Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Making a Few Changes Does Not Make Me a Failure

My blog has been quiet in 2018.  It’s been a rough start.  While I’m used to life not being easy and filled with stress, I have to admit that I’ve been thrown for a loop.  How I’ve been feeling is actually hard to explain - numb, flat, frozen?

The stress level of my job went through the roof.  It was completely out of control.

I wasn’t prepared for the incredibly intense anxiety I’ve felt surrounding my son’s college decision.

We were faced with a major car repair which added to my already overwhelming stress about finances.

My husband has been sick more days than he has been well this year.

My daughter got her learner’s permit - another reminder because of how fast time with my kids is flying.

Two months ago I ended up in the hospital with chest pain.

I was transferred to a new position at work.

And I turned 45.

Eight years ago I arrived to a place where I had to make some changes in my life or continue on a path of uncontrolled stress and poor health. I successfully made those changes and have been sailing along since. That is until now.

I felt like a failure. What was I doing wrong?  Why was life not working?  Why did I feel this way?

At one of my follow-up appointments, the doctor was suggesting areas I could think about making some changes in my life to improve my health. Cut out pop?  I’ve done that. Switch to wheat bread and pasta?  I’ve done that. Exercise?  I do that. Shaking her head she said, “Everyone can find something to change.”

I was feeling a tad cocky at first.  “I’ve done all I can,” I told myself. “What else can I possibly do?”  That mindset did not make me feel any better.

It feels like I’m back at the beginning. I’ve slowly been finding small changes to make in my daily life. I’ve cut out my morning cup of coffee and caffeine. I’m purposefully embracing my new job. I’ve resumed my practice of sipping a cup of hot tea before bed.

I’ve also been working on accepting that needing to make these life changes does not make me a failure.  I’m a work in progress. Life will never be perfect. I will never be perfect.

I’m reminded of the scripture that I clung too when my journey of healthy life choices began 8 years ago:
This is not the time to give up. This is the time to dig deep and continue to do good - for me, for my family and those around me.  Life isn’t going to stop so neither shall I.

Monday, January 1, 2018

3 Tips for Keeping Your New Year's Resolution

Today I celebrate a New Year's Resolution that I made eight years ago and have kept ever since.  Eight years ago I was overweight, over-stressed and about to go over the edge.  I resolved to get healthy in 2010 and to do that by training for and completing a 5k.  Eight years later, I weigh less, handle my stress better and am an overall much happier person.  How did I accomplish that?  Here are three simple things that I did to help me be successful.

1. Make a PLAN.
In my family, my father is famous for reminding us to PLAN YOUR WORK AND WORK YOUR PLAN.  It's one thing to state your resolution.  But how are you going to do it?  You want to travel more?  When?  Where?  How?  You want to spend more time with your family?  What are you going to do?   When are you going to get together?  Eight years ago I wanted to get healthy.  How was I going to accomplish that?  By training for and completing a 5k.  I chose a local 5k and registered for it.  I found a training plan on-line and mapped out how I would follow it marking training runs on my calendar.  I planned my work.

2. Be PURPOSEFUL in working your plan.
Talking is easy.  I can talk with others about what I plan to do.  Great conversation take place in my head about what I'm going to do.  Creating a plan is easy.  I can write anything I want on my calendar or make charts all day long.  In order to truly make a plan work you must put it into action.  That means making decisions that go along with your plan.  Reminding yourself of your resolution.  Actually doing what you said you were going to do.  For me, that meant posting motivational quotes and reminders of training deadlines around my home, car and desk.  Making the conscious choice to get off the couch and head out the door for a run.  Asking family and friends to hold me accountable.  I worked my plan.

3. Be PATEINT with yourself.
Nobody is perfect and change does not happen overnight.  There were days that I just couldn't get myself together to get out for that training run.  Sometimes that happened two or three days in a row.  I didn't throw in the towel and give up.  No.  I forgave myself, tied my running shoes and got out there.   You're going to mess up.  That's a fact.  Accept it and move on.  Don't let a single mistake or bad decision knock you off track.  Stand up and start again.  It's ok.  Be patient with yourself.

