So I saved the hardest one for last, well at least the hardest one for me. I am not the poster child for fitness 5x a week and when my favorite online fitness and nutritional coach challenged us to 28 days no diary, gluten, added sugar, processed food, and alcohol (that is the only one I can easily omit). I actually laughed at my computer screen. That would mean 28 days without ice-cream and chocolate, 28 days without my favorite snacky foods- fruit snacks and granola bars. Sure I could replace all of those with healthier, no processed foods, but I can’t afford for my grocery bill to go up $50 or more to shop like that.
But all that being said, I am not terribly unhealthy, I eat fruits and vegetables daily, we don’t eat a lot of refined flour – my hubby doesn’t eat carbs and for the most part I eat three balanced meals a day. Most of my grocery list is fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats, so I think its ok to buy the more yummy, and probably less healthy snacks, just being honest.
Exercise on the other hand kicks my butt. I hate being sweaty and am way too self-conscious to go to gym. I try to do Pilates at home, but since I hate to sweat I generally skip cardio day on the calendar (let me tell you big mistake!) I thought I was doing just fine with that arrangement… until my brother took us hiking while we were visiting them over Christmas. It was beautiful, but I struggled big time! I had no endurance, I guess I shouldn’t have skipped cardio! I gave up about 10 times, thankfully I started 11 times and so I made it to top, and I am so glad I did, just look at that view! But I was in rough shape huffing and puffing my way to the top, while my dad, brother and husband all looked cool as a cucumber. I guess there is something to be said for cardio day!
I know exercise and diet are probably two of the biggest New Year’s Resolutions that Americans make each year! But they are also probably the quickest to be given up on. So this year we are not going to make them resolutions, we are going to make them goals. My fitness goal for 2017 is cardio (obviously)! Our New Year’s Resolution shouldn’t be crazy diets, or hard core work out plans. We have to start small and be realistic. I know that cross-fit isn’t for me, (hello sweating) so why would I start there? I am going start small, I can do cardio dance in the privacy of my own home! So that is where I am going to start!
So I think this goal here should be balance: you can have ice cream and chocolate and all the good stuff as long as you also eat healthy as well! You don’t have to give anything up to make room for exercise in your schedule, start small, maybe it’s at home, maybe you and a friend agree to walk the neighborhood together a few times a week!
But why do we need to live a healthy lifestyle! Well besides the idea that regular healthy diet and exercise is an obvious path to wellness, diet and exercise can reduce mental health problems especially anxiety and depression. Has anyone watched Legally Blonde? Remember, “EXERCISE GIVES YOU ENDORPHINS; ENDORPHINS MAKE YOU HAPPY” Elle Woods knew what she was talking about! Happy people are less anxious and less depressed. I am not a dietician, but from having worked with families and individuals in my time counseling, I have noticed that diet can play a huge part in mood and affect. Also having a healthy diet, and knowing you are consuming food that is good for you can increase sense of self-worth and self-esteem! Making decisions that you know are good for you will make you feel better about yourself. The same is true of exercise. Even if you don’t see immediate results, you will feel better about yourself for having done something that is a good for you!
As we finish the wellness series today as we move out of the first month of 2017 already! In writing all of these posts and making goals for myself in all these areas and am hoping that 2017 will be the best year yet! It is already shaping up to be a really great year! I hope this Wellness Challenge has been as inspiring for you as it was for me! And my final hope for you is that you can make good on your goals! Take time every few months and evaluate where you are, and if you aren’t where you want to be, don’t get yourself down, just figure out what you need to do to get back on track.
How are you going to make 2017 your healthiest year yet? Did you enjoy the wellness challenge? Let me know in the comments!
Find weeks 1, 2, 3, and 4 here for challenges for your marriage, mental wellness, making friends, and living simply!
