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,

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,

How To Find Your Purpose & Unlock A Meaningful Life

We all need a purpose — something that fulfills us from the inside out, motivates us to get out of bed in the morning, lets us stand on our own two feet throughout the day and fall asleep wrapped in the warm hug of contentment.

But here’s the kicker: your purpose, or at least part of it, must resonate only for you. Your PERSONAL purpose is different from your role as a mother, wife or daughter, and it’s different from your profession. Because, while worthy, if the entirety of your fulfillment is intricately linked to the needs of another, you’re leaving yourself open to the risk of one day waking up, purposeless.

Heavy, no?

I’ve known many women who have lost their sense of purpose once their children had grown or they left their careers. I’ve experienced it too, and it’s an aimless (and suffocating) feeling that, in the words of Bart Simpson, “both sucks and blows”.

We women, nurturers at heart, tend to be chameleons — in our desire to make other people happy, we arrange our days (perhaps our lives) to support THEIR likes, needs and hobbies, often at the expense of our own.

But to be our best selves, and live our best lives, we also need to achieve something that is just for us. This personal purpose is what keeps our lives meaningful on the individual level, but also gives us more to contribute to the world at large.

So it begs to ask, what does your personal purpose look like?

Read on for my simple four-step framework that will help you reconnect with your purpose this week.

Step One: choose your purposeful adjective

Before setting a specific goal or making a to-do list, I want you to first describe how you will feel at the end of a purposeful day. This will help you separate the tasks that are meaningful to you — those that will move the needle forward on your purpose-driven life — from the one’s that you think you SHOULD do (such as folding the laundry or wiping the top of the refrigerator).

Here are some words to get you started: healthy, content, feminine, thoughtful, grateful, courageous, organized, kind, relaxed, energized, satisfied…

Step Two: pick a goal of purpose

What is one thing that you would like to learn, do or achieve, that would give you the feeling that you described in Step One? What goal would make you excited to jump out of bed in the morning (or at least feel keen to give it a go once the coffee has kicked in)?!

This might be something completely new to your lifestyle, such as planning a trip, learning a new skill or volunteering; or it might be following through on tasks and hobbies that you had once started but never got around to finishing, such as completing a photo album or scrapbook, donating clothes to charity, or landscaping the garden.

Choose just ONE personal purpose goal for the week, and make sure that it’s something that will add meaning, satisfaction and joy to your life.

Step Three: decide your daily tasks

Now that you’ve narrowed down a weekly goal, you’ll choose one or two daily tasks that will help you achieve that goal, and give you the essential satisfaction of success.

Research has shown that consistent progress — achieving small bits every day — is more satisfying than completing everything in one big surge of effort. The daily progress makes us feel more fulfilled and motivated to follow through on our promises, and ultimately sows the seeds for a purposeful life.

After all, a purposeful life is nothing other than thousands purposeful days, quietly and consistently stacked one on top of the other. 

Let me give you an example of the three-step process thus far:

I want to feel organized and artistic.

My weekly goal is to complete the family scrapbook from our trip to Italy. This is something that I’ve wanted to complete for months; it will spark my creativity and remind me of the joy that we had on that trip (that makes me feel grateful for the life that I live, and the memories that I’ve created).

Monday: print trip photos

Tuesday: decide on color theme and layout of scrapbook

Wednesday: buy materials and set up my working space

Thursday: set aside two hours to complete scrapbook

Friday: make any final adjustments and pack away crafts

Saturday: share it with the family and reminisce about the trip (Step Four)

Step Four: reflect and validate

Reflecting on a job well done is what separates a successful day with a busy day.

Many of us have a tendency to focus on what we need to do, or on what we didn’t get to, which makes contentment hard to come by; it’s very hard to feel satisfied and fulfilled when you always feel weighed down with expectation of what comes next.

Instead, start acknowledging what you HAVE achieved by giving credit to your successes. In doing this you are creating a record of everything that you have accomplished, and staying connected to the meaningful life that you are creating, bit-by-bit, every single day.

I’ll leave you with the stirring words of Eleanor Roosevelt: The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.

So please, go out today and live your purpose. And then as always, let me know how it goes.

 

With love,

healthy evening habits

5 Things To Do Tonight (And Enjoy Tomorrow Even More)

Do you jump out of bed at the buzz of the alarm?

