Friday, November 27, 2015

The Holidays Are Here: Our Christmas Bucket List

Hello, Friends!  Did you have a nice Thanksgiving?  We had a great day!  Started out with a ~3 mile hike with friends and family, cooked during the day, had a brief encounter with the local fire department (burning the turkey is a great story to tell...after the fact!!), and ended the day with a wonderful meal with family. What was the best part of your day?

The holidays are officially here!  Happy day after Thanksgiving (aka Black Friday).  Any of you crazy enough to go shopping today?  No thank you!  I prefer to do the bulk of my shopping with Amazon at home in my snuggly pjs.  Thank goodness for Amazon Prime! Am I right??

Now that the holidays are here, it's so easy to get wrapped up (hee hee, excuse the pun) in all the busyness, and forget to cherish all the festivities and people in our lives.

One thing that we've done over the past few years is to create a Christmas Bucket List in order to make sure that we're enjoying this special time and not letting it just go by.  (If you don't celebrate Christmas, you can still create a Holiday or Winter Bucket list.)  I've read where some people put their ideas in a basket and pick a new one each day.  If you have kids, it'd be great to include them in the list making. Have fun with it and be intentional. What are the things you really want to do this Holiday Season?


Here are some of the things on our Christmas Bucket list this year (click here for printable version):
  1. Decorate the tree together (this weekend! Yay!)
  2. Drink hot cocoa
  3. Buy a Christmas tree ornament that represents something our family has done this year
  4. Watch a Christmas movie: White Christmas and It's a Wonderful Life are our favorites!
  5. Bake cookies to share with friends and neighbors
  6. Sing and dance to Christmas songs
  7. Share 3 things that you love about another person with them
  8. Drink eggnog
  9. Buy each other a small gift
  10. Snuggle up by the fire - can be with your special someone, or just with a blanket and a good book!
  11. Drive around (or walk!) and look at Christmas lights
  12. Wrap presents with someone else - make it an event vs just a chore
  13. Buy a gift for your pet
  14. Take a Christmas family photo
  15. Christmas TV shows - Rudolph and Prep & Landing are always on our list
  16. Kiss under the mistletoe ;)
  17. Share a favorite Christmas memory
  18. Take a picture with Santa (you don't have to be a kid to sit on Santa's lap!)
  19. Give an anonymous gift to a family in need
  20. Have a snowball fight
  21. See a Christmas show, like the Nutcracker or A Christmas Carol
  22. Go Christmas caroling in a nursing home
  23. Attend a Christmas Eve program
  24. Go ice skating
  25. Dress up (festive) for a Christmas party - an ugly Christmas sweater party totally counts!
For more ideas, there's all kinds of examples out on Pinterest.

Do you have Holiday traditions in your family?  Are you going to put together a Holiday Bucket list?  Please share your ideas!

Have a great week! :)

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Friday, November 20, 2015

Enjoy the Thanksgiving Holiday! (Skip the Guilt)

Thanksgiving is right around the corner - it's time for planning the meal, cleaning the house, getting ready for guests to visit, and mentally preparing yourself for the craziness that can be during time with family :)

All over the interwebs these days are tips on how to survive the next month or so without gaining the dreaded holiday pounds. While a lot of that is good stuff, I like to think about it a little differently.

If we back up a little and make sure to keep things in perspective, think about this question: What does Thanksgiving mean to you? For me, it's about spending time with friends and family, enjoying each others company, and yes, eating some of those special dishes that just mean Thanksgiving (my favs are my Mom's dressing/stuffing, homemade bread with butter, and roasted root vegetables - YUM! and Hello carbs! ha).

Here are some ideas to help you enjoy the holiday without regret or guilt:
  • Start the day with a walk or run.  There Turkey Trots scheduled all over, but if there aren't any in your area, or if that's just not your thing, just get outside and walk around your neighborhood. Even better, recruit friends or family to do it with you!  Fresh air is a great way to start the day, and getting a little exercise will help you be ready for the day, both physically and emotionally.
  • Take time out to really pay attention to those you're spending time with. Think about their life and what they're doing, and then ask them specific questions about how they are doing or what is going on in their lives.  Really listen to what they are saying.  So often, we just have the same old conversations - "What's new?" "Nothing much" etc. You'll be surprised what you might find out if you actually have a meaningful conversation. 
  • Typically, when family gets together, there's going to be some drama, or some underlying potential drama. You know what I mean. Mom always asks when you're going to get married already, Uncle Sam drinks too much punch and says embarrassing things,  Aunt Hazel gets emotional and cries by the end of the day... whatever it is for your family.  Instead of letting that type of drama get to you, go into the day understanding that this is who your family is.  You aren't going to change them, so just accept it, and don't be surprised by it.  Relax, observe it, and don't let it impact your mood/day (and if in doubt, just breathe!).
  • When time comes for the big meal, fully enjoy the foods that you love!  Take some of that dressing, or pecan pie, whatever is your favorite, and mindfully enjoy each bite!  
  • During the meal, be mindful of how you feel.  You don't have to eat seconds or thirds of everything, as most likely there will be leftovers.  And if you're really paying attention, the second serving isn't usually as good as the first (kind of like the law of diminishing returns).  If the meal isn't at your house and you really want to have leftovers of a certain item, just ask!  Most host/hostesses are more than happy to send extras home with you - less for them to have on hand the next day.
  • If you are blessed to have leftovers - don't just eat them because they are there.  If you want them, by all means, eat them and enjoy them.  If you're getting burned out on them, share them with others or re-purpose them into something else:
    • Turkey and vegetables can be used to make a delicious soup - and who doesn't like soup these days when it's chilly outside?!
    • Make a Shepard's Pie - there are a bunch of recipes on Pinterest, but you can use turkey, leftover vegetables, mashed potatoes, etc.
    • If in doubt, most things can be frozen for another day - think of how nice it would be to have some of those meal items during December when things are really busy. Or even January, when you have winter doldrums and some reminders of the holiday would be welcomed
Most importantly, remember that this time of year is about being thankful for the people and experiences you have in your life.  The meal itself is secondary.  So enjoy your time with friends and family, and be thankful for the time you have together.