Raise your hand if the clutter and messiness of your home overwhelm you? Raise your hand if the business of your calendar has you down? I knew I couldn’t be the only one! And that is exactly why Week 4 of the Wellness Challenge Series is going to focus on living the simple life! Simplifying your obligations, your calendar, and your home will help reduce anxiety in your life because there will be fewer tings vying for your time and energy! If you dedicate your time to a few essential tasks: work, family life, house cleaning; then you will have more energy to devote to each task. This will leave you feeling more accomplished and less anxious! If you simplify your home, keeping the necessities, and finally purging all the things you always mean to thrown away but don’t then there will be less clutter to stress you out, and will take less time to clean in general! This post will also contain my simple daily and weekly cleaning schedule that helps me keep the clutter to a minimum! There are two main places that we need to focus on when it comes to simplifying our lives: our calendars and our homes! I am going to speak to how to simplify and remove extraneous obligations and possessions and how doing so will promote wellness in you and your family! And as promised I will also be sharing how I am doing so in the New Year to help simplify my own life.
Simplifying your Calendar
Who else’s calendar already looks like this??
I know I am not the only one, and those are just the regular obligations like work, that doesn’t include spontaneous events or those events yet to be planned (obviously)! But what would happen if we didn’t have something scheduled every day? You know what would happen, we wouldn’t be run ragged, we could rest, and much to contrary belief our heads won’t fall off and nobody will be disappointed in us! Now we can’t give up work or spending time with family, or taking care of our pets (that is most of what is scheduled on my calendar right now – and its already jam packed!) but, we DO NOT have to say YES every time someone asks us to help organize a function, attend a function, be classroom mom, volunteer at the homeless shelter 4 times a month, and attend every exercise class that we are invited to. While none of these things are bad in and of themselves they can distract us from our priorities in life. So Step 1 in simplifying your calendar is IDENTIFY YOUR PRIORITIES. The priorities I have are: my work, this includes babysitting (my only form of paid income at the moment), volunteer work, and my blog (which I hope to grow into a source of income); family time- both extended and with my husband; and bible study (I attend weekly bible study one day a week – PWOC for those in the Military Family, it is a wonderful source of community).
Step 2 is now that those priorities have established, figure out what events on your calendar align with your priorities and which don’t. If you have an overwhelming amount of events on your calendar that don’t align with your priorities then it is time to examine why you are involved and if you can step back from those commitments. IF you have to step away understand that while it may be difficult and uncomfortable to have those conversations, most people will understand and appreciate your honesty. And in the long run, nobody will be disappointed in you. So know that it is 100% ok to step back from activities, committees or groups.
So now we have simplified your calendar so you can focus on your priorities! YAY! What a relief to think about starting off the year with less commitments! Leaving you more time to relax and enjoy the spontaneous parts of life (like a night out on the town with the hubby or trip to the dog park with a friend)! You will have more time to spend with the kids so you won’t look back and say with regret all the things you missed when they were little or whatever else you feel like you are missing out on now because of the business of life. Now let’s turn to simplifying your home!
Simplifying your Home
Now I am not the poster child about livin’ in a minimalism style, that’s just not me. If you were coming to my house, well right now it’s still decorated for Christmas, but normally would be a rustic chic style with lots of pictures everywhere. It’s full of memories in still life form and trinkets from all parts of our lives. But I try to declutter as often as I can. Knowing that I will be moving this summer I am already mentally prepping for the purge, even though we just went through one last summer when I moved here! So here is the list of things I will be purging this time around: duplicates of anything (I have 156 cups in my kitchen or so it seems anyway); old files, bills, pieces of paper that are not necessary; old calendars (I am so guilty of keeping my old calendars and agendas when I get a new one); anything that is broken (I am the queen of I will fix it one day); clothes I don’t wear- that don’t fit, have holes in them, stained beyond repair; books I have read and will never read again.