Eight years ago I resolved to get healthy and I set in motion the plan to do that by training for and completing my first 5k.  I beat the statistical odds of New Years Resolutions by successfully keeping my Resolution.
Me and my brother-in-law at the Finish Line of my first 5k - April 2010

And guess what?  Eight years later I am STILL holding tight to that resolution.  Every year I set a few goals for myself.  I PLAN out how I'm going to accomplish them.  I PURPOSEFULLY make decisions sticking with that plan.  And I am PATIENT with myself when things don't go as planned.
2017 Pittsburgh Marathon
Team Muscle Relay Team

If you are serious about making a change in your life - whether it's health/fitness related or not - YOU CAN DO IT!  It will take work and time and sacrifice, but it is possible and it is worth it.

Wishing you the happiest and healthiest 2018!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

3 Simple Tips for CHOOSING a Healthy Holiday

One of the best feelings in the world is anticipating a really fun day with family and friends which will include sitting down to a really good meal.  One of the worst feelings in the world is crawling away from the table with an overstuffed belly, pants that are now way too tight and the mental haze of an uncontrolled feeding frenzy.  Wouldn't it be fantastic to focus on that first feeling without having to worry about the second?  Here are three simple choices that you can make to have a healthy holiday and avoid the post-dinner pain of having eaten too much.

1) CHOOSE TO MAKE HEALTHY CHOICES BEFORE THE PARTY BEGINS.  Before leaving your house or welcoming your first guest, make the conscious decision to have a healthy holiday.  Going in with the mindset of making healthy choices increases the possibility that you will do just that!  I encourage you to take that one step further and tell someone that you want to have a healthy holiday.  Having someone give you the evil eye as you begin to help yourself to a second piece of pie can be a strong deterrent!

2) CHOOSE YOUR SEAT.  When you arrive at the gathering, scan the room before you sit down.  If there is a table with appetizers or desserts, sit far away.  You are less likely to keep munching if you have to stand up and walk across the room.  If there are other members of your family or friends also striving to be healthier, sit with them or where you can make eye contact with them.  Getting that "look" as you reach for another chip loaded with dip can be very powerful.

3) CHOOSE YOUR TREAT.  Before jumping into the buffet line or placing a large spoonful of the first dish passed to you on your plate, know what all of your options are so that you can choose wisely.  I'm not suggesting that you deny yourself any Thanksgiving goodness, simply be mindful of what you are putting on your plate.  If your uncle makes the best macaroni and cheese, take a smaller portion of other sides and save room for a heaping spoonful of that cheesy deliciousness.  If your mom only makes her pecan pie at Thanksgiving, choose that as your dessert and skip the others.  When you are lifting your fork to your mouth, go slow!  Take your time.  Savor each bite.  At my work's Thanksgiving Dinner last week, my co-workers were teasing me as I ever so slowly took each bite of that sweet potato casserole.  I look forward to that casserole every year so I didn't want to shove it in my mouth without pausing to enjoy it.  I purposely made sure that I delighted in every single mouthful of that casserole!  It was the highlight of my meal!

Three simple steps that you can take to help yourself make healthy choices at your holiday feast.  Set yourself up for success!  And most importantly - focus on having a good time with family and friends.  It will be much more fun without the worry, guilt or discomfort of overeating.  You got this!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

6 Easy Ways to Move More at Work

It's time to close my laptop and head out to my car.  Let's go home!  On my way out, I nervously glance down at my Fitbit.  I've avoided looking at it all day because I know that number is small.  My day consisted of meetings, 1:1's with my staff and a lot of time at my desk.  I barely moved at all!

That scene was becoming way too routine for me.   As a result, I was stiff and mentally groggy at the end of the day.  My body hurt.  I decided that I need to be purposeful in adding movement to my day.  The Adult Day Health Center where I work is a small building so classic ideas like taking the stairs instead of the elevator aren't an option (there are no stairs!), but there are ways that I could help myself move more.

1) Put down the phone and go talk to the person face-to-face.  Between phone calls, e-mail and texting, it would be easy to go for long stretches of time without talking to someone face-to-face.  Besides increasing your movement I bet that this will improve your relationships with your co-workers. 

2) Print out your work on a different printer.  I have a private printer in my office, but I also have access to the public printer.  For items that don't need to be kept confidential, I'll use the public printer.  I have to leave my office and walk to pick up those papers.

3) Use the bathroom that is farthest away from you.  Just plan wisely so you have enough time to get there!

