, independence, and success, momentum needs to be firmly set in place or else problems or stalling effects can start to rear their ugly heads. In reality, for momentum to truly survive, we must have the clear-cut mindset that we will keep on going no matter what may happen or what might arise in the future. The mindset of an individual is integral to how much or less momentum an individual possesses in their own life. For anything to start and continue moving, momentum must be evident through and through, and that is why we must remember to say yes to the ideas pertaining to movement and change, instead of an all-resounding no.

One big issue that can arise with momentum set in place is the fact that a victim mentality could easily come into play. This is the perspective of "they" are doing this to me, or I can't do anything about this so I might as well give up. Sometimes with momentum and movement, disappointment does have a tendency to arise as does confusion and fear which can trigger our limiting beliefs. If we want to succeed in any area of our life, we must merely look at these "seemingly" negative aspects of momentum as a greater part of the positive points that it does bring. What may initially look like failure or a huge setback, may actually be gifts (although sometimes well disguised). Momentum breeds success and there is no other way around it!

Manage Your Stress Before It Manages You

stress painAre you tired of feeling stressed and overwhelmed? If so, please join me on my free webinar to learn simple, practical techniques to deal with the stressors in your life. It is happening on Feb 26th at 1:00pm EST. Click on this link on that day to join us http://gowoa.me/i/PyqOnly a limited number of people can attend, so don't delay, sign up today!

I am one of 31 personal development experts for Join a New Year's Revolution. You can register and join this group for FREE and have instant access to our free eBook and daily webinars during February. Check out my chapter 12 - "Dear Stress, Let's Break Up!". http://joinanewyearsrevolution.com/

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Join A New Year's Revolution

How is 2014 going for you? I hope it's "Rocking" for you. Want some inspiration? You can get access to a "FREE" e-book (200 pages) that can help you grow professionally, personally, and spiritually. The organizer Mark Bowness is being interviewed on over 50 radio shows. He has a story to tell--From Suicide to Success. You will want to hear his story and read this e-Book that represents 31 experts. There are five of us from the Asheville area-Dawn Westmoreland, Martha Hansen, Mandy Wildman, Wayne Porter, and myself, who have contributed to this e-book available at www.JoinANewYearsRevolution.com. Here is the last radio interview. I was so excited that the radio host enjoyed my Chapter, which is Chapter 12 ("Dear Bad Stress, Let's Breakup!"). The interview is about an hour long and you can hear the comments on my chapter if you fast forward to about 46 mins. 2014 is the year to unleash your dream. Go for it!

Here is the e-Book: www.JoinANewYearsRevolution.com

Here is the radio interview with Mark Bowness :

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/biteradiome/2014/01/12/a-new-years-revolution

Relaxation Tips for Stress

iStock_000009910758 The busy holiday season is coming! Do you find yourself already feeling the pressure of planning for the holidays, working to wrap-up your 2013 work year, planning for 2014, and all the other events of your life? What would it be worth to learn relaxation techniques that are good for you and will help you deal with stress? Sound good? Let's get started.

How do you relax at the end of a stressful day? What do you do that helps you wind down, unwind and become calm? Many of us relax by zoning out in front of the TV. Sound familiar? Actually this does very little to reduce the effects of stress on our bodies and mind. To effectively reduce stress, we need to activate our body's natural relaxation response. Yes, we do have natural responses! In a nutshell, you can do this by practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga. These activities can greatly reduce everyday stress and boost your energy and mood.

Stress is necessary for life! We all need some stress for our productivity, creativity, learning, and our survival. Stress is only harmful when it becomes overwhelming and interrupts our healthy equilibrium our nervous system needs for balance. Unfortunately, overwhelming stress has become increasingly part of our everyday lives, especially during the upcoming busy holiday season. When stress has thrown your nervous system out of balance, relaxation techniques can bring it back into a balanced state by producing the relaxation response. This is the state of deep calmness.

When you experience too much stress it overwhelms your nervous system and your body produces chemicals that prepare you for "flight or fight".  Now this is good if you are in an emergency situation where you need to act immediately. But it wears your body down when constantly activated by the stressors of everyday life. This is where the relaxation response slows down that heightened state of readiness and brings your body and mind back into a state of equilibrium.

Contrary to what you may think...the relaxation response is not lying on the couch, sleeping, or self-medicating yourself. It is a mentally active process that leaves your body and mind relaxed, calm, and focused. Learning how to do relaxation techniques is easy, but it does take practice. Many stress experts recommend setting aside 10-20 minutes a day for your relaxation practice. If you want even more stress relief, set aside 30-60 minutes. That may sound like a daunting commitment...don't stress out! Many of these techniques can be incorporated into your daily schedule, practiced at your desk, over lunch, or as part of your daily morning routine. Even doing these techniques for 5 minutes can help you achieve a relaxed state.

There is no single relaxation technique that is best for everyone. When choosing a technique consider your own needs, preferences, fitness level, and commitment to doing the practice. Here are different techniques to choose from or combine to fit your needs and preferences.

