Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Following a discussion on what seasonal affective disorder is and what causes it, it's only natural to now discuss the signs and symptoms of the disorder itself.

The Mayo Clinic lists the following as symptoms of fall and winter SAD (source):

  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of Energy
  • Heavy, "leaden" feeling in the arms or legs
  • Social withdrawal
  • Oversleeping
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating
Of course if an individual is experiencing this symptoms year round, it's likely they are experiencing depression, and not specifically seasonal affective disorder. And, of course, we all have days that we feel at least some of these feelings. However, if you are experiencing this symptoms for more days then not for a few weeks, it is important to contact your health care provider. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please contact your doctor, go to the hospital, or call 911.

Now it's your turn:
After looking at this list, do you think either you or someone close to you has experienced SAD? 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Thankfulness Project Monday

"He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has." -Epictetus

Happy Monday! This has been a really enjoyable week, and there's quite a few things that I'm feeling thankful for today. Today for my Thankfulness Project post, I'm choosing to rejoice in the things that I have been given in life:

  • I'm thankful for puppies: They are cute, fun to play with, and incredibly cuddly. And it's hard to not smile and laugh when I'm around them! And pets are generally healthy to have around too, so that's a big plus!
  • I'm thankful for running: I can pound out some stress, have some time apart to clear my head and process the day, think about what I want to do with my clients, and get some endorphins! Plus I know I'm doing something to benefit my body for the future. 
  • I'm thankful for friends around me: There's very little I feel like I need to say about this. I'm thankful for the love, support, and laughter I get from the people in my life. 
  • I'm thankful for fresh baked bread: Give me some olive oil with pepper and/or garlic to dip it into, and I'm a very happy camper. Not only is it delicious, but it is a comfort food as well! Yummm. 
  • I'm thankful for hot showers: I try to be responsible and take as short of showers as I can. However, in the winter there's little that feels better then hot water and a steamy bathroom around you. Have you ever wondered why showers seem to be such a great place to think?
  • I'm thankful for foods covered in chocolate: Raisons, fruit, nuts- it's all delicious, and when it's dark chocolate, there are health benefits too:) 
  • I'm thankful for quotes that allow us to refocus
Now it's your turn!
What are you feeling thankful for today? Where's your favorite place to think and process the day? 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Weekend Wrap Up

Sometimes we just need to smile a bit-

I'm not a morning person at all, so this picture made me smile. 

Here's what you may have missed this past week:
Now it's your turn!
Are you a morning person or a night owl? Did you do anything fun this weekend?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday Favorites

Favorite Tiny Delight of the Week
Stretching! Do you regularly stretch? Flexibility has been shown to provide multiple health benefits, both short term and long term. A regular stretching practice can be an incredibly important part of your week! For me, not only is it a healthy behavior that I engage in, but while I stretch I choose to focus on my breath. I slow my thoughts and my breathing, and focus in on the present. This becomes a very stress reliving activity for me, but mentally and physically. 

Favorite Quote of the Week
"Courage to start and willingness to keep everlasting at it are the requisites for success." - Alonzo Newton Benn

It's easy to quit and define ourselves as a "failure" when things don't work out after one or two times of trying. This quote landed in my inbox earlier this week, and I thought I'd share today!

Favorite Post By Someone Else
Things Blogging Has Taught Me by the Lean Green Bean. I actually just started reading her blog this past week, and this is one of the first blogs that I read from her! I loved it and thought I'd pass it along to each of you. I hope you enjoy:)

Favorite Past Post
Success or Failure? - Most of us feel like a failure at some point in our lives. This post addresses the feelings of failure that we have, and suggests some steps for wrestling through our definitions of failure in life. 

Favorite Search Term
  • how does perfectionism develop
  • playing the victim
  • sense of control in life
  • don't try to live someone else's life
  • a loved one has ocd
Now it's your turn:
What are some of your favorites for the week? Do you easily define yourself or your behaviors as a "failure"? Do you regularly stretch? 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Today I'll be continuing my discussing on Seasonal Affective Disorder. If you missed my introductory post on the definition of SAD and who it affects, you can check that post out here.

