holiday stress

Seven Strategies For Soothing The Holiday Stress

The turkey has been gobbled, which means it’s on to the next big celebration…yep, it’s Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa time folks! If that sentence awakens your inner Grinch, then this post — How To Let Go Of Holiday Stress and Find Those Festive Feels — is right for you.

So far in this four-part holiday series we have talked about:

How To Navigate Holiday Social Gatherings If You’re An Introvert

and

10 Tips To Avoid Overeating (Even Though Baked Treats Are Just Lying Around The House)

Today I’m hoping to help you find some more inner peace, with seven easy tips for staying relaxed, in control, and dare I say merry, all December long. Let’s jump to it!

Personally I love this time of year. I sew stockings, paint cards, go to bed ridiculously early and play Celine Dion’s rendition of O Holy Night until even the neighbors start banging on the walls — for the love of carols, skip to the next track! Of course I’m also not immune to the stress of the season: last minute gift shopping, navigating safe conversation in a minefield of relatives, and getting out of my normal life routine can all make me a little tetchy.

But if your tendency to get tense at this time of year feels all-encompassing, you may be affected by excessive seasonal stress. AKA the holiday blues.

Numerous studies have highlighted that women in particular will experience overwhelming feelings of stress and anxiety during the holiday season. This is often caused by a combination of factors: end-of-year fatigue, financial worries, the over-commercialization of what should be a time of gratitude (this one gets me), unrealistic expectations of what can/should be achieved, the demands of social events and hosting relatives, or not being surrounded by loved ones. Additional stress comes from not getting enough sleep, excessive eating and drinking, and the post-holiday let down.

So what’s a gal to do? Can December really be merry and bright? It can. These seven proven strategies will allow you to thrive, not just survive, right through the final New Year’s toast.

Make This Season Significant For You

Keeping up with The Jones’ is never a good idea, and the holidays are no different. From Pinspiration to direct marketing, people have a lot of opinions about what you need to do to make your holidays special. Instead of listening to them, focus on what makes this time of year special for you: Spending time with family, observing religious traditions, volunteering, or simply taking time to slow down and reflect on the year that has been.

Find your focus and keep it at the forefront of your mind. Any time you’re faced with a decision to do more, buy more or be more, you can ask whether or not it enhances your interpretation of the season.

Take To Your List With A Big Red Pen

Reality check: completing everything on your December To-Do list is a recipe for major stress. Reduce your list to your top priorities — what are the things only you can do or that you love doing? Keep these tasks and ditch or delegate the rest. If this strategy (of not being in control) makes you feel little uncomfortable, its time to learn than other people really can do things as well as you, or at least well enough. Still struggling? I recommend reading “Drop The Ball” by Tiffany Dufu…Perhaps ask for it in your Santa Stocking.

Lower Your Expectations

Perfect is the enemy of the good. So you burnt the bread rolls, who cares?! When you strive to make everything look like a Martha Stewart magazine you will find yourself very anxious or very disappointed. Do your best, but remember what really matters: the conversation, the awkwardness of the family photo, and your gratitude for being given another year here on earth.

Start The Day In A Healthy Way

Skipping your movement routine because you feel short on time is a big mistake. Exercise improves your mood and helps you manage stress, not to mention aiding digestion after heavy meals. Commit to 10 – 15 minutes a day at a minimum. Similarly, eat a nourishing breakfast every single morning. This ensures that you have started with a healthy choice, despite what might transpire later on.  Next week I’ll be back with some tasty holiday breakfast recipes for you to try.

Be Thoughtful Not Flashy

This need not be an expensive time of year. Do you really need more stuff to clutter up your home? Not likely. Nor do the people you’re buying for. It really is the thought that counts, and in particular, the acknowledgement that someone in your life matters to you. This year think of spending time rather than money: gift a small homemade something with a hand-written note saying how much that person means to you, or organize a catch-up or phone call with a relative that you haven’t seen for some time. 

You Are Responsible For You

You’re not responsible for the joy and contentment of your family and friends (especially when they arrive at your home in hordes). You can do your bit to make everyone comfortable, perhaps preschedule some activities or have games on hand to play, but at the end of the day everyone needs to take ownership of their own good time. That said, it’s essential that you set aside some personal time to do the things that will keep YOU sane and sociable.

Breathe

Easy, no? Not always. Stress makes us forget to breathe properly, which limits oxygen to the brain and increases that blood-boiling feeling. Whenever anxiety creeps in, stop for 30 seconds to inhale and exhale through your nose, fully and deeply.

It’s never too early to start practicing these seven tips to reduce holiday stress. Put them into play at the office, at social events and especially in your own home. And as always, let me know how you go. 