Or are you more closely acquainted with SNOOZE than the first rays of sunshine?

Personally I’ve never been one to stick my head under the pillow. I compare waking up to ripping off a Bandaid — if you’ve got to get it done, you might as well just do it.

(But that might just be the country girl in me speaking.)

While my morning enthusiasm is partly sparked by the 10 minute routine I do after I get up (check it out here), there are 5 other habits that I haven’t shared with you, which really put a spring in my sleepy-eyed step…

In fact, it’s the five activities that I complete BEFORE I go to bed that make the biggest difference.

In the video below I’m going to walk you through the five things that you can do tonight to enjoy tomorrow even more, all of which are simple, practical and adaptable for your lifestyle.

Once you’ve had a chance to watch I’d love to hear from you. So stick around and join in the discussion at the bottom of the page.

To Recap, Here’s What We Covered

Evening Ritual #1: Protect Your Neck From Computer Posture

  • Fixing “chicken neck” isn’t as easy as seeing a Hollywood plastic surgeon, so you’d better start working on yours now!
  • Computer posture that causes you to stick your chin forward can put up to 60 pounds of extra pressure on your neck and spine, which over time can lead to disc compression, migraines, and neck and shoulder pain
  • In the video below I’m demonstrating exactly what those neck flexor exercises look like — try them tonight

 

Evening Ritual #2:  Turn Off All Screens 30 Minutes Before Bed

  • There are (at least) three good reasons to shut down your technology well before hitting the hay:
    • The blue light disrupts melatonin production, making it harder to fall asleep
    • Media is stimulating and you need to give your brain a break
    • Your favorite show is ruining any chance of developing an “early bed time” routine

 

Evening Ritual #3: Tidy Your Kitchen

  • Now you’ve shut down the tech a little earlier you can take some time to potter in the kitchen
  • Sit out things for a healthy breakfast (or your morning cup of Joe)
  • Put away anything that needs to be cleared…
  • It’s such a treat to wake up and see this neat space!

 

Evening Ritual #4: Journal For Gratitude & Reflection

  • “Busy brain syndrome” occurs when you’re body is tired but you’re mind is on fire with to-do’s, concerns and the random thoughts that only occur after lights out 
  • Not surprisingly, this is not conducive for getting a good nights sleep
  • My remedy is to do a quick evening journal practice that focuses on gratitude and reflection (learn about it here)

 

Evening Ritual #5: Set Out Tomorrow’s Clothes

  • Setting out an outfit before you go to bed saves the hassle of finding clothes in the morning…
  • This leaves you extra AM time for doing nice things…
  • I recommend making a healthy breakfast, taking a walk or catching up with a good book

 

Now I’d love to hear from you!

Do you have any evening rituals that make you excited to wake up the next day?

Let me know by leaving a comment below.

 

With love,

PERSONAL REBOOT CHECKLIST JENNIFER DENE WELLNESS

How To Get Out Of That Health Funk (Your Personal Reboot Checklist)

If you’re anything like me you might view yourself as a marvelous misfit, a fabulously faulty work in progress (WOP). I say that because I tend to attract women like myself, the kind who don’t live life by the book, those who don’t quite have it all together.

Please, take this as a compliment — I classify myself, my best friends, my husband and many members of my family as a bunch of wonderful weirdos!

Being a WOP woman means that life doesn’t always go to plan (our busy brains have a way of putting a kink in consistency). While some days are wonderful and let you live in the flow of life, others require a colossal amount of energy to just make it through to dinner time. Life as a WOP is a mishmash of flow and slog: achieving, dreaming, worrying, procrastinating…and so the cycle continues.

This can be especially true when it comes to healthy living; getting stuck in a nutrition, lifestyle or fitness funk is something that I know all too well.

Sometimes I feel totally bored doing the same activities day-in and day-out (a health rut), and other days I feel too tired, overwhelmed or lethargic to do these activities at all (a health funk) In the words of my mum: my get up and go has got up and gone.)

It can feel challenging to motivate yourself out of a funk — even taking the time to acknowledge that something needs to change can feel like too much effort.

But if you want to feel differently you need to act differently first.

This topic came up on a recent client call. My client and I were both having a bit of a funky time (unfortunately not in the Kool & the Gang kind of way) and so I told her about my Personal Reboot Checklist.

