Surviving the Holidays in a Stressful year

So Thanksgiving is now behind us, and the holidays have officially begun.  For many, the last several months have felt an exceptionally stressful time, no matter what side of the political aisle you may find yourself on. With the holidays now upon us, it may be a  specially good time to take extra special care of ourselves and our loved ones, making sure this season reflects the best of our values and what we hold meaningful. With that in mind, I thought to share some ideas on how to make this season reflective of what may be most important to us, and those we care about, no matter what’s swirling in the world around us.  Whatever your political opinions, this is a time to come together, and share our lives with those we care about.

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Take care this holiday season…

The current mood in this country has caused many of us to take a step back and re-examine what is important to us, the values we want to live by.  I think the answer of what to do and how to give will be unique to each of us.  As time goes on, what I enjoy most about the holidays are the spirit in the air, and memories of good times with those close to me.  Let your most important values guide your actions and you can’t go wrong.  A few ideas to consider:

  • Send out cards.  Yes, good old-fashioned hand-written cards.  Add a note to let someone know how you feel about them.  Both of you will benefit.
  • Give the gift of experiences.  Research shows that experiences bring people more happiness than material possessions. Tickets to a play, a concert, or a favorite team’s game create lasting memories long after the event is over.
  • Create some new memories or traditions.  A holiday hike, ice skating on Christmas day, or a Christmas eve movie by the fire – whatever brings you together with those you love works.
  • A spa day or afternoon can be a great gift to someone special or a wonderful way to spend time together.
  • Give the gift of learning.  Gourmet  cooking, art classes, music or horseback riding lessons, yoga or dance classes – whatever you think might delight the receiver.  A subscription to an app like Headspace.com or Calm might open the door to the stress-relieving benefits of meditation.  Anything that is personalized to the one you’re giving to is always appreciated.
  • Surprise someone who’s been especially anxious with a self-care basket.  Include lotions, bath salts, essential oils, a diffuser, luxe soaps, pajamas and cozy slippers, a beautiful journal and pen to write with.  The list is endless, and you can tailor it especially to the person you’re gifting.
  • Don’t forget yourself!  It can be as simple as an afternoon or evening home to unwind in the midst of the season, but be sure to include your own self-care in the mix at this busy time of year.
  • Don’t forget those less fortunate.  Adopting a family in need, or stopping by an elderly neighbor’s with a basket of Christmas cookies can remind us of the true spirit of the holiday.  At a time when people may be feeling more apprehension, look for the good you can bring, what you can give.   The world needs it.

I hope you find something in these words that sparks you to find peace, meaning and joy this holiday season.  I would love to hear any additional thoughts, so feel free to leave a comment below– I’ll be sure to respond.

With warm wishes for the best of the season!

Thanksgiving wishes

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and it’s a special time in our country to gather with family and friends, and count our many blessings.  One of my favorite things about the holiday season is tradition – those special practices that may be unique to us and our families that have become familiar over time.

At our Thanksgiving dinner, we always try to share something that we are especially grateful for before we begin our meal.  Over time, I have come to realize that at the top of my list are always the people I am surrounded by at the table, family and friends.  Close family and friends (some of whom have become family) are what’s most important for me, followed closely by good health, a comfortable home, delicious food, and all the myriad gifts too numerous to list here.  It’s a time for a gratitude check-in, to acknowledge what we sometimes take for granted.

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So at this time of reflection and gratitude, let me express my thankfulness for all of you – family, friends, clients, and community.  I am blessed to have each and every one of you be a part of my life, and I know that.  One of the most important components of health and longevity is our relationships, our connections to others.  This Thanksgiving please know how grateful I am for you – for your friendship, your place in my life, your support, and for taking the time to read these words.

I wish for you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving holiday, filled with all the good and love your heart can hold.

The Power of Relationship in Business

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“In business it’s about people. It’s about relationships.” ~ Kathy Ireland

There’s no shortage of information out there about business building these days.  Google most any topic you’re interested in and you can accumulate a wealth of information on, say, how to build a social media presence for your business, how to build your brand or build your own website.  The list is endless and, as someone who has been there, it can also be mind-boggling.  Whether you’re working for an organization or in business for yourself, though, there’s one aspect of business that is always going to be part of the equation – people, relationships.

New businesses are started every day in the U.S. and, and according to some findings, more than 50% of all workers may be self-employed by 2020.  Whether or not you’re self-employed, the fact is that building your social capital is a part of building any successful career or business.

Social capital in business is about building meaningful relationships.  Over time these relationships can help provide resources such as information, introductions, resources and referrals.  Knowing that, just about anyone can benefit from building these connections.

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Some ideas:

  • Become a go-giver.  We all know the term “go-getter,” which means someone who goes after what they want.  I think being a “go-giver” is equally important.  Reaching out to others – offering advice when asked, genuinely looking to help, being generous without keeping score, contribution to the community – all matter.  Generosity breeds goodwill and fosters social capital.
  • Deliver world-class customer service, even if you’re a business of one.  Excellent customer service makes you stand out from your competitors, and helps you to maintain good relationships with clients which, in turn, can lead to referrals and repeat business.
  • Presentation is everything.   Paying attention to how you present yourself and your business is vital.  Professionalism, attention to detail, on-time delivery, how you communicate – it all matters.
  • You never know where your next client will come from – operate accordingly.  I once was hired by a client that I met when I picked up my son from a friend’s house.  You never know when a potential client will cross your path.  When you’re out and about, always be ready to present yourself in a positive light.
  • Business relationships are just that – relationships.  You don’t build lasting business relationships by exchanging cards with someone at a networking event and never seeing them again.  Reach out to new contacts with a follow-up note or email, invite them to meet for coffee, send them a relevant article.  Focus on how you might benefit them (see become a go-giver above.)
  • Become an expert.  Whatever your area of expertise, seek to expand your knowledge and skills, to develop mastery.  The Japanese have a word they use to describe this:  Kaizen, which means constant and never-ending improvement.  Always be on the lookout for what you can do better. Become known as a specialist in your field.

We’ve heard it before, but it all boils down to the same thing – People want to do business with those individuals they know, like and trust. Keep this top of mind when you’re seeking to build your business or career and you’re already on your way.

In the meantime, if you feel like it, please leave a comment below.  I love to read your thoughts and I’ll be sure to respond.

The Power in Relationship

What’s one of the best ways to get healthy, stay healthy and live longer? Cope with stress?   Reach a cherished goal?  Accelerate performance?  And just plain be happier?

There’s a ready resource right at your fingertips – just look around you. I’m talking about the power of a personal support network.  Research shows that making the effort to build a social support network is of benefit in countless ways – mental, emotional, and physical – for you and those around you.

When we’re going through a tough time, dealing with illness, or other stressors, having the support of those around you – family and close friends – can offer relief, wisdom and perspective when we are struggling to access these things for ourselves.  A personal support network is made up of those people you know you can depend upon, and who can depend upon you.  It’s also about sharing in the positives – the joys and successes that come our way.

One of the early pioneers in positive psychology, Christopher Peterson, Ph.D., made it a point in every talk he gave to say this:  “Other people matter.”  It became his mantra, and has always stuck with me.  Other people matter and we – you and I – matter to other people.

There’s a reason why addiction recovery groups emphasize the importance of building a support system – it’s a crucial component of gaining and maintaining freedom from their addiction.  Developing and maintaining close connections to others who understand can make all the difference in maintaining sobriety.  Having people who truly care about you and your wellbeing – and are walking the same path – can be a huge advantage when one is attempting to create a new lifestyle.

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Many of us have been brought up with the cultural notion of “not depending on anyone,” or “pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps.” The fact is that no one gets through this life alone.  Who hasn’t benefitted at some time from the listening ear of a friend at just the right time?  A teacher or mentor?  That parent or parent figure that accepts you no matter what?  A colleague who put in a good word for you?  Relationships like this are part of the fabric of life.