What are you most looking forward to during this Thanksgiving holiday?    Please share in the comments. 

Have a great week! :)

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Friday, November 13, 2015

Just Breathe: How to Make Mindful Breathing a Habit

One of my favorite pieces of advice for someone when they are stressed or anxious is to remember to breathe. Sounds trite and boring, I know, but it really does work. And it's cheap, easy, and you can do it whenever, wherever. While I know our bodies will breathe for us if we're not paying attention (we hope!), but what I'm talking about is the mindful, focused breathing that is centering and grounding.  (If you're interested in the "why" of how breathing helps you deal with stress, this article does a great job of describing it.)

Personal story time...

Over the years, I've realized that I have some perfectionist tendencies (that sometimes border on OCD. Ugh!).  I like to have things a certain way, and if they aren't, there are times that this really gets to me.  I know, it's an issue and I'm working on it! The first step is admitting I have a problem, right? ;)

Several years ago, around this time of year, we were getting ready to have my whole family at our house for the long weekend and also hosting the Thanksgiving meal.  Our house is cozy (aka, not big), and as you can imagine, this was a highly stressful time for me.  I wanted to have everything done ahead of time, and the perfectionist in me wanted to have everything done just right. 

Before the majority of the crew came to town, my mom and I drove out to run some last minute errands. As we got on the Expressway, all of a sudden my heart started beating really fast, I was having trouble breathing, and ended up pulling over as cars were whizzing past us (remember, this is right before Thanksgiving, when everyone is already nuts!).  Thankfully, my mom is a retired nurse and was able to stay calm and assess the situation.  We decided to turn around and head over to Urgent Care.  (Also thankfully, she was able to drive a stick shift, as I was in no shape to drive!)

Long story short(er), at Urgent Care they did some tests, kept an eye on me for a while, but everything was fine (more to be thankful for!).  Turns out, I had just experienced my first panic attack.  

So what's the moral of the story?

Breathe, folks. Just breathe.

Fortunately, I have only experienced a few more panic attacks since that time, none in the past few years, and I attribute that to my regular meditation practice, as well as remembering to just breathe in the moments where I've been feeling stressed or anxious.  

Several years ago, I bought the above bracelet to remind myself of just that.  I know I preach it, "just breathe," but I also know it's not always easy to remember. I still have times when I get caught up in the moment and let myself spin up into a ball of stress.  So for the past two+ years I've worn this bracelet 24/7 to help me remember. (The source link takes you to the Esty site where I bought it, if interested.)  As with anything, the more you do it or practice it, the more of a habit it becomes.

How do you make mindful breathing a habit?

A few things you can do to help make it more of a habit:

  • Use a physical reminder, like my bracelet, that helps keep it top of mind. Doesn't have to be a bracelet, but could be a rubber band or a post-it note, whatever works for you.  Whenever you see it, take a deep breath.
  • Add a breathing exercise into your morning and evening routine.  For example, before you get in the shower in the morning, take three long, deep breaths.  The more you do it, the more you'll remember to do it when you need it.
  • Start a regular meditation practice. See this post for more info.  During meditation, you focus primarily on your breathing and how your body feels vs getting caught up in your thoughts.
  • Take a yoga class (or several!).  In yoga, while you go through different poses, the one thing that is constant is to focus on your breathing or remembering to breathe.
  • 4-7-8 breathing: During my coaching training, Dr. Andrew Weil taught us this practice.  Gently hold your tongue on the roof of your mouth.  Inhale through your nose for 4 counts, hold the breath for 7, then exhale through your mouth for 8 counts.  Repeat 4-8 times daily.
  • Envision your breath going in and out as a color, a cleansing breath. I like to see my breath as a white or yellow mist as I'm inhaling (clean, fresh air), and then as I blow it out, it's brown or gray (releasing the stress, worry or other negative emotion).   
If you practice mindful breathing when you don't need it, you'll remember more readily when you actually do!  Then as you become more aware, if you feel yourselves spinning up, getting angry or feeling frustrated or anxious, take a BIGGGG deep breath and hold it.  Hold it!  Hold it !!!  Count to 10 if needed.  Then blow it out through your mouth.   Blow that breath and stress and frustration right out.   Repeat as long as you need.

