GoodEnough: Strategies for Real Life

Moody Cow (Book Review)

Moody Cow Meditates by Kerry Lee MacLean.

This is another great children’s book that offers wise counsel to stressed-out adults. Peter Cow is having a bad day, one of the ones where everything goes wrong and you get so mad that you become your own worst enemy. Grandpa helps him calm down with a simple meditative technique. Learn how Peter learns to notice his own thoughts, rather than letting his thoughts control him. It includes instructions for how to make your own Mind Jar. I highly recommend this great book!

Click here to buy the book on Amazon!

Penguin Problems (Book Review)

Get Mindful with a Good Book!

The best of children’s literature offers deep insight. In Penguin Problems, we meet a little penguin whose life is frustrating in so many ways because he is a penguin. And it offers us a chance to think and reflect: how much of what “frustrates” us or “irritates” us in life is really just the normal details of being human? Can we shift our perspective and just enjoy the world we have?

This is a great, easy, fun read (my kids LOVE it!) with as much mindfulness wisdom as some of the best meditation texts. I recommend it as part of your meditation reflection even if you don’t have kids!

Click here to get Penguin Problems on Amazon.

Online Counseling

Mental Health care and support makes a difference in quality of life. Getting professional support early can make a different in outcomes. The new and emerging research about online mental health counseling is intriguing and shows that online counseling through text, chat, phone and video call may offer real-time support. Here is a recent article from the American Psychological Association about online therapy, if you’re interested in learning more.

I’d love to hear from those who have used online counseling – how has this helped you deal with both daily stressors and major life changes / traumas? How has online counseling supported you in both recovery and maintenance?

If you haven’t tried it and are interested in learning more, here are some of the key providers in the online mental health counseling marketplace:

Better Help: Click Here.

Talkspace: Click Here.

(Please note: These are NOT paid links, I have no affiliation or income from these companies – I am offering them merely as a resource and I would love to hear more about user-experiences with these services.)

Heroes Need Self Care Too (And Little Things Matter)

It’s been a heart-breaking week for This Is Us fans. We knew from the beginning that we would lose Jack Pearson along the way, but what a heartbreaking loss it turned out to be.

I think there are some self-care lessons we can learn from Jack’s tragedy.

First: the little things, the boring things, the inconsequential things – they matter. They may seem trivial but sometimes they are the difference between life and death. These little things are part of selfcare.

  • Since half of home fires happen between 11 pm and 7 am, you should have a smoke detector in every bedroom. Change the batteries regularly – one easy strategy suggested by many fire departments is to change batteries when you change the clocks – twice a year, at spring forward and fall back. Learn more about fire safety and prevention from the US Fire Administration by clicking here. Just a few minutes to change batteries twice a year could literally be the difference between life and death.
  • More than half of the people who die in car accidents were not wearing a seatbelt. It takes two seconds to click on your belt before your drive. It’s the same as the smoke detectors: so simple and boring you may think it doesn’t matter. My point is that small things, little things, boring things can matter tremendously when it comes to staying safe and healthy. Click here for more from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on vehicle safety.
  • Each year, 26,000 kids and teens sustain traumatic brain injuries because they are in a bicycle accident without a protective helmet. Most of us didn’t wear helmets growing up, but it’s a simple habit to adopt for ourselves and the children in our lives. Click here for more from the CDC on head injuries and bicycle safety.

Second, and perhaps the deeper message of Jack Pearson’s death, is that putting everyone else first can sometimes end poorly. The fictional Jack Pearson is a good man – hardworking, the kind of man who puts his wife and kids first, who works hard and takes care of his friends, who never lets anyone see the struggle within. He beats alcoholism through his diligence. He gets the car his wife and kids want, which is beyond the family’s budget, and just takes care of it on his own. He saves not only his wife and kids from a fire, but also the family dog and the family photo albums.

But going above and beyond – and going it alone – can backfire, just as Jack’s heart gave out to the smoke he inhaled in his final act of heroism. Consider, for instance, family caregivers – one-third of whom are every-day heroes while silently dealing with their own health issues. Pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion can mean that you are no longer able to take care of those for whom you are responsible. Research shows that family caregivers have higher levels of stress hormones and lower levels of immune antibodies – which means that they are more likely to get sick, because of the constant effort of caring for others. Read more about health challenges for caregivers by clicking here.

Whatever your role – working parent, caregiver for a child or spouse or parent with a health issue, individual juggling multiple jobs to make ends meet – remember that you also have a responsibility to your own health and well-being. Sometimes, the most responsible thing to do is stop. Admit you need help. Acknowledge to others your internal emotional struggle. Take time for the rest and recovery you need, too. You deserve compassion. You deserve understanding. You deserve support. Your work and efforts to care for others is beautiful, loving, and heroic. Just remember that heroes need selfcare, too.

Take care of your hearts, dear ones.

Let me know below – how are you taking care of yourself? And where could you do a better job of acknowledging your limitations, and letting others help you?

Reducing Sugar with Good Enough Strategies

Have you read recent research implicating sugar in inflammation? Researchers increasingly understand that the sugar leads to inflammation in the body and may be implicated in a variety of health conditions. For instance, one large scale study (more than 2000 men and women over 13 years) found that those whose diets were highest in refined sugars and refined starches had the greatest risk of death related to inflammatory disease. Other researchers have found such a strong link between blood sugar and dementia that they call Alzheimer’s Disease Diabetes Type 3. You can read a detailed analysis of the health effects of sugar from Medical Daily by clicking here.