Technique 1:  Breathing Meditation 

Deep breathing is the simplest technique to learn and can be done anywhere, anytime. It is a very powerful relaxing technique, and provides a quick way to get your stress levels down. Deep breathing is an important part of many other practices as well, and can be combined with other relaxing elements.

The key to deep breathing is to breathe deeply from the abdomen, getting in as much air as possible in your lungs. You should feel your abdomen rising when you are breathing deeply. The more oxygen you get, the less tense, less anxious, and more relaxed you feel.

  • Sit comfortably with your back straight. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
  • Breathe in through your nose. The hand on your stomach will rise. The hand on your chest should not move much.
  • Exhale through your mouth, pushing out as much air as you can while contracting your abdominal muscles. The hand on your stomach will move in as you exhale.
  • Continue to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to inhale enough to make your stomach rise and fall. Count slowly as you inhale and exhale.

Technique 2:  Progressive Muscle Relaxation 

This technique is a two-step process where you will tense and relax different muscle groups in the body. With regular practice, progressive muscle relaxation helps you learn what tension, as well as complete relaxation, feels like in different parts of your body. This awareness is very useful in sensing the first signs of tension and stress. As your body relaxes, so does your mind! Try combining deep breathing with progressive muscle relaxation for even more stress relief.

Progressive muscle relaxation starts at the feet and works up to the face. For the sequence of muscle groups, see below:

Progressive Muscle Relaxation Sequence

1. Right foot*                                6. Left thigh                            11. Right arm and hand

2. Left foot                                    7. Hips and buttocks             12. Left arm and hand

3. Right calf                                  8. Stomach                              13. Neck and shoulders

4. Left calf                                    9. Chest                                    14. Face

5. Right thigh                             10. Back

*If you are left-handed you may want to start with your left foot.

  • Loosen your clothing, take off your shoes, and get comfortable.
  • Take a few minutes to relax, breathing in and out in slow, deep breaths.
  • When you are relaxed, shift your attention to your right foot. Take a moment to focus on the way it feels.
  • Slowly tense the muscles in your right foot, squeezing as tightly as you can. Hold for a count of 10.
  • Relax your right foot. focus on the tension flowing away and the way your foot feels as it becomes loose.
  • Stay in this relaxed state for a moment, breathing deeply and slowly.
  • When you are ready, shift your attention to your left foot. Follow the same pattern of muscle tension and release.
  • Move slowly up your body, contracting and relaxing the muscle groups as you go.

Technique 3:  Body Scan Meditation 

This is very similar to progressive muscle relaxation,  only instead of tensing and relaxing muscles, simply focus on the sensations in each part of your body.

  • Lie on your back, legs uncrossed, arms relaxed at your sides, with your eyes closed. Focus on your breathing, allowing your stomach to rise with each inhale and fall as you exhale. Breathe deeply for two minutes to begin feeling comfortable and relaxed.
  • Focus on the toes of your right foot. Notice any sensations you feel while continuing to focus on your breathing. Image each deep breath flowing to your toes. Remain focused on this area for one to two minutes.
  • Move your focus to the sole of your right foot. Notice any sensations you feel in that part of your body and imagine each breath flowing from the sole of your foot. Continue to focus on your right foot for one to two minutes. Now move your focus to your right ankle and repeat. Move to your calf, knee, thigh, hip, and repeat this sequence on your left leg. Follow that by moving up the torso, through the lower back and abdomen, the upper back and chest, and the shoulders. Pay particular attention to any area of the body that you feel pain or discomfort. You may want to focus on those areas a bit longer.
  • Focus now on the fingers of your right hand and then move up to the wrist, forearm, elbow, upper arm, and shoulder. Repeat for your left arm. Now move through the neck and throat, and all areas of your face, the back of the head, and the top of the head. Pay close attention to your jaw, chin, lips, tongue, nose, cheeks, eyes, forehead, temples and scalp. When you reach the very top of your head, imagine your breath reaching out beyond your body and imagine yourself hovering above you.
  • Spend some time in silence and stillness, noting how your body feels. Open your eyes slowly and stretch.

Technique 4:  Mindfulness 

Mindfulness is about "being" in the moment, fully aware of how you feel and your experience both internally and externally. Most of us are so busy "doing" that we are seldom in the present moment. This means we are missing a huge part of life! We are often thinking about the past, especially blaming and judging ourselves, or we are worrying about the future. This type of thinking can lead to stress. However by staying calm and aware of the present moment, we can bring our nervous system back into balance. You can incorporate mindfulness while you walk, eat, exercise or meditate. Mindfulness has long been used to reduce stress, pain and illness.

Key Points of Practicing Mindfulness

  • Quiet environment. Choose a quiet place in your home, office, garden, or outdoors where you can relax without distractions or interruptions.
  • Comfortable position. Get comfortable sitting in a chair or on the floor. Avoid lying down so you don't fall asleep. Sit with your spine straight, feet on the floor. Or sit cross-legged or in lotus position.
  • Focus point. This point can be internal, a feeling or an imaginary scene. Or it can be something external, such as a flame or a meaningful word or phrase you repeat throughout your meditation. You can either close your eyes or softly gaze downwards. To help your concentration, you may find it helpful to focus on an object.
  • Observant, noncritical attitude. This is so important to remember as you practice mindfulness. Don't worry about distracting thoughts that may show up in your mind or worry if you are doing it "right". If and when those thoughts pop up, don't judge them or yourself, accept it, and turn your attention back to your point of focus.

Technique 5:  Visualization

Visualization, or guided imagery, is a variation on traditional meditation that allows you to use all your senses - vision, sound, touch, taste, and smell. This typically involves imaging a place/scene where you feel at peace, free to let go of all tension and anxiety.

Choose whatever setting is most calming to you. It may be a quiet forest, a mountain, a beach, or a favorite childhood spot. Visualization can be done in silence, while listening to soothing music, or with a recording of a guided imagery session. You could even download sounds to match your chosen place.

Practicing Visualization

Find a quiet, peaceful place and sit in a comfortable position. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, feeling yourself becoming more relaxed with each breath. Now picture your calming place. "See" this place as vividly as possible in your mind. Picture everything you can see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. Visualization works best if you incorporate as many sensory details as possible. Try to use at least three of your senses as you practice. Choose images that appeal to you or are special to you.

Example: Walking along a forest path

  • Walk slowly along the path and notice the colors and textures around you.
  • Spend time exploring each of your senses.
  • See the trees, their leaves, bushes, flowers and any animals that may be around.
  • Hear the birds singing, the breeze in the trees.
  • Smell the pine trees and flowers.
  • Feel the breeze in your hair and on your skin.
  • Taste the fresh, clean air.

Enjoy the tranquil feeling that comes over you as you slowly explore your chosen place. When you are ready, gently open your eyes and come back to the present. Don't worry if you zone out or lose track of where you are during a visualization session. You may even experience some stiffness or heaviness in your limbs, involuntary muscle movements, or yawn. These are all normal responses.

Other Techniques:  Yoga and Tai Chi

Perhaps you will find that you would get more benefits from practicing stress relief in a class with a group of people. Then either yoga or tai chi may be your best choice!

Yoga involves moving and stationary poses combined with deep breathing and meditation. It not only reduces stress and anxiety, it can also improve flexibility, strength, balance and stamina.

Tai chi is a self-paced series of slow, flowing body movements. These movements emphasize concentration, relaxation, and the conscious circulation of vital energy throughout the body. It is a way of calming your mind, reducing stress, and conditioning your body.

Tips for Making Relation Techniques a Part of Daily Life

The best way to start and maintain a relaxation practice is to make it a part of your daily routine. Before you tell yourself that you can't squeeze in one more thing into your busy life...please read these tips, give them a try, and know that many can be practiced while you are doing other things!

  • If possible, schedule a set time to practice each day. Set aside one or two short periods each day to practice. I have found that it is easier for me to practice first thing in the morning before all the other responsibilities of the day get in the way. Plus it starts your day in a relaxed, peaceful state of mind that makes your day better!
  • Practice relaxation techniques while you are doing other things. Try deep breathing anytime during your day while working, doing dishes, laundry or working outside. Mindfulness can be done while walking your dog, walking, waiting in line, or eating. If you commute to work, you may want to try meditating.
  • If you exercise, improve the relaxation benefits by adopting mindfulness. Instead of zoning out to music or staring at a TV as you exercise, try focusing your attention on your body. While exercising focus on coordinating your breathing with your movements and become aware of how your body feels as you go through each exercise.
  • Avoid practicing when you are sleepy. These techniques can be so relaxing that they can make you very sleepy, especially if done at the end of the day.  You will get the most benefit if you practice when you're awake and alert. It's also not a good idea to practice after eating a heavy meal or while using drugs or alcohol.
  • Expect ups and downs. Don't be discouraged if you skip a few days or even a few weeks. It happens. Don't judge yourself negatively. Just get started again and build up your momentum.

Contact me if you have any questions or would like to schedule a call!

 

Stress Management - Intentional Wellness

stress Stress is everywhere. It may seem as though there's nothing you can do about it.  You have all these demands in your life....a hectic and demanding career, bills that won't stop, family responsibilities, and too few hours in the day. Do you feel overwhelmed by all these? Don't know what you could possibly do to reduce this stress? The truth is you have more control than you think. The simple realization that you're in control of your life is the foundation of stress management. It's time for intentional wellness and choosing to let go of stress. This is about you taking charge, making choices (intentionally) of your thoughts, emotions, schedule, and how you deal with problems and stressors.

Identify the sources of stress in your life.

