My $66 Milkshake

An Life Experience I Won't Soon Forget

Let me tell you about my $66 milkshake. That milkshake turned out to be part of a life experience that I won’t soon forget.

chocolate milkshake

Back in the fall, I went to Newport Beach, California for a 3-day conference. The purpose of the trip was to meet coaches, consultants and professional speakers. Folks like me who are seeking to take their marketing skills to a new level. I flew out early on a Tuesday morning and got back late on Saturday night. 
 
I did learn a LOT, but the truth is that the highlight of my trip was my $66 milkshake. T
 
I know. You must be thinking there must be a catch. But the truth is, by the time I got to and from my very yummy chocolate milkshake, it did, in fact, cost me just about $66. 
 

So, how did that happen?

 
I’ll be honest. When I scheduled this conference in June, I was thinking of Newport Beach as a quaint little beach town. I had driven through when I was in Laguna, California on vacation in 2010. I was eager to return!
 
The location was the main reason I signed up for the conference.
 
As it turns out, I didn’t ask enough of the right questions. But that’s on me.
 
The hotel where the conference was located was in downtown Newport Beach. Our hotel was literally a mile from the John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, California. We were in the center of a bustling city…and there was no beach to be seen…anywhere.
 
Realizing my error, I asked the desk clerk on the first day I was there how far away the beach was.
 
Happily, I learned it was only about “20 minutes away by cab or Uber.” The recommendation was to take Uber or Lyft for a less expensive ride.
 
I decided that I would find some time in the schedule where I could sneak away. I couldn’t bear to be so close and not at least see the Pacific Ocean.
 
I finally made my escape on Friday afternoon, the last day of the conference.
 

I checked out possible places to go, and I settled on a little place called Ruby’s Shake Shack.

It was near the water, and it had the best shakes around (or so the advertisement said).
 
I booked my Uber ride for $16 and change. Given that this was my first experience with Uber, it was an adventure. My driver, Sergio, was great. We chatted it up for the 20-minute ride to Ruby’s.
 
Sergio was from LA and not that familiar with the area. As a result, he was as surprised as I was as he dropped me off in the parking lot of Ruby’s. “I’ll have to come back here with my kids!” he exclaimed as I got out of the car.
 

Ruby’s Shake Shack has its menu posted on the wall next to where you order.

Ruby’s Shake Shack, Newport Beach, CA

The food is brought to you based on the number you are given when you place your order. I had already had lunch, so I just ordered a chocolate milkshake. The milkshake was $5.99 plus tax which brought it to $6.49. When it was brought to me, it had been topped with whipped cream and a cherry, and it was so thick I had to eat it with a spoon. It was definitely a treat!

 
Beyond the milkshake, however, was the REAL treat. The REAL reason for my trip there was the view of the Pacific Ocean.
 
With no indoor seating, everyone sits on the deck with a bird’s eye view of the beach below. I was able to sit on the deck and look out over the ocean and the beach at Crystal Cove. I found out that Ruby’s used to be called The Date Shack, and it is best known for its burgers and milkshakes.
 
Here is a slice of the view I had from my perch.

Crystal Cove, Newport Beach, CA

 
I was close enough to hear the waves wash ashore. I watched families enjoying the water, although Sergio had told me on the ride there that the water was cold. I didn’t care about getting in the water, however. I didn’t even care about being eye level with it. One of the things I love about the West Coast is that you can look out over the ocean from its many bluffs and overhangs.
 
I sat and people-watched for a while. I closed my eyes and listened to the waves down below. I felt the sun on my face. I watched birds and ground squirrels at my feet. (The squirrels were different from the squirrels we have on the East Coast.) The animals foraged on the crumbs dropped by hungry customers on the deck. They showed no fear of the humans just above them. I enjoyed every tasty bite of my milkshake. And when I was ready, I called Uber for another ride.
 
This ride was far more expensive because it was now a busier time in the day with more traffic. Instead of the $16 and change it had taken me to get there, the fare for my return was $36 and change. Between the tips I left for my respective drivers, I paid almost $60 round trip. Add in the cost of the milkshake itself, and now you know why I call it my $66 milkshake.
 

But here’s the deal. That trip wasn’t about the milkshake at all.

That excursion was about the experience of being close to the Pacific Ocean once again. It was about enjoying just a little feeling of being a tourist instead of a conference attendee in a corporate hotel. It was about providing a break in the general routine. And most of all, it was about treating myself to something I wanted. It wasn’t something I felt I “needed” or “deserved” or had even “worked for.” It was just something I wanted to do for myself.
 
When was the last time you had your equivalent of a $66 milkshake? When was the last occasion when you did something just for the fun of it? Something you did that had no purpose other than to have the experience of it?
 
If it has been a while (or never), I recommend that you do something about that soon. Life is short. You need to treat yourself every once in a while. You owe it to yourself to be whimsical on occasion. I wouldn’t give anything for that afternoon. It will be an experience I will treasure for the rest of my life.
 
