Take the Stairs!

Self-discipline is hard.  Whether you’re talking about food choices, fitness, getting up with my alarm, having more patience with my three year old, or whatever else I’ve got going on in my life, being disciplined is a constant battle.  I’m always looking for an easier way out, or just reacting to situations instead of thinking through the best choice–I’m sure you can relate.  It’s hard to be a disciplined person, and I fall short pretty much every day.

It’s been a few years since I started focusing on being more disciplined, and it’s pretty amazing how far I’ve come in so many areas of my life–but there is always more room to grow!  I’ve been reading (for a second time, actually) an amazing book and just wanted to recommend it to you.

Take the Stairs by Rory Vaden is exactly what I need to read right now–he is all about learning to be disciplined in every area of life, and that has been a great lesson for me over the last few years.  I can choose a specific area of my life to grow in my discipline–focusing solely on workouts, or just on my patience, for example–but to truly grow in discipline, it needs to be something that pervades all areas of my life.  I need to learn to become a disciplined WOMAN in general, not just a disciplined eater or a disciplined exerciser.  I love that idea, and it’s exactly the type of person I want to become.  If this is something you struggle with, too, please do yourself a favor and add this book to your Christmas list.

Also, a bit of encouragement: one of the most difficult aspects of learning to be disciplined (for me, anyway) was feeling like I had to muster up the strength to be more disciplined.  It was overwhelming and exhausting for me to think about trying my hardest every day to be more disciplined!  It made me not even want to try, because who can do that all day every day?  Not me, for sure.  But then I came across this verse that comforted me and made me feel really empowered:

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

If you are a Christian, you already have a Spirit of self-discipline within you–you just have to ask God to help you live that out and choose to submit to that Spirit in your day to day choices.  So be encouraged by that!

What books have you read that have helped you with this idea of self-discipline?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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Christmas Advent 2017

Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year!  Now that my little man is getting older, it’s getting more and more fun.  For the past few years, I’ve done an Advent calendar for us as a family to serve together, have intentional time together, and to help teach my little man what Christmas is really all about!

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Here are some of the activities we’ll be doing this Advent season–what are some of the traditions you and your family have?  I’d love to hear about them!

Watch a Christmas movie

Breakfast with Santa

Swim party (when we’ll be in a hotel out of town)

Make a leaf wreath

Make Christmas cards and mail them to our cousins

Make treats and deliver them to our neighbors

Choose some toys to donate

Deliver food to a food bank ministry

Have cookies and cocoa at our church’s Christmas service

Have breakfast for dinner

Sing Christmas carols to our grandparents (if he’ll cooperate!)

Drive around and look at Christmas lights

Read the Christmas story together

Do a Christmas puzzle

Color a Christmas coloring page

 

This isn’t the full list, but it’s a great start!  What are your Advent activity plans?

Super Simple DIY Fruit Cups

My kid is picky.  It is one of the great annoyances of motherhood for me to have a toddler who is SO PICKY about food.  My hubby was a picky child, and I am a really adventurous eater, so one of my goals as a mom is to raise an adventurous eater like me.  I’ll pause here so fellow parents can laugh at that goal.

I know that I can’t control my kid’s pickiness, but I CAN control how much or how little I give in to it.  So, I’m constantly on a quest to figure out how to transition my child off of junky processed foods and onto healthier options and more variety.  Sometimes it goes well, and sometimes it doesn’t, but I want to do a better job being consistent in my efforts and in sharing them.

This switch is so simple that I hesitated to even share it with you.  My kid LOVES fruit and would eat it all day every day if he had the choice.  But, I hate buying fruit cups for him.  I don’t like all the sugar that comes in the syrup, even the “no sugar added” kinds.   Even if the fruit is in fruit juice instead of syrup, there is so much sugar in there that he just doesn’t need.  So, one day I finally realized, “Hey!  I can just make these myself!”  Duh.

