Friday, October 30, 2015

How Meditation Has Helped Me Deal With Stress

I love the trees this time of year!  Look at that color!  This is in our neighborhood, on a walk with Miss E. :)
Hello friends! 

If you've been reading my posts regularly (first of all thank you!), you probably have sensed a theme.  I focus a lot on taking care of yourself, stress relief, breathing, meditation, etc. because everyone has had one time or another filled with lots of stress (and some of us have more than others!).  Learning how to deal with negative stressors is definitely a life skill that we can all benefit from both mentally and physically.  Life is too short to let stress bring you down!!

Why did I get started with meditation?

I've always been a fairly laid back person, easy going, etc.  But in my mind, things always weren't (aren't!) that way. I'm just like most people who have moments of anxiety, negative thoughts, feelings of unworthiness, or fears.  

One of my greatest fears is public speaking.  One on one, I'm fine, but put me in front of a group of people and my body does weird things - stomach upset, shakiness, heart beating so rapidly and hard others can probably see it through my shirt!   

Oh course, in my old job there were many times when I had to do presentations, a few times in front of groups as large as 300!  Yikes, was I freaked out!  Now I would always tell myself, it's going to be fine, you know your stuff, just go out and have fun... but my body would betray me and still make me feel like I was going to pass out.  Not fun. Not fun at all.

So how did I get through it? I mean, it was a part of my job and expected for my role, so I couldn't just not do it (don't get me wrong, there were definitely days when I wanted to pawn it off on coworkers). Meditation and deep breathing helped me to get it done without puking, which was usually my goal! Ha!

Practicing meditation regularly has helped me learn to recenter, stay focused, feel more balanced, and if nothing else to
BREATHE!  When you're nervous or anxious, do you ever notice how your breathing becomes short and shallow? Well, that's the time for you to take a deep breath, hold it for a few counts, let it out slowly, and repeat.  

Here are just some of the reasons why meditation is good for you:

Other ways that meditation can benefit you: increased focus, better memory, more creativity and compassion for others, increased cognitive function, and again, most importantly I think, reduced stress and anxiety.  All great things!

Meditation Resources

If you're new to meditation, there are a ton of resources out there for you.  Here are a couple I've tried or would recommend:

1GiantMind App (Link)1GiantMind is great for beginners as it's an app that teaches you to meditate in 12 steps.  The 12 step course includes:
  • Learn to meditate in 12 easy steps and experience the benefits of feeling less stressed and more energized.
  • Each step takes 15 minutes and builds upon the previous step
  • Enjoy the support of video tutorials, a journal and set a reminder tools
  • Unlock exclusive content as you progress
  • Learn more about meditation with the FAQ library
Oprah and Deepak Chopra periodically do a FREE 21-day meditation challenge, and aren't you lucky, they are starting a new one on this Monday, Nov 2.  I HIGHLY recommend you check it out.  Again, it's FREE, takes about 20 minutes each day, and it's a great introduction to a regular meditation practice.  The flow of each daily session is similar: Oprah does an introduction, then Deepak talks for a little bit about the topic for the day, followed by some time for meditation.  Click here for a sample and to register. 

If neither of those work for you, I googled Free Meditation Resources, and a bunch of stuff popped up - this post being one of them: Free Guided Meditation Resources.  Note: I haven't checked these all out, so I can't vouch for the quality of the content.

I know for some people, meditation seems overwhelming.  "I can't just sit there for 5 minutes doing nothing!" or "My brain moves at 100 miles a minute and you want me to think of nothing?  That's not going to happen!"  Here's the deal - it's normal for you to have a lot of thoughts, even during meditation.  The goal is to take a step back, not get caught up in those thoughts or try to control them, but just observe without judgement.  And if all else fails, focus on your breathing - in and out, in and out, slow and smooth.  Trust me, give it a shot and let me know how you feel.  What do you have to lose??  I think you'll come out of it feeling much more relaxed and at peace, ready to take on whatever the day has in store for you!

Have you ever tried meditation, and if so, what are the benefits you've seen from it?  Let me know if you're participating in the Oprah/Deepak challenge next week - I will be!  Please share in the comments. 

Have a great week! :)

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Friday, October 23, 2015

The Mind-Body Connection

Hello friends!

What's new and exciting in your world today?  

I've been noticing one common theme in different areas of my life lately.  Stress, worry, guilt.  I'm hearing about it from family, friends, clients, the news, at networking events, etc.  Whether it's about work, family, money, health, most everyone I've talked to lately has been expressing concerns around their stress levels.  

I've talked about this before in a previous post, how your mindset can really impact how you feel and that it's really a choice.  It takes some work to consistently stay positive, but it is possible to maintain an generally positive perspective on things.  Aside from making a big difference in how you feel day-in and day-out, it's really so much more important than that.

Today I want to take it a level deeper and talk about the mind-body connection.  Amazing as it seems, your thoughts and feelings actually impact the way your body functions and heals itself.

What is the Mind-Body Connection?

I love this article from MindBodyGreen, Scientific Proof That Negative Beliefs Harm Your Health - if you have time, I'd encourage you to read the whole thing (just click on the link). 

This article starts out talking about the "placebo effect" which is the phenomenon where patients receive a sugar pill, thinking they are taking a wonder drug, and their bodies actually get better 18-80% of the time. That is a direct example of the power of positive thinking.  So what about the opposite?  Unfortunately, yes, there have been studies showing that having negative beliefs can actually harm you physically.  

"...if you’re just someone whose subconscious mind is filled with limiting beliefs from your childhood like “I’m the sickly type” or “My family gets cancer,” focusing your attention on illness has been scientifically proven to predispose the body to illness. Excessive knowledge about what can go wrong with the body can actually harm you. The more you focus on the infinite ways in which the body can break down, the more likely you are to experience physical symptoms."

While focusing on illness can have a negative affect on your health, even just experiencing worry, stress, and guilt can negatively impact your body.

From an article in Psychology today:
...research shows that psychological stress affects our levels of catecholamines, which include the neurotransmitters dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. These neurochemical changes prepare the body to deal with perceived danger in a number of important ways, such as raising blood pressure so as to allow faster speed and response time. However, chronic elevations in catecholamines suppresses the immune system, and suppression of the immune system raises the risk of viral infection and other diseases.

Resilient people actually resist illnesses, cope with adversity, and recover quicker because they are able to maintain a positive attitude and manage their stress effectively. By managing our attitudes and stress levels, we actually control neurochemical transmissions in the body. The power of a healthy attitude therefore cannot be underestimated in the body-mind connection.

What if I'm a compulsive worrier?

I realize it's not as easy as saying "OK, just don't be stressed, feel guilty, or worry about anything!"   A lot of these thoughts are really learned habits, and can be unlearned if you choose to do so and spend some time and effort on it.  If it's the way you've been thinking your whole life, it'll take time and patience to turn off those types of thoughts.

Let's do an experiment.  Pick one thing that you're worried about.  Have you been in a similar situation before?  If so, what happened?  Did what you were so worried about come to fruition?   

There was a study to determine just that, and turns out 85% of what we worry about never happens. AND, "for the 15 percent that did happen, 79 percent of subjects discovered either they could handle the difficulty better than expected, or the difficulty taught them a lesson worth learning. This means that 97 percent of what you worry over is not much more than a fearful mind punishing you with exaggerations and misperceptions."

If worry, guilt, and stress are just a normal part of your day, it's not easy to convert yourself to Pollyanna overnight. However, it is a choice you can make and with some focus, time, and patience, you will start to see a difference.  And who knows, with the mind-body connection, you probably will see a difference in other areas of your life, how you feel mentally, and possibly even your health!

If you're struggling with worry, guilt or stress, these things can help: 
  • Gratitude: focus on the things that are going right, and this will give your mind less time to think about what's going wrong!
  • Self Care: take care of your needs and you'll be better equipped to deal with stressful things that come up
  • Reminders: Again, if you're a life-long worrier it will take time to change.  It's basically a habit.  Leave yourself notes, tie a string or rubber band around your wrist,  or set a reminder in Outlook - these things will help you to at least remember that you're trying to look for the positive.  As you start to worry, just say "NO!" Cut off that thought and move onto something else.
  • Focus on the Now: If you're feeling stressed out, take a moment, focus on taking deep breaths or your surroundings, and just observe.  We miss out on so much when we're "in our head."  

Check out these recent posts for additional suggestions:
Have you personally experienced the mind-body connection?  How can you remind yourself to think about the positive vs letting worry take over?   Please share in the comments. 
Have a great week! :)

Could one conversation change your life?

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Friday, October 16, 2015

Let's KISS: Keeping it Simple, Silly

It is such a beautiful day in Kentucky!  Low 70's, sunshine, light breeze... just perfect.  So, understandably, I'm struggling to sit here and write this post today!  (Secret - I'm taking many breaks just to sit outside or do some "chores" and certainly have the windows open.)  It's glorious!!  Is it nice where you are today?  Get out there if you can!!

Do you ever feel overwhelmed with all you have on your plate?  Yeah, dumb question, I know, we've all been there at one time or another.  That's just life!  Because life is crazy, sometimes it's really important to just take a step back, focus on what's important, and keep it simple.


