Retiring Supermom, Superwoman

For the last couple weeks I ran away. No, not literally, just figuratively. In other words I turned tail, headed for the hills, flew the coop, bowed out, fell behind, disengaged, and withdrew.

The last two synonyms express it perfectly: I disengaged. I withdrew.

Sure, I had my reasons for withdrawing! Don’t we all have our reasons when we quit something, even if only temporarily? After I wrote my reasons on a piece of paper, I looked at them staring back at me in black and white, (yes, I really DO this exercise and it REALLY works, I don’t just coach my clients to do this!)

Then I felt very foolish and weak, because my list seemed quite ridiculous and pathetic. Even the ones that looked like insurmountable mountains in my mind looked like common and easily brushed aside ant hills in the light of day on that piece of paper!

All my BIG problems looked so very BIG and scary because I was keeping them in my head and in the dark where they could fill every nook and cranny of my very active mind with worry, fear, frustration, confusion and self-doubt.

Problems have a funny way of multiplying. They’re a lot like rabbits!

But once I separated them, kept them apart, I was able to stop the rampant procreation of my problems and begin dissecting and tackling them one-by-one!

As I said, after I wrote all my problems down on a piece of paper and looked at them, I actually laughed. Yes, some of the things on my list of problems may not be insignificant, BUT, they are not without solutions. Especially when I am so blessed to have so many people who are able and willing to help me!

For example, the week before Thanksgiving, my laptop died. I was working on it, stepped away for an hour or so, came back and voila, it was frozen. I tried to turn it off and reboot, but though I held the OFF button down firmly and for an extended period, it didn’t turn off.

Mind you, this was not the start to my “problems,” but rather some very undesirable and bitter icing on a piece of cake that had been going rotten for weeks by that point! After a trip to the store where I purchased the computer, I was told that the mother board had died and I needed to send it back to the manufacturer (yes, I’d bought the extended warranty – amen – a small, silver lining!) and that it would be 2-3 weeks before it would be repaired and returned to me.

Aaaahhhh…life goes on. I’ve resurrected my old desktop and I’m hobbling along, slower, humbled again by technology, but grateful because I can communicate with so many because of it.

Due to mounting “stress” from my growing list of problems that were lining up in a row like orderly children on the playground before school, I caught a doozy of a head cold two days before Thanksgiving. My famous last words to my friend who accepted my warm embrace despite warning me that she had “the sniffles” were, “Don’t worry, I never get sick!”

Over a week later, I am still coughing, blowing my nose constantly and feeling like a sick pup.

So back to my list…I wrote another list of problems. One that put my common cold promptly in perspective…along with my computer problems, and everything else I have been grappling with over the last few months.

Here’s the second list of problems I wrote, imagining another person, whom I hope and pray never to be!

My List of Reasons for Running Away from Life

Survived a tsunami, earthquake, tornado, hurricane, war, etc

Lost loved ones; and many more injured

May even have no family or friends left alive

Suffered severe physical trauma or disability

Lost home, furniture, clothing, all belongings

Have no water for bathing and little, if any, for drinking

Have no heat or air conditioning

No medical facilities to treat injuries and illness

Haven’t eaten for days and no food in sight

Afraid to sleep at night for fear of pillagers

Have no communication with the “outside” world

Can’t imagine how this hell might end

There are millions of people on this planet at this very moment with THIS list of problems. I would totally understand if THOSE people wanted to run away from their lives! Wouldn’t you want to run away? The real problem is…they can’t!

My “problems,” in comparison, are so insignificant as to be like a single star in the galaxy, let alone the entire universe.

Many years ago, my brother-in-law helped me set-up a computer and handed me a card upon which he had written a username and password that he’d made up for me. At the time, I was flattered by the username he chose for me: “supermom,” followed by some numerals.

Although he told me I could change it if I wanted, I liked his choice for me. Certainly, I had always tried to be a super mom, especially after I became the only parent after my husband’s death. However, I’ve come to equate being a super mother with being a super woman and the truth of the matter is, I don’t want to be either!

I am fallible. I am limited. I can be wrong, confused, lonely, scared, overwhelmed, fed-up, tired and just plain, old sick!

And that does NOT mean that I am bad, worthless, careless, uncaring, over-the-hill or beyond redemption! It just means that I am human. I am real. I am limited and I am vulnerable.

But I am also resilient, determined, committed and still capable of great things!

Somewhere in my past, I was sent this poem/prayer. This week, after a dear friend of mine (who REALLY had a BIG list) faced her list with incredible faith, I sent it to her. I think it came back into my consciousness both for her AND for me. Here it is; sorry I don’t know who to attribute it to…if anyone knows, please advise me, as it is a wonderful poem/prayer.

Whether you believe in God, Universe, Source, I think this will speak to you. May you be blessed with strength to persevere through your problems.

Life’s Crosssroads

Sometimes we come to life’s crossroads and view what we think is the end,

But God has a much wider vision and God knows it’s only a bend –

The road will go on and get smoother, and after we’ve stopped for a rest,

The path that lies hidden beyond us is often the part that is best,

So rest and relax and grow stronger

Let go and let God share your load,

And have faith in a brighter tomorrow

you’ve just come to a bend in the road.

How Crying and Sighing Can Be Good For You

When I was a girl, I had a tendency to dissolve into tears if someone even looked at me cross-eyed. It was a troubling (to my parents) and humiliating (to me) response which occurred with awkward frequency and duration. Being a girl, I was given a bit more understanding than my younger brother would have received, but even with the extraordinary patience of my family and friends, I dreaded those moments when my waterworks got the best of me.

Since crying – and sighing (yes, I’ve also been told I sigh a lot, too) have played significant roles in my life, I’ve always noticed when other females of all ages cry and/or sigh. I watch with fascination, noting what might get them started, how hard they’d cry, if they’d cry openly or escape for private relief, whether they were nose-blowers and eye-wipers or let their tears run freely in rivulets down their cheeks, were they soft, gentle weepers or unabashed sobbers.

Long before I read any of the scientific research that’s available, I began to form my own theories about crying and sighing. Even without knowledge of hormones, neurotransmitters, emotional triggers or women’s cycles, I suspected that women are just more “pre-wired” to cry, than men.

Statistically speaking, women do cry more often than men.

While men average just 17 times per year, women average a whopping 64 times…nearly 4X as often as men! And while men tend to cry at “acceptable” times like deaths or other tragedies, women are notorious for bursting into tears when things just don’t go right – the soufflé falls, 4 bad hair days in a row, an argument with her boss, the baby has the sniffles…again.