If I threw away (or gave away or sold) just those things, I could probably fill several garbage bags, the big black ones. And it wouldn’t take me very long if I just sat down and did it. I am a sentimental pack rat so for me I have to take emotion out of the process or find a way to consolidate - I think this is where my scrapbooking hobby comes from! If you can’t throw it away yourself ask a friend or your husband to help, as the items may have less sentimental value to them. Now I am not talking about throwing away memorabilia from your wedding or babies or any other special moment, but do you really need to keep your notes from your high school classes (yes, I graduated in 2010 and just threw them away, still have my college ones though…) or that rock collection you have that came mostly from your grandmother’s gravel driveway (yup, guilty again).
Finally, and this is really the biggest point: Do you feel relaxed in your own home? If the answer is yes than you are doing ok! If the answer is sometimes, figure out why sometimes you just can’t unwind – is it because it’s cluttered, messy, things don’t have their own place, it’s not cozy. Then just work on that area. If it is clutter, then get rid of the unnecessary stuff, garbage on the table and counters, put pens in a jar, use baskets to organize like items so it looks neat on the shelves. If its messy then find a cleaning schedule that works for you. HERE is the cleaning schedule I try to follow in my house, it’s not a deep clean, but it makes the house feel neat and tidy. If it’s not cozy the try adding fun pillows, blankets, candles and lamps so that your living spaces are warm and inviting!
You don’t want your own home to make you anxious, you want home to be a safe haven from the crazy world outside The less your home makes you anxious, the less you will schedule to keep you out of the house (see how I put those two together)! Having down time will allow you to recuperate, relax, rest and recharge for you to tackle your next task! Without that you will run yourself into the ground! Obviously exhaustion is the opposite of wellness, our goal of happy and healthy selves in the New Year. So give yourself a break, you don’t have to do everything & you don’t have to have a Pinterest worthy home, as long as its relaxing for you!
So far we have covered, marriage, mental wellness, and now onto friendships. As a marital relationship, friendships also contribute to over all wellbeing. Friendships increase a sense of belonging and purpose, boosts happiness, reduces stress, can help you cope with traumas, and encourage you. However, we do need to be careful about the friends we choose. Toxic friendships can influence us in negative ways, dragging us down, increasing stress, and discouragng you from positive behaviors, and encouraging negative behaviors. As you see friends are important, but its more so the quality of friends you have that make your life better.
My husband just hit his year active duty mark in the military, just two weeks after our one year wedding anniversary. I knew moving around was part of the life-style before we got into it. And I felt like I was prepared because I had moved around a bit as a child; however, I was not prepared for how quickly I would make meaningful and lasting friendships with some wonderful ladies (I guess having to rely on them when your husbands are never home for months does that to you!) and how quickly I would have to say goodbye. I have been here for 6 months and I have already made life-long friendships and I have already had to say good bye to many friends! How could 6 months bring so much change? I saw on my Facebook page this morning a video for my “2016 in Review” and in that it showed me how many friends I had added this year, 76. That is crazy to me! Basically that means 76 new ‘friends’ (I don’t hang out with most of those, but still that’s a lot of new connections in just 6 months).
So it kind of seems like friendships are hard to come, easy go; which is extremely difficult if you are not already an outgoing person, eager to constantly be putting yourself out there, making new friends. For some people this is really discouraging. How do you cope with the constant flux of friendships that we experience as military spouses? It can be difficult to deal with, especially as a new spouse, I had no idea how quickly this would hit me. I was not prepared for having made friends and them leave so quickly. Here are some simple ways I have found to cope with transitions:
When the friends we initially make begin to move away, it is hard to find motivation to go out and cultivate new friendships. In my work as a counselor with military families I have heard many women say, “what’s the point of making friends here, we are just going to be gone in a few months anyway.” And I have felt that a few times myself. I am especially feeling that now with many of my friends having left or are about to leave. Furthermore, we are only looking at being here for a couple more months. But, I am here to tell you what the point is! The reason you make friends even if you are only going to be around a short time is that friendships help combat loneliness. And prolonged loneliness leads into depression. Now not everyone who is lonely will wind up depressed, but it certainly doesn’t help! We can’t get trapped into fearing putting ourselves out there and refuse to make new friends. As hard and uncomfortable as it is we need to continue to grow friendships regardless of how much time we have left at a duty station.