Today I'll be looking at the causes of SAD. This is a bit tricky, as the actual cause of the disorder is fairly unknown. The Mayo Clinic suggests that "it's likely, as with many mental health conditions, that genetics, age and, perhaps most importantly, your body's natural chemical makeup all play a role in developing the condition" (source). Because this disorder primarily happens in the winter, when there is a lack of sunlight, it leads people to believe that sunlight plays a big role in this disorder.

The Cleveland Clinic suggests the following: "One theory is that with decreased exposure to sunlight, the biological clock that regulates mood, sleep, and hormones is delayed, running more slowly in the winter. Another theory is that brain chemicals that transmit information between nerves, called neurotransmitters (for example, serotonin), may be altered in individuals with SAD" (source).

So, it appears that a number of contributors such as the body's natural rhythm, hormone & other chemical levels, and exposure to light all play a role in seasonal affective disorder.

Now it's your turn to share:
Any thoughts on the "winter blues"? What's one thing you do to stay happy and healthy in the winter? 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wellness Wednesday: {Gender Identity}

Welcome back to Wellness Wednesday! It might be good to take a moment to refresh your memory about the Wheel of Wellness, and my wellness page includes every past "Wellness Wednesday" post! Remember that wellness isn't the absence of the negative, but the presence of the positive in our lives.

Remember that I'm using the Wheel of Wellness to help visualize health in life:

Today we'll be moving on to our next subtask of Life Task 2: Gender Identity. Only one more subtask for Life Task 2 to go!

Myers & Sweeney define this subtask the following way:

Satisfaction with one’s gender identity, feeling supported in one’s gender, valuing relationships with people of both genders, transcendence of gender identity, competency to cope with stress of gender identity.

This can be a hot topic for people, and I'm glad that this was included in the 17 components of wellness! It obviously goes without saying that if we don't feel valued and accepted for who we are, that will affect our emotions and our health. I also think it goes without saying that we shouldn't belittle someone or make jokes at someone's expense simply because of their gender.

A few questions to get you thinking:

  1. How are you supportive of people in regards to their gender?
  2. Are there any words or actions you use that devalue a person because of their gender? If yes, what can you do to change this?
  3. Do you have friends of both genders? If no, what makes you stick to one and not the other? 
  4. Why are friendships with both genders healthy?
  5. Do you ever experience stress because of your gender? If yes- what are some coping skills you can use to stay healthy? 
  6. How do you embrace your gender identity?
  7. How does health, or a lack of health, impact other components of wellness? 
Now it's your turn:
What are some ways we can show value to each person and help others to feel supported in their gender? What are some ways you see people devaluing others based on their gender? Other thoughts on gender identity? 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Now that we have arrived into the depth of winter, a common complaint I hear in my office is that people are struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Because this is reasonably common, and it's the more common season to struggle with this, I thought I would do a few posts on the topic.

Today I will simply address the question "What is Seasonal Affective Disorder"?

According to the Mayo Clinic, "seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year. If you're like most people with seasonal affective disorder, your symptoms start i the fall and may continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, seasonal affective disorder causes depression in the spring or early summer" (source).

While SAD can occasionally occur in the spring/summer months, it is far more likely that people will experience this in the fall and winter. SAD is also known as the "winter blues" and is a feeling of sadness and depression during those months. Approximately 5% of the population struggles with SAD, although this number varies by state (Alaska would have a much higher percentage of people diagnosed with SAD then southern states, for example). Interestingly, "women are twice to three times more likely to suffer from the winter blues than men" (psychcentral).

Now it's your turn:
Have you ever heard of or experienced the winter blues? 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Thankfulness Project Monday

Happy Monday! I hope you all had a good weekend, and are starting the week feeling refilled or productive! Here's a few things you may have missed in the last week:

And now here's a few of the things that Im feeling thankful for today:

  • The wind dying down: It's been so windy the last week, and I can hear it howling while inside the house! Luckily the wind has finally died down, and it feels tolerable to walk outside again!
  • Hot Tea: I think this goes along with it being a colder week outside! I've had tea non-stop each day, and I love the variety of tastes that tea can have! I don't have a favorite flavor, but have still been drinking a lot of the candy cane green tea from Christmas. 
  • Meals with Friends: There are very few things I enjoy more then sitting down to a meal with friends and spending that time talking about life, laughing, and processing various events. More often then not, sitting down with a friend lifts my mood and leaves me thinking a bit more clearly then I did before. 
  • Magazines:  Simply put, I love them! I love curling up in front of the TV on saturdays and flipping through magazine articles, looking for organizational or fitness tips, or even recipes. 
  • Time to Organize: After a very busy fall and holiday season, I finally have some time to sit down and go through old papers and things that have stacked up since this summer! It feels good to finally get some control over all that extra stuff in the house, and feels even better to toss some of it out!
Now it's your turn!
What are you feeling thankful for today? Now that Christmas is over, what's your favorite hot drink to consume?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sweet Potato Cauliflower Soup

As I was scanning through pinterest a few weeks ago, I stumbled on a recipe for Sweet Potato Cauliflower Soup on Manifest Vegan. I'm not a huge fan of sweet potatoes or cauliflower, but the soup looked good, so I decided to give it try. I did make a few slight modifications on the Ingredients list, but you'll need to head over to Manifest Vegan to see the actual recipe!

1 head of cauliflower
3 sweet potatoes
1 sweet onion
1 can of Chickpeas (I added this for some extra protein)
Garlic powder
6.5 cups Water
Lots of pepper

The Cooking Process:

You'll definitely want to check out her original post, because her pictures are so much better then my own! For not really liking sweet potato or cauliflower soup, I actually really liked this one! It's warm and filling for a cold, winter day! I made a big batch and was able to freeze half of it for later! This soup was very easy and quick to make, which I enjoy! My only complaint was that it used a few dishes to cook, but really, that is such a small thing that this recipe is still WELL worth your time!

Now it's your turn!
Do you make a lot of soups in the winter? What are some of your favorite ways to add protein to your favorite dishes? 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Favorites

Favorite Tiny Delight of the Week
Blogs! Is that even ok for me to have that be a tiny delight? I vote yes, so we're going to move forward with that. I've been loving some good blogs this week! Whether they're blogs by other counselors, those struggling with a mental illness, or those who are writing healthy living blogs, I learn so much and my thinking is challenged in different areas! Thank you so much to each of you who take the time out of your day to write what you know, what you're learning, and what you're struggling through! I always look forward to opening my google reader for the evening!

Favorite Quote of the Week
"What ought one to say then as each hardship comes? I was practicing for this, I was training for this." -Epictetus

Inspiring, isn't it?

Favorite Post By Someone Else
On Behalf Of All the !0+ Minute Mile Runners - This post by the Wannabe Athlete is a great post discussing running at slower paces. I know a lot of people don't feel like a "real runner" if they aren't running 8 minute splits, and it can get discouraging! This post is for you!! 

Favorite Past Post
Life Is A Daring Adventure - This post is based around a quote that I mull over quite a bit in life. Any thoughts from you all? 

Favorite Search Term
  • Is Perfectionism black and white
  • challenge irrational beliefs
  • identity distortions
  • songs for counselors day
  • banana bread greek yogurt

Now it's your turn!
What are some of your favorites for the week? How can you practice for hardship?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Playing the Victim Role To Stress

"When we have been prevented from learning how to say no, our bodies end up saying it for us." 
- Dr. Mate

When we put our body into constant stress mode for extended periods of time, we will end up paying a price. Whether it is physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, or relationally, it will affect us in some way or another. I think sometimes we get caught in the trap of thinking that we are invincible to stress, and that somehow we can avoid paying the price.

If that's how you think, and it certainly is tempting to think that way because it allows us to not have to change, let me break this to you: YOU WILL end up paying the price, and probably have already in some way.

