Stuff Your Turkey, Not Yourself

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It’s that time of year when the holidays have a way of hijacking our attempts at remaining calm and practicing healthy habits. Today I’ll be sharing some tips to avoid overeating and over-stressing over the holidays on Paula Sands Live.

Here are a few strategies to get you from here to the New Year in good cheer.

HALT and Plan Ahead

Making decisions when you are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired usually leads to poor choices. Planning ahead when you have time to calmly think through your options and prepare healthy snacks will save your sanity by eliminating the emotional frenzy that comes with feeling famished.

Nourish Yourself Regularly

Contrary to popular belief, skipping meals or eating them on the run does not help you lose weight. In fact, it can lead to weight gain. Fueling yourself with whole, nutritious foods at regular intervals will help regulate your appetite, clear your mind, and keep you energized throughout the day.

Pace Yourself

Treat the holidays like an endurance event and train accordingly. Eating, drinking, or otherwise consuming your way through the holidays will only compound your stress. Take it one day at a time. If you blow it one day, don’t resign yourself to giving up until the New Year. Just begin again. Six weeks of bad habits is hard to overcome. Especially  when you can simply start over whenever you slip up. A new perspective is always one thought away.

Move Through Your Stress

Working out does wonders to help alleviate the stress that can accumulate at the mere thought of attending a party or preparing a family feast. Find a way to move that’s fun for you. It doesn’t need to look like exercise. Fire up your Wii Fit. Get out your bowling ball. Break out the ice skates. Rake up the leaves and then jump around in them. Recruit your family or a few friends to make it more likely you’ll stick to it.

Unplug and Get Enough Sleep

So much to do. So little time. Skimping on sleep will not only add to your stress but add to your waistline. Your body needs downtime to rest and repair. Unplug from your electronic devices in plenty of time to wind down so you have the energy to get up and face another day refreshed and rejuvenated. Never unplugging leaves you in an endless cycle of feeling wired and tired.

Be Grateful

Although the focus of Thanksgiving tends to be all about the food, it also includes the many people, things, and opportunities you have to be grateful for. If this is the one day of the year you look forward to feasting, by all means savor the flavor of your favorite foods. Do not obsess over calories. Feeling guilt or shame around food robs it of its pleasure. Take the time to be present and aware of what you are eating.  Get curious about where it came from, who prepared it, and the love that went into sharing it. Ironically, when you give a meal the time and attention it deserves, you end up feeling more nourished by less food.

When you reflect on how much you already have, you can resist the urge to fill yourself up with food, shopping, and other distractions. In other words, stuff your turkey, not yourself.

Join my Here to the New Year in Good Cheer Challenge starting on Black Friday and running right up to December 31st. Details to follow later in the week. Or email me at penny@wellpower.com for updates.

For now, keep calm and gobble on!

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You Must Be Present to Win

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photo by ASSOCIATED PRESS

I must admit.

I’m overly identifying with the Chicago Cubs this year so the spectacular four-run ninth inning rally that secured their win over the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday night was more meaningful to me than most playoff games.

You see, early on I adopted these boys of summer as mascots for my How to Get Your Groove Back class. Jake Arrieta in particular seemed like the perfect poster guy for getting one’s groove back. He almost gave up the sport altogether when his pitching coaches couldn’t quite find his groove and released him from Baltimore.

Fortunately Chicago was able to help him find it. And then Jake was able to show the rest of the team how to find theirs. (It might have something to do with that Pilates reformer.)

After a lifetime of summers spent listening to the “lovable losers” on the radio, this summer I watched and learned from the victories and defeats of the Cubs like a vigilant den mother. And one of the things I learned is you must be present to win.

You don’t win by checking out, dwelling in the past, or projecting into the future.  If the Cubs had gone into the ninth inning on Tuesday night plagued by what had transpired in the previous eight, they wouldn’t have been open to the opportunities the ninth inning presented. They clinched the series by seizing every one of them.

That takes an unflinching commitment to being in the moment. That is deceptively difficult.

Last week I spoke to a student services group about resolving to evolve. The first of four actions I asked them to take was to embody. 

What does she mean by that?” you might ask.

I mean to be fully present in the skin you are in and to be open and aware of what you are feeling and to allow your body to provide you with all kinds of information.

