stress management


It’s Sunday. Which means it’s time to plan my week.

Yep, I’ll admit it. I’m a planner. Always have been. I remember creating a chart of my outfits in 9th grade so that I wouldn’t wear the same clothes within the same week. Total dork! Who did I think cared? If my 15 year-old self could see me now she would freak. Since I work from home and seldom see the same people on consecutive days, I often wear the same outfit two days in a row. Shhhh, don’t tell the dork.

Today, I try to leave the planning to more important things. But I’m still a planner. For me, the less I have to think about on a daily basis, the better.

In many ways my planner is my life. Or at least a pretty darned good representation of what’s going on in my life. In addition to client and personal appointments, it includes daily to-do lists, birthdays, logs of phone calls, shopping lists, all kinds of notes, exercise “appointments”with myself and others, and what we’re having for dinner.

Yep, you read that right. Come Sunday, I can tell you what we’ll be having for dinner every night of the week. Meal planning: a small task that makes a giant difference.

In addition to alleviating the stress of scrambling to get something on the table, it saves me money (since I know just what to buy and am less likely to buy on impulse, less food goes to waste), and we eat healthier.

Like most families, our evenings are busy. Between Grace’s skating, Girl Scouts, and school events and my client appointments, yoga classes, and volunteer gigs, we have activities almost every evening. Often we’re home for less than an hour before having to head out again. (And, sometimes we don’t even get to stop home for dinner—in which case I pack our dinners.)

Despite how simple and helpful meal planning is, I’m always surprised at how few people do it. And, sometimes when I suggest it to wellness clients, they aren’t quite sure where to begin. So, here’s what I do. Certainly not the only way to do it, but this works for me. Very simple, very easy, and usually takes me less than 15 minutes:

Inventory—I start by taking a mental inventory of my kitchen (sometimes I actually have to check the fridge). Do I have produce or fresh meat that needs to get used? I roast a whole chicken about every other week and then use the leftover meat in other dishes. Do I have some in the fridge or freezer?

Season & Recipes—My next step is to think about what is in season (thus better prices and better quality) and think about recipes that incorporate seasonal items. I have my favorites, but I also like to try new recipes. I love the fact that I can Google a couple of ingredients followed by the word “recipe” and come up with a bunch of new dinner ideas.

Schedule—Next step is look at our schedule for the coming week. I usually start by identifying the evenings I will have time to cook and plug something in there. Those are evenings when I don’t have to be too concerned about how long a dish takes. (Being the planner that I am, I also make a note in my calendar to remove things from the freezer or soak beans overnight for upcoming meals.) If I can get some leftovers out of the meal, all the better. I then look at the evenings with little or no cooking time which brings me to…

Cooking Methods–During the school year, I use the slow cooker for at least one weekly meal and schedule that for an evening when there’s no time to cook (but time to prep in the morning). (Tip: Every couple of weeks during the winter I make what my Grandpa Jack refers to as refrigerator soup. Whatever veggies are in my refrigerator go into the slow cooker with a soup bone, beans, and either rice or barley. This makes more soup than we can eat in a meal, so in addition to lunches, some of it gets frozen for future quick dinners. Soup and some good whole grain bread is an easy, healthy and satisfying dinner.)

Boiling whole wheat pasta and adding leftover chicken, leftover roasted vegetables and pesto (which I make in the summer and freeze in small jars) makes a quick, healthy dinner. We call this Make-Your-Own-Pasta. When we’re really pressed for time we do Make-Your-Own-Pizzas using whole wheat pitas, pesto or tomato sauce, and leftover veggies and protein.

Grocery List—While I’m planning meals, I’m also making my grocery list for the week. In addition to what I’ll need for dinners, the inventory I’ve just done means I know what we’re running low on. For me, shopping with a list significantly cuts down on impulse buying and, eventually, wasted food.

And that’s it! When I described the process to a client recently, he said it sounds hard. It really isn’t. It does require a small amount of time and thinking ahead, but I think it’s a lot easier than coming up with a fresh plan every night. And, it certainly takes less time than stopping for takeout several times a week (and is a lot healthier and a lot less expensive).

Be well!

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It’s Sunday. Which means it’s time to plan my week.

Yep, I’ll admit it. I’m a planner. Always have been. I remember creating a chart of my outfits in 9th grade so that I wouldn’t wear the same clothes within the same week. Total dork! Who did I think cared? If my 15 year-old self could see me now she would freak. Since I work from home and seldom see the same people on consecutive days, I often wear the same outfit two days in a row. Shhhh, don’t tell the dork.

Today, I try to leave the planning to more important things. But I’m still a planner. For me, the less I have to think about on a daily basis, the better.