Friendships breed community. We as humans were not designed to live in isolation; we were meant to live as a community. That is why people thrive when they are plugged into their surroundings. We cannot be our best self in isolation, we will not feel good about ourselves. Self-esteem and sense of self-worth both take a hit when we try to function in prolonged isolation. Community is important no matter if you are a military family or not, but it is my experience that military families are more heavily reliant on outside communities than civilians are because they are more likely to be far from any kind of family support.
When you don’t have any family around there is no one else to rely on in times of trouble other than the community that you have built up around you. Just recently I read a Facebook post written by a spouse here at Fort Benning. She was pregnant and sick, her husband was working and unable to get home immediately, she couldn’t drive herself to the ER and had no one to watch her kids all because she had not built up a community around her. Now she is totally dependent on her husband who can’t be there for her right now. This is the kind of situation that results when you rely on far away family and friends to be your emotional support and social interactions, there is no community surrounding you when you need someone.
Just as phone and video interactions with far away family members can’t be the entirety of your social interactions, neither can your husband. Your husband cannot be your sole source of social interactions and validation. You will soon wear him out because he is not meant to be your sole emotional support; primary yes, but only, not so much. If we are not the best versions of ourselves, we cannot provide the support and validation that our husbands and children need. This creates a vicious cycle of neglect of emotional wellbeing. Now I am not saying that having friends will fill the void that might be left by relying solely on your husband, only God can do that when we lean on him. But a husband cannot be your community as much as you try to make him so. It will only leave you feeling isolated.
Your Challenge - Putting Yourself out there
I know it’s hard ladies, it takes me out of my comfort zone, just as much as yall. It can seem unfair when some really extraverted, outgoing people always seem to have friends and all the resources in the area! And you are sitting there all alone just hoping for a semblance of friendship. Now I am not saying you have to be friends with everybody. But we do have to leave our little nest of blankets and pillows on our couches (and turn off the Netflix, it will still be there when we get home) be vulnerable and open ourselves to the idea of making friends and finding community. We have to leave our comfort zone every once in a while or we will begin to feel isolated, lonely, and depressed. So maybe one day you respond and accept someone’s invitation to go to Starbucks or attend an event you normally wouldn’t. Take a chance, maybe that should be your New Year’s Resolution. You’ll probably be surprised how having a community around you will make you feel more secure.
How are you prepared to make friends this year?
And don't forget to check out Week 1, Week 2, and Week 3 here!
So who is ready for part 2 of the Wellness Challenge! This week I wanted to focus on mental health and take it a step further into mental wellness. As a trained marriage and family counselor, this is my area of expertise, helping people learn how to cope with their circumstances in ways which will help them overcome and grow rather than avoid or be manipulated by their circumstances. While mental illness is definitely a big deal (it is a subject for another time because it is so important it deserves its own space), we don't want to just avoid mental illness, we also want to thrive, and that is mental wellness. This is a preventative measure against developing mental illness. For those struggling with anxiety and depression, many of these unhealthy coping mechanisms may look familiar to you, but it is definitely possible to incorporate the healthy coping mechanisms I listed below as well! So that is why my week two goal is to continue to incorporate these Healthy coping strategies into my everyday life. And you should too, because mental wellness is affected and effects every part of your life. As we saw last week, it affects your relationships, especially your marriage; it affects work; it affects parenting; it even affects your physical health.
