Three Ways to Avoid Overeating at Meals

Sometimes those holiday feasts are just amazing. It's not just the abundance of delicious food but also the people, the decorations, and the ambiance.

It is way too easy (and common) to indulge.

But it doesn't always stop there.

Sometimes it’s just because the food tastes so good. After all I am a foodie and an excellent cook to boot.  If this is something you struggle with you are not alone. Sometimes I struggle with too.

Sometimes we overeat on regular days.  Or at regular meals.  Or All. The. Time.

Since I am always trying to hold myself accountable sometimes it helps me to share what I am working on. I came up with three tips to avoid overeating at meals.

(Psst, we can turn these into habits and ditch the willpower!)

Tip #1: Start with water

When your stomach is growling and you smell amazingly delicious food it's too easy to fill a plate (or grab some samples with your bare hands) and dive into the food.

But did you know that it's possible to sometimes confuse the feeling of thirst with that of hunger?  Your stomach may actually be craving a big glass of water rather than a feast.

Some studies have shown that drinking a glass or two of water before a meal can help reduce the amount of food eaten.  And this super-simple tip may even help with weight loss (...just sayin').

Not only will the water start to fill up your stomach before you get to the buffet, leaving less room for the feast but drinking enough water has been shown to slightly increase your metabolism.

Win-win!

Tip #2: Try eating "mindfully"

You've heard of mindfulness but have you applied that to your eating habits?

This can totally help you avoid overeating as well as having the added bonus of helping your digestion.

Just as being mindful when you meditate helps to focus your attention on your breathing and the present moment being mindful when you eat helps to focus your attention on your meal.

Do this by taking smaller bites, eating more slowly, chewing more thoroughly, and savouring every mouthful.  Notice and appreciate the smell, taste and texture.  Breathe.

This can help prevent overeating because eating slower often means eating less. 

When you eat quickly you can easily overeat because it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to know that your stomach is full.

So take your time, pay attention to your food and enjoy every bite.

Bonus points: Eat at a table (not in front of the screen), off of a small plate, and put your fork down between bites.

Tip #3: Start with salad

You may be yearning for that rich, creamy main dish.

But don't start there.

(Don't worry, you can have some...just after you've eaten your salad).

Veggies are a great way to start any meal because they're full of not only vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and health-promoting phytochemicals but they also have some secret satiety weapons: fiber and water.

Fiber and water are known to help fill you up and make you feel fuller.  They're “satiating”.

And these secret weapons are great to have on your side when you're about to indulge in a large meal.

Keep it simple. 

Have your glass of water, eat mindfully, and start with your salad to help avoid overeating at meals.

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The Gut Brain Connection: How to Feed Your Brain

If there was ever a call for "digestive health," this is it!  I even discussed the new discoveries with my doctor who agrees that there is finally some solid scientific research showing the correlation. 

Yes, it's true. Your gut is considered your "second brain."  There is no denying it anymore.

New scientific discoveries about the vagus nerve, the enteric nervous system, and the amazing influence your gut microbes can have, it's no wonder what you eat feeds not only your body but can directly affect your brain.

I find it amazingly awesome (but not too surprising). 

What exactly is the "gut brain connection"?

Well, it s very complex, and to be honest, we re still learning lots about it! 

There seems to be multiple things working together.   Things like: 

  • The vagus nerve that links the gut directly to the brain;
  • The "enteric nervous system ” (A.K.A. second brain) that helps the complex intricacies of digestion flow with little to no involvement from the actual brain;
  • The massive amounts of neurotransmitters produced by the gut;
  • The huge part of the immune system that is in the gut, that can travel throughout the body; and
  • The interactions and messages sent by gut microbes.

It's super complex and super awesome if you ask me. Thinks like:

The Vagus Nerve

There is a nerve that runs directly from the gut to the brain. 

And after reading this so far, you'll probably get a sense of which transmission is...

Not from your brain to your gut (which is what we used to think), but from your gut to your brain!

The enteric nervous system and neurotransmitters

Would you believe me if I told you that the gut has more nerves than your spinal cord? 

I knew you would!

And that's why it's referred to as the "second brain."

And, if you think about it, controlling the complex process of digestion (i.e. digestive enzymes, absorption of nutrients, the flow of food, etc.) should probably be done pretty "smartly"...don't you think?

And guess how these nerves speak to each other, and to other cells? By chemical messengers called "neurotransmitters."

 In fact, many of the neurotransmitters that have a strong effect on our mood are made in the gut! e.g. a whopping 95% of serotonin is made in your gut, not in your brain!

The immune system of the gut

Because eating and drinking is a huge portal where disease-causing critters can get into your body, it makes total sense that much of our defense system would be located there too, right? Seventy-five percent of our immune system is in our gut!

And you know that the immune cells can move throughout the entire body and cause inflammation just about anywhere, right?

Well, if they’re “activated” by something in the gut, they can potentially wreak havoc anywhere in the body. Including the potential to cause inflammation in the brain.

Gut microbes

Your friendly neighborhood gut residents. You have billions of those little guys happily living in your gut. And they do amazing things like help you digest certain foods, make certain vitamins, and even help regulate inflammation!

But more and more evidence is showing that changes in your gut microbiota can impact your mood, and even other, more serious, mental health issues.

How do all of these all work together for brain health?

The honest answer to how these things all work together is that we really don't know just yet. More and more studies are being done to learn more.

But one thing is becoming clear. A healthy gut goes hand-in-hand with a healthy brain!

So, how do you feed your brain?

Of course, a variety of minimally-processed, nutrient-dense foods is required, because no nutrients work alone.

But two things that you many consider eating more of are fiber and omega-3 fats. Fiber (in fruits, veggies, nuts & seeds) help to feed your awesome gut microbes. And omega-3 fats (in fatty fish, walnuts, algae, and seeds like flax, chia, and hemp) are well-know inflammation-lowering brain boosters.

Need a recipe for some high fiber omega-3 packed food.  Try my Blueberry Hemp Overnight Oats.

What is Metabolism?

This word “metabolism” is thrown around a lot these days.

You know that if yours is too slow you might gain weight. But what exactly does this all mean?

Well technically “metabolism” is the word to describe all of the biochemical reactions in your body. It's how you take in nutrients and oxygen and use them to fuel everything you do.

Your body has an incredible ability to grow, heal, and generally stay alive. And without this amazing biochemistry you would not be possible.

Metabolism includes how the cells in your body: 

  • Allow activities you can control (ie: physical activity, etc.).
  • Allow activities you can't control (ie: heart beat, wound healing, process of nutrients & toxins, etc.)
  • Allow storage of excess energy for later.

So when you put all of these processes together into your metabolism you can imagine that these processes can work too quickly, too slowly, or just right.

Which brings us to the “metabolic rate”.

Metabolic Rate

This is how fast your metabolism works and is measured in calories (yup, those calories!).

The calories you eat can go to one of three places:

● Work (i.e. exercise and other activity).

● Heat (i.e. from all those biochemical reactions).

● Storage (i.e. extra leftover “unburned” calories stored as fat).

As you can imagine the more calories you burn as work or creating heat the easier it is to lose weight and keep it off because there will be fewer “leftover” calories to store for later.

There are a couple of different ways to measure metabolic rate. One is the “resting metabolic rate” (RMR) which is how much energy your body uses when you're not being physically active.

The other is the “total daily energy expenditure” (TDEE) which measures both the resting metabolic rate as well as the energy used for “work” (e.g. exercise) throughout a 24-hour period.

​What affects your metabolic rate? 

In a nutshell: a lot!

The first thing you may think of is your thyroid. This gland at the front of your throat releases hormones to tell your body to “speed up” your metabolism. Of course, the more thyroid hormone there is the faster things will work and the more calories you'll burn.

But that's not the only thing that affects your metabolic rate.

How big you are counts too!

Larger people have higher metabolic rates; but your body composition is crucial!

As you can imagine muscles that actively move and do work need more energy than fat does. So the more lean muscle mass you have the more energy your body will burn and the higher your metabolic rate will be. Even when you're not working out.

This is exactly why weight training is often recommended as a part of a weight loss program. Because you want muscles to be burning those calories for you.

The thing is, when people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down which you don't want to happen. So you definitely want to offset that with more muscle mass.

Aerobic exercise also temporarily increases your metabolic rate. Your muscles are burning fuel to move so they're doing “work”.

The type of food you eat also affects your metabolic rate!

Your body actually burns calories to absorb, digest, and metabolize your food. This is called the “thermic effect of food” (TEF).

You can use it to your advantage when you understand how your body metabolizes foods differently.

Fats, for example increase your TEF by 0-3%; carbs increase it by 5-10%, and protein increases it by 15-30%. By trading some of your fat or carbs for lean protein you can slightly increase your metabolic rate.

Another bonus of protein is that your muscles need it to grow. By working them out and feeding them what they need they will help you to lose weight and keep it off.

And don't forget the mind-body connection. There is plenty of research that shows the influence that things like stress and sleep have on the metabolic rate.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to metabolism and how so many different things can work to increase (or decrease) your metabolic rate.

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-energy-balance

https://authoritynutrition.com/10-ways-to-boost-metabolism/

Featured Recipe

Do you know which macronutrient can increase your metabolism the most? Want a delicious recipe to make this work for you? Get it here:

Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken Breasts

Men… Losing Strength? This Hormone Can Help

Testosterone

Yes, we're talking testosterone. That muscle-building hormone. But I'm not going to recommend that you take any anabolic steroid hormones or anything like that.

I am going to give you two solid tips on how you can boost your testosterone levels naturally with supplements.

Tip #1: Get enough zinc

Zinc is an essential mineral that helps with a number of processes in your body (it helps over 300 enzymes). Zinc helps your immune system, helps to produce critical proteins and DNA, and also helps with wound healing. Enough zinc is necessary to maintain healthy skin and for optimal ability to taste and smell. Zinc is an antioxidant and can be supplemented to support optimal levels of testosterone because it helps the enzymes that converts cholesterol into testosterone.

Zinc is found mostly in red meat, poultry, egg yolks, and shellfish. Some plants can also provide zinc such as beans and nuts. The best dietary source is oysters.

The daily recommended dose of zinc for men is 11 mg/day (for women it's 8 mg/day). Low zinc levels are rare but tend to occur in vegetarians/vegans, athletes, and people who sweat a lot (zinc is lost in sweat). And low zinc levels have been linked to low testosterone levels.

Of course if you don't get enough zinc in your diet you can always supplement. Before you do, however, consider a few things:

● It is possible to get too much zinc so unless your doctor tells you never take more than 40 mg/day. For many people just 5-10 mg/day is enough to prevent deficiency.

● Zinc supplements can also interact with certain medications so be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist to find out if zinc supplements are safe for you.

● Zinc supplements are best taken 2-hours away from any medications (if it's safe to use it at all while taking those medications) and should be taken with food.

Tip #2: Get enough vitamin D

Vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin” is actually the most common nutrient that we in North America just simply don't get enough of. Not only is it not very abundant in foods but most places far from the equator don't get enough sunlight to produce adequate levels year round.

Hello winter; goodbye sunshine vitamin.

Vitamin D is known to help us absorb calcium from our foods and is also necessary for our immune system, nervous system, and muscular system. As with zinc if you're deficient in this nutrient you may experience increased testosterone levels after supplementing.

Vitamin D deficiency is most commonly associated with bone conditions such as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.

It is a fat-soluble vitamin and is found in fatty fish, organ meats, and egg yolks. Unfortunately it isn't abundant in most other un-fortified foods.

The bottom line with vitamin D is that you may need to supplement. Of course if you're always outside in the sun or eat fatty fish every day you may be the exception. You can always ask your doctor to check your blood levels to be sure because vitamin D is another one of those nutrients where more is not always better.

Here are a few tips to supplement with vitamin D safely and effectively:

● Read your labels and don't overdo it. Never supplement with more than 4,000IU/day unless supervised by your doctor.

● As with zinc (and most other supplements) you should check with your doctor or pharmacist if you're taking any medications.

● Take your vitamin D with some fat to help your body absorb this vitamin. It is often recommended that you take it with the largest meal of the day.

● Note that vitamin D is also found in cod liver oil, and multivitamins, so you may not need to take it separately (read your labels).

If you aren't getting enough zinc and/or vitamin D every day your testosterone levels may be a bit low but don't overdo these two essential nutrients.

Featured Recipe 

Add more nutrition to your diet. Here is a recipe loaded with vitamin D and Zinc.

Honey Sesame Salmon

Five Cholesterol Myths and What to Eat Instead

You knew there was a bit of an over-emphasis (borderlining obsession) about cholesterol, right?

Before we jump into some myths let's make sure we're on the same page when it comes to what exactly cholesterol is.

Myth #1: “Cholesterol” is cholesterol

While cholesterol is an actual molecule what it is bound to while it's floating through your blood is what's more important than just how much of it there is overall. In fact depending on what it's combined with can have opposite effects on your arteries and heart. Yes, opposite!

So cholesterol is just one component of a compound that floats around your blood. These compounds contain cholesterol as well as fats and special proteins called “lipoproteins”.

They're grouped into two main categories:

● HDL: High Density Lipoprotein (AKA “good” cholesterol) that “cleans up” some of those infamous “arterial plaques” and transports cholesterol back to the liver.

● LDL: Low Density Lipoprotein (AKA “bad” cholesterol) that transports cholesterol from the liver (and is the kind found to accumulate in arteries and become easily oxidized hence their “badness”).

And yes, it's even more complicated than this. Each of these categories is further broken down into subcategories which can also be measured in a blood test.

So “cholesterol” isn't simply cholesterol because it has very different effects on your body depending on which other molecules it's bound to in your blood and what it is actually doing there.

Myth #2: Cholesterol is bad

Cholesterol is absolutely necessary for your body to produce critical things like vitamin D when your skin is exposed to the sun, your sex hormones (e.g. estrogen and testosterone), as well as bile to help you absorb dietary fats. Not to mention that it's incorporated into the membranes of your cells.

Talk about an important molecule!

The overall amount of cholesterol in your blood (AKA “total cholesterol”) isn't nearly as important as how much of each kind you have in your blood.

While way too much LDL cholesterol as compared with HDL (the LDL:HDL ratio) may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease it is absolutely not the only thing to consider for heart health.

Myth #3: Eating cholesterol increases your bad cholesterol

Most of the cholesterol in your blood is made by your liver. It's actually not from the cholesterol you eat. Why do you think cholesterol medications block an enzyme in your liver (HMG Co-A reductase, to be exact)? 'Cause that's where it's made!

What you eat still can affect how much cholesterol your liver produces. After a cholesterol-rich meal your liver doesn't need to make as much.

Myth #4: Your cholesterol should be as low as possible

As with almost everything in health and wellness there's a balance that needs to be maintained. There are very few extremes that are going to serve you well.

People with too-low levels of cholesterol have increased risk of death from other non-heart-related issues like certain types of cancers, as well as suicide.

Myth #5: Drugs are the only way to get a good cholesterol balance

Don't start or stop any medications without talking with your doctor.

And while drugs can certainly lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol they don't seem to be able to raise the “good” HDL cholesterol all that well.

Guess what does?

Nutrition and exercise, baby!

One of the most impactful ways to lower your cholesterol with diet is to eat lots of fruits and veggies. I mean lots, say up to 10 servings a day. Every day.

Don't worry check out my delicious recipe for Orange Hemp Salad Dressing that should help you add at least another salad to your day.

You can (should?) also exercise, lose weight, stop smoking, and eat better quality fats. That means fatty fish, avocados and olive oil. Ditch those over-processed hydrogenated “trans” fats.

The bottom line

The science of cholesterol and heart health is complicated and we're learning more every day. You may not need to be as afraid of it as you are. And there is a lot you can do from a nutrition and lifestyle perspective to improve your cholesterol level.

Orange Hemp Seed Dressing

Add another salad to your daily routine.  Its easy when you top it with this delicious and nutritious Orange Hemp Seed Dressing

Your content here...

Get Motivated…Run for a Cause

Nothing beats waking up in the morning with the natural motivation to go for a run. Let's face it, after a hard days work, sometimes you are just too tired and unmotivated to do something for yourself. Sometimes, just trying to get and stay motivated to run on a regular and consistent basis can be a challenge.

So, you may be wondering just how you can get the motivation you need to run on a regular basis. If you've been wondering what you can do to make exercising more fun, you'll find some ideas below that just may help to make running more fun and a little bit easier.  

  1. Put a support system in place. Start running with a partner such as a good friend or a family member or join a community. It is great to have someone you can share the time with, make each other laugh, have friendly competition and just make the time pass with good conversation during your run. 
  2. Try changing things up.  Change your route or path that you run on.  You can run in your neighborhood, find a nice trail in nature or run along the lake or riverfront. By changing your course, you will break the mundane routine. 
  3. Run for a cause. My friend Tiffany is the co-founder of BFF Run for a Cause where they have created a community of like-minded individuals who complete virtual runs to support different charities.  Talk about motivation...when you sign up to complete a virtual run you will receive a T-shirt and bib to sport on your run, a finisher's medal to add to your many accomplishments and some other cool stuff.....plus they will donate a portion of the registration fee to the designated organization. You can find out more about BFF Run for A Cause and how it works here: http://bit.ly/2m8Q61x

Whatever you decide to do, remember that it is important to find something you love. Find an exercise such as running that will keep you moving your body on a regular and consistent basis. After all The Complete Recipe to optimal health is to EAT, CONNECT and MOVE!

7 Common Causes of Stress

Stress - we deal with it on a regular basis and hear about it all the time. It’s in the news. We read about it in magazines and see it talked about online. Your doctor may even have talked with you about controlling your stress levels. But, is it really such a big deal?

So what is stress anyway? The Miriam Webster dictionary defines stress as “a physical, chemical or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation.”

I was actually pleasantly surprised to find that this definition included the less obvious result of stress, which can, in fact, be disease. Not that I’m happy about stress causing disease, but I think most people don’t realize the huge impact it can have on our health. The definition went on to show examples of using the word ‘stress’ in a sentence, which was also appropriate for this session. “Hormones are released into the body in response to emotional stress."

So, as you probably guessed, the answer to the question “Is stress a big deal?” is “Yes” - IF you care about your health.

Stress may be caused by external or internal events or actions. Listed below are the 7 most common causes of stress. 

7 Common Causes of Stress

  1. Relationships - Divorce, frequent disagreements and/or a new marriage 
  2. Career - Changing jobs, working too much, or general work-related stress
  3. Finances - Credit card debt, loss of job, or disagreements on how money is spent
  4. Your health or a family member's health - Caring for others, illness and even death
  5. Home Environment - Family issues, hectic schedules, moving, birth of a new child
  6. Diet - Binge eating, eating all the time, continuous dieting with no results
  7. Lifestyle - Over training (exercising too much), over scheduling, traffic or other special situations

Here’s What Happens in Your Body…

“When you encounter a perceived threat - a large dog barks at you during your morning walk, for instance - your hypothalamus, a tiny region at the base of your brain, sets off an alarm system in your body. Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts your adrenal glands, located atop your kidneys, to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol.

Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances your brain's use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues.

Cortisol also curbs functions that would be nonessential or detrimental in a fight-or-flight situation. It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes. This complex natural alarm system also communicates with regions of your brain that control mood, motivation and fear.

The long-term activation of the stress-response system - and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones - can disrupt almost all your body's processes”

The Risks…

The long-term activation of the stress-response system - and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones - can disrupt almost all your body's processes.

This puts you at increased risk of numerous health problems, including:

Anxiety

Depression

Digestive problems

Heart disease

Sleep problems

Weight gain

Memory and concentration impairment

Source: Mayo Clinic

Other Negative Effects of Chronic Stress

  • nutrient deficiencies as a result of decreased nutrient absorbtion
  • reduced gut flora (the 'good' bacteria)
  • increased levels of cortisol (which can inhibit weight loss)
  • lowering metabolism and increasing fat storage
  • increased oxidative stress (which causes premature aging)
  • The resulting hormonal imbalances (involving cortisol and insulin, in particular) and chronic low-grade inflammation can set the stage for the development of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer, and other chronic diseases. Chronic stress can also make you more susceptible to colds, flus and other infections. And physical stress disrupts physiological homeostasis in a number of ways (including the hormonal and inflammatory pathways) that may affect your energy level in an adverse way.

    The effects of stress can also effect your state of mind, impairing your working memory and your ability to control your impulses. It also increases the risk of anxiety and depression. In addition, unbridled stress can sap your energy and undermine your motivation and resolve to make or stick with healthy lifestyle changes.

