Don’t just get by – THRIVE! (How not to go postal this season)

During this time of the year I turn into something that would make the Grinch cringe (or at the very least take notes). The stress of getting everything done at home and at work so I can take the week off sits heavily on my shoulders.

I know I’m not the only one.

It’s the dreaded holiday season. It’s filled with shopping, crowds, parties, alcohol, social obligations, travel, too much food, not enough rest and the worry that your wallet is hemorrhaging money. Who wouldn’t be stressed out?

And if you’re like me, this happens every year.

Here are a few tips on not just surviving this season but THRIVING!

#1.  Get organized. Make a list of everything you need to do. Great or small. Then maybe do a little dance every time you check one off the list. You will feel a lot less overwhelmed when you don’t have tasks floating around in your head – worrying if you’ve forgotten something. Bring this list with you and refer to it often so you can tackle something on it whenever you have a moment. But when you don’t, set it aside.

#2.  Plan your schedule. Know when the next party is coming up. Know when you have a social obligation to fulfill. Let yourself be emotionally ready for the social interaction (looking at you, introverts!). Allow yourself to enjoy the moment with friends and family rather than being distracted by all the things you still have to do. Some things won’t get done. Plan for that. That way you don’t let it hang over your head.

#3.  Get some sleep. This is not the time to run yourself ragged. It’s cold. More people are getting sick. And it’s the last thing you need when there is so much to do. While you’re planning your schedule, put in for a little down time so you can get some rest and sleep in preparation for all the festivities.

#4.  Don’t skip the gym.* I know. Who has time for exercise? But more than ever your body needs exercise… When stress levels are high… When food consumption is out of control… When energy is low… Exercise will help bring everything back to the center, improve your focus and even boost your self-control. Very useful when you discover that there is a second plate of brownies.

*There is a caveat to this. You should not sacrifice sleep or rest for the sake of exercise. Don’t put more stress on your immune system – especially if you aren’t getting enough rest. Studies have shown that people who sleep more, eat less. It will balance itself out. Relax.

#5.  Eat well when you can. I can’t resist a bowl of chips and salsa and will eat it all. It happens. But between get-togethers I eat well. When I am at home, I eat the normal healthy things that I eat. I don’t lament over the excessive amount of cheese I consumed over the weekend. I don’t starve myself during the week. I get back to my normal healthy eating habits. And I drink a helluva lot of water!

#6.  Avoid the mall. I know. It’s so un-American of me to suggest this but there are so many alternatives to the mall like buying locally at a small business, buying online, making your own gifts or give the gift that keeps on giving – CASH! Just the idea of going to the mall makes me hyperventilate. People are not at their best in the mall during Christmas shopping. We turn into less civilized versions of ourselves so don’t do it! But if a trip can’t be avoided, go during off-peak hours.

#7.  Listen to holiday music. It’s a mood booster. Trust me. The cheesier the better. Or even try some holiday-themed movies like Love Actually. Personally, I could listen to Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You over and over and over again. It is impossible not to get carried away with all the wonderful and beautiful holiday music. It is also a good reminder of why we drive ourselves crazy this time every year. It is all worth it in the end.

Now sit back on your couch, put your feet up and wrap your fingers around a nice cup of hot chocolate… With whipped cream, please!

Keep Calm & Carry On Coffee Mug

Do you have any additional tips on surviving the holidays that you’d like to share? Leave them here!

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What I learned from the D.C. storm power outage

On Friday, June 29th, a weather phenomenon called a Derecho, slammed into Washington, DC and left more than a million people without electricity. I was lucky enough to have been away for a few days and only had to suffer through the power outage from Sunday evening to Tuesday evening. But, boy, did those few days test my mettle! It left me cranky and sweaty but with some incredibly powerful lessons…

  1. Eat the ice cream. Right away. Don’t save it for an emergency. When there is ice cream in the fridge, every single day is an emergency.
  2. Hanging out in the outdoor patio furniture section of Target is totally acceptable.
  3. Trees are lovely things… Lovely, deadly things that like to take down power lines. You will never look at a tree the same way again.
  4. You will re-evaluate your friendships based on their location on the power grid.
  5. Complaining won’t get you anywhere, but it’s going to feel damn good.
  6. When you don’t have power, you will actually look forward to going into the office. It’s possible.
  7. You will invent new ways to stay cool – like naked brushing your teeth or naked sweeping the floor.

I know I sound like a Baz Luhrmann song telling you to wear sunscreen but if you take anything away from this post it’s that you should never let ice cream go to waste.

What did YOU learn from the power outage?

P.S. A HUGE thanks to the men and women who worked tirelessly in the blazing heat to get power back on as soon as possible.

Photo via Flickr (Creative Commons) by Brittany Herbert.

Never say never

I am not a quitter.

I am opposed to the idea of all or nothing.

I believe in MODERATION.

Even when we’re talking about bad habits. After all, everyone has one (or, in my case, five…… thousand).

One of them was my dependency on soda. A can of soda first thing in the morning and last thing at night. I was having about 3 to 5 a day. It was my pick-me-up, my panacea, my crutch… If I didn’t get any, I would get cranky — okay, MORE cranky.

Finally, two years ago – after much nagging by family and friends – I made the bold decision to cut out soda from my life. I was getting older, gaining weight, my sleeping pattern was wacky and I was not bouncing back as quickly from the abuse I was giving my body.

At the beginning, I kept failing at it. I was sneaking it in when no one was around. I would lie if anyone asked if I had had any soda. Then I’d be plagued with guilt and shame. I felt pretty pathetic. And I really thought I couldn’t do it. That I was doomed to age badly with osteoporosis.

