Friday, December 30, 2011

Favorite Blog Posts From 2011

I know it's been a little quite here the last few days, but I've been enjoying time with my family and friends. I'll be back to regular posting next week! In the meantime, for my "Friday Favorites" post I thought I would do a summary of my favorite blog posts from 2011! Enjoy!

5 top posts from the year:

Some of my favorite posts from the year:

  • Challenging & Changing Cognitive Distortions - The post has a lot of good information about transforming your thinking patterns to allow for greater health and happiness in your life!
  • Thoughts of A Perfectionist - Not only does this post address thinking patterns of the perfectionist, but links to the other posts from the series on perfectionism that I did.
  • It's Not About Me!
  • The Series on Grieving and Loss- this link will take you to various posts by topic. This series is under "loss". I feel like this is good information to know, and can help us deal with suffering and loss in healthy and realistic ways!
  • Don't Use Words Too Big For The Subject - Ways to change our word choice to align with reality. 
  • The Series on OCD- I linked to the final post in this series, but it will take you to all the other posts as well! I hope that those who are struggling, or who have a loved one who is struggling, can find information like this and be able to recognize and understand it better!
  • "You Don't Understand" - We've all heard (or said) that phrase before, haven't we? This post discusses that simple little phrase, and how it changes conversation and relationships.
  • Healthy Coping Skills- It's good to use and practice good coping skills, isn't it? This post discusses categories of coping, and addresses ways to cope with things in a healthy manner.
It was honestly pretty hard to choose my favorite posts from the year. These aren't necessarily entertaining, but they contain information that is helpful or even crucial for living a healthy and happy life! 

Now it's your turn:
Link to your favorite blog post from the year in the comments section!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Thankfulness Project Tuesday

I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.  ~Charles Dickens

Well, my Thankfulness Project post is coming to you on Tuesday instead of Monday this week due to Christmas and spending time with my family. I hope you each had a good Christmas, and enjoyed your day spending time with family, friends, or celebrating in whatever fashion you chose to!

This is what every night of Christmas break looks like:)

  • REAL fires in the fireplace: I don't have a fireplace at my house, so when I'm at my parent's house I soak it in for all it's worth. Christmas break to me means having a fire every night while we watch movies, and I love the warmth and glow the fire gives off! 
  • Time With My Family: It's been a fun last week, and I'm soaking my last few days of it before heading back home! It's been a great week of eating, watching movies, exercising, and hanging around the house together. 
  • The presents I received for Christmas: I hate to be materialistic at all about the holiday, but I AM so thankful for the items I received for Christmas. It's a great time to get some things for the house that I can use on a regular basis, and some other things that I know I will regularly enjoy throughout the year. 
  • Pilates: I love it, and wish I could take classes a few times a week! I love how I feel when I do it, and I enjoy the strength I see that comes from doing it. Seriously, you all should try taking some reformer pilates classes- they're awesome!
  • Christmas: I'm thankful for the entire season of Christmas. I love the parties and time to celebrate with family & friends. But more then anything, I am thankful for the reason we even celebrate Christmas! I look forward to this month for the entire year, so I'm feeling a little sad that it is over now. 
Now it's your turn:
What're some of your favorite Christmas break traditions? Have you ever tried pilates? 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.  ~Charles Dickens

The universal joy of Christmas is certainly wonderful.  We ring the bells when princes are born, or toll a mournful dirge when great men pass away.  Nations have their red-letter days, their carnivals and festivals, but once in the year and only once, the whole world stands still to celebrate the advent of a life.  ~Author Unknown

MERRY CHRISTMAS to each of you who read this little blog of mine! I hope you each have a fantastic day celebrating, whether with friends or family. I will be spending it with my family, enjoying time together and spending the day with Christmas lights on and the fire blazing. 

I know that for some, Christmas is a very difficult, painful, or grief-filled day. For those of you who are alone, struggling through an illness, grieving the loss of someone close in your life, or any other number of reasons, I hope that you experience some love and joy tomorrow, and that someone in your life is able to reach out to you. I'm sorry for your pain, and please know there are people out there who care about you and can help you if you need it! 

Now it's your turn:
What's one of your favorite traditions on Christmas Day? 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday Favorites

Favorite Tiny Delight of the Week
Working out with my family! One of my family traditions is to work out every day together once we all get to my parents house for Christmas. We've been going to the gym every day, and spinning, doing yoga, pilates, and weight-lifting together. Not only do we get in some quality time together, but we also stay healthy! It's a great time of fun, laughter, and sweating, and it's good to see each family member choosing to be healthy!

Favorite Quote of the Week
"It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you... yes, it is Christmas every time you smile at your brother and offer him your hand." -Mother Teresa

While this is the season of gift giving, I'm wondering if you can think of some "gift of love" that you can give 
others this season.

Favorite Post By Someone Else
Time In The Dark - An excellent post on the shortest day of the year, and how it can remind us of important things in life. Check it out!

