Tag Archives: self-care

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.

Naptime and Growth Spurts

I don’t get a chance to blog as much these days, between mothering a toddler and coaching my clients.  I find that I miss it, though.  So today, as my son naps, I find myself with a precious hour or two.

Time is a hot commodity as a parent.  Whether working out of the home, full time, part time, or stay at home (what a misnomer!), all moms and dads find that there’s a new “normal.”  Yes, we can still carve out time for ourselves, but it’s no easy feat.  It takes compromises, trade-offs, and in many cases, communication with a partner.

For example, my husband often takes our son to the playground before leaving for work, so that I can coach a client without Herbie banging on the door, crying “door, door!”  Parts of daily life such as showers and ample sleep also take communication.  (Honey, remember the time I took a shower without warning you and we found Herbie had climbed onto the dining room table and was going through the mail?)

Point being, when even a shower is not to be taken for granted, there can be a lot of pressure when I find myself with an hour in the middle of the day to spend as I see fit.  I review my options.  I could clean the bathroom (we haven’t hired a house cleaning service, something that I would nonetheless advise ANY new parent to squeeze into a budget).  I could read any of three books that I had optimistically purchased on Amazon.  I could answer overdue emails and texts.

Or I could blog.

We do what we are to feed ourselves.  To remember who we are.  I am a writer who loves psychology and personal growth.  These fields are interwoven for me, personally and professionally.  As an INFJ, I tend to look at the world in terms of where I want to grow.  It’s my idea of fun to jot down goals in each area of my life where I want to focus in the coming week.  I love understanding mental processes, perceptions, and motivations.  This is why I’m a coach.  It’s also a part of parenting that I really love, as well.

So in the context of my new “normal,” I’m okay with a certain degree of clutter in our home.  I’m okay if my exercise is running around the playground and park (believe me, I have the biceps and quads to prove it).  I’m okay if couple time is family time.  There’s a season for everything, and other seasons will circle back around again.  For now, it’s a season of growth:  my growth, my son’s growth, and my clients’ growth.

My son went through three shoe sizes in three months.  I’m ready for new shoes, too.

Choosing Powerfully–In Spite of Fear

As cool fall weather is sweeping in, I’m enjoying seeing all of the yellow, copper, and red leaves, some still on the trees and others that have fallen. I have a lovely view of trees in the park across the street from my house. As I write this, the golden leaves match my living room curtains, making me grateful for both the beauty of nature and the comfort of home.

I used to work at a corporate job in midtown Manhattan and didn’t have very much time to spend at home, especially not in the afternoon. Mid to late afternoon has become one of my favorite times of day, when the sun sweeps across the sky, lights up the living room with its southern exposure, and sets elegantly over the park.

A couple of weeks ago, on an unseasonably warm October day, I took a solitary hike in the Watchung Reservation here in New Jersey, and basked in the beauty of majestically tall trees, sunlight playfully dancing on leaves, and birds singing their avian hearts out.

More time appreciating nature is just one of the rewards of having listened to my heart and followed the path that was right for me–changing careers and stepping into a very different lifestyle than I once knew. It was scary to leave the corporate career that I’d always known. It felt secure, dependable, safe. I was offered a position at the NY Times and had to rely on my coach to help me see that there was something else my heart was calling for. Something less known, but more in line with how I want to express my values today.

Through coaching, music, and preparing to be a mother soon, I’m living some of my deepest values: beauty, creativity, personal growth, curiosity, compassion, caring, health, family, and flexibility. Being rich isn’t on this list. I care about security and frugality, but only in service of my core values. Fear of not having enough no longer rules me.

Life can still be stressful. As I write this, my grandmother is in the hospital after having a stroke. I’m filled both with love and gratittude for my relationship with her–and the good that she has done for so many people in her 95 years–as well as fear and sadness.

This week, I also I went to traffic court. I wrestled with the checkbook to try to make sure I wouldn’t bounce a check. I tracked down electricians and several heating specialists, as part of my responsibilities as a landlady. These are necessary, if frenetic and unpoetic, parts of life. As someone who is an intuitive introvert (to borrow from Myers-Briggs), engaging in a lot of extroverted sensing can feel taxing to me, and takes recovery afterwards.

Yet, my life is essentially exactly as I would wish it, just for today. I have much room for growth, but right now, I’m celebrating what’s good. I’m savoring the fruits of how I’ve chosen to craft my life. My work is deeply meaningful to me–I get to help others be at choice in their own lives. I get to champion them as they create what they want, and celebrate what they’re learning.

I also get to design my own schedule and incorporate self-care. For the first time ever, I get to go to the gym for an hour and take a short nap most afternoons. I alternate between work and my personal life throughout the day, rather than work in an 8 or 9-hour block of time. This may not work for everyone, but it’s ideal for me.

Why can it be terrifying to leave what we know, what has its merits and we consider pretty good, in pursuit of something different, better?