His favorite fruit cups are mandarin oranges and peaches.  So I bought a bag of clementines on sale and a couple of bags of frozen sliced peaches (no sugar added, of course).  Then all I had to do was peel and cut up the clementines, and let the peaches thaw before I chopped them up.  Easy peasy.  Plus, using frozen peaches saves me a step in prepping, so I’m winning all the way around.

If your kiddos like fruit cups, try making your own fruit cups–you can even buy pre-cut fruit in the produce section to make it easy on yourself.  It’s definitely not easy to switch your kids from processed to whole foods, but it is worth it to help instill those healthy habits early on!

Banana Oat Pancakes (make-ahead and toddler approved!)

I love breakfast, ya’ll.  It’s funny because I normally just have my super shake for my breakfast every day, but I love all things breakfast.  If it’s filling, yummy, healthy, and quick, even better!

These pancakes are so good, really easy to make, and they keep well in the freezer so I can make a big batch over the weekend and eat on them all week long.  You can easily add blueberries or chocolate chips, or just eat them plain with a drizzle of maple syrup.  My son loves these, too!  Win for everyone!

Banana Oat Pancakes (from Fixate)

1 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 large eggs
1 large ripe banana
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 dash sea salt
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until well mixed and smooth.

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat with 1/2 tsp coconut oil.  Measure out 1/4 cup pancake batter and pour onto skillet, cooking for 3-4 minutes or until the top of the pancake starts to bubble.  Flip and cook for 2-3 more minutes until cooked through and golden brown.  Repeat with all remaining batter.

Top with fruit, coconut flakes, chocolate chips, and/or pure maple syrup.  If placing in freezer, let cool completely, then wrap in plastic wrap or put in zipper sandwich baggies, then place in a zipper freezer bag and freeze.

Each serving is 2 pancakes (1 yellow container).

The Simplest Motivation Hack EVER

It happens to all of us–you have something you want to accomplish, you have a plan to make it happen, and then…you snooze a million times.  Or you lay on the couch binge-watching Stranger Things.  Or you scroll through social media and realize an hour has gone by.  And you haven’t gotten anything done!

It’s so easy to fall into that procrastination trap, where anything and everything is more important than the one thing that REALLY is important to us–and we continue to not accomplish our goals.  Now, I don’t really believe in “motivation”–I think sometimes you feel really energized to work towards your goals and sometimes you don’t, but not feeling energized isn’t a reason to not do the necessary work.  But some strategies and techniques are crucial for those times where you’re just not feeling it.

This technique comes from the great Mel Robbins–you can watch an awesome video of her explaining it here–and it’s so simple it almost seems like it wouldn’t work.  But it does!  All you need to do is count backwards from 5–think of it like a countdown to a rocket launch: as the countdown is happening, the rocket is building up energy from its fuel and engine, and then when the countdown ends, it has the energy it needs to take off!  We are the same way; counting down from 5 allows our brain to recognize that a transition is happening, to build up energy to make it happen, and to launch us into whatever activity we need to get done.

That’s it!  You can use this 5-second rule to help you get up with your alarm instead of snoozing, to push play on your workout, to start that conversation that needs to happen but you’re scared to have, or whatever else you are putting off.  And try it with your kids to help them transition from one activity to another without meltdowns!

Whatever it is you need to get done, try this hack to make it happen!  5-4-3-2-1 GO!

#mySADexperiment

If you follow me on social media, you’ve probably noticed me posting about my current health experiment–#mySADexperiement is 11 days in and is going strong!  I’ve gotten a lot of questions about what exactly it is I’m doing, so I wanted to answer some of those questions here.

