Susan Duncan

I’m pretty certain that the angels that are being referred to in the Christmas carol, “The First Noel”, did not say, “Eat as many cookies, cakes, pies, and candy as you possibly can before the season is over”. However, this time of year, everywhere we turn, there is another opportunity to eat sweets, eat too much, and pack in the calories. This coupled with the shorter days, darker mornings, colder climate, and the hustle bustle of the season, many of us are skipping our work-outs in favor of one more hour of sleep, the company holiday party, or getting those final items on our shopping list.

I want to give you a few practical tips that may help you this time of year minimize the negative consequences that sometimes go along with this season.

On Eating

-Bring fruit or salad to the potlucks and eat some of it.
-Put fruit on your plate. You don’t have to “go without” the sweets, just eat more fruit.
-Share everything with a friend.
-Eat half of every dessert you choose and give away or throw away the rest.
-Indulge your curious tongue with a bite of everything, but just a bite.
-Set limits (i.e. 1 dessert a day, or 2 cookies a day). Carefully select that dessert.
-If you can’t stop thinking about the pie before you start your meal, eat the pie before you start your meal. This will enable you to actually enjoy the meal after and maybe even make you eat less.
-Practice mindful eating. Meaning, as you are eating, be aware that you are eating, and what the food tastes and feels like. Enjoy each bite.
-Decide before you eat that what you have on your plate is going to please you enough.
-Be aware of the sugar crash and then the thoughts to have more. Remind yourself that this is just your brain’s way of dealing with the sugar and seeking bio-balance.
-Remind yourself that there will be plenty more cookies, cakes, candy, and pie in your life. This is not your “last supper”.
-Remember that sugar is an addictive substance for many people. The more you have, the more your want. The more you have, the more quantity you have to eat each time for the same “high” effect.
-Don’t eat in front of the TV.
-Don’t eat alone.
-Re-gift the cookies or share them.
-Be “okay” with telling your children “no”.
-Be “okay” with telling yourself “no”.
-Throw it all away (my motto: it can go on my butt or in the garbage, my choice)

On Exercise

Something is better than nothing (20 minutes, 10 minutes, 5 minutes?)
Cut your work-out in half instead of not going at all.
Move as much as you can.
Park far away from the mall entrance.
Take a quick walk around the block before bed.
Take the stairs.
Play active games with your children (chase, hide-and-seek, wrestling, ball, frisbee, Wii).
Have more sex.
Walk at lunch.
Take the long way to the cafeteria.
Think about exercise as a reward to your body for working all day instead of sweets being a reward

The most important thing to remember is that each moment you have the opportunity to start anew and make a new choice. Don’t beat yourself up for the choices you’ve already made. This is a very unproductive thing to do. Just begin again.

Now excuse me, I’m going to do 10 jumping jacks.

If I can do it, you can do it!

“My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four unless there are three other people.” – Orson Welles

“Rice is great if you’re really hungry and want to eat two thousand of something.” – Mitch Hedberg

Sometimes when my daughter and I are riding our bikes, we will be going full speed down a hill and she will turn around to look at me. I cringe at the thought of her hitting a bump or losing her balance… you can picture the rest. I yell, “Focus on you, Darlin’. Focus on you!”

I like using this analogy of riding a bike for living life. First, its important to have a well maintained vehicle with enough air in the tires and grease on the gears. It is also important to know where home is, so if it starts to rain or you are done for the day, you have a place to rest.

As you are riding, it is important to not spend time looking behind you lest you hit a tree. Looking too far ahead may also cause you to lose your balance or miss a bump in the road for which you might need extra concentration. Carrying extra weight or baggage will make your ride a little more difficult and a little slower. Focusing on the other riders will take your concentration off the most important thing – which is your own balance. Without your own sense of balance, you will hit the pavement hard (and that does not feel good, believe me).

If you do fall and you are injured, please call 911 or at least a team of caring friends and loved ones that can help patch you up. Don’t wait too long to get back on that bike. Fear may begin to consume you and you may find yourself doing a lot of sitting around (watching your waistline expand).

When you get on that bike again, focus on you.