Stress management starts with identifying the sources of stress in your life. This isn't as easy as it sounds. Sometimes the true sources of your stress aren't always obvious. It's easy to overlook your own stress-inducing thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Yes, you know that you have a lot of pressure with your job and you're constantly worried about meeting deadlines. But what are you thinking and saying to yourself about the situation? Your own thoughts and how you react to the stress can be increasing your stress.

To identify your real sources of stress, look closely at your habits, attitude, and excuses:

  • Do you blame your stress on other people or outside events, or view it as entirely normal and unexceptional?
  • Do you explain away stress as temporary ("I just have a million things going on right now") even though you can't remember the last time you really took a breather?
  • Do you define stress as an integral part of your work and/or home life ("Things are always crazy around here") or as a part of your personality ("I have a lot of nervous energy, that's all").

Until you accept responsibility for the role you play in creating or maintaining it, your stress level will remain outside your control.

Start a Stress Journal

Why would you want to document stress? Isn't it bad enough experiencing it? Actually starting a stress journal can help you identify the regular stressors in your life and the way you deal with them. Each time you feel stressed, keep track of it in your journal. As you keep a daily log, you will begin to see patterns and common themes, and get to the true sources of the stress.

  • What caused your stress (guess if you are unsure)
  • How you felt, both physically and emotionally
  • How you acted in response
  • What you did to make yourself feel better

Look at how you currently cope with stress. 

Think about the ways you currently manage and cope with stress in your life. Your stress journal will give you hints. Are your coping strategies healthy or unhealthy, helpful or unproductive? Unfortunately, the coping strategies of many only increase stress and it's harmful effects.

Unhealthy ways of coping with stress:

These strategies may temporarily reduce stress, but they cause more harm in the long run.

  • Drinking too much
  • Overeating or under-eating
  • Smoking
  • Sleeping too much
  • Procrastinating
  • Zoning out for hours watching TV or on the computer
  • Taking medications to relax
  • Withdrawing from family, friends and activities
  • Filling up every minute to avoid facing the problems
  • Lashing out at others

If your methods of coping with stress aren't contributing to your physical and emotional health, it's time to find healthier ones. While there are many ways to manage and cope with stress, they all require change. Yes, you can change....it is a choice! You can either change the situation or change your reaction. Since everyone has a unique response to stress, there is no one universal method that works for all or for every situation. Experiment with these different techniques to see which makes you feel calm and in control of yourself.

The Four A's to Deal With Stress

Change your reaction:

  • Adapt to the stressor
  • Accept the stressor

Change the situation:

  • Avoid the stressor
  • Alter the stressor

Stress management strategy #1:  Adapt to the stressor

If you can't change the stressor, change yourself. You can adapt to stressful situations and regain your sense of control by changing your expectations and attitude. You can make this choice, have the control and power to do this....it is up to you.

  • Focus on the positive; practice gratitude. When stress is getting you down, take a moment to reflect on all the things you are grateful for and appreciate in life. Be sure to include your own positive qualities and gifts. This one strategy can help you view things in a new light.
  • Look at the big picture. Take perspective of the stressful situation. How important will it be in the long run? Will it matter in a month? A year? Is it getting in the way of your vision and goals? Is it really worth getting upset over? If the answer is no, focus your time and energy elsewhere.
  • Reframe problems. Look at the stressful situation from a positive perspective, especially if you cannot control the situation. Rather than fuming about a traffic jam, look at it as an opportunity to pause and regroup, listen to your favorite radio station, or simply breathe and relax until traffic clears.
  • Adjust your standards. Perfectionism is a major source of avoidable stress. Stop setting yourself up for failure by demanding perfection. Set reasonable standards for yourself and others. Let go of feeling the need to "control" every situation or person.

Stress management strategy #2:  Accept the things you cannot change

Some sources of stress are unavoidable. You can't prevent or change stressors such as the death of a loved one, bad weather, or a national recession. The best way to cope with these situations is to accept things as they are, recognizing that you cannot change it. Acceptance may be difficult, but in the long run, it's easier and much healthier for you, than fuming and railing against a situation you cannot change.

  • Don't try to control the uncontrollable. Many things in life are beyond our control, particularly the behavior of other people. Rather than stressing out over them, focus on the things you can control such as the way you choose to react to problems. You do have control over your response to stress.
  • Look for the positive in situations. When you are faced with challenges, what will they provide that is positive? Perhaps they are really opportunities for growth and development. Also consider how you may be contributing to a stressful situation. What are you saying to yourself? What choices are you making? Reflect on those, learn from the past, and choose different responses.
  • Share your feelings. If you feel overwhelmed, talk to a good friend, coach or therapist. Expressing what you're going through can be very cathartic, even if there's nothing you can do to change the stressful situation.
  • Learn to forgive. Accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world and that people make mistakes. Let go of anger and resentment. That negative energy is harming you. Free yourself. "Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die." --Buddha

Stress management strategy #3:  Avoid unnecessary stress

First recognize that not all stress can be avoided, nor is it healthy to avoid a situation that needs to be addressed. However, you may be surprised at the number of stressors in your life that you can eliminate.