When women are frustrated, stressed, worried, hurt, afraid, physically ill or in pain, having very good or very bad memories, or just plain old fed-up…we sigh or cry…and sometimes we do both. And sometimes, for absolutely no apparent or logical reason whatsoever, we find ourselves tearing up.

Some women, me included, cry after really great sex! The first time this happened to me, the poor guy was really freaked out and worried that he’d somehow hurt me, done something wrong, or just totally disappointed me, even though we’d both seemed to really enjoy ourselves! But as the waves of tears washed over me, it occurred to me that the intense flood of emotion was a good thing. It felt great – almost as good as the orgasm that had apparently flipped the tear switch.

One hormone which is being studied as having a possible connection to crying is prolactin. And not surprisingly, women average 60% more prolactin in our bodies than men. In addition, during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, breastfeeding and times of great stress, our prolactin production increases. It follows then, that women are famous for being weepier around the time of their period or when pregnant or nursing.

I’ve always believed that crying and sighing can be good stress relievers for us.

In the movie Broadcast News, Holly Hunter plays the role of a feisty, young, female producer in a high-pressure news bureau. In order to manage her stress and not be caught off-guard by the high emotion of her job, she periodically schedules a good cry for herself. At her desk in the newsroom early in the morning before co-workers arrive, on a park bench on her lunch hour…she gives herself permission to simply meltdown.

I remember the first time I watched this movie and thought to myself, what a brilliant solution! Plan your breakdowns…get all that pent-up emotion out before it creeps up on you at the most inopportune time.

There are three basic types of tears: basal, irritant and emotional.

Our basal tears are hardly noticeable and always doing their job of keeping our corneas moist. Every time we blink, we spread a fine layer of basal lubricant over our eyes to keep them healthy. The second type of tears, irritant, is pretty self-explanatory. They’re similar to basal tears; however they contain additional enzymes and anti-bodies. When our eyes are disturbed by something – wind, dust, dirt, chopping onions, or bright sunshine – these tears help to flush out or protect our eyes.

Emotional tears, however, are much more free-flowing and contain a significantly higher amount of protein than do basal or irritant tears. It’s thought that these complex proteins are expelled from the body through emotional tears as a way to excrete these toxins. The more stressed you are, the more these toxins build up in your body. Therefore, having a good cry is a great way to rid your body of these built-up toxins.

I know for certain that after crying, I just feel better, not only emotionally, but physically, too. Perhaps I’m just imagining this…but emotionally and physically I feel less tense, more optimistic and yes, even happier!

And certainly, most therapists, counselors and doctors would agree that crying has a positive, rather than negative impact on their patients. Just as laughter is universally seen as something “healthy” to do, and has actually been supported by science, new studies are being done on the positive effects that crying and sighing has on our bodies.

Not that long ago, I became a member of Braveheart Women. Ellie Drake, who is the founder of this terrific site for women, teaches a breathing technique specifically to benefit women. She calls it “Oxytocin Breathing.” To begin, place your arms horizontally palms up, take a full, deep breath in, followed by a really concentrated exhale accompanied by an audible “sighing” sound. This will release the hormone oxytocin, which is also known as the “cuddle hormone” from your pituitary gland and will allow you to relax. I absolutely love this breathing technique. Be sure to try it; it really works!

Somehow, inherently, I think we women know that crying and sighing are important to our health and well-being. I think it’s time for us to stop apologizing for being “emotional creatures”, to stop doing everything we can to “maintain control” and to begin loving ourselves just as we are – crying and sighing included.

I know I’m not going to quit doing either of these stress releasers.

I do, however, encourage women to think of these as great tools to cultivate and become expert at handling. Knowing how to make the most of both of these will help you to live a life that’s much more enjoyable, less stressful and healthier, too.

What is a Hot Flash and How Can I Minimize Them?

For years before I ever experienced my first hot flash, I heard women friends complain about them. Sometimes I could actually see the onset of a friend’s hot flash as I’d be speaking with her. Her face would begin to redden; a light line of sweat would break out across her upper lip or across her brow, frequently followed by her ardently fanning to cool herself down.

As I entered my fifties, still without having had my first hot flash, I began to wonder whether I’d miraculously be exempted from these horrible and sudden flushes. Then one day, out of the clear blue, my first hot flash hit. It didn’t dawn on me at first what was happening, but as my skin became clammy and it seemed as if the heat had been turned up a few degrees, I realized what was happening.

It’s little comfort to know that 80% of all women experience hot flashes when they go through menopause. Typically a woman’s ovaries stop producing estrogen around the age of 50, causing her hormone levels to drop rapidly. This causes her internal thermostat to go berserk, leaving her susceptible to the blood vessels on her skin’s surface suddenly dilating and engulfing her in a feeling of intense heat.

In addition to the changes in estrogen levels, it also appears that hot flashes can be stimulated by a brain chemical called norepinephrine, which is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for regulating the temperature center in the brain.  By practicing stress reducing techniques such as meditation, yoga and deep breathing you can help lower levels of norepinephrine, which can minimize the effects or severity of hot flashes.

I describe hot flashes as an almost instantaneous eruption of heat from certain parts of my body. It literally feels like someone has stuck me under a heat lamp. Typically the heat races across my chest or back, up my neck and across my face and scalp. When I touch the top of my head, seconds after a hot flash has begun, I can literally feel heat pouring off!

For most women, hot flashes seem to come on virtually from out of nowhere! But over the years I’ve found that certain things will actually trigger or exacerbate a hot flash. I’ve learned to pay strict attention to what I eat or drink and also to my thoughts. I avoid drinking anything with caffeine, red wine, hot beverages and spicy foods when I’m out at events. And I do my best to stay as Zen as possible in my conversations, especially when I’m at a social gathering, running a meeting or speaking in public. Generally, beware of emotionally charged conversations when you need to stay cool!

For me, the quickest way to “turn down the heat” and minimize a hot flash is to increase air flow or change the temperature of the surrounding air. I may excuse myself and step outside if the air temperature is cooler – or reverse that strategy in the summer and go into air conditioning for a moment to squelch the fire. Gently fanning to increase air flow around my face and neck frequently helps, and may be an option if it’s not too obvious or disconcerting. But too vigorous movements may increase the effects of the hot flash, so watch not to over-exert.

Studies have shown that menopausal women actually experience fewer and milder hot flashes in cooler than warmer rooms. So keep the temperature down, the air conditioning on, a window open or a ceiling fan going and you’ll have fewer episodes. There are even handy mini-fans that can be purchased and stashed in your purse or desk drawer at work for emergency cool-downs.

