It’s the second week of January – how are your New Year’s Resolutions going? If you’re like most people, the outlook is not promising: nearly a third have given up after two weeks, and more than half give up after six months, according to Statistics Brain. Why do so many people give up? We know it’s not for lack of motivation: we really, truly want to lose weight, get organized, enjoy life more. So why do we keep reverting back to old habits? The reason may lie in our subconscious: in his book, Know Can Do, Ken Blanchard describes how he set out to answer this question. He learned of research done at the University of Santa Cruz back in the 1970’s that explored the link between what we tell ourselves subconsciously and how we behave. These researchers discovered that after about age 11, 77% of what we hear is negative. Whether or not we are conscious of it, we internalize these negative messages. (I’m fat, I have no willpower, I’m lazy, I’m too old….).
These researcher pioneered the field of neuro-linguistic programming, or NLP. (Neuro=brain, linguistic=language – what we tell ourselves.) Could repeating positive messages affect behavior? The answer was yes! These positive messages are known as “affirmations“. There are a few tricks to it – for example, if you tell yourself you will lose weight, your brain will focus on the fact that you need to lose weight, and you will self-sabotage. Instead, tell yourself that you are moving toward your ideal weight. Ken Blanchard discovered that it takes repetition to counteract those negative messages, so those who use NLP repeat the affirmations by listening to a recording of them every night or posting them around their home and workspace so they read them often.
A life coach or therapist who is trained in NLP can write custom affirmations for you based on your goals. If you want to try some generic ones on for size, I recommend Affirm Your Life, where you can choose from hundreds of affirmations and even add them as an app on your phone.
Another trick to following through on resolutions is to have someone hold you accountable. Once again, a life coach can fill this role, or you can just buddy up with a friend and check in with each other regularly. Imagining how you feel when you achieve your goals is another powerful motivator that will help to keep you on track.
In short, you don’t have to become a statistic: with some smart strategic planning, you can dramatically increase your chances of success. Think how proud you will be and how good you will feel when that resolution becomes a habit!
Last week I wrote about three ways busy working moms can reduce stress and enjoy the holidays. You can’t reduce stress if you’re not taking care of yourself, so here are some common wellness zappers and ways to avoid them:
Seasonal Affective Disorder: aka, “the winter blues”. Do you find yourself getting tired, depressed and even weepy this time of year? You’re not alone: according to Medicine Net, SAD “occurs in about 5% of adults, with up to 20% of people having some symptoms” and is five times more common in women than in men. As someone who is mildly to moderately affected, I can personally recommend the Verilux HappyLight. This is a lamp that reportedly mimics full-spectrum sunlight. If you don’t want to purchase a light, just getting outside regularly on sunny days can help a lot. Try taking a walk on your lunch break.
Neglecting your workout: The daylight hours are shorter and there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to squeeze in a workout, but there’s hardly a better way to combat stress. Getting started is the hard part, but you know it’ll make you feel better, right? If you can’t commit to an hour or even a half-hour, why not start small? Here’s a workout that claims to “hit every muscle in five minutes”. Surely you can do five minutes, right? I have a video workout series for the exercise ball that’s broken into 10-minute segments. I find it’s easy to tell myself I only have to do one segment, and then it feels good to get my body moving so I end up doing at least do two or three segments.
Blowing your diet: I wholeheartedly agree (as would my husband and kids) that it wouldn’t be the holidays without the goodies. It’s definitely ok to cheat a little, but we all know how bad we feel when we eat way too much rich food at a party and end up gaining the “December Five”. A couple of years ago I read a tip that said to fill up a little on healthy snacks (like raw veggies) before heading to a party, so you’re not so hungry when you get there. Another tip I learned is to alternate sipping glasses of water with whatever you’re drinking at the party. It keeps you hydrated and fuller, and helps you avoid any embarrassing over-indulgences.
So, get out and enjoy some sunshine, get your body moving and eat your veggies! What are your tips and tricks for taking care of yourself over the holidays?
Next week: Simplify and stick to a schedule to avoid holiday stress.
‘Tis the season to be jolly, right? If you’re like a lot of other working moms, the holidays can be a stressful time, no matter how hard we try ( or maybe because we try so hard) to enjoy them. On top of our already packed schedules, somehow we have to squeeze in shopping for gifts, wrapping, decorating, sending cards, baking, holiday parties and family visits. It can be overwhelming. Worse, the holidays fall during the shortest days of the year, which, for those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, can spell depression. So what’s a busy working mom to do? Here are some ideas for not only surviving the holidays with your sanity intact, but actually enjoying them. I’ll be exploring each one in detail over the next few weeks.
1. Take care of yourself. The “winter blues”, neglecting workouts, overeating, drinking too much, putting pressure on ourselves to do it all: these things can make us feel awful. On top of that, we feel guilty for feeling awful when we’re “supposed” to be full of tidings of comfort and joy!
2. Prioritize your time and simplify your schedule. When I stayed home with my kids, we made cards from scratch, plates of cookies for everyone we knew, and gave handmade gifts. After returning to work full-time outside the home, I knew something had to give. Also, now that the kids are involved in their own activities, we don’t attend every event. There is such a thing as too many parties.
3. Make the holiday meaningful. For those for whom the holiday has religious significance, maintaining religious tradition is the obvious way to do this. But even non-religious people can find ways to focus on the spirit of giving and sharing love with family and friends, for example by volunteering. Giving gifts that have meaning is another way to reduce the commercial aspect of the season.
Happiness is something we can choose, and there’s no better time to focus on being happy and peaceful than the holiday season. It’s the greatest gift we can give ourselves and our families. Tune in next week for tips on caring for yourself through the holidays.
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My post is late this week because I allowed my busy schedule to get the best of me. Coincidentally, a couple of clients and prospective clients also mentioned the difficulty of creating and sticking to a schedule this week. We all know how challenging maintaining a schedule can be, especially for single parents, people working multiple jobs, or going to school in the evenings. However, for these people especially, finding a schedule that works is essential. Creating and maintaining a workable schedule can keep you on track to achieve your goals, while allowing you to build in time for relaxation and recreation. Here are some resources and tips I’ve found helpful.
First, it’s important to set priorities. Scheduling is easier when you know what’s most important; you can make time for that first. Here is a great resource for setting priorities and using time effectively: Challenges and Choices: Time Effectiveness — Prioritizing Your Time
After you’ve made time for what’s important, work in the rest where you can. Think about what is most likely to succeed based on your own tendencies: are you a morning person or a night owl? As a morning person, I find that doing activities I tend to skip, like exercise, first thing in the morning, helps to keep me on track. I don’t schedule much of anything after about 8pm, because I’m not very productive in the evening. On the other hand, the struggle to get my son ready for school in the morning became much easier when I started working from home and he could sleep in a little longer. It’s amazing what a difference a half hour can make.
Are you a procrastinator? Finding a way to focus on your goals can help keep you on task. I like Joe’s Goals, a free online “habit tracker” created by a “regular Joe” (sorry) who thought of a great way to hold himself accountable. You create an account, add your goals, and then keep score of how you did over the week. You can also journal about your activities.
Of course, there will be times when you want to be free of a schedule and just slack off for a day. (See last week’s post.) The beauty of a schedule is that it helps you to get tasks accomplished so you DO have down time. When all else fails, read this Grand Pep Talk to keep you motivated to stick to your schedule and Just Do It.
How do you stick to a schedule? Share what works for you in the comments!