  • Learn to say "no". Know your limits and stick to them. Whether in your personal or professional life, refuse to accept added responsibilities when you already have too much on your plate. Taking on more than you can handle is a recipe for stress.
  • Avoid people who stress you out. If someone consistently causes stress in your life and you can't turn the relationship around, limit the amount of time you spend with that person or end the relationship completely.
  • Take control of your environment. If watching TV is your way of zoning out, turn it off. Limit the time you spend on the computer. If clutter is driving you crazy and stressing you out, take some time to clean it up, organize it, or get rid of it. If the news makes you anxious, don't watch it. Look around....you have more control over this than you may think.
  • Avoid hot-button topics. If you get upset over religion or politics, don't engage in those conversations. If you repeatedly argue about the same thing with the same people, stop bringing it up or excuse yourself when the topic comes up.
  • Pare down your to-do list.  Analyze your schedule, responsibilities, and daily tasks. Differentiate between the "shoulds" and the "musts". Think about your priorities and what are those things that move you toward your goals and what is most important. Cross off the tasks that aren't truly necessary.

Stress management strategy #4:  Alter the situation

If you can't avoid a stressful situation, try to alter it. Figure out what you can do to change things so the problem doesn't present itself in the future. Often, this involves changing the way you communicate and behave in your daily life.

  • Manage your time better. Poor time management can cause a lot of stress. When you're stretched too thin and running behind, it's hard to stay calm and focused. But if you plan ahead and ensure you don't overextend yourself, you can alter the amount of stress you're under.
  • Be more assertive. Don't take a backseat in your life. Deal with your problems, accept what role you are playing in the problems and then communicate what you need and what changes you will take. If you are working on an important project and a chatty co-worker stops by, say up front that you have a deadline and could talk later.
  • Express your feelings instead of bottling them up. If something or someone is bothering you, communicate your concerns in an open and respectful way. If you don't voice your feelings, resentment builds and the situation will likely remain the same or get worse.
  • Be willing to compromise. When you ask someone to change their behavior, be willing to do the same. Remember, you may be contributing to the problem too. If you are both willing to bend at least a little, you'll have a good chance of finding a happy middle ground.

Stress management strategy #5:  Make time for fun and relaxation

In addition to taking a positive attitude and taking responsibility for your life, you can reduce stress by nurturing yourself. If you make time for fun and relaxation, you'll be in a better place to handle life's stressors when they inevitably come. Don't get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that you forget to take care of your own needs. Taking care of yourself is a necessity, not a luxury.

  • Set aside relaxation time. Include rest and relaxation in your daily schedule. Don't allow other obligations to always override your time. This is your time to take a break and recharge.
  • Do something you enjoy every day. Make time for activities that bring you joy. Even doing that for a short time can yield big benefits.
  • Connect with others. Spend time with positive people who enhance your life. Avoid negative people who can cause you stress. A strong support system will buffer you from the negative effects of stress.
  • Keep your sense of humor. This includes the ability to laugh at yourself. The act of laughing helps your body fight stress in a number of ways.

Stress management strategy #6:  Adopt a healthy lifestyle

You can increase your resistance to stress by strengthening your physical health.

  • Exercise regularly. Physical activity plays a key role in reducing and preventing the effects of stress. Make time for at least 30 minutes of exercise, three times per week. Nothing beats aerobic exercise for releasing pent-up stress and tension. If you can't find 30 minutes to exercise, then just do ten minutes. Or make a point to move more throughout your day. Park a little further away. Take the stairs. It all helps!
  • Eat a healthy diet. Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress, so be mindful of what you eat. Focus on eating whole, fresh vegetables and fruits, lean protein, fiber and whole grains. Start your day right with breakfast, and keep your energy up and your mind clear with balanced, nutritious meals throughout the day.
  • Reduce sugar and caffeine. The temporary "highs" sugar and caffeine provide often end with a crash in mood and energy. By reducing the amount of coffee, soft drinks, chocolate, and sugary snacks in your diet, you'll feel more relaxed and you'll sleep better.
  • Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. Self-medicating with alcohol or drugs may provide an easy escape from stress, but the relief is only temporary. Don't avoid or mask the issue at hand; deal with problems directly and with a clear mind.
  • Get enough sleep. Adequate sleep fuels your mind, as well as your body. Feeling tired can increase your stress because it may cause you to think irrationally.

 

Coming soon...Relaxation Techniques for Stress Relief

Mindfulness Practice for Caregivers...Serenity Wellness

  Are you a caregiver for a loved one? Perhaps one of your parents? This can be an incredibly difficult, yet important and rewarding role....but takes its toll on the caregiver. How do you go about this on a daily basis being both compassionate and accepting of the situation as it is? How can you achieve serenity wellness for yourself while caring for an ill or elderly loved one?