Our saboteurs can be sneaky. I have a “good-enough” saboteur who points out that what I have isn’t bad, so why rock the boat? That belief can literally keep me stuck in a place of dissonance for years. Another saboteur masquerades as trying to protect me: “you’ll get hurt, it’s better not to try.” This often comes from fear of failure or not having enough. It takes good coaching to help me see more resonant perspectives that can move me forward towards what I really want.

Power comes from choosing consciously. My future self is already living her ideal life, fulfilled beyond my wildest dreams. I get to play with discovering what that life is like and who that future self is. Then I get to step into it–again, and again.

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.

Practice Balance by Saying Yes and No

Like many, I’m in the habit of using Google Calendar to schedule a lot of my comings and goings.  I used to only use it for appointments.  Recently, though, I’ve started jotting down reminders like going to the gym, practicing the organ, or doing grocery shopping for the week ahead.  It’s especially helpful for mundane tasks that I’m tempted to avoid, like scheduling a doctor’s check-up.  While most of what I do in life is not on the calendar (nor do I wish it to be), it helps keep me on track and reminds me of where I have chosen to put my focus.

Do I always stick to my decisions? If not, am I still on track?  This evening’s calendar reads: “7:00 practice organ, 8:00 zumba, 9:00 blog,” yet it’s 7:00 and I’m writing my blog.  So how do I know when I can, in good conscience, blow off the gym or whatever projects I have going on?  How do I know when improvising my evening is practicing self-care, or even when it is more productive than what I had planned, rather than a form of laziness?

At the Coaches’ Training Institute (CTI), where I’m training to become a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, I’ve been exploring such concepts  as balance and fulfillment.  While most of us long for balance and fulfillment in our lives, the many options which confront us often become obstacles if we try to say yes to all of them.

When we say yes to anything in our lives, we necessarily say no to something else.   One simple tool that can help clarify our choices is making a list of things in our lives to which we say yes and no.  This morning, I woke up at 5:45, an hour earlier than usual.  I took advantage of the time to write such a list over a cup of coffee:

Q.: By hiring an accountant, what would I be saying yes and no to?

YES: Having more time for myself and with my husband.

NO:  Spending three weekends doing our taxes.

Q.: By seeing a doctor for a check-up, what would I be saying yes and no to?

YES: Self-care.

NO:  Deprivation, procrastination.

Becoming clear on the values attached to various options enables us to choose consciously how to move forward.    Normally, I would automatically rule out hiring an accountant on grounds of expense.  However, applying this tool makes it clear to me that important values are involved.  The time I will spend with my husband and by myself is of much greater value than the fee charged by the accountant.

So tonight, I ‘m saying yes to reflection, writing, relaxation, watching the sunset over the park, enjoying being in our peaceful home with the cat curled up next to me.  I don’t really need that zumba class (after all, I walked to and from work), but I do need to keep up the momentum with my writing.  Therefore, I’m saying no to zumba and practicing the organ.

It’s a good feeling to honor what we need on a given day, even if it’s different from what’s on the calendar.  Even better, when we do it in order to honor a value, we can do it free of guilt.

How do you honor your values when life gets busy?  Where are you saying yes?  Where are you saying no?

If you’re interested in working with me one on one, visit my coaching page for how we can connect.  I’d be happy to offer a complimentary sample coaching session.

Living Joyfully

Each January, I choose a word for myself to set an intention and a tone for my year ahead.  Over the past year, my word has been “joy.”  I’ll be the first to admit I don’t feel joyful every minute of every day.  It can be easy to get distracted by dirty dishes, vague fears, or even a rainy day.  I can momentarily lose my focus.

But more and more often, I find that the negative stuff that stands in the way of living more joyfully–boredom, fear–is just that, momentary.  And they can be great teachers.  If I feel anxious about the future, I can use my senses to bring me back to the present.  If I’m lonely, I know how to pick up the phone and call someone I care about.  Rather than stuff the initial feeling, I’m learning to get really curious and invite in what it can teach me.

I’m more comfortable than I’ve ever been acknowledging I don’t know what the future will bring.  I no longer even want this superhuman ability.  I want to be fully present in this day.  I want to receive the gift of moving through an uncomfortable feeling, not judging but befriending it, and taking baby steps to move into a better place.

I have heard this process described as telling the feeling “thank you for sharing,” then going ahead and acting as if.  Moving through it, not being blocked by it.  When I choose to take the next right action, and the one after that, and the one after that, I’m affirming that feelings aren’t facts, and life just keeps getting bigger.

For me, that can mean bundling up and heading out on a cold night to practice the organ, even if I feel like sitting at home eating brownies, because I know once I get there, I will feel alive and will be moving toward my goals.  I will be living joyfully and in connection to my core self.

It can also mean doing most of the dishes (who needs perfectionism!), taking a hot shower, and crawling in bed with the cat for 8 hours of sleep.  Self-care can take different shapes from one day to the next.  As long as I’m moving toward my goals in the most important areas of my life over the course of a week, then I know I’m on track.  If I tell myself it’s too hard, or focus on the negative, I lose sight of the positive baby steps I’ve taken that add up over time to a fuller, more authentic life.

I’d love to hear from you!  What’s blocking you from experiencing a more joyful life?  When do you feel most joyful?