The Support of Sleep

Something most of us don’t talk about but is vitally important to being healthy mentally, physically and relationally healthy is sleep. This past week in NJ we had an unseasonably warm couple of days and after those couple of days I was talking with friends and we were all discussing how exhausted we were after the warm spell. Winter/rainy seasons can be really annoying and frustrating because you can’t do as much, but I think they’re also really important for giving our bodies time to recover from all the activity during the other times of the year.

Sleep is something you need whether you’re 3 or 93, it’s not something you can really skip. Yes, some of us do skip it or postpone because of work or commitments, and sometimes for periods of time we can exist with limited amounts of sleep, but if you really want to be healthy mentally and physically sleep should be an important and regular part of your routine. Without sufficient sleep kids don’t do as well at school, there are more disagreements between partners, you’re not as focused at work (regardless of how much coffee you drink), your body actually breaks down and you’re more irritable.

Yes, everyone needs different amounts of sleep but what’s universally agreed upon is that everyone needs sleep, you simply can’t live without it. There’s something that’s so important and rejuvenating about rest in general and about sleep. Being active is important but so is taking the time to recover and have down time. Have you taken time to rest with your partner and your family or are you always on the go? There’s nothing wrong with not having a fully scheduled and booked week or weekend, sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself and your family is to rest.  Do you guard your rest time as strongly as you do some other aspects of your life or is it more of an afterthought? If it’s more of an afterthought I encourage you to make sleep a regular part of your life for the next month and see what a difference it makes in your life.

3 T’s to a Healthy Relationship

Valentine’s Day is less than a week away. As I flip through TV channels, see the commercials on my computer and see the latest books and movies being published I’m constantly amazed by how many versions of love there are. My relationship with my partner doesn’t look like the relationships other people have with their partner. Some people love more than one person, some people never connect wiht the one person they could live with loving, some people love across great distances and some people call it love when it’s the furthest thing from real love. However there are a couple things that I think contribute to the success of a relationship, regardless of what your version of love looks like (with the exception of not real love).

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you know that I’m a big supporter of communication, but that’s not one we’re going to talk about today, instead I wanted to talk about three other keys: touch, time and teamwork.

Teamwork: If you’re really committed to the relationship there has to be give and take, time and energy given by both of you towards the health of the relationship and to taking care of all the things that need to be done to run your lives and household. No relationship survives on the efforts of only one person, at least not for very long.  That means both of you should be working on the home, relationship and seeing to your kids’ needs if you have kids.

Time: If it’s a healthy relationship the people in the relationship need to make time for each other. Whenever possible that should consist of in-person time on a daily and weekly basis, and should also include digital communications too. The time that it takes to send even a simple text could mean all the difference to the health of your relationship.  But it’s also important to make a time commitment in other ways such as date nights, time at home together or video chats if distance prohibits in-person interaction.

Touch: While the other two keys we’ve talked about today can be done to some extent even if one partner isn’t physically there, this one does require you and your partner to be in the same place.  People thrive on touch.  While you don’t need touch to survive like you do food and water, if you really want to be your healthiest and happiest, and you want the relationship to be healthiest and happiest, there should be touch involved, whether it’s holding hands, snuggling and/or more intimate options.

How healthy is your relationship with regard to teamwork, time and touch?  Are they regularly incorporated so that both of you are supported in the relationship and your lives, or are they something you should make a new commitment to this Valentine’s Day?

Free to Just Be

Today I want to encourage you to stop and just be. Stop signing your kids up for every program under the sun, stop trying to get so much done each day that you’re completely exhausted by the time you get home and have zero energy for your kids or partner, stop wandering aimlessly in your life, stop rushing period. You, your kids and your partner all need downtime more than they need another commitment, regardless of whether you or they are an introvert or extrovert.

I get that there are important things in your life that need to be done to live or things you’ve already committed to that need to be followed through on, but there comes a time when you really just have to put your foot down and say that you’ve had enough. Hopefully you’ll feel encouraged to do that before you work yourself into an early grave or isolate you from all the people you love, or burn yourself out so badly that you have to take significant time off to even function again.

I believe it’s important to fill your life with things you love and to make time for the responsibilities you need to see to as a significant other, parent, sibling, son/daughter, worker and community member. It’s good to be involved and do things and enjoy the life you have and people you love. But it’s also important to take time to relax, to reflect, to be thankful and to just be. We aren’t designed to go 24/7, we’re meant to sleep and meditate and eat to enjoy and listen.