Here is a mindfulness practice specifically for caregivers from Jeff Brantley, MD, Founder and Director of the Mindfulness-Based StressReduction Program at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, NC. I met Dr. Brantley while completing my integrative health coach training and certification at Duke. He is an amazing person who not only practices mindfulness, but has the unique capacity for helping those he teaches how to do it as well. Just listening to him talk, always put me at ease and able to be mindful - or paying attention on purpose, with intention, in the present moment, in a friendly and non-judging way. Please try this practice if you are a caregiver or pass it along to someone who is.

Metta for Caregivers

The emphasis in this practice is on balance - the balance between opening one's heart endlessly, and accepting the limits of what one can do. The balance between compassion and equanimity. Compassion is the trembling or the quivering of the heart in response to suffering. Equanimity is a spacious stillness that can accept things as they are. The balance of compassion and equanimity allows us to care, and yet not get overwhelmed and unable to cope because of that caring.

The phrases we use reflect this balance. Choose some phrases that are personally meaningful to you. You can alter them in any way, or use ones that you have created out of their unique personal significance.

To begin the practice, take as comfortable a position as possible, sitting or lying down. Take a few deep soft breaths to let your body settle. Bring your attention to your breath, and begin to silently say your chosen phrases in rhythm with the breath... You can also experiment with just having your attention settle in the phrases, without using the anchor of the breath. Feel the meaning of what you are saying, yet without trying to force anything....let the practice carry you along.

"May I offer my care and presence unconditionally, knowing it may be met by gratitude, indifference, anger or anguish."

"May I find the inner resources to truly be able to give."

"May I offer love, knowing I cannot control the course of life, suffering, or death."

"May I remain in peace, and let go of expectations."

"I care about your pain, and I cannot control it."

"I wish you happiness and peace, and I cannot make your choices for you."

"May this experience help me open to the true nature of life."

"May I see my limits compassionately, just as I view the suffering of others."

"May I, and all beings, live and die in ease."

 

The Gift of Being Present - Intentional Wellness

Yesterday I took my dog, Cooper, for a long hike on one of the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway trails. Since I love to hike I was anxious to get out there and enjoy the warm weather and peacefulness of the trail. Key word here...anxious. Anxious to get hiking, we jump on the trail and I am hiking along feeling pretty good and Cooper is enjoying himself, although I keep interrupting his smelling time to keep us moving. I am keeping my pace brisk and charging up and down the hills, feeling the effects of not hiking on a regular basis. About a mile or so later, a bit winded, I stopped. And that is when it hit me...I was not present on this hike! Here I am in the middle of these gorgeous woods and I am so concerned about doing....get this hike going, that I am missing the essence, the gifts of all that is around me.

I began to breathe deeply, becoming aware of all around me, my body, the sounds, the feelings. That is when the magic began. I sat down on a rock and just experienced the present moment. It literally felt as though a switch had been turned on and everything came into focus, clearly, brilliantly. The colors of the trees and plants became brighter, the breeze more pronounced on me and in the trees, the birds singing suddenly became clear, and I noticed...really saw all that was around me.

I felt absolutely alive and completely refreshed. Turning down a new trail, the magic continued. It seemed to me that I had never really seen how beautiful this area was until then. A beautiful running stream that meandered along the trail. Cooper completely enjoying himself now. He suddenly had so much energy! He was running and splashing in the stream, jumping across it, running back to me then back in the water. What is going on? Just before this I had to keep urging him on to stay at "my pace". Sensing that I was now here and fully present in the moment, he too came to life.

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Feeling energized and completely alive and present, the hiking became easier and more natural. Our hike went much longer than I previously thought we could or would do. I become aware that I am smiling, happy and content. Then I smell something sweet but not the sweet from flowers or trees. It is the smell of something baking. What?? I am in the middle of the forest. I simply allow myself to take in this smell and I begin to feel the presence of my Mom who passed away just one year ago.

Sensing her around me brought me so much joy. I realized that it was my Mom who taught me the power of being mindful and the beauty of woods, plants and trees. When I was a small child she would take me for walks in the woods, picking berries or mushrooms, and enjoying a picnic lunch. Those were so special to me....just me and Mom because my older brother and sister were at school or at other activities. How had I forgotten about this? The memories came flooding back. She was with me to remind me to just be, that the present moment was all I really have, enjoy. Another gift. This is intentional wellness for my mind, body and spirit.

I came home feeling amazing and not one bit tired! What an incredible experience. The richness of being fully present on the hike once again helped me realize the benefits of mindfulness.

I invite you, or challenge you, to try being fully present during any activity that you truly enjoy. Just breathe and allow yourself to drop into the present. Begin to experience the gifts that are available to you.

 

Intentional Wellness - Healthy Weight Loss Changes

PERMANENT-WEIGH-DOWN  

 

 

 

It's the beginning of the summer season and most of us want to lose those excess pounds and inches. Weight loss isn't easy to achieve or maintain. If it were, we wouldn't hear so much about it. It is about changing behaviors, which can be difficult, but not impossible. Don't fall for the quick fix fads that bombard us in the media. They may work in the short term, but don't last in long term weight loss and are not good for your health.

