I often receive questions from parents
on the topic of how to find and maintain work/life balance. My friends and I
also battle daily the war on work, laundry, errands, and meal preparation while
tending to our little troopers. I dream of the evening when I can soak in a hot
tub – candle lit and a glass of wine in hand – without Dexter pulling Paxton’s
hair out, the puppy tearing apart a dirty diaper, Ella refusing to do her
homework, and Mitch knocking on the door to ask where he can find his keys.
Sigh. Someday perhaps.
Dr. Carrie Holland is here to offer
quick tips for balancing your days so you have more time for you and for your
family. -Dr. Julia Pewitt Kinder
Finding quality time to spend with family can be a challenge
when multiple responsibilities demand your attention. My husband and I struggle
with this as we work full-time (often nights and weekends), have a toddler and
a baby on the way, a yorkie- mix named Poppy, and an upcoming move to another
state. A few months ago I created a reminder list of easy ways I could enjoy my
family each day. By posting this list on our refrigerator, we remember every
morning to make the most of our day together.
1. Turn off the TV. It sounds simple, and
really, it is. As a treat, Adam and I spend a few minutes watching Real
Housewives while we eat Ben and Jerry’s, but after the last spoonful of ice
cream is eaten, the TV is off. It’s easy to fall into the trap of vegging out
in front of the TV in silence; though we’re sitting next to each other, we may
as well be in different rooms. Before long, 30+ minutes have passed, one of us
has nodded off, and it’s time for bed. Use that time to talk instead.
2. Eat dinner together. Granted, this does
not happen on a regular basis in my house. There are at least 2 nights per week
when one of us is away working. On those nights when I’m home but Adam is away,
between feeding Evan and wiping food off the walls, I make time to tell a story.
When Adam is home, we take turns cooking and playing with Evan . It may be
leftover spaghetti from a tupperware container, but it’s time to talk about the
day, plan for the next, and giggle as our son learns to use a fork.
3. Go for walks. Admittedly, living in
Chicago this winter has not afforded many opportunities to go outside for a
stroll, but whenever the weather is decent, all four of us (Poppy included)
strap on our coats and head outdoors for fresh air. One of us pushes the
stroller while the other takes the leash. It’s good post-meal exercise and a
chance to visit with neighbors.
4. Find a hobby you both enjoy, and DO IT.
Together. Adam and I met in the gym, and working out is what we do for fun
together. My friend laughed because on a recent Saturday when Adam and I were
both off, we scheduled a date with a personal trainer to learn some new
exercises. The trainer worked us over, and we had a great time while Evan
played with his pals at the gym daycare. Not a bad way to start our weekend,
and we left feeling fit (and sore).
5. Say no. To phone calls, texts, emails, and
Facebook. A device is constantly vibrating, chirping, or beckoning when I get
home and my rule is to let it be (unless it’s urgent). If I need to catch up with a
friend, I make that phone call during my half hour commute. Emails are returned
while at work. I try to limit Facebook to when I’m on the elliptical. It’s too
easy to spend precious minutes in front of a screen, when I could be reading
Evan a book.
6. Leave work on time. This may be the
hardest on the list (for me) to do. But if I have no obligations at work, I
make every effort to walk out of the office at 5pm. There is ALWAYS more to do,
but I remind myself that it will still be there tomorrow, and as long as it is
not urgent, it can wait, so I can get home to my family.
7. Do the ritual stuff together. Every
night around 7pm is bath time for Evan. The toys are put away, the lights dimmed,
and we wash the day away (along with whatever bits of food have managed to
sneak into Evan’s hair/eyebrows/nose). Adam and I share this duty: one bathes
and the other dries and dresses him. After bath, we read a story. Poppy sits on
the floor and listens intently as Evan turns the pages. One of us could be in
front of the TV or working on the computer, but we choose to make bath time a
8. Outsource if you can. It took us years
to swallow our pride and hire professional house cleaners, but once we finally
did we never looked back. Yes, it’s an added expense and we budget for it, but
it beats spending one of our precious few simultaneous days off scrubbing
toilets on different floors of our house. Sure, the sink may not be as spotless
as if I did it myself, but I can accept that knowing I have an extra afternoon
to go to the park.