This checklist is something that I turn to when I feel like I’ve been out of the flow for long enough. It’s a simple series of tasks that I know will boost my mood, energy and my level of personal commitment, once completed. And it works like a charm.

Like a pilot who checks off each critical item before taking off in their plane, following this checklist is your safety guide for a smooth day of healthy living.

If you don’t have something like this in place I am excited for you! Today is the day that you’ll learn how to find your flow (and defunkify your healthy life).

Let’s dive in >>>

How To Make A Personal Reboot Checklist

There are seven categories in the personal reboot checklist. In each category you’ll designate one uplifting and motivating task. My preference is to choose tried-and true tasks, things that you know will make you feel more positive, energized and motivated…view this is as your best-of showreel!

I’ve provided some examples of the type of tasks that might fall into each category, but the idea is for you to customize the list and make it your own.

There are over 7 billion people on earth and no two of us are the same, so let this checklist be as unique and wonderful as you are!

Once completed, this checklist becomes your roadmap for any day that needs “defunkifying”. Ideally you will start at the top and work your way through until all tasks are completed, but if you’re short on time you can choose one or two of the scheduled tasks.

That’s enough talk — grab a pen and a piece of paper and let’s get rebooted:

 

  • Choose one song that lights a fire in your heart and write it here:

 

  • Choose one movement-based activity that you love and write it here:

(A beautiful nature walk, stretching, a go-to home workout routine, an exercise class, a personal training session, a swim, a long stroll with your puppy…)

  • Choose one meal that makes you feel grounded, satisfied and healthy and write it here:

(I recommend something with a nice bit of protein, some vegetables and healthy fat; for me it looks like lamb chops with roasted broccoli and fennel, sweet potato wedges and avocado slices)

  • Choose one personal care activity that makes you feel beautiful and write it here:

(Washing and styling your hair, putting on a face mask, shaping your nails or having a manicure, having a bath, dressing beautifully or doing makeup…)

  • Choose one small organizational item that makes you feel satisfied and write it here:

(Tidy the kitchen table, clean out your hand bag, make the bed, make that appointment call…)

  • Choose one relaxation practice that makes you feel peaceful and write it here:

(Deep breathing, meditation, reading, journaling, listening to music…)

  • Choose one relationship that makes you feel connected and write it here:

(You might call them, write a letter, send a text or even just send positive thoughts their way)

How To Implement This List

Start at the top:

  • listen to your song and be inspired
  • do that movement and reconnect with your body
  • eat that meal and feel grounded
  • complete that personal care activity and feel beautiful
  • do that organizational task and feel productive
  • enjoy that relaxation and feel centered
  • connect with that person and give love

Now I’d Love To Hear From You

Are you a WOP woman? Do you have days of flow and days of funk? What strategies do you use to get out of that rut and return to feeling energized, positive and inspired? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

With love,

P.S. I have worked with all types of women, from stay at home moms to retirees, the 9-5er to CEOs, talk show hosts and actors to athletes and those with disability, and let me tell you that we ALL get in a funk from time to time. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, how successful your career is or how wonderful your marriage is, sometimes it’s hard to stay on track. And that, my friend, is a-ok. You’re not alone, and you’re certainly not faulty for having days (or weeks, months or even years) when you feel like you just can’t get it together. Remember, you’re a wonderfully, unique, ever changing, work in progress!

HAVE MORE TIME JENNIFER DENE WELLNESS

Want To Have More Time? Here’s How…

Have you ever wondered why it can feel so hard to take time for yourself? Even when you promise yourself a little bit of r&r there’s often something — another task, request or responsibility — that snatches that time away.

The truth is that modern life — our work and responsibilities  —doesn’t always leave us with much breathing space; but it’s also true that some people seem to have more time than others.

So what’s their secret, these women who have the time to simply sit down and enjoy a cup of tea? The answer is less about the way they DO things, and more with how they THINK about things.

In today’s exercise we’ll explore how your attitude towards time is holding you hostage to that never ending to-do list (and preventing you from feeling satisfied with what you’ve achieved at the end of the day).

