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,

healthy lifestyle | jennifer dene wellness

Struggling To Start Your Next Healthy Habit? Try This…

I’ve just gotten back from a wonderful 15 day holiday in Tuscany and London. It was such a good time that we actually extended our original 11 day trip by another three nights, delaying the inevitable return to reality.

But now that we’re home, I find myself sitting here, in the dark hours of Monday morning, feeling a little unsettled — how do I get back into the swings of things?

“Starting” can be an overwhelming thing. Whether that’s starting back at work after a holiday, starting a new healthy lifestyle, or really starting any new healthy habit. Thinking about how to get from A to B (post-holiday blues to normal life; couch potato to healthy, fit and flexible) seems to require a lot of personal motivation…a lot of digging deep.

While that can be a tough thing to do, it’s certainly not impossible. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. How do tackle any new task or goal? By breaking it down into more manageable pieces.

Take weight loss for example. Losing 50 pounds is, for most people, an intensely overwhelming weight loss goal, perhaps one that feels impossible. What do you have to do to lose 50 pounds? What changes will you have to make? How do you even begin? These questions feel so big, and the effort required feels so huge, that many people will stop before they even start. But what if the weight loss goal was only five pounds, not 50? Five pounds seems quite manageable, accessible with just a few small tweaks here and there. Losing five pounds is the first bite — you realize that yes, you can lose weight, and actually it wasn’t all that hard to do. So you move on to the next 5 pounds, and then the next, until eventually that 50 pound weight loss goal isn’t out of reach after all.

The same concept works for starting pretty much anything new. Here’s how it plays out in fitness, nutrition and self love:

Starting A New Exercise Routine

Doing an exercise class that calls for 10 full pushups on your first day at the gym is a terrible idea, one that will no doubt crush your fitness spirit. The better play would be to start with simple stretches, some full body movement, and try modified upper body exercises. After a while you will progress to planks, and then to kneeling pushups, until one day a few months down the road you’ll be doing pushups without a care in the world.

Eating More Vegetables

Buying 10 varieties of vegetables and attempting to cook an Ottolenghi dish as one of your first forays into healthy home cooking is a recipe for disaster. Instead, start simply with a head of broccoli and a couple of zucchini, a pot of boiling water, and some butter to toss through at the end. Heck, microwave them if that makes it easier to get more greens onto your plate.

Loving & Accepting Your Self

Expecting to love your body and your life after reading one self-help book is not realistic. Emotional change probably takes the longest of all, but starting gently with daily self-love and self-acceptance practices will over time change your perception of yourself, your life and your personal value. This is why I keep banging on about this self-care stuff and reminding you that we’re all works-in-progress!

This slow and steady approach may not be particularly thrilling but it is the most effective, and should be remembered when the overwhelming feeling of “starting” starts to sink in.

So I’m glad that I wrote this post this morning. Talking to you has helped me rethink my initial waking instinct (to take the world by storm) and quelled my initial waking panic (how on earth was I supposed to do that). It has allowed me to sit here and watch first light break across Los Angeles, my metaphorical elephant by my side, writing this post, and returning to reality one step at a time.

See you next week!

Cheers,

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!

diet mentality

The Diet Mentality (and it’s side effects)

I’m about to start a new 21 day eating program and, to be honest, it’s bringing up a bit of resistance. Today’s post digs into that topic of the diet mentality, along with a gentle reminder of why diets don’t work.

Let’s dive in.

By this stage you know that I’m no fan of dieting. So it’s with mixed emotions that, for the next 21 days, I’ll be following a rather strict eating plan.

Here’s why:

For the past few years I’ve been struggling with some aspects of my health. Despite my “good” eating, exercise and sleep habits, I still often feel like I’ve been hit by a semi-trailer.

Much of this has to do with my gut health, or lack thereof. Technically speaking, there’s an imbalance in my microbiome and I quite possibly have intestinal permeability.

While that may sound a little concerning, it’s totally fixable. In layman’s terms, this condition is known as “leaky gut” — a rather evocative description that you may have heard of it around the internet.

In addition to my weak digestive system, there seems to be something going on with my thyroid or adrenal glands. TBD.

Long story short, I’m following a medically advised eating program that eliminates foods that might trigger a negative response in my body. It’s not at all bad: lots of veggies, meat and yummy fats, which you know are right up my ally. But there are a few key ingredients that will be sorely missed, including:

  1. Wine & champagne.
  2. Cheese & yogurt.
  3. Bread & grains.
  4. Chocolate & coffee.

Objectively I feel ok about eating this way, but emotionally something has been coming up and I feel a little bit of resistance, a little bit of…meh.

I’ve been wondering why I have this hesitation, considering that:

  1. This eating plan is for a finite amount of time and for a very specific purpose. No one is saying I can’t ever have a grilled cheese sandwich ever again.
  1. I know that I’ll feel better when I have a break from these foods, because I know how my body reacts to this sort of thing.