I am glad I took that opportunity for myself. Not only was it a yummy milkshake, it was also a yummy view and a yummy experience.
 
I hope I get to go back again some day, but if I don’t, I am glad I had that experience. I believe everyone should enjoy moments like these. They are, after all, what makes life worth living.
 
Until next time.
P.S.
Hey, if you enjoyed this post, please feel free to subscribe and share. I would love to have to come back for more. Also, before you go, hang around. Take a look at this site, and check out its sister site, http://teachersintransition.com where you can learn about teacher burnout and career transition for teachers who are ready to explore their career alternatives. Contact me if you have any questions. I look forward to hearing from you!

When You Hate Your Job

But Don't Know What to Do About It

If the Gallop Poll people have it right, 85% of workers worldwide hate their jobs. They especially hate their boss.

In his June 13, 2017 report entitled, “The World’s Broken Workplace,” Gallop’s Chairman and CEO, Jim Clifton offers that  only 15% of the world’s one billion full-time workers are engaged at work.

Thankfully, it’s significantly better in the U.S. Around 30% of Americans offered that they felt engaged.

But that still means that 70% of Americans don’t love their job. And a growing number of them do, in fact, hate their jobs.

Hating what you do everyday for 8 or more hours a day is no way to live. And you don’t have the luxury of leaving your distaste for your job at work. It comes home with you in your attitude every single evening.

When you hate your job, it spills out into other areas of your life.

It definitely impacts your health in negative ways. The stress will interfere with your sleep habits, your eating habits, and your motivation to exercise and generally take care of yourself. The irritability that goes with hating your job can spill over into your closest relationships, and it can lead to the abuse of alcohol and drugs that help to mask the pain of your discontent and malaise.

Man feeling discontent and malaise.

So, assuming that you hate your job which may the reason you are reading this post, what can you do about it? You probably feel stuck. You may feel like there isn’t anything you can do about it. You have to work, after all, right? You’ve got bills to pay and a family to support.

I work with teachers and mid-career professionals who are suffering from burnout. They call me out of frustration, but they also feel a lot of fear and anxiety. They don’t know what else they can do.

Many of them who have already reached the point of no return feel that they can’t just walk away from the financial security of a retirement plan or pension. Yet, many of them worry that they just can’t make it for the 10 years or more that would be required for them to make it to their retirement.

They feel stuck. And feeling stuck makes them feel anxious. And feeling anxious leads to even more stress. And stress gone unchecked will make you sick.

But what if you weren’t stuck at all?

What if you could decide to change your circumstances by making a new decision about what you will and won’t tolerate in your work situation? What if you gave yourself permission to explore your possible alternatives?

I have created a whole Masterclass on just that topic. I invite you to take a look at it. It’s free to register, and the information in it is good, if I say so myself.

In this presentation, you learn that you do have the right to choose what career path you select for yourself. And, more importantly, it is never too late for you to course correct. (Heck, I changed my career completely at the age of 60. If I could do it, anyone can!)

It is a matter of believing that change is possible for you. That’s where you start. But I know there are a lot of skeptics out there. Many people feel that they are stuck for good and because they believe they can’t change, they stay stuck.

Just consider for a moment, however. What if your job disappeared for some reason? Then you wouldn’t have any choice. You would have to figure out something else to do, wouldn’t you? Think that can’t happen to you? It happens all the time. Jobs disappear. Someone decides that you are no longer doing the job that is required, and you are let go.

If you are feeling burned out or disengaged in your job, the chances of your being let go increase exponentially. You can’t hide it well when you are just going through the motions of doing what is required. People can tell if you enjoy your work or not.

So, take a look at the free presentation and see if you feel more optimistic that you have other choices you can make. Not only might it change your attitude about work, it might have the collateral effect of changing your life for the better, too.

To register for the Masterclass, click here:  Work Your Love Masterclass.

Seventh Step In Managing Your Stress [Part 7 of 7]

Make Time for FUN!

This series on stress management has covered many important issues. It is important to stay hydrated. Your diet also helps you in managing stress. You need adequate and quality sleep. And you should exercise regularly. These practices go a long way toward creating optimal health. And they help in reducing the stress you may feel right now. I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t mention one another factor. It is important not to forget is to HAVE FUN! That’s right…relax! Lighten up! Give yourself time to just have fun for fun’s sake.
 
Now, I am not suggesting that there aren’t plenty of things in life that are serious. Your health is certainly one of the things I recommend you pay serious attention to. This is especially true if you want to cut down on your stress level.
 
I also recommend trying to maintain healthy relationships for a less stressful life. Nothing is more stressful than having a fight with your spouse or significant other. It is also troubling when you’re on the outs with a sibling or child, or have a blow up with a colleague at work. All these things can ruin what might be a perfectly fine day in every other way.
 
Keeping relationships on an even keel will be easier if you are managing your stress. You won’t be as grumpy and irritable. Things that might have bothered you before won’t bother you anymore.
 

One of the things you can do for yourself is give yourself a treat every once in a while.

Do something that will make you happy. It doesn’t have to be a lot. It doesn’t have to be anything that would make anyone else happy. This is just for you. For me, some days it is stopping at the local Starbucks for my favorite coffee drink. It costs a few dollars, but compared to how it lights up my day, it’s a bargain.
 
For some of us, hanging out with our grandchildren is the ticket. Listen to the laughter of a child. Play with your pet. Go for a walk. Listen to a favorite podcast. Watch  your favorite TV show. Talk to a friend on the phone. These are things that you can do that won’t cost anything. But they can bring a smile to your face and lift your spirits if you give them a chance.
 
Don’t forget to take a vacation every once in a while. Remember that old childhood saying about “all work and no play?” Vacations help because they give you a break from your work routine.
You need a break in your routine every so often. Getting away can help you gain new perspective on old, nagging issues. A vacation may help you to appreciate your boss more—or vice versa. Don’t sacrifice your mental, physical or spiritual health for the sake of your job. As important as it is, YOU are more important, and taking care of yourself should be your first priority. Take a trip.
 
Life should be about fun. It is NOT meant to be a chore. Enjoy yourself! Don’t live your life as though it is something you have to get through. LIVE YOUR LIFE AS FULLY AS YOU CAN!
 
You only get one shot at it. The people we most admire are the ones who lived full out. They lived courageously. They lived joyously and brought joy to others. You can do that. It is a choice! Have more fun. You won’t regret it.
If you are having trouble having fun or managing your stress, perhaps it is time to take some action. Download this free ebook to learn more about how you might manage your stress once and for all.
And if you are ready to DO something about your stress, perhaps we should talk. Sign up for a 20-minute no-obligation Discovery Session here.
I would love to help if I can.
That’s it for now.

Sixth Step to Managing Your Stress [Part 6 of 7]

Develop a Prayer or Meditation Practice--or Both

In previous posts in this series on stress management, I covered the importance of drinking enough water. I also shared information on the importance of eating well. And I have covered getting adequate sleep, exercise and breathing properly. In this post, I will offer the benefits of a practice of daily prayer or meditation– or both.
 
Now, what this section is NOT about is religion. I am not proposing that you need to adopt a religious practice if you don’t already have one. I am suggesting that if you are feeling stressed, you might consider taking some “time out” each day. This could include a 10-minute meditation practice. It might be a short visualization session. You could listen to calming music. Or you could turn off all your electronic devices—and your thoughts—for a few minutes every day.
 
Pray if you feel more comfortable with that. Pray for world peace or peace of mind…but use the time it takes to pray as a way to slow down your mind for a few moments. Studies suggest that people who pray or meditate see physical benefits. They have lower blood pressure, slower breathing, and a slower heart rate. Their brain waves show that while still alert, they can relax more deeply. These are all benefits of stress management.
 

Oprah Winfrey, Deepak Chopra, with Arianna Huffington all promote the benefits of meditation.

They are among other celebrities who tout its benefits. If you search “meditation” online, you will find that there are dozens of ways to meditate. Find one that suits your style. 

The idea behind meditation or prayer is to focus on the present moment. Slow your mind. Focus on the present moment. Let go of worry about tomorrow. Let go of regret over the past. Both of those activities are useless. Instead, focus on the NOW.

 
Too many people spend time in regret over things that happened in the past. If someone has hurt you in the past and you are having trouble getting past it get help from a counselor or a minister. You don’t need to continue to suffer over something that is now in your past. Turn to a brighter future, but live in the moment.
 
On the flip side, many people are consumed with fear or anxiety about the future. Again, it is time wasted. I am not suggesting that you shouldn’t prepare for the future by getting a good education. I think it is a good idea to save for a rainy day. That is healthy planning. 
 
If you are so worried about the future that you forget to enjoy the present moment, what’s the point? Life is made up of moments. These moments that cannot be retrieved except through memories. If you are so consumed with the past or the future that you forget to focus on the present moment…well, you get the drift.
 
Many people have trouble developing the discipline that a meditation practice requires. That is meaningful. Have seen the movie, Eat, Pray, Love? There is a scene in the book in which the main character attempts to quiet her mind. Instead, her mind is racing with commentary about the deficiency of her efforts.
 
That is how we are. We are running a commentary all the time. It is that commentary that we need to switch to the “off mode.” We only need to do it for a few moments each day, but it takes practice and discipline. Stress management, after all, requires managing your stress with intention.
 