 There are, however, some simple (but not necessarily easy) steps you can take to help you on your journey. Not every weight loss strategy is appropriate for everyone. Some people respond better to certain behavior changes or styles of eating than others. Choose one simple change to implement, stick with it, and assess the results to adjust your plan as needed. It's better to start with one change than try everything and fail.
Here are 5 simple changes that will help you lose the weight for good! It's not magic....it's about intentional wellness. Learning to be intentional with your choices can help you achieve a healthy body and mind.
1.  Eat less sugar.  The first step to weaning yourself off sugar is cutting down or eliminating sweetened beverages (soda, sweetened teas, sports drinks). If you consume a lot of these beverages in a day, start by eliminating one a day. Then begin decreasing more of those drinks. After that, work on limiting your intake of desserts. If you do have sweets wait until after dinner to avoid being on a blood sugar roller coaster throughout the day.
2.  Eat more protein and vegetables.  Protein is the number one nutrient that will make you feel full at a meal. Include a protein source at all your meals and snacks - organic meat, fish, beans or eggs. Pair the protein with non-starchy vegetables to ensure lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants with few calories.
3.  Eat fewer grains.  Grains include breads, pasta, rice, quinoa, and millet, among others. The best grains are whole, organic grains. Limit your grains to 2-3 servings per day or less to help you lose weight. Grains are relatively high in carbohydrates which raise blood sugar and insulin levels. Insulin triggers fat storage by the body, so if you have a very grain-rich (or sugar-rich) diet, your body is in constant fat storage mode. Instead, focus on getting more protein, vegetables, fruits and healthy fats into your diet.
4.  Eat until you are satisfied, but not full.  Many of us believe we should feel full after meals. That full feeling usually means feeling sluggish and tired. What we should feel is satisfied after a meal, meaning no longer hungry. This can be a radical shift for many of us who have spent much of our lives eating until we are full. The best way to learn when you are satisfied, is to eat slowly and mindfully. Take the time to taste each bite, chew slowly and avoid doing anything else while you eat, like watching TV or working. Mindful eating helps you pay attention to the signals your body is giving you that you have had enough to eat. This one simple shift can help the excess weight come off.
5.  Get enough sleep.  This may sound strange but sleep can is important to losing and maintaining healthy weight. When you are tired it's much harder to make good decisions. Lack of sleep also alters levels of hormones that regulate your appetite, leaving you hungrier and much more likely to overeat.

Asheville Healthy Food

  Asheville Health and Wellness

 

 

 

 

Here are 7 great foods to keep your digestive tract healthy Asheville according to Organic Gardening! Include these foods to keep the biodiversity in your digestive tract working. Much of our available food can suppress the protective gastrointestinal properties, especially GMO-modified foods, processed foods, and too much sugar. To bring back balance and stability to your digestive system, try these probiotic-rich foods:

Greek Yogurt - Real Greek yogurt serves as a potent dairy-based probiotic, has 15-20 grams of protein per 6-ounce serving, and amino acids that jump-start your metabolism. Be sure to get true Greek yogurt and not "Greek style" yogurt. Check the ingredients list - it should only include mile and cultures.

Kefir - Is sort of like a drinkable yogurt. It is a fermented dairy product that contains oligosaccharides, complex carbs, that feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Keeping things in check also help to supercharge your immune system! Be sure to keep your kefir cold because the live and active cultures are sensitive to heat. Also avoid kefir with high sugar content. Too much sugar damages your healthy intestinal flora.

Artichokes - Artichokes are potent prebiotics, meaning they contain undigestible nutrients that help feed the beneficial bacteria growth within your digestive system. They are a "healthy meal" for the helpful bacteria in your gut. If you don't care for artichokes, you can eat other prebiotics like asparagus, bananas, and lentils.

Miso Soup - The fermented soybeans in miso contain an abundance of beneficial bacteria and isoflavones, which can protect against cancer and possibly halt the production of fat cells. Look for organic miso soup to avoid harmful additives and genetically engineered soy.

Sauerkraut - Fermented cabbage acts as a probiotic muscle. Avoid canned sauerkraut because it's been pasteurized which kills off most of the healthy bacteria.

Kimchi - This spicy fermented cabbage dish has been a staple for centuries in Korean culture. Eating this is like taking a tonic for your gastrointestinal tract. It is very beneficial to your immune system. If you don't care for the spicy, sour taste of kimchi on its own, just add some to mashed potatoes, rice or salads.

Kombucha - This fermented tea serves as a healthy replacement for carbonated drinks like soda. Mildly tart and effervescent, it is teeming with beneficial bacteria to coat your digestive tract. The fermentation process also creates healthy B vitamins that can activate energy.

Just Breathe for Serenity and Wellness!