Do I have a choice?” you might ask.

Yes and no.  If you’re reading this, you are in a physical form that you move around to do your brain’s beckoning. You feed it, clothe it, take it to work, and allow it to rest. So in one respect, you have no choice but to embody.

But anyone who suffers from aches and pains and a general distrust or disgust of their body will tell you how preferable it is to live life from the neck up. Their choice is to check out of their bodies as often and in as many ways as possible. They might choose to medicate or obliterate with food, alcohol, drugs, or their vice of choice in order to spend as little time as possible feeling what it’s like to be in their body.

As a certified eating psychology coach and fitness instructor, I see this a lot. Most of the people I work with have a very complicated relationship with their bodies. My desire to understand this relationship is what led me to become a writer and coach.

Here’s my take-away. The present moment is all we’ve got. It’s the only time and place where we can make things happen and move forward in our lives.

This means we need to be open to receiving feedback and support from all our faculties, not just our brain. Because I don’t know about you, but my brain can be a bully.

It can have me believing all kinds of things that are just not true because it’s feeling threatened or scared. That’s why I need an entire team of truth tellers located in my heart, my belly, my back, my legs, or anywhere that might get my attention.

I do not want to be stuck in the eighth inning where I might be down 2-5 with just my brain calling the shots. I need my body on board to rally and earn a shot at the World Series.

Bob likes to remind me it’s just a game and whether my team wins or loses, my life will be the same. He may have a point. Every team and every sport have come-back stories and heroes’ journeys stories and a hundred reasons why their epic victory is destined.

But I know on the days the Cubs win my world seems a little bit brighter or more hopeful. Not just because they’ve broken a curse or done the impossible or because my Grandma would be grinning from heaven to see her Cubbies win it all, but because of how they played the game. They model for me how to be all in and present to win. That’s something I can rally around.

Who does that for you? Share if you dare in the comments below.

Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor

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I’m not sure whose idea it was to declare Labor Day a national holiday, I just know I am forever grateful the idea was implemented. According to Wikipedia, some say it was Peter McGuire and others say Matthew Maguire. To me, they both sound like Midlife MacGyver. Go figure.

A well-timed holiday, like Labor Day after the first few weeks of the school year, makes me appreciate all the labor that leads up to it.

Last night, around the time I subconsciously start to stress about another work week, I relaxed into the realization that I have another day to go places and do things – even if it’s just to my deck to watch my puppy chase a hummingbird moth.

All work and no play makes me an edgy educator. I’m all for putting the petal to the metal when the project, performance, or people demand it. But I’m also a stickler for self-care and putting your own oxygen mask on first so you can assist those you set out to serve. You can’t do that if you can’t breathe.

Sometimes all you need to catch your breath is a little time off.

Other times you need full on engagement and involvement in something deeply meaningful.

The best way I know how to explain this is to share this except from David Whyte’s  Crossing the Unknown Sea. David is talking with his friend, monk, and mentor, Brother David.

“Tell me about exhaustion,” I said. He looked at me with an acute, searching, compassionate ferocity for the briefest of moments, as if trying to sum up the entirety of the situation and without missing a beat, as if he had been waiting all along, to say a life-changing thing to me. He said, in the form both of a question and an assertion: “You know that the antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest?”

“The antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest,” I repeated woodenly, as if I might exhaust myself completely before I reached the end of the sentence. “What is it, then?”

“The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.”

He looked at me for a wholehearted moment, as if I should fill in the blanks. But I was a blank to be filled at that moment, and though I knew something pivotal had been said, I had not the wherewithal to say anything in reply. So he carried on:

“You are so tired through and through because a good half of what you do here in this organization has nothing to do with your true powers, or the place you have reached in your life. You are only half here, and half here will kill you after a while. You need something to which you can give your full powers. You know what that is; I don’t have to tell you.”

Six years ago I spent seven glorious days in the Lake District with David Whyte and an amazing group of individuals who had traveled from various continents to spend their mornings in quiet reflection with the great poet and their afternoons in a moving meditation, soaking in both the beauty of the place and the sacredness of the spoken word.

Having this extraordinary experience with an incredible group of people in a gorgeous location was possible because I had spent years preparing myself for precisely this kind of opportunity. Even if I didn’t know that’s what I was doing at the time.