I recently read a blog post, 15 Unhealthy Coping Skills, written by Jackie over at Laughter & Loving Life. And it got me thinking there are so many unhealthy coping skills that we all engage in on a daily basis. I have seen so many unhealthy coping skills in my experience as a family counselor, used by both children and adults. But what I have noticed is that no matter what strategy they used, the point to these unhealthy coping skills was to avoid the problem and having to deal with it. Here are the 15 unhealthy coping skills Jackie came up with:
If we always use unhealthy coping mechanisms, we will never feel as though we have overcome the situation that is causing the stress in the first place. In fact, it will probably cause more issues and we will continue the cycle of unhealthy coping by avoiding those extra issues by using the same unhealthy patterns. It may temporarily make us feel better, but in the long run we have solved nothing, but avoiding a problem. And until the problem is solved, we will continue to be plagued by the circumstances we are actively avoiding. That is not a way to live well; which is something we should all be striving for! So from a family counselor here are 15 Healthy counter coping strategies to try out instead of the ones above. I have compiled this list from talking to clients about what works for them in difficult situations and other suggestions that other counselors often give their own clients, as well as things that have worked for me in the past.
So there you have it, 15 healthy coping mechanisms that I would recommend to any of my clients. Not all coping skills will work for everyone in all situations, but I am sure there is at least one or two that can be used in any situation by any person. With the New Year just starting, here is my challenge to you, try to replace one of your unhealthy coping skills with one of the healthy choices from the 2nd list. Try it out and see if it helps! Let me know if it does or doesn’t and why it did or didn’t work for you! But it is my suspicion that while it may be more uncomfortable in the moment, it will help you solve the issue more quickly which will remove an even bigger discomfort! So choose emotional health this New Year! And don't just settle for the absence of mental illness or lessened severity of mental illness, strive for mental health and above that mental wellness, and just maybe you'll find yourself growing in the year 20171
So your challenge this week: pick 2 to 3 unhealthy coping mechanisms and try to replace them with 1 or 2 Healthy Coping Mechanisms. Try it for a week and see if it makes a difference for you!
What are your go to coping mechanisms?
Check out Week 1 and Week 3 here!
So who is ready for the first part of the wellness challenge! I thought the first place to start was with one of our most important relationships (after our relationship with God), our marriage! The health of our marriages is extremely important! People in healthy marriages live longer (250% longer for married men and 50% longer for married women), promotes mental wellness and protects against mental illness (are less anxious and depressed), it lowers your chance of being a victim of violence both for men and women, there are financial benefits as earning potential increases for maried couples, and a better sex life (which can boost immunity, reduce stress, ease tension and headaces and all sorts of other physical benefits, as well as increasing intimacy with our spouse), leading to great self-esteem, self-worth, and feeling desired and wanted.
When our marriages are happy and healthy, we are more happy and healthy individuals and when we are more happy and healthy individuals we have happy and healthy marriages (we don't really know what comes first, its like the chicken and the egg - but regardless they occur together). Marital health and satisfaction is directly related to our overall wellbeing, which in turn will make our marriages better! But, a good marriage doesn't come without work. We need to put effort into our marriage, pray with and for our spouse, listen to them, talk to them, respect them, and cherish them. Sometimes we let our marriage fall to the way side because we become so comfortable with our partner that we stop striving to make our marriages better, but this is just harming your wellness and your spouses!
So now we know why it is important to our overall wellness to have a happy marriage, here comes the challenge!
Do you have goals for your marriage for 2017? I recently got a new planner and I am so excited! One of my favorite things about a new year is getting a new planer, looking at all the vast possibilities. This year my planner has an area exclusively dedicated to goals. What your goals for the year in several different categories: financial, personal, social, and business. It then breaks it down quarterly so you can break down your overall goals into manageable chunks. And as I was preparing my planner for the year I started to think about what I want my goals for 2017 to be! I want to grow my blog, develop professionally, learn how to save some money, and nurture my relationships. Those would be my big overall goals, and then break them down into manageable chunks.
New Year Resolutions v. Goals
Now I know everyone makes a New Year’s Resolution, but those are often broken before mid-January. Goals are more impactful, and longer lasting than a New Year’s Resolution, especially if you put it in writing. As we enter January and prepare ourselves for the coming year focusing on wellness and how we are going to live well this year remember all facets of life are important.