There’s no reason to feel guilty for taking a day off (including a mental health day), or admitting that you’re struggling, or taking a break to refocus. If you’re able to take that break with your kids or partner, great. Sometimes those moments when you’re just being quiet together can be the best part of your day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Will you make time for down time this week?

To Do or Not To Do

I read an inspiring quote recently that I want to share with you today.  It shares a simple but challenging message, one that we talk about but aren’t always able to follow through with:

“Every time you say yes to something you don’t want to do, this will happen: you will resent people, you will do a bad job, you will have less energy for the things you were doing a good job on, you will make less money, and yet another small percentage of your life will be used up, burned up, a smoke signal to the future saying, “I did it again.”  James Altucher

Have you felt that way before?  I know sometimes we force ourselves to do something and it turns out better than we expected, but other times we’re busy telling ourselves all the lies about why this has to happen or why we have to help this person or why this might be/may be/could be/should be something we should do.  I get it, we’ve got pressure from society and the people around us every day trying to (and sometimes succeeding in) affecting our choices.  Sometimes that’s a good thing, but other times we’re just caving.

Taking risks is part of having a healthy life and healthy self esteem.  So you do need to determine if you’re hesitant because you’re worried about the risk or because deep down you know it’s not the right choice for you.  This week I encourage you to take at least one risk and say no to at least one thing you feel won’t be right for you.  I’d love to hear what you learn!

Planning for a Healthy Spring

With spring just around the corner, it’s time to talk about getting healthy!

Get out: it’s finally nice enough to spend a lot of time outside!  You can go on walks, go hiking, train for a marathon, play in the backyard, go to a park, visit a nature center near you and even eat your lunch outside!  Fresh air makes you feel better, whether you’re exercising or even just sitting outside.

Eat right: eat a fruit or veggie with each meal, and in between too.  Whether it’s a salad, side of corn or banana, fruits and veggies are usually an easy option with lots of good vitamins, minerals and fuel for your body.  Take time this spring and summer to visit local farmer’s markets and farms near you and get locally grown produce.  You’ll be supporting your community and getting good food too.  Don’t forget to try some of the delicious seasonal produce that’s available now too!

Get rest: many of us don’t really know what our body needs in the way of sleep and rest, and even if we do, we don’t always get it.  Know how many hours of sleep you need, and do your best to get it.  An unrested body doesn’t function as well as a rested one.  It’s also important to take time out to just sit and relax too.  Our bodies aren’t designed to be on the go 24/7.  They have to rest too!

Power your mind: in our on-the-go societies, we are subjected to thousands of messages each day, whether at work, on the computer, on our phones, while driving, at the store, in the newspapers and on TV.  This also means you’ve got tons of choices about what you choose to be exposed to.  Granted, you can’t block out all the bad stuff, but you can be particular about what you and your kids watch and see at home.  Yes, it’s important to be aware of what’s going on in the world and be socially aware, but you don’t have to be a news or TV junkie to do OK in the world.

Get involved: Finally, the last piece to being healthy is being involved in the community.  Join the community pool, help at a community garden, go out with 3 or 4 other couples, bring your kids to the park with your friends, and have play dates.  Getting your kids involved with other people, going on group dates, and being part of your community are all an important part of having a healthy life.

I encourage you this week to do a family checkup: plan and make changes in your lives to eat, live and work in your communities and at home.  Together we can make the world a healthier place!

When It Takes Too Long

I know the past month for me has been challenging, there have been cancellations, changed plans, friends appearing and disappearing, and lots of other strange happenings, not to mention all the stuff going on in the world.  And it’s all exhausting!  Each day just feels like trying to walk through mud.

So what do you do when life just takes too long to get to where you’re heading?

My first choice is to relax.  We’re a busy society and don’t take enough time to smell the roses, literally and figuratively.  When was the last time you were outside?  When was the last time you took a walk, albeit bundled up given that we haven’t quite shaken winter yet?  When was the last time you sat on the couch with your partner or a friend and just talked?  When was the last time you had a cup of tea or coffee without the paper or some work?

Second, do what you feel like you can do.  If your body is telling you to take a nap, maybe you’re not getting enough sleep to function in high-challenge times like these.  If your body is complaining about something, maybe it’s a good time to try that diet your friends have been telling you about. Make short to-do lists and don’t plan to conquer the world right now.

