Monday, November 23, 2015

Thanksgiving Memories

The Monday before Thanksgiving should be it's own holiday. I mean, this is when the anticipation begins.  It's ALMOST THANKSGIVING!!!! Thaw the bird, prepare the stuffing, don't forget the cranberries and extra pie crust, stock the wine fridge...

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday - I don't know if it's the crisp air that also represents my favorite season, the vibrant colors, the hope for snow flurries to follow or the time with family.

Just this morning I thought of the very first Thanksgiving I hosted- my grandma, my bub & pap and my dad & step-mom were there. I was so proud. It was my first adult dinner.

All the women hovered in the kitchen and kept the snacks filled for my dad and my pap (his ex-father-in-law), who were watching TV in the other room. It was one of the most stereotypical - and best - Thanksgiving Day's that I have in my memory bank.

For many years after that I hosted Thanksgiving for my family, giving up the tradition when I moved away from the east coast and out of reasonable driving distance for most everyone.

So much has changed in the past 12 years. My grandma, my bub & my pap are all gone now; this will be my 2nd Thanksgiving without my bub and pap - my 8th without my grandma. It's hard to believe all that time has passed since we stood in the kitchen of my townhouse and they laughed at me while I attempted to prep a bird while nursing the mother of all hangovers.

There is one thing hasn't changed: Thanksgiving remains my favorite holiday. I am now guest more than host, but I still get to spend the time with the family I've made. It's no longer just a day, it's extended into a entire weekend of celebrating - what could be better than that?

Cue happy dance.

Happy Thanksgiving to you!

In case your curious: last year I had a chance to take Michael back home to experience his first weekend-after-Thanksgiving in Pittsburgh - complete with snow and a few 20° days and a Saints vs. Steelers game. This year we'll be staying in Little Rock, with hopes of warmer temperatures and maybe a hint of snow flurries over the weekend. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Put Stress in it's Place

According to a survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), the most common sources of stress during the last 2 months of the year are money concerns & chaotic sched-ules. Women, you might relate more than men—not implying that we all can’t benefit from a little stress relief.

In addition to reporting higher levels of stress, another study found that women are more likely to take on a greater workload: cooking for family, buying last minute gifts, organizing a get-together and cleaning (sigh, my judgmental mother is coming for a week…).

What is stress? 

Stress is your body’s way of responding to a demand. This isn’t always bad; we feel stress when we travel to a new place, fall in love, make a big change or start something new. But in all of these the payoff to the stressful situation is often a wonderful experience. High risk = high reward. 

Sometimes stress gets the best of us - deadlines at work, a spouse or a child who is sick, arguments with friends - and the feeling can be overwhelming. 

Picture found on
Put stress in it’s place 
First your heart starts racing, and then before you know it your sweaty palms are making it impossi-ble to get the lid off of the antacid you need to calm your upset stomach. Stress is making it’s grand entrance, and you need to get it under control. 

The stress of the holidays is not about the holidays - it’s about YOU. David Levingston, LMFT has been quoted as saying "Stress and distress are often related to worrying about the future or fret-ting about the past." Live in the here and now; enjoy the moment and stress will melt away. 

Give gifts that matter.
Will it stress you out more if I tell you that approximately 49 million people get gifts they don’t enjoy? It shouldn’t. By approaching gift giving with the intended in mind you are pleasing 2 people - giver & receiver. Would a cup of coffee together mean more to them than a $20 tumbler? If the answer is yes, offer up an IOU coupon - or better yet, schedule the date in advance. 

Skeptical about this approach? When was the last time you dismissed a gift you enjoyed be-cause it didn’t cost enough? Compare that with how many times you’ve opened a gift from a chronic bad-gift-giver and stressed over masking your knee-jerk response.

Laugh out loud, and often 
Laughing just makes you feel good! It also relaxes your entire body - relieving physical tension and stress for up to 45 minutes. It’s also releases endorphins...the body’s natural "feel good" chemical. 

Get active 
Walking, jogging, biking...anything that gets you active will dis-tract you from whatever is on your mind, or allow you to relieve any tension and release any pent up energy. When you find yourself stressing out about an impromptu party, take a deep breath and walk around a little bit. 

Try yoga. 
Yoga has been used as a mind-body balance technique for thousands of years. Yoga uses physical and mental focus to help you relax and manage stress. It can be done on your own or in group setting. Even as little as 5 minutes can help you get centered and re-focused. Just be sure to visit a studio or talk with a certified Yoga instructor if you have not done yoga before.

If you aren’t a yogi-at-heart try meditation. Focusing on certain breathing patterns can help you take your mind off the freight train of thoughts running through your head or keep you from losing your cool in the grocery store line. There are techniques for full relaxation (in as little as 5 minutes) and techniques to keep you calm in the moment. 

Try this if you need a quick reliever: 
Inhale for 4 counts, hold 7 counts, exhale 8 counts. 
All breathing should be done through the nose. 

Other effective techniques can be found here

Rest up 
Your body and your brain both need sleep to recharge. "You need your beauty sleep" isn’t a wives tale. Averaging 7-8 hours a night can improve your mood and boost your energy level.

Friday, November 6, 2015

How much do we really need to work out?

I've been working on a lot of educational material for the classes I teach at work regarding exercise and activity.   Here is a charts I made this week. 

For heart health ACSM and the CDC recommend that adults get 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity (push mowing the grass, brisk walking, water aerobics, cycling) per week.  75 minutes of vigorous (jogging or running, intense cycling, kickboxing). 

In addition, we need two (2) 20-40 minute strength training sessions (yoga, free weights, resistance bands) on non-consecutive days and about 10-15 minutes per day of flexibility (stretching).  All this, just to maintain your heart health. 

150 minutes might seem like a lot of time, but hte good news is that it can be broken down into 10 minute increments through the day.  And when you look at an entire week, it really is just a tiny sliver of your time.  1.4% to be exact.

Where did I get these percentages?

1 week = 168 hours
7.5 hours sleep per night = 52.5 hours (31.25%)
30 minutes strength training/2 days per week = 1 hour (0.5%)
150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week = 2.5 hours (1.5%)
15 minutes of stretching/flexibility per day = 1.75 (1.0%)

So...what are you telling me, Kristen?

That saying "there's just no time" isn't really an excuse.  We have 110.5 hours in our week for LIFE - work, family, relaxation...that's 77% of our time.  For LIFE.  If you still feel pressed for time, make exercise time family time.

I'm not saying that I'm not immune to the "I just don't feel like it bug".  But I could find the time if I wanted to.   Sometimes it's not a matter of time, it's what I (we) choose to do with the time.

I work with many people who take advantage of their kids soccer games by walking the sidelines or using practice time to do laps around the park; they change to the school when it's basketball or volleyball season and use the track during football practice.

And when you think about how much time you spent waiting in the lobby during your last doctor's appointment, doesn't spending 3% of you week on exercise seem like nothing in comparison?

**Note:  This chart represents time spent improving or maintaining heart heath only.  If you are on a weight loss program or training for a sport-specific event, the percentage of time spent on exercise may need to increase.

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