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you have trouble. Each of us has to start somewhere. Give yourself a break. You probably didn’t grow up learning how to meditate. You need not set up expectations that you are unlikely to meet right away. Give yourself time to practice. Take five minutes to set aside the commentary. But if they come up, that’s okay. Just keep setting them aside.

 
Set aside five minutes to sit and be still and to quiet your mind. After you have mastered the ability to do five minutes, you may increase it by a minute a day. Be gentle with yourself. Some days will be easier than others. Don’t make creating a meditation practice something that adds to your stress! That would be self-defeating.
 
If nothing else works for you, try remembering the first lines from the “Serenity Prayer.” It is a prayer used by Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12- step programs. It works for me in moments of stress: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Courage to change the things I can. And wisdom to know the difference.” Remember there IS a difference between those things that you can change and those you can’t. I don’t know about you, but I find that idea very comforting.
 

A Note about the Importance of Gratitude as Part of Your Practice

 
A growing body of research points to the importance of feeling gratitude. “If the only prayer you say in your life is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” Meister Eckhart, a German theologian, philosopher, and mystic offered that piece of advice.
 
Studies show that a practice of gratitude affects our lives in positive ways. It can impact your physical health. It can also affect your psychological well-being and our relationships with others. It definitely helps with stress management.
 

Keeping a gratitude journal is a good practice.

It is a way of reminding ourselves of the many things for which we have to be grateful. In one study, a thousand people from ages eight to 80, kept a gratitude journal. In as little as three weeks, participants reported the following benefits:
 
Physical:
 
✓ Stronger immune systems
 
✓ Less bothered by aches and pains
 
✓ Lower blood pressure
 
✓ Exercise more and take better care of their health
 
✓ Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking
 
Psychological
 
✓ Higher levels of positive emotions
 
✓ More alert, alive, and awake
 
✓ More joy and pleasure
 
✓ More optimism and happiness Social
 
✓ More helpful, generous, and compassionate
 
✓ More forgiving
 
✓ More outgoing
 
✓ Feel less lonely and isolated
 
Practicing gratitude offers clear benefits. You can find thousands of books on the topic of gratitude and the importance of being thankful. The research is clear and continues to come out each day.
 
My best advice to you is practice gratitude every day. You will start to see benefits almost immediately.
 
If you are in a place right this moment when things seem so bad that you are thinking, “Yeah, right. I should be thankful that I lost my job”…or “I should be thankful I have been diagnosed with cancer. Fat chance.”
 
I get it. Sometimes, life sucks. We all suffer at times. Being alive means experiencing challenges. Try to feel grateful for what you do have as opposed to dwelling on what you don’t have. That can help. And even on your darkest day, there is something that you can find for which to be grateful.
 
If you don’t believe me, try this one experiment for three days. For three days, first thing in the morning, write down on a blank piece of paper the things for which you are grateful. Start with being able to get up. Some people can’t do that much. So you have an opportunity to start fresh on a new day.
 
Not feeling so grateful about that? Then how about your first cup of coffee? How about the rain pattering on your windowsill? How about the sunrise? How about whatever you have for breakfast? How about your car—beat up and dilapidated as it may be—that is going to take you to that job interview—or the doctor—today? How about the air that you breathe. Or the water running from the faucet? Or the phone call from a friend who is checking on you to see how things are going? Get the idea?

 

The only people who don’t experience stress in their lives are the ones who are already dead.

As long as you have life, there is hope. No job? You have an opportunity to get an even better job. Got a bad diagnosis? No diagnosis is ever final. There are miracle cures in the news all the time. You have to be willing to believe in miracles. And you have to be willing to do what your doctor or your healer tells you to do. But we hear of “miracle cures” all the time. They happen.T
 
As I said earlier, the only people who don’t experience stress in their lives are the ones who are already dead. As long as you are living, you have hope. And as long as you have hope, you can make things better. Remembering the things for which you have to be grateful can help. Try the three-day experiment and see if you don’t start to feel better. I am betting you will.

Fifth Step to Managing Your Stress [Part 5 of 7]

Don't Forget to BREATHE

It may seem odd—unnecessary even—to mention the importance of breathing in a series about stress. For most of us, breathing is one of those things we never think about. You may not even consider breathing in the grand of health and wellbeing. Most people are unconscious of their breathing. They take it for granted. Since we do it automatically, we rarely think about it. Yet without breathing, we would not live! We can go far longer without water and food than air. We can go days without water and weeks without food but only minutes without breathing. A lack of oxygen to the brain for even a few minutes can cause severe brain damage and even death.
 
Breathing brings oxygen to every cell in the body. Cells need oxygen to transform nutrients into energy. Oxygen is essential in the digestive process. And the body uses oxygen to oxidize or burn off metabolic waste products and other toxins. Breathing is an essential bodily function.
 
In terms of managing stress, remember to take some deep, slow breaths throughout the day. Do this especially when you feel stressed.
In fact, when you remember to do it, breathing is actually one of the easiest—and certainly the least expensive—relaxation techniques there is.