As you can see in the categories above my planner didn’t have a space for any marital, or relational goals. I know that not everyone purchasing the planner would be married or in a relationship, but I think this area of our lives often gets overlooked when we make goals, especially if things are already going well. We don’t really try to improve unless the relationship is on the brink of dissolution. Goals often focus on health, financial success, work, or academics. But those of us who are married or in committed relationships need to make goals concerning where we want our relationship to end up. That is why I am making goals for my marriage this year! As I am just entering my second year of marriage I want it to be even better than the first. And after all, I ask my clients to make goals for their relationship all the time in counseling so we know what we are working towards. Why would I recommend to my clients to make goals concerning their relationship if I do not do so in my relationship. I ask them to make goals because it is an effective method of charting where you want to end up and the progress you are making to get there. In counseling this is particularly effective because there is someone to hold you accountable to working towards your goal. So here are my marriage goals for 2017:
A Challenge to All
I encourage each of you to make goals for your marriage this year, write them down, and post them somewhere in your house where they can be seen on a regular basis. When making your own goals, keep it to three to minimum and five at a maximum. A manageable number will ensure that you will not get overwhelmed and forgo your goals. Make them measurable. For example, one of my goals was “to attend church at least twice a month, if not more” not just “attend church more.” This is specific and measureable. I will know if I have achieved this. Make sure your partner is on board, this helps if you sit down together to make the goals. This could be a fun date idea for ya’ll to start off the New Year. If they are joint goals they will be much easier to accomplish, you can hold each other accountable to achieve your goals. If you need further help staying accountable maybe you can partner up with another couple that you trust, share your goals with another couple and ask them to help you stay accountable, check in regularly; and you can do the same for them.
What are some of your goals for your marriage this year? Let me know in the comments!
Check out Week 2 and Week 3 here!
We have made it to 2017! It is going to be a great year! And to help it start off on the right foot (because we all know that when we have a good morning, our day is better off), each week the during month of January I am going to flesh out the biggest, most common new year’s resolutions: better marriage, mental wellness, friendships, healthy living, and more organized life and living space! Every year we pick one resolution: exercise every day, eat healthy, be a better, wife, mother and friend, be more organized, and get rid of our junk – living more simply. The problem with New Year’s Resolutions is that often even before Jan 15th we have left them behind! Why? Well A) because change is hard! And B) because we don’t always understand the holistic benefits to our wellness. While they are all great resolutions and all good things for us, really they are all just sub-components of living a lifestyle of wellness! They all work together to create a whole happy, and healthy person! Dieting is great, but are you doing it to lose a few pounds or to be a healthy person? And answering that question is why I am doing this wellness challenge.
Rather than having the best job, marriage, or body our New Year’s Resolution to be a happy person, a whole person! And all of those things listed above are great! But the ultimate goal is to be a happy and whole person! So that I what I want to help all of us accomplish this New Year, in a way that might last past Jan. 15th (even if in part it’s just because the Series goes through the end of January!) We can all do this, if we just keep that goal in mind, we don’t need to reinvent ourselves, we are already lovely and wonderful people! That is the mindset we need to maintain. So often our New Year’s Resolutions fail because we are trying to be something other than ourselves, and we are not made to do that; but we are made to be wonderful versions of ourselves, happy people!
So Week one we will look at our marriages and how they influence our overall wellbeing! Week 2, our mental wellness and how coping in healthy ways can help us grow and be bigger and better than our circumstances. Week 3, friendships and how we cannot live in isolation and our community is important. Week 4, living organized life, by taking control of our surroundings and our calendar we can prioritize our life, simplicity is all we need. And finally Week 5, healthy eating and exercise, saved this one for last because food is my kryptonite and I hate exercising!
So let’s do this together and hold each other accountable. Each week I want everyone to answer the call, and I will do the same!