With love,

Avoid Overeating With These 10 Tips

This post is the second in our four-part series How to navigate the silly season with aplomb: four strategies that will make the holidays feel welcome and well-balanced. Today we’re talking about how to avoid overeating, when every meal feels like a feast and tantalizingly tasty treats are left lying around the house. Let’s dive in.

Overeating means:

  • Eating without a physiological need to do so (you’re not hungry nor do you need that food for energy)
  • OR eating too much during one meal or eating period.

We have all done this from time to time, but when it becomes chronic it becomes a problem. The side effects of regularly overeating don’t stop at an increased waist line; consuming excess calories taxes your digestive system, increases insulin production and leaves you feeling lethargic and irritable. 

I used to say that the holidays — or any celebration meal really — provided a good enough reason to let loose and enjoy too much food. I’ve since realized that the opposite is true: the guilt and discomfort that comes with overeating detracts from our genuine enjoyment and fond memories of that special occasion. 

With that said, here are ten practical tips to help you avoid overeating this season. 

How To Avoid Overeating (Long and Short Term Strategies)

Strategy One: Understand Your Triggers

Triggers are the people, foods, situations, surroundings and emotions that occur before you overeat. You need to understand these triggers so that you can stop stop treating food as an enemy, a stimulant, a relaxant or a form of punishment.

While I know that it’s easy to blame our triggers for causing an episode of overeating, they actually aren’t the problem. The problem is how you choose to react to the trigger. And yes, I did say choose, and I know that might make you feel a little tetchy. As an ex-binge eater I believed that I had no choice and no control over what I was doing. Yet we do have a choice. Your choice starts starts with deciding to eliminate food as a coping mechanism and dealing with your triggers, and the underlying issues that they arouse, in a different way.

>>> Related Post: Why not eating enough was causing me to overeat <<<

You can do this using the Who, What, When, Where, Why framework. (Taking you back to third grade English? Me too!)

WHO: who are you with when you overeat or who were you with prior to overeating?

WHAT: what foods, flavors or textures do you have a hard time saying no to?

WHEN: what time of day do you tend to overeat, or is it connected to certain situations?

WHERE: do you overeat at home or when you are dining out?

WHY: what emotions, thoughts or physical feelings are you experiencing before and during this time?

Strategy Two: Acknowledge Your Core Craving

Find the recurring theme that threads through your answers from Strategy One.

  • Perhaps you overeat after you’ve left work, when you are home alone at night, generally feeling isolated.
  • Maybe it’s in the afternoon when you are at work, you’re swamped with emails or other demands, you already feel stressed and keep thinking about the chores that await you at home.
  • Or possibly it’s when you’re feeling anxious in a social situation and you keep picking at the snack table as a way to avoid small talk.

Strategy Three: Create New Coping Strategies

The next step is to create new coping strategies for whenever a trigger presents itself. 

  • If you’re feeling lonely: call a friend, play Scrabble or Chess online, join a bookclub, go out to a museum or a movie, write in a journal, join a gym class…
  • If you’re stressed at work: schedule mini-breaks throughout the day (take a walk or practice guided meditation), delegate tasks to a co-worker, set designated times for checking email, plan relaxing after work activities, get up early to take “me time” before the day officially starts…
  • If you’re feeling socially anxious: read this post, but also know that eating your anxiety only fuels the flames of self doubt. Find healthier coping strategies like taking a pre-event recharge nap, journaling your emotions, attending intimate gatherings, asking a friend to join you, and reminding yourself that you have so much value and interest to give to others.

Strategies one – through – three are designed to help you find a long term solution to overeating. Loneliness, stress and social anxiety are obviously not only applicable to the holidays, although they tend to be exacerbated at this time of year. Use these tips to continue to heal your relationship with food into the New Year. 

The following strategies are practical “quick fixes” that you can call upon to keep over-indulgent behavior at bay. 

Strategy Four: Don’t Get Too Hungry

It is hard to make smart decisions when your tummy is growling like a put-upon reindeer and your blood sugar levels have crashed. No matter how busy your schedule is at this time of year, it is essential that you schedule time to eat a proper breakfast, lunch and dinner, and keep some healthy snacks on hand should you need to grab them.

Strategy Five: Enjoy What You Love

Here’s an unorthodox suggestion: if you really want something then you shouldn’t settle for a substitute. There’s no point in avoiding a slice of Christmas pudding if you end up eating half a box of low-fat cookies instead. Think about the foods that you are really interested in savoring at this time of year — those are the treats to serve yourself a portion of and truly enjoy it. And yes, a portion is what you put on a plate and sit down to eat…it’s risky business to go in for “just a bite”.