Having a cold beverage handy and regularly sipping on it, or even taking a gulp or two if a bad hot flash starts, also works well, as it cools your internal body temperature. And holding an icy cold glass against your wrist, right at the pulse point, can help to cool your blood.

Vitamin E has also been shown to relieve the frequency and severity of hot flashes. Be sure to eat more vitamin E-rich foods such as wheat germ, safflower oil, whole-grain breads and cereals, peanuts, walnuts, almonds. There are also many herbal products on the market today that may help to reduce hot flashes, too. Some of the more common ones are sarsaparilla, dong quoi, black cohosh, false unicorn root, fennel and anise. But before taking any herbal formulas, talk with your doctor, pharmacist or a qualified herbalist or acupuncturist to be sure you don’t make things worse!

Hot flashes often disturb a woman’s sleep and can be quite unpleasant due to the sweating that occurs.  Waking up in the throes of a major hot flash can leave one drenched and in need of a change of clothes. Wearing pajamas made from natural fibers which breathe helps to release the heat more quickly when a hot flash strikes and bed clothes which are made specifically to wick away moisture are a worthwhile investment for the menopausal woman.

For me, too, sleeping on my stomach will encourage a hot flash, as it seems to trap the heat from my body against the mattress more so than if I sleep on my side or back. When I was a younger woman, I was always cold and often slept in layers and even wore socks to bed during the winter months! Nowadays, less is definitely more! I like my feet bare, a light cover – if any at all – and sleeveless tops. And I’d be lost without my ceiling fan going most nights! Besides, I find the whirring sound soothes me, too!

And increasing our physical activity is another proven way to reduce hot flashes. Yes, exercise increases the levels of endorphins, hormones which affect our body’s temperature regulation center. So getting regular exercise can have a beneficial effect on a woman’s hot flashes, too!

As much of a challenge as menopause hot flashes are, they do not have to become the bane of our existence for the entire decade it takes for the average women to complete the journey to menopause. Since menopause is unavoidable, and living a long and healthy life is certainly desirable, it makes sense to be as proactive as possible in managing this common side-effect. Hot flashes can be annoying, but they don’t have to become life-limiting!

Your Body is Like a Swimming Pool

For many years, we had a large in-ground swimming pool, though it was always my husband’s responsibility to maintain it while he was alive. Jim was extremely fastidious about keeping the water pH balanced, regularly testing with the little pH strips, and then adding chemicals as required.  Every couple of weeks, he’d take a water sample to the pool store for a more sophisticated evaluation. In all the years that he took care of the pool, we never once had any sort of problem with the pool water.

When the care of the pool fell onto my shoulders, I tried very hard to keep the pool’s water balanced for the sake of all those swimming in the water, though I had many problems. Though Jim made it look easy, I was not as diligent as he was and so occasionally the water would get “funky.”

A pH of 7.0 is neutral, below 7.0 is acidic, and above 7.0 is alkaline. The pH of human eyes is 7.2. No wonder the ideal pH for swimming pools is just that – 7.2, and should be kept within the range of 7.0 to at most 7.6.

In case you’ve forgotten high school chemistry, pH stands for “potential of hydrogen.” It’s the activity of the hydrogen atom which influences acidity and alkalinity. An example of something very acid would be a car battery, which has a pH of 1, whereas household bleach is very alkaline with a pH of 12.5.

So, why am I telling you about the pH of pool water, car batteries and bleach? Because maintaining a normal body pH, or acid-alkaline balance, is also one of the most important aspects of human health. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most overlooked and often downright ignored!

If you ignore the pH of your pool and the water becomes too acidic, bad things eventually happen to the entire structure of the pool – the surface and tiles, pipe fittings, pump connections, etc. – can begin to corrode and eventually malfunction. Additionally, anyone swimming in the water will feel their eyes and nose burn and their skin become dry and itchy.

When the water is too alkaline, the calcium in the water combines with carbonates and forms scale, just like in our tea kettles. Calcification is seen most at the waterline, where it traps dust and dirt, creating a dirty, hard, black ring over time. The calcium carbonate also causes the swimming pool filter to lose its ability to trap dirt from the pool water so the water becomes murky and loses its sparkle.

Just as chemicals are added to pool water to maintain a balanced, “healthy” pH, our eating habits influence our body’s pH, which ideally should be between 7.0 (neutral) to 7.1. When we eat too many foods that promote acid we increase our chances of developing low-grade metabolic acidosis. In response, our kidneys, which are responsible for metabolic activities that buffer acidity in our bodies, must work harder to remove the excess acid.

Another of our bodies responses to too much acid, is our bones release calcium and magnesium, which promote an alkaline pH, and muscle tissue is broken down to make ammonia, another strongly alkaline substance. This process may not be noticed for many years, but ultimately result in osteoporosis and muscle loss – both associated with aging, declining strength and increased risk of fractures in our senior years.

So what can we do to correct this problem and maintain our ideal body pH? We’ve all heard the expression, “We are what we eat,” and this is very true when it comes to our pH level. Common acid yielding foods include meats, dairy products, eggs, seafood and whole and refined grains. But there are plenty of delicious foods that increase alkalinity: all fruits and vegetables! Said quite simply, the key to a neutral pH is to maintain a balance between proteins and grains with much more emphasis placed on fresh fruits and vegetables.

It’s also important to understand that it’s not whether a food itself is acidic or alkaline, but how the food’s content of sodium, chloride, potassium and bicarbonate impact our body’s pH. For example, although oranges and tomatoes are acidic foods, they actually promote alkalinity in our body when we eat them.

Today, the battle between alkaline and acidic pH values in our bodies greatly depends on the balancing of four things: potassium vs. sodium and bicarbonate vs. chloride. Potassium and bicarbonate are found in fresh fruits and vegetables whereas sodium and chloride are found heavily in processed and packaged foods, which dominate much of the American diet today. However, humans evolved consuming diets rich in potassium and bicarbonate while low in sodium and chloride, but now today the pendulum has swung dangerously to the much less healthy tendency to eat many more foods loaded with sodium and chloride.

To make it really, really simple you need only remember that alkaline-yielding foods are: all fresh fruits and vegetables!

Everything else is acid-yielding foods: all dairy, eggs, meat, seafood, poultry, legumes, grains (whole or refined) nuts, rice and sugars!  And of course, all refined and processed foods, too!

Does this mean you shouldn’t eat foods from the acid-yielding categories? Of course not! But today, most people eat a ratio of 3:1 in favor of acid-yielding foods, whereas we evolved eating a 10:1 ratio! Big difference! And that’s another reason disease, especially diseases associated with aging, are dramatically on the rise today.

It’s simple to measure your own body’s pH with purchased test strips (they come in a roll) which can cost as little as $10 at a health food store or you can buy them online. Cut a 3” strip, urinate on it and after the strip changes color compare it to the chart provided. Record your results over the next seven days, then calculate your average for that time. The “normal” range for urine is 6.5 to 7.5, though anything over 7.0 (neutral) is best!

Once you know your body’s average pH, make a real effort to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and less of everything else, drink plenty of water (you should also check the pH of the water you drink regularly, as this can have a huge impact on your personal pH.) In a couple weeks, check again to see if your pH is more alkaline and keep working towards getting your pH into the high end of the normal range. Bon Appétit!

The Very Best Tips for Getting – and Staying – Asleep

Falling right to sleep and then staying asleep may sound like a dream, but it is possible. Yet more than half of all midlife women experience insomnia at least a few nights a week. Everyone’s different, so don’t be afraid to experiment with the following tips to find the ones that work best for you.

One way to reduce bouts of insomnia and get rid of those miserable nights permanently is to develop a schedule, and then stick-to-it! Just as mothers are instructed to put their new babies to bed at the same time each night, adults can improve sleep quality by being consistent with when they go to bed and wake up every day.

When you keep a regular sleep schedule you set your body’s internal clock.

Even on weekends, it’s important to follow these times fairly closely in order to avoid confusing your body’s internal clock, also known as your circadian rhythm (natural sleep and wake cycle.) So, it’s very important to go to bed and get up at the same time 7 days a week.

Changes to your routine of just an hour or two can disrupt this circadian rhythm. Even if you consistently get the necessary 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep per night, but vary the times you go to bed and get up, you won’t feel as rested and refreshed as when you stick to the same schedule night after night. So set a regular bedtime when you normally feel tired, and fight the temptation to stay up later on weekends.

Just as important is waking up at the same time every morning, even on weekends when you may think it’s a great chance to sleep in a couple hours. By following a regular sleep schedule, you should wake up naturally. That’s right! You can kiss that alarm clock goodbye, because your internal clock will wake you up automatically.

If you do need to change your bedtime for some reason, try to do so gradually, in 15 minute increments earlier or later over several days, rather than suddenly. And if you occasionally need to make up for lost sleep, choose to take a short nap of not more than half an hour. Set an alarm to awaken you, so you don’t overdo it. And be sure to nap early in the day, say before 2:00 PM, because napping late in the afternoon can wreak havoc with your ability to fall asleep at night.

Your sleep environment is also critical but often gets overlooked.

The story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears was dead on…for some the bed may be too hard, others too soft, and still others just right! And that strategy applies to things besides the firmness or softness of your mattress. Everything from light to noise to the temperature in the room can affect your quality of sleep.

Generally, the quieter your sleeping quarters are, the better your sleep will be. Just because you’ve become accustomed to noises like traffic on the street or TVs playing down the hall, doesn’t mean that your sleep is not being disrupted by these sounds. And loud, sudden noises like dogs barking, sirens wailing, or horns honking can be particularly troublesome.

If it’s not possible to deaden or muffle these sounds by closing windows or hanging heavy drapes, then try adding steady, soothing sounds. Play a tape of gentle music, soft ocean waves, or run a fan to create white noise. There are even white noise machines you can buy for this specific purpose.

Light can disrupt sleep, too. For some people even a tiny bit of light can make it hard to drift off to sleep. When my oldest daughter went to college, she had a hard time adjusting. At home Hayley had her own room, so when her roommate was working late at night in their room, Hayley found it hard to sleep. The noises and light not only made it hard for her to fall asleep but when she could get to sleep, she’d often be woken up. We bought her a comfortable, well-fitting, 100% light-blocking sleep mask and a box of good quality ear plugs; problem solved! She slept like a baby again.

Just as noise can interrupt our sleep, a room that’s too hot, too cold or drafty can make mess with our sleep. Sleep studies show that most people sleep best in a room that’s on the cooler side. And menopausal women especially benefit from a cooler temperature while sleeping. I even prefer to have a window slightly open, except on very cold winter nights! Wearing light, unrestrictive bed clothes and have multiple covers that can be added or pealed back as needed, will help too.

And of course, a good quality mattress and pillow are important.

If your mattress is too firm or too soft, try adding foam, egg crate or down-filled toppers. And experiment with multiple pillows for added support if one is not sufficient. As I’ve aged, my arthritis has made it important to cushion my joints, so I routinely sleep with a body pillow against which I can cradle myself.

A very common sleep inhibitor is the television, which has become a mainstay in the modern bedroom. TV stimulates the mind, which should not be surprising based on the stressful, often violent content on late night shows. And the flickering light has also been shown to confuse the body’s clock. Another big no-no that many make is to work in bed for an hour or more before going to sleep. This sends the wrong message to the brain by increasing alertness and stress, rather than unwinding, which is what we should be doing before going to sleep.

It’s far better to read light material, listen to soft music, do needlework, even jot a list of to-dos on a bedside notepad for the next day in order to empty your mind. Also consider a warm bath, do some slow, easy stretches, practice deep breathing and meditation, ask a partner to give you a massage. These are all great options before sleep, will help you to fall easily to sleep and stay asleep.

And no guide to healthful sleep would be complete without addressing the role of what we eat and drink in how well we sleep. I’m sure it will come as no surprise to anyone that caffeine is probably the most common stimulant that disrupts sleep. So avoid any caffeine for a minimum of 4, but preferably 6 hours, prior to bedtime. This includes not just coffee, but also tea, many soft drinks but especially cola, chocolate and even some medications like pain killers can contain caffeine.

If you’re going to drink an alcoholic beverage, refrain from doing so within 3 hours of bedtime. Even though drinking initially makes some people drowsy, you’re more likely to wake-up later, and at the very least it will decrease the quality of your sleep. And drinking too much liquid before bed will increase the likelihood that you’ll have to make one or more bathroom trips during the night. Caffeine is also a diuretic, and will magnify this problem.

Be careful not to eat large meals too late at night, and avoid all rich, heavy foods within 2 hours of going to bed. Spicy and acidic foods can also cause heartburn, an acid stomach or indigestion, especially when lying down. If you’re hungry before bed, choose a small snack that in your experience doesn’t interfere with your sleep. Ideally, choose dairy foods combined with carbohydrates or food containing tryptophan with carbohydrates. For example, a small dish of whole grain, unsweetened cereal with low fat milk or half a turkey sandwich are ideal choices.

Finally, realize that waking during the night is normal.

If you do wake up, don’t look at the clock! If you can’t help yourself, then turn the clock away from you so that you can’t see the time. Clock-watching will make it harder for you to fall back to sleep. If you must get up to use the bathroom, don’t turn on the light, instead use a dim night light for safety. Turning on the light will overly stimulate your brain and make falling back to sleep harder.

If you do find yourself tossing and turning for more than 15 to 20 minutes, try engaging your brain in some non-stimulating activity like counting backwards from 99 or “counting sheep.” Listening to soft music or even reading light material are okay, but keep the light dim, so as not to signal your internal clock that it’s time to wake up.

Nearly everyone has an occasional sleepless night, but if you find yourself struggling to get to sleep or stay asleep more often, talk with your doctor. Chronic problems such as obesity, arthritis, high blood pressure and diabetes have also been linked to poor sleep patterns. Getting the help you need before you have a serious, chronic sleep problem is so important, because sleep is absolutely critical to the body because of its regenerative qualities.

Sweet Dreams!

If you are ready to be inspired, supported, motivated and encouraged to create a life to love, and to receive a FREE, 45 minute Coaching Consultation, I invite you to contact me at (856) 854-7393 or eileen@midlifeandmenopausecoach.com. I will get back to you promptly, usually within 24 hours.

Did You Just Hear What You Said?

Over the last several years, I’ve assembled my own list of “Bad Words.” They’re not dirty words or curse words; in fact, they’re pretty ordinary words by most measure. But, after listening to dozens of motivational speakers and reading many, many books on mindset, it occurred to me these few words can be quite dangerous. In the context in which they most often get used, they are definitely words which weaken, confuse, water-down, avoid and cloud people’s intentions.

I think we should make every effort to ban these words from our vocabulary…at least until we become conscious of why we use them and their negative power over our lives. Since I have become aware of them as quick escape hatches that people consciously and unconsciously pepper their conversations with, every time I hear one spoken, it is not unlike fingernails screeching across a chalk board.

Wouldn’t it be cool if every time we used one of these words in the way they’re most often used (the way that I think is “bad”) that a little alarm would sound in our heads and raise our consciousness? I’m sure some of you feel the same way as I do about some of these words.

So I thought I’d share my list of “Bad Words” with you, and see if you, like me, feel it would be good to eradicate them from our language. I believe much of our power LIVES in our written and spoken “WORD”…that if our thoughts remain just thoughts and are never shared with others, they cannot manifest anything.

So here’s my list:

Eileen Boyle’s List of BAD WORDS

(Make an Intention to Delete These Words From Your Vocabulary!!!)

Instead of saying “I’ll try”…Say “I WILL”
Because people who say “TRY,” usually don’t.

Instead of saying “Possibly”…Say “DEFINITELY”
Because people who say “POSSIBLY,” usually mean it’s not likely.

Instead of saying “Someday”…Say “TODAY”
Because people who say “SOMEDAY,” usually never get things done.

Instead of saying “Maybe”…Say “ABSOLUTELY”
Because people who say “MAYBE,” have little, if any, conviction.

Instead of saying “I could”…Say “I WILL”
Because people who say “COULD,” rarely follow through.

Instead of saying “Might”…Say “CERTAINLY”
People who say “MIGHT,” usually make an excuse later.

Instead of saying “If”…Say “WHEN”
People who say “IF,” dream but don’t act.

Instead of saying “I hope”…Say “I BELIEVE”
People who say “I HOPE,” usually have little belief.

Instead of saying “But”…Say NOTHING!
When the word “BUT” pops into your head, ask yourself “BUT WHAT?”…then don’t say anything more!

Let me know what you think of my list of “Bad Words” and if you have any “Bad Words” of your own, that you’d like me to add to this list. I’m sure I’ve missed some! And thanks in advance for sharing your ideas with me, so we can all hold ourselves accountable for our words.

Tighten up the Slack on Arm Flab!

When’s the last time you went sleeveless without worrying about how your arms above the elbow look naked? How does it feel to wave goodbye to someone and realize the jiggly skin on your upper arms continues to shake after your hand has stopped moving? Have you ever looked at a photo of yourself in a tank top or bathing suit and done a double take at the sight of your chicken wing arms?

For midlife and menopausal women everywhere, upper arm fat is a major embarrassment and self-esteem problem, causing many to hide their flabby appendages under sleeves year-round. And wearing sleeves in the warmer months can be very uncomfortable, especially during a hot flash!

Looking back on our youth, we longingly remember our slender, tight, toned triceps. Even if we did not regularly work out at a gym or participate in a sport when we were younger, our upper arms seemed to do just fine by themselves. Baring shoulders and entire arms in sun dresses and halter tops was effortless.

When we were young, our skin produced sufficient elastin and collagen, the connective tissue that holds everything together, to keep our skin flexible, supple and smooth. As we age, however, collagen and elastin production naturally declines, and our skin begins to dry out, wrinkle and eventually sag. This happens to the skin on every part of our bodies, not just upper arms.

What makes the upper arm a particularly troublesome area, is that sagging underarm skin also contains more fat than many other areas on the body, which accentuates the problem. And though overall excess body weight also adds to underarm flab, losing weight alone will not necessarily get rid of the problem. Older women who are well within a normal weight range, and even women who are underweight, often have flabby upper arms. In fact, losing weight often makes the problem worse, because with reduced collagen and elastin, our skin does not bounce back from being stretched out, and may sag more.

So is there a solution? Thankfully, yes!

But first, it helps to understand the musculature of the upper arm itself. There are two main groups of muscles in the upper arm: the biceps, which run along the front when your arm is resting at your side. The job of the biceps is to rotate the forearm (supination) and to flex the elbow. The triceps run along the back of the upper arm and are made up of three separate muscles: long head, medial head and lateral head. The triceps are principally responsible for extension of the elbow joint (straightening of the arm).

To tone the back of the arm, therefore, you must work the triceps. For the front of the arm, it is necessary to build up the biceps, which will then improve the overall appearance of the arm by filling the empty sagging skin with more muscle. And when you build both of these sets of muscles, your resting metabolism will be higher, which means you will burn more calories.

Exercises like chin-ups, barbell curls, twist curls and hammer curls work the biceps, and doing close-grip bench presses, triceps push-downs, lying triceps extensions with dumbbells and close-grip push-ups will work the biceps.

