Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Journaling as a Tool for Change

Journaling is a great way to help yourself make positive life change. Journaling is as varied as personalities and does not have to be a prescribed means of putting pen to paper.

A journal is a great way to get all the busy ideas out of our minds, it is a place to work through challenges, a place to recount successes, and a place to clarify our path toward positive change. Engaging in a process that channels ideas and thoughts provides a platform for “actively thinking” and can provide insight that you might otherwise miss.

The frequency that journalers write is also as varied. Some people find that daily entries are a meaningful tool, others journal when they are facing a decision or some juncture in life. I have used this tool on different occasions, and find myself returning to it more frequently as I explore different and more creative variations of journaling.

Be creative, be true to yourself, and give journaling a try, you will be surprised what can come from it. Here are some brief ideas about creative journaling techniques.


A journal does not have to be written in sentence form with proper grammatical form. You do not have to create a “conversation” with your journal. Instead, try making a list of pros and cons about a decision. Or try making a list of possible barriers to making a life change. If you are trying to change your diet, list the things that could derail you. This
type of journaling works great for those who do not have a lot of time.

Scrapbook Journaling

A collection of clipped pictures or other memorabilia that represent your goals, your frustrations, or your plans can be placed on journal pages or even in a large sealable plastic bag with a date on it. The creative process of collection will allow your mind to work on the topic without the pressure of writing. This kind of “active thinking” works well if you are not fond of writing.

Drawing/ Sketching

For those who are drawn to artistic expression, a sketchbook can become a great journaling tool. Try doodling or expressing yourself by sketching objects or people. Try melding words and art together for new levels of expression or even try creating shapes with strings of words.


Write brief letters to yourself or pretend friend in a notebook or loose-leaf paper. In these letters include a few details about what is on your mind and why. Some like to create a running dialog, others jump about as new things pop into mind.

Looking Back

One of my favorite things about journaling is the ability to look back at where you were mentally and physically in the past. I happened upon a list of pros and cons from a decision I made 9 years earlier. In one way it felt like I was looking at the life of another person, so much time and so many things had passed since that time. That served as a great reminder of the power we have in the decisions we make. I made a positive change, moved to a new city, and have been delighted with the decision. It was pleasing to see that my decision making process was well on target and being on the other side of the decision made the reflection process very powerful.

Happy Journaling!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sugar, Meet Your Replacement.

A troubling trend has developed in the US since the 1990’s, the replacement of sugar in processed foods with a chemically derived product of corn. This product, called High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) has been widely adopted as a cheap and manufacturer friendly replacement for cane sugar products.

The taste is similar, but the processing and possible health affects are vastly different than cane sugar. HFCS is produced from corn through a chemical and fermenting process and results in a fructose-glucose product. Corn used in the process may be genetically modified, a fact that is troubling to many healthy conscious eaters.
HFCS is abundant and nearly impossible to avoid. After taking a no HFCS dietary position, I became aware of just how hard it is to eliminate. Try looking for bread or crackers that do not have HFCS. You will find that nearly 99% of the baked, fruit products, even spaghetti sauces on regular grocery shelves contain it. And probably the biggest culprit, soft drinks.

Most American made soft drinks list HFCS as the second or third ingredient, meaning that the beverage is composed largely of the corn product. HFCS is also lurking in a lot of other beverages, such as “fruit juices” that are marketed for kids. Start looking out for HFCS, I think you will be surprised too.

Why does this matter?

HFCS has been a hot topic in nutrition and health communities. Experts are still evaluating the dangers, but research has indicated that HFCS can contribute to obesity, osteoporosis, and metabolic disorders including diabetes, and has even proven to increase triglyceride levels which can result in heart disease.

What can you do?

Take a stand against this masquerading villain that can attack your health. Look for products that do not contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and be sure to praise companies that do not go the way of cheap, unhealthy sweeteners.

If you have trouble finding products that are HFCS free, try visiting health food stores or looking in your regular grocery for the health food isle. If you can’[t find the products you want try asking your grocer to stock specific items for this reason. Also, don’t forget that groceries can be purchased online, a good choice for rural consumers who do not have access to health conscious retailers.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Holidays and Your Health

Holidays are often associated with stress (financial and family-related) and festivities. Both of which can have a negative impact on your overall health. Remembering to be on the lookout for those impacts can help you dodge the worst outcomes.

Find Time for Quiet

With all the bells and whistles of the holidays and people's demands for your time, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by stimulation. Taking a couple of moments to find quiet can refresh your psyche and help you avoid turning to other negative habits such unnecessary munching, smoking, having a cocktail, or keep you from screaming at innocent people.

Some ways to find a bit of quiet include:
1. Turning off your cell phone for 20 minutes. Very few calls are real emergencies, most can leave a message and wait for your return call.

2. Ride in your car without the radio on. This will give you a "stimulus" break that is both rare and soothing.

3. Take a quick stroll to get away. This trick serves your wellness on multiple fronts. You can grab a bit of exercise and have a few moments of down time all at once. Try to walk outside if you can and listen to the ambient sounds of your environment. Most background sounds will sooth you even if it is in the city.