Avoid foods that don’t make this list — candy canes and run-of-the-mill store bought chocolates aren’t worth the splurge.

Strategy Six: Rely On Inconvenience

Luckily, or not, humans will avoid inconvenience at all costs. Not keeping certain foods in the house will make it a lot less likely that you will eat them, because even if you really want something, you’ll likely not head out at 9pm in your pajamas for it! With that said, don’t feel pressure to take home leftovers from friend’s dinner parties, and never feel bad about re-gifting edible treats that you don’t want to eat…let someone else appreciate them!

Strategy Seven: Stay Hydrated

Drinking enough water keeps your energy and mood elevated, flushes toxins from your body and actually helps curb sweet cravings. Aim for 8 cups a day and trying adding lemon, citrus, berries or apple cider vinegar to flavor.

Strategy Eight: Be Mindful

Last year I wrote about how to eat mindfully. In a nutshell, the eating process includes considering, looking, tasting, chewing and generally slowing down. Also, there are no points for being a member of the Clean Plate Society.

Strategy Nine: Choose Your Treat Time

Here’s the straight talk: you will physically feel a heck of a lot better if you avoid sugar during the holidays.

Here’s the real talk: I can appreciate why you might not be willing to do that, as I will be partaking in the sweet stuff too. 

What you can do is designate your sugar consumption to one meal a day. If, like me, you love a wee spot of dessert, choose to say no thank you to afternoon candy or that pre-work flavored latte.

(Side note: can you guess how much sugar is in a Maple Pecan Latte from Starbucks? Tall: 35 grams; Grande: 45 grams; Venti: a whopping 56 grams — twice the daily recommended added sugar intake for an adult woman. This is not ok.) 

Strategy Ten: Sleep

Sugar and refined carbohydrates are a quick source of energy; sleep is a sustained source of energy. When you get 7-9 hours of shut-eye every night you’ll find it a heck of a lot easier to judge how hungry you are, and what your body really needs to be eating.

These strategies are simple but powerful and I do hope that you’ll incorporate them into your lifestyle this holiday season. Next week we’ll be talking about managing stress as the end of the year comes to a close. Stay tuned!

With love,

Socializing For Introverts: How To Navigate The Silly Season With Aplomb

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

When Andy Williams sang those lyrics I have to assume that he wasn’t in charge of preparing Christmas dinner, buying presents, hosting far-flung relatives, or sending “Happy Holidays!” cards by the final delivery date.

Of course the holidays CAN be magical, but for many of us (most of us over the age of 25?), they also bring waves of anxiety, hair-frizzing stress, and the tendency to give in to food cravings with reckless abandon.

Sound familiar? Don’t worry, this year I’ve got your back!

To help you navigate the Navidad season, I’m wrapping up a four-part blog series with strategies to make this November & December one that feels both welcome and well-balanced.

Here’s what we’ll cover over the next four posts:

  1. Holiday socializing for introverts
  2. How to stop over-indulging on holiday treats (even if they’re lying around the house)
  3. A guide to letting go of stress and finding those festive-feels
  4. A tantalizingly tasty, anti-inflammatory breakfast recipe for mornings that require a reset

In each post I’ll also link you to one of my simple, at-home workouts that you can easily squeeze in to your busy schedule.

If you’d like more support and accountability over the coming weeks, please come and join us in my free private Facebook group. I’m in there every week answering questions, doing live videos, and chatting with our 500+ lovely members.

Moving on to today’s post.

Holiday Socializing For Introverts : Tips For Navigating The Silly Season With Aplomb.

I can appreciate that this is an odd way to start this wellbeing guide, but there’s a method to my madness. For those of us who:

  • Struggle with small talk
  • Prefer to wear slippers over stilletos
  • Get sleepy after a single glass of mulled wine…

…attending Christmas parties can be seriously draining.

When we’re drained, and cortisol levels have spiked, we tend to turn to unhealthy habits as a means for comfort. Think: eating sweets or salty snacks, staying up late watching TV shows (“to wind down”), engaging in negative self talk, and over-analyzing every action that we took at the party.

Of course, next Thursday, Friday and Saturday it starts all over again.

As appealing as it sounds to hang up your anti-social shingle, getting out there and sharing real life moments with other people is essential for your long term health. Connecting with friends may boost brain health (1), lower your risk of dementia (2) and even help you live longer (3).

With that in mind, here are five foolproof strategies that will help you work the room like the belle of the ball.

Strategy #1: Ask questions.

Most people love talking about themselves, and they love it even more when they have a captivated audience nodding along and asking thoughtful questions every now and again.

I started playing with this strategy a few years ago and quickly learnt how happily a new acquaintance will gab on about themselves without so much as a “what about you?”