Today I want to focus on not playing the victim role! I think there's often the temptation to be the victim to stress. After all, events happen to us that we can't control, and we must simply react to what we've been given. This causes stress, doesn't it? Absolutely! However, when we play the victim role to most anything in life, we tend to take the passive approach, and use that thing as an excuse to not do x, y, or z in our life. That thing might make things much more difficult for us, but if we take the passive role, we end up handing our life over to that thing.

And so it is with stress. Many of us have built our own prisons when it comes to stress, and kept ourselves in a passive victim role. We stay locked up in the prisons that we have built by our own choice. We don't always get to choose what happens to us, but we do get to choose how we respond. That means that we can choose if we want to be a victim to stress, or if we want to stand up and try to fight against it. 

It WILL be uncomfortable at times. It will mean living differently then we have in the past. It will mean engaging in healthy stress management. 

Here's my question to you: Are you willing to stand up and play an active role in fighting against stress in your life? Are you willing to say no, set limits appropriately, and take care of yourself? Are you willing to take control of your behaviors? 

I invite you to join me in the journey of fighting against stress, and set up the structure of your life to limit the amount of stress that you experience!

Now it's your turn:
Why is it easy to play the victim role to stress, blaming it for things that happen in life instead of standing up and being responsible for our own behaviors? 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wellness Wednesday: {Stress Management Part 3}

Welcome back to Wellness Wednesday! It might be good to take a moment to refresh your memory about the Wheel of Wellness, and my wellness page includes every past "Wellness Wednesday" post! Remember that wellness isn't the absence of the negative, but the presence of the positive in our lives.
Remember that I'm using the Wheel of Wellness to help visualize health in life:

This will be my last post on the subtask of stress management. You can check out part 1 and part 2 here.
Hopefully you are starting to realize that dealing with stress is crucial to your health, and that while it is definitely difficult to deal with at times, it is worth the time and effort.

Here are a few tips for starting to come up with a plan for stress management in your life:

  • Learn to say no and limit yourself: It's easy to overcommit ourselves. It makes us feel important, it helps us avoid having to deal with "real life problems", or it allows us to continue in our people pleasing. Learning to set boundaries and say no will help limit the number of controllable stressors in your life. We need to learn to say no appropriately, and there are limits to what you can give. You may need to say no to things that are good in life in order to not over spend yourself.  (to learn more about boundaries, click here and scroll down to the "boundaries" heading).
  • Establish a regular practice of deep breathing: Deep Breathing will help control your heart rate, blood pressure, and allow your focus and concentration to increase: all necessary things in controlling our stress! I like to set an alarm for a few times during the day to practice. When you notice yourself starting to get stressed, immediately start deep breathing. 
  • Decrease your unhealthy coping skills, and implement healthy coping skills: Check out this post I wrote on healthy coping. Our unhealthy coping skills, while they seem to work initially, actually create more stress in the long run. Practice and implement healthy coping skills to help effectively decrease your stress. 
  • Don't Use Words Too Big For the Subject: In this post I did on using appropriate language, I talked about the possible detrimental ramifications on using words that are too big for the subject at hand. Watch how you talk to yourself when you're stressed. If you're using words like "horrible", "terrible", "completely overwhelming", "unbearable" or other similar words, you're likely to not only increase your feelings of stress dramatically, but you are less likely to function well in the middle of the situation. Use words that are appropriate for the situation. 
  • Engage in Self Care: In the midst of a crazy schedule and stress, the last thing that seems important is taking time to take care of yourself. Check out this post on self care for ways to take care of yourself!
There are a few easy ways to care for yourself and decrease your stress on a regular basis. Come back tomorrow for a post on not playing the victim role to the stress in our lives! 