Favorite Past Post
Thoughts Of A Perfectionist - I included this post this week because during the holiday season, people tend to stress about doing things the "perfect" way or have high expectations of themselves of others. Check this post out, and develop realistic expectations for yourself! 

Favorite Search Term
This post is short & sweet today. I know that, with these last few days before Christmas comes a lot of busy and hectic schedules. Enjoy time with your family & friends as you do your final preparations for Christmas. I know I'll be spending my day shopping & wrapping!

Now it's your turn!
What're some of your "favorites" for the week? What's a "gift of love" you can give to another person this Christmas season?

    Wednesday, December 21, 2011

    Christmas Survey

    I saw this on Heather's Blog a few days ago, and thought I'd participate! It really doesn't have to do with anything health or counseling related, but that's ok...right? I've always found it interesting how different people celebrate the same holiday. Traditions are fascinating:)

    Eggnog or hot chocolate?
    Absolutely Hot Chocolate! I love hot chocolate, and now that I have a lactose free recipe, I can make it as often as I'd like! I love putting peppermint in it to add a little extra zing to it!

    Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
    ALWAYS wraps them. I actually never realized until a few years ago that some people got unwrapped Santa gifts. Ours were always wrapped and under the tree, in the stockings, and on the fireplace.

    Colored lights on tree/house or white?
    White goes on the main tree and colored lights goes on the "kids" Christmas tree (the tree with all our old ornaments and things we made growing up). Colored lights are acceptable outside, as are white:)

    Do you hang mistletoe?

    When do you hang your decorations up?
    The weekend before Thanksgiving. That way, when I return home after visiting my parents for Thanksgiving, it's all decorated. I don't turn on the lights until after Thanksgiving.

    What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
    This is difficult. I REALLY look forward to creamed onions at Thanksgiving and Christmas every year. And this amazing strawberry jello with strawberry chunks in it. I only eat these two foods at Thanksgiving and Christmas, so they're special.

    Favorite holiday memory as a child?
    I have so many fantastic Christmas memories from growing up that it is really hard to choose. We weren't allowed to make any noise on Christmas morning until 8 am, so my cousins and I woke up early and played card games quietly in our rooms. The anticipation was so high, and when we were finally told we could come downstairs, it was amazing:)

    What is on your Christmas wish list?
    Amazon Gift card to buy a few books as I think of them throughout the year. That way I don't have to feel the pressure of coming up with books on the spot!

    Do you open up gifts on Christmas Eve?
    Don't even get me started on this one:) We do NOT open our gifts on Christmas Eve and I don't think that I ever will open them on the 24th. Growing up, we were allowed to open up one gift on Christmas Eve.

    How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
    At my house my tree is pretty simple. White lights with differed colored balls. Simple but beautiful! At my parents house, we decorate the "kids tree" with our favorite ornaments, and the various things we made at school growing up. It's fun to look back at old crafts and school pictures attached to ornaments.

    Snow? Love it or dread it?
    I love the snow, but really dislike the cold. I would like snow from December 1-January 20th or so, and then I'm pretty much over it.

    Real tree or fake tree?
    I have a fake tree right now because I don't actually spend Christmas at my place. My parents have always had a real tree, but the "kids tree" is also a fake one. I love the smell of fresh pine trees!

    Do you remember your favorite gift?
    I definitely don't have a single "favorite gift" that I've gotten. One year I really wanted a blanket from one of my favorite places, and asked my mom for it every day from October until mid December. I still use that blanket on a daily basis, and it reminds me of so many fantastic memories from growing up. It's a sentimental and practical gift all in one.

    What's the most important thing about Christmas for you?
    Amidst all of the parties, gifts, and celebrations, I remember that we are celebrating the birth of Jesus. It's also important for me to spend time with my family.

    What is your favorite holiday dessert?
    This is a tough one because we don't have one traditional holiday dessert. I love the Christmas cookies that we make each year though!

    What is your favorite tradition?
    Last year was the first Christmas that we did something different, so we're a little bit trying to create some new traditions right now. Every Christmas Eve we go to church, then drive around to look at Christmas lights, and then come home and eat cake (it's Jesus' birthday, remember?), read the Night Before Christmas, and Luke 2. On Christmas day we try to drag out the gift opening all day. We slowly open gifts, talk, play games, and go on a walk throughout the day. The entire day is spent together as a family.

    What tops your tree?
    An angel that we've had since before I was born.

    Do you prefer giving or receiving?
    Buying gifts for people makes me really anxious, unless I know that the person has asked for that specific item. I've never enjoyed buying gifts, but it's not because of the time it takes or the money spent. I just get nervous. However, if I know someone has wanted that item, then I love giving gifts! I like getting gifts, but part of me always feels a little bad about the entire thing.

    What is your favorite Christmas song?
    I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day- I linked it here so you can check it out. I'm all about a good story behind the song, and this song has a fantastic story. Until a few years ago, however, it was either O Holy Night or The First Noel.

    Candy canes, yuck or yum?
    I really like the fruity candy canes. I don't normally go out of my way to eat a plain peppermint candy cane, but I do love putting them in hot chocolate.