9. Don’t feel obligated to go to every birthday
party, brunch, play date, etc… On weekends, I sometimes try to cram as much
as I can into 48 hours by going to numerous social activities. All that fun can
be exhausting, and leave me with nothing left for my family. Yes, it’s important
to maintain friendships. However, when your schedules are overrun with social
engagements, you may have no time for your own family once the party’s over.
It’s okay to decline every now and then, and my guess is that your friends can
relate to being exhausted and strapped for time.
10. Make time for yourself. How many times have
you heard “You can’t take care of others unless you take care of yourself
first?” When I do something for me – whether it’s a massage, a haircut, or reading
a magazine for fifteen uninterrupted minutes – I feel centered and human. This
balance allows me to be present and available to my family, rather than
irritated and resentful. I know my family needs me, but I imagine they prefer
to have a pleasant, happy version of me rather than a burned out and exhausted
me. If it means getting up early to work out or staying up late to have dinner
with friends, so be it. We all need time for ourselves, and we all have the
same 24 hours to find it. Get creative, and I imagine you may find a few extra
minutes (maybe even an hour!) to devote to you,
which in turn will reflect in your own family’s wellness.
Contributed by Dr. Carrie Holland.
How do you find time each day to create
balance? Please share your tips with us!
In last week’s blog, I gave you the assignment of burning a candle every day. How’d you do?
I’ve done this assignment myself, as have many of my patients. Some people don’t try this task at all, wondering why bother with something so simple – how can it possibly lead to improved health? Others excel at remembering to light their candle every day…for a few weeks…then they start to forget and revert to their old routine. In the middle of the spectrum are people who occasionally remember. On an extremely busy day, they don’t take the time or forget.
Here’s the point of the homework: if you can’t remember or take the time every single day to accomplish an activity that takes mere seconds, is free, incredibly simple, and proven to improve your mood – how do you expect to reach huge fitness goals that take hours, can cost a lot of money, and may involve pain with sore muscles?
The fact that something is good for you doesn’t usually motivate people to actually do it. You knew the scent of the candle would improve your mood. So did you light it? Your doctor (me!) told you to light your candle. Did that make you do it? After years of counseling patients I have realized that telling patients they should exercise and listing the reasons why does NOT get results. Why don’t people get healthy and stay that way?
If you want to finally get fit and have long-lasting results, the first thing you have to do is change the way you think. The foundation for my Exercise Right Now™ program is changing the way you think. Your candle assignment is an example of why you’ve failed at getting fit in the past.
First, finding time to get fit is nearly impossible. Did you find 5 seconds every single day to light your candle? The most common reason for not exercising is “I don’t have time.” I know how busy my patients are, and how busy I am with three kids and a full-time career. And so instead of finding large blocks of time to exercise each day, I can show you how to exercise while you do other things.
The next big reason for failure in a fitness program is not putting yourself FIRST- learning to make time for YOU. Were there days you didn’t even give yourself 5 seconds to stop and breathe? The 5 seconds it would have taken to light the candle? Why don’t we take better care of ourselves? It’s because we haven’t identified what’s really important to us. Once we find the right goals – not a number on a scale – we become driven and even fanatical about our health. One of the assignments in my program is re-discovering who we want to be and what we want in our lives.
The last big pitfall to having sculpted muscles and never-ending energy is trying to break out of our daily routine. Habits are very hard to change, no matter how big or how small (lighting a candle every day). The cool thing about Exercise Right Now is we attach exercise to your habits, making it very easy to get fit.
Now that you know the reason for the candle homework, try it again in light of the analogy to improving your health.Tweet
How long does it take to light a candle? 5 seconds if you have the candle and lighter nearby. Maybe a few minutes if you have to dig the candle out of a closet of unused items then find a match.
