In Sickness and In Health

For the past couple of days I’ve been dealing with a headache that just doesn’t seem to want to give up. Fortunately I’ve got things planned so that my partner always has food options for when I don’t have the ability to cook for us and I try to be on top of things around the house so that if I can’t for a day or two the world won’t end. What happens when you need some extra time or help, either you’re sick or someone in the family is? Today I’ve got a couple of suggestions for these occasional days or sets of days for making sure your kids are cared for when you can’t give them the full attention you usually do.

Let’s start with food. Most weeks I make a trip to 2-3 grocery stores, including a fresh food market, so there’s never a lack of fresh foods or healthy foods readily available, some that don’t require more of my attention than throwing them in the oven for an hour to bake or take a couple minutes to wash up. Have extras of the kids favorite snacks on hand, don’t make it a practice of running out, as well as key staples in the cereal and grain departments (keeping a loaf of bread in the freezer is a great idea). Finally, always have stored away a couple special treats, whether they’re frozen bars, special snacks or frozen dinners that the kids ask for but aren’t things you like to give them on a regular basis that you can treat them with during challenging days.

What about keeping them busy? As always it’s great if you’ve got another family close to yours that you can switch off kids if there’s a need in either of your homes, or if you can hire a sitter to come in for a few hours. But if your kids are old enough and responsible enough to be entertain themselves for a couple of hours while you’re sleeping or just resting, having a selection of movies and TV show DVDs or On Demand that they don’t watch frequently but enjoy on those occasions is a good option for these times. It’s also a good idea to have some new activity books/boxes, new toys, new coloring books and new books hidden away for these times too, it gives them something new and special to work on individually or together.

What are your tips for caring for kids when you’re not feeling 100%?

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A Healthy Summer

One of the components of victories is health, so today I thought we’d talk about things you can do to have a healthy summer, a summer that you feel good about when it’s over, you accomplish at least some of the things on your to do list, and you have lots of fun too!

First let’s talk about sleep. I love sleep, whether it’s naps in the afternoon on the beach under an umbrella or when I call it a day and crawl into bed for several hours of sleep. Everyone is different on how much sleep they need to function, to function well, or to be healthy. Sometimes life will throw you some challenges and you’ll get less sleep, but take time this summer to catch up on some of those missed hours.

Second, let’s talk about food. I love food, I love cooking, preparing food and eating food! Sometimes food is all about function and just providing the necessary calories and nutrition, but even in that situation I always try to choose food that tastes good. It’s a lot easier to eat healthy if it tastes good too. And it’s not all about sugar and salt, there are lots of other great spices that you can add to your recipes and snacks that can turn something that would be bland into something tasty.

Third, let’s talk about being productive. Everyone has a to do list, and many of us have things on the list that we can only do in the summer, or we typically do in the summer because we’ve got time off or because of longer periods of better weather. Pick one smaller thing to complete each week and one big task to complete each month this summer. That will help you get stuff done but don’t feel like your whole summer was a project.

Finally, take time off and have fun. Fun is something that all of us need to incorporate into our lives, both fun by ourselves and fun with others. Whether you take a vacation with family and friends, go to the beach by yourself with a book, or take some creative classes, take time this summer to do different things by yourself and with others.

What are your plans to help make this one of the best summers yet?

Summer Victories

This week begins my favorite season: summer.  Summer is a great opportunity for making victories in our lives, especially those that have to do with health.  So today I thought we’d talk about 3 of those healthy victories we can work on this summer.

Summer with the warmer weather and longer days makes for a great opportunity for us to get together with friends and family, giving us the time to work on those very important relationships. There’s something about these days and nights that makes us want to gather with friends, have a BBQ or just hang out by a crackling fire and roast marshmallows. The memories made during these events may be some of the best of your life, I certainly have some good ones from these types of events, and they’re great for building friendships and relationships that last.

It’s also a great time to take advantage of the weather and do more outdoor exercising and playtime, whether that’s walking, swimming or playing Frisbee.  There are lots of opportunities and activities that can get you more physically involved in the summer, from the very casual to the very physical, whether you want to do it alone or with friends. Many bike groups and swim groups meet seasonally, so it’s another opportunity to get connected in your community while getting healthy, too.