4) Use a coffee mug or small water bottle during the day.  I had been using a fairly large plastic cup to ensure that I would drink water during the day.  My co-worker drinks out of a small coffee mug.  One day I suggested to him that he get a larger mug or a water bottle to drink from during the day.  His reasoning for using that coffee mug makes a lot of sense - the smaller glass forces him to get up and refill his mug often throughout the day causing him to get up and move.

5) Take a lap!  If I have a day where I am sitting in my office for long periods of time, I'll set my phone timer for 45 minutes.  When it goes off, I get up and walk a lap around the large room that makes up our Adult Day Center.  That gives me a chance to stretch and an opportunity to interact with our clients and my staff.

6) Invite a co-worker to take a walk over lunch.  There are two great aspects to this idea besides adding movement to your day.  Inviting someone to join you adds accountability and gives you an opportunity to take your mind off of work and socialize.  There have been many times I've popped into our breakroom and several staff members are sitting in there in silence playing on their phones.

These ideas sound simple, but how often does a day go by that I don't do any of them?  More than I'd like to admit.  The key is being purposeful about it.  Making a conscious effort to get up and move.  Making healthy choices is a daily thoughtful decision.  It's something I have to do everyday.  So TODAY I choose to add more movement to my day!  Let's get up and go!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Surviving the Office Halloween Candy Bucket with Chocolate Meditation

Last week one of my worst nightmares came true - someone brought in a large Halloween Bucket filled with various types of candy.  To make it worse, the candy supply was unending.  The bucket was never empty!  Everyday it was filled to the brim with different types of candy - chocolate, gummy, sweet & sour, fruity.

Over the years, I feel that I have developed a pretty strong Will Power.  I have tools in place to help me pass up on temptation - chew gum, drink water, avoid the area of the temptation, surround myself with people who will hold me accountable.  I was prepared for this moment.  And I did a great job . . . until Thursday.

I was unexpectedly going to have to take Friday off so I was feeling crunched to get everything done.  The homecare schedule for the weekend, which I was responsible for, was full of open assignments with a small group of staff available to fill it.  I had a site visit for the Senior Companion Program, which I am in charge of at our Adult Day Center.  Let's stop there and just say that my list of stressors was long.  My chest was tight.  My head was pounding.  I was nearing a complete meltdown.  Mid-morning I walked passed the bucket and found that it was filled with my favorite . . .
I grabbed one and shoved it in my mouth.  Mmmmmm . . . it was so good!  So I grabbed another.  And another.  And another.  Every time I walked by I would grab one.  I was still at work long after everyone had left.  I actually took my key and walked to the Bucket's office, unlocked the door and looked to see what was left.  Much to my delight, when I pushed the first layer of candy aside, I uncovered the mother load of Reese's Peanut Butter Pumpkins!  How had these gone undiscovered?!?  I am embarrassed to say that by the time I took my garbage can and set it outside my office door, it was nearly overflowing with bright orange wrappers.  Seriously Lisa?  Yep - that had just happened.
Thursday night I felt sick to my stomach.  Literally from the amount of pumpkins I had consumed.  And figuratively - how I had I let myself get so out of control?  After sending myself on a major guilt trip, I came to two conclusions.
First, tomorrow is a new day.  I would do better at making healthy choices than I had today.
Second, I would dust off a tool that was buried in the bottom of my Temptation Tool Box.  Chocolate Meditation.  I read about it in an issue of Psychology Today several years ago.  Since then, I've practiced it myself and included it in workshops that I've taught.  How many times, like me on Thursday, have you consumed a piece of candy so quickly that you did not enjoy it and got zero satisfaction out of it?  What a waste!  Chocolate Meditation allows you to take a moment to relax and truly enjoy the experience of eating the chocolate leaving you satisfied instead of craving more.  You should give it a try!

Chocolate Meditation
Choose some chocolate - either a type that you've never tried before or one that you have not eaten recently. It might be dark and flavorsome, organic or fair-trade or, perhaps, cheap and trashy.
Here goes:
• Open the piece of candy keeping it in the wrapper. Inhale the aroma. Let it sweep over you.

Take the candy out of the wrapper and look at it. Really let your eyes drink in what it looks like, examining every nook and cranny.
• Pop it in your mouth (or take a bite depending on the size). See if it's possible to hold it on your tongue and let it melt, noticing any tendency to suck at it. Chocolate has over 300 different flavors. See if you can sense some of them.

• If you notice your mind wandering while you do this, simply notice where it went, then gently escort it back to the present moment.