    In fact, research from the University of California, San Francisco, found that people who reported higher levels of stress had a greater drive to eat, including disinhibited eating, binge eating, hunger, more ineffective attempts to control their eating, all of which can promote weight gain.

    Source: Dr. David Katz, Author, Disease-Proof

Stress – How Is It Affecting YOU?

Did you realize that stress could wreak so much havoc? Pretty incredible!

Now that we know it can negatively affect many bodily processes including digestion, nutrient absorption, hormones, blood pressure, appetite control, aging and memory, we can put it towards the top of our list of things to address.

It’s not realistic to eliminate all stress from our lives, of course, but there are plenty of things we can do to minimize it. The first step is deciding that it’s important enough to do. Children learn from our example and I think the hectic pace we live in is setting them up for duplicating this pattern (and thinking it’s perfectly normal and okay).

The Causes Are Endless

I think oftentimes we minimize the amount of stress we’re under because we aren’t even fully conscious of it. I’ve been guilty of this myself. It’s easy sometimes to take to on too much. When we do, we often end up with a schedule that is way too busy, find ourselves running in circles and feel like we’re not getting much accomplished – and, this stresses us out even more! We ultimately pay the price with relationship issues, poor diet, health and time management issues … or worse!

We’re going to cover some ideas to help reduce stress but the first thing I’d like to address is probably the most important thing you can do starting today. It’s simple, you already do it every day – but once you do more of it and do it consistently, you’re likely to notice a huge difference in how you feel. So what the solution? Get more sleep!

How is getting enough sleep going to help with stress?

You may be surprised.

You’ve Heard People Say That Sleep Is Overrated ….or Is It?

Inadequate slumber over extended periods of time may interfere with immune function, including production of white blood cells and hormonal regulation, which is why sufficient sleep is linked with chronically elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

This also leads to impaired immunity and elevated levels of hormones such as insulin, increasing the risk of gaining body fat (most often in the midsection) and of developing systemic inflammation and type 2 diabetes. It also leads to changes in the hormone leptin and ghrelin, which regulate hunger and satiety.” - Dr. David Katz, Disease-Proof

Included in this session are suggestions on how to improve your sleep, but the first one is making it a big enough priority and scheduling 7-9 hours to make sure it happens. This means planning ahead. If you need 8 hours of sleep and you have to be up by 6:00 a.m. you need to be ready for sleep by 10:00 pm. Some people do great on 7 hours and some need 8 or 9, so figure out what makes you feel the most rested.

“But, I Have So Much To Do!”

If you’re saying “But I can’t, I have way too much to do!” you should know that insufficient sleep decreases productivity, so by getting enough sleep, you can actually get more done in less time AND feel better while you’re doing it.

Here’s an all-too-common scenario:

You get to bed too late and when it’s time to wake up, your alarm goes off and you’re still tired and hit the snooze button one too many times. Now you’re running late. There’s no time for a decent breakfast, much less, time for packing a healthy lunch to take with you. You leave the house hungry and tired and arrive at work. The only ‘food’ available is whizzing through a drive through, something in a vending machine, the donuts someone else brought into the office or worse, you just have time to grab some coffee.

Now, you’re dragging all day with low energy because this is not the first night this week you haven’t had enough sleep. Somewhere between 2:00 and 3:00 you’re ready to crash, so you grab the closest thing you can find with sugar to keep you going a while longer. And, you may grab another cup of coffee. You leave work way too tired to stop at the gym to exercise or have the incentive to go for a walk when you get home. You grab a quick, highly processed snack to get you through until dinner.

If this pattern is repeated often enough over the course of weeks or months, you can imagine where this will lead you. Many of us are operating this way on a regular basis. It’s stressful and it’s wreaking havoc on us in every possible way. It may have started as a result of a particular event or short-term project, but then became a habit. However, the more we become aware of the things we do that have us on the road to depleting our health, the easier it is to make a change.

Scenario #2 – Imagine this!

You get 7-9 hours of sleep and sleep straight through. You wake up rested, refreshed and ready to take on the day. You hop out of bed, drink your water, have a healthy breakfast, arrive at work on time relaxed and feeling productive. You have a balanced, healthy lunch that gives you sustained energy for the rest of the afternoon. No mid-afternoon crash. No snacks or coffee are needed nor craved. You’ve either worked out before you got to work or you have energy to work out after. You go home and are happy to make a balanced, healthy dinner and enjoy time with your family. You still feel good. You get to bed by 10:00 or at the latest 11:00 p.m. so you get in your amount of needed sleep. Now, THAT’S a great day!

Do you see how the way you wake up each morning affects your entire day? It all starts with how rested you are when you wake up and that depends on the amount and quality of sleep you get. When we are fully rested, it also allows us to handle stress better. Adequate sleep helps us recover from stress too. When we’re asleep, our bodies have a chance to rest, repair, detox and recover.

Even though sleep may seem to be a passive and dormant state, there is much activity going on in the brain during different sleep cycles that affect different needs of the body and the mind. Without sufficient time for these things, we run into problems and our health and emotional state can suffer.

Steps to reduce stress

Analyze 

Look at the areas of your life that are causing you stress.

For example: Look at your calendar and see what you have going on each day in the coming month. If you (and your spouse and/or kids) are completely overbooked, is there a solution? Maybe this means taking a step down from certain obligations or activities. Perhaps working out a car pool would be helpful for some things.

Don’t let your schedule run YOU – decide how YOU can run your schedule. It may mean making some changes or adjustments, and possibly eliminating some commitments. You may even need to ask for help! In the long run, freeing up your schedule to decrease stress is worth it. You can have a family meeting to figure out solutions that may work for everyone. It doesn’t have to be all up to you to decide. It’s okay to delegate.

What do you really want for your life? Is your schedule a reflection of that?

If not, are there changes you can make?

Are you running your schedule or is your schedule running you?

Learn How To Just Say No!

TIP: Learn how to not say ‘yes’ right away. And, know that it’s okay to say no.

People can have a hard time saying ‘no’ when they’re asked to help with something. Yes, it is important for everyone to have a way to contribute, but it becomes a problem when you’re over extended. Especially when you end up dreading your commitment, find yourself run ragged or don’t have enough time for your family – or worse yet yourself!

A great idea is to reply with something like, “Thanks for asking. Let me check my schedule and get back to you.” This way, you don’t have to say ‘no’ and you’ll have time to see if this fits into your schedule or not. Stay firm. Evaluate your time, your commitments and your highest values. If you have the time and you want to do it, then great. If not, you can let the person know that as much as you’d like to help, right now you’re not able to.

Figuring it out

We’ve looked at common causes of stress and the number one way to help deal with it, which is getting enough sleep. This is also a good time to go back and look at your priorities and goals worksheet. Many times, stress is caused when our priorities are not aligned with how we’re spending our time.

I’ve included a Life Balance worksheet with this session so you can look at the ways you are currently spending your time and how that lines up with your life priorities. When we become clearer on our priorities, decisions are a bit easier to make.

Where do you do your best thinking or get your best ideas? It’s usually when things are quiet and you’re alone. Find some quiet time to figure out the best way to reduce some of the stress in your life and understand that it’s really important to your health.

Self-Care - What Is It Exactly?

Self-care is about taking good care of yourself and treating yourself as kindly as you treat others.

So why do so many of us put ourselves at the bottom of the list of priorities?

Taking care of ourselves should be at the top of the list since this allows us to be able to care for others better. It’s not selfish to want to feel amazing. When we’re at our best, we can give our best and we have more to give. Something as simple as taking a class or enjoying a little quiet time a few times a week may be all you need.

Find what you enjoy doing and what recharges you. How can you fit this into your schedule? Maybe for now it can only be 30 minutes twice a week, but that’s a start.

Do you need some ideas? Download this quick guide providing you with 22 Ways to Take Care of Yourself NOW

Take Action

  • List all your commitments and responsibilities. Figure out your biggest causes of stress and look at ways you can reduce it. Just start with one thing for now if needed.
  • Evaluate your schedule and see where changes can be made to make things less hectic.
  • Make sleep a priority and be sure to get the amount you need as often as you can. Notice how you feel when you’re more rested.
  • Look at the list of 22 ideas for self-care so you can reduce stress and take care of you. What 3-5 things will you start with?

Do you have strategies in place for managing stress? Help others and share in the comments below.

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