In many ways my planner is my life. Or at least a pretty darned good representation of what’s going on in my life. In addition to client and personal appointments, it includes daily to-do lists, birthdays, logs of phone calls, shopping lists, all kinds of notes, exercise “appointments”with myself and others, and what we’re having for dinner.

Yep, you read that right. Come Sunday, I can tell you what we’ll be having for dinner every night of the week. Meal planning: a small task that makes a giant difference.

In addition to alleviating the stress of scrambling to get something on the table, it saves me money (since I know just what to buy and am less likely to buy on impulse, less food goes to waste), and we eat healthier.

Like most families, our evenings are busy. Between Grace’s skating, Girl Scouts, and school events and my client appointments, yoga classes, and volunteer gigs, we have activities almost every evening. Often we’re home for less than an hour before having to head out again. (And, sometimes we don’t even get to stop home for dinner—in which case I pack our dinners.)

Despite how simple and helpful meal planning is, I’m always surprised at how few people do it. And, sometimes when I suggest it to wellness clients, they aren’t quite sure where to begin. So, here’s what I do. Certainly not the only way to do it, but this works for me. Very simple, very easy, and usually takes me less than 15 minutes:

Inventory—I start by taking a mental inventory of my kitchen (sometimes I actually have to check the fridge). Do I have produce or fresh meat that needs to get used? I roast a whole chicken about every other week and then use the leftover meat in other dishes. Do I have some in the fridge or freezer?

Season & Recipes—My next step is to think about what is in season (thus better prices and better quality) and think about recipes that incorporate seasonal items. I have my favorites, but I also like to try new recipes. I love the fact that I can Google a couple of ingredients followed by the word “recipe” and come up with a bunch of new dinner ideas.

Schedule—Next step is look at our schedule for the coming week. I usually start by identifying the evenings I will have time to cook and plug something in there. Those are evenings when I don’t have to be too concerned about how long a dish takes. (Being the planner that I am, I also make a note in my calendar to remove things from the freezer or soak beans overnight for upcoming meals.) If I can get some leftovers out of the meal, all the better. I then look at the evenings with little or no cooking time which brings me to…

Cooking Methods–During the school year, I use the slow cooker for at least one weekly meal and schedule that for an evening when there’s no time to cook (but time to prep in the morning). (Tip: Every couple of weeks during the winter I make what my Grandpa Jack refers to as refrigerator soup. Whatever veggies are in my refrigerator go into the slow cooker with a soup bone, beans, and either rice or barley. This makes more soup than we can eat in a meal, so in addition to lunches, some of it gets frozen for future quick dinners. Soup and some good whole grain bread is an easy, healthy and satisfying dinner.)

Boiling whole wheat pasta and adding leftover chicken, leftover roasted vegetables and pesto (which I make in the summer and freeze in small jars) makes a quick, healthy dinner. We call this Make-Your-Own-Pasta. When we’re really pressed for time we do Make-Your-Own-Pizzas using whole wheat pitas, pesto or tomato sauce, and leftover veggies and protein.

Grocery List—While I’m planning meals, I’m also making my grocery list for the week. In addition to what I’ll need for dinners, the inventory I’ve just done means I know what we’re running low on. For me, shopping with a list significantly cuts down on impulse buying and, eventually, wasted food.

And that’s it! When I described the process to a client recently, he said it sounds hard. It really isn’t. It does require a small amount of time and thinking ahead, but I think it’s a lot easier than coming up with a fresh plan every night. And, it certainly takes less time than stopping for takeout several times a week (and is a lot healthier and a lot less expensive).

Be well!

Does someone on your holiday shopping list want to improve their health and well-being? Why not support them with the gift of health? (Or give yourself the gift of improved health and well-being.)

Purchase the well.well.well. coaching package before December 31 and save 20% ($200/month versus $250). Whether the goal is losing weight, improving nutrition and physical fitness, sleeping better, reducing or eliminating the need for medications, and/or reducing stress, this coaching package will help you design a comprehensive wellness program that will accomplish your goals and fit your lifestyle. Weekly coaching sessions and follow-ups will help you stay on track as you implement healthy nutrition, activity, and stress-management strategies.

Make 2011 the new of better health. Be well and happy holidays!

This past Friday, Grace accompanied me to observe a local youth program at which I will soon be teaching yoga. The program serves low income youth, many of whom are new to the U.S. After our visit, I asked Grace what she thought of the visit.

“Those kids were wild. I think it’s going to be hard to teach them yoga,” she said.

She’s right. The kids were pretty wild–probably at least in part due to the excitement of unfamiliar faces (Grace and me). Still, despite their “wildness,” I’m willing to bet it won’t be hard to teach yoga to them.