Most of us fail to breathe correctly even though we are breathing all the time. The vast majority of us are in the habit of breathing shallowly. This means that the breaths you take don’t get down into the lower part of your lungs the way deep breathing does. Try taking several slow, deep breaths right now for practice. Breathe in slowly through your nose. Hold for a count of ten. Let the breath out through your mouth. Do this several times in a row. Feel your stomach and abdomen rising and falling.
 
You may have to take some time to practice this in order for it to become part of your regular routine. Post a note near your computer or on your desk where you will see it as a reminder.
Remind yourself to “just breathe.” Re-teach yourself to breathe correctly and feel the difference almost immediately. The tension will flow out of your shoulders. You will feel more relaxed and alert.
 When you are feeling especially tense, try the following exercise:
 
  • 1) Breathe in through your nose. Count to five, filling your torso from the bottom up, with air. Keep your chest and shoulders still. Feel your body expanding from the abdomen first and then the lower back.
 
  • 2)  Breathe out through your mouth. Keep your lips together except for an opening large enough to let the air out in a measured way. Make a low whispering sound to a slow count from one to ten. Again, keep your shoulders and chest still. Feel your body deflating from the abdomen first and then the lower back.
 
  • 3)  Repeat several times until you feel more grounded, less stressed, and calmer. 


 

 

A Caution about Smoking as it Relates to Breathing and Stress
 
While I am talking about the importance of breathing for good health, I should offer a note about smoking. Smoking in general has gone down nationwide between 1964 and 2014 (BeSmokeFree.gov). Even so, one in five American adults and teens still smoke. For many teens, smoking is a temptation because it is “cool” or it is a form of open rebellion.
 
Regardless of the reason, each day, 3200 people under the age of 18 try their first cigarette. Out of that 3200 people, approximately 2100 become daily smokers. Even though they know about the harmful effects of smoking, people still smoke. And for those who have already become addicted, they know they should quit. But quitting is hard. After all, smoking is an addiction.
 
I can speak to this issue because I am a former smoker. I started smoking in college because my friends smoked. By the time I started, the warning labels were already on the cigarette packages. So I should have known better. But when you are 20, you think you are invincible. What did I care then about “long term health risks?”
 
First, I convinced myself that I wouldn’t get hooked. Then I convinced myself that even though I had developed a smoking habit, I could quit anytime I wanted. When I did finally decide to quit, it wasn’t that easy, though. I finally did quit in 1987 after a few failed attempts. I have been a non-smoker almost twice as long as I was ever a smoker. In spite of that fact, when I was in my mid-50’s I was diagnosed with viral-induced asthma. It turns out, the fact that I had been a smoker in my youth for fifteen years aggravated my condition.
 
 
I bring this up because there will come the day when the habits of your youth may come home to roost. If you have engaged in healthy habits, that’s a good thing. Keep it up! If you haven’t, it can come back to bite you in the most unexpected and sometimes unpleasant ways.
I cannot be clearer. If you smoke, please quit. If you haven’t ever started, good for you! Don’t start. If you have someone in your life who smokes, let them read this post.
Smoking isn’t good for you, and it isn’t good for the people around you. It is a habit best never started, but once started, as hard as it is to quit, you should make every effort to quit. Seek out help if you need to. Your lungs crave fresh air filled with fresh air. Your body will thank you in the long run.

Fourth Step to Managing Your Stress [Part 4 of 7]

Exercise

In this series on how to manage stress during the holidays (or any time of the year) I have touched upon three “must’s”regarding managing stress. You “must” stay hydrated, you “must” eat well, and you “must” not overlook the importance of getting the amount of type of sleep you need. All of these “must’s” are important. Today’s “must” is also important, however.

Our bodies were designed to move. They were built for physical exertion.

Regardless of your age, you need to give your body opportunities to move. Studies show that exercise helps reduce stress.

Stress Management mind map, business concept

Depending on your age and physical condition, you may need strenuous exercise to maintain your health, or you may want to opt for less strain but equally healthy moderate exercise. Walking is a great way to exercise that doesn’t put too much extra wear and tear on your knees, for instance, as opposed to running.

The trouble isn’t in knowing that we should exercise. We all know that. The problem lies in our being able to do what we know we should. Let’s face it. We all know that exercise is good for us. Exercise builds muscle, increases lung capacity, improves cardiovascular function, and triggers the release of chemicals that counteract the negatives effects of stress.

With all of that said, when stressed, exercise is often the first thing people forego. They don’t have the energy or the time to go to the gym, and one skipped day turns into a week and then a month.

We kid ourselves into thinking that we can “postpone” exercise until a mythical “later” when we will “feel like it.” News flash. If you are like a lot of us, you won’t ever “feel like it.” Even though I know I benefit from it and can feel the benefits, I have to make myself exercise. I don’t ever wake up in the morning feeling like I can’ wait to get to my exercise routine unless it is that I feel like I just want to get it over with.

