Creating balance is a widely used catch phrase these days for having a picturesque perfect life with all corners of it working well. This image may not be exactly what we are striving for. Most people seek balance when they feel that life is out of their control. What most people truly desire is not a “perfect” life but rather more overall happiness, more well-being, and simply feeling good about who they are as they live each day in this world.
With the speed of life, you usually don’t slow down long enough to figure out what is out of balance at any given moment. Examining your Core Foods will help you get started. Can you “fix” everything overnight? Of course not. It’s about having the courage to take the first steps to create your ideal life and find more balance. What will it take for you?
When we have more balance, we have less stress and feel more energized for life. Recent studies show that this balanced state actually means better health. People who are more balanced are more relaxed, happy and energized and less likely to catch the common cold, experience depression or develop fatigue.
Sheldon Cohen, PhD of Carnegie Mellon University interviewed 334 healthy individuals over a two week period, three evenings per week. They assessed their emotional states and were asked to describe how they felt in both positive and negative emotion areas: vigor, well-being, and calm, and depression, anxiety and hostility. Next, study participants received an injection of the common cold. Those who had described their states as positive had a significantly greater resistance to the virus than those who had described their emotional states as negative.
If you’re looking to stay healthy all year round, remaining positive and tapping into what brings you joy may be just be a cure for the common cold!
Fuel Your Life and Passion
It’s important to give time to thinking about what lights you up. Your passion can easily be tucked under the rug as life hurries by. The following questions will help you focus in on your passion. Be as specific as you can. Also, allow yourself to be truly honest and real with your answers. Going outside your comfort zone may open up new doors to your passion. Spend some time answering these questions on your life and passion.
- What brings you joy on a daily basis? What makes you happy in general?
- Think of a time when you were totally consumed with what you were involved with. What were you doing and what did you enjoy about it?
- What makes you feel alive?
- What do you most look forward to each day or each week?
- What brings you great satisfaction?
- What scares you the most in life?
- What worries you the most?
- What don’t you enjoy doing? (Knowing what we don’t like can often help us find what we do enjoy.)
Let me know how you’re fueling your life and tapping into joy!
Have you ever noticed that when you love to do something, you don’t spend time trying to figure out how you’re going to fit it into your schedule? Harvey MacKay, entrepreneur, motivational speaker, author, and syndicated columnist says it best when he says, “Find something you love to do, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
Creating a healthy and balanced lifestyle is about figuring out what makes you happy. The problem is, we forget to give ourselves permission to be happy and joyful. We lose ourselves in all of the advice and easily get confused about who we truly are.
Getting to know yourself is key in making exercise and movement a life-long habit. And this is a key you want to hold.
What Does Finding an Exercise You Enjoy Really Mean?
Finding an exercise you like and enjoy simply means you’re having fun doing it! One question you may want to ask yourself is:
“What type of fitness can I see myself doing for the rest of my life?”
For those of you who have already found it, this answer may come easy. For others, it may be time to tap into your creative self and affirm your answer to this very question.
Opening Yourself Up
Don’t be afraid to open yourself up and try something new. Fear is there to protect us but it can also keep us stuck. Take time to look at your fears and ask yourself what may be keeping you stuck.
Consider things such as:
“I’m afraid I can’t keep up.”
“I’m afraid I’ll make a fool of myself.”
“I don’t know how to use the machines. I hate asking for help.”
Keep in mind that fitness is a journey, not a destination. If you’re afraid you can’t keep up, do the moves slower until you get stronger. Safety comes first in any situation.
Many people have this preconceived notion that the gym is filled with people with perfect bodies. This simply isn’t true. People visiting the gym and even those holding gym memberships are just like everyone else and everyone’s goal is to live a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Even if you’re really out of shape, don’t worry about it and don’t obsess over your appearance. You’ll find many supportive people every place you go.
The bottom line is don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and be the real you. Never forget that you’re not alone. Most importantly, go at your own pace and be safe!
Asking for help and assistance is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness. Don’t hesitate to ask a gym employee or trainer for help. That’s what these people are there for and they are happy to assist you. Most likely, they’re cheering you on each step of the way!
Exercising regularly has many benefits. Some of these may include:
- Exercising regularly may help improve mood.
- Exercising regularly may assist in boosting energy.
- Exercising regularly may help you fall asleep faster. (Tip: Don’t exercise too closely to bedtime or it may inhibit you from falling asleep because of increased energy.)