Over the course of the past year, I’ve taught yoga to a pretty wide range of kids–from girls who are competitive figure skaters to teenagers with EBD to 4 year-olds with no previous exposure to yoga–and what I’ve found is that almost universally they have actively participated in and enjoyed yoga. Although their practice often looks different from adults’, they gain many of the same benefits.

Despite that, I often hear parents and/or teachers comment that their kids don’t have the attention span or concentration that yoga requires. I say, that’s exactly why they should do yoga. One practices yoga to develop attention span and concentration, not because s/he has already achieved those things. It’s just like when adults tell me they can’t do yoga because they are not flexible. I say, that’s why you should consider yoga.

Although we often tell our children to calm down or focus, we rarely teach them how to do that. Nor do we actively provide them with ways to cope with and reduce stress. Yoga provides kids (and adults) with tools to help them learn those skills. The blend of breath, movement and body awareness helps kids learn to look within for calm and peace rather than always being influenced by external stimuli.

Yoga obviously has physical benefits as well. It improves flexibility, strength and coordination, and can help children maintain a healthy weight. Research supports the many benefits yoga provides.

Studies have shown that yoga:

  • Improves symptoms of many illnesses and ailments including ADHD and Autism;
  • Increases muscle tone and control in children with Down Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy;
  • Increases academic achievement;
  • Improves self-esteem and decreases behavioral issues;
  • Reduces aggression; and
  • Increases attention span.

Another huge benefit of yoga is that it is accessible to children (and adults) at all levels of physical fitness. Thus it’s a great activity for entire families.

Sharing yoga with youth was one of my main motivations to teach yoga. I feel incredibly blessed to be able to share something that has made such a positive difference in my life with others–especially young people. I hope you and your family can join me for Family Yoga sometime soon.

Be well and namaste!

Family Yoga: 1st Sundays 12-1pm Moe Bodyworks, 3541 Lyndale Avenue S

Through a fun and challenging 60-minute class, families will be introduced to yoga through postures (asanas), breath (pranayama) and mental focus (dharana). Yoga’s unique accessibility and ability to challenge individuals at all levels of fitness builds strength, flexibility, concentration, balance and stamina. Individual and partner poses. Adults pay regular class price, kids are free!

A pretty simple question, really. One you would think folks could answer relatively easily. And, accurately.

In the past several weeks, however, I’ve noticed a rather strange phenomenon among my wellness clients. They tend to underestimate–sometimes significantly–how often they get sick.

To clarify, I’m talking about colds, flu, severe headaches, the stuff that makes life uncomfortable, but isn’t typically life threatening. I’m talking about the more annoying, zap-your-energy, really-want-to-stay-in-bed-all day-but-can-still-function-if-I-have-to kinds of ailments.

During our initial health and wellness assessment, most of of my clients indicate that they are overall healthy, but know they can do better. They report that they rarely get sick and are choosing to work with me to improve their health primarily as a preventative measure.

In our initial coaching relationship–as they begin to make changes–they continue to view themselves as healthy and some even continue to reference the fact that they rarely get sick. Here comes the interesting part: all of this self reporting is counter to what they are experiencing day-to-day and week-to-week!

Twice in the last week I reminded clients that they had been ill more often than they were recalling (I keep good notes). In one case, I reminded a client (who said he was lacking sleep and had a sore throat) that he had recovered from a cold less than three weeks ago. In the second case, because I know the client outside of coaching, we were able to think back through this year to determine that she has actually been getting sick every couple of months. She was actually getting sick 5-6 times per year!

So what’s going on? Why do so many view themselves as healthy when they are actually getting sick on a relatively regular basis?

Obviously, a cold or the flu is a minor concern when compared to diabetes, cancer or a heart attack. But it’s still sickness and it still detracts from the quality of your life (not to mention your productivity, income, and added health care costs).

Unfortunately, I think many falsely believe that those less serious, but still painful ailments, are simply a part of life and it’s “normal” to deal with them regularly. However, although you may not ever be able to completely eliminate them, a healthy diet, good sleep, regular exercise and stress management can go a long way in keeping illness away.

Because medical research tends to focus on how we can prevent the major stuff, we sometimes forget that lifestyle changes can dramatically reduce the frequency of minor ailments, in addition to helping prevent the major ones.

As we enter the cold and flu season, here’s your reminder to do what you can to avoid annoying, zap-your-energy, really-want-to-stay-in-bed-all day-but-can-still-function-if-I-have-to kinds of ailments. Eat good food, get plenty of sleep and rest, and relax!

Be well!