Lighting a candle has proven health benefits. Aroma can instantly change and improve your mood. Even the thought of aroma has benefits. Try this: Close your eyes for a moment, take a slow and deep breath, and imagine the smell of an early-morning spring rain. Relaxing, huh?
Lighting a candle is also easy, free, and takes very little time. So if lighting a candle has all these benefits, will you remember to do it every day?
I want you to buy a candle in a glass container. With a permanent marker, draw a line at the top of the wax and write the date. Put your candle in a place where you spend time each day: bathroom vanity, kitchen counter, or desk at work. Light it every day. Now if you’ve already thought “I can’t have an open flame at work,” you need to ask yourself why you are making excuses. Buy an electric candle warmer instead.
Over the next few weeks, see if you remember to do this new task each day. Periodically draw a new line at the top of the wax and date it as your candle burns down. This will give you a visual clue on your progress. For those of you who started this exercise a few weeks ago, how did you do? Did you light your candle every day? Or did you not even buy a candle yet? Be honest!
If you truly want to get fit and have long-lasting results, your first step is not to join a gym, buy equipment, or even exercise. Your first step is to change the way you think. That is an integral part of my Exercise Right Now™ program. I will help you change 3 critical thought processes that have kept you from achieving your health and fitness goals. First, you have to realize there is plenty of time to exercise. Second, you have to develop a burning desire to take care of YOU – learning to put yourself first. And third, you have to adjust your routines and daily habits, which is very difficult to do. If you don’t change these three things, no exercise program or diet will ever work for you.
So what does this whole candle-thing have to do with losing weight? In my next blog, I’ll explain how lighting a candle every day is a very simple first step in learning to break routines, change habits, start thinking about taking care of YOU, and learning how to make more time in your day.
We are gearing up to improved health, mental clarity, and physical fitness this year. Habits and daily routine are extremely difficult to change – that’s why most New Year’s Resolutions don’t stick, even with the best of intentions. It is easier for our brains to fall back into routine.
A mistake often made in New Year’s Resolutions is setting goals that are too big, too far in the future, too vague, and that have too many steps to achieve them. We become paralyzed and don’t move forward because we don’t know the actual steps along the way and we become discouraged because we don’t have immediate rewards to keep us motivated.
For example, a common goal for the year is to become happier. That’s all well and good, but when you wake up each morning and begin to go about your typical day, what are you going to do to suddenly get happy? Did you map out the road to happiness in your resolution? Did you identify the roadblocks to happiness? Perhaps you start your day with a positive attitude, but then the dog poops on the floor, a huge bill arrives in the mail, the kids drop an open carton of eggs onto the floor, and your coffe pot quits. You get sucked back into “life” and at the end of the day you don’t feel any happier at all – in fact, you are now more unhappy because another day passed and you failed at your resolution.
Look back over the last several years – how much have you really changed? How much closer are you to becoming the person you want to be? Have you achieved goals?
With my new FaceBook page and this blog, I will share with you what I’ve been teaching my patients in my private practice and to audiences I speak to across the country. I will be introducing you to “Right Now™ Living.” This philosophy I developed will help you achieve your goals and improve your mental, physical, and emotional fitness. Your health and your goals/dreams are intertwined. You can not successfully achieve one area without working on the rest. And so you will see tips from me that address all of those areas – not just weight loss or exercising more.
We are still in our first week. We will be taking baby steps towards your improved health, so that the process is very easy, do-able, rewarding, and so it sticks. Here are your assignments for week 1:
1. Start drinking enough water each day. See how here.
2. 20 minutes of cardio every single day. No excuses (feel free to send excuses so I can help you around them). I don’t care what you do – treadmill, jog in place, run around your kitchen with the kids, dance. The only rule is get your heart rate up for 20 minutes. If you have to stop and rest, that’s o.k.
3. Buy a notebook/journal. Size should be convenient to carry with you (mine is 5X7) but big enough to log data for the year. It should be visually appealing .