- Exercising regularly may assist in reducing LDL cholesterol and raising HDL cholesterol.
- Exercising regularly may assist with weight loss.
- Exercising regularly may help strengthen and define muscles.
- Exercising regularly may help build stronger bones.
- Exercising regularly may help lower your heart rate and blood pressure.
- Exercising regularly may help improve self-esteem.
- Exercising regularly may help reduce levels of anxiety and depression.
What’s Your Excuse?
If you find yourself making excuses not to exercise and move, you may not have found your exercise joy. Take notice of when you find yourself making excuses about your exercise routine. Some of your excuses may include:
- I’m too tired to exercise.
- I have too many things to do, I don’t have time.
- I’m too old to start exercising.
- I’m not athletic and I’m overweight.
- I don’t have the right outfits or clothes to start exercising.
- Exercise is boring.
- The kids have homework.
If you find yourself making excuses, look for ways to turn these excuses right around. For example, if one of your excuses is that exercise is boring, find activities you love to do. If the gym makes you feel confined to small spaces, try taking a walk in nature. If there isn’t a trail available to you, look for a track at your local high school. There are often many walkers on the track after school has let out for the day doing exactly what you’re looking to do.
If you find yourself saying that you’re too tired to move and exercise, go for shorter, lower impact intervals. This is a great way to motivate yourself and fit some exercise into your daily routine.
It’s true that our children oftentimes have a bountiful amount of homework in hand when they hit the door after a long day at school. Children, however, need a break too. Taking a fifteen minute family break and playing tag or walking the family dog is a great way to spend time together as a family and get in some much needed movement. Enjoy your time together and find creative ways to get your bodies moving.
Focus on What You Love to Do
If you hate going to the gym, most likely you won’t be able to maintain a gym membership and get the most value for your money, no matter how good it may be for you. On the other hand, if you love nature and being outdoors, hiking and playing tennis may be the exact exercise program you’re looking for. Design your life and build your exercise routine around the activities and places you love and enjoy.
The Bottom Line
Exercise and physical activity is a great path to feeling better and finding balance. As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity each and every day. If you want to lose weight or meet specific fitness goals, you may need to exercise more. Remember to check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program, especially if you haven’t exercised for quite some time, have chronic health problems such as heart disease, diabetes or arthritis, or you have any other health concerns.
What’s Your Why?
Contrary to popular thought, there’s no one way to achieve health. While every expert has an opinion and every internet search tells us something new, the perfect recipe for health cannot be defined. There are too many variables that make each person’s life unique. The first step to determining what will work for you is to determine why you want to be healthy in the first place! What’s your intention behind losing those 10 lbs. or having more energy or building more muscle?
All that time spent in a bathing suit at the beach in summer reminds us why it’s important to enjoy a healthy diet. But the truth is, too often we focus on looks or external factors as the sole reason to eat healthy. Looking great is just the proverbial icing on the cake.
What’s your why for creating a healthy life? Determining your true motivation for why you want to be healthy adds feeling and emotion to your goal, making it easier to achieve. Most people are not motivated my numbers on a scale, but they can picture themselves having more energy for their kids or waking up in the morning feeling energized rather than tired or feeling attractive to their spouse.
Of course, there are many reasons tied to the increase of disease that could lead you to want to be healthy, such as:
- Lower risk of developing heart disease, the number one killer of women
- Lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes
- Lower risk of developing high blood pressure
- Lower risk of having a stroke
- Lower risk of having a heart attack
- Lower risk of developing certain types of cancer
- Lower risk of an untimely death
All these maladies are exacerbated by obesity. Too often we focus on obesity as an aesthetic issue, and not as a health issue. Thanks to what passes as “food” in Westernized societies, obesity is becoming a global epidemic. Westernized diets are composed of frozen convenience foods, fast food and packaged foods—all of which are rife with hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, and a plethora of unpronounceable chemicals. The World Health Organization reported that more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight in 2016, and of these over 650 million were obese. The numbers have continued to rise since then.
Dr. Robert Lustig, an endocrinologist with the University of California, states that obesity “is a true health care crisis.” Dr. Lustig estimates that the global obesity epidemic will surpass that of SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, and even that of AIDS. This will cause millions of premature deaths, not to mention draining nations’ economies.