And maybe, just maybe, during your ride, you can appreciate how the sun feels on your face, how good it feels to move your body, how the wind feels on your cheeks, how satisfying it feels to challenge yourself with that extra steep hill, and then how exhilarating it feels to speed down, or how relaxing it feels to coast around the neighborhood.

Who would have thought that animals such as ourselves could balance on two wheels? If it were any other animal, it would look like a circus act!

Focus on you and you’ll make it look easy.

If I can do it, you can do it!

“In today’s society we sometimes forget to balance our hearts and our heads; this is the reason we stop laughing.” – Yakov Smirnoff

“No person, no place, and no thing has any power over us, for ‘we’ are the only thinkers in our mind. When we create peace and harmony and balance in our minds, we will find it in our lives.” – Louise L. Hay

 

I am in the fortunate position of knowing how life “really is” for most people. I hear the secrets of their past, the pain of their present, and their fear of the future. I hear what really goes on for them in between their ears and about their daily work to keep enough balance lest it implode or explode.

There is not a person out there that does not struggle. If there is someone who is telling you that they do not struggle, look at their relationships and you will find the truth. Struggling is a part of being alive – it is part of the proof that you are alive. Even if you choose to blame your struggles on others or on life circumstances or on the weather, it is still struggle.

My point in all of this is that sometimes I think it should be easier. Sometimes I look at people I admire and I think, “why does it seem so easy for them?” “I want to be more enlightened or more popular or more well-spoken.”, etc. And then I begin to feel like I’m not as good as them – not only that I’m not as talented, but that somehow I’m not as worthy. And then I know I’m really in trouble.

There is not a person on this earth who is more or less worthy than you. This is a really really difficult concept to embrace when we have judging brains and a social system made up of capitalism, competition, and haves and have-nots. But when you have true empathy at its core, you begin to see that we’re all on this boat together. And although someone may be a better architect or have more letters after their name or have longer legs, they do not have any more of a right to breathe the air we breathe, have a stronger opinion, or take up more space (physically, emotionally, or psychically).

I am drawn to certain people because they encourage me to grow and learn and live with greater integrity. If I then use them as a means to judge myself, that defeats the purpose. And, just because I am not “there” (wherever “there” is) yet on my spiritual or professional journey, it does not mean I am less of a person. It also does not mean that they are necessarily “further along” or do not struggle.

Today I am going to believe my life has purpose and meaning. Today I am going to allow my struggle to remind me that I am just like you and you are just like me. Thank goodness I am not alone.

If I can do it, you can do it.

 

“Oh, God, I struggle with low self-esteem all the time! I think everyone does. I have so much wrong with me, it’s unbelievable!” – Angelina Jolie

“I have always fought for ideas – until I learned that it isn’t ideas but grief, struggle, and flashes of vision which enlighten.” – Margaret Anderson

 

Our bodies and brains need us to take care of them. They need a certain amount of sleep, good, healthy food, and exercise to work at their best. If we are not doing all of these things, we are not working at our best. The consequences of this are plentiful – irritability, depression, inattention, impulse control issues, moodiness, sluggishness, anxiety, procrastination, weight problems, heart and other health problems, stress… need I say more?

Perfection is not needed in these areas. Do not set yourself up for failure. (“I don’t have time to go to the gym for an hour, so I’m not going to go at all.”) Set your goals small and obtainable. After reaching your goals for 1-2 weeks, increase them. If you slide out of the habit, start again with small obtainable goals. Each moment of every day you get the opportunity to start anew.

Health professionals recommend that adults get 75 minutes of rigorous exercise a week. That is about 11 minutes a day. Can you jump rope or run around the block for 11 minutes a day? Start with 1 or 2 minutes and work your way up. Something is better than nothing.

For healthy exercise standards, go to http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/exercise/AN01713

Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Only you know how much sleep enables you to function at your best. Set a goal of increasing or decreasing the amount of time you spend in bed each night by 5 minutes.

To view healthy sleep requirements, go to http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/how-many-hours-of-sleep-are-enough/AN01487

To learn some ways to improve your sleep habits, go to http://www.helpguide.org/life/sleep_tips.htm

For a personalized healthy eating regime, see a nutritionist.

Hire a life coach to help with the follow-through and accountability.

If I can do it, you can do it!