The fact of the matter is that we need to make exercise a priority in our lives, but not enough Americans are doing that. According to the American Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans are no more fit today than they were in 1990.

Perhaps even more significantly, it is accepted that lack of exercise, improper diet and smoking are all contributing factors toward both heart disease and cancer.

Moderate exercise engaged in on a regular basis may be the single most effective way to get stress under control as well as to improve your general health and sense of overall well-being. Exercise can go a long way toward releasing the hormones that are produced when you are experiencing a stressful situation at home or work. The exercise need not be strenuous to be beneficial, either. A brisk walk for 30 minutes will accomplish the task.
Other benefits of regular exercise include the following:

●  Muscle strength

●  Increased flexibility

●  Increased heart and lung efficiency

●  Decreased risk of developing heart disease

●  Decreased risk of developing lung disease

●  Improved circulation

●  Reduced cholesterol levels

●  Strengthened immune system

●  Loss of excess body fat

●  Decreased risk of diabetes

●  Improved quality of sleep

●  Increased mental acuity

●  Improved self-image

●  Decreased effects of stress

●  Improved ability to manage stress

Once you have accepted that exercise is important, if you haven’t been exercising regularly, the next step is to find an exercise that will appeal to you and that you will continue to enjoy after the first day or so. Some suggestions for alternatives that you might enjoy include:

●  Walking

●  Swimming

●  Step Aerobics

●  Yoga

●  Racquetball

●  Pilates

●  Dance

●  Your choice of team sports (weekend football games, tennis, racquetball, playground basketball games, beach volleyball, etc.)

In addition to getting aerobic exercise on a regular basis, lifting weights is also very beneficial for adults, especially as you age. Weight lifting builds bone mass and can reverse osteoporosis. It increases muscle tone and helps your body to burn more calories because the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn during the aerobic portion of your workout.

I could easily keep rhapsodizing about the benefits of daily exercise, but I think you get the point. Exercise is not only an important stress reducer; it is necessary for long-term health and an increased sense of well-being.

Third Step to Managing Stress [Part 3 of 7]

Get the Sleep Your Body Needs to Function Properly

I am offering this series on managing stress for teachers and busy professionals. Stress is a concern for many people and throughout the year. But it is especially troublesome during the holiday season. We become over-busy during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We have way too many things on our to-do lists.
 
In the series so far, I have covered the importance of staying hydrated (Part 1). And I covered eating well for good health (Part 2). Today I want to cover sleep.

 
Sleep may be the most undervalued and underrated of all the healthy habits you need. Too many people underestimate how sleep (or lack of sleep) impacts their health and well-being. It is also undervalued and underrated as it pertains to how you manage your stress.
 
Many people are unaware of how much sleep they need for good health. They attempt, instead, to get by on the sleep they can get instead of what they need.
 
If you are a parent, you appreciate the value of sleep in your children. Children who get the sleep they need perform better in school. They are well adjusted, and practice better impulse control. We all recognize a toddler or pre-schooler who has missed their nap for the day. They are cranky, whiny, and miserable. What makes us think that as adults we are immune to those symptoms when we go without the sleep we need?
 
If you aren’t sure how much sleep you need for good health, consider this. The average adult needs 6 1/2 to 8 hours of sleep every night. Because this is an average, some people can go with less, and some need a little more. The key is to strike the sweet spot for yourself so that you are your most productive and happiest.
 
Sleep is not something you can defer and delay and catch up on during the weekend, either. It doesn’t work that way. You need a routine that includes an adequate amount of sleep every single night.
 
In case you are thinking that it is no big deal if you are functioning on less than the sleep you need, think again. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers some startling statistics about drowsy driving. A 2013 study estimates that drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 crashes. 44,000 injuries, and 800 deaths that year. As if that isn’t bad enough. That same agency suspects that it is under-reporting the actual statistic.
 
Drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving.
 
And driving is only part of the problem. In another study, over 40% of Americans admit that they feel sleepy during the day a few day every month. One out of five (20%) reported feeling some level of daytime sleepiness a few days or more per week. Over 51% reported that sleepiness had interfered with the amount of work they were able to complete in a day.
 
Some of this sleepiness is the result of poor sleep habits and hygiene at night. These habits interfere with the amount of sleep you get. And they impact the quality of the sleep you get.
 
As a result, you are likely to experience one or more of these conditions:
 
  • Increased irritability
  • Feelings of anxiety and even depression
  • A decreased ability to concentrate and understand information
  • A suppressed immune system
  • And undesirable weight-gain since sleeplessness and/or sleep interruption which interferes with
  • The hormone production that your body requires to regulate a healthy weight
Are you convinced yet that sleep is an issue that merits serious attention? You may be wondering at this point what you can do to improve the odds of your getting a more restful sleep. Thankfully, there are many possible steps for you to consider. For example, start with your habits around bedtime.
 
Do you have an established bedtime routine? Or, are you too tired to drag yourself off to bed, so you continue to sit in front of the TV until the wee hours of the night? If you fall into the latter category, you may need to change up your night-time routine. If you are staying up late to watch TV or surf the Internet, turn off the electronic devices. Put them away. Read a book or magazine instead.
Studies show that reading from electronic devices causes your brain to think that it is still daytime. As a result, your brain will resist the idea of going to sleep even though your body may be tired. Read a book for a change. Avoid electronic devices for the hour before you want to go to sleep.
Other practical suggestions for improving your sleep include:

  • Take a warm bath or relaxing shower before bedtime
  • Avoid strenuous exercise right before going to bed
  • Drink herbal tea or a warm glass of milk before going to bed
  • If you have a television in the bedroom, turn it off before trying to go to sleep. Consider removing it to another room. Your bedroom should be a sanctuary where you go to relax and rest.
  • If you have a desk with your computer or piles of work in your bedroom, move it out. Your bedroom should be separate and apart from anything related to your work.
  • Strive to go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning.
  • Avoid eating a heavy meal late in the evening—move your dinner hour up if you need to.
  • Avoid anything with caffeine afternoon every day. And avoid drinking alcohol in the evening. Caffeine and alcohol both tend to stimulate the brain. Both substances can cause you to either have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep.
  • If you are a pre- or perimenopausal woman, consider talking to your doctor about your sleep issues. Hormone fluctuations can have a significant effect on your ability to sleep well.
 
Sleep is an absolute necessity. Too many of us are struggling through our days feeling groggy, and grumpy. We feel out of sorts because we have not gotten the sleep we need to function. Going without adequate sleep can create hormone imbalances, too. These imbalances can lead to feelings of listlessness. They can contribute to weight gain and even depression.
 
Don’t ignore this critical aspect of your daily life. There is a reason you get sleepy during the day—it is because you need to sleep! Make time for it like you would make time for other life-enhancing experiences. You will be glad you did.

Second Step to Managing Stress [Part 2 of 7]

I am offering a 7-part the series on how to manage stress more effectively and proactively. The first post was about the importance of staying hydrated. In this post, I would like to point to the importance of your diet on how you cope with and manage stress.
 
Food is one of those things that we all need to survive. But our high-stress levels can lead us to dangerous habits where food is concerned. Why dangerous? Because we can overdo it all too easily when we feel stressed. We tend to overeat, and we tend to eat the wrong kinds of food when we are stressed.
 
Some foods are called “comfort food” for a reason.
 
It is important to keep in mind that our bodies are made up of trillions of cells. Each organ is dependent on the health of its individual cells. And the body as a whole is dependent upon the healthy function of those organs.
 
Stick to whole foods. Refraining from eating foods that are highly processed or high in sugar and sodium.
 
It is also important to keep portion control in mind. My dad was fond of saying that moderation is the key to good health and a good life. He believed in enjoying things but not going overboard. I have found that his advice is pretty good.
 
Most of us know enough about calorie counting and the building blocks of a good diet. The problem isn’t that we don’t know what is good for us. The problem is in doing what we know we should. Eating well can be challenging when we are feeling stressed.
 
This article may help in that department. Take a look at “The 11 BEST Foods to Eat When You Are Stressed Out.”
 
It may help to keep in mind that you need to eat well to feel well and stay well. Nothing is worse than feeling sick and tired all the time. You want to feel well, and your quality of life depends upon your general health and state of well-being.
 
Healthy foods contribute to your physical and mental health. Those trillions of cells in those organs in your body need nutrients and minerals to work well. Those nutrients and minerals come from REAL foods. You need whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables. You should eat a healthy variety of these foods and mind your portions so that you don’t overdo.
 
The occasional splurge is okay. Make sure to make it occasional, though. A treat that you indulge in every day like a bowl of ice cream or a chocolate bar stops being a treat when you indulge every day.
 
I know that eating well is easier said than done. I know that grabbing a pre-packaged or frozen meal from the freezer is easier than cooking a healthy meal. I get it because I struggle with this, too.
 
I also know, though, that as we age, we become more dependent on our health. How we have treated our bodies in the past will come back to bite us if we haven’t been kind to them. 
 
Take care of yourself whatever your age if you want to better manage and reduce your stress level. A healthy body is less likely to become sick due to being over-stressed. And one of the best ways to keep your body healthy is to feed it well.

Eat Well Live Well

First Step to Managing Your Stress [Part 1 of 7]

I speak to groups about strategies for managing stress. When I do, the first thing I talk about the importance of staying hydrated.

Your body needs water for several reasons. If for no other reason, however, your brain needs to be well hydrated if you want to make good decisions.