• After the chocolate has completely melted, swallow it very slowly and deliberately. Let it trickle down your throat.

• Repeat this with one other piece.
Tomorrow is Monday and I am ready to face the day and face the Office Halloween Candy Bucket!  Are you?

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Happy Watermelon Day! Celebrating with a Healthy Team Building Activity

Work has been very stressful lately and I could tell that my aide staff was feeling it.  I wanted to come up with an idea that would be fun and de-stressing for my staff, a healthy idea and inexpensive for me (so the obvious and easy ideas of ordering pizza or bringing in donuts was out!).  So I hopped online and saw that August 3rd is National Watermelon Day.  Who knew?

One of the first things that comes to my mind when I think of watermelon is a seed spitting contest. When is the last time that you participated in a watermelon seed spitting contest?  A long time, right? I was a little worried that my staff would think it was silly, but we need some silly at work right now.  So I posted a sign saying Team Meeting at 2PM.

I had one hurdle - my day got crazy so my plan to run to the grocery store in between meetings fell through.  I walked over to the corner store across the street where I knew they had a small selection of fresh fruit.  Can you believe that they only had seedless watermelons???  As a back-up plan I bought grapes.

When my Team gathered at 2PM I could hear the groans about ANOTHER meeting.  What was up now?  They were quite surprised when I wished them a Happy Watermelon Day and suggested that we celebrate with a Grape Spitting Contest.  There was a pause . . . and then everyone burst out laughing!  We headed out to the patio off of our Day Center.  We set a spot where staff had to stand and then everyone got two turns to spit a grape and see how far it would go.

Let me tell you - we had SO much fun!  Everyone participated and we were cracking up.  It was the perfect way to break the tension.  Staff members were laughing, cheering each other on and teasing each other a bit.

Our Grape Spitting Champion and Runner-Up!
In the end we crowned a Champion and Runner-Up.  Our Champion chose a $5 gift card to Get-Go (a gas station and grocery).  The Runner-Up received a certificate for an extra fifteen minutes for her lunch one day.  To celebrate, we all snacked on seedless watermelon!

This activity took about 15 minutes (only half of my Team was in the Center at the time).  It was a great team building activity and stress reliever.  Everyone enjoyed the watermelon which was a healthy snack.  And the entire event cost me less than $15.

Healthy!  Fun!  Cheap!
Doesn't get much better than that!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

It's not too Late to Check Things Off Your Summer Bucket List

My kids recently returned from a week long Missions Trip to Puerto Rico with our church's Youth Group.  It was so exciting to hear their stories and look at the pictures they took!  They had an absolutely amazing time.

As I was taking care of the not so fun part of their trip - the smelly sweaty laundry! - my mind began to wander to one of the next big events of our lives . . . prepping for back to school.  School supply displays are up at Target so we should head their sooner rather than later.  My daughter "donated" her tennis shoes in Puerto Rico so she'll need a new pair.  My son needs a form completed by his doctor.


It is the middle of July.  We still have half of the kids summer vacation!  Why am I allowing my mind to be consumed with the stress of back to school already?  Don't get me wrong - it's important to plan ahead and be prepared.  My daughter and I will be making a school supply run this weekend (few things top the anxiety of needing a 1" red binder with a clear plastic cover sleeve that the teacher is requiring you to have tomorrow or you lose 100 points and there is not a single one left in 20 mile radius!).

I grabbed my planner and opened up to the page where I had written my Summer Bucket List back in May.  I've already checked several activities off.  But there are several more items on the list!
Hiking at Beam Rocks in Forbes State Forest - CHECK!
Fortunately, I caught myself before I allowed the stress and anxiety that always seems to attack me during the transition from one season to the next consume me.  There is still a lot of summer left to experience in 2017!  So I paused and took a close look at that list.  Picking a few items off it I purposely put them on my calendar so that they would not be missed.  I'll get to Pittsburgh's Wiener World!  I'll get to Hidden Valley for a weekend!

Trust me - I'll be ready for the start of school, but I won't miss out on the fun of summer!  How about you?  What's something you want to fit in before the leaves start to change colors?

A few more items already crossed off my Summer Bucket List . . .
Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Arts Festival - CHECK!

Yoga in Pittsburgh's Market Square with my Mom - CHECK

My daughter and her BFFs at Phipp's Conservatory
in Pittsburgh, PA - CHECK