In doing any of these exercises, it is critical to warm up beforehand, utilize proper form, go through a full range of motion, squeeze your muscle forcefully for a full second at the midpoint of the move, control the motion slowly and steadily and never use momentum. Finally, exercise often enough to make a difference and vary your type of exercise between cardio 3-4 times a week alternating with the arm exercises 2-3 times a week. Always aim for 12 to 15 reps and 4 or 5 sets of the arm exercises.

Visit the following link for an excellent selection of arm exercises, along with short videos of each showing you how to do the exercise, and create your own workout regimen.

http://www.nowloss.com/flabby-arm-toning-exercise.htm

Before getting started with any new exercise program, talk with your doctor to be sure you are ready and able to begin and monitor your progress. Don’t overdo, especially when you’re just getting started. And if your muscles are sore in the first few days, this is not unusual, although do not ignore serious or severe pain. If your muscle aches don’t disappear after the first 1 to 2 weeks, check with your doctor.

Besides the importance of exercise to tone your upper arms, it is equally important to watch what you eat in order to maintain the optimum, ideal weight for your age, sex, height and bone frame. At the beginning of any exercise regimen, it helps tremendously to reduce your caloric intake so that you’re actually in a slightly negative caloric balance. This is especially critical for losing arm fat. That doesn’t mean you have to starve yourself or walk around feeling hungry.

You can actually eat more food and consume fewer calories if you eat nutrient dense, high volume foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains and low fat dairy, meat and fish. Monitoring caloric intake is critical, but so is eating wholesome, nutritional foods. Keep your portion sizes under control, eat slowly, chew thoroughly and stop eating when you are full. By eating more slowly and chewing your food more you will also recognize when you are full, faster, so that you stop before that second helping.

Stay away from processed and high glycemic foods like chips, pretzels, crackers, cookies, donuts and candy. Also avoid fried foods, especially deep fried foods and rich, gooey concoctions like pasta Alfredo or creamed soups. Finally, be sure to drink plenty of purified water, seltzer or herbal teas. Skip all soda, processed fruit drinks, sweetened ice teas and Ades, and alcoholic beverages.

Finally, stay away from all energy pills and energy drinks. These products do nothing more than suppress your appetite, and when the effects wear off, you are far more likely to be ravenous and end up bingeing. The stimulatory nature of these products is also extremely dangerous, especially for people exercising. Stick to the above outlined plan and in just a matter of 2 weeks, you will begin to see noticeable results, and you will begin to feel and look better, too. Then say bye-bye to flab and hello to svelte and sexy arms again!

The Short and Long-Term Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Our Health

I love proverbs. These short expressions of popular wisdom never steer me wrong. They’re easy to remember and the following one has to do with two of my favorite things: laughter and sleep.

A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.
~ Irish Proverb

Sadly, though, we often lack the first and neglect the second!

I was plagued by severe insomnia for years. Night after night, for years on end, I’d struggle to get to sleep (sleep onset insomnia), or, when I fell asleep easily, I’d wake up sometime later, then toss and turn, frequently for hours (sleep maintenance insomnia.) Towards the early morning hours, I’d finally doze off, sometimes falling into a deep, deep sleep, only to have the alarm wake me a short time later. I’d drag myself out of bed, feeling like I’d been in a boxing match…body aching, muffle-headed and completely out-of-sorts.

Not being one to rush off to the doctor for a prescription, I turned to home remedies. Some of them helped, but none of them were even close to a total cure. When I think back, I’m astounded at my own lack of initiative to solve this very real, debilitating and life-threatening problem. I knew it was taking a big toll on my health, but in some sad, sick way I carried my lack of sleep like a badge of honor.

Women often try to impress each other by talking about how much they do on how little sleep!

This is pure insanity; not something to be proud of at all. Chances are that whatever you were doing instead of sleeping was not as necessary as the sleep you gave up. And I bet that the following day, you were far from playing your top game without the necessary regenerative sleep.

Short-term effects from cheating sleep are many: sheer exhaustion, shorter attention span, increased drowsiness, marked irritability, lowered morale, reduced creativity, diminished patience, less focus, increased risk of accidents, poor short-term memory, higher stress, impaired immune system, visible skin impairment – especially around the eyes — increased headaches and body aches.

After just one night of staying up, sleep deprivation will give many people a buzz, causing them to feel temporary euphoria. I remember as a college student and later as a business owner, when I’d pull an “all-nighter” to get work done. I would feel pumped and energized the following day…at least for the first half of the day.

This buzz is due to an increase in brain dopamine, a catecholamine neurotransmitter sometimes referred to as the “pleasure neurotransmitter.” Dopamine affects brain processes that control movement, emotional response, and our ability to experience pleasure and pain.

Dopamine is also a building block for the production of adrenaline in our bodies, which stimulates us into action when we’re frightened or anxious. Like a sugar high, we feel temporarily charged with increased energy, but when dopamine levels drop, we crash, feel empty and deflated.

A recent US Army study on sleep deprivation determined that the loss of just one and a half hours of sleep can result in a 32% reduction in daytime alertness!

That’s a significant reduction in alertness! I’ll never forget one hectic morning many years ago following several very poor nights of “sleep.” As I dressed, I was aware of my lack of focus and attention, fumbling with buttons, forgetting where I’d placed my car keys, having a hard time absorbing my husband’s answers to questions I’d just asked.

Late for a meeting, I rushed out the back door, through the yard and into the garage via the open garage bay door where Jim’s car was still parked. I hopped into my SUV, turned the key, threw the car into reverse…and promptly drove my car into the still closed door of my garage bay! KABLAM!

Fortunately, the garage door was very sturdy – an old, heavy, wooden one that held up, despite my crashing into it. Damage to the door amounted to a crack across the center; damage to my car’s bumper was also minor. Damage to my self-esteem, however, was not so minor! I was embarrassed, but also extremely rattled by the realization that something much worse could have happened. My husband, who’d watched the whole thing from our upstairs bedroom window, was already at the back door (chuckling!) when I ran back into the house, shaken and in tears!

Even then, I knew that my lack of sleep had contributed to my poor mood, impaired motor coordination, erratic energy and total lack of focus. What a wake-up call that day was – no pun intended!

When we get less sleep than we need only occasionally, and promptly get back on track by getting 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep per night – we won’t suffer any long-term negative effects.

However, how many of us are regularly getting 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep each night?

According to Sleepdex.org, a website dedicated to raising awareness of sleep issues and encouraging people to take sleep seriously, “A person who loses one night’s sleep will generally be irritable and clumsy during the next day and will either become tired easily or speed up because of adrenalin. After missing two night’s sleep, a person will have problems concentrating and will begin to make mistakes on normal tasks. Three missed nights and a person will start to hallucinate and lose grasp of reality.”

Continuing, the website states: “Someone who gets just a few hours of sleep each night incurs a large “sleep debt” and can begin to experience many problems over time. A 1997 study found that people whose sleep was restricted to 4 to 5 hours per night for one week needed two full nights of sleep to recover performance, alertness and normal mood.”

We all think we can just “make-up” for lost sleep whenever we decide it’s necessary.

Although it’s possible to make-up occasional lost sleep, if we are chronic “sleep cheaters,” we’ll never catch-up and the toll on our health will be considerable.

Serious long-term consequences for ongoing sleep reduction (anything under that magic number of 7.5 hours per night) are heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes. These are all diseases associated with aging. Hence, it makes perfect sense to add pre-mature physical aging to this list of long-term consequences. In addition, mood disorders including depression, weight loss or more commonly weight gain and even obesity, and increased risk of mortality can come from lack of sleep over an extended period of time.

An October 25, 1999 article from ScienceDaily.com states: “Chronic sleep loss can reduce the capacity of even young adults to perform basic metabolic functions such as processing and storing carbohydrates or regulating hormone secretion, report researchers from the University of Chicago Medical Center in the October 23 issue of The Lancet. Cutting back from the standard eight down to four hours of sleep each night produced striking changes in glucose tolerance and endocrine function — changes that resembled the effects of advanced age or the early stages of diabetes — after less than one week.

Lack of sleep is directly connected to the increase of cortisol production in our bodies. Increased cortisol circulating in your blood creates a rise in blood sugar and fat storage. Midlife women are especially susceptible to the effects of cortisol, a stress hormone, on our health. Cortisol is also associated with the reduction of muscle mass, increased bone loss and osteoporosis, increased fat accumulation around the waist and hips, as well as reduced ability to generate new skin cells.

Have you noticed the midriff bulge that’s built-up on your mid-section, even though you don’t eat any more than you used to? If so, you’ll want to pay close attention to your sleep patterns. Not getting enough sleep may be tied to your weight gain because less sleep equals less muscle and bone so you can’t burn calories as efficiently as you did 5, 10, 20 years ago.

Less sleep also equals less energy during the day. A common response is to eat something for a quick pick-me-up, even though your body may not truly need the extra calories, which then get stored as body fat. The foods we crave when our energy level drops are the worst choices – sweets or refined carbs with little nutritional value. And because we’re tired, we tend to do more sedentary activities, which also burn fewer calories.

The good news is that the payoffs for regularly getting the recommended amount of sleep are huge and immediate, too!

Getting a minimum of 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep each night has been proven to help LOSE WEIGHT! Many of the reasons we gain weight when we don’t get enough sleep are reversed when we do: fewer waking hours means fewer cravings, less snacking, less excess cortisol so fat-storing is not triggered, more energy during the day means more physical activity.

Getting a good night’s sleep may not be as easy as it sounds. But I guarantee that getting the right amount of good, quality sleep is absolutely worth the effort and commitment. Next week, I’ll share some proven approaches and tips on how to get more sleep into your life.

If you are ready to be inspired, supported, motivated and encouraged to create a life to love, and to receive a FREE, 45 minute Coaching Consultation, I invite you to contact me at (856) 854-7393 or eileen@midlifeandmenopausecoach.com. I will get back to you promptly, usually within 24 hours.

Lighten up! 3 Simple Steps to ‘Clean House’

I’ve been feeling crowded and stifled lately, so although it’s not spring, I’ve decided it’s time to do some spring cleaning.

When I was a kid, my mother always scheduled a week or two in the springtime during which she would target rooms in our house for a major sprucing-up. These projects always involved a lot of hard work and each of us four kids was assigned tasks to complete. Many of these spring cleaning projects included drop cloths, cans of paint and brushes or rolls of wallpaper. At the very least everything in the rooms on her list were emptied, vacuumed, shaken, washed, re-organized and put back together.

At the end of these frenzied periods of turmoil, we’d step back to look at the results of our efforts and I remember feeling great satisfaction as well as amazement at the transformations. Frequently, as part of the renovation process, we were required to purge our belongings, to whittle down the accumulation of things, to throw out, re-purpose or donate items we no longer used, needed or wanted anymore.

For me, this was my least favorite part of the process! Unlike my mother, I was a born hoarder. I treasured each trinket or tchotchke, remembering with great feeling the person who gave it to me and the specific occasion it marked. I tucked clothing that no longer fit me or that was out of fashion into the back of my closet, thinking forward to a day when I’d lose weight or that the cycles of style would make it popular again. Every card, letter, journal and school assignment was filed away and boxed, then stacked in corners of the basement.

Never mind that I absolutely hated to dust, clean and organize things; knowing they were “mine” and that they were “there” made the work seem worthwhile.

On the other hand, mom had little tolerance for clutter and collections and so periodically an ultimatum was made and we had to get rid of things. Unwittingly, the times for cleaning and reducing the clutter of a family of six resulted in turning me into a major collector and packrat!

For most of my adult life I’ve hated to throw things out. Being an artist and a crafter I could always envision a purpose – practical or not – for every scrap of ribbon or fabric, every magazine or book, clothing the kids had outgrown, toys or tools that no longer worked. Parting with a piece of furniture, old Christmas ornaments no longer used at the holidays or mismatched dishes was unthinkable because someday my kids would grow up and might be able to make use of them!

Oh, I knew my obsessions were not practical, so I worked hard to be very, very organized – to have it appear as if everything had a place! To anyone looking in, our home appeared charmingly cluttered yet still attractively decorated. But, from time-to-time, especially when it was necessary to delve into closets or drawers to switch clothing seasonally, drag out decorations from the attic for various holidays or haul the summer garden and pool equipment from the garage, I would feel despair about my hoarder leanings and vow to do better!

Six years ago, my 2 daughters and I moved from a 5 bedroom, 3 story house with a three car, 2-story garage, double lot and in-ground pool. I’d begun to feel very inept and often overwhelmed at caring for the place after my husband’s death and often looking at everything left me feeling like I was suffocating in stuff. When I decided to move, I threw myself with a vengeance into the process of reducing our belongings to fit into a smaller space. And despite some heart-wrenching moments, I succeeded.

Once we settled in here, I promised myself that I would not fill every nook and cranny of this home with things. And for awhile, it looked like I’d succeeded.