But then a friend pointed out that if drinking soda was one of the worst things I was doing to myself then maybe I just need to relax – to quit being so hard on myself. There were worse things I could be doing. And so I thought, “What if I just cut back instead?” A little soda wasn’t bad. It was that I was drinking it like water. Suddenly a gigantic eco-friendly light bulb went off in my head!

So when I said cut out I didn’t mean never ever. And it’s that distinction that has allowed me to dramatically cut down on my soda intake. I went from having soda every single day to once a month – if that.

The key has been not saying NEVER. Allowing myself to have it on very rare occasions has made avoiding it so much easier. It’s not draining on my self-control and I feel a lot happier. It’s a little way of tricking myself but it has made all the difference.

And when I “slip” I’m a lot kinder to myself. There’s no beating myself up. There’s no disappointment. There’s no feeling of failure. There are no late night soda benders – where I’m up all night and I wallow in self-recrimination the next day. Because no one’s perfect. I would love to tell you that as a yogi I eat well and do well all the time but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. By taking the word NEVER out of my vocabulary I am loving myself better. I don’t get as easily derailed and I’m more likely to get back on and start again. To relax, relate and RELEASE!

So write NEVER on a piece of paper, rip it up and throw it away. You can thank me later. I accept cupcakes as a form of payment.

And if you have any tips that you use to stay on track, please let me know! Let’s get some ideas going!

No Beer Make Homer (and Sam) Go Crazy

The last time I had beer was exactly 56 days ago.

The first two beer-free weeks were accidental. The second two weeks and from then on have been intentional. In the meantime, wine has been my alcoholic beverage of choice. But for 30 days starting on February 1st even that crutch will be gone. No beer, no wine, no cocktails, NOTHING. Just me, my bottle of water and a lot of teeth gritting/fist clenching.

Alcohol has been a valuable part of my life since the day I turned 21. (Yes, I was one of those geeks who didn’t engage in underage drinking). It’s been my respite after a long day, my social lubricant, and the perfect party buddy. But in February I will have to get by on pure grit and determination (and maybe a mild sedative). 😉

My reasons for abstaining are as follows:

1.  Sometimes the best way to find out how something is affecting your body is by going without it for a few weeks.

2.  Because both my wallet and my liver could use a break.

3.  To see how it affects me mentally (and socially!).

4.  To see the physical benefits of not ingesting so many “empty calories.”

5.  To prove to myself that there is still a distinction between needing a drink and wanting a drink.

I chose to do this in February for no special reasons. Though I feel like I am cheating because it’s winter time and I am already inclined to stay at home as opposed to imbibing with friends. But then again I would not have survived Snowmaggedon a few years ago without beer. So maybe we should all be praying for mild weather.

My husband, sister and a close friend will be joining me with their own reasons for being a part of my potentially kamikaze party. If you would like to join us, whatever your reasons may be, let me know! I would love to be able to provide support by email, Twitter or through Facebook! In doing something together, our chances of success increase!

But where to begin? Here are a few tips and suggestions to help get you through your 30 days:

1. Resist the urge to substitute sugary drinks or soda for the alcohol that you’re missing.

2. Remove any alcohol from your home. (Ask a very trusted friend to store it for you who won’t drink your stash). 🙂

3. Do your best to avoid incredibly tempting situations like going to a bar or having dinner at a brewery. (That one almost got me!).

4. Commit to seeing this through and it if helps buddy up with someone who will go through this experiment with you. (Like me!)

5. Find out what works for you – be it keeping this decision to yourself or sharing it with your friends so that they can help support you.

30 days of sobriety begins on Feb. 1st and will end on March 1st.

Hopefully we can all stay friends. Good night and good luck.

Why I’m never eating at Fogo de Chao again…

Fogo de Chao is a Brazilian churrascaria steakhouse chain. For $50 you can eat your weight in meat. The food is great and the service is good. It was Mecca to me. So why am I swearing to never eat there again?

I went to Fogo de Chao in May to celebrate my husband’s birthday. It was our special occasion restaurant. We were both tremendously excited to be there and when the various meats on a stick started coming we were over the moon! We couldn’t wait to stuff our faces! And then more kept coming… And more… And more… I was not done with the meat I was currently chewing before the next one came along and pretty soon my plate was piled high with half-eaten delectable, greasy pieces.

As I was chewing I started to feel sick to my stomach. I was eating too much and wasting so much more. I felt out of control. I was starting to get a headache (a meat headache?). My husband and I grew quiet during the meal… No longer so effusive… No longer feeling great… Staring at the carnage in front of us. I pushed my plate away. I flipped over my circle card to the red side to indicate that I was done. And boy was I done. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

Why did that great meal make me feel so terrible? Perhaps because it was gluttony at its best. I was almost embarrassed at the ostentatious amount of food that kept coming and the amount of food that was left behind on my plate. Everyone was chowing down and since it was “all-you-can-eat” it didn’t matter whether or not you finished what was on your plate. You could just get more! Yay!

But the way I was thinking about food was changing. I was acutely aware of food – How it’s made… Where it comes from… How it’s prepared… I recently learned of livestock production’s hefty carbon footprint. (And why can’t meat processing plants be more open about their operations?!?) I just never really thought about it. But here we were at this fancy shmancy restaurant not even bothering to eat our plates clean! Ack!

At the end, I just didn’t feel good… about any of it.

No, I am not giving up meat any time soon but I can make better decisions as far as where my food comes from. I can eat less of it. And I can start demanding better for the environment.

And, yes, I realize that plenty of restaurants are not concerned with sustainable foods or locally grown produce. So I’m not necessarily targeting Fogo de Chao… It just happened to be the place that finally pushed me over the edge.

So tell me… What pushed you over the edge?