Self-Care Mastery

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Three Feelings You Should Not Ignore

Three Feelings You Should Not Ignore

It turns out that we may have been thinking about things backwards.

We all know that we live in a high-stress world, and that stress can harm our health. We've also probably heard about ways that we can manage stressful feelings. If we manage the feelings, conventional wisdom suggests that we can lessen the stress reaction, and reduce the health consequences.

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Four Healthcare Myths that Make You Sick

Four Healthcare Myths that Make You Sick

As I shared in a recent post, the U.S. healthcare system continues to have a lot of room for improvement. Despite being quite expensive, it does not keep its citizens as healthy as the systems in other industrialized countries.

The debate for how to improve the healthcare system continues. Meanwhile, those of us who are served by this system are wise to understand its strengths and weaknesses so that we can be proactive about getting what we need.

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How to Get What You Need

How to Get What You Need

As I sit to write this, I can hear that old Rolling Stones song going through my head — "You can't always get what you want...But if you try sometimes, you just might find — you get what you need."

This week's message was inspired by several friends who, after hearing the story about my ER visit (now eight weeks ago) asked me to share more information about how I was able to advocate for myself in that situation. It's a great question.

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Bright Ideas for Better Sleep

Bright Ideas for Better Sleep

Getting enough good quality sleep is a cornerstone of maintaining good health and resilience. The list of benefits that we get from sleep is long and growing longer all the time. Yet, sleep deprivation is a very real and persistent problem in our modern culture.

Even when we try to get sleep, it sometimes eludes us. While that can stem from a variety of reasons, a very important one is how our circadian rhythm is affected by natural and artifical light.

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Three Simple Ways to Bring More Calm Into Your Day

Three Simple Ways to Bring More Calm Into Your Day

Life can be busy, even when you're on sabbatical! Over the last month, I've been exploring different ways to recalibrate my energy and increase my resiliency.

In a nutshell, this means avoiding unnecessary stress (that stimulates the sympathetic or "fight or flight" response), and intentionally engaging in practices that bring calm, steady energy (that stimulates the parasympathetic or "rest and digest" response).

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How to be More Resilient

How to be More Resilient

The road to greater well-being is rarely a straight path. Often our journeys take us up, down, and around. Sometimes it may even feel like we are going backwards! Parts of this last week felt like that for me.

No matter how much we plan, we don't know what Life has in store for us. While that can be unsettling, the good news is that there are lots of tools and practices that can help us weather the stress of unpredictability.

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Three Ways to Hang on to Your Power

Three Ways to Hang on to Your Power

Ever since my recent health challenge (aka "Perfect Storm/Paradigm Shift") and my challenging encounters with the healthcare system, I've been thinking a lot about personal power and how to help myself and others to hang on to it.

It is really easy to forget sometimes that we are the stewards of our own lives. We know ourselves better than anyone else on earth. We are the ones that are responsible for getting what we need so that we can live according to our purpose. We are also the only ones who are response-able for our lives — that is, able to respond to life challenges in ways that align with our vision and values (as opposed to reacting out of fear, anger, shame or other strong emotions).

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How to Thrive in a Broken Healthcare System

How to Thrive in a Broken Healthcare System

Wow...

What a week it has been. You may have noticed that I missed my blog post on Wellness Wednesday and I haven't been sharing much on social media (and it is o.k. with me if you didn't notice...)

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Self-Care Lessons from my Cats

Self-Care Lessons from my Cats

Last week I shared some self-care reminders that I've picked up from my dog, Princess. So, this week, I thought I'd give my cats some credit too.

There are those who firmly identify themselves as "dog-people" or "cat-people", but my family lives in an mixed household. This has provided me with an equal opportunity to appreciate the distinctions in my pets' approaches to life, and to notice some of the particular habits that serve them well. Here are a few self-care tips from Samantha and Angel that I have found helpful:

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Self-Care Lessons from my Dog