Something I heard years ago has always stuck with me:  “Asking for help when you need it isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s what makes you stronger.”   And it works both ways – helping others by being available to them during challenging times strengthens our own sense of character and self-confidence.

You may already have a strong network of family and friends or not.  Here are some ways to strengthen what you already have and grow your base.

  • Make time for the people that are important to you.  We all have busy lives and it can sometimes seem difficult to get together, but the old adage – “To have a friend, be a friend” – still stands.  It’s easier than ever these days to keep in touch by phone, text or email – even a short note or call lets someone know you are thinking about them.  One of my dearest friends has not lived on the same continent, let alone city or state, for over 20 years and we still email, message and call via Skype every month or two.  As a result, we’ve maintained a strong bond that continues to today.
  • Remember special occasions – birthdays, holidays and the like.  If someone’s going through a tough time, send a thoughtful card or call them to see how they’re doing. We let people know they are important to us by our actions.
  • I grew up as an only child without the benefit of a family network close by.  Something I learned to do early on was reach out to others who I wanted to make part of my life. As a result, many years later, many of those relationships have become family to me.  We’ve shared holidays, special occasions, births and deaths, graduations – you name it – and I truly do consider them family.
  • Be trustworthy. Trust and loyalty are basic to friendship.  Be dependable, keep confidences, and keep your word.
  • On the other hand, you want to bring people into your sphere that add to your life, not detract from it.  You may want to examine your relationships with people who are chronically negative or complaining.  Everyone has a bad day – or week – here and there but you might want to limit your time with a friend or relative who is consistently difficult to be around.
  • Finally, make an effort to show appreciation and gratitude to those who are there for you.  When someone goes out of their way for you, it’s important to say thank you, to let them know both they and their efforts are valued.

We’ll talk specifically about business networking next time.  In the meantime, if you feel like it, please leave a comment below.  I love to read your thoughts and I’ll be sure to respond.

Saying No, Simplified

Do you sometimes struggle with saying no to requests or invitations?  Or feel guilty if you do?    Over-commit or take on tasks and then wish you hadn’t? Lots of people do. I know I have.

Most of us have multiple demands on our time.  At different life stages, we may be juggling family, work and community responsibilities, with competing requests for our time and attention.  Busy schedules can leave little left over for personal pursuits and downtime.  That’s where the art of saying no comes in.  Saying no takes practice and a certain amount of skill in communication, but it is essential to living a balanced and fulfilling lifestyle.

I’ll be the first to admit that saying no has not always come easily to me.  I’ve had to work at it and I’ve learned a few things along the way as I’ve grown (not always gracefully!)  One of the most important things I’ve come to understand is that I simply cannot do everything.  One has to say no to some things in order to say yes to others.  If I am making spending time with my husband on a weekend a priority, I will have to say no to a lunch date with a friend.  It’s that simple.

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If you regularly find yourself doing things you don’t want to do and/or over-extending yourself, here are some ideas and actions that I’ve found useful to break the cycle.

  • Saying no to some things means saying yes to yourself and your true priorities.  For me those things include keeping my family, friendships, work responsibilities and healthy pursuits in balance. Your priorities might be different but what’s important is to treat them as such.  If you’ve committed to a Friday night date night every week and keep letting other things get in the way, your commitment will soon fall by the wayside.
  • A simple “Thank you so much, but I already have plans for that time,” is all that’s necessary.  Don’t make excuses or apologize needlessly.
  • Be appreciative.  If someone has taken the time to invite you to an occasion or feels you can make a valuable contribution to an event, that’s a compliment.  Accept it as such sincerely. Something along the lines of “I’m honored to be included but I have other plans that day,” works well if it rings true for you.
  • Get over the idea that saying no makes you selfish.  I realize that this is easier said than done. Something that I’ve found helpful is to remind myself that if I’m over-committed and stressed, I can’t be at my best for anyone.  Prioritizing my own needs for sleep, exercise, and relaxation is essential to well-being and helps me to be fully present for the activities and people that are important to me.
  • If you are certain that you need to decline a request or invitation, it’s best to say so directly.  Saying “Can I let you know?” or “Let me think about it,” if you don’t mean it, is just avoiding the inevitable and stringing the other person – and yourself – along.
  • Never say yes if it means you will compromise your integrity or values.  Listen to your gut instinct – it’s there for a reason. That inner voice is your guide to what’s right for you, pay attention.
  • You may feel concerned about losing a relationship if you have to say no. The truth is you will never lose a real friend if you have to decline an invitation or request.  That’s simply not the way real friends operate.  If you do lose a relationship because you aren’t available for a request, well, you already know what I’m going to say.

