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Wellness and prevention information from the experts at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing


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How to break down your barriers to exercising, eating healthy and other health goals

By Mary Farrell, MS, PCC

February is a time when many people find their New Year’s resolutions are waning. If you are one of these people, you aren’t alone. The vast majority of resolutions fail.

Too often, it can feel like the obstacles you face to accomplishing a resolution are insurmountable. But there things you can do to break down these barriers.

Here are some tips for busting barriers:

  1. Have a plan and a backup plan.
    • Create SMART goals (specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic and time dependent). If your goal is simply to “eat better,” dig into what that means by creating a SMART goal.
    • Plan ahead. Maybe that means putting meditation time on your scheduler, keeping your gym clothes handy, or taking time each week to draw up a healthier meal plan. This takes a few extra moments on the front end, but will save you frustration on the back end.
    • Know your backup plan. For example, keep healthy snacks on hand in case you don’t have time for lunch. If you exercise outside, have an indoor workout in mind for when the weather is bad.
  1. Know your barriers and break them down. To figure out what your barriers are, fill in the blank: “I’m too _______________ to exercise/manage stress/eat right, etc.”One common answer is, “I’m too busy.” If this is the case:
    • Look at your schedule for a week. Does it reflect your values? Is there time anywhere to fit in your health goal?
    • What is the least amount you could do to meet your goal? Perhaps 10 minutes of walking? 5 minutes of meditation? Bringing a healthy lunch 3 days a week?
    • Consider if you been able to accomplish your healthy change in the past. If you have, think about how you did it. What support did you have? What else enabled you to meet this goal?
  1. Resist “all or nothing” thinking. This kind of thinking can cripple the best intentions. You may be succumbing to this if you hear yourself saying things like, “I blew my diet at lunch, so I’ll just start again tomorrow,” or “I can’t get to the gym today, so I’ll just skip my workout today.”If you are prone to this kind of thinking:
    • Envision what it will feel like to take a step in the right direction. What would that do for your confidence?
    • Remind yourself that every little bit counts. Repeat that phrase as often as necessary.
    • Consider what happens when you do too much too soon? Could you sustain it?
  1. Don’t feel like you have to do it alone. We are a society that values independence, but when it comes to lifestyle changes, going it alone can be a recipe for failure. To deal with this, consider what good support would look like for you: a buddy? a class? a coach? an online community?

Regardless of the barriers you face, tackling them with intention and honesty will pay big rewards.

Mary Farrell, MS, PCC, is an integrative health & wellness coach and an exercise physiologist with the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing’s LiveWell Fitness Center. Call 612-863-5178 to make an appointment with her.


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Feeling stressed? Try a two minute time out to regroup

When your circumstances and expectations don't match up, take time to pause, breathe and set aside preconceptions. This can help you gain perspective and take a fresh approach to your situation.

When your circumstances and expectations don’t match up, take time to pause, breathe and set aside preconceptions. This can help you gain perspective and take a fresh approach to your situation.

By Chandler Yorkhall, BA, NCTMB, AOBTA, massage therapist, Penny George Institute for Health and Healing

Two stories have been on my mind in the last few days.

The first is a Chinese folktale I recently told to my kids at bedtime: A farmer relies on his horse for his living. The horse runs away, and the farmer’s neighbors all come to console him. “Bad luck!” they cry, and “So sorry!”

“We’ll see,” says the farmer.

A few weeks later the horse returns with a second horse, a beautiful nomad stallion.

The neighbors come again, saying “Good luck! Congratulations!”

“We’ll see,” says the farmer.

The farmer’s son loves to ride the new stallion, but one day he is thrown from the saddle and breaks his hip. “Bad luck!  So sorry,” cry the townspeople.

“We’ll see,” says the farmer. “How do you know this isn’t a blessing?”

A few months later soldiers come to the farmer’s village, enlisting every able-bodied man to fight the invading nomad hordes. The story goes that nine of every 10 soldiers are killed in the conflict. The farmer being old and his son being lame, both remained behind to care for each other and their families, so their lives were spared.

How quickly we judge the events in our lives. We are culturally trained to look at life through a lens of preconceived notions. “A” is good or desirable. “B” is bad or undesirable. In my work, I’m increasingly called to not think of situations as “good” or “bad.” This allows me to suspend my preconceptions and inquire more honestly into a situation as it actually is.

The second story on my mind is from my own life. Yesterday I went to drop off my 5 year-old at her dance class. The class, the setting, and the teacher were familiar to both of us from several years of attendance. My plan was to quickly make the drop-off and head to an important meeting where, I imagined, my timely presence was desperately needed. Alas, it was not to be.