“Nature is pleased with simplicity. And nature is no dummy”

Here are some ideas to keep today more simple:
  • Instead of an elaborate workout at the gym, just take a simple walk outside enjoying nature and spending time with your thoughts
  • Instead of a gourmet meal, just make a simple nutritious meal like a healthy chicken breast and steamed broccoli as a side (this can be delicious too!)
  • Instead of worrying about putting together the most fashionable outfit, just wear something simple that is clean and comfortable 
  • Instead of letting your messy house stress you out, just spend some time simply reading a book or coloring in your Adult Coloring book
  • Instead of hitting the mall for the big sale this weekend, just simply go through your closet to find something you haven't worn in a while and pretend it's new
  • Instead of zoning out on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, just work on a simple hobby or project that you've been wanting to do
And most importantly!
  • Instead of worrying about tomorrow and what it might (but probably won't!) bring, simply focus on today and the wonders that are all around you

How can you focus on what you NEED vs what you want today?  What will you do to keep things simple? Please share with me in the comments. 

Have a great week! :)

Could one conversation change your life?

Find out by scheduling a FREE 50 minute session with me. Do something good for YOU! I can't wait to talk with you more about it!

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Friday, October 9, 2015

Let's Talk Eats: Healthy Fats

Hello Everybody!

How is your fall going so far?  While I love Spring, I think October is my favorite month.  I love the fall colors, wearing warmer clothes, sitting by a fire on a cool evening, all things pumpkin!  Plus we have one more month to relax and enjoy before the crazy that is the holidays is upon us!

So, let's talk about Healthy Fats!   If you haven't already, check out these posts to catch up on what I'm talking about!

As we've been discussing, restriction and denial of certain foods doesn't always work.  If you're trying to cut out "bad" food, it typically will backfire and you'll end up craving or binging on those foods or food groups. 

Instead of thinking about what not to eat, let's focus on what we can eat MORE of or add in.  That sounds so much better, doesn't it? And totally achievable! When we make choices based on things we want to add in, some of those other less desirable choices will naturally happen less frequently. Doesn't that sound easy?
Fat has really earned a bad rap over the last few decades.  Raise your hand if you've been on a "low fat" diet at some point in your life (Me! Me!!). However, in the more recent years, research has shown that certain fats are not only good for us, but necessary for our bodies and brains to function properly.

To understand good and bad fats, it's helpful to know the names of the players and some information about them. There are four major types of fats (source):

  • monounsaturated fats (good fats)
  • polyunsaturated fats (good fats)
  • trans fats (bad fats)
  • saturated fats (bad fats)... although there is recent research showing the saturated fats aren't as bad as once thought

According to this article: the American Heart Association recommends 15-25 percent of daily calories should be devoted to monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats:
  • are shown to improve cholesterol levels
  • may help reduce risk factors of heart disease and stroke
  • may help reduce risk of diabetes
  • could promote healthy nerve activity
  • are shown to improve vitamin absorption
  • are required to maintain healthy immune system
  • promote cell development
In addition to those reasons, including healthy fats in your meals and snacks will make them more satisfying and filling, preventing those impulse eats you may have throughout the day!

Monounsaturated fatPolyunsaturated fat
  • Olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Avocados
  • Olives
  • Nuts (almonds, peanuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews)
  • Peanut butter
  • Soybean oil
  • Corn oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Walnuts
  • Sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin seeds
  • Flaxseed
  • Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines)
  • Soymilk
  • Tofu

Here are a few easy ways to incorporate healthy fats in your diet:
  • Use olive oil on your daily salad vs traditional salad dressing
  • Add avocado to salads, soups, sandwiches - delicious and makes them more satisfying
  • Top your breakfast oatmeal or yogurt with walnuts or almonds for a meal that will stick with you longer
  • One of my favorite lunches, a protein bowl: mix broccoli, quinoa, beans (I like black beans or edamame) or chicken, avocado, a splash of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste - serve warm. Yummy and filling!
  • Eat fatty fish 2 times per week - like grilled salmon for dinner and tuna or sardines for lunch (on your salad!)
  • Make guacamole as a dip for veggies
  • Have an apple with peanut or almond butter for a snack
  • Create your own trail mix - mix nuts with a little dried fruit, great for snacks!

Check out these posts with recipes that add in healthy fats (can you tell I love avocado?!):
Remember, healthy fats are not only good for us, our brains and bodies need them to function at their highest level. See what you can do this week to make sure you're consciously thinking about adding in some healthy fats at least a few times each day.  And get out there and enjoy your October!  

What other ways are you getting healthy fat in your diet each day?  Please share with me in the comments!
Could one conversation change your life?

Find out by scheduling a FREE 50 minute session with me. Do something good for YOU! I can't wait to talk with you more about it!

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“Could one conversation change your life?” is a trademarked term by Integrative Nutrition. All rights reserved.