First of all, SAD is Seasonal Affective Disorder.  I’ve been pretty open about my struggles with depression and anxiety, and SAD is something I deal with every single winter.  When the days are shorter and the sun isn’t out as long during the day, we can’t get as much vitamin D, which is so necessary for our bodies and our sanity.  Because of this, a lot of us struggle with our moods, energy, and motivation during the winter months.  The “winter blues” can be mild to severe for different people, and for me it can get pretty intense.  Last year was the toughest winter yet for me, and I’ve been going into this winter with some anxiety.  I want to do whatever I can to alleviate and manage my SAD symptoms and enjoy this season–after all, it’s my favorite time of year!

I’ve done quite a bit of research on nutrition and depression/anxiety, and time and again studies are seeing a connection between what you put in your body and your emotional/mental health.  Now, I’m not saying that changing my diet will prevent or cure anything, but if there is a connection, it can only help, right?

The biggest culprit seems to be sugar.  Studies are showing that sugar is basically the devil–all kinds of negative consequences to our bodies, little to no nutritional benefits.  Too bad this time of year is filled with sugar, sugar EVERYWHERE.  I made chili last night with some Italian pork sausage and found corn syrup (aka sugar) in the ingredients.  WHY???

Which brings me to my experiment: during the 30 days of November, I’m being intentional about fueling my body with what it NEEDS and what will be beneficial for me, not with what I want (you know, all the bread and leftover Halloween candy).  Limiting sugar, staying away from breads and refined grains, and limiting dairy while loading up on fresh veggies, lean protein, and healthy fats.  I’m also committed to working out every single day, since exercise releases endorphins and helps with your mood.  My doctor has told me more than once that the first thing I need to do for my depression is work out, and I’m usually very consistent with my fitness.  During the winter months, however, it gets so easy for me to skip workouts and make excuses–who doesn’t want to stay in bed under the warm covers a little longer when it gets cold outside?

So far, this experiment is going really well!  I’ve gotten a workout in each day, and while I haven’t been perfect with my nutrition, I have been very intentional about what I’m eating and have been great at getting my veggies in–and I’m feeling really great!  I don’t expect to have zero SAD symptoms this winter, but I am determined to avoid the darkness I felt last year.  So far, the difference is night and day between how I’m feeling right now and how I felt in November of last year.

This time of year is notorious for being difficult for people to focus on their health, but I’m determined to be different this year.  I have committed to owning my health this season instead of letting the season own me, and I’m excited about making it happen.  I’ve got the all the tools I need between my streaming workouts and super shake, and putting them to use may not be easy, but it’s definitely simple.

If you want to join me in #mySADexperiment, click here!

My Mindfulness Checklist

In an effort to manage my depression and anxiety, I’ve developed a morning routine that is focused solely on helping me clear my head and start my day with positive momentum.  Getting up early isn’t really my favorite thing to do, but the benefits I get from waking up earlier than the rest of the house, having some time to myself, and working through these steps makes it completely worth it!

Before I started implementing these steps, I was very skeptical about it.  I didn’t think that meditation or affirmations would make any difference, and honestly I felt really foolish doing it.  It took me a long time to even give it a try, but when I kept reading over and over about these successful people I look up to, time and time again they talked about doing affirmations and meditation (or least some version of it).  If all of these people that I respect were doing it, why not give it a try?  Once I did this for about a week, I noticed a big difference and I became a believer in the process.

Here is how I work through my checklist; hopefully this gives you some ideas on how you can incorporate these steps into your day.