Third, make time for family.  You don’t have to have your a-game to have a great time with your family.  Your kids will love if you sit and read stories with them, your parents will love if you call them, your siblings will wonder if you’re going crazy but it will be a chance to spend time with the people you probably don’t spend enough time with.

If your life, goals and victories have been a little elusive of late, fear not, keep pressing forward, especially now that we’ve entered a new month.  We’ll all get there.  Listen to what your body and heart are telling you and do the best you can.  No one will fault you for trying and doing the best you can.

Having Healthy (Tough) Conversations

I got an email talking about a topic that’s challenging: talking about the tough stuff.  You’ve probably seen some of the commercials on TV with two people walking or at a diner talking about how they recently discovered a family member participating in illegal or bad activities. The commercial ends with silence because the listener doesn’t know how to respond to what their friend just told them.  Generally most of us prefer to avoid the tough conversations about money, things they’re struggling with personally, things they’re struggling with professionally or about things that aren’t going well with the family or in a relationship.  We avoid them because we often don’t know what to say, how to express our struggles, that they won’t understand what we’re going through, that they won’t be willing to listen, or that they’ll just judge us instead of being supportive.

But in our talks about being healthy this month, it’s important to talk about the stuff that’s not so easy to talk about too.  Healthy isn’t just about the good habits, it’s about overcoming the not so good in your life.  Often you have to address the not so good before you can move on to the good.  Some of the hardest parts of the bad is talking about it with others and admitting your struggle, or talking about what’s bothering you, or how the other person hurt you (intentional or not).

The better you become at communicating the hard stuff the healthier your life can be, and the better overall your communication can be.  Because once you’ve learned how to communicate through the tough stuff, it’s much easier to talk about anything including the joys in life and your healthy habits and preferences.  Starting the conversation though can be challenging.  You may want to start the conversation with an impartial person like a pastor, coach, counselor or other advisor.  Talking through it with them can give you a chance to do any venting and get feedback on how to communicate your struggle to those who matter most to you (or those who matter in that situation), as well as important next steps to try to work through the struggle.  If that’s not possible and you’re really concerned about how the conversation might go, as a friend or more impartial family member to sit in on the conversation.

Ignoring it won’t make it go away typically, it usually makes things worse or allows them to compile.  There’s no reason for things to come to the point of blowing up in your face or becoming so overwhelmed that the rest of your life suffers.  Choosing honesty even when it is challenging or makes you not look so great is important to having healthy relationships and a healthy future.  The sooner you start communicating about the tough stuff, and agreeing with all involved parties to communicate when the challenges come up, the easier it will be to work through them and get back to or on to living a great life.  Make it a point today to have a tough conversation with someone, don’t put it off again until tomorrow.

Are Your People Healthy?

One of the biggest keys to health are the people in your life.  Those people will make or break the healthy habits you’re trying to create.  And even if they don’t purposely try to hinder you in creating those habits, they can inadvertently do things that will make it harder for you.  Let’s say you’re all going out to eat.  No, they don’t have to pick a restaurant everyone can eat at when you all go out, although it’s the polite thing to do, but with the way that we typically rotate who has the final say or who comes up with ideas so that we’re not completely bored and going to the same places all the time, it’s likely that someone will be unhappy or not thrilled with the selection each time.  If we’re truly considerate people, if we truly care about the people that we’re with, we will make a real effort to compromise.

The person you choose to be your romantic partner is usually more influential than your friends, coworkers and other acquaintances. So getting into a committed relationship with someone that you don’t think has good habits, isn’t considerate of your needs, doesn’t prioritize alone time for you two, doesn’t make you happy, and you don’t enjoy making them happy, is probably not a good idea. I’m not necessarily talking about finding THE right person, as in there’s only one right person for each of us, but I am talking about finding someone that respects and supports you, your needs and desires and you can respect and support them and theirs.

A toxic relationship of any kind can have long lasting damage on you, your health and your life.  It can take years to get over the physical or psychological damage that has been done to you or happened as a result of the relationship, and not all of it is their fault.  My intention with writing this post isn’t to scare you that all your relationships are bad and you should only be friends with certain kinds of people (after all we all have a couple of bad days).  Instead I encourage you to be and work on becoming the person that it’s worth being in a relationship with.  Don’t be the person that others regret hanging out with or avoid.  It’s not about being the center of attention or the person that everyone wants to be.  It’s about knowing that you did the best you could with your life, you treated others right and because you made choices that you felt supported you, you can someday die happy.