There’s never been a better time than now to be healthy. Here are just a few very important reasons to be healthy:
- Increased energy to do what you love
- A sense of balance and awareness with your life
- Ability to choose what you eat, instead of being controlled by cravings
- Feeling more comfortable in your own skin
- Serving as an example to others
- Living longer and with more joy
- Lower risk of disease
Focusing solely on your appearances or your weight will leave you always bouncing on the scale and analyzing the results with your calculator. And health is so much more than a number.
As a wellness coach, I believe that counting calories is more a method of control over food rather than true balance. It’s just another way to fit food into the “numbers game”, but when we do that, we miss the bigger picture. Food is your fuel, not a mathematical equation. Food nourishes you on a very deep level and goes far beyond a point, an ounce, a calorie or a fat gram.
Learning to listen to your body and discover what truly nourishes you is the key to healthy eating and living a life of wellness. Freeing yourself from the endless cycle of nutritional number crunching, willpower and deprivation is the way to truly balanced eating and feeling more fulfilled. And once you get there, you’ll never look back.
If you’re a calorie counter and scale stepper, imagine for a moment what it would be like to completely relinquish those activities and be able to trust yourself. When you learn to listen to your body, you will learn naturally how to choose food based on the amount of energy and nourishment it will provide you. It’s a whole new way of eating and living…and it feels great!
Start with determining your own Why is an important Mindset technique that will support you with your health. Let your Why that serve as the foundation to help you reach your goal.
Being busy can be healthy, but being “too busy” is not healthy. Being active and engaged and inspired, yes that’s healthy. Being drained, overwhelmed and stressed out is not. It’s a fine line and most of us have crossed over it. Today being too busy causes people to feel less connected, creates children who are stressed at young ages and fosters a world where we feel spiritually, emotionally and physically “off”. We feel all this, yet we don’t do anything about it. Or don’t know we can.
How did we get so busy in the first place?
With all of the new technology and faster, easier ways of communicating, shouldn’t we theoretically be less busy and have more free time? Yet we find ourselves with less time and more to do. We are spending more and more time doing things we’ve never done before, like posting on social media or texting from our mobile device. These activities, while they feel quick in the moment, actually can cause us to feel busier. The sense that we are always “on” or always “checking in” can lead to higher levels of stress.
Why do we keep ourselves so busy in the first place?
Perhaps a part of us actually believes that being busy is a good thing. It allows us to tell other people we’re not idle. That we have “a life”. We have things to do, we’re important, we’re needed. Busy equals success in our minds. For many people, this busyness has become a state of being that is a “sickness”. Some are even calling it a disease, or rather a dis-ease. A state that puts us out ease. When we’re out of ease, we becomes stressed. And stress can lead to a laundry list of health concerns most people would like to avoid.
Deciding to not be busy is a choice we can make.
But first we need to have a mindset shift and realize that being busy is not who we are as a person. Even though it’s all around us, we don’t have to identify with the role of a busy person. We can decide to take on less and instead experience more peace and space. We can let go of society’s expectations and decide to be who we really want to be.
You might be thinking, “Hey, I really am busy and there’s nothing I can do about it.” or “I like being busy.” There’s no denying we are all busier today than ever before, but taking a look at what is filling up our lives to the point of exhaustion is a good exercise. You might find that half of the things keeping you busy really don’t fulfill you. What if the things you think are priorities are actually just the things that hold you back from moving towards what you truly desire?
Four steps to less-busy
Try one or more of these steps to support you in reducing your busyness and creating more peace of mind.
1.Inventory of your busy life. What is filling up your busyness? What is on your plate? Does it really need to be? How effective is it really? Do you enjoy it? Why are you really doing it? Write it all down on a piece of paper and determine what activities you could eliminate. What would be the impact of eliminating one or two things on the list? While you might forego something you think is important, would there be an equal or greater benefit to not doing it? Once you take your inventory, be prepared to share it with others in your life and let them know you are going to be making some changes. Be prepared that not everyone will agree with you. Stick to your new plan and try it for 30 days.
2. Be present amongst the chaos. While you have a lot on your plate, try to focus on what is right in front of you rather than thinking about the next thing. Present, not future. If you find you have a lot to get through in a day, take each thing as it comes and keep breathing through it. Let your breath be a reminder to your mind to stay present. It takes practice to train your mind to stay in the present, but give it a try. At least while you are busy being busy, you can be breathing and keeping your body in a more relaxed state.