On the one hand it’s frustrating, on the other it makes conversation really easy!

The key here is to listen to their answers. Not only will this get you out of your head — you can’t think about yourself and pay attention to them at the same time — but it makes it easy to respond.

Example:

Them: “I live in Wisconsin but I was born in Argentina.”

Jenn: “Oh really! I’ve heard the steak and wine in Argentina are second to none. Mind you, the cheese coming out of Wisconsin is pretty good too!” (*toothpaste ad smile*) “Do you ever go back to visit Argentina? I guess that’s a good 10 hour flight from here?”

The Breakdown: you confirm that you heard what they said, you make a comment and you ask another question.

Strategy #2: Be enthusiastic.

When it is your turn to talk (I know, shudder), try and put a little theatrics into it. If you sound excited about what you’re talking about, other people will be excited to listen.

Example:

Jenn being terrified of holding the conversation: I’m from Australia but I live in Los Angeles. (Cross arms and button lips.)

Jenn being confident: I’m actually from a small town in rural Australia…there’s about 25,000 people and three times as many sheep…hahaha! But I’ve been in the States for the past 7 years, I first lived in North Carolina and now we’re in Los Angeles. What an amazing country this is! Where are you from?

The Breakdown: I added a little bit of flair to my response, gave them enough information that they can ask more questions if they wish, but then redirected the conversation back in their direction.

Strategy #3: Hold a drink, but stay away from the snack table.

Small talk and having my photo taken are two things that make me feel really awkward. They make me very aware of my mouth and I have no clue what to do with my hands.

I’m yet to figure out my photo-fix, but in social situations I’ll hold a glass in one hand and use the other to gesture about my small town sheep population.

Yet while a drink is good, standing near the snack table is not. When you’re nervous — or bored — it’s easy to mindlessly make a dent in the chip bowl, which isn’t going to make you feel better about this situation. If you want to eat, make a plate and then remove yourself from grazing distance.

Strategy #4: Remember that most people feel the same way.

If you’re worried about how you look, what you’re wearing, or if you have enough fascinating talking points since the last Christmas party, just stop. Chances are very likely that most people in that room are feeling the same way and having the same thoughts. You can make it your mission to help others feel more comfortable, and by default you’ll get there too.

Strategy #5: Set yourself a time to leave, but don’t make an excuse to do so.

Knowing that you only need to stay for an hour or two will make any situation more bearable. You can walk in, grab a glass, ask some questions, nod thoughtfully and be out of there before you realize that the whole experience could have been a little awkward.

The only caveat here is to not make an excuse when you leave — that reeks of insecurity. Don’t say that you have to feed the cat or get up early, just say goodbye. If anyone questions why you’re departing, feel free to use my line:

“I turn into a pumpkin after 9pm! But it’s been a blast, enjoy the rest of your night!”

You might think that these tips are simple, but as with all healthy habits the simple ones are usually the best. I hope that you’ll try them in your next social setting, and do let me know how they go!

Your workout for today is a series of Feel Good Hip Openers. Get it here.

With love,

Gluten Free Spinach Feta Muffins

I don’t tend to share many recipes on this blog. The reason being that when it comes to helping women improve their health, I believe that we need to start with how we think and feel, before we can confidently change how we act.

Also, as much as I love food — and I really love food — my weekly meals are very simple and not particularly blog-worthy. There are only so many times that I can share a photo of grilled salmon,  chicken curry, veggie stir-fry, overnight oats or broiled lamb chops until we all get a little sick of it!

Even if I kept a more food-focused blog (as I did hilariously, and with terrible photography, at Blushing Strawberries in 2010/2011), that alone won’t make YOU a healthier eater.

Because here’s the thing: it’s not your access to healthy recipes that’s the problem, it’s your unwillingness to cook them. 

In previous posts I’ve touched on:

>>> The 3 Biggest Myths That Are Keeping You Out Of The Kitchen

>>> And why you need to reduce your consumption of sugary processed foods.

Today I want to tell you how proper nutrition was essential in my recovery from binge-eating.

 

Full disclosure: I am not a psychologist or dietitian, nor do I have any training in the field of eating disorders. What I do have, however, is my own experience, and my understanding that it was a combination of self love practices and proper nutrition that helped me create a healthy relationship with food.

 

If you’ve ever binged, or regularly tend to over-eat, you’ll know how physically and emotionally exhausting that process is. My personal experience was that I would restrict calories throughout the day and then binge at night. By the time I went to bed my stomach was so tight that you could have popped it with a pin. After every episode I would cry myself to sleep, and the next morning I would wake with equal parts indigestion and massive guilt. The cycle continued.