Just breathe.

Do you find that remembering to breathe helps you deal with stressful moments?  Please share in the comments. 

Have a great week! :)

Could one conversation change your life?

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Friday, November 6, 2015

Man's Best Friend Is Something To Be Thankful For

Hello Friends!

The month of November is a time when we do a lot of reflecting on the things we're thankful for.  How many of you do the "let's share what we're thankful for" routine around the Thanksgiving table? It's a great exercise, and while some of us may be uncomfortable being put on the spot, we typically can come up with something to say we're grateful for fairly easily. Which is a great thing!

This time of year, we also feel stressed out - it's the holiday season for crying out loud!  There's a huge meal to plan, family visiting, which adds it's own interesting spin on stress. Then there are decorations to start putting up and gifts to buy to be ready for Christmas or Hanukkah, cookies to bake, parties to plan or attend, etc...  One of the best ways to deal with that stress is to continually remind yourself of the things for which you are grateful.

If you've seen my "about me" section on my website, I mention our sweet dog, Emmy.  She's a Chocolate Lab and is 14 1/2 years old.  If you know anything about dogs, you know that is quite an advanced age for a big dog like her. While she still gets around surprisingly well and seems in okay health (she does have lumps and bumps and an occasional limp or twitch - but don't we all!), we do realize that our days together are numbered.

My point in all this isn't to be sad or morose, it's just to point out that because we know our time with her is limited, we do our best to enjoy and be grateful for each day that we do have!  Dogs have such an unconditional love and are always happy to see you. When we leave, Emmy sleeps right up next to the door so she knows the moment we return home, then she'll bring us a bone with her tail wagging so hard it may fall off.  She inherently knows how to show us that she's thankful!  

It's very hard to get a picture of Emmy!  She always knows when you're taking one and turns her head away - I guess she's shy!  But this was one I caught of her when we were at the lake, her favorite place in the world, where she was hanging out with her friends and just relaxing.  She loves nothing more than being in the middle of things!

(She does look a little disturbed or stressed here. I think it was because she didn't want her picture taken!)

Emmy and I in action - her "scarf" is reflective, isn't it cute? :)
Emmy & I walk every morning (unless it's raining... we don't want to melt!). We don't go as far or as fast as we used to, but it's a great time for us to spend together, we get fresh air, she gets her pees and poops out. :)  I really enjoy the time to think about whatever is going on that day. I also make sure to focus on what's going on around us in that moment - the trees are beautiful, the birds talking to each other, waving or saying hello to the neighbors as we pass.

Her most absolute favorite place in the world is on her morning boat rides with her "dad."  When we're at the lake, after our morning walk, P takes Emmy on a boat ride.  They have a route they take, and most of the time she spends at the front, looking out, paws hanging over the edge, with her ears flapping in the breeze, just taking it all in.  It's really the sweetest thing ever!

This is after one of their boat rides.  Our house is on a big hill, and it's hard for her to walk up it these days so P taught her to ride in the golf cart.

Weeeeeee!  So much fun (and so much easier than walking up that crazy hill)!

So this holiday season, let's practice remembering the things we're thankful for, instead of getting so caught up in the craziness.  Here are a few ideas if you're struggling with this: 
  • Easy stuff: if someone does something for you, say "Thank you!"  Even if it is just holding the door open for you or handing you your Starbucks
  • Also easy, but sometimes doesn't feel like it - if someone compliments yousay "Thank you!" and don't discount yourself ("oh, this old thing?").  They went to the effort to say something nice to you, so say thanks!!
  • Take an old notebook that's just laying around the house and make a Gratitude Journal. Doesn't have to be anything fancy, just regularly write in it the things you're thankful for, big or little
  • In bed every night before you go to sleep, think of 2 things you appreciate from that day - might help you get a good night's sleep and start the next day off better, too!
  • Post something you're thankful for each day on your favorite social media avenue every day this month - Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, whatever.  I've seen several people doing this on Facebook - it's a great idea and spreads goodwill to others.
As I mentioned earlier, because we know our time with Emmy is limited, we do our best to enjoy and be grateful for each day that we have. In reality, our time together with our friends and family is limited, it will end someday, so use this as a reminder to live each day to it's fullest, tell your loved ones you appreciate them, and be thankful for each moment.   I appreciate you and your support!!!

How will you practice remembering gratitude this month (and beyond!)?  Tell me something you're thankful for!  Please share 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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