No time, no energy, no money, no relationship, or no experience is ever wasted if it prepares you for your next adventure.

The next adventure for me is diving into a new project that will help me create experience products as opposed to information products and deliver them in a very real and rewarding way. You’ll be experiencing more of this in the next 8 weeks.

You can allow yourself to burn out or you can ignite the light that can only be lit from within.

Do whatever it takes to stoke that fire. Read some books. Watch some videos. Attend a workshop. Go to the mountaintop. Head to the beach. Work out. Take a nap. Nourish yourself with food, family, or friends.

What you may discover is this:  the fruit of your labor is often the labor itself. And doing the work – the work that only you can do – is indeed worth celebrating.

I’d love for you to share the work you are celebrating in the comments below.

 

 

 

It’s All Fun & Games

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It’s Day 28 of the Get Stuff Done 1 x 31 Challenge.  Today’s challenge is to boost your brain power with some memory games.

Every Sunday morning when I was a kid we’d go to my grandmother’s house after church.  Once there we’d watch cartoons, All Star Wrestling, and movies that none of us kids understood but introduced us to the likes of Mae West, Laurel & Hardy, Abbott & Costello, Mickey Rooney, The Three Stooges, and others.

I was too young to know the the cartoons were sexist and violent, the wrestling was staged, and the movies were classics, but I did remember the commercials. Especially the ones selling games, cereal, cigarettes, shampoo , showing us the consequences of littering, and asking us to take personal responsibility for preventing forest fires. 

What I remember most was a game called Husker Du.  The advertiser would always announce in a booming voice, “Husker Du! Do you remember?” I had no idea what the game was about. I just loved repeatedly asking with my brother and sister in my own impressively loud voice, Husker Du?

Clearly, the advertising worked. It was “sticky” as Dan & Chip Heath would say. Forty years later I still remember it. Slick trick for a memory game.

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I also used to love playing Concentration at home to mimic the game show I’d faithfully watch on TV. I knew early on it was important to focus, remember, connect the dots, and make connections that might otherwise be overlooked.

These days, of course, there’s an app for that.  Games like Lumosity, NeuroNation, Brain Metrix, and FitBrains are just a few examples of websites and apps to train your brain.

While you can easily get through one of these challenges in 5-15 minutes, the real challenge is to not spend an hour or two once you get started.

But even if you did, it’d be good for you. It’s too easy to let our brains be lulled into a trance by all kinds of incoming and unquestioned media.

Take time out today to think for yourself, test your memory, and give your brain a run for the money.  As another ad I remember warned, “A brain is a terrible thing to waste.”

I’d love to hear how you train your brain and keep your wits about you.  Share, if you dare, in the comments below.

 

 

 

Say What You Need to Say & Do

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It’s Day 27 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge.  Today’s challenge is to say what you need to say to whomever you need to say it to in order to do what you need to do next.  Do you need to move on, get over it, get on with it, set things right, set things in motion, start a revolution, or continue your evolution? Then let’s get to it and go do it.

Saying what you need to say liberates you to do what you need to do.

Granted, conversations of this nature usually take more than 5-15 minutes.  But you can take a small action step and identify which conversations need to take place and with whom, get clear on your talking points, or schedule an appointment with the person in this amount of time.

Because I’m a lover of words, I’m hesitant to say actions speak louder than words in every situation, because the right words at the right time can change a life. However, during our Get Stuff Done 1×31, I’m also about making a case for doing the stuff that moves your life forward. That requires action and, sometimes, doing difficult stuff.

I admit I love to talk my way all around my issues rather than face them head on because doing so would most likely result in a confrontation. I like to avoid these at all costs. However, the greater cost is that the issue continues when I’m perfectly capable of putting the kibosh to it by daring to do what needs to be done, which often starts with saying what I need to say.

As much as I call on my inner badass to get stuff done, harnessing her potential takes some serious practice on my part. That’s why I’ve devoted an entire month to getting stuff done. And by Day 27, I’d like to think we’ve practiced enough that we can confidently carry out today’s challenge.

I’d love to know what you need to say or do and how that will set you free to move on to the fabulousness that awaits.

Share if you dare in the comments below.

And by all means, add this song by John Mayer to your playlist.