4. Buy a scented candle in a jar/glass container. It should be medium-sized.
5. Pick a place to keep your candle where you can enjoy it every day . Bathroom vanity? Desk? Kitchen counter?
That’s it for week 1. I told you it would be easy. Let me know how you are doing on the FaceBook page.Tweet
Ok UPside™ Tribe – no more excuses, diets, counting calories, expensive equipment, gym memberships or colon cleansing. It is time to finally start achieving your fitness goals. We are already starting week 2 of 2013. How many of you made fitness-related resolutions? How’s it going so far? I intentionally gave you that first week on your own to get started. But now I’m stepping in to make certain you get more fit this year.
Why? Because we at the UPside tend to be caretakers, looking after others before ourselves. And we are crazy-busy with life – not to mention we have a child with special needs that can add some extra responsibilities. It is hard for us to find time to take care of Number 1. But we have to start. Our health is our foundation. If we don’t have our health, the choices of what we can accomplish each day start to become limited.
I’ve been teaching my patients how to easily get fit for over 10 years. For eight years, I’ve offered one-on-one personal consulting on fitness and have been lecturing around the country. Now it’s time to put this information out there where it is accessible to more people. I’m adding a FaceBook page and new stuff to my website. None of this is complete – the new FaceBook page is just a baby. The website hasn’t changed at all yet. Another sweepstakes is in the works. But I can’t wait any longer to get started! It is January 6, 2013 already! We all have to start getting more fit, Right Now™!
I’ll explain more later about my tips and techniques and philosophy. I’ll add more bells and whistles to the website. There will be time devoted to helping you focus on your individual goals. But for today WE JUST NEED TO JUMP IN AND GET FIT!
Do you have any of the following goals?
-Have more energy
-Decrease brain fog
-Sculpt abdominal muscles before summer
-Eliminate back pain
-Develop a more positive attitude
-Find more time to do the things you love
If so, I can help. Stay tuned – as I said, there is much to come. But we are starting RIGHT NOW™. I don’t care what your fitness level is. No more procrastinating. Check my new FB page for todays assignment!
Christmas eve is one of the busiest days of the year – in addition to all my usual responsibilities and last-minute holiday preparations, I always have an uncontrollable urge to tidy up loose ends from my entire year. So I’m not sure what possessed me last week, on December 24, to get a new puppy for our kid’s Christmas present. My husband and I spent a total of six hours driving and three hours selecting the puppy and completing paperwork. I invested nine hours on a day when I had “no free time,” to purchase a dog – which will add more time and responsibility to my already crazy schedule.
Why? Perhaps I’ve entirely gone off the deep end and lost my mind. But my thought process was this: my life has become very practical, structured, and focused on things I “have to/should do”. Being spontaneous and doing something just for fun is very low on my priority list. I knew if I got a puppy I would be forced to “stop and smell the new-puppy-smell.” A puppy’s energy and tiny bladder remind me to put aside whatever else I’m doing and pay attention to her. This week has been great for our family: We have laughed, gone for walks, and spent more time with the kids. When I wake up in the morning, I can’t wait to get puppy out of her kennel and watch her wiggle about and lick all the kid’s faces. I absolutely adore this little creature.
With the New Year approaching, I am evaluating my successes/disappointments of the prior year and deciding how I want to change in 2013. The first area I want to improve upon is to take better care of ME, with a list of resolutions to improve my physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Second, I want to make better use of each moment, each day. I’ve learned from my hospice patients some invaluable lessons. First, health is the foundation for our life; without our health, our daily choices of what we can do become limited. Second, we all have a finite number of Right Now™ moments. We have a choice how we spend every single moment, and we should be certain to enjoy each day.
Unexpectedly, puppy is helping me with my self-improvement plans. I often complain that I just don’t have enough time in the day. My to-do list continues to grow. Before going to sleep, I stress over what I didn’t finish that day. When I wake, I worry how much I’ll be able to get done that day. It’s a constant feeling of incompleteness and disrupts my peace.