This exercise is taken from my three part audio series: Take Back Your Time: Practical Lessons In Creating Time Freedom For A Healthy, Happy Life. Download the full series  here (videos and worksheets included)

 

“Should”, “Could” & “Get To”

How often do you catch yourself saying or thinking the words: I should…

“Should” is an expression of something that you think you have to do; an obligation or an expectation that you need to meet to view yourself as successful, generous, useful, important, etc…

I should fold laundry while I’m sitting on the couch…

I should get a head start on dinner to make things easier later on…

“Could,” on the other hand, expresses a conscious choice; it’s the start of a dialogue about how you spend your time.

I could go for a walk…

I could try a new recipe…

At the end of a “could” sentence is the unspoken “or”…this is you giving yourself options. By its very nature, “could” is a word that implies positivity and choice; you’ll even notice a difference in the inflection of your voice when you say it.

Compare these two:

I should go for a walk.

Golly, even writing this makes my feet feel heavy. It makes me wonder why I should go for a walk, which leads to me listing off all those unhealthy habits that I need to rectify with exercise. Yuck!

I could go for a walk.

Yep, definitely feeling more inspired. That could fit into this sentence: It’s a lovely day, I could go for a walk! Or this one: I’m going to exercise tomorrow morning, I could go for a walk or I could go for a swim.

In example number two, the walk becomes the reward and not the punishment. This sentence also reminds me that I’m the decision maker, and it gives me an option for how I spend my time.

Which brings me to your first challenge…

Step One: be a COULD person (not a SHOULD person).

You CAN choose how you spend your time and how you experience your everyday life.

But should every “should” become a “could”? (Ha, writing these sentences makes me feel like Dr. Seuss!)

Of course not!

If you’re a high-achiever it’s likely that you have a LOT of should’s floating around in your mind at any one time. I can hardly sit on my couch without thinking I should: water the plants, get rid of that cobweb, organize the DVR recordings, send an email, file my fingernails, plan a vacation, fold laundry, book a dentist appointment…apparently it’s exhausting to relax at my house!

But just because there are should’s that could be done, doesn’t mean you have to do them. Filling your day to the brim with “should” tasks doesn’t necessarily:

  • Move you closer to your three key life priorities (learn about these by downloading the full series here)
  • Create free space for the future (there will always be more should’s)
  • Make you a more important/interesting/useful/insert-adjective-here person. It just makes you tired.

Step Two: Shelve some of the should’s…

Here’s how:

  1. Look at your current To-Do list, or think about all of those odds and ends floating around in your brain
  2. How many of these tasks made it on to that list because of the sentence: I should do…?

“I should clean out the linen cupboard.”

“I should sort the winter clothing.”

“I should get a head start on Christmas presents.”

“I should attend that community meeting.”

While (in an ideal world) you would be able to cross these arbitrary tasks off that list, they’re actually not critical to the functioning of your day-to-day life. In fact, spending time on these “should” tasks could actually be taking you further away from reaching your healthy living goals.

Can you guess my simple solution? Just cross them off your list…right now. Liberation!

Your list will now have a sprinkling of could items, to be kept as options in your back pocket, as well as those activities that you couldn’t cross off, even if you wanted to (hello work obligations, mammograms and flossing your teeth)!

These remaining obligations are necessary for the functioning of your day-to-day life, and there are two ways of looking at that…

Step Two: living with a “have to” mindset versus a “get to” mindset

I have to go to work…

I get to go to work…

I have to meet (name) for a coffee…

I get to meet (name) for a coffee…

I have to workout with my personal trainer…

I get to workout with my personal trainer…

While this positive language trick won’t necessarily buy you more time, it will help you feel more enthusiastic about the way you’re spending that time. And who knows, spending less time procrastinating on things like work and exercise could free up more free space each day after all.

Try this one on for size: I get to workout with my personal trainer and then I could have a relaxing bath or read a book!

The solution?

Commit to adding a positive spring to your language step to make your “get to” activities even more enjoyable.

Let’s summarize today’s exercise!

  1. Use the word “could” in sentences, to remind yourself that you do have a choice in how you spend your time
  2. Cross off all the arbitrary “should” tasks on your to-do list (if they haven’t been done yet the world won’t end if they stay that way)
  3. Be positive in your language when describing tasks you get to do

A thought to ponder as you move throughout your week: what you do is less important than WHY you do it. What’s your reason behind your should’s, could’s and get to’s? If the answer doesn’t move you, consider letting it go.

 

With love,

Live Mindfully Jennifer Dene

Why We Need To Live Mindfully (Or How I Flushed My Paycheck Down The Toilet)

I lost a lot of money on Saturday. I wasn’t gambling. I didn’t make a bad business deal. I simply…misplaced it.

Subsequent hours were spent in a somewhat frantic search. Did I lose it in the house? Perhaps I dropped it during errands? Could I have accidentally put it in the mailbox?

My concern for losing the money was matched by the unsettling thought that I simply couldn’t remember why. What had I been doing before, during and after that time? I mentally tried to retrace my steps, only to hit a brain deadend at every turn.

And so it went…All weekend.

While I’m not thrilled at flushing away a week’s hard work, the outcome could have been so much worse.

I didn’t lose my health or ruin my relationships. I just lot some cash.

And as sore as it might make me feel, part of me is grateful. This was an important (albeit expensive) reminder that I haven’t been living mindfully, and I needed to slow down. 

Lesson Learned: If YOU don’t slow down the universe will send something that will slow things down for you.

2017 started with a bang; from early January I hit the ground running and I haven’t really stopped. Even though I’ve been very conscious of checking the seven core boxes of my basic health, this one thing was obviously still lacking.

Mindfulness is the mental state of being conscious or aware of something. It’s the ability to focus your awareness on the present moment, while calm acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts and physical sensations.

In contrast to this description,I’ve spent this year multi-tasking and multi-thinking. Sometimes I imagine that my brain is hosting a national ping-pong tournament; where ideas, to-dos, memories and premonitions bounce through my cranial arena with alarming speed.

And even though I’ve been working on being more mindful of late, I clearly still have a long way to go.

Which brings me to my focus for this week: For the next 10 days I’m going to spend 10 minutes in meditation to live more mindfully. (This won’t be meditation like “om” and flying elephants, but simply a practice of bringing awareness to my breath, body and physical surroundings.)

I’m committed to this every day for 10 days…probably in the early afternoon, when those ping-pong players are warming up their paddles.

Perhaps you’d like to join me.

To make it easier I’m going to use an app called Headspace. Headspace offers a free 10 day guided meditation series, narrated by buddhist monk (and juggler extraordinaire) Andy Puddicombe. I’ve used the app in the past and I like that it keeps me centered and focused on what I’m doing. 

Sharing new resources is something that I’ll try to do more of this year. I’ll also start sharing some of my own little life experiments with you, both to invite you on the journey and to remind you that none of us have this healthy living thing completely figured out.

Starting with Jenn’s self improvement strategy #1 = live mindfully (especially before more of my retirement fund goes down the gurgler).

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes!

Now I’d Love To Hear From You

Do you ever feel like you can’t keep up with your brain? Are you living on autopilot, or getting stressed over little things, for no apparent reason. If so, are you willing to join me on this 10 day experiment?

Or perhaps you already take mindfulness seriously and have established a daily practice. If you do, I’d love to hear about what that looks like for you.

Please join in the discussion by leaving a comment below.

With love,

Jennifer Dene

Resources mentioned: Headspace

New Year’s resolutions stick | Jennifer Dene Wellness

Making New Year’s Resolutions Stick

I have a thing for planners. Specifically paper planners, or “diaries” as we call them in Australia.

One of the most exciting things about starting a New Year is having a brand-spanking new planner. The pages crisp and clean. 12 months of unwritten potential.

Wouldn’t you agree?

Maybe not…my husband doesn’t.

In fact, just the other day he actually laughed at me when I told him that I bought a (rather oversized, rather heavy) planner here in Australia, to take back with me to L.A.

Yes, it may be as long as my forearm. And yes, it may be two inches thick. And yes, it may be pre-filled with all of the Australian public holiday dates, not the US dates. But it’s a beautiful blue and it fills me with optimism for the year ahead.

Frankly, I see it as a practical and economic way to take up suitcase space!

Which brings me to the point of today’s post: how to make New Year’s Resolutions Stick.

Now, I’m not really one for New Year’s resolutions…vague promises of self improvement aren’t necessarily an effective way of achieving personal goals.

But there is something about the transition between years that makes goal-setting seem more achievable. So let’s ride that wave of motivation and set some clear and practical resolutions, to make 2017 your healthiest, happiest year yet.

How To Make New Year’s Resolutions Stick

Step One: The “Mini Year”

Rather than thinking of 2017 as one 12-month year, break it down into four 90 day mini-years.

12 months is too long to commit to anything — except marriage I suppose — so let’s shorten the playing field. I learnt this concept recently from a friendly fellow by the name of Todd Hermann. It’s my first year putting it into practice too, so we’ll be experimenting together.

Step Two: Have A Quarterly Focus

Only pay attention to the first 90 day period, the rest can be neatly marked in the planner as “the future”.

How liberating!

Step Three: Make A Goal List

Take some time to think about your top health, lifestyle or personal goals. These might include weight loss, weight gain, stress reduction, spending more time with family, getting fit, eating less sugar, cooking more at home, feeling professionally fulfilled…or something different altogether.

Step Four: Choose Your Top Priority

From that list choose the one thing that is absolutely your top priority. This becomes your main goal for the next three months.

Next Steps >>>

Now, if you’re anything like me you probably think that you can achieve more than one big goal in 90 days. Right?

Wrong.

It’s too complicated and too overwhelming to try and change everything at once, and splitting your efforts across multiple endeavors makes it less likely that you’ll have achieved anything come April.

So keep it simple and effective by choosing one main goal to focus on, and follow through with it until you have success!

Now that you’ve gotten this far, you’ll need to think about exactly WHAT you need to do to reach that goal in 90 days. This part is crucial; breaking your big goal down into simple bite-sized pieces is the difference between success and failure.

And I can help!

If you’d like to set and achieve your number one health, lifestyle or personal goal in the first 90 days of 2017 here’s what you can do:

Book A Strategy Call With Me

This one hour call is all about YOU. Together we’ll work out the exact steps that you need to take to reach your number one goal.

(Can’t figure out your number one priority? I’ll help you with that too!)

As always, my advice is personalized and super simple, so you can start to see results straight away. You’ll also get a recording of our Skype session to replay at any time, and a full set of notes.

Book your strategy call with me here ($97)

Schedule Your Free Consultation

If you’d like more guidance and support throughout your 90 day “year” then you will love Weight Loss That Lasts — my signature 1:1 fitness, nutrition and lifestyle program that shows you how to transform your body and life in the simplest way possible.

You can learn more here, or immediately book your free 15 minute consultation with me here.

I truly believe that we’re all going to rock the socks off 2017, so let’s do it to it.

With love,

JDW Signature

P.S. Can’t find a call time that works with your schedule? Or have more questions about the Strategy Call or 1:1 Program? Just shoot me an email by clicking here.

stop feeling stressed

Stop Feeling Stressed: How To Manage Your Overwhelm

In today’s post I’m talking about overwhelm, and I’m going to share with you one simple strategy to help you stop feeling stressed right now. 

But first I want to assure you that if you’re feeling overwhelmed you’re not alone. In fact, according to a 2016 survey from the American Psychological Association, over 40% of Americans feel stressed on a regular basis.

And lately I’ve been one of them. (Well, I’m an honorary American I guess…)

Here’s a little glimpse into my life over the past 20 months. Here I am, a 20-something Australian woman with a degree in journalism, working in the health and fitness industry, husbanded-up, and driving a little red Mazda across the USs from North Carolina to Los Angeles.

A little interesting perhaps, but not too out of the ordinary. That is, until you take into account the following:

  1. We had never visited L.A. before deciding to move
  2. We didn’t know anyone there 
  3. Neither of us had jobs in California — Nate would continue to fly back to the East Coast (poor chap) and I would… figure it out.

Fast forward to 2016 and we’re happily settled in, loving life in our beautiful home and making great new friends. This is also when I decide to expand my business online — hello jenniferdenewellness.com!

And that’s where overwhelm kicked in.

In addition to my work in the health and fitness industry I had suddenly become… a web developer, a graphic designer, a marketing and sales director, a bookkeeper, and so much more. I’m also still trying to become somewhat fluent in social media speak >>> #progressnotperfection >>> #whydowehavetousehashtags

It would be an understatement to say that there’s been a lot to learn, and some days the stress levels have gotten kind of high. Like, 1960s flower-child-at-a-music-festival high.

But stress is just stress, and overwhelm is just overwhelm, and it happens to us all. The key is getting a handle on it before it spirals out of control, which is why I love today’s stress management exercise.

So grab some paper and a pencil and let’s do this thing. 