Self-Care Lessons from my Dog
If you’ve ever spent any time on social media, you know how much people love their pets. We view and share photos and videos of our four-legged friends with enthusiasm, and the images are sure to bring us smiles of affection and enjoyment. What is it about our animal companions that is so heart-warming? Of course, it feels good to be connected to other creatures, and the health benefits of having a pet are well-established. A number of studies have explored the ways that pets improve our cardiovascular and emotional health. Pets can also be good teachers of self-care, if we pay attention. They are naturally vulnerable and authentic - characteristics that experts like Brené Brown associate with “whole-hearted living”. Here are a few of the self-care lessons that I’ve learned from my dog, Princess:Be Curious — Even if you’re in the same place with the same people, stay present and engaged. If you want to keep growing, don’t assume you know everything about anything. Allow yourself to ask questions and take in new information. Curiosity is a key ingredient of mindfulness and a critical tool for creating breakthroughs in thinking and behavior. When I take a walk with Princess, she models a vivid experience of living in the moment.Relax — You probably remember from science class that the automatic part of our neurological system is designed with two complementary parts — one which helps us respond to challenges and emergencies (i.e. the sympathetic system which activates the stress response) and the other which promotes rest and repair (i.e. the parasympathetic system which activates the relaxation response). To maintain optimal health, we need a balance of stimulation between the two. Our busy culture often promotes overstimulation of the stress response. Our pets are great reminders to slow down and balance things out.Cuddle —Dogs have obvious physical needs like food, shelter, water and exercise. They want more though. They want to be petted and cuddled. It’s not just that we help them scratch in places that they can’t easily reach. It is also apparent that they enjoy our company and our touch. Research demonstrates that cuddling helps meet important physical and emotional needs. In this age of electronic interaction, we need to make sure we’re getting some cuddle-time too! Ask for What you Want and Need — When our pets sidle up to us for some love and attention, who can resist? They aren’t shy about asking, and even if we can’t accommodate them at the moment, they’ll try again later. They don’t seem to worry about what we think or whether we’ll reject them. Did you ever notice how good it feels to be able to make them happy? People like to be of service. Next time you get stopped from making a request, consider this: When you don’t ask, you are denying someone an opportunity for kindness and generosity.Show Appreciation —  The sight of our dogs bounding to meet us, tails wagging, brings us joy. It embodies a warm sense of welcome, love and belonging that never gets old to us. To our delight, it never gets old to our companions, either! We know what makes them happy — seeing us come home, scratching them in their favorite place, taking them on a walk, feeding them - because they show us. Fortunately for both of us, their expressions of appreciation help reinforce our desire to do more of what they like...which is good for us too (see #4).What about you? What self-care lessons have you learned from your pet? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
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Five Ways to Deepen Your Relationship with Movement and Exercise

Five Ways to Deepen Your Relationship with Movement and Exercise

Do you ever feel guilty about not getting enough exercise? By now we've all heard the benefits of exercise and the risks of being sedentary. It's clear that moving and exercising our bodies is a healthy habit.

The trouble with healthy habits is that sometimes we don't relate to them in powerful ways. Sometimes they become "shoulds". Before we know it, our inner two-year-olds kick in and we start to resist those habits that our wiser selves would like us to embrace. Let's face it: No one likes to be told what to do!

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Six Ways to Get the Most from Your Primary Care Visit

Six Ways to Get the Most from Your Primary Care Visit

Between changes in insurance, the looming shortage of primary care providers in the United States, short times allocated for each primary care visit, and questions being raised about the value of annual "check-ups", it isn't surprising that many people find primary health care somewhat confusing.

It's true that our health care system has room for improvement. Despite the growing pains of our health care system, though, research has repeatedly found that having access to primary care creates better health outcomes. As health care providers have become increasingly specialized, it is particularly helpfui to have a trusted relationship with a health care provider that knows you well, and who can help guide you to resources that are appropriate for your level of health and well-being.

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Five Ways to Get the Sleep You Need

Five Ways to Get the Sleep You Need

We live in a sleep-deprived culture. Although the National Institute of Health recommends 7-8 hours of sleep each night for adults, many of us don't get that. A 2009 U.S. survey found that more than a third (35.3%) of adults reported less than 7 hours of sleep, and that even more (37.9%) reported falling asleep unintentionally at least once during the prior month. The CDC has gone so far as to call our collective lack of sleep a public health emergency.

It's not just that poor sleep makes us cranky. It also makes us more accident prone and more susceptible to chronic diseases. 

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Six Self-Care Practices to Beat the Blues

Six Self-Care Practices to Beat the Blues

The United States has one of the highest rates of depression in the world.  An estimated 1 in 6 (16.6%) of us are diagnosed with a major depressive episode at some point in out lives and this does not include those of us who suffer from milder cases of the blues that aren't diagnosed. A 2011 study of prescribing habits found antidepressants to be the most highly prescribed class of drugs in the United States. Unfortunately, research has found that antidepressants aren't effective for everyone - especially those with milder symptoms. 