Now it's your turn:
What's your favorite way to stand up to stress? Why do we use words that are too big for the subject that we are talking about? How can we feel ok about saying no appropriately! 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Our Body's Reaction To Stress

The last few weeks in my Wellness Wednesday posts I've been discussing the subtask of stress management. In case you've missed it, here are the posts in this mini-series:

Wellness Wednesday: {Stress Management Part 1- Healthy Coping}
Wellness Wednesday: {Stress Management Part 2-Eustress}

I thought it might be helpful to explain what actually happens when we get stressed. When we start to feel stressed, our body needs to increase its cardiovascular output in order to bring oxygen and energy to certain muscles. Our body puts out a large amount of stress hormones, which can lead to the following progression:
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Hypertension
  • Accumulation of plaque on the inner lining of blood vessels, which can lead to heart attacks or cardiac death
  • Neuropsychological changes in affect and behavior
Stress is no joke, but we tend to brush it off, refuse to take the time to deal with it, or even chase after it. During stressful times, our immune system can be negatively impacted because:
  • immune organs shrink
  • disease-fighting cells can be decreased in both number and function
Then there are the changes that we tend to easily recognize when we start feeling stressed:
  • Our appetite can change
    • Some lose their appetite and feel sick
    • Others eat turn to junk food because they crave the simple carbs
    • Either way we aren't giving our body what it needs to function & remain healthy
  • Irritability increases (which can deeply affect relationships)
  • Irrational thoughts become more frequent (leading to increase in anxiety & depressed feelings)
So let me say this again: Stress is no joke! I know it's easy to get into a cycle where we get busy and overwhelmed, and the last thing we think of doing is taking time out of our crazy schedule to cope with the stress in a healthy way. When we're in stress mode, the thought of taking energy to decrease the stress is far from our minds. However, we need to do that which goes against what we naturally want to do: we need to fight the stress and cope with it in healthy ways in order to keep ourselves well both physically and mentally.

Part of the problem is that we get so focused on stress that we sometimes ignore the physical cues that our body sends out, and we find ourselves drowning in stress without realizing it. Here's my challenge to you: Learn the physical cues your body sends out so you can deal with it at the beginning instead of finding yourself drowning in it.

Now it's your turn:
How does your body respond to stress? Does it ever seem like you're too busy to deal with stress? What might the results of this be? 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Thankfulness Project Monday

"Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has many- not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some." -Charles Dickens

The practice of gratitude doesn't make our problems magically go away, and it's certainly not a "cure all". There is something to be said, however, about regular reflection on the blessings we have, and how this practice impacts both mental and physical health. Why not give it a try?

Here are some of the things I'm feeling thankful for right now:

  • Medication: I can't imagine being born a few centuries back, with minimal medical attention or ability to treat diseases well. I'm so thankful for the advancements in the field of medicine that have been made, and I'm thankful for the ease in getting medications. All I need to do is make a call, and my medications show up in my mailbox. Win! 
  • My Foam Roller: This has been a true blessing since I started working out regularly. My IT bands get really tight, and this has been incredibly helpful. If you experience IT band tightness, or are a runner, I'd definitely suggest checking it out. It hurts so good.
  • My space heater: Like I said yesterday, the temperature with windchill has been about -4 the last few days. I've camped out in front of my space heater and have managed to stay fairly warm and comfortable. I love my space heater. LOVE IT. I also love being able to get out of the shower and not start shaking immediately because the house is cold. All I need to do is start the space heater about 10-15 minutes before my shower, and it's nice and toasty when I get out. 
  • Pinterest: I feel pretty weird about putting this on my list, but I'm going to do it anyways. This site  allows for easy access to everything from inspiration quotes to do it yourself crafts to recipes to exercise information. It's amazing. Sure, it can be a huge time waster, but with a little self discipline and limits this site can become one of your best friends. Just be a responsible pinner, ok
  • Good Books: I've read more this week then in the last few months combined. Maybe it's a combination of the cold weather and the fact that all the holiday celebrations are now over, but I definitely have more time to curl up with a good book at the end of the day. 
Now it's your turn:
What are you feeling thankful for today? Have you read any good books lately? If you have, what was it?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Weekend Wrap Up

This week started out with beautiful, sunny, 50 degree weather, but by the end, it dropped to the teens, with a wind chill factor in the negative digits. Burrrr! Winter has arrived.