Reducing Family-related Stress

Getting your family involved in something fun provides a great distraction from holiday stressors and can help your workload. Employee the help of others in the kitchen, in gift wrapping, and shopping. Be creative and turn normal activities into a game or contest. Who can wrap the prettiest package? Or consider throwing in a funny twist on holiday favorites. Let the kids make green and red mashed potatoes!

Getting the family outside for a walk is also a nice way to spend time together and to get in a bit of exercise. Cabin fever and being overfull from eating are major contributors to grouchiness!

Avoid Holiday Eating Guilt Disasters

A little advanced planning and conscious effort can reduce your post holiday guilt. See three easy pointers below.

1. Take a health dish that you like to a party. This will provide at least one healthy selection that you will enjoy eating.

2. Eat a light meal before heading out to gatherings. This helps prevent you from getting famished and eating everything in sight. Something simple like an egg sandwich on whole grain bread and topped with greens is perfect as it will provide protein, healthy carbohydrates and fiber, all important to making you feel full.

3. Go light on the cocktails. Alcohol is loaded with calories and makes you more likely to turn into a grazing machine.

Financial Wellness

Just about everyone thinks about finances around the holidays. Holiday travel and holiday gifts can set your pulse racing and your bank account into withdrawal. Don't forget to set boundaries, doing this will keep you in the driver's seat for holiday spending. Emotion drives much of our decisions related to the holidays. Recognizing that spending more does not equate to loving more is an important step. A well thought small gift or just spending quality time with a friend is much more meaningful than a gift does not suit. Once you start to set the boundaries on the holidays others will follow suit.

A great example of this happened with my family last year. I recommended that we draw names to control holiday cost. While there were a few grumbles, the gifts were great and were really special because it gave you time to shop for one versus many. Afterwards everyone commented on how much less stress they felt because they did not go into debt and they did not feel pressured to shop for so many.

Wishing you a peaceful and renewing holiday season,

Dr. Kim Perry

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Having trouble stopping smoking?

As you probably know, some people have trouble breaking the dangerous habit of smoking. A well planned stop-smoking program will define a clear path for successfully stopping, an important step toward a healthier more active life.

Here are a few points that should be part of a well planned effort.

1. An army of one is not as good as an army of many. While the initiative to stop smoking has to come from within the smoker, those who surround that person can make a tremendous difference to success. Having supporters who lend and ear, offer positive reinforcement, and provide distraction will provide needed back up for the effort.

2. Prepare for your life as a “Non-smoker”. When the time comes to stop, make sure that you prepare all aspects of your life. Clean the car and house of all smoking related paraphernalia before stopping. This will make sure that there are no temptations.

3. Dry-clean or launder clothing and coats, clean as many items of clothing for the new smoke-free smell. The smoker’s sense of smell can quickly improve after stopping and having a smokeless wardrobe is very rewarding and reduced reminders of smoking.

4. Alter the routine and look for new distractions. Many smokers associate smoking with specific behaviors such as driving, visiting bars, watching TV, or taking breaks during the work day. Make detailed plans on ways to change the routine, on avoiding triggers, and on creating positive behaviors instead of old triggers.

5. Prescriptions medication offers a great tool to be used in addition to behavior change techniques. Zyban (Wellbutrin) has been used with great success in helping curb smoking urges. Talk to a physician about this as a component to a comprehensive stopping plan.

6. Tackle stopping one minute at a time. Little victories are the key to staying motivated toward the ultimate goal which is to remain smoke free.

7. Banish negativity from your success circle. Anyone who cares about your health and well being will support stopping smoking. Science has well proven the dangers of smoking and it is likely you have already suffered from colds, illness, shortness of breath, possibly even cancer related to your smoking habit. Stay away from people who do not support your efforts. Your less than supportive friends will be long gone when you are still living with your lifestyle induced health problems.

Personal individualized coaching available for making positive life change, visit http://www.envisagelife.com/

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Work Related Stress and Your Health

Is work related stress making you old?

Research over the past decade has proven that stress impacts our health in drastic ways. Insomnia and cardio-vascular disease have been tied to working in chronicly stressful environments. Stress in small doses can be tolerated by the body, but living in a state of ongoing elevated tension can rob you of your health.

There are multiple means of improving work related stress and the tolls it takes on your body and life. These means can be divided into two broad categories: changing the work environment and changing the way you handle stress.

Changing the Work Environment

Does your workplace function poorly and result in unecessary stress? Is this something that can be improved through your efforts or the efforts of coworkers? Odds are that your coworkers are also feeling unecessary stress. If that is the case then you can take a united approach to improving the workplace environment to reduce stress. Take the iniative to lead change. This may require more energy on your part for a time, but the resutls will be well worth the effort. Many people find that having more power over the work environment gives a new purpose and sense of wellbeing at work. Instead of being along for the ride, you take charge of the things you can change. This is a very health and positive approach.

However, if your workplace or type of work is naturally high stress then maybe it is time to consider a change of scenery. Staying too long in this type of environment will take a toll on physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, not to mention the damage it will do to the people you love.