Clearly, reducing your sugar intake is good for your health – both physical and mental, both now and for the long-term.

The problem is that cutting out sugar can make you feel like a militant member of the diet police, those no-fun people who ruin parties and holidays with their long lists of dos and don’ts.

So how about a #GoodEnough approach to reducing sugar in your life! Here are three simple #GoodEnough guidelines to help you eat less sugar in real life.

  • If it shouldn’t have sugar (but does), don’t eat it. Find another option. There are so many processed foods that include sugar in their long-list of ingredients. This can be in a variety of forms, and some of them are sugar-alcohols whose names you won’t even recognize. Consider, though, whether salad dressing, spaghetti sauce, curry, and bread really should have sugar in them. I don’t think they should. I don’t use them when I cook these things at home, and when I need to buy packaged food, I read labels and look for short lists of ingredients that make sense for the food. My bottom line here is: save sugar for when you want to eat sugar. Cut it out of everything else.
  • Limit how much sugar you drink. Sugar goes down fast in juice, soda, and milkshakes. It takes longer to eat an orange (for less calories and sugar, and more fiber) than to drink a glass of orange juice. It takes less time to slurp a milkshake than to lick a cone. Most of what you drink should be water – if you need some zest or zing, try adding fresh herbs (like mint, rosemary, and lemon balm), fresh lemon or lime, or surprising extras like berries or cucumbers for a spa-water treat. Try sparkling water. Try herbal tea (unsweetened). If you want a smoothie, keep it focused on fresh fruit and proteins, no sugar added. Keep your drinks sugar free.
  • Give fruit a thumbs up. Fruit offers a great way to treat your sweet-tooth healthfully. Blueberries and other berries are full of antioxidants. Tangerines and other citrus are full of fiber and vitamin C. Pineapple has bromelain, an anti-inflammatory enzyme. (Click here for more from WebMD on the healing properties of bromelain.) Bananas have high levels of potassium. Fresh fruit after a meal makes a healthy, high-fiber, high-nutrient dessert to keep you away from added sugar. (Of course, if you have diabetes or other health conditions, you should consult your doctor about the amount and/or types of fruit you can safely eat.) Remember the old saying, an apple a day keeps the doctor away, and enjoy fresh fruit to boost health.
  • When you want to eat sugar, eat sugar. Really eat it. Mindfully. Aware. Enjoying it. If you want to have an ice cream cone or a piece of pie, then have it – but sit down and have it. Taste it. Notice the texture. Experience it as the treat and splurge it should be. If you’re scarfing down candy while watching TV or barreling through a bag of cookies while finishing a PPT for work – are you really eating them? You’re getting the calories and the sugar but missing the pleasure. So: no multitasking while you eat sugar. No eating sugar when you feel sad or angry or hurt. (When you eat your feelings, you rarely taste the food.) When you eat sugar, eat sugar mindfully so that you enjoy the sweetness.

Here’s to your #GoodEnough health!

Shift Your Mindset: Cleaning is Exercise

Much of the country is blanketed in snow. Even parts of the Southern US, unaccustomed to snow and unequipped with snow plows (cities) or snow tires (people), got more than 8 inches, covering roads and walkways. It’s hard to keep up with your fitness routines when you can’t get outside to walk or run, or drive safely to the gym.

If you feel like turning cabin fever into an early bout of spring cleaning, take heart that you may be helping your health in the process. In fact, just thinking about cleaning as exercise may yield health benefits.

In a Harvard research study conducted by Alia Crum and Ellen Langer, hotel housekeepers reported that they had low levels of physical activity. And in spite of their jobs lifting and toting as they cleaned rooms on the clock, the women had blood pressure and waistlines that reflected inactive lifestyles. In the study, half of the women attended an information session outlining how their jobs ARE physical activity. Four weeks later – the informed women “showed a decrease in weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio, and body mass index.” Just learning that the activity they were ALREADY doing as exercise – without changing their activity – helped them gain the benefits of exercise.

Your mind matters – what you think and feel can have a concrete, tangible effect on your body. So, if you’re spending snow-bound time scrubbing out cupboards and cleaning closets, remembering that all that stretching, reaching, lifting, and toting counts as exercise. You just have to know that it counts.

Read an analysis of the study from NPR by clicking here.

Read the original study by clicking here (paid subscription or institutional access to the academic journal required.)

Setting Goals for 2018? Focus on Good Enough.

Dear Friends: My intent is to help all of us treat ourselves with kindness, compassion, and acceptance. To help us let go of self-judgment and criticism. To focus on what we’re doing well and to celebrate our accomplishments. I’ll be sharing tips and tricks to make fitness, diet, selfcare, and wellness enjoyable parts of your daily life. Instead of exercising or dieting because we “should” (who says?) we’ll focus on strategies that are fun – that we WANT to do.

Are you ready to join me on the journey? Together, we’ll walk a path of Good Enough that fits into REAL LIFE and helps you make exercise and healthy eating an opportunity for self-care – a chance to treat yourself with the love you deserve!