My final favorite source of victories in the summer comes from all of the fresh local fruit and produce that’s available.  Yes, we can get fresh fruit and vegetables all year long, but in the summer it’s much easier and cheaper to get local produce, and support local farmers.  I have a market I love going to all year ’round because they’ve got fresh, healthy foods at great prices, but in the summer I make the extra effort to stop at the roadside stands or pick up the produce in the stores that are labeled as coming from my local area. It’s even a little more fun to cook and eat because I know it’s local!

So with summer officially a few days away, what are your plans for victories this summer?

Creative Earth Day Celebrations

Sunday is Earth Day, and while I’m not quite ready to get out there and enjoy spring, with today being an unseasonably cold 42 degree day, I’m still looking forward to doing some earth-friendly things this week and weekend. If you’re looking for some creative ways to honor the earth and still do things you enjoy, here are a few things to add to your list.

Garage sales and estate sales are a great way to buy new things that you want and need while still helping the earth. Many people sell gently used items or even brand new ones that they haven’t used or don’t want but are still in great condition. These types of sales are also a great place to find stuff that just isn’t made anymore, or isn’t made in the same way or with the same quality that it used to be made with.

Farmer’s markets and roadside stands are a great way to support the local farming community. Eating vegetables and fruits is a great way to care for our planet in the first place, making the extra effort to do it locally not only gives you the opportunity to support the local growers, but also to know exactly where your food came from. Also, you typically have the chance to talk with the people who grow the food, which means you can find out exactly how they were grown and what, if any, chemicals were used.

Giving the gift of a potted plant is another great way to think more about the earth while still giving flowers or a plant that will make someone smile. Even if the person you’re gifting to doesn’t have the greenest thumb, most people can still keep a potted plant alive for far longer than cut flowers, and the potted plant often can go outdoors and last for months or years depending on the type of plant. And if you’re gifting to someone who has a home, things they can plant outdoors are almost always a blessing, including small trees and shrubs.

What ways are you planning to celebrate Earth Day this weekend?

Time for Changes

In thinking about Daylight Savings Time that the US adjusted to this past weekend I thought we might talk about the idea of it being time to make changes. I never can quite remember which way the clocks are supposed to go when they switch, I’m very thankful for technology that does it by and large for us now. Sometimes change is like that: we just feel the need to make changes but we’re not really sure which changes to make. So today I thought we’d take a look at some changes you can make if you’re not sure what changes you’re in need of, and until you’re certain of what changes need to be made in your life.

Clean and organize: many of us are blessed to have lots of stuff and lead busy lives, but with lots of stuff and busy lives it doesn’t always leave a lot of time to clean and get organized. Many of us just do the minimal to get by each week and end up one day with a big pile of stuff that needs to be gone through and more dust bunnies than real ones hopping around. Cleaning and organizing is one way to clear out some of the old and make room for the new, a symbolic welcoming of whatever changes your life is bringing.

What you eat: there’s never a bad time to make a decision to eat healthier, and today is no exception. But you don’t just have to change to healthier food, you can choose to change and try new foods and recipes too. There’s nothing wrong with having some go-to foods that you love, but it’s often fun to try new foods and recipes and mix things up a bit. Maybe it will give you the chance to learn a new cooking technique or try an ingredient you’ve always wondered about but never really knew how to put it in a dish, and this would be the chance to do either or both.

Consideration for others: one of the biggest areas of our lives that could use some changes for most of us are the relationships we have and ways that we interact with others. Maybe you’ve gotten in the habit of being on your phone at the dinner table, you think or say really nasty things about the other drivers on the road, you talk with your mouth full, you don’t give your significant other much of your attention, you ignore employees under you or belittle them, or you haven’t made time for making new friends and relationships or learning about other cultures. It’s not about being best friends with everyone but about respect, learning to listen, being open to others being different than you, and doing better at sharing the space we all live in.

What changes are you feeling inspired to make in your life?

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!