    Favorite Christmas movie?
    Another tough one, because I try to watch so many every year. I really love It's A Wonderful Life. I think the concept of us reaching out and touching more people then we realize it a fantastic idea, and one that we generally don't think about. It's interesting to think what life would really be like for our loved ones if we hadn't ever been born.

    What do you leave for Santa?
    Nothing now. Growing up it was always milk and cookies.

    Do you have a Christmas morning tradition?
    oops! I already answered this. We had to sit quietly in our rooms until 8 am, so we played card games and whispered excitedly amongst all the cousins. We would then line up on the stairs and take pictures, and could hear the Christmas music playing downstairs. We would then all run downstairs into the living room and grab out stockings!

    Do you prefer to shop on-line or at the mall?

    Christmas letter or Christmas card?
    I know sometimes the Christmas letter can be a brag fest, but whether it is informative, bragging, or completely ridiculous, I LOVE the Christmas letter. I love reading them!

    Christmas is one of my favorite holidays, and it's certainly interesting to see how traditions change as we get older and as the family make-up changes. I've packed in at least one Christmas movie a week, and listen to Christmas music many times a day. Basically, I just love Christmas, and I love watching movies at night with the fire going, Christmas lights on, and my family around me.

    Now it's your turn!
    Answer one or some of these questions! What's your favorite holiday tradition?

    Tuesday, December 20, 2011

    Track Behavior Before You Change It!

    January 1st, the New Year, the start of finally "getting healthy"... yup, that's right. It's time for New Years Resolutions or Goals. First of all, it is OK to not create a new goal for yourself for the year, and it is also ok to not create one until say, February or March. Setting goals is a healthy thing, no matter what time of the year it is!

     However, New Years Resolutions have become notorious for being "a joke"; they are something we tend to make but not actually follow through on in our life. So, before we get any closer to New Years, and you all creating some new goals for your life, I thought I would begin to discuss how to set yourself up for the greatest amount of success in meeting your behavior change goals.

    Part of the reason why New Years Resolutions tend to not be followed through on is because the entire "behavior change process" isn't done in a successful manner. Have you ever heard the phrase "you can't change what you don't know"? (If you haven't, well, I guess you just did) That phrase really describes the entire behavior change process. People tend to just jump into behavior change without knowing how that behavior currently plays out in their life.

    Here are a few steps to do BEFORE changing your behavior that will set you up for the greatest chance at success:

    1. Decide What Behavior You'd Like To Change: Obviously you'll need to choose a behavior or two that you would like to change. Make sure to not set too many, as it is easy to feel overwhelmed about the entire thing and quit.
    2. Track Your Current Behavior to Learn How It Plays Out In Life: That's right, I said track the behavior. Figure out what excuses you're making, what makes you less likely/more likely to engage in said behavior you'd like to change, and figure out what times of the day/situations/people won't aid this change. We engage in behaviors for a specific reason, and there is some benefit we get out of maintaining our present behavior. Figure out what that reason is! We need to know what our excuses are and what things make it difficult to be successful at that behavior change. Here's an example- I found myself eating a lot of unhealthy snacks when I got home from work while unwinding and cooking dinner. By the time I sat down for dinner, I wasn't all that hungry for the healthy stuff, and I felt frustrated by my lack of health. Because I took time to track behavior, I figured out that if I cut up veggies on Sunday nights, I would have a super easy and convenient healthy snack for myself. Tracking behavior is a crucial component for healthy behavior change, and it's often a step that people tend to skip. 
    3. Read Up and Educate Yourself On Your Desired Behavior Goal: If you want to start exercising, then look at the various exercise classes at a local gym to see if any interest you. Read up on various exercises and recommendations online. If you want to start eating healthy, look into some various meal plans and/or some healthy new foods and recipes to add into your meals. Spend some time getting to know what your behavior looks like as a "healthy behavior."
    4. DO NOT CHANGE YOUR BEHAVIOR YET. I know, I know. It's frustrating. Please be patient and track your behavior for a week or two and really get to know it. You'll most likely be MUCH more successful in the long run, and come into the behavior change experience feeling less frustrated and more prepared. 

    So, over the next few weeks as you are itching to change your behavior, why not take some time to be proactive about your goals and set yourself up for the greatest amount of success possible? It's certainly not going to harm you...right? So give it a shot!

    Now it's your turn:
    Do you set goals for yourself for the New Year? If so, have you started to think about what behaviors you'd like to change or add into your life? 

    Monday, December 19, 2011

    Thankfulness Project Monday

    "A Christmas candle is a lovely thing; It makes no noise at all. But softly gives itself away; while quite unselfish, it grows small." -Eva K. Logue

    Christmas is only a few days away (and Hanukkah starts tomorrow!) , and I'm sure most of you out there are busy prepping for the holiday, traveling, or getting ready to visit family or friends. If you're feeling overwhelmed, take a few deep breaths and check out these tips. And focus on the things that you are thankful for today. Without any further ado, here are a few things I'm feeling thankful for right now:

    • Christmas Outfits: No, I don't wear Christmas sweaters, and certainly don't even own a "tacky Christmas sweater", but I do love holiday themed outfits (red, green, sparkles... you get the picture). It's been fun to see everyone dress in professional Christmasy types clothes over the last few weeks, and makes the day just a little more fun!
    • Christmas Music: Songs like Carol of The Bells or I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day definitely add some extra joy and fun to the Christmas season. I've been listening to Christmas music in the car, in my house, and have instrumental Christmas music playing quietly in the background of my sessions. It's cheery and brings warmth to the room. I love it:)
    • Reading: I don't read nearly as much as I would like to, but when I do get the chance, I really enjoy it. It's fun to learn about new people, cultures, or topics in my field, but it's also fun to lose yourself in a good story! 
    • For the ability to deal with stress appropriately: This is a bit of a different take on the things I'm thankful for, but I'm very glad that we aren't doomed to feeling out of control and I'm glad that we have the ability to control our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. I'm thankful we have the power to choose healthy coping skills over those that are unhealthy. 
    • For clients who work hard and fight to get healthy: It's so amazing to watch people fight towards health and make changes in their life. I really feel lucky to have such an amazing job! 
    Now it's your turn!
    What are you feeling thankful for today? What's your favorite Christmas song? 

    Sunday, December 18, 2011

    I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day {2011}

    Last December, I published a post called "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day". Here I am, about a year later, writing a post with pretty much the identical title. Why, you might ask? Because I LOVE THE SONG and I think it's well worth mentioning once again on this blog. Please go back to the original post and read the story behind the song. The story of Longfellow is absolutely amazing, and it's interesting to understand the mental state he was in when he penned the words to this song.

    So many of us come to the holiday season feeling broken or going through a deep struggle with something or someone. Longfellow was no stranger to brokenness yet somehow, in the midst of that pain, he was able to find peace through something beautiful. I love the story, and I love the song. I love the realness of his brokenness, and I love his journey to hope and acceptance. It's moving. 

    You may have missed the following posts this week:
    One week until Christmas! Remember to take some time to think about some steps to take to be healthy this week. 

    Now it's your turn!
    What are some small goals you have to keep yourself healthy this week? 

    Saturday, December 17, 2011

    Peppermint Cookies Recipe

    A few weeks ago, I saw this recipe for Peppermint Cookies and just KNEW that I had to try them out. Heather has some fantastic recipes that are absolutely delicious, and the pictures she included looked great. You'll have to head over her site to get the actual recipe, but I thought I'd share a little snippet of my attempt at her recipe.

    All Purpose Flour
    Baking Powder
    Almond Milk
    Peppermint Extract
    Crushed Peppermint Candies or Candy Canes

    According to Heather, the dough was supposed to be crumbly and be fashioned into a log and refrigerated. I went over the recipe multiple times, but it was not crumbly, and didn't get solid while refrigerating it (I wish I knew what went wrong!) I clumped it into balls instead, so they aren't shaped nearly as well as Heather's turned out to be. I also ended up cooking it for almost double the length of time that she suggested, and I'm guessing that's because of the different consistency of the dough.

    Despite it not turning out exactly like Heather's cookies did, they were still DELICIOUS and well worth the amount of time it took to make them.

    Crushed up candy canes. I put them in a plastic bag and smashed them with a meat pounder. 

    See? Not at all the consistency they were supposed to be...

    But all turned out well because they were DELICIOUS! 

    Ok, so they don't look nearly as appetizing as they did with the original recipe, so make sure to check it out. But trust me, these little guys are worth your time to make. I'm planning on making them again soon:)

    Now it's your turn!
    What's your favorite Christmas cookie to make? Feel free to share your link below! 

    Friday, December 16, 2011

    Friday Favorites

    Favorite Tiny Delight of the Week
    This week one of my favorite "little delights" has been watching Christmas movies with friends. I know I've mentioned Christmas movies a few times in recent posts, but since I've tried to watch a Christmas movie every day, I'd say it's a pretty big part of my weeks. After work and exercise, I get together with friends and watch a Christmas movie with Christmas tree lights on, drinking Christmas tea, and with scented candles. The entire thing is so incredibly relaxing and enjoyable, and a great way to slow down during a busy time of the year. 

    Favorite Quote of the Week

    The one resolution, which was in my mind long before it took the form of a resolution, 
    is the key-note of my life.  It is this, always to
    regard as mere impertinences of fate the handicaps which were placed
    upon my life almost at the beginning.  I resolved that they should
    not crush or dwarf my soul, but rather be made to  blossom, like
    Aaron's rod,  with flowers.
    -- Helen Keller
    Helen Keller has always been an inspiration to me in regards to joy and utter perseverance despite some incredibly difficult circumstances. This is an amazing perspective to have. 

    Favorite Post By Someone Else
    Get Healthy, Starting NOW! Heater @ Running With Sass, along with the other FitFluential Ambassadors, posted some of her great tips for getting healthy NOW. There's no reason to wait until after the Holiday season is over to make steps towards health. Check out her post for a few little things you can do throughout this season! 

    Favorite Past Post
    Learning to Fail Better - One common theme I see in my clients and friends is this idea of letting failure (or a perception of failure) define you. 

    Favorite Search Term
    Now it's your turn!
    What have been some of your own "favorites" for the week? Do you have a favorite Christmas movie?

    Thursday, December 15, 2011

    Healthy Coping Skills

    "Coping refers to the thoughts and actions we use to deal with stress. In large part, feeling stressed or not depends on whether we believe we have the coping resources to deal with the challenges facing us. Most coping strategies fall into one of two broad categories:
    • Problem-focused coping strategies are used to tackle the problem directly. 
    • Emotion-focused coping strategies are used to handle feelings of distress, rather than the actual problem. 
    In general, research has shown that problem-focused coping strategies are the most effective way for dealing with stress" (the above information is from this website). 

    In this post I mentioned that it is beneficial to understand what our unhealthy coping mechanisms are in life (food, alcohol/substances, etc...), and learn to replace those with healthy coping mechanisms or skills. in coping we want to deal with the physical problems that are occurring, and we also want to address the emotions that go along with that situation. Given that this time of the year can be incredibly stressful (and because someone requested it!), here are a few healthy coping skills to practice and implement in your life. 

    • Attempt to increase your sense of control: In this post I discussed ways to increase or develop your sense of control in life. Implementing organizational strategies and setting small goals for yourself will help to increase your sense of control as well. (Food is NOT a healthy way to try to gain control, and can lead to an eating disorder)
    • Positive Reappraisal: This is simply what is sounds like it is. This process involves trying to view the positive within the situation in which you find yourself. This is about identifying the positive things that are happening instead of repeating the soundtrack of negative things that we find ourselves replaying. 
    • Addressing Cognitive Distortions: Challenge & Change the Irrational Beliefs that you might be holding on to. Any of the posts listed here under "Cognitive Distortions" will be helpful in addressing this. 
    • Writing: What goes on in our heads can sometimes be a jumbled mess, like someone took a handful of bouncy balls and let them go in our heads. If we can get all the stuff in our heads out onto paper (even the computer screen is better then nothing), we can sometimes develop a different perspective on the situation, or feel as if it is not so chaotic. This allows us to process the situation in a different way then simply by stressing out about it in our heads. Spend 10-15 minutes writing about the situation (or doing a free-write/stream of consciousness) and see what happens. 
    • Engage in Deep Breathing: Check out this post for steps to develop a practice of deep breathing. This will help to bring your heart rate and blood pressure down, and help you focus on the situation at hand. 
    • Exercise: But keep it balanced and moderate. Too much exercise can become unhealthy, just as no exercise is unhealthy. Engage in yoga, pilates, running, swimming, spinning, or some other form of exercise that will help combat some of the emotions you are experiencing. 
    • Engage in a hobby or activity you enjoy: Take a few minutes to take a long bath, watch a funny TV show, talk to a friend on the phone, write a letter to someone, play with pets, or volunteer. Here are a few other tips to refill yourself
    • Engage in or practice spiritual or religious activities: Spiritual communities can be a source of a great amount of support and encouragement. Some people find reading scriptures, prayer, or other similar activities to be encouraging. 
    Ok, this is getting a bit long, so I will end my list of coping strategies at this point. The most important are to figure out ways that are helpful for you in various situations, and then practice these regularly. 

    Now it's your turn:
    What is one healthy coping skill you can commit to trying out and practicing in your life? 

    Wednesday, December 14, 2011

    Wellness Wednesday: {Self Care Part 2}

    Welcome back to "Wellness Wednesday", a midweek look at one aspect of our health and wellness in life. Remember that I'm using the Wheel of Wellness to help visualize health in life:

    If you need a little refresher, click here. We are currently in the middle of Life Task 2: Self Direction, and today we will be continuing our discussion on Self Care. This is an excellent time of the year to be focusing on self care, as any time holidays or family gatherings hit, it's easy to give up our self care activities. 

    Myers & Sweeney (in their book Counseling For Wellness) have outlined 3 aspects of self care within this dimension of health:
    "safety habits that we learn to protect ourselves from injury or death; periodic physical, medical, and dental checkups; and avoiding harmful substances, both those that we might ingest and toxic substances in the environment" (p. 24). 
    The goal of self-care, then is to increase longevity of life, and to be as healthy as possible while living that life. 

    Here are a few behaviors that fall under the category of "self-care"

    • Brushing & flossing teeth on a daily basis
    • Avoiding prolonged exposure to the sun, using sunscreen, and avoiding tanning beds (PLEASE!)
    • Wearing a helmet while riding a bike... always... 
    • Learning how to tread water and swim (in order to stay safe near the water)
    • Wearing a life jacket while out on a boat
    • Not diving in lakes/ponds/shallow pools
    • ALWAYS wearing a seat belt in the car
    • Getting appropriate vaccinations
    • Checking the back seat of the car before getting into it
    • Looking both ways before crossing the street
    • Not texting while driving (please don't text... seriously.... it's really dangerous)
    • Having a designated driver if you go out and drink
    • Avoid smoking
    • Eat a healthy and balanced diet 
    • Limit the number of alcoholic beverages you drink on a regular basis
    • Lock your house while you're home & when you're gone, EVEN IF you live in a safe neighborhood. 
    These are just a few things to help get you thinking about the self care measures that you currently take in life, and which areas might need improvement. Modeling and teaching appropriate self care and safety to our children is important, as children tend to do what they see their parents do. 

    Now it's your turn:
    What important aspects of self-care do you regularly do? Which aspects of self-care might you need to improve? Do you regularly schedule appropriate health screenings and check-ups? 

    Tuesday, December 13, 2011

    Tips For Reducing Stress During the Holidays {Part 3}

    Are any of you starting to feel the pressure and stress of the Holiday Season yet? Christmas can certainly bring out high levels of stress for people, so my goal is to give some easy and practical ways of reducing stress this season. If you've missed the other posts in this series, here are Part 1 and Part 2.

    Here are a few other tips for reducing stress:

    • Be practical in the amount of people you buy for: While we may want to get gifts for all those in our lives, sometimes it isn't practical financially or time-wise. Set a limit on the amount of people you are buying for in your life. Your friends will probably more then understanding, or at least relieved it's one less gift they have to buy as well. If you've usually given a gift to someone, and have chosen not to this year, be assertive and tell them that upfront. If you're tight on money, let them know that, while you'd like to buy something for them, you just can't do it this year, but still want them to know that you appreciate your friendship. 
    • Be aware of what your unhealthy coping mechanisms are: Most of us have some unhealthy ways to cope with situations: food, alcohol, picking, etc... Plan in advance what you will do when you are tempted to use these unhealthy coping mechanisms. I find that it can be helpful to create a list in advance of healthy things you can do when you are in a place that you need to cope so it is ready at your fingertips when it is needed. 
    • Be careful to not have unrealistic expectations for family: Sometimes we expect that a family member's behavior will change simply because it's Christmas. Generally speaking, people are who they are no matter what time of the year it is, meaning that just because it's a big holiday doesn't mean the person's behavior will change. 
    • Practice deep breathing regularly: When we start getting stressed, it's easy for us to feel short of breath, our heart races, and our tension shoots up. Practicing deep breathing throughout the day will help keep your stress at bay, allowing you to function as best as possible. Click here to read about developing a deep breathing practice. 
    • Understand that you don't HAVE to get together with family: Sometimes we feel that the holidays obligate us to spend time with family. While it's nice if you can, you are in no way obligated to do this. Perhaps your family is toxic or too inappropriate/dysfunctional/unsafe to be around. You'll have a more enjoyable break if you spend it as an immediately family instead of throwing yourselves into a toxic family situation. 
    Well, you now have 15 tips to decrease your overall stress this holiday season. Choose a few to work on and make a priority throughout the next few weeks, and let me know how it goes.

    Now it's your turn:
    What sorts of stress have you experienced this Christmas season so far? What are 2 tips that you can commit to working on throughout the next few weeks?

    Monday, December 12, 2011

    Thankfulness Project Monday

    We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.  ~Cynthia Ozick

    Isn't the above quote so very often true? We can often remember to be grateful for the big things in life, such as a vacation, new car, or something we've long awaited for. However, sometimes we forget to be just as grateful for the little things in life. Besides, don't the little things often become the big things in life?

    With this in mind, here are a few of the "little things" that I'm grateful for right now:
    • Christmas movies: OK, I know that I put this on my list last week too, but I'm using it again because I'm equally as thankful for them this week. I've watched a Christmas movie a night this week, and I've loved that! Some of them have been busts (A Princess for Christmas, anyone?), and some of them have been great (Miracle on 34th Street, Christmas Vacation, Elf, Love Actually, The Holiday, & Christmas in Connecticut, to name a few). It's such a relaxing way to end the day. 
    • My Space Heater & Blankets: These things keep me WARM and cozy in the winter. I don't like turning my heat on too high because I think it's a waste of money, so it usually hovers between 64 and 66 degrees, but sometimes lower. The space heater warms up the room I'm in, and is much cheaper. Of course blankets are a HUGE help as well! Cozy and cheap- that's the way I like it. 
    • Luna Bars: Easy and convenient, these guys are a great way to boost my energy towards the end of the work day, and before my evening work outs. They are delicious, unlike many protein bars I've tried, and are easy to throw into any bag I choose to take with me. 
    • Lotion for the winter: I use much thicker cream lotion for the winter, and I'm so glad they invented this stuff! My face and body gets SO dry and uncomfortable in the winter, and I would feel pretty miserable without this stuff. It's a little thing that is easy to pass up when thinking about "gratefuls" for the day, but I'm very glad that I have found something that makes the winter a little more comfortable.
    • Scarves: They're a fun accessory, but can also have a very practical use in the winter as well. I love adding a scarf to my outfit for the day:)
    Now it's your turn:
    What are you feeling thankful for right now? What's your favorite Christmas movie or favorite way to get in extra protein in the day?

    Sunday, December 11, 2011

    Carol of the Bells

    Well, we are firmly into the Christmas season now, and I personally feel that it is rushing by at an incredible speed. Often times on Sunday I post a recap of the week, and I decided to add in a Christmas song that is enjoyable. If you've ever seen this song put to a lights display, it's pretty amazing!

    This weekend I've tried to have a mixture of relaxation, exercise, cleaning, and preparing for Christmas vacation. 

    In case you missed them, here are some of my posts from the last week:

    Remember: now that it is Sunday, it's time to set a few "mini goals" for your health and wellness this upcoming week!

    Now it's your turn:
    What's one step towards health that you would like to accomplish this week? 

    Saturday, December 10, 2011

    Candy Cane Oatmeal

    Last weekend I wanted to make a Christmas sort of oatmeal. If you've been following this blog for long, you may know how much I love making all sorts of varieties of oatmeal, and especially love making them for the season! As I paced about my living room and kitchen trying to come up with what to do to my oatmeal, my eyes landed on a box of "Candy Cane Lane" tea. I immediately knew what I wanted to make: Candy Cane Oatmeal!

    Candy Cane Tea
    Brown Sugar
    Almond Slices

    I started out by bringing the water to a hard boil. I then pulled the pan off the stove and put 1 candy cane lane tea bag in the water. For a stronger tea flavor, put in more tea bags! I let the bag sit in the water for about 5 minutes, and then pulled the bag out of the water.

    I then put in the appropriate amount of oats for the fluid I had, cooked, and added toppings. 

    Voila! DELICIOUS and healthy oatmeal that is perfect for the Christmas Season!

    I stopped myself before adding crushed up candy canes to the top of it, but I'm a little tempted to try it out next time! Of course you could make this with any type of tea, but the Candy Cane tea made it more Christmas-y! 

    If you're looking for other "fun" types of oatmeal, here's a few others to check out:

    Now it's your turn:
    What are some of your favorite extras to add to oatmeal? Have you ever tried Candy Cane flavored tea? 

    Friday, December 9, 2011

    Friday Favorites

    Favorite Tiny Delight of the Week
    This week one of my favorite "little delights" has been Christmas Baking. It started last weekend with a delicious creation of "candy cane" oatmeal ("recipe" coming soon!) and Heather's Peppermint Cookies, both of which I could eat continuously for weeks! YUM! I love cooking while Christmas music is playing in the background. While cooking can, at times, increase my stress, when it comes to "fun" Christmas cooking, I can feel my stress melting away. 

    Favorite Quote of the Week
    Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. -Eleanor Roosevelt

    Do you choose to be a "small mind" and simply discuss people (gossip), or do you choose to have a great mind, and challenge yourself? That choice is YOURS!

    Favorite Post By Someone Else
    Don't Put It Off by Tina at Best Body Fitness. This is an absolutely fantastic post from the first to the last word, and is a quick read. I would highly encourage you to check it out... after finishing this post, of course ;)

    Favorite Past Post
    10 Ways To Develop A Positive Body Image - Sometimes during the holiday season it is difficult to feel good about ourselves and our bodies. Check out my tips to develop and maintain a healthy body image! 

    Favorite Search Term

    Now it's your turn!
    What's your favorite thing to cook or eat during the Christmas season? What are some of your "favorites" from the week?

    Thursday, December 8, 2011

    Tips For Reducing Stress During the Holidays {Part 2}

    When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things - not the great occasions - give off the greatest glow of happiness.  ~Bob Hope

    A few days ago I posted part 1 of the series on reducing stress during the holidays. If you missed it, you can check it out here.

    Obviously there are a LOT of different things you can do to reduce stress, so here are 5 more tips for reducing stress:

    • Focus on the "little joys": It's easy to get caught up in the big things of the Christmas season. However, it's often the little or simple things that we remember (see the quote above). When I think of Christmas, it's not the big activities that I think about (they may be "big", but that can lead to more stress too), but the little things: drinking hot chocolate by the fire, watching cheesy Christmas movies, or sleeping next to the Christmas tree with my brothers. None of these are great occasions, but they are the things I ache for all year round and look forward to anxiously as Christmas approaches. 
    • PLAN! (yet be flexible): Plan our your menus & go shopping ahead of time. There's a lot of food that you can purchase a week or two in advance, which will be helpful in avoiding large lines. This will also (hopefully) ensure that you don't forget something essential along the way. 
    • Be Flexible in Creating New Traditions: Ok, I have to admit: this was really hard for me to type  and i'm having a slight panic attack just thinking about it. Seriously, I'm a big "traditions" girl, so I know how tough it can be to be flexible in letting go of, or starting, a tradition. However, because families and friends are always changing, flexibility in this area is important in order to reduce stress (and stay HAPPY throughout the holiday season). Take a deep breath, engage in positive self talk, and tell yourself that you are ok. It is also fine to tell those around you that it is stressful for you to try a new tradition, but that you are trying hard to enjoy it. Acknowledging how you are feeling is fine!
    • Ask For Help! Maybe holidays bring out a nasty side of family members, and you need help from a counselor to learn how to best deal with this. OR, maybe it's help in preparing for a party. Remember that we aren't meant to do life alone, and social support is crucial for a healthy life. Ask your friends, family, or a professional for help if you need it!
    • Continue to practice gratitude and thankfulness: I wrote an entire post on this practice, and you can check it out here. Regularly practicing this can lower blood pressure and make you less hostile, which is definitely important during the holiday season! 
    *This post is part of a series on various aspects of health during the holidays. Make sure to stay tuned for more posts on this subject.

    Now it's your turn:
    How do you deal with stress in any of the areas above? Do you struggle to feel "ok" when traditions change, or are you more of a "go with the flow" person? 

    Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    Wellness Wednesday: {Self Care Part 1}

    Welcome back to "Wellness Wednesday", a midweek look at one aspect of our health and wellness in life. Remember that I'm using the Wheel of Wellness to help visualize health in life:

    If you need a little refresher, click here. We are currently in the middle of Life Task 2: Self Direction, and today we will moving on to another subtask, Self Care. This is an excellent time of the year to be focusing on self care, as any time holidays or family gatherings hit, it's easy to give up our self care activities. 

    Of course "self care" can include more things then we actually think. Myers & Sweeney define this subtask the following way:

    Not abusing substances, using seat belts, getting adequate sleep, obtaining preventive medical and dental care.

    How many of you, while sitting in the dentist's chair, think "I'm engaging in self care right now!" Hm. Probably not. 

    Before I get started on discussing some different aspects of this subtask of wellness, I thought I'd share some links to previous posts I've done on self-care (just to get you thinking!).
    10 Ideas To Refill Yourself
    Loving Myself, Loving Others
    Boundaries & Burnout
    Boundaries & Burunout {Part 2}

    When we don't take care of ourselves, we run the risk of burning out. That's why I think a discussion on boundaries & burnout is crucial in understanding why self care is so crucial. Make sure to check out some of the above posts, and I'll be back next week with a continuing discussion on self care!

    Now it's your turn:
    Have you ever been close to burning out? How do you view self care?

    Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Tips For Reducing Stress During the Holidays {Part 1}

    Oh, for the good old days when people would stop Christmas shopping when they ran out of money.  ~Author Unknown

    Last year I did a post on Tip for Surviving the Holidays with Family. I think many of these tips are applicable in each of your lives (unless your family is, in fact, perfect!), so make sure to check them out!

    Stress levels can easily sky-rocket during the holiday season, which can place further distress on our relationships. Today I want to pass along a few tips for reducing stress during the holidays.
    • Prioritize Your Activities! There are so many great activities this time of year in which to participate. Christmas movies, Christmas concerts, parties, gift exchanges, caroling, cooking decorating parties: you name it, it exists and you've probably been invited to it. You can't do everything, so prioritize and say "no" to those activities that don't make the cut. For the people pleaser, this is difficult, but remember that YOUR HEALTH is important (if you are a people pleaser, click here and scroll down to the "boundaries" category).
    • Make Sure To Take Your "Me" Time: While this is a good season to look outside ourselves, give to others, and celebrate with one another, it's important to get a few minutes every day for self care. The ability to recharge ourselves helps create a buffer against holiday stress, and increases our patience towards those around us. 
    • Maintain healthy habits: During holidays it's easy to give up exercise, healthy eating, and sleep. Doing that will certainly make you feel worse both physically and emotionally. Make sure to continue your healthy habits as much as possible, and remember that balance is important!
    • Set a budget for yourself: Our stress can increase if we dig ourselves into a financial mess. Be wise with your spending, and make sure you are careful on how you spend. If you are lonely or feeling "low" emotionally, there can be a temptation to buy "stuff" in order to cope. It might help in the moment, but will not actually help the situation, and put you in a bigger mess when it comes time to pay the bills. This can be a HUGE stressor for months following Christmas, so make this "tip" a priority. (This is also why I started this post with the quote above).
    • Release the expectation of a "perfect" holiday: Most of us imagine the holiday in a certain way. Even if it isn't "perfect", this imagination tends to become our expectation of what the holiday will be. To be healthy, it is important to let go of expectations for the "perfect" meal, the "perfect" gifts for families, the "perfect" decorations for the house, etc... Do your best, but don't kill yourself over trying to make everything about the holiday perfect. You (or your children) will more then likely remember how stressful it was over how fun it was. 
    *Part 2 of this post will be coming later this week!

    Now it's your turn:
    How do you work on reducing the stress in any of the areas listed above?