And yet somehow this week, I found several extra hours each day to devote to puppy. I want to be sure she is healthy, well-adjusted, and happy, so I make sure she has whatever she needs. When given choices like clean out my email or take the dog for a walk, the choice is clear. Fold that load of laundry or play tug-of-war? And so there is time for whatever I make time for. We can really only do one thing at a time (in contrast to what our multi-tasking society has taught us), and so in each second we must chose activities that fulfill our life’s goals, instead of wasting our limited Right Nows on unimportant tasks.
Puppy also reminded me I tend to take better care of others than myself. Why do I put reading a book, exercising, taking a hike, and other things that improve my well-being at the bottom of my to-do lists? I would never fail to make sure my kids are getting enough sleep, staying physically active, and enjoying their day. I took better care of puppy this week than of myself. I could delve deep into my past and personality and try to discover why I am such a good caretaker. Or, I could simply make my New Year’s Resolution this: Pretend I am a puppy.
1. Go outside for fresh air every hour, no matter what the weather.
2. Drink nothing but fresh water.
3. Eat nothing but the highest quality food (if only it were as easy as pouring it out of a bag), and eat three meals per day.
4. Get a good night’s sleep.
5. Take a nap every day.
6. Make someone giggle.
8. Take vitamins.
9. Take time to have my nails and hair done.
10. Give my family lots of kisses.
11. Run around the yard for exercise.
I’m hoping with this simple philosophy, and with puppy as a daily reminder, I will take better care of ME in 2013. Puppy will also continue to prove I do have enough time each day – as long as I identify what is most important to me and eliminate or reduce the rest. We have choices on what we do with each moment – with all of our Right Nows™. Let’s fill our 2013 moments with the things that matter most to us, and things that keep us healthy and energetic.
P.S. Our puppy remains nameless! I’m open to suggestions. Perhaps a holiday or winter name since she was a Christmas gift. Or maybe an October theme: her birth month and my favorite month.
P.P.S. If you’d like to add a cocker spaniel to your family, Hearthside Country is a licensed and inspected breeder. Plus – they are just good people! I was extremely impressed with how they care for their dogs and with their super-clean facility.Tweet
Just Do It.
It’s now a famous slogan, and really, it has become a mantra of sorts for a generation. Unfortunately, “Just Doing It” isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Sometimes, we all need a push, a goal, an “inspiration.”
Whether you want to reach your ideal weight, get fit, or just find life balance, there are some really simple ways to get inspired and commit to your own self-improvement.
Read a book or article.
Finding information about your goals or activities of interest can inspire you. Reading about healthy eating, exercises, or other activities you can do for yourself can really get you motivated to start, and stick with, your self-improvement program. And when you feel like you need a boost, revisit pages or chapters, or find additional books and articles to keep the fire burning to help you reach your goal. Need recommendations? Leave a comment or send me an email and I’d be happy to share some of my favorites.
Tell a friend … and sign up early
Planning to run a 5K? Or maybe you’re tackling something more aggressive, like a half-marathon or some other exercise goal. Tell someone close to you about your goal, and sign up early. Sharing your news with supportive family and friends will help keep you focused, and committing to the event will put it on the calendar and make it more difficult to drop out.
Use others as inspiration.
We all have friends and family members that have gone through positive changes, even though they are just as busy and involved as we are. Use those friends and family to say to yourself, “If Jan can do it, I can do it.” Then, go to this person, and tell him or her that they have inspired you. It will not only flatter them, but I’ll bet they’ll share some tips with you to make it easier to get started.
Getting inspired is the first step on the path to self-improvement. And after you start to see results, the inspiration starts to appear on its own.
Good luck in your travels, and do yourself a favor: get inspired … Right Now.Tweet
We go to bed at night and sleep for eight(ish) hours (hopefully). Then we wake up and work for eight hours. That leaves eight hours left in your day. What will you do with your other eight?
Many of us are exhausted at the end of our work day. We don’t have the energy to engage in a hobby, go to the gym or sometimes even cook a meal. Wouldn’t it be nice to have more energy in the evenings to get the most out of our free time?
The Secret? Exercise.
I know what you’re thinking … but it’s true.
By incorporating exercise into your workday you can strengthen your muscles and have more energy.