3. Focus on what you do best and what you enjoy most. Stop trying to be everything and do everything. Determine what you really need to be doing and do that. If you’re in business for yourself, figure out your unique skills and talents and focus in on what you do best rather than trying to do things that really are not your natural skill set. This is about honing in on what you are really good at and what you enjoy, and leaving the rest to someone else. In your personal life, it might mean giving up some things that even though you think they are important or even fun, they don’t ultimately lead to more peace and pleasure.
4. Remember you are a human-being, not a human-doing. You are not meant to go 24-7 at 100 miles per hour. You are not a machine. Your body needs to refuel. Your mind needs to rest. Sometimes it’s the rest and the non-busyness that scares us. We wonder what we’ll find out about ourselves if we slow down. Keep in mind, anything that frightens us is usually worth investigating and you might discover something new about yourself.
My story is long and begins during my pregnancy with my first child. Everything was going swimmingly, and then one day my doctor said, “Oh you have a heart murmur, probably because you’re pregnant, nothing to worry about, it’s very common for pregnant women to have a heart murmur.” I went along with my life and didn’t give it a second thought. In March of 1987, I gave birth to my beautiful son. I was 23 years old. Three and half years later I gave birth to our sweet, and oh so precious baby girl. The doctor had again said that I had a heart murmur but because I had one with the first pregnancy, he suggested it was probably nothing and didn’t investigate any further.
The bomb finally dropped when I was in my middle thirties. I was having dizzy episodes at work and thought it was stress so I ignored it as long as I could. One morning my boss called me into his office for an update, and as I stood by his desk, the whole room began to swirl, I thought I was having a panic attack. I was very scared as I fell into the front of his desk but I managed to regain my composure. That’s when I knew it was probably something more than stress.
The doctor listened to my heart, said I had a murmur, and ordered an echocardiogram for that same week. They got the results back and it turned out I had a congenital heart defect, a bicuspid aortic valve. I was put on a beta blocker to help with the palpitations and because of my age, we wouldn’t do surgery until it greatly affected my quality of life. So I waited and waited, until I couldn’t lift my arms above my head without getting winded. Six months before my next scheduled echocardiogram, I went to ask my doctor if he thought I should take fish oil, since I had heard it was good for my heart. He listened to my heart and said, “We need to schedule your surgery now.” I cried like a baby for a full 3 hours. I thought I was prepared. So many feelings rushing forward at once, I was more scared than I have ever been, I was angry because I thought if I lived in denial, maybe I’d be the lucky one who’d never need surgery. I was terrified that I would die and leave my husband to raise our two young children alone, the oldest on the autism spectrum. That night I prayed. I don’t pray. I don’t do religion, but with every ounce of my being, I wanted God to be up there listening. I begged him, “If you’re up there, I’m ok with dying when it’s my time, but please just let me live long enough for my kids to grow up and then you can take me.”
Happily, I can report that in 2006, I had open-heart surgery to replace my valve and repair an aortic aneurism that would have taken my life in the days before my next scheduled echo. Needless to say, every day I am still alive is a blessing, and I try to treat it with the reverence it deserves. Not saying, for one moment, that everything is perfect, but I’ll happily take what I’m given, and hope to, in some way, give back for the extra years I have been gifted.
After my surgery I went through a period of mourning and depression and I believe this is considered normal. The loss of a part of my body, that only a person who has been through this would understand, was quite devastating to me. The scar took me a long time to get over emotionally. Having someone literally cut me open and reach inside my body, felt like such an invasion. Again, you wouldn’t understand unless you’ve been through this. I knew I had to move forward and embrace my new normal.
I am a yoga teacher and have practiced for many years and decided to turn to meditation rather than drugs to get over my depression and recover from my surgery. The following steps helped me to heal more quickly than I could ever have imagined possible. I had to:
- Accept that this happened to me and it wasn’t my fault
- Let go of control
- Let others care for me, accept their help
- Look at my scar in the mirror until I could stop crying (It took me a long time to be comfortable wearing shirts that show my scar, I don’t care anymore, I’m actually proud of my battle scar)
- Get used to being on medication for the rest of my life (I’m still angry about that sometimes)
- Deal with my stress and anxiety and take better care of myself
By accepting my new normal I can live more fully and let myself enjoy things again. The fear remains about the uncertainty of it all, but I am strong and have faced the idea of my death. After all, I made a pact with God about letting me survive. My children are now 33 and 29, so he kept his end of the bargain. I will soldier on and know that every day is a blessing and should never be taken for granted. I will continue to give back and support others where I can, and practice gratitude every day.
Copyright©2020 – Susan Lancaster. All Rights Reserved.