In the end, you are the only one who can decide what is right for you at any given time.    You are the one who knows what you need and how much you can comfortably take on, and have to decide what’s most important to you.  Sometimes a weekend day spent puttering without any plans, or sleeping in, is just what I need to take care of myself, and that isn’t selfish. When I take that time, I feel better, I’m less tired and more content, and that only benefits me and those I love.

Back to Basics, Part 2

So last time I revisited some of those foundational practices that allow us to live and perform at peak – exercise, nutritious clean food, mood and hydration.  Incorporating any of these into your daily routine will make a significant difference in how you feel, look and function.  Give attention to each of them and you are well on your way to living a healthful lifestyle that will pay you dividends now and in the future.

The fact is that building strong personal health habits is the most important thing you can do to improve energy, stave off sickness, and increase overall wellbeing.  Each of us is responsible for taking care of ourselves and living a lifestyle that supports us in that.  As we make healthier choices for ourselves, we build behaviors and skills that build on and support each other.  It’s all connected!

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You may think to yourself, “But I don’t have time to exercise, shop, cook healthy meals, sleep 8 hours, etc.  Taking 30 minutes to exercise out of your day might seem like a chore, or just another item to add to your “to-do” list.  I’m not denying that we all have busy lives with multiple demands on our time – I have them, too!  What I know, though, is that incorporating healthy habits, making the time to get outdoors for exercise and fresh air, and getting a good night’s rest, helps make the rest of my day better, helps me to live better.  And, in the end, I’m more efficient, productive and able to meet any challenges that come my way.

Here are the rest of my essentials:

Sleep – We can’t be at our best if we are not getting adequate sleep.  Period. Our bodies and brains suffer when we are sleep deprived.  Cognitive ability is decreased, and our emotional states are adversely affected.  (Ever been cranky because of lack of sleep?)  There is all sorts of new research these days about what sleep deprivation can cause – overeating and weight issues, weakened immune response, accidents, even heart disease, high blood pressure and certain types of cancer.  Not to mention that dragging yourself through the day is not a whole lot of fun. 7-9 hours a night is the usual recommendation.  Decide what you need to feel your best and make it a priority.

Stress Management and Self Care – Did you know that over 60% of all doctor visits in the United States are stress related?  Burnout and depression are epidemic in this country and elsewhere, and the number 1 cause of work disability in the world.  Self-care is NOT self-indulgent.  Time out is essential for wellbeing and can take many forms – there’s a reason why meditation and mindfulness have become so popular in recent years.  Classes are everywhere. Find a practice that works for you and build it into your life regularly.  Other proven stress relievers are journaling, and activities such as gardening or photography.  Find something that you love that re-charges your batteries.

Community – Did you know that having a strong social support network has important health benefits?  Supportive relationships – whether family, friends, colleagues, or members of the community – have been shown to contribute to psychological and physical health, as well as longevity, and can be a tremendous resource in times of stress.  And it works both ways – giving and receiving support are of equal benefit. Make it your mission to develop and build a community around you.

Meaning – Meaning and purpose are essential to inspiring wellbeing.  Going about your life with a sense of meaning, of knowing that who you are and what you do matters, provides proven health benefits and can impact longevity.  A study led by Patrick McKnight, associate professor of psychology at George Mason University, found that having a sense of purpose can promote healthier living in general.  It doesn’t have to be about doing “big” things.  If it’s something meaningful and motivating to you, that’s all that matters.  What do you love, what do you care about deeply, what gets you out of bed in the morning?  There you go.

