Archive for de-stress

Reaching Your Goals, One Week at a Time

How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions? I have to admit, I don’t even remember making any. So, apparently I am not doing so well with mine either.

All is not lost!  Perhaps you will join me in a slight variation on this annual theme. A friend sent me an e-mail message about her “New Year’s resolution . . . for this week”. Brilliance! A year is far too long to stay focused on one or two goals for most of us anyway. What about creating a new goal every week, and getting to the big goal for the year by taking one step at a time?

I’ve heard that Benjamin Franklin focused on one of his core values, or virtues, each month, then moved on to the next one for the next month. He did that for most of his life, just keeping himself focused on the values that were most important to him. It seems to have worked out pretty well – after all, we still know who he was and some of his many accomplishments more than 200 years after his death.

What do you want to accomplish in 2014? And once you know that, what small chunk of your goal can be done in one week? For a goal to lose 50 pounds, for example, this is easy to figure out – aim to lose at least one pound a week. Other goals may be more complicated, but slicing a big goal into manageable chunks is a great strategy.

I’ll be starting my first week’s goal on Monday. The first week will be about nutrition for me, making better food choices, so that gives me the weekend to plan some meals and get the kitchen stocked for success. Plus, Monday is the best day to start on a goal. Also, I am a natural-born procrastinator. But Monday? Yes, I will be starting this goal on Monday for sure.

How about you, are you in? What can you do for one week that will make a difference in your life? Dream big and let’s make it happen!

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For more information on the values that Franklin lived by, click here.

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Keeping Those New Year’s Resolutions

The days between Christmas and January 1st have always been meditative for me. It is time to buy a new calendar for the wall, and new pages for my planner. I’m running out of time to hit any goals that I may have had for 2013. The new year will arrive very soon, so I am giving thought to what I want to achieve in 2014.

All of the traditional New Year’s resolutions seem to be about health. Typically, we vow to (a) quit smoking; (b) lose weight; (c) eat more vegetables and less fast food; (d) spend more time with friends and family; or (e) get out of debt. Yes, the last two are about health too – in this case, mental health and peace of mind. A new year, a new calendar, means a clean slate. You can start fresh, and re-make yourself into the person you have always wanted to be.

The bad news about resolutions is that you are starting the new year with all the bad habits you had the year before, and probably for a bunch of years before that as well. The notion of a “clean slate” is an optimistic over-simplification.

Ah, but there is good news about resolutions. Who made those bad habits into habits to begin with? Correct, it was you. And since you created the habit of eating too much fast food, you also have the power to un-make that habit. This is excellent news!

I’m not saying that it is easy to break the old patterns that are not giving you the life or the health you want.  I am saying that it can be done and that you are the only one who can do it. Start on January 1st or start now, but start by imagining how much better your life can be. Write down all the great things that will happen when you spend more time with your family. Make it real, imagine yourself already reaping the rewards of the changes you want to make. Write it down, in all the detail you can think of. The more clear you can get about WHY you want to quit smoking, lose weight, or whatever it is for you, the better your chances are of making a lasting change.

Keep that piece of paper, the one listing how great it will be to reach your goal, in your wallet so you will see it often. Or tape it to the bathroom mirror so you start and end your day looking at it. Use it as a bookmarker, type it into your screen saver, just get it in front of your eyeballs a few times a day.

Most people don’t make it through January without giving up on their resolution. You don’t have to be one of those people. I am rooting for you. You can do it!

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Choose Stress-Free For Christmas

It’s the last weekend before Christmas, and all through the house … what’s going on? Does chaos reign in your home at this time of year, or serenity? It’s a great time for socializing, enjoying the company of friends and family. Wonderful time for volunteering your time to help others. Walking through the neighborhood or driving around town to ooh and aah at the creative and/or abundant display of lights and decorations on the houses is fun to do.

There was a time in my life when this season was about running around in circles doing way too much, spending way too much, and enjoying way too little. I was one of those moms still wrapping presents at 3 am on Christmas morning before falling into bed for a 3-hour nap before the real craziness started. Now I look around and think, hmmm, I may have swung too far in the other direction. That feeling never lasts too long! My current under-decorating, under-shopping, and under-partying ways suit me just fine.

Today I’m trying out a new recipe for gluten-free gingerbread pancakes. (If they turn out well, you may see the recipe tomorrow.) Tonight would be a good time to drive around and check out the Christmas finery on all the houses. In between? Yes, there are some errands to run, to the post office and the grocery store, too. I’m choosing to focus on the happy and the relaxed for now. Have a peaceful Saturday!

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The Gifts of the Season

Not to sound like the bah-humbug sort, but Thanksgiving weekend has always seemed to me to be too early to start getting ready for Christmas. Even though Costco had gift wrap featuring Santas and reindeer before Labor Day, and there have been trees with glittering lights set up at Lowe’s since Halloween, and peppermint-stick Almond Roca has been in Fred Meyer for at least a couple of weeks, I remained resolutely in non-Christmas mode. Today it is December. Time to shift gears.