We found the classroom, saw the smiling, welcoming, familiar teacher who I know my daughter loves, and exchanged a sweet goodbye. I turned to go, but found my daughter clinging to my leg. Was she shy of the new students? Who can fathom the workings of the five year-old heart? I tried “patiently” for several minutes to convince her to join the group. Even the teacher joined in ― all in vain.

Finally, I decided to sit down with my daughter by the door. She watched the class from my lap, processing. Soon she joined in, casting a nervous glance my way every few seconds.

“I’m going to go,” I mouthed, catching her eye and pointing to the door.

“Not yet,” she mouthed back, shaking her head. Dancing over to me, she leaned in and whispered: “Just another little bit, OK?  I’ll be more comfortable. I’ll tell you when you can go.”

So I sat down and waited, chagrined, delighted, impatient, and relieved. Inside of a minute I got the nod that I could go, but by then I’d relaxed enough to realize my meeting wasn’t all that important. I watched for another minute, waved, and went out into the crisp fall day.

When you find your expectations are not matching what is happening in your life, set aside a minute or two to try this:

  • Consider the uncomfortable, or less-than-perfect circumstance, that is bothering you.
  • Notice whether and how you are pulled to adjust, fix, rationalize or resolve the problem.
  • Then, if necessary, pause, take 10 complete breaths, and just sit with the situation.
  • Consider how this changes your perspective on the situation and helps to clarify what you intend to do.

When we get stressed or lose perspective, it’s easy to feel like the walls are crumbling around us. Pausing for a minute and simply sitting with what’s going on helps remind us that we are bigger than the problem. Then, creativity and curiosity can take root, and we can start to have a bit of fun.

Chandler Yorkhall, BA, NCTMB, AOBTA, is a massage therapist with the Penny George Institute. He works with hospitalized patients.

 


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Live well, live happy: Tips for finding happiness amid hardship

Woman looking through a window

Happiness can feel out of reach when life presents great struggles. But research shows satisfaction and happiness are still possible during our dark hours.

By Mary Farrell, MS, PCC

This is part four in a LiveWell blog series on happiness that launched with  “Live well, live happy” in January.

Being happy can feel out of reach when life presents great struggles.

Though this feeling is valid, research shows that satisfaction and happiness are possible even in the face of difficulties, stress and trauma. Happy people are able to develop strategies for coping and weathering the storms of life.

I personally experienced this recently. I was in the hospital twice with an illness over the course of just a few weeks. While I experienced pain and stress, I also found many unexpected joys. These included giggle-filled visits with friends, tender and loving moments with my parents, and daily deliveries of all things pretty, delicious and inspirational.

Research provides some guidelines for claiming your happiness during difficult times:

  1. Your past holds many lessons that you may apply now.
  • Think back to a time when you encountered great difficulties. What got you through? What supports did you have? What strengths did you use?
  • Now consider how you changed and grew as a result of those past trials. What do you know about yourself? What motivated you?
  1. Consider the intensity of the problem you are facing.
  • To get through it, are you able to develop a plan to deal with it? If so, jump right in!
  • Is it overwhelming to even consider your problem? Then this is not the time to strategize. It is time to step back, regroup and to gather support and comfort. You may need to go for a run or you may need to tend to your spirit, but step away from the problem first for centering and calming.
  1. Be open to growth and resilience.
  • Think of resilience as the ability to hold the positive and the negative in the same space. Resilient people know that life is not one or the other, but both.
  • If you struggle with this, you could seek out help in developing resiliency within yourself. There are books on resiliency, such as “The Chemistry of Calm” and “The Chemistry of Joy” by Henry Emmons, MD. The Penny George Institute for Health and Healing also offers a Resilience Training program inspired by “The Chemistry of Joy” and Mindfulness Training classes based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book, “Full Catastrophe Living.”
  1. This is not the time to go solo.
  • Gather support and reinforcements.
    • If this is not hard for you, seek out some support.
    • If this is uncomfortable for you, consider the following:
      • When we are able to help someone, we feel great. Consider that you would be giving a friend or family member this opportunity.
      • Remember that people are not mind readers. We sometimes assume that others don’t care when in reality, they simply don’t know what we are going through. When we make our needs known, we have a much better chance of having them met.
  1. Find meaning amid hardship.
  • It is important that you find the meaning and it is not imposed on you.
  • The silver lining or meaning may not be readily apparent, but sometimes just trusting that there is meaning beyond what you are experiencing is comforting.

Remember that being happy is not a condition reserved for those without difficulties and stress. It is normal to have difficulties, and there are opportunities for joy, growth and deep connection within the dark hours.

Mary Farrell, MS, PCC, is an integrative health & wellness coach and an exercise physiologist with the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing’s LiveWell Fitness Center. Call 612-863-5178 to make an appointment with her.

Past entries by Mary Farrell in the Live well, Live happy series: