Tag Archives: health

5 Healthy Habits During a Job Search

Career transitions come in many forms, one of the most major ones being a new job search.  In addition to the obvious steps of networking and sending our applications (which I will cover in separate blog posts), it is important to consider how to support ourselves mentally, physically and emotionally during a job search.  In coaching clients who are in the midst of a job search, I have observed that they have the best chances of success, and weather the transition the most smoothly, when they follow these 5 healthy habits:

1. Get ample sleep.

Prime your mind and body by giving yourself the rest you need.  We are at our most productive after a good night’s sleep.  Most people need 7-9 hours.  Notice how much sleep you need to feel your most alert.  If you feel you can’t spare the extra time in bed, consider that an extra hour of zzz’s can result in several hours of added productivity, not to mention a more positive outlook.

Some people who are worried about a job search may find they suffer from insomnia and have a difficult time winding down at night.  If this describes you, go the extra mile to set up a cozy sleeping space, limit screen time at night, engage in a soothing pre-bed ritual such as journaling or listening to music.

2. Exercise regularly.

Exercise is wonderful for so many reasons.  It leads to better sleep.  It puts us in a good mood.  It activates endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals.  It makes us calmer, less reactive, and better company for others to be around.

Have a hard time committing to exercising on a regular basis?  Consider the huge rewards it brings.  Sometimes it’s simply our resistance to a new habit that stands in our way.  Try scheduling exercise in your calendar and set yourself up for success:  pack your gym bag, set an alarm.  The more times in a row that we repeat a new habit, the more engrained it becomes in our minds and the more naturally it comes.

3. Do something just for fun.

Why?  Career transitions inevitably entail a lot of stress (both “good” and “bad” stress).  Doing something you enjoy, that’s just for yourself, can alleviate much of that stress.  It also has a profound impact on reframing the career transition as one part of your life, rather than an all-consuming part.  Whether it’s hiking, taking a painting class, or playing in the backyard with your kids, everyone needs time to be playful, silly, or creative.

4. Surround yourself with a support network.

This one is a double whammy.

First, you will feel more supported emotionally when you take advantage of the support that’s available to you.  You will have more optimism and resilience, and less risk of anxiety or depression.  You will experience more connection and less isolation.  Others matter.  Positive psychology shows that meaning is a key hallmark of happiness–connection to other people and to something larger than ourselves.

Secondly, you will be more likely to hear of useful resources or job leads that could ramp up your search.

This last one is important. . .

5. Be gentle with yourself.

Whether your search is a long or a short one, remember that it is temporary.  While you are in the midst of it, treat yourself with as much care and compassion as you would a good friend.  Before long, you’ll be at your new dream job, and your search will be a fleeting memory.  While you’re in the thick of it, do everything you can to make the process easier on yourself.

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Work with a Coach to Create Your Ideal Balance

Work-life balance is a term that gets thrown around a lot.  What does it mean?  Not working 60 or 80-hour weeks?  Having time with your spouse or kids every night?  Spending weekends on your hobbies, not glued to your computer or smartphone?

“Balance” would seem to imply that all things are in equal measure, all of the time.  In fact, this isn’t many people’s goal.  Some work hard and save up so they can have more free time a few years down the road (hoping they have time for other interests before retirement).

Some may want to spend 40+ hours on their career because it’s a passion; for them, balance means having a few hours here and there to explore other sides of themselves.  Others feel stifled by such a demanding schedule and thrive with more flexibility, perhaps working for themselves or freelancing.

What is your idea of balance?  What are you balancing?  When the pieces of your life are in ideal balance, how are you dividing your time?

Personally, I balance work, family, exercise, personal growth, fun and recreation, and other types of self-care such as sleep.  I need to do most of these everyday.  That can mean spending 45 minutes talking with my husband over breakfast, doing a few hours of work, going for a swim, making a healthy lunch, writing a blog post or answering emails from clients in the backyard, talking with my own coach, and watching “House Hunters” on YouTube.

I take time to pray or engage in meditative activities (including sitting by my bedroom window, watching sparrows dance on the grapevines) whenever I need to recenter, which could be 5 times a day.  While work and family occupy the bulk of my time, the other activities, though less in quantity, are just as important to my well-being.

Other tasks, such as monitoring savings or cleaning the house, fall under general upkeep and weekly to-do’s.  I fit them in when I feel the least resistance to them (usually mid-morning).

One coaching tool that explores these parts of our lives is the Wheel of Life.  It’s a circle with eight wedges:  Career, Family & Friends, Significant Other/Romance, Fun & Recreation, Health, Money, Personal Growth, and Physical Environment.  The sections can be tweaked; some people separate Friends & Family, or add a category of Spirituality.

Assign a number from 0-10 to represent your satisfaction with each area.  Your observations about your wheel of life can be illuminating.  Are you equally satisfied with each area, or are they wildly divergent?  Is your romantic life a 10 but your finances are a 2?  Is your career a 9 but your health a 4?

If spending long hours at work or a dislike of the gym are blocking your health from being a 10, consider an early-morning jog in a park close to home.  Do you want to be a  more available partner or parent?  The remedy is to clearly see where you are today, envision what you want, and take the first step to bring you closer to where you want to be.  Where we put our focus has the power to unearth possibilities.

Sound simple?  It’s deceptively simple, so much so that many of us are surprised when we wake up one day realizing we’ve jumped ship, abandoning our own dreams and desires.

What would an 11 look like?  It’s said that coaching begins when each piece is at a 10.  Through coaching, we get to stretch the limits of what we believe to be possible in our lives.  I’ve experienced this myself through being coached.  What mirage will be dispelled next?

Working with a coach ensures the support and accountability that are needed to make any lasting change.  August is a great time to start coaching!  Email me today at marywcrow@gmail.com to see how coaching can work for you.

Deliberate Choices, Not Deprivation

As Web MD points out here, two mistakes that people often make are snacking mindlessly, or not snacking at all.  Eating small portions of nutrient-dense food in-between meals stokes the metabolism and helps prevent binges.  Try to eat snacks with a mixture of protein, high-quality carbs, and good fat, like hummus made with olive oil on whole-wheat crackers. This will give you an energy boost and help avoid binges when sweets appear.

I remember well the temptation of ice cream or other treats in the office kitchen at 3:30 in the afternoon.  At the magazine publisher where I worked, the test kitchen would share their creations–everything from ice-cream cake to homemade doughnuts with chocolate drizzle.  I knew I’d feel sick after eating a whole doughnut, but I did it anyway!

That’s when I recommitted to stocking up on healthy snacks.  If I eat light fare every couple of hours, my energy stays high, my metabolism gets a kick, and I’m happy just having a bite of dark chocolate or a bite of a doughnut instead of a whole one–or even passing on the doughnut.

Pay attention to what your tastebuds are telling you.  Do you crave something sweet?  Try having a small glass of cranberry juice with dinner.  Do you want a crunchy texture?  See if you can satisfy it by adding wheat germ to your cereal or yogurt.  Do you miss chocolate? Let yourself have two bites, or try a high-protein chocolate drink made with whey.

Above all, be creative with whole foods and fresh ingredients.  Try slicing ripe tomatoes into whole-wheat pasta with olive oil, garlic, basil, oregano, and a dash of sea salt or crushed red pepper; serve hot or cold.  Be playful with color, texture, and taste, so you won’t get bored and eat mindlessly.

Food is meant to be experienced, enjoyed, and savored.  Let food prep be as much fun as the meal itself.  Enjoy selecting ingredients, herbs and spices in whatever combination suits you.  Cooking is creative–get your senses involved.  If you’re famished, have a light snack while you’re cooking, so you won’t overeat.  For example, nibble on some olives.

Deprivation and crash dieting are self-sabotaging, but all too common. behaviors.  We can’t cut out entire food groups, nor should we.  I remember the fat-free craze of the ’80’s and ’90’s, with products such as Snack Wells cookies.  While low-fat, they were still high in sugar and simple carbs.

It’s important to get enough fat, protein, and carbs, but the right kinds.  Aim for nutrient-dense foods like fish, lentils, olives, nuts, avocado and quinoa, to name a few smart choices.  Treat yourself to a colorful Greek yogurt and berry parfait for dessert.

If you’re going to cut out a ‘food group’ entirely, let it be trans fats, which raise bad cholesterol (LDL) and lower good cholesterol (HDL).  Other than that, let yourself enjoy the occasional pat of butter, maybe as a special treat, opting for olive oil the rest of the time.  If you want to have a candy bar a week, really enjoy that candy bar.

If you’re craving full-fat dairy, just work it into a rounded diet.  As long as you aren’t eating several foods high in saturated fat on a daily basis, it’s fine, our bodies actually benefit from a certain amount of saturated fat.  Just don’t overdo it!  If you choose to eat animal-based products–eggs, dairy, fish or meat–still aim to eat a mostly plant-based diet with plenty of vegetables, fruit, beans, nuts, and whole grains.

Balance is key, and making active, mindful choices is an important part of gaining balance.  So enjoy putting your meals together.  Let it be creative and fun.  Then savor the flavors, really take the time to experience your food.  This will let you eat more consciously, to be mindful of both quality and quantity, and above all, to enjoy it.

Wishing you happy, healthy dining!

In Pursuit of Health and Wellness

As a wellness coach, I help my clients achieve their health and wellness goals.  This topic is near and dear to my heart. While mixed messages abound, society mostly discourages us from living healthfully.  Not only are we surrounded by processed food, but we’re often asked to be superhuman or machine-like, ignoring our physical and emotional needs.  However, our needs are not luxuries–they matter.

Wellness is one of the most important foundations of my own life.  When I sleep 8 hours, eat nutritiously, limit caffeine, and exercise regularly, I feel at my best.  My thinking is clearer, my energy higher, and I’m more tapped into my own creative force.  When I feel healthy, I show up better in my relationships.  I see my career-related options more clearly.

Is it static?  No–wellness has looked different at different points of my life.  At one time, it meant rigor and challenge–training for 10K’s and a half-marathon.  Other times, it has meant more variety, alternating short runs with kickboxing, rowing, or pilates.  It has also meant doing yoga a few times a week, or swimming regularly.

Living a healthy lifestyle is a fluid, often intuitive process.  While there are some good habits I need to do everyday (flossing, anyone?), as my life and needs change, I also change how I address my needs.  I get to choose how much consistency, challenge, fun, and novelty I want at any given time in my active, healthy life.  Am I bored?  Maybe a 3-hour hike in the woods is in order.  Am I tired?  Maybe an easy swim is just what I need.

Wellness also includes managing stress.  At times of stress, I’ve been tempted to over-caffeinate, under-sleep, and under-exercise.  When I don’t de-stress well, I neglect to find time to relax–taking walks in the park or meditating, for example.  Skimping on sleep and ramping up on caffeine or sugar never turns out well.  When I try to cope with life in those ways, I’m trying to do more than is humanly possible.

The truth is, basic human needs matter, and they don’t go unmet without consequences.  If I deny them, I feel a deficit–whether the deficit is sleep, nutrition, or having fun.  If that deficit persists, it affects all areas of my life.

These days, life looks different.  Nurturing myself is one of my top priorities, because it makes my life flourish.  Relaxing and enjoying life are key components of health and wellness.  A day that includes gardening, writing (with my calico cat keeping me company), playing the piano, or even watching “Frasier” on Netflix is a restorative day.  We all need time to pursue our interests, be in nature, and simply do things that we enjoy.

What does relaxation give us?  When we’re relaxed, we’re open to possibilities.  We experience gratitude for what is.  We’re connected to our inner selves and to others.  It gives us joy and curiosity.  We enjoy better health and more energy to refocus on what’s ahead.

What are key components of health and wellness for you?  When do you feel at your best?  What energy does that open up for you in the rest of your life?  I’d love to hear from you.  Wishing you abundant energy and good health,

-Mary

Life Vision: Balance & Priorities

This weekend I was sick with a cold.  My cubicle neighbors at work have been hacking up a lung and the germs must have circulated.  Whenever I feel a cold coming on, I take zinc lozenges, which usually make the cold half as bad as it would have been otherwise.  I can’t stand the idea of being knocked out for 5-7 days, given all that I do in the course of a week, and I also just don’t like feeling rotten.  Taking zinc, along with drinking water and getting extra sleep, allows me to feel semi-decent and not cancel too many activities.

I remember the last time I felt a cold coming on, I had run out of zinc lozenges.  I considered stopping by a drugstore for more, but decided not to.  Maybe it was laziness or lethargy, or maybe it was the fact that I’d been going at full speed for weeks (months?) and simply wanted a break.  I wanted to crawl into bed at 8 PM and sleep till 8 AM.  I wanted my job to be blowing my nose and drinking tea.

Why can’t I give myself permission to take a break when I’m not sick?  It seems there’s always something to do.  I need to print tax forms, dust and sweep the house, get groceries and do food prep, choose music to play for Easter.  The list can feel practically endless at times.

I can take steps to reduce my stress and the length of my to-do list.  For example, I’ve been meaning to hire a cleaning service to help me once a month or so.  I can ask for help, I can leave some things undone, and do other things in a cursory fashion.

When our out-of-town family stopped over for tea and dessert, I was a little embarrassed that the house wasn’t without a speck of dust (I regret to say the bed may have been unmade).  But the dishes were done, there were comfortable places to sit, free of clutter– and besides, they came to visit, not to inspect every corner.  Do I want to enjoy a full life, or do I want to become a crazy person who stays up till 2 in the morning, cleaning?