Today I'd like to talk briefly about pinterest. I stumbled on this post on pinterest etiquette, which I highly recommend reading! Pinterest is a great place for bloggers to highlight their posts, but if we don't pin appropriately, we can end up "harming" bloggers and their copyrighted property. The author suggests the following guidelines:

Pinterest can be a great asset to bloggers, so lets make sure to pin responsibly, ok?

A recap of my posts from the week:

As always, it's sunday which means it's time to set some mini goals for the week! Health is a series of small choices and decisions along the way, so don't discount creating mini goals for yourself!

As bloggers, let's start pinning others' posts that we enjoy to help each other out, but lets do it appropriately, ok?

Now it's your turn:
What's one of your goals for the week? Are you on pinterest? 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Gingerbread Oatmeal

By now you should all know how much I love oatmeal, and I'm pretty sure my only creativity in life involves creating different variations of it! After making the gingerbread pancakes over Christmas, I knew I needed to make gingerbread oatmeal as well. It's still winter, so gingerbread oatmeal can still be consumed:)

Brown Sugar
Nutmeg (optional)

All the spices added to the bowl and molasses drizzled on top

All the spices mixed into the oatmeal

This oatmeal is REALLY delicious, and is a little more wintery then some of the other oatmeal that I've posted. Oh, have you checked all of them out? If not, here they are:
After a few breakfast recipe posts, I promise that next week I'll be back at you with a dinner recipe, just to mix it up a bit! 

Now it's your turn:
Are you a fan of gingerbread, or would you rather pass by it? What are you most creative about making in cooking? 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Favorites

Favorite Tiny Delight of the Week
Hummus! I can't remember if I've ever chosen a food as a tiny delight of the week or not, but it's certainly not something I do often. This is a great "tie me over" snack when i get home from work. I keep some cut up veggies in my refrigerator, and it's an easy snack when I have the munchies! 

Favorite Quote of the Week
"Shall we make a new rule of life from tonight? Always try to be a little kinder than necessary." -J.M. Barrie

Favorite Post By Someone Else
What Do School Counselors Do Anyways? - Ali at Food. Fitness. Fashion shares what responsibilities make up her job as a school counselor. This post is easy to read and will give you a good idea about one aspect of the field of counseling! 

Favorite Past Post
Hello, I'm--- and I'm a Perfectionist - This post is from about 10 months ago, but in the last week has gotten more views then it did when I originally posted it. I'm not sure why though! So, I decided to just post it here and let you all take a look. Enjoy!

Favorite Search Term

Now it's your turn:
What're some of your "favorite things" from the week? 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Motivation for Change

If you don't know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.  ~Lawrence J. Peter

Motivation is when your dreams put on work clothes.  ~Author Unknown

Over the past few weeks I've addressed a number of aspects of behavior change that people tend to skip over on their way to attempting to change something in their life. Here are the previous posts in this series:

Before you start to change behavior, it's good to know why you'd like to change your behavior. The fact of the matter is that behavior change can be a difficult, long, hard, tedious process. There needs to be something we hold on to that will continue to motivate us forward when we want to give up (and for most of us, that time will come at some point). As you think about your dreams and what you'd like to achieve through behavior change, I'm wondering if you know what is motivating yourself forward. This "what" and "why" will help keep you going when the voice inside tells you to give up, that it isn't worth the time, energy, or work involved. 

Once you figure out what that motivation will be, write it down somewhere and read it regularly. A bathroom mirror or refrigerator are both good places to put motivations, as we tend to look at those places many times a day. The more we repeat something, the more it becomes an automatic thought. Because thoughts lead to our feelings and our behaviors, we need to get our thoughts right before we move forward. 

Let's look at a few examples:
Goal: Get healthy by working out 3 days a week (2 days running, 1 day biking)
Motivation: I'm choosing to exercise and get healthy because I desire to __________. (fill in the blank could be anything like the following: be an active grandparent one day, live a long, healthy life, feel better and stronger about myself).

Goal:  Correct my distorted thoughts and change these to rational thinking patterns
Motivation: I'm choosing to do the hard work of learning to challenge and change my distorted thinking patters because I want to ______. (fill in the blank. i.e. decrease the depressed or anxious feelings I experience, be a good role model to my children, be happier each day). 

See what I mean? This step, combined with the steps listed above, will start to set you up in the best way possible for being successful at your behavior change. 

We each do what we do for a specific reason. It's helpful to find out what the reason is that we engage in our current behavior, and create a new motivation for our new behavior. 

Now it's your turn:
What are some of your "motivations" for the year?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wellness Wednesday: {Stress Management Part 2- Eustress}

Welcome back to Wellness Wednesday! It might be good to take a moment to refresh your memory about the Wheel of Wellness, and my wellness page includes every past "Wellness Wednesday" post! Remember that wellness isn't the absence of the negative, but the presence of the positive in our lives.

Remember that I'm using the Wheel of Wellness to help visualize health in life:

Today I'm continuing my discussion on the subtask of Stress Management. You can see "part 1" of this subtask here.

I don't think we can have a real discussion on stress management without discussing what "stress" actually means. What IS stress, then? Basically, it's your body's physical and psychological response to anything that you perceive as overwhelming, alarming, or threatening. It's a biological process, with a wide-ranging set of events in the body.

Here's the thing: Not All Stress Is Bad! Sometimes I believe we are trained to think that any and all stress is a bad thing, and we start to panic when we feel stress coming on in our lives. But not all stress is bad, and, in fact, a small amount of stress is actually good for us! Even good stress (i.e. a new job, marriage, or a baby) can become unhealthy and taxing on the body if not properly dealt with.

How is stress good? Here are a few things that stress actually provides for us:

  • initiates invention & problem-solving capabilities and moves us towards creativity
  • It can give us that final push towards making changes or adapting to something
  • It can keep us healthy and happy
  • It pushes us out of our "love affair" with comfort (we can't live within this comfort zone all the time, because we won't change or grow. We become stagnant. Good stress actually helps us be "ok" with getting outside our comfort zone). 
Watch how you react the next time you start feeling a slight amount of stress. Do you panic and freak yourself out? Remember, what we think affects our feelings and our behaviors. The more you say "I'm stressed, I'm so stressed out, I'm overwhelmed", the more you feel overwhelmed and out of control". If you can acknowledge that you are feeling a slight amount of stress and you are choosing to engage with it in a healthy manner, it becomes manageable, and won't take over your life. Does that make sense? 

Here's your challenge: Watch how you talk to yourself when you start feeling stressed? Do you ramp your stress up, or do you acknowledge it for what it is without freaking out?

Now it's your turn:
Do you ramp up your stress level more then it needs to be? How can you use stress for your advantage without letting it overwhelm you?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Be Nice On The Internet Week

Never miss an opportunity to make others happy, even if you have to leave them alone in order to do it.  ~Author Unknown

The internet is a great place to meet like-minded people, to receive support, and to pursue health. However, most of us who blog can agree on one thing- negative, rude, or downright hateful comments are not only hurtful, but can drag down any day. In general, we would each do better to think before we speak, and to cut down on the hurtful attacks we make on others (and even ourselves). 

This week, Real Simple Magazine has initiated a "return to online civility" via their be nice on the internet week. There's an etiquette to communication, whether online or in person, that we should each adhere to, but it is easily forgotten. 

My challenge to you this week: create for yourself a list of criteria or etiquette expectations for yourself both in online and face-to-face communication. Practice one new step for each week!

Now it's your turn:
What rules regarding communication (online or in person) do you adhere to?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Thankfulness Project Monday

Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.  ~Aldous Huxley

For the most part, I think the above quote is very true. I think it's easy to focus so much on the negative aspects of our life that we forget to list the positive, or focus on the things that we have been given in life. How different would life be if we acknowledged the positive on a regular basis instead of just gripping about the negative? 