Fortunately there are a number of non-drug approaches to treating and preventing depression. These approaches may be used with or without treatment with medication. Dr. Stephen Illardi, a psychologist at the University of Kansas, has tested a number of them in his practice and has developed a program that he calls Therapeutic Lifestyle Change (TLC). He shares about the six core strategies in his book, The Depression Cure. As you read them, you'll see that many of them are common-sense self-care practices that have many other benefits!

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Ten Self-Care Strategies to Soothe your Stress

Ten Self-Care Strategies to Soothe your Stress

Last week the American Psychological Association (APA) published it's report Stress in AmericaTM:Paying With Our Health. This annual report polls adults in the U.S. on questions related to stress. From the title, you can imagine that the findings were sobering. Here are a few of them:

Three-quarters of U.S. adults (75%) report experiencing at least one symptom of stress in the past month.Most adults report that their stress levels have stayed the same (53%) or increased (29%) in the past year.42% of adults say they are not doing enough or aren't sure they are doing enough to manage their stress. One in five of them (20%) say they never engage in activities to relieve or manage stress.A number of Americans report engaging in unhealthy behaviors because of stress including lying awake a night (42%), eating too much or eating unhealthy foods (33%) and avoiding exercise (29%).

To many of us, this may come as no surprise. In fact, we may expect stress as a necessary by-product of our American way of life. What's the big deal?

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Nine Ways to Love Yourself Well

Nine Ways to Love Yourself Well

It's February, and here in the U.S. we're celebrating hearts, love, and relationships. Although Valentine's Day tends to focus on romantic relationships, it also provides a great opportunity to acknowledge all of the relationships that make our lives rich. As you celebrate all your relationships, I invite you to to remember one that is near and dear to your heart — your relationship with yourself! After all, THAT relationship affects every other relationship that you have. So, I hope that you nurture it well!

Here are nine different ways that you can love yourself well that are based on the Wheel of Health model created by Duke Integrative Medicine:

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Why Wait? Reasons for Delaying Your Best Life (Part 4)

Why Wait? Reasons for Delaying Your Best Life (Part 4)

This time of year many of us are doing holiday shopping. Or we may be delaying holiday shopping. There are always some of us who are out on Christmas Eve making final just-in-time purchases! Has that ever been you?

In this series of posts, I've been exploring reasons why people delay needed or wanted actions or decisions. I've shared about waiting for permission, waiting for perfection, and waiting for protection. This week is dedicated to those of us who are waiting for panic. We delay making decisions until a sense of urgency forces us into action!

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Be Your Own Referee

Be Your Own Referee

If you've ever spent any time watching sports, you'll see that most of them have something important in common. These competitions all have a set of rules, and they have at least one official — a judge, umpire, or referee — that is charged with enforcing the rules and making judgement calls on plays as they occur.

These officials have a tremendous responsibility and considerable power. Their calls can have huge consequences for the players and teams, and their judgements are alternately criticized or cheered from moment to moment. It is difficult, but necessary work and it requires clear vision, good judgement, decisiveness, and above all, an unwavering confidence in one's own leadership.

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Four Steps to More Compassionate Communication

Four Steps to More Compassionate Communication

As social creatures craving connection, our relationships can be sources of great joy, as well as frustration and stress. Feeling appreciated, heard and understood greatly enhances our sense of connection and well-being. Likewise, when we feel unheard and misunderstood — or when we don't understand or are disconnected from those who are close to us — we may experience sadness, anger, or anxiety.

In my work helping people develop self-care mastery, the area of relationships and communication can often be challenging because it is not something that anyone can control. This area always involves at least two people! Learning to negotiate our relationships in ways that honor our needs as well as the needs of others is an important part of self-care.

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Five Ways to Mind Your Mindset

Five Ways to Mind Your Mindset

We live in an age where boundaries between work and personal life are easily blurred or ignored. Technology allows many of us to work anywhere, anytime — and while that flexibility can be freeing, it can also entrap us. Because we CAN, we have begun to feel that perhaps we SHOULD — and before we know it, we are overworked, overstressed, and overwhelmed.

It's no wonder that we fall into a reactive mode, when some of us scarcely make time to pause, reflect, or take a few deep breaths. Have you ever stopped to wonder — just where is it that we are all rushing to?

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