 “To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” – Buddha

 

 

Do you ever have something to do that just seems too difficult? Maybe you just aren’t in the mood. Maybe you’re really tired. Maybe it’s a task for someone else that seems pointless. How do you respond when this comes up for you?

Do you procrastinate – putting it off to some imagined time when you will be more in the mood to do it?

Do you lay down and take a nap hoping that this will lift your energy enough to do it?

Do you make excuses to those you are accountable to as to why you didn’t do it or why it’s not a priority? Do you try to talk your way out of it?

Do you ignore it, hoping that no one will notice, or that in the end it really won’t matter?

Well, I am here to tell you that if you want to reach your goals, procrastination, napping, making excuses, and ignoring the issue will not help you in your quest.

Sometimes goals seem insurmountable. When I start to feel this way, I break down my goal into small obtainable tasks. Sometimes I have to break down the goal into a task that may seem silly or senseless, but in my view, once I have forward momentum, the rest will take care of itself. Also, when I complete a task, no matter how small, I gain a sense of accomplishment which motivates me to continue on.

This is how I tackle my fitness regime. I love the way I feel after I have completed a run. I am no marathon runner nor do I go very fast, but my days are always better when I go for a run. I gain uninterrupted time to work through issues or let go of stress, and I get the “high” of the endorphins that are released in my brain while I run. I love this. I need this.

However, the process of actually getting me to go running, despite all of these wonderful benefits, is sometimes difficult. The whiny voice in the back of my head begins “I’m too tired. I don’t want to. I don’t care”, etc. I feel defeated before I even get up off the couch.

This is the point where I have learned to break it down. I begin to make deals with myself as I break down the “insurmountable” goal of running into baby steps.  First, I decide that all I have to do is change my clothes. I just have to put my running clothes on, and then if I want to lie down on the couch, I can. Once my running clothes are on, I tell myself that I just need to walk outside and take a deep breath. If I then still want to do something else, I can. With each of these “accomplishments”,  I gain momentum. My next goal is to just run to the end of the street. If I decide at that point I want to return home and take a nap, I give myself permission. And then I go running. And then I get all of the positive effects that the running gives me – including more energy.

Break things down into small doable steps. Even if these baby steps seem ridiculous, your brain will like this game. You will learn to procrastinate less and practice success more.

If I can do it, you can do it!

 

 “Procrastination is one of the most common and deadliest of diseases and its toll on success and happiness is heavy.” – Wayne Gretzky

 

 

 

 

We are the only species that endures consequences for our mistakes/shortcomings more than one time. We do something that we consider imperfect or we fall short of our expectations, and then we spend much of our time berating ourselves for our “failures”.

Put the bat away. Stop beating yourself up. This is one of the most unproductive ways that our brains believe they are helping us when they are not. Our brains think that if they make us feel really badly about our actions (releasing chemicals that make us feel negative feelings and deplete our energy), we will not repeat the actions. This is completely nonsensical.

Productive thought is simple. Walk through the scenario once, maybe twice and ask yourself these questions:

1 – Given the information that I had available to me at the time, did I do my best?

2 – Given the information that I have now (hindsight), is there anything I can do to amend the situation (apologize, clean up the mess, set a boundary, forgive, etc.)?

3 – How can I behave differently in the future should this scenario present itself again?

4 – Am I willing to commit to practice behaving differently should this come up again?

I sometimes beat myself up for not “doing” enough. I have friends that work full-time, are full-time parents, write books, travel to exotic locations, and cook dinner every night for their families. While my daughter prefers the snack-type meals that I prepare for her, I sometimes feel “less than” those who appear to be doing more. I have to continually remind myself that I am doing my best. I am doing my best to manage my time. I am doing my best to define who I am and set my priorities accordingly. I am not everybody else; I am me. I am good enough. I am doing enough.

What good is an accomplishment if the road getting there is full of self-flagulation?

If I can do it, you can do it!

“The point isn’t to live without any regrets. The point is to not hate ourselves for having them.” – Kathryn Schulz

What is the first thought you have when you wake in the morning?

“Coffee”
“Need more sleep”
“Why won’t anyone let me sleep in?”
“Did I actually get any sleep last night?”
“I can’t do this anymore!”
“There’s that pain in my knee again.”
“Oh, my, look at the time!”
“GET UP – the children (work, spouse, etc) need you!”