Finding yourself hustling and bustling about in your day...everyday? Most of us spend our days running most of the time. Does relaxation sound impossible to do during your days? You've probably been told somewhere by someone to "just breathe". Turns out "just breathing" is a first step in learning how to relax spontaneously. Try it to achieve some serenity and wellness for yourself. Concentrating on your breathing can help you relax within minutes. But this takes practice. Focusing on your breath is a simple and profound what to relax effectively. And it can be done any time you have a few minutes - while waiting in line, sitting in traffic, or during any break in your day.

The unique thing about breathing is that while it is an automatic response, it can also be controlled by your voluntary actions. When you control your breathing it triggers an autonomic responses - decreasing heart rate, decreasing blood pressure, and decreasing adrenaline levels. A bonus of slowed breathing is increased production of endorphins that improve our sense of wellbeing!

Simple Tips for Breathing:

  1. Use your abdomen to breathe. Most of us use our chest muscles to breathe. The more stressed we are, the shorter and shallower our breath becomes, and we begin to hold more tension in our neck and shoulders. If we relax our breathing, we use our abdominal muscles, mainly the diaphragm. Not sure if you are using your diaphragm? To practice, lie on your back in a comfortable position. Begin to slow your breathing to an easy pace. Place one hand on your abdomen. As you breathe in, try to keep your chest wall still and pull air into your lungs by expanding your abdominal muscles. Your hand should rise and fall with each breath. Continue to breathe through your nose and focus on keeping your inhalations and exhalations equal.
  2. Slow your breath. Using your abdomen to breathe, extend your breath for as long as possible without actually holding your breath. Your goal is to extend each breath to 15 seconds for both your inhalation and exhalation. Start easy and work up to this slowly. The good news is you can practice this anywhere!
  3. Count to 10. Another simple breathing exercise is counting to 10. Using abdominal breathing of normal length, begin counting each breath. First count up to 2 and then start over, 1-2-3. Continue with 1-2-3-4, and so on until you are counting 1-10. This requires some concentration and is a great way to relax. Completion of two sequences of 10 often results in deep relaxation along with a lowered pulse rate and normalized blood pressure. An additional benefit is improved focus.

 

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Intentional Wellness and Work-Life Balance

How many of us strive for better balance between our work and life? We know we need the balance and want it, but it can still seem difficult or impossible! If you are finding it more challenging than ever to juggle the demands of your job and the rest of your life, you're not alone. There was a time when the boundaries between work and home were fairly clear. That is not the case today. Work is likely to invade our personal lives. We are always connected, whether by our employer demands or by our own doing. This can lead to issues in our health, relationships, emotional and spiritual well being, depression and burnout. It is about making choices in your life for intentional wellness. And, yes....you do have a choice, you have the power and control to do this! If I can emphasize just one thing to my clients it is that simple piece of advice. Too many of us have given away our power and choices and bought into the notion that we cannot do anything about it. I challenge you to take back your control!

Here are 5 tips for enhanced work-life balance:

1. Build downtime into your schedule. Take some time to plan your week and make a point to schedule time with your family and friends. If an event to be with your family or friends is on your calendar, you'll have something to look forward to and may be less likely to cancel. Being proactive about about scheduling your "fun/downtime" is so important. If nothing is on the schedule, time tends to get frittered away and you find yourself back at work.

2. Drop activities that sap your time and energy. Many people waste time on activities that add no value. For example, do you find yourself spending too much time at work with a co-worker who is always venting and gossiping? That time could have been spent actually being productive or perhaps taking a short walk outside to get refreshed and refueled. Take stock of activities that don't enhance your career or personal life. You may find tracking these events and the time spent may give you extra incentive to minimize those activities.

3. Reconsider your errands. What errands could you outsource? Hire a kid to mow your lawn?  Order your groceries online and have them delivered? Plan your meals for the week and buy everything you need at one time? What about trading services/errands with a friend? Get creative! See what may open up for you when you rethink how you do your chores.

4. Get moving! Can't find the time to exercise because your schedule is already completely full? I challenge you to rethink this and just start moving more! You don't have to spend an hour at the gym to gain the benefits of more exercise. Just take 5-10 minutes out of your day to walk, maybe with a colleague at work and have a walking meeting. Park just a little further away, take the stairs, take the dog for a walk....there are many ways to sneak in exercise during a day. Taking the time for exercise can ultimately help you get more done by boosting your energy level and ability to concentrate. Research has shown that exercise can help you be more alert.

5. Relaxation can go a long way. Set realistic goals to bring your life more in balance. You don't need to make huge changes. For example, select one night per week that you can leave the office earlier. Slowly build in activities that provide meaning, joy and balance. During a hectic day it is important to take 10 minutes to do something that recharges your batteries, like taking a short walk at work, just go outside and breathe deeply, or listen to music. These little steps to relax go a long way to living healthier, happier, and more productive...intentional wellness.

Let me know if I can help you through this so you are living your life to the fullest!

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