There are ways to let life be more manageable.  There is room for more ease, more routines that will help me with my goals.  In the meantime, I can give myself a break.  I work in publishing in the city, am a professional coach, landlord, musician, and wife.  I volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters, which I love, but it too takes time.  I also try to make it to my yoga mat or the treadmill a few times a week.

I enjoy stretching myself and doing things that make me feel truly alive–more connected to others, and to who I am at my core.  Sometimes I do enjoy plopping down on the couch to watch a movie, and I need that to recharge–but I’m glad that a sitcom binge is a relatively rare occurrence.  I can practice being mindful about how I inhabit my own life–how I structure, stretch, and play with it.

When I’m sick and want to absolve myself of any responsibilities beyond sleep, it’s a sign that I’m craving more balance.  Perhaps I’m craving time to prop up my feet and look out the window–just look, and let my thoughts come and go like clouds.  I might need time to write in my journal, to reflect or meditate.

Life is lived both internally and externally.  Both are important and they complement one another.  The time I spend reflecting or journaling powers me up to engage more willingly and productively in the world.  Once I’ve been active, I have much more enjoyment in a quiet night (or weekend) at home.

I’ve made a list of my top priorities the next couple of months, so that I’ll know if I’m on track or veering off:

#1 Wellness: this means sleeping 8 hours, doing yoga, and running.  Trying to eat real food for lunch, and enough food that I don’t raid the candy drawer at 3:00.

#2 Fun, love, and friends:  for me, this means spending time with those I love–especially my husband, friends and family–and doing things simply because I enjoy them.

#3 Mastering the organ pedals:  if not now, when?  I have an excellent teacher, and my year will only get busier as it goes on.  So I’ve committed to practicing 4 or more times a week.

#4 Expanding my coaching business:  I’m taking more workshops at CTI and going to events through Meetup.org to connect with people who may be curious about coaching.

If I’m craving down-time, the non-essentials have to go.  As a result, there are other activities I’ve turned down because they don’t fit with my vision of my future self.  At this point in my life, while I might derive certain benefits from them, they ultimately get in the way of my top priorities.  If they divert from where I want to put my focus, they don’t serve me–even if I would enjoy them.

So right now, I can forgive myself when the house is a little messy.  I can feel good about leaving things undone and getting a good night’s sleep.  I can be proud when I devote time and energy to my coaching and music businesses.

Having a vision reminds me of who I want to become, and what trade-offs I’ve decided I’m willing to make in order to get there.  Let the rest fall by the wayside… there will be another phase of life when I could pick some of it back up.

Are you ready to explore your life vision?  Who do you want to become?  What’s something that if you never did, you wouldn’t feel fulfilled?  Visit my coaching page for ways to connect with me.  You may find that setting up a free sample call with me could be an important step towards creating an even richer and more fulfilling life.

“House of Cards”: Netflix and the Flu

My husband and I recently started a free trial month of Netflix.  We have never been big TV watchers; in fact, we don’t even have cable.  Our usual form of entertainment is checking out ’40’s movies from the library.  Once we saw how quickly late fees added up, though, it made sense to look into Netflix.

A week and a half into the experiment, I’m discovering that I have less self-discipline than I’d like to admit.  I’m already an avid watcher of “House of Cards.”  I’d like to be content watching one episode and moving on with my life, but with each show ending with a cliff-hanger and the next show just the click of a button away, it’s all too easy to watch two or three in a row.

Not a problem on the occasional Friday or Saturday night, but even on weeknights, I’ve discovered there seems to be a “casino effect” whereby we absolutely lose track of time.  We would break for a time check and be stunned to see it was 12:30.  At least we didn’t watch an entire season in one weekend like 668,000 other Netflix subscribers did, but still not the healthiest choice.

I found myself getting less than 7 hours of sleep on a couple of nights, and sure enough, before long I picked up the February bug that’s been going around.  Maybe some people can survive on 6 1/2 hours of sleep, but I’m not one of them.  I pick up whatever germs are floating around when I’m sleep-deprived.

We make resolutions during the day that we don’t keep at night.  After floating wisdom to my loved ones like “the trick is to just watch one show then call it a night,” I promptly proceeded to waste away an evening utterly absorbed by the fantasy world in front of me.  When our TV died last night (it was 9 years old), that didn’t stop us–we downloaded the Netflix app on my iPhone.