Think about making a move to another company or possibly another aspect of your field. Look at the work-life balances of people in that environment. Closely examine alternatives and see if the environment will provide you with a healthier workplace. Afterall you spend over 1/4 of the hours in a year in the work environment so it should be a priority to the quality of your life.

Changing the Way You Handle Stress

The second means of improving workplace stress is to tune-up the way you personally process stress. Are you taking care of yourself outside of work? If not, then you may not be shedding off stress from the workplace as well as you could be. Taking time to "decompress" or unwind through personal pursuits is an important part of wellness. While Yoga has gotten a lot of media attention lately, this is only one possible stress reliever. Personally I find that relief in outdoor pursuits such as cycling or having dinner with good company is much better for me. Search until you find the activity that works for you and don't let it be time in front of the television, that wreaks havoc on health too!

Additionally, you can process stress during the workday differently. Try to evaluate why you are feeling anxious or tense when it happens. Look at the situation objectively and decide if your stress is really warranted. Will the matter take care of itself? Many times matters resolve on thier own with a little time. Will your anxiety do anything positive for the situation? The answer to this is probably "no". Instead of carrying the weight of stress in your body, try making a positive action plan for fixing the problem.

Finally, ask yourself will this matter to me in one month, one year, one decade? You will probably find that the answer is no. Much of our workplace stress is passing but constant new stressors keep popping up, resulting in a chronic and ongoing condition.

Do not let yourself, your health and well being, fall victim to things workplace stress. Work will go on long after you are gone.

A final closing thought: "Health care expenditures are nearly 50% greater for workers who report high levels of stress".
-Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Retrieved fromhttp://www.cdc.gov/Niosh/stresswk.html#f

Career and Wellness Life Coaching Available at http://www.envisagelife.com/

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Improving Physical Wellness Through Goal-setting

How does one quantify wellness? Wellness is a complex and inter-woven relationship between our physical health and mental balance. Each aspect of well being can be improved. Read below to learn more about improving the fitness aspect of the balance. More to come in later posts on reaching other aspects of wellness.

Physical Wellness
At any given time, an individual can strive to improve physical wellness. Even top athletes suffer overuse injuries and imbalances meaning that they too have room for improvement. Yet many perceive that the population of top athletes as the most likely to have attained a state of impeccable physical well being.

Physical wellness is framed in context by where you are in the timeline of life and can be improved through planned conscientious effort. Think of being the best you can be at a given time along that timeline. Physical wellness is a constantly shifting state that is redefined as we age and as we face changes in our bodies caused by illness or injury.

The most successful means for making positive change in physical fitness or well being is through setting goals. Those goals should be small and attainable, and should have measurable benchmarks to allow you to evaluate progress. Setting realistic goals is the first priority and largely the most critical aspect of attaining an improved state of being.

Several years ago I was hired by a 45 year old woman who was badly de-conditioned. A.J. had suffered physical setback due to illness and had not participated in exercise for several years while she was in graduate school. A.J. could barely walk from the campus parking lot to classes.

The first priority with A.J. was to measure and document her current state of health, then to develop steps small measurable steps toward improvement. Our first goal was to walk 5 minutes without stopping. We also established goals related to stretching and strength to help A.J. better enjoy life. At first A.J. walked very slowly, looking at landscaping for 3 minutes and then for 4 minutes and finally for 5 minutes. Soon we were setting more challenging goals and A.J. indicated that she had a dream of running a 5-K foot race.

Each week A.J. moved through her goals and savored her successes. Within 12 weeks of beginning her training we picked a 5-K race date that would mark her 6-month anniversary of creating change in her wellness. A.J.'s persistence and motivation, fueled by her small successes moved her into a new plane of wellness and allowed her to attain her dream of completing a 5-K foot race. Even though she walked for long intervals during the race, she was delighted at the way she felt and the freedom she had gained from making concerted change in her life.

Physical goals should include specified time-frames and specific outcomes. Start with some 2 or 4 week goals. Document what you plan on achieving at the end of that time. When you reach the deadline assess your progress, both positive and negative outcomes. Keep notes for future reference and learn from what helped you attain your goals and what hindered your progress.

Setting good goals is essential in improving your wellness. Professional physical trainers, sports coaches, and life coaches such as myself can provide you assistance in setting goals that will carry you forward to success.

For more on individual coaching services visit http://www.envisagelife.com/

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Creating A New You

One of the beautiful talents that humas possess is the ability to recreate ourselves. This ability gives us a chance to learn, grow, and become a happier, healthier person. People make mistakes and make poor decisions; it is a fact of life in a complex world that offers so many pathways.

Rarely can you find a person who does not have something they would like to do over or do differently. That is just part of growing wiser. Thankfully we can leave behind our poor decisions, unsavory habits, unhealthy lifestyles, and bad relationships if we take the initiative. That is one of the beauties of life; you can reinvent who you are over and over getting better each time.

Taking time to reflect by using a planned self-evaluation process can let you better determine how to move forward and the parts of the past that are no longer congruous with the next phase of life. Once you have determined what things from the past that are holding you down, turn an eye to the future.

More to come on creating positive change in life.

"Know that you hold within your mind the power to shape your life, your health, and your happiness", Dr. Kim Perry.