So the answer has to be my history of dieting.

You may know that for many years I struggled with eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia & orthorexia (that last one is being obsessed with only eating the healthiest food). Sprinkled amongst these more serious conditions were regular rides on the fad-diet rollercoaster.

While I’ve finally been able to get off that ride, there is a residual fear of food restriction.

This is why I need to reframe the next 21 days, and view this eating plan as the next step in becoming my healthiest self (something that traditional diets do NOT do).

I’m going to focus on everything that I can have, which is really an abundance of delicious food, and I’m going to remind myself that this is simply a three week process of healing. With that mindset I know that willpower won’t be necessary, deprivation won’t be felt, and at the end of this process I’ll feel so much better than when I started.

I wanted to bring up this topic with you, incase you have a similar case of diet mentality, and if the idea of starting a new “healthy eating plan” feels a little overwhelming. If so, I totally understand and I hope that you can also find a great way to “reframe” the situation.

And, if you do still dabble with diets and excessively restrict your calories, please remember this:

Diets make you gain weight…

Diets help you lose weight quickly because they restrict calories. At first this works, but after a few days or weeks your brain notices that you’re not getting enough food and it starts to panic. This triggers your hunger hormones (leptin & ghrelin) to team up and protect you from starvation. Their solution is to lower your metabolic thermostat so that you burn less energy, which causes you to store the few meagre calories that you ARE eating as protective body fat. This consequence can be short term or long term.

Diets ruin your stomach…

Restricting certain healthy foods, or eating science-lab food, alters how your stomach and digestive system function. There’s a natural, chemical process to this eating and digesting thing. Mess with this process too much and you’ll end up spending date night telling your significant other about your leaky gut.

Diets mess with your mind…

Many women that I speak with have some kind of struggle with food; whether that’s worrying about weight gain, or feeling concerned that they’ll be judged (or judge themselves) for eating certain foods. Diets exacerbate this mentality, causing you to swallow a hefty dose of guilt and shame with every bite you eat.

Diets kill your willpower…

You only have a certain amount of willpower each day; it’s highest in the morning and decreases as the afternoon wears on. Every decision you make throughout the day taps into your willpower reserve; from food to fitness, or deciding keep your cool during a particularly frustrating conversation, choices zap willpower. Diets zap that willpower doubly fast, which makes you irritable, exhausted and with a hand in the cookie jar after dinner.

Now I’d Love To Hear From You

I hope this gentle reminder helps you ditch the diets and get back in the driver’s seat of your own health.

Please let me know what you think of today’s conversation, by leaving a comment below.

With love,

healthy evening routine

A Healthy Evening Routine: It Takes More Than Greens & Gratitude

Lately I’ve been pondering the multiple layers of health. From what we eat to how we think and who we spend time with, our whole lifestyle plays a role in our ability to feel well. In today’s blog post I’m looking at how our social connections influence the perception we have of our own lives, and why acknowledging struggles helps us endure. At the end of this short post I’ve shared a simple healthy evening routine that will help you make great progress on the lifestyle goals that you’re currently working on.

Since moving to America in 2011 I’ve been rather forward about making friends. As an introvert, a bookworm, and someone who likes to be in her pajamas at 6pm, this has been quite the turn around for me.

Here’s how it usually plays out:

  1. I meet a woman at a gathering, a fitness studio or through a mutual connection
  2. I ask her out for a tea or a walk*
  3. We suss each other out and see if we want to talk about the possibility of friendship

*I tend to choose activities that are fairly noncommittal for the first “date”. Lunch or dinner add a certain amount of pressure…it’s a long time to make chit-chat with a stranger and there’s the chance that you’ll end up smiling with lettuce in your teeth.

Some of these dates have turned into life-long friendships, while others can be simply chalked up to “experience”.

This is fine by me. As someone who would rather go deep with one person than have shallow connections with 100, I’m perfectly happy with just a handful of close friends.

But what I’ve learnt, in becoming a serial friend-dater, is that many people have a hard time going deep, getting real, and being open and vulnerable to someone else. I’ve noticed this in real life as well as online, where presenting an idealized version of yourself to the world is more important than being authentic.

In the past year alone I’ve gone on several coffee dates with women in my industry who, after introducing themselves, proceeded to spend five full minutes taking photos of their turmeric latte from several different angles to post on social media. Later that day these photos would pop into my Instagram feed with the caption: “SO much fun getting to know the lovely Jennifer Dene today.” But really, how well could they know me after 45 minutes of surface-level conversation?

This isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy networking or meeting new people…in fact, I love it. But I do feel that too many women spend too much time crafting the perfect version of themselves for public consumption, without giving enough attention to their private struggles.

Nowhere is it more important to be honest and open than on the topic of our physical, emotional and mental health. Knowing where we want to improve, or when we need to ask for help, is a crucial component of our well being. So it’s time to get raw and real, and stop comparing your inside to someone else’s outside.

Today’s simple exercise will help you appreciate what you have, reflect on where you’re struggling, and make progress towards where you want to be. So grab a pen and let’s do it to it.

A Healthy Evening Routine

Every evening answer the following questions:

  1. What is one thing that I am grateful for from today?
  2. What are two things that I struggled with today?
  3. What are three possible solutions that I can think of, that will help me overcome those struggles in the future?
  4. Who can I turn to and ask for help, support or companionship, should I need it?

This exercise is simple and profound, so I hope you’ll give it a go.

And then let me know what you think of today’s topic by leaving a comment below.

With love,

P.S. You might also like to read my morning routine post here.

The Key Weight Loss & Self Love

Hello again! I’ve been on a blogging hiatus for the last few weeks, as I spent a month frolicking in the beautiful Australian countryside. Taking that time away from my normal routine (and not feeling like I had to come up with all the answers to life’s questions) allowed me to have a good think about who I want to be in 2017, how I want to live my life, and how I can help you do the same.

During my month-long musings I noticed something about myself that, truth be told, surprised me a little. I realized that I’ve become a “when this will happen, that will happen” kind of person.

Let me explain…

Over the past few years I’ve taken to thinking that I need external circumstances to change before I can really accomplish the goals that I’ve set myself. I’ve assumed that it will be easier to achieve what I want to achieve once XYZ happens.

For example, I thought that:

  • When I got that job at the new Pilates studio… I would automatically become fitter.
  • When I reorganized my kitchen… I would happily cook more at home.
  • When I went on that holiday… I would return happier and more motivated than when I left.
  • When I relocated…I would naturally be more confident and make more friends.
  • When I reached my goal weight…I would love myself.

But it rarely turned out that way.

Saying that something will be different, doesn’t make it so. Nothing comes from words or thoughts that aren’t followed by actions.

I’ve known this, I’ve experienced this, but until now I haven’t truly internalized it.

The truth is, that for something in our life to change, we need to make a change first. You can’t think your way into a better body, a happier marriage, or a more fulfilling career, if all you do is think about it. Thinking, writing or speaking goals, aren’t worth a dime if they aren’t followed by action.

So, as we start the new year I want to ask you this: Are you ready to take action? Are you ready to take action to create a body and a life that you love, even if all the pieces of the puzzle haven’t yet fallen into place?

I’m ready to take that challenge, and I invite you to do the same.

Now I’d Love To Hear From You:

  1. Have you ever relied on external circumstances changing before you can become the person you want to be?
  2. Or, perhaps you’ve never experienced the “when this happens, that will happen” thought process. If that’s the case, what’s your secret to taking purposeful action?

I’d love to know your thoughts. Please leave a comment below.

It’s great to be back with you.

With love,

JDW Signature

*PS Remember that massive blue planner that I lugged across the world? Other important items that made their way into my suitcase included: curry paste (a lot of curry paste), Kraft peanut butter, tins of tuna, leaf tea, and, somewhat awkwardly, three crushable boxes of salt and vinegar chips. I packed those in my carry on, of course. Now if I can just figure out how to transport a couple of legs of lamb…

How To Make Healthy Decisions - Jennifer Dene

How To Make Healthy Decisions (And Why We Don’t Like To)

I was at the supermarket the other day and I wanted to buy a bag of chips. I headed into the snack aisle, my eyes scanning the shelves, my hands not knowing whether to reach for potato or corn. (I adore them all.)

“Are we getting chips?” my husband asked.

“Ummm, maybe. I was thinking about it. Do YOU want some?” came my response.

Our conversation continued…

Him: “Sure, if you want them.”

Me: “I don’t really mind.” (I did.) “We’ll only get them if you feel like them.”

And continued…

Him: “Let’s not worry then, I don’t really feel like chips tonight.”

Me: “Are you sure? You might want some later. Maybe we should get them just in case…but only if YOU want.”

Can you see what was happening here? Despite the fact that I wanted chips I wasn’t willing to say the simple words “I’m going to buy myself a bag.”

Why?

Because I didn’t want to be responsible for making that decision.

I catch myself doing this from time-to-time, outsourcing my decisions so that it’s not my fault if things don’t pan out.

It’s a habit I don’t like and one that I’m changing, but it still catches me out every now and again.

Home cooking is a simple decision: you either cook or you don’t.

Exercising is a simple decision: you either do it or you don’t.

Drinking wine on a Tuesday night is a simple decision: you either drink it or you don’t.

These are some of the decisions that I battle with, and that I might pass off to someone else, even though the “right” choice is both personal and situational. Some days exercising is the best decision, other days it’s not. Sometimes getting take-out is great, other times it’s not.

You might not always make the right decision, but you do have to be willing to make a decision, especially if taking control of your health is important to you.

This month I’m committed to making my own healthy living decisions, with authority and without guilt, to see how the choices that I’m making affect my health, my happiness and the quality of my life.

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

With love,

JDW Signature

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.