Stop and Smell the Petunias

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It’s Day 26 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge.  Today’s challenge is to stop and smell the petunias.  Yes, I know the saying is “stop and smell the roses.” But since my puppy Ruby is particularly fond of petunias and is teaching me so much in a very short time, especially about taking breaks, I took some creative license with the saying.

Too often we look at interruptions as productivity killers, detours, excuses for our short little spans of attention. But sometimes taking a break to get up and walk around or sit down and relax, have a spot of tea, or nourish ourselves with a healthy snack or TED talk can cause epiphanies and unexpected pleasures.

I can easily spend my workday staring at a computer screen or piles of paperwork going over the same information in the same way.  But if I get up and walk around, move some tables and chairs, feed the fish, or water the plants, my energy shifts. By changing my focus for a while, the same situation looks different when I return.

One of my favorite things in my offices at work and at home is my standing desk. Because I spent most of my life as a fitness instructor, the biggest adjustment to life as a college administrator is the sedentary nature of the majority of my work.

To counteract this, I set up a makeshift standing desk where I can easily advise students and give them direct access to the information on the computer screen and hands on access to their information.

I also made sure we had a picnic table and bench outside so students and staff can get some fresh air, soak in the sun, and smell the lilies nearby when a change of scenery and perspective is needed.

I think in our hurry up and get it done world we’ve forgotten that there is a rhythm to life  There is an art to savoring the steps that get us where we’re going.

Today, take 5-15 minutes to do something deeply nourishing to your soul.  Maybe it’s reading that quote or poem from yesterday’s challenge (Day 25) or maybe it’s calling someone you love (Day 8) or maybe it’s arranging some flowers or fresh fruit and a bowl.

Try not to think of today’s challenge as an interruption and immediately look only for a way to return to the task at hand. Think of it as divine intervention sent to support your present predicament.

As always, I’d love for you to share your epiphanies or aha’s in the comments below.

 

 

Create in the Middle of Things

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It’s Day 24 of the Get Stuff Done 1 x 31 Challenge. Today’s mission, should you choose to accept it, is to create in the middle of things.

One of the most important things I learned when I trained with Eric Maisel as a Creativity Coach, was that in order to get anything done, I had to learn to create in the middle of things.

Most creative types yearn for great expanses of uninterrupted time when we can meet our muse in our well-stocked studio and produce the masterpiece that has been patiently waiting for the perfect moment to arrive.

The problem for most of us is that moment never arrives. We’ve got things to do, bills to pay, mouths to feed, puppies to play with, and daily demands that do not allow for sabbaticals, leave of absences, long weekends, or even a day off.

So what do we do? Abandon our creative aspirations?

Heavens, no!

We create right smack dab in the middle of it all.

Arrived early to your eye appointment?  Start sketching. Have to wait for your kids to finish swimming lessons? Create an outline for your ebook.  Dinner won’t be ready for 40 minutes? Dive into your drumming lessons or get out that guitar.

Life hardly ever offers up a perfect stretch of time for you to indefinitely do what you love. Even if it did, I suspect you’d be alphabetizing the canned goods or cleaning the bathroom before you’d face the blank screen or empty canvas.

Creating something out of nothing is terrifying. Resistance and profuse procrastination are part of the process.

You have to coax your creativity into action whenever you can. Then you’ll be able to call upon it at will and it will readily respond.

I love to write. It’s my raison d’être. But writing consistently for this many days in a row requires me to be incredibly disciplined, determined, and dedicated to my craft. Because of that, writing doesn’t disappoint and often delights me.

Most days I feel like I have invisible allies encouraging me to simply sit down and put pen to paper or stand at my treadmill desk and put my fingers to the keyboard.

That’s when the magic happens. That’s when the world starts to make sense. That’s when the ideas hanging out in my head find their way to you and, hopefully, spark something new in you.

Find 5-15 minutes today to do that thing that only you can do.  Maybe it’s tell a certain story to your kids or grandkids. Maybe it’s making a meal that the whole family loves. Maybe it’s designing a badge on Canva like the one above so you have a way to show off your progress.

Whatever it is, create it when you might otherwise check out or default to Facebook or the TV or solitaire on your phone.

Right now, right in the middle of everything else you have going on, create something.  And if you dare, I’d love for you to share it in the comments below or email me at penny@wellpower.com.