That being said, today I'd like to focus on some of the basic things of life that are easy to take for granted:

  • The ability to pay for heat in the winter: I often complain about how cold it is in my house because I choose to keep the heat low to save money instead of choosing to feel grateful that I have the luxury to be able to afford heat at all. It's an easy thing to take for granted, but in the winter, it's important to have, and I'm much more comfortable on a daily basis. 
  • Food in the refrigerator: It's SO easy to take basic foods for granted, isn't it? We often just reach into the frig and grab something to eat or, even worse, look in and complain that "there's nothing good to eat in here." Yikes! We have food in front of us, but it's easy to not be grateful for it. 
  • A support system: I have people around me who love me, care about me, and would jump up to help if things went wrong. I'm grateful to each of them, and I know I don't say that enough. 
  • My Co-workers: It's easy to just walk in to work and get started for the day, and not think much about the people that I'm surrounded with, especially because everything I do at work is by myself (or with clients). I'm thankful I have co-workers who I can laugh with, get advice from, and help make the days fly by.
  • Fresh water: Pretty self-explanatory, huh? How often do we turn on the faucet to get a glass of water to drink while we're complaining? The fact that we can even get fresh, clean, safe water in our houses is amazing, yet that thought tends not to cross our minds. 
These are 5 things that I'm feeling incredibly grateful for this week. My goal for this week is to be grateful for these things whenever I want to grumble about being cold, when I open the frig, when I eat a snack, when i take a drink of water, or when I talk to someone on the phone or via text. 
Here's my challenge for you this week. Pick 2-3 things that are "everyday" little things in your life that are easy to take for granted. Focus on your gratitude for these things over the course of the week, and see what happens. 

Now it's your turn:
What are some of the "basics" of life that you are grateful for right now? 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Weekend Catch Up


Going into this weekend I had a long to do list, and I've managed to check quite a few things off my list. It's been sunny and in the upper 40s and low 50s, which is a perfect winter weekend in my opinion! It's great weather to get outside and move as a family or on your own! I took advantage of the nice weather to get out and go on a run. Exercise really does impact mood and increase energy. 

You may have missed these this past week:
Now it's your turn!
What was the highlight of your weekend? What do you think of the quote at the beginning of this post? 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Gingerbread Pancakes

The day before Christmas I decided that breakfast needed to be tailored for the holiday. Enter Gingerbread Pancakes. Yes, I realize that the Christmas season is now over, but gingerbread flavor is delicious throughout the winter, so I thought I'd share.

3 cups bisquick
1/4 cup molasses
1 cup milk to moisten (can add a little over 1 c actually)
2-3 Tablespoons of oil
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
3 tsp cocoa powder (optional)

*each of these spices can be increased if you'd like a stronger flavor.

These were really easy to whip up and were a delicious and fun way to start the morning!  

Now it's your turn:
What's your favorite food or drink to start the morning with? Do you have any fun plans for the day?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Friday Favorites

Favorite Tiny Delight of the Week
New Years! Ok, so this week has mostly been about getting back into the swing of work after a nice, long break with family and friends. I spent last weekend with a number of close friends, and LOVED it! It's fun to spend an evening with friends, and even more fun to stay at their house for a long weekend! 

Favorite Quote of the Week
"The voice in your head that says you can't do this is a liar."

I found this quote on pinterest with a picture of someone running underneath it. While this quote suits fitness very well, I think it can be applied generically to each of us in any type of behavior change or dream. Let's be honest. Many of us have this tiny voice inside our head telling us that we'll fail if we try something. This voice discourages us from trying new things or  going after our dreams. Don't listen to this voice- you'll be selling your short and building your life around a lie! 

Favorite Post By Someone Else
The Proposal- Happy Tales Blog - While this doesn't have anything to do specifically with physical or mental health, Allison's recent engagement story is really cute, and it's a great read. Check it out and send her a big congrats:) 

Favorite Past Post
Are You A Champion? - A post around the quote "A champion is someone who gets up when he can't."

Favorite Search Term

Now it's your turn:
Would you consider yourself a champion? What're some of your favorites for the week?