Your first thought in the morning not only sets the tone for the day, but also says a lot about you and how your brain is wired.

Your brain does best what it practices doing.

See if you can begin to build some first-thing-in-the-morning thought awareness. When you become aware, STOP. What is your thought? Is this a productive thought? Is this thought reflecting who you want to be and how you want to spend your day?

Then our brains say, “But its TRUE! Everyone is too loud. Or I actually didn’t get any sleep. Or I really do feel like I can’t do this anymore”. STOP. See if you can turn it around.

I want to be someone that gets up in the morning and has excitement about the day. “I am so excited about this day (or at least my coffee), I’m going to sing in the shower”.

I want to be someone who has nice things to say to the people around them. “I am going to thank my children for making noise because it is proof that they are in my life and I am so glad they are in my life”.

I want to be someone who sleeps. “I am going to continue to work on my sleep issues. I am going to do the best I can today with little sleep.”

I want to slow down and still be on time. “I am going to STOP for one more minute and enjoy the sunlight coming through my window or say 5 things I am grateful for today”.

This practice will not make your knee pain go away. This practice will not make your house more quiet. This practice will not make your “to-do” list shorter. But, what this practice will do is enable you to be more of who you desire to be while your knee hurts and your house is noisy and you accomplish task after task after task.

The brain will chatter on and on and on and on. Its like a goat – it chews on whatever is in front of it. Feed it good food.

If I can do it, you can do it!

 

“First thing every morning before you arise say out loud, ‘I believe,’ three times.” – Ovid

“I think that when you get dressed in the morning, sometimes you’re really making a decision about your behavior for the day. Like if you put on flipflops, you’re saying: ‘Hope I don’t get chased today.’ ‘Be nice to people in sneakers.’” – Demetri Martin

I will be honest with you. I am no expert at social media, marketing, or being web-site savvy. I am a lover of writing, blank paper, encyclopedias, and hardcover books. Seeing something on paper makes it more real somehow.

But, alas, I have found myself in the age of ever changing and evolving technology. In order to make my dreams come true, I must accept and learn a few things about the world of networking and social media.

It started with the development of my web-site. I was confronted for the first time with the need to sell myself. This is foreign to me. What I am good at is being genuine. What I am good at is being a model for structure, self-care, and self-forgiveness (for my human foibles). These strengths do not fit into the model of selling yourself. Selling yourself requires creating an entity that is a version of you that people will want more of. So I grappled slowly with creating this entity – this image – that I wanted to portray, and had a difficult time feeling that somehow I wasn’t being genuine. And yet, even with this entity that I created, which was mostly me (without the human foibles), I was concerned that it wasn’t the “me” that others would like or accept. I felt vulnerable to the hyper criticism and judgement of others. But I did it anyway.

The next step was joining a social networking group. I was on Facebook about 4 years ago for about 3 months. Literally, I was on Facebook for about 3 months straight until I decided I wanted to live my life and not just talk about how I was living my life. I made some connections with some people from my past that were wonderful and beautiful (Randy Ehrhard, Rest in Peace); and I made some connections with people from my past that were very uncomfortable (I was hoping to forget that one particular night). So, here I am again, joining another networking site, LinkedIn. I am asking people I haven’t spoken with in years to “join my network”. I am getting requests from people that I barely know to “join their network”. People are looking at my profile. Once again, I am feeling vulnerable to the eyes and projections of others. But I am doing it anyway.

And now look at me! I have graduated! I am writing a blog. And I think, out of the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of blogs out there, why would a person select mine to read? I, personally, think I have a lot of very intelligent and insightful things to say, but why would anyone else think that? And, how do I share myself honestly (and appropriately) and not turn others off to the entity that they expect me to be? This is all very confusing.

So, I will continue to do what I do best. This is what I have to offer. I promise you my blog will be honest (appropriately). I promise you my blog will give you tips on how to live a healthier lifestyle and have more peace inside. I promise you I will continue to grow and learn and change as I take on new challenges. My hope is that this, in turn, will encourage you to take on new challenges as well.

If I can do it, you can do it!

 

I have come to realize that all my trouble with living has come from fear and smallness within me.”

-Angela L. Wozniak

 

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