  1. A peaceful space: Find a spot in your house that will allow you to spend a few minutes alone, a space where you can keep your materials for your morning routine, and a space that makes you feel calm and peaceful. For me, I use a spot in my basement; it’s away from the rest of the house, it is comfortable and relaxing, and there’s a table next to my couch where I keep my Bible and journal so it’s easy to access.  It really doesn’t matter where you decide to make your morning mindfulness space, as long as you feel relaxed and can be uninterrupted for at least a few minutes–your kitchen table, your living room couch, your bedroom, your porch or deck, etc.
  2. 10 minutes of quiet solitude: This has been huge for me!  I wake up with a lot of tension–lots of thoughts swirling through my head, physical tension in my back, and stress thinking about my to-do list for the day ahead.  Taking 10 minutes of quiet solitude to start my day has allowed me to get rid of that stress and start my day with a lot more peace.  I use the Headspace app for their free 10-min guided meditation sessions–it doesn’t have corny background music, it doesn’t ask you to focus on anything except your breathing, and it doesn’t feel too hippy-granola to me.  If meditation isn’t your thing and you want to spend the time praying alone, awesome.  If you want to spend 5 minutes focusing on your breathing, fantastic.  If you want to just sit at your kitchen table and sip your coffee for 10 minutes, great!  The key here is to try and CLEAR your mind, not just sit quietly for 10 minutes stressing about your day or what happened yesterday.  It might be helpful to try a guided meditation once or twice to give you the tools, and then you could do it on your own.  I also have a list of positive affirmations about myself that I say out loud–things that help me change the negative dialogue in my own head.  One of my affirmations is “I am disciplined” to help me focus on who I want to be, instead of spending my day talking down to myself.  The affirmations help me change my perception of myself–when you talk negatively to yourself, you are a negative person.  When you talk positively, you become more positive.  It’s pretty simple, but it makes a huge impact.
  3. Intentional focus on spiritual development: I love doing this section right after my meditation because I’ve cleared my head, gotten rid of some tension, and I feel much more equipped to focus on my reading and prayer instead of feeling distracted by my thoughts.  My spiritual development is really all about focusing on my personal relationship with God and growing in that; I read my Bible (following a specific plan), do some journaling about what I read, and spend some time praying.  If you aren’t sure where to start with this, I love the She Reads Truth app–it’s free, includes a Bible in the app, and has a lot of great studies to choose from (free up to $3).  There is also a He Reads Truth app for the guys, too.  Focusing on this helps me keep my priorities in check, helps me have a good mindset for my day, and helps me focus on what is really important in my day instead of focusing on insignificant stressors.
  4. Physical activity: This one might be my favorite.  I like to do a full workout in the morning with Beachbody On Demand–I usually forget that I even worked out by lunchtime and then it feels like a rest day!  But even just a short and sweet workout, like some pushups and crunches, or jumping jacks and planks, even for just 5 minutes, is shown to benefit your mindset in the morning.  All exercise releases endorphins and helps you get your day started with positivity.  When I start my day with a workout, it helps me stay motivated to make healthy choices throughout my day, too.  Whether you choose to do a full workout, a few jumping jacks, or a 5 minute yoga flow, doing some kind of physical activity will help you lower your stress levels and get in a good mood for your day.
  5. Personal Development: One of my favorite things about my coaching business is the focus on personal development.  Being intentional about reading positive books that help me become a better person, better wife, better mom, better coach has truly made all the difference in my life.  Personal development is what helped give me the confidence to leave teaching and be a stay-at-home mom, and helped me be able to identify my depression and anxiety enough to know I needed to get help.  In choosing a personal development book, I think about one of my goals and what I feel like is holding me back from accomplishing that goal.  For example, as I’ve been trying to lose weight, I’ve realized that I struggle with emotional eating, and I looked up some books dealing with that topic before choosing Made to Crave, which has been an amazing resource for me.  Some of my business goals weren’t becoming reality and I realized I needed some help being disciplined, so I read a book called Take the Stairs that was a huge help.  You can also choose a podcast to listen to–I love the God Centered Mom podcast for personal development, too.  We all have aspects of our lives that we want to improve–I use personal development as a tool to become the person I want to be.  Starting my day with this helps me stay focused on making better choices throughout the day instead of going on autopilot with bad habits.

I’ve included a printable version of this checklist for you to use as you create your own routine for mindfulness.  There is a lot of evidence for everything included here and the benefits of putting them into practice, but the only evidence you really need is trying it out for yourself.  Give it one week and see what kind of a difference it makes, and then come back and let me know how it went!

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Mindfulness Checklist