These are some cube-friendly exercises to strengthen your core Right Now! Try a few moves on your lunch break or take a few minutes to give your mind a rest and work out your body!
Try this twist on the traditional abdominal crunch: Sit up straight in your chair, with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your hands on the sides of your head and curl your body downward. Squeeze your abs tight, rise back up and repeat.
Plank poses are great for strengthening your abs. Place your hands on the edges of your desk chair and walk your feet backwards until your body forms an angle. Place your toes hip-width apart and lift your hips to form a straight line from your shoulders to your heels. Hold for 30 to 45 seconds.
Replace your chair with an exercise ball to work your abs. This is one way to improve your balance and tone core muscles. Sit up straight on the ball with your feet planted firmly on the floor. Feel your abs contracting to hold yourself in good alignment. While seated on the ball, move your hips around in circular motions. Do a set going clockwise, then change and do a set going counterclockwise.
These are just a few easy ways to incorporate fitness into your everyday routine, without intruding upon your leftover eight hours! For even more ways to incorporate fitness into your daily routine try my Fitness Flash Cards. You can carry them with you or keep them at your desk, or other places it’s convenient.Tweet
The new year is an exciting time. It offers a fresh start and perspective on many things. Here are a few tips on staying safe, sane and healthy the whole year.
1.) In sickness and in health
Staying healthy is usually number one, or at least top five on most people’s hopes for the New Year. Whether it’s the cold and flu season or not, most viruses enter the body via your nose, eyes and mouth. So avoid touching those areas, and wash your hands with soap and water frequently. Sneeze or cough into a tissue. If you do get sick, stay home to avoid passing it along to others. Also remember to keep a steady fitness routine at least three days a week for 30 minutes.
2.) Eat, drink and be wary.
You may find yourself starting a new diet with the New Year. Instead of trying to avoid the foods you love most, aim for portion control. Exercise and nutrition are about finding a good balance.
3.) If you can’t stick to your routine, adjust it.
Try incorporating fitness into your normal activities, from doing the dishes to folding laundry to shopping. This multi-tasking is an easy way to make sure your long to-do list doesn’t get in the way of exercising. My Right Now fitness series features a wide variety of exercises to do while going about your daily routine. Bonus: when you order before Jan. 13 you’ll receive a free fitness decal!
4.) Stay positive.
Depression can occur at any time, at any age. It’s important to acknowledge your feelings, and to reach out for help. Keeping your expectations realistic is key. Life does not have to be perfect, and things may change and adapt over the years. Be open to those changes.
5.) Take a break.
Sometimes, you just need to step away from the madness. The upsets in your lifestyle are temporary. Taking a break from it all – whether it’s a cup of hot cocoa in a bubble bath, or taking an hour or two to read a book – can help you remember that, and make you appreciate life even more.
6.) Form a team.
Life is easier with friends and family. Form a circle of friends and family you can enjoy time with and rely on. Have a party at your house, with snacks and wine or enjoy a movie. It’s a great excuse for extra girl time.
Take a “me” day and visit a spa for a massage, or have your hair or nails done. You’ll feel like a new person, ready to take on the world and anything else life throws at you.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a lesser-known type of depression that occurs most often during the winter months. Symptoms include increased appetite with weight gain (weight loss is more common with other forms of depression), increased sleep and daytime sleepiness (too little sleep is more common with other forms of depression), less energy and ability to concentrate in the afternoon, loss of interest in work or other activities, slow, sluggish, lethargic movement, social withdrawal and general unhappiness and irritability. It’s important to seek medical attention if you believe you’re suffering from SAD. There are a variety of treatment options available.
9.) Remember family time
Your family should be central to your life. Start a tradition like a Christmas lights tour together, visit a local museum or take a walk in the park. Just remember to enjoy every moment with one another, the good, the bad and the just plain ugly.
10.) Take a look ahead.
This is a time to look ahead. As you’re making your resolutions, think about ways to live a healthier, happier life…Right Now. Enjoy each day by building a foundation of health and well-being.Tweet