How To Stop Feeling Stressed NOW

This exercise works so well because it gets the mess out of your head and onto a piece of paper. Having all those thoughts bumping about in our brains, like dodgem cars at a carnival, can often make situations feel more overwhelming than they actually are. Seeing things written out allows you to logically categorize and start dealing with each individual item.

I definitely recommend that you do this exercise on an actual sheet of paper;  the physical act of writing engages different parts of our brain and helps us better process the information that we’re working on. Plus, taking a break from your computer is a quick stress-buster in-and-of-itself.

So let’s do it!

Step One – The Brain Dump

Write down everything you can think of that is making you feel stressed or overwhelmed. This might include actual tasks that you need to complete, goals that you’re working towards, and even less tangible thoughts and worries, such as feeling stressed about what the weather will do tomorrow. Spend no more than 3 minutes on this step.

Step Two – Make Four Categories

Take four different colored pens and circle your items according to the categories below:

  1. Must fix now
  2. Future self will deal with that
  3. Someone else can deal with that
  4. Not within my power

Be really clear about what items absolutely have to be done now, those that can wait for another time, and those that you don’t personally have to do. Items that are “not within my power” include worrying about the weather, worrying about the plane being delayed, or worrying about something else just for the sake of worrying. Spend no more than 5 minutes on this step.

Step Three – Consolidate Your Lists

Take a new piece of paper and write out only those items that you circled “must fix now”. This list should not be very long and only contain your highest priority tasks. Wondering what goes here? Ask yourself which tasks will make the biggest positive difference to how you feel about yourself and your life.

Then, take another piece of paper and write out only those items that you circled “future self will deal with that” — this is where all those non-urgent tasks go. You’ll probably notice that a lot of the items on this list are not really important… so why are you stressing about them? It’s likely that these are your procrastination-tasks, the ones that make you feel busy and productive but actually prevent you from completing items that really matter.

Spending too much time each day focusing on your “future self” list is draining your energy and limiting your potential for success. Focus on today, spend time completing the tasks that matter, and use that feeling of accomplishment to override overwhelm.

Step Four – Delegate:

Ask yourself which items from these two lists can be done by someone else. For example, if cleaning the house is a regular source of frustration then have a cleaner come in and help you, it’s cheaper than paying for a therapist! Make moves to outsource those tasks immediately. 

Step Five – Trash Your Stress

Quickly scan the very first list that you made, the brain dump, and read the items that you circled “not within my power”. Place your hand over your heart and say out loud: “I have no control over these situations and worrying about them isn’t benefiting anyone”. Then burn that piece of paper and let those concerns go up in flames with it. 

Step Six – Moving Forward (Calmly & Gracefully)

You’re now left with two lists, your high priority list, and your future self list. Read the latter and make a note of when you would realistically need to revisit the items here. Are they going to become important at a future date, or will they remain to be non-urgent tasks that you can complete at a later stage? You can make a note on your calendar to review this list in a few weeks, or just return to it if you find yourself with some extra time to kill. Now put it out of sight (and out of mind).

Finally, return to your high priority list. These tasks are the only items that have even the smallest claim on your stress levels, but we’re fabulous and feminine women, and a little to-do list is not going to get the best of us.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Choose the task that is the fastest to complete and make a mark next to it.
  • Choose the task that is most important to complete and make a mark next to it.
  • Acknowledge that these are the only two tasks that you need to focus on (not worry about) right now, and take action to complete them in the most timely manner possible.
  • Once both of these items have been checked off you can return to your priority list and choose another two.
  • Continue in this way until you’ve crossed off each item on that list.

In Conclusion…

Of course there are many other stress-management strategies that you can benefit from. Things like meditation, self-care exercises, coaching, physical activity, eating well, and spending time unplugged from technology should be a regular part of your routine. 

But there is a method to this list-making madness. Doing this exercise has hopefully helped you realize how many things you’ve been worrying about that you either can’t control, or you don’t need to worry about right now. It should also have cleaned up your mental clutter and shown you that even those things that might seem a little overwhelming at the moment can be tackled simply and methodically.

As you continue with your week I would encourage you to let go of stress for the sake of stress, and channel that same energy into being focused, productive and content.

See you next week!

With love,

JDW Signature

P.S. I recorded this video on Facebook live, which is why it’s a little less clear (and why I said “hi Nate” as he popped into the live video recording!) Join me on Facebook here.