To overcome binge eating I tried to place (further) restrictions on myself:

  • Certain foods wouldn’t be allowed in the house
  • I’d eat with smaller bowls
  • Breakfast became my biggest meal and I would attempt to eat a peasant’s dinner (this was awful…dinner is my favorite!)
  • I would avoid eating snacks at parties, only to go home ravenous and polish off three bowls of cereal
  • I asked my husband to “not let me go back for seconds”
  • Every morning I would blame and berate myself…unsurprisingly, not a terribly effective strategy.

I’ve since learnt is that wasn’t the fault of the food, the crockery, the willpower, etc. The simple truth was that I was starving, and you might be too.

 

If you’re not eating your fill of nutritious foods throughout the day (yes, fats and carbohydrates are included), then your body will always be crying out for more. The problem is that when you’re running on empty, when its dark outside, and you’re wearing your sweatpants… that more tends to be easy-to-access, processed crap, and a lot of it.

Fortunately, that doesn’t have to be your future reality. If you want to find food freedom in your own life, then you have to stop being afraid of eating.

When you eat well — when you eat enough of the good stuff, and mindfully enjoy some of the treat stuff — it becomes easy to enjoy your food and your good health, without willpower, deprivation, or the obsessive need to check your weight at the end of any big meal.

So your goal for this week is to take a keen look at your plate and ask if depriving yourself of proper food is actually your biggest health and nutrition downfall.

And to help make things a little easier, I thought I would post a recipe today! These are my spinach and feta muffins, and they’re wonderful to grab as breakfast-on-the-go, a healthy snack, or as a side to a luscious lunch salad.

Enjoy!

 

Gluten Free Spinach Feta Muffins

Dry Ingredients

  • 2 cups spelt flour or all purpose gluten free flour 
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 large handful baby spinach leaves, torn

Wet Ingredients

  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup (125 ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup full-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree*
  • 1/2 cup (4oz, 100grams) crumbled feta

Directions

1. Preheat your oven to 350°F / 180°C. Line a 12-hole muffin tray with muffin liners.

2. Combine the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, stirring with a fork to break up any clumps. In a separate bowl, mix together all the wet ingredients EXCEPT for the feta.

3. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour the wet mixture into the dry. Use a large spoon to fold together until combined.

4. Spoon batter evenly into the muffin liners and crumble feta over the tops of each muffin.

5. Bake in the centre of the oven for 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the muffins comes out clean.

5. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin and then remove and continue cooling on a wire rack.

*Purchase pumpkin puree cans in the supermarket. Check the ingredient label, they should read pumpkin only. This is different from pumpkin pie filling which has sugar and spices added. To make your own puree: peel and chop a medium butternut squash or 2 pounds of sweet potatoes. Place in a pot of boiling water and cook for 8-10 minutes or until soft. Drain and then puree in a blender. Measure out about 14oz or 400g for the recipe. Freeze the rest to use next time.

 

With love,

We burnt the bras. Let’s sell the scales.

Do you have a love-hate relationship with your bathroom scales? You love them when they reaffirm that you’re the right weight — it literally puts a spring in your step for the rest of the day — and you hate them when they reveal a number that you don’t want to see.

For many women, the wrong number can negatively impact the rest of the day. Unexpected weight can make a woman doubt her beauty and intelligence. It also leads her to assume that maxi dresses are back in style*, and that it’s ok to order a double-bacon-cheeseburger for lunch “because the damage is already done”.

(*Are maxi dresses back in style? My mum asked me this the other day and all I could do was shrug. My dreams of being a fashionista went out the window yesterday when I tried on a pair of leggings and had to be told by the sales clerk that I had put them on back-to-front! Woops!)

Muumuu’s and greasy lunches aside, what really concerns me is that our mood can be ruined by the uptick of a number. I know the feeling of standing on the scale (shoes off, of course), waiting for the screen to settle, so that I could confirm whether I would have a good day or a bad day…a day filled with confidence or shame.

Not exactly a pleasant morning ritual, is it?

Somehow the digital scale has become a tool of both satisfaction and suffering. But it shouldn’t be that way. Some cheap and nasty electronic device should NOT hold sway over your emotions, nor should it impact your sense of self worth.

If it does, well that’s on you.

>>> It is YOU who gives the scale such power.

>>> YOU are allowing your happiness be hijacked by a couple of pounds.

>>> YOU are insisting on bringing the scale into your home and engaging in the agonizing debate: to weigh or not to weigh.

My use of the Uncle Sam “YOU” isn’t accusatory, it’s just a gentle reminder that we all have a choice. You actually don’t have to weigh yourself. You can indeed extricate yourself from the obsession of knowing your body weight.

I believe there are better methods of tracking body shape and health. Start by asking how your clothes fit, how much energy you have, and how you generally feel in body, mind and spirit.

You know if you need to lose weight, gain weight or maintain weight. You don’t need a numerical reminder.

My Dad has worn the same size Levi’s for as long as I’ve been alive. When they feel a little tight he cuts back on his Sunday croissants for a couple of weeks, and when they feel a little loose he adds a bit more food to his dinner plate. It’s a pretty simple method of tracking, and it’s a lot less mentally manipulative.

Dad made that choice and you can too. If your relationship with your bathroom scales is an unhealthy one, then it’s time for a break up. We women are far stronger and more intelligent that we often give ourselves credit for…we burnt the bras, we CAN sell the scales.

This week, ask yourself HOW a regular weigh-in actually benefits you. What would happen if you could stop weighing yourself? Then consider what else you could do track your healthy body weight.

As always, let me know how it goes!

With love,

Jennifer Dene xo

There is no joy without gratitude

There is no joy without gratitude. 

These words are Post-It-noted to my vanity mirror, and act as my daily reminder to be thankful.

The quote – spoken by one of my favorite authors and the renowned research professor, Dr Brené Brown — was borne from the realization that many people can’t experience joy without fear. 

The fear is that something will go wrong, because at the present moment it all feels so right. Furthermore, in experiencing the joy we will only experience a greater level of loss. 

A sad idea, but one that makes sense to me nonetheless.

It’s human nature to protect ourselves from vulnerability…

And I can think of few things more vulnerable than allowing ourselves to fall head-over-heels into joy, while being keenly aware that the feeling could disappear.

Yet shielding ourselves from hurt doesn’t make the suffering any less. In fact, the opposite may be true — pain is compounded when we’re left feeling the ache of loss, and also living with the regret of not choosing that moment of deep, unbridled satisfaction.

So how does gratitude help?

In the words of Brené Brown it lets us “soften into joy”. Gratitude is a practice of vulnerability…we are appreciating moments of contentment without waiting for the other shoe to drop. And while it can’t protect us from loss and sadness, it does help us lean more deeply into the present moment, and allow us to feel the happy without needing to protect ourselves from the sad.

Most importantly for me, gratitude brings with it clarity. Acknowledging the gift of the present moment, coupled with the awareness that it won’t be this way forever, allows me to fully participate in joy without pessimism or fear. Gratitude has shown me how to feel more deeply, engage more mindfully, and be truly thankful that I get to experience the moment and keep the memory.

Gratitude takes a magnifying glass to every moment of contentment and elevates it to one of unbridled joy.

And that’s why there’s no joy without gratitude.

So I’d like to offer up a suggestion for your week…

Look for those small moments of pleasure in your day-to-day life and then really live them: breathe them, engage with them, create them and remember them. Most of all, be grateful for them.

As always, let me know how you go.

 

With love,

start a regular exercise routine

How to start a regular exercise routine today

Exercise. Now there’s a word to trigger butterflies of guilt. But it’s ok! In today’s article we’ll chat about some of the myths that are holding you back from feeling fit and active, and I’ll outline how you can start a regular exercise routine today.

First though: if the thought of breaking a sweat makes you break a sweat, feel free to swap the word “exercise” for movement…a more pleasurable term I think. And that’s what I want you to keep in mind as we cover today’s topic — moving your body IS a pleasurable experience, and it’s also an act of self love. We are literally made to move (despite modern society’s best efforts to convince us otherwise), and the more you do it the more your body will respond with delight.

Exercise makes us feel better, function better, and yes indeed, look better. So why do so many women have a hard time committing to it?

As a trainer, women’s health coach and ex-couch potato here are the four main obstacles that come between a well-intentioned woman and her fitness routine:

  1. Time
  2. Tiredness
  3. Gym access
  4. Not feeling fit enough

Let’s briefly look at each of these individually and then find a workable solution. (Taurean practicality strikes again!)

“I DON’T HAVE TIME TO EXERCISE”

Forgive me in advance for using the clichéd argument that we all have 24 hours in a day, but the reality is that we do. The average Joline breaks her day down into three categories: sleep (8 hours), work (8 hours) and personal time (8 hours).

What goes into personal time?

  • Bathing
  • Cooking
  • Eating
  • Commuting
  • EXERCISING
  • “Me time”
  • Personal appointments
  • Kid stuff (if that’s your reality)
  • Partner stuff (if that’s your reality)
  • Friend stuff
  • House stuff
  • Time in between for doing nothing in particular

How much time you dedicate to each of these activities depends on your personality and lifestyle. While you probably won’t get to them all every single day, by the end of the week (and your 68 hours of personal time) you can and should.

And when it comes to exercise you ONLY need spend 4 – 6 hours on it each week. If I were better at math I’d be able to give this to you as a percentage of 68 hours…but just trust when I say that it’s really very doable.

So let’s make it actionable

Step One: Dedicate a minimum of 30 minutes every day for exercise of some sort. As I said, your body is designed to move, it thrives on movement, and you’ll feel much better for doing it every single day.

I used to give clients the option to do “bite-sized chunks” of movement, such as 5-10 minutes here or there throughout the day, but I now stick with the 30 minute minimum. Why (other than toughening up in my old age)? Because taking 30 minutes to commit to movement is showing yourself that you deserve to have a healthy body, while refusing to spend that time is telling yourself that you’re not open to self love, and you’d prefer to sabotage your own personal development.

Step Two: To make this a reality you need to schedule it on your calendar as a non-negotiable meeting with yourself. And if you’re hemming and hawing about what time of day is best to exercise, the answer is simple. It’s the time you actually do it.

Step Three: To make the most of the time you’ve delegated you need to have a plan. This is more efficient and makes it easier to follow through. Don’t overcomplicate this. Walking is great. Stretching is lovely. Body weight movements are fantastic. Keep it simple and you’ll achieve success.

(Still think that you can’t carve out 30 minutes each day? Download my free audio guide: Take Back Your Time)

“I’M TOO TIRED TO EXERCISE”

Au contraire, my dear friend, movement actually gives you more energy. Being sedentary drags down your energy because your heart rate drops and your metabolism slows.

(Nothing like sluggish bowels and constant yawning to make you want to skip your workout.) 

But when you choose to be active you can quickly reverse these feelings. The simple act of taking a walk will put a spring in your step, and getting moving will get things moving (if you catch my drift)

If your fatigue is more emotional than physical, then its important to note that regular activity (especially when taken outdoors) is a healthy way to release the stress hormone cortisol and boost your mood.

And if its purely physical aches and pains, then movement could be just what the doctor ordered. Sitting all day (in cars, at your desk, on the couch) puts pressure on your back, hips and spine. The activities that you do seated (driving, computer work, eating) keep your body leaning forward, which puts pressure on your neck and mid back. Getting up, shaking out those joints and moving your body returns circulation to areas of stiffness and keeps your muscles and connective tissue strong and flexible.

So let’s make it actionable

Don’t let fatigue make you skip your daily movement experience, instead experiment with a gentle 20-30 minute walk and see if your energy doesn’t lift.

“I DON’T HAVE ACCESS TO A GYM”

This one’s not going to fly with me. If you have a pair of sneakers you have access to everything you need to be fit.

So let’s make it actionable

Leave your house and explore the wide world around you: walk, run, swim in the ocean, skip along the footpath, twirl your arms and spin in circles…. Today I walked to a nearby park and did 90 step ups, 30 pushups and 45 squats using a park bench before walking back home.

For more tailored workout routines you have access to YouTube, indeed including quite a few Jennifer Dene Wellness workouts… Perhaps you’d like to press play on this leg workout

“I’M NOT FIT ENOUGH TO GET FIT”

This is a very real reason, and one I’ve known myself. I’ve had times in my life when I’ve been very fit and times when I haven’t, and I have to say that going to a gym class and feeling like the underdog is pretty demoralizing. However, the only way that you’ll improve is by taking the first step.

Know this: wherever you are on your health and fitness journey is exactly where you should be. Your current state is the perfect launching pad for where you want to go.

So let’s make it actionable

You might like to consider finding a trainer, friend or accountability buddy who can show you how to get started on your fitness journey, including demonstrating the best exercises for a beginner and telling you those that you should avoid.

Then build your foundation from the ground up by improving your mobility, focusing on walking, and incorporating functional core strength exercises into your weekly routine. Once you’ve conquered those bases you’ll be ready to tackle any and all forms of movement that fill your heart with delight.

I hope that this article has been helpful in debunking some of the why-I-don’t-exercise myths, and has pointed you in the right direction to get moving today. As always, let me know how you go by leaving a comment below.

With love,

Why it’s essential to make your own decisions (or how not to be a fickle wife)

Remember a while back that I told you that I struggled with healthy decision making? Well, I’ve been working on it and wanted to report back.

To quickly recap, I used to outsource certain lifestyle decisions (usually those that may be seen as “less healthy”), so that I could have the experience without being responsible for the outcome.

Whether the question was to get takeout for dinner, skip a workout, watch a movie instead of doing housework, or have a glass of wine on Tuesday night, while I may have wanted to do the activity, I didn’t want to be the one who suggested it.

