September is national #SelfImprovementMonth. And I am using it as the perfect excuse to jump on the bandwagon for some added motivation. So, in honor of Self-Improvement Month, I am bringing you ladies a 4-part series for self-improvement.
For the next 4 weeks, I am going to talk tips on a self-improvement topic that you can easily incorporate into your lives. My wish for you is to embrace these topics and recommendations for a better self. Topics we will visit include: stress, mindfulness, nutrition and exercise. Here's to evolving, changing and YES, self-improving!
First up is STRESS. The impact stress has on our lives is dumbfounding. I talk a lot about how stress affects your health, but digging deeper it affects your behavior, relationships, thoughts and feelings. None of these we want to take lightly.
In my former career as a development director for a non-profit, one of my biggest tasks each year was to put on a huge fundraiser. As in – I organized and ran a dinner gala with over 500 guests, a volunteer team, sponsorships, auction, and live entertainment. It became my third “baby” each year as I sunk my heart and soul into that event raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for students with learning disabilities. It was gratifying, but it came with a price.
The problem was that the stress of doing this event also took over my life and health. I worked 70 hour weeks, barely slept, stopped workouts, and skipped meals like there was no tomorrow. The worst part though was the night I got a phone call from my daughter’s school.
It was 6:15pm and the voice on the other end of line said, “Are you still coming to pick up Marley from JCPRD (the after-school daycare)?” I gasped and frantically drove to pick up my daughter that I had freaking forgotten. At school!! I thought, WTF is wrong with me? I have completely lost my mind and my priorities and stress are out of control!! This was honestly the straw that broke the camel’s back, and I knew I needed a permanent change and balance in my life. So, fast forward to me helping YOU now! :)
Some level of stress is to be expected, but when stress becomes more than we can handle, or becomes chronic, it leads to a level that begins to affect our quality of life.
So let’s get practical and talk about three ways we can rest and recover from the stress in our lives.
1. Change the All or Nothing Thinking. If you are a person who is either always “on” or “off” when it comes to how you eat, your work load, your organization, your house or your overall life, this thought process can unfortunately set yourself up for feeling like a failure when you are far from it. Nobody is perfect – and perfect would be boring. Appreciate and find the life lessons from your mistakes and challenges. Focus on being happy with consistency, small changes and getting a little better each day. Some days are going to rock and some days not so much. Accept that this is OKAY.
2. Sleep. Get as much sleep as you can, aiming for at least 7 hours. Start a bedtime routine 15 minutes before you typically go to bed and set the scene for some solid ZZZ’s. Make your room as dark and cool as possible. Diffuse some essential oils like lavender, chamomile, bergamot, and frankincense. Crawl into bed, close your eyes and give gratitude for at least three things in your day. Our bodies need sleep to heal and repair, but it also helps us process information and perform better.
3. Breathe and Walk. These two are my go-to’s and I use them both together and separately. Whether you are sitting at your desk or driving in your car, you can practice a calming breathing technique pretty much anywhere. Just take a deep breath in through your mouth for a count of four and exhale out your mouth for an equal count of four. Repeat this 10 times and I bet you’ll feel a little better. Add a little mantra if you'd like while breathing like, "I can totally handle this. I am fine."
In addition to breathing, also try a daily walk. This is not a power walk, but instead a take-my-dog-on-a-walk style of walking. I encourage you to get outside to do this as many days as you can. Go alone or grab a friend. If I miss a day or two, I feel my body nearly go into withdrawal from needing the fresh air and movement.
So, this week we'll focus on reducing the amount of stress you have in your life by trying one or all three of these strategies above. As a starting point, note your stress level on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being “No problem Mon” and 10 being “I’m completely fried”.
If you are not even sure if it's stress that you're struggling with, try this handy flowchart from British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy and the Stress Management Society to help guide you. At the end of the week rate your stress level again and see if it has improved using some of the strategies.
As part of a healthy lifestyle, this is a process. My style is not an overnight fix, but instead small sustainable changes that over time will produce results. So, just keep at it!
Let’s get FIRED UPP,
P.S. Because I want as many women as possible to jump on the self-improvement train, I am offering a SEPTEMBER SPECIAL for Fit, Fueled & Fired Upp Healthy Lifestyle Blueprint all month long! You’ll get full access to my app in this 14-week self-guided, online coaching program for less than $25/week. Let me show you how to implement a healthy lifestyle step-by-step and hopefully drop a pant size or two while doing so. Whoo hoo! Quick and guided workouts, nutrition, mindset, stress and sleep help are all included! Let me help you be your best self!