Health and Forgiveness

This month we’ve been talking about the topic of health.  It’s a topic that affects us all and is important to us all regardless of where we live, what we do, what we look like, what we like, and whether we have a job/are in a relationship/have kids or not.  Health is not just about the physical, but about the mental, spiritual and social as well.  All contribute to how healthy we are as a whole person. Today I want to talk about an important health topic, forgiveness.  It’s not a comfortable topic, but I believe it’s an important one.

Let’s start with what forgiveness is, with wisdom from John Ortberg:  “Forgiving is not the same thing as excusing…Forgiving is not forgetting…Forgiving is not the same thing as reconciling…When I forgive you, I give up the right to hurt you back…When we forgive each other, we begin to see more clearly. We do not ignore the hurts, but we see beyond them…”

Forgiveness doesn’t happen all at once, and it’s not just about other people.  Often the biggest person we need to forgive is ourselves.  We do really good at screwing ourselves over.   We use excuses, stall tactics, smaller priorities, other people and laziness to avoid doing what we really need to do.  As a result the guilt just keeps growing keeping us stuck and making it harder to get unstuck which is super frustrating and detrimental to our health, often in many ways.  It’s not easy to accept that we’ve been treating ourselves poorly and that things need to change.  It doesn’t feel good to admit that we were wrong or that we’ve gone down the wrong path.  And sometimes while you may need to forgive someone else for something they’ve done you find that you need to forgive yourself as well because you played a role in the problem as well.

It’s not easy to accept we’re not perfect, know-it-all people, but we’re not.  You and I both have areas that we need to improve in.   If you’ve been struggling to make that improvement it may be because you’re unwilling or unable to forgive yourself or others for past hurts so that you can begin the process of letting the past go and moving into the future.  I encourage you to join me this week in finally accepting that things need to change and taking steps to make those changes happen, starting with forgiving yourself or someone you’ve been letting keep that power over you for too long.

Sometimes School Stinks

Schools are officially in full swing and kids are getting back into their schedules and of course doing lots of homework.   I graduated from both high school and college, attended both public and private schools and attended 3 different colleges in different states during my college years, so I’ve seen some of what the educational world has to offer.  I’ve had some great teachers, I’ve had some teachers who had great personalities even if I don’t remember learning anything, I’ve had a ton of forgettable teachers, and I’ve had teachers who were terrible in more ways than one.

I’ve also met lots of of people having worked in schools and with kids outside of my own educational experience, plus owning my own business has introduced me to many people.  I know people from all around the world, and while their corners of the world may be a little different than mine, there are things that are unfortunately the same throughout the world that we need to pay attention to so that we can make the world a better place for the next generation.

School was created as a way to make sure that everyone learns certain things, like reading, writing and math.  We’re all exposed to some science, history and physical education as well, but those are less memorable for many of us.  Today I want to take just a couple minutes to talk about something that we don’t really like to admit: school failures.  I’ve already spoken to one of those negatives: teachers who stink.  Some teachers just don’t care about the kids, they’re just in it for the paycheck.  They share the same info every year and don’t take the time to make it come to life for new students, or consider the interests of their new students to add additional aspects to the classes.  It’s unfortunate because at some point in time they probably were passionate and did bring life to what they teach, they just don’t anymore.  As a parent there’s not a lot you can do other than encourage your kid to do the best they can and just get through it.  Sure, you can bring it up to the school board, but that doesn’t always work out in your favor and may do more harm than good.

Issue number two is that schools don’t always teach what people really need to know.  Because of the fact that I work with a wide variety of businesses some of my education that may not apply to others has been practically helpful, but much of it has not been, especially with the availability of Google and answers being a couple of clicks away.  There are many other skills that I wish had been taught but weren’t.  As a parent the best thing you can do is help teach some of those things at home and get kids involved in activities and learning experiences that are available extracurricularally.

Finally is an issue that we’ll talk about in greater depth in the coming weeks: bullying.  Relationships are the building blocks of our world.  If we aren’t able to create relationships of all kinds it’s much harder to do our jobs and live our lives.  There will always be some who are just bad people, but I believe most people don’t grow up wanting to be bad, they want to stand out or finally find acceptance.  If it’s your kid doing the bullying make sure to put an immediate stop to it and teach them better ways of interacting with others.  If they’re the target of a bully, encourage them to stand up for themselves and try to help the bully see the error of their ways, but if they don’t and adults aren’t able to intervene and turn the behaviors around, it’s time for new friends and acquaintances.

What lessons about school have you learned?