So instead of using my voice, as an independent thinker and 21st century woman, I relied on my sneaky wifely ways to make my husband choose — this was basically an insurance policy that said it was his fault if I felt crappy later on.

I mean, how crummy is that? I shouldn’t even be admitting it publicly, but I decided to fess up incase you’re doing it too.

Every week I speak with women who blame their situation on circumstances outside their control:

  • “My co-worker brought donuts to the office…”
  • “My husband wanted to get popcorn at the movies…”
  • “The weather wasn’t nice enough to go for a walk…”

Sure, these external challenges may impact your decision making, but at the end of the day it is still your choice to eat the donut, share the popcorn or skip the walk.

And you know what? Making that decision is fine as long as it’s YOU who makes it.

Since I wrote about this concept earlier in the year I’ve been very intentional about making decisions that will benefit my long term health goals while also nourishing my short term lifestyle desires.

What I’ve found is that I feel more in control of my actions and outcomes by simply being the one to choose.

I feel confident saying NO to certain things without feeling deprived, and I can experience great satisfaction from saying YES, without the situation then spiraling out of control and leaving me worse-for-wear.

Because by making the first decision, to say yes or no, I then give myself permission to make all the following decisions. For example: how much I eat, how long I participate in an activity, and when I want to do something different…that’s all up to me.

As it turns out, decision making is liberating!

This new habit is definitely one that I’m sticking with, so now I want to throw the gauntlet to you.

  • Have you been “going with the flow” a little too regularly in your own life?
  • Are you outsourcing your decisions (and then feeling regretful and perhaps even resentful)?
  • Are you willing to do something about it?

This week I challenge you to pay attention to both the decisions that you’re making AND those that you’re avoiding.

What choices do you shy away from, and why?

Finally, commit to making a new decision, just one to start, and put yourself back in the driver’s seat of your own health and happiness.

Of course, as always, let me know how you go by leaving a comment below.

 

 

With love,

Negative self talk

Negative self talk is negative narcissism

Negative self talk is negative narcissism. 

This idea recently popped into my earbuds as I listened to a podcast interview with Jennifer Rudolph Walsh — literary agent to radical female thinkers such as Oprah Winfrey, Arianna Huffington and Brené Brown. It’s an interesting take on a topic that I often talk about; you can find me wailing against negative self talk here and here, and I offer healthy ways to break the habit in my Soulful Self Love Challenge.

But negative narcissism? Well, I hadn’t really ever thought about it that way.

On the one hand, negative self talk — the inner dialogue that harshly narrates your life — could be seen as self indulgent. Is it not egotistical to analyze and criticize every one of your thoughts and actions, or obsess over every physical flaw and personal failure?

I would argue that it is a little selfish to live our lives through the lens of self doubt. Here’s why:

  • You decline an invitation because you think you’re not good in social situations. The Result? You leave a friend with one less guest at their party.
  • You don’t ask for a promotion because you doubt you’ll get it. The Result? Your company suffers from missing the opportunity to have you in a leadership position.
  • You can’t appreciate how a gorgeous designer dress floats over your body because all you see are your (too wide, too narrow) hips. The Result? You steal appreciation from the designer…and from the fact that you have a beautiful body and access to beautiful clothes.
  • You constantly turn to your partner for reassurance that you look / act / ARE ok. The Result? You risk losing the delicate give-take balance of relationship, where moments should be experienced together, and are not, in fact, about either of you as individuals.

Food for thought, eh?

Of course, you don’t have to agree.

If you are one of the millions of women who battle the daily rhetoric of negative self talk you probably think that narcissism is NOT a trait in your personality toolbox. You almost laugh as you imagine Narcissus peering at his perfect reflection in the water…you try to avoid mirrored surfaces at all costs!

As a recovering negative self talker I initially took Walsh’s statement as a personal affront. I spent half a life thinking that I wasn’t as good as everyone else, how on earth is that narcissistic? But as I thought about it some more I realized that (perhaps) the idea could hold a nugget of truth.

The most kind and generous people I know don’t strive to be like everyone else or sacrifice themselves for others. They are content in who they are and with what they have. This contentment is both a resource they can share and a quality that attracts others to them. Do they struggle with their own insecurities and have their own vices? Undoubtedly. But what they don’t do is shape their lives around their personal doubts, limit themselves with their own beliefs, or compare themselves to other people.

Ultimately I won’t equate negative self talk with negative narcissism, but I will acknowledge that it’s both a selfish and self-restricting practice. Negative self talk is a crutch for women who aren’t willing to look inward with self compassion and step outward with intention.

We can all make the decision to be a little kinder and more encouraging to ourselves every day. The question is: will you?

I hope you’ll weigh in on this week’s discussion by leaving a comment below.

 

With love,