Do I love it or hate it?  Do I want to keep Netflix or go back to my spartan ways?  I’m not sure.  I do know that intellectually I believe in moderation, but when it comes down to it, I will binge on “House of Cards” as much as anyone.  This is why I don’t keep ice cream in the house.  I would rather have two bites of dark chocolate and a cup of peppermint tea, but if there’s ice cream in the freezer, it will be eaten.

It’s good to know our limits and our temptations.  We will probably keep Netflix, because it sure beats picking up DVD’s from the library, but I am giving serious thought to how I can incorporate it into a balanced life.

In such cases, it can be helpful to think through the consequences of an action fully.  For example, that could mean imagining sleeping 6 hours, waking up feeling groggy, being cranky all day, possibly coming down with a cold or flu, getting behind on work, feeling stressed, and being short with those around me.  If everyone truly went through that process, far fewer of us would stay up till 12:30 watching “House of Cards.”

I honestly haven’t applied that technique to this situation yet, but I’m going public to help me do so.  I’ll give it a shot next time I’m tempted to click the remote to start another late-night episode and report back on the results.

My new goal is to continue to watch, but to do so more mindfully.  My hunch is that I’ll be healthier, better rested, in a better mood…  and perhaps less obsessed with Zoe, Lucas, and the rest of what is, when you come down to it, a fantasy world.

Dreaming Big: Flamenco in Madrid

Almost two years ago, my husband and I were planning a trip to Spain.  We’d had a hard couple of months, and needed an adventure in a beautiful place to reconnect with each other and with the beauty and vitality of the world.

Ever since a family vacation to Ireland and England at age 9, I’ve been passionate about traveling.  I can still picture the verdant fields, castles, and windy cliffs with the ocean below.  At 17, I spent two weeks in Toulouse with my French class, and at 20 I spent my junior year in Paris.

Traveling has also always been a core part of my relationship with my husband.  We camped in New Hampshire, canoed in Quebec, honeymooned in Paris, and took a ferry from Rome to Sicily (seeing Stromboli, Mt. Etna, and the ancient Greek Valley of the Temples in Agrigento).  I love his openness to and excitement about the world, which inspires the same in me.

I honestly didn’t know a lot about Spain before we went, but I knew I wanted to see flamenco dancing–which we did.  We also walked on the walls of Avila, toured the beautiful Alhambra in Grenada, and ate oranges that we picked ourselves in Seville.  We budgeted for the trip, secured the vacation time, and our dream became reality.  We rented a car and drove south from Madrid to Andalucia.  The mountains, miles upon miles of olive groves, and abandoned castles were breathtaking.  I felt truly free, immersed in a beauty that I had no part in creating.

It’s important to dream big, and equally important to make those dreams a reality, even when other people aren’t happy about them.  (They’re your dreams!)  They can be flexible, evolving over time as we get more information and our vision gains clarity–but we owe it to ourselves to pursue them.  Life isn’t meant to be endured, but to be lived.

As a couple, we’re currently toying with a few dreams (as documented in several Google Docs and Excel spreadsheets):  building a deck on our roof that would have views of a park, a stadium, and the Empire State Building; taking a 10-day trip around Bavaria, Germany; and investing in a vacation rental property in Brescia, Italy.

While we may not know the exact shape these dreams will take, we’re doing the footwork of communicating about our hopes and  priorities, researching options, and playing with budgets.  We have engaged an architect.  We have weekly “business meetings” where we review our spending and savings.  We look at pictures of Brescia (that’s the fun part) and property listings.  Even if we decide to use the money elsewhere, it’s perspective-widening simply to imagine what’s possible.

Personally, I recently acted on my dream to mentor a child in Big Brothers Big Sisters.  I had volunteered in the past with New York Cares and really missed it.  The fact that I could develop a long-term mentor relationship with one girl also appealed to me.  Nyshira will be 11 later this month.  A few dates, phone calls, and texts later, I completely love her.

What dreams do you want to achieve?  What’s your vision of your future life?  Is there an area in your career, family, health, or personal growth that you long to develop?  Are you excited to get in shape and train for a 10K race?  Do you secretly want to turn a hobby into a second career or even go into a completely different line of work?  Do you want to spend more time with your family, or travel the world?

Our dreams matter.  They speak to our deepest (often our highest) selves.  What might at first seem impractical or too hard just might be the thing that changes our lives–if we’re willing to listen to that inner voice, and do the footwork.  It won’t happen without our attention and effort, but the results are worth it.  What’s more, when we’re our best selves, we’re able to be of greater service to others.  We can share our abundance, unencumbered by fears.  So don’t be afraid to dream big, but don’t stop there.