My daughters are away at college now, and it’s funny but their absence has put my focus on the contents of this house, as opposed to the goings on that once were happening in the house!

I’ve never been a fan of dusting (give me laundry over dusting any day!) but now, as I go from room-to-room dusting, I feel tremendous impatience with all the knick-knacks and photos adorning the tables and shelves. Since I have 3 dogs of greatly varying sizes, NOT dusting every week is simply NOT an option!

A couple weeks ago, as I dusted, I felt overwhelmingly trapped by and impatient with all the furniture, accessories and curios that have accumulated in this past 6 years. Of course, it didn’t help that when my dad died a couple years ago, I brought so many things from his house to mine!

I’ve been giving it a lot of thought, and what I’ve come to realize is this: I’ve changed. Over these many years, I have come to care much less about things. As I’ve lost important people in my life: mother-in-law, mother, husband, stepson, father and a few very dear friends sprinkled in-between, the “stuff” in my life means very little to me anymore. It’s not the things that bring me happiness, contentment, comfort, peace and love. It’s the people.

I no longer want to spend my precious time dusting collectibles, photos and furniture. I want to spend every precious moment doing things that matter to me or spending time with people that matter to me!

I called a friend the other day; she and her husband own an antiques store in town. She was truly pleased to hear from me but when I told her why I was calling, she sounded alarmed. “Is everything okay, Eileen?” she immediately asked. I assured her I was fine, and that I just wanted to “clean house,” simplify and streamline. We made an appointment for her to come over to the house this week and as soon as I hung up the phone, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

I’m excited. I feel lighter, less burdened already! I realized that since my husband died over 11 years ago, I’ve been on a journey. Certainly not the journey I’d have chosen had I mapped out my own path, but one I’m very proud to say I’ve traveled with courage and determination. I’ve made mistakes along the way – some really big ones – and most of them I made when I let myself be overly influenced by what others wanted, needed or thought.

I want to dump my regrets, shoulda-woulda-coulda’s, guilt, judgments and people-pleasing in favor of ME! Selfish? You bet!

In one of my favorite poems called The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, she wrote:

I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

Since the first home I decorated 34 years ago, I’ve leaned towards dark furniture, plenty of rich color, intricate patterns and lots of stuff, stuff, stuff everywhere.

Now, I want the opposite! That means lots of white, soft, natural color with plenty of space and light with as few things as possible to demand my attention. I want to uncomplicate my existence, de-clutter my life, and streamline my environment. “Less is more” sounds so good to me now.

I promise to keep you posted on this process as it – and I – evolve. Whew, I feel heady with delight!!

How to Become Comfortable Saying “No”

I think the main reason people, especially we women, are uncomfortable with saying the word “no,” is fear. Fear of aggravating, alienating or hurting the person asking, fear of being rejected or fear of being thought of as selfish or lazy. So instead of being true to ourselves, we take on yet another commitment, project, errand, favor or pain-in-the-neck task!

Before I learned to say “no” and mean it, it was not at all uncommon for me to say “yes” when asked by family or friends to do something, even while inside my head I could hear me chastising myself for not being honest. The result was I’d end up doing things I didn’t want to do. I’d end up feeling stressed, frustrated, irritable and overwhelmed. Sadly, these feelings sometimes caused me to not do my best, to take my frustration out on others and or even ended up with me becoming sick as a result of too much on my plate!

Are you consciously, or unconsciously, afraid that if you tell someone “no” that they will not like you, be your friend anymore, respect you or admire you?

If that’s the case, then there’s a good chance you also dislike saying “no” to sales people. Avoiding sales situations for fear of having to say ‘no’ to a sales person at the end of their pitch, is common. Even more anxiety-provoking is the fear you won’t be able to stick to your guns at the end of the sales pitch, and will cave under pressure from a too pushy sales person.

Chances are, that part of what contributes to your uncomfortable feelings around saying “no” to people, is your own discomfort around asking others for something you want or need. If you frequently feel dread when faced with asking for something from others, or you worry that you may sound too needy, too pushy, too unclear or too uncertain in making your requests, it could be because you fear hearing the loathsome “no” yourself.  If you equate being told “no” with a personal judgment about you…rather than about the request you’re making or the service or product you’re selling, it’s very hard not to feel personally rejected.

A great way to increase your comfort level with saying “no” is to practice!

Yes! Practice saying “no.” I don’t mean just saying the word over and over to thin air. Instead, intentionally seek out opportunities to express yourself with a polite, but firm, “No, thank you.” An ideal place to do this is whenever you go shopping. Go into a variety of stores or stop by mall kiosks. In the beginning, choose to go to places selling things you’re really not interested in, since it will be much easier for you to say “no” and mean it.

As you grow in confidence and find the “no” word slipping off your tongue more easily, begin to hone your skills even further by going to stores where there’s something you really want. The more you practice saying a polite, but firm “no,” the more you will find that your anxiety will lessen. In fact, if you practice enough, you may even find that you have no adverse reaction whatsoever to being true to yourself!

I know it’s awkward to simply say “no” and leave it at that, so here are some ideas for things you might say instead.

  • I have another commitment, so I have to say no.
  • No, I’m sorry, but my schedule is packed right now.
  • I’m not taking on any new projects right now, maybe next time?
  • Sorry, but I’ve decided to cut back on volunteering until after ________.
  • Thanks for thinking of me, but I’m not available this time.
  • I wish I could do that for you, but I have another appointment.

Also consider this: You are ALWAYS saying “no” to something!

Before agreeing to do anything you don’t really want to do, consider what saying “yes” will mean to you. Think about the cost to yourself if you agree to accept a new commitment. Take a moment or two to consider how much energy, time or money it may require from you. Think of what you won’t be able to do that might be far more important to you in the long run, if you agree to the request.

Consider making a rule to never give an immediate “yes” to requests for your time, energy or money. If you make this rule, and stick to it, you will be far more likely to give an honest answer.

And remember that a request is just that – a request! It’s entirely reasonable for you to decline a request, and if the person making it is reasonable and open, they will accept your answer, no matter what it is! If not, that’s their problem!

Know your priorities and be true to them! The most important commitments to honor are the ones we make to ourselves. Years ago, when I was forced by ill health and personal circumstances to consistently put myself first in my life, I finally learned to say “no” gracefully. When people asked me for something, I would tell them, “I’d love to be able to help out, but I’m not in a position to do so right now because I’ve decided to focus on just taking care of me for awhile. I’m sure you understand.”

Most people understood! And for those few who didn’t, I remembered what Dr. Seuss said:

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

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