What about you?  Is there something you can do to develop more community around you?  Can you begin to make sleep a priority and notice the difference in how you feel and perform?  What do you want more of in your life, what lights you up?  What recharges you?  If you feel like it, please leave a comment.  I’ll be sure to respond.

And – If you’re ready to prioritize a healthier lifestyle, I’m now offering my Evergreen Wellness Workshop to private clients, with the option of 2, 3 or 6 private 30 minute coaching sessions.  In 6 weeks, you not only get great info on sleep, food, mood and exercise backed by the latest research – you’ll get activities and action steps you can start right away to see results in how you feel and look. This program will not only help you get on track, it will teach you how to stay on track and be successful.  Plus, it’s filled with fun short videos, great info, and lots of cool health-boosting activities!  Email me at Suzanne@evergreenlifeandwellness.com and we’ll set up a time to talk about whether this program is right for you!

Back to Basics

So……how was your summer?  Are you ready for fall?  I know I am – it’s my favorite season, especially here in Colorado.  The air is crisp, the Aspens turn gold, and every day seems to have a clear blue sky.

By now, most of us have heard that 40 is the new 30, or that gray is the new black, or strong is the new thin (or whatever……)  Lately, I’ve been hearing that September is the new January because we associate it with back to school, a new season, new possibilities, and so forth.  Maybe so, but metaphor aside, I do love September and it does feel like a time for gearing up for new things.

Because of that, I thought it might be a good time to revisit those foundational pieces that allow us to function at our optimum.  Our bodies are beautiful machines that need to be cared for regularly if we want to live a quality life.  In doing so, we not only feel better, we look better, our thinking is clearer, our energy levels are higher, and we perform better.  Our immune systems are strengthened so we’re not at the mercy of every cold or bug that comes our way.  One of the best ways to live a rich and pleasurable life is to take our health seriously.

Fall is a great time for running outdoors!

Fall is a great time for running outdoors!

Here are my basics:

Exercise.   Physical activity is at the top of the list when it comes to looking and feeling your best.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 150 minutes (or 2-1/2 hours) of cardiovascular exercise at moderate intensity every week.  Brisk walking, jogging, bicycling, swimming all qualify.   Add in two sessions of muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups, and you’re good to go and be in great shape for years to come.  Don’t forget to stretch, which becomes increasingly important as we age.

Fresh, healthy food in as close to its natural state as possible.  Fruits and vegetables in season, lean proteins (think mainly chicken, fish, lean meats. There are wonderful vegetarian alternatives these days.)  Lean cheeses, yogurt and whole grains round it out.  Read ingredients and avoid processed foods with added sugar or salt.  A good rule of thumb:  If it comes in a box, don’t eat it.  If you want your machine to function at its peak, the fuel you give it is key.

Mood.  There’s a reason gratitude has become such a popular topic in recent years.  It’s an instant mood booster.  So are our positive and connected relationships with others, having a sense of meaning, being of service, commitment to goals, and exercise such as brisk walking.   Why is it important?  Research shows a sense of happiness – or well-being – provides a wealth of benefits:  improved health and immune function, better relationships, more meaningful work and (even!) higher income.  Happiness is not just a result of how we live, it is also an inner resource that can afford us better outcomes in all areas of our life.

Hydrate.  Water is your best bet when it comes to staying hydrated.  It increases energy and reduces feelings of tiredness.  It flushes out toxins so it keeps your skin glowy.  It reduces hunger, aids in digestion and helps you focus more clearly (your brain is mainly comprised of water!) And it’s free!  Drink up!

There are more basics to cover, which I will do next time in Part 2.  For now, making a commitment to increase your awareness and action in even one of these areas is going to make a significant difference in how healthy you feel, how you look and how you live.

I love to hear from you so if you feel the urge to share what’s making a difference for you in how well you live, feel free to post a comment on my blog and I’ll respond!

Enjoy those feelings of fall in the air!