I noticed yesterday that some of my neighbors have been busy putting up their outside Christmas lights. Good timing, as it has not been raining for a few days. We thought about putting up lights last year, but day after day of rain dampened our intentions. We decided to visit California for the last week of December instead, and left the lights in a box in the garage.

I’ve also noticed cars driving around town with pine trees lashed to roof racks or poking up out of pickup-truck beds. Again, the weather has cooperated with the mission. Interesting that I have not noticed big crowds at the mall or swarming through Target, or early shoppers camped outside the Best Buy. It could be that I just can’t see them from my house. I love to shop when the stores are nearly empty, but the Black Friday crush is not on my list of things to experience. Ever.

I really do like to shop. Last year around this time I came across a group from JBLM (Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the nearby military base) near the entrance to a local store. They were collecting donated gifts for military families who were struggling financially. I stopped to ask what kinds of things they were looking for. Toys, of course! Now, this was cause for some fun shopping! I don’t get to buy kids toys very often, since my own are both grown-ups now. That was my first gift of the season, last Christmas.

Emergency vehicles show up in our neighborhood in early December, after dark, with their red lights flashing. They are part of a local food drive. We chat with Santa as the fire truck stops to pick up our canned goods. Ah, another gift of the season, to see our neighbors strolling down to the ends of their driveways to help out. A couple of weeks later we had a dusting of snow. Watching the tiny flakes drifting silently toward the ground, a beautiful gift.

Each of these was a gift to me because of what it represented. Choosing toys for children I will never meet reminded me of shopping for toys for my own children when they were little. Back then I was squeezing 30 minutes of shopping into a lunch hour, or making a quick stop at a store on my way home from work. Donating food to help someone else reminds me of the abundance I have enjoyed in my life. We had some lean times, too – but there was always enough food on the table. And snowflakes are just peaceful, stress-less, calming to watch.

It may be still too early for me to think about decorating the house or wrapping gifts, but it’s a great time to start noticing the gifts of this season. I hope you will be watching for your gifts too.

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Thwacking Your Stress

How do you manage the stress in your life?  I’ve come up with a few strategies over the years, with varying levels of success.  Crying and getting depressed did not work out well.  Then I hit on a great idea – rather than joining the endless line of traffic to go home after work, I started going to a golf course near the office.  Thwacking a big bucket of golf balls as hard as I could was a great stress-buster!  As a bonus, I was still getting home at roughly the same time as I would have after sitting in traffic.

But how was I getting stressed out to begin with?  Like so many others, I was taking on other people’s problems, and I was trying to do too much.  Have you noticed on airplanes that we are all told to put on our own oxygen mask first, before helping those around us?  Of course!  If we are unconscious, we are of no help to anyone.  Same thing applies with taking care of our own needs first.  It is not selfish – it is how we keep ourselves strong and mentally peaceful so that we can help take care of those we care about.

I bet you guessed that each one of the golf balls I smacked represented someone who really needed to be, ummm, re-aligned to reality.  This post is not meant to condone violence in any way!  Some stress can be avoided by not taking on so much responsibility, but other stressors just have to be managed.  How do you beat stress in your life?  Post your ideas!

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Add Some Joy to Life

Add Some Joy to Life

We were out walking in a small town in Washington when we came across this lovely bouquet of roses, just lying on top of a stone wall next to the sidewalk. My first thought was that someone had set them down and walked away, forgetting them. I looked around – there was nobody near us. The flowers were very fresh, as if they had only been there for a few minutes.

On closer look the flowers on the wall had a little card attached. It starts out “I’m a courtesy bouquet / With something special to say / Please take me, keep me, or give me away / Desiring only . . . to make someone’s day”

This is what I want to say today – find a way to make someone’s day. It will create as much joy in you as it does in them. Done right, it costs you nothing. It’s not fattening, not illegal, it builds relationships and good feelings, and is not in any way destructive. You can start small – just smile at someone and wish them a good morning.

If you cross a toll bridge in your travels today, pay for the car behind you. The $2 or $3 will make you smile all day long – and just guess what it’s doing for the driver who was told at the toll booth that the car ahead had already paid their toll.

At a local 5K a couple of years ago, there was a long line coming into the parking lot because there was a $3 charge for parking and only one attendant to take the cash. To speed up the process, I paid for my car and the car behind me. When I pulled into my parking spot, the car behind pulled in right next to me. The driver came flying out of her car and gave me a big hug! She explained that she had not brought her purse to the run, and had been scrounging frantically around the car – under the seats, in the cup holders, glove box – and did not have anywhere close to the $3 she needed. She was near tears pulling up to the attendant, sure that she would not be allowed to park and run her race. It was her first 5K ever! The morning was memorable for both of us, and for only $3.

So, find a creative way to make someone’s day!

** the flowers were from a local florist in Gig Harbor, WA, called the Floral Reef. Stop by if you are in the area!

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