Regardless of your occupation, you need to be clear-headed and focused. If you are a teacher, being clear-headed and focused is especially important.

Brain cells need a balance between water and other elements to function properly. When you are thirsty or even slightly dehydrated, that balance is disrupted. Your brain cells lose efficiency. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/you-illuminated/201010/why-your-brain-needs-water)

If you are a teacher, I can hear your objections now. More water means more trips to the bathroom, right? And if you are a teacher, you can’t just take off any time you feel like it for a trip to the restroom. You can’t leave your kids alone. I get that. But I also know that if you are in charge of students, you need to be at your best every minute of the day. That means operating at the height of your efficiency. So, figure out a plan. Get someone close by to watch your children while you make a quick trip. The bottom line is that the first order of business in managing your stress is being hydrated.

Your brain works more efficiently. And your other bodily functions will also work more efficiently, too. Your kidneys, heart, and digestive system will work better when hydrated.

So, drink when you are thirsty. Steer clear of sodas and sugary drinks. Drink water as much as you can. Adjust your water intake according to your physical exertion. Consider your environment. Also, consider other factors including if you are a new mom who is breastfeeding.

Staying hydrated is a first step toward the self-care everyone owes themselves.  You are drinking enough water if you are rarely thirsty and your urine is a light color of yellow. Check out this article to see a chart demonstrating the color for which you should be striving. (https://dripdrop.com/blogs/news/chart-dehydrated)

For more information or questions for me, please feel free to reach out to me at kittyboitnott@gmail.com. I would love to hear from you.

I also offer some tools that you may find useful. Learn how stressed you are now by taking a free stress test. Download the self-assessment tool here:  https://kittyboitnott.lpages.co/stress-assessment/

Download a free eBook on stress management here:  https://kittyboitnott.leadpages.co/ebook/

I am also offering a new 7-part Mini-Course on stress management during the holidays. For more information, take a look here: https://boitnottcoach.samcart.com/products/holiday-stress-7-part-mini-course/

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Until next time.

 

Strategies for Managing Stress for Teachers

 

In a previous post entitled, “Teaching is Stressful,” I wrote that I would provide thoughts on how teachers can manage their stress in a future series. I write this now because I know that teacher stress is building right now. It’s that time of year.
 
See the chart below to see a graphic of how the first-year teacher experiences stress.

 

This chart illustrates the typical experience of many first-year teachers. First-year teachers aren’t the only ones who experience stress because of school, though. By now many veteran teachers are hanging on, waiting in anticipation of Thanksgiving. The long weekend represents a respite from the stress of school.
 
I have written about this cycle that keeps some teachers stuck with the profession. That post is, “The Cycle that Keeps Teachers Stuck.”
 
Many people in the general public don’t understand what teachers experience. The fact is, though, that teachers in today’s classrooms are feeling a heightened sense of stress. I know because they contact me almost daily, and the number of calls has spiked earlier than usual this year.
 
There are many things that teachers can do to help manage and reduce the effect of their stress. But doing so means committing to taking better care of themselves.
 
The first–and least expensive–stress management strategy a teacher can adopt is staying hydrated.
 
I know the first reaction of many teachers is to say, “Are you kidding? Who has time to go to the bathroom?”
 
And I know it is true. Many teachers don’t get bathroom breaks for long periods of time. One way to manage that reality is to limit the amount of liquid they take in.
 
That approach is problematic, though. Your brain is made up of 75% water. Your brain will take precedence over other organs in your body in its effort to stay hydrated. That can have long-term negative effects on your heart, kidneys, and digestive system.
 
But your brain needs to stay hydrated because it needs water to function.

Flat infographic concept of everyday water drinking, water consumption

 
In a post on the website, “The Conversation,” as little as 1 percent dehydration negatively affects your mood, attention, memory and motor coordination.
 
Teachers need to be 100% present and able to think quickly and clearly. If you are even mildly dehydrated, you can’t be your best.
 
Staying hydrated also helps those who are prone to migraines. And it can help maintain a healthy weight. Often, people will eat a sugary snack thinking they are hungry and they are thirsty instead.
 
Start taking steps toward managing your stress by staying hydrated.
You may experience an urge to go to the bathroom more frequently at first. But once your body gets used to being properly hydrated, you shouldn’t have to go that often. Work out a system with a teaching partner to cover for you while you make a bathroom break, and you do the same for them.
 
Making yourself sick by not taking care of yourself serves no one, least of all your students. They need you to be on top of your game all the time. They pay the price if you get cranky and moody because you are approaching mild dehydration. Do yourself–and them–a favor and stay hydrated. It is a good first step toward managing your stress more effectively and proactively.
 
Want to learn more on how to manage your stress? Get a free PDF, “Stressed, Stretched, and Just Plain Overwhelmed.” It is my gift to you. I hope you will use to help you manage your stress starting today.