Tuesday, December 29, 2009

5 Reminders to Help Build Stronger Relationships

By: Chalene Johnson
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Happy Holidays to everyone
You’re distracted and upset. The dull ache in your stomach has robbed you of your appetite. You just can’t focus. Your day is a blur. You nearly ran a red light. The most recent events keep playing through your mind. Something is awry with one or more of your closest relationships. You ask yourself, “Why is this not working?” You may think, “Could I have married the wrong person?” Or maybe you wonder, “Is my best friend totally changing or did I just never see this side of her?” Maybe your impasse is in the workplace, “I used to adore my boss, now I see him for what he really is.”

When things aren’t going the way you want with the most important people in our life, you have to realize that the most important area of your life needs attention. People are the most important. People are more important than your job, your car, your house, your bank account, your clothes, your appearance. Yup. We work at all these other areas, yet we expect relationships with our important “people” to just happen naturally. But they don’t; relationships take work.

Learn to build better relationships with your family, coworkers, friends and your spouse or significant other. I’m not talking small talk, or humor, I’m talking about going to a deeper level. Faltering relationships can sabotage your attitude, your ability to perform, your weight and even your financial success. When your relationships are supportive, you feel like you can do anything. Create success in all areas of your life by understanding that relationships take thought, planning, attention and time. Building better relationships is a skill that with practice you can master.

Here are a few tips to help you build stronger relationships.

1. Read! Remember…you’re not the first. Whatever it is you’re going through, someone else has already gone through it and figured it out. Save time and headaches by relying on the expertise of others. Having difficulty with your teenager? Try “Yes your Teen is Crazy” by Michael Bradley. Wanna be a better spouse? Read “The Proper Care and Feeding of Marriage” by Laura Schlessinger. Do you have a habit of investing time with people and find out later that they don’t share your morals, values or even common interests? Try ‘When Friendship Hurts” by Jan Yager. The easiest way to make sense of relationships and improve on your own is to learn from the experts. Read! No time to read? Then listen! Most books are available on CD too! Books give us wisdom, knowledge and help us learn from the experiences of others. Priceless.

2. Be aware of subtle cues. Your spouse asks, “How was your day?” Your response is automated, “Fine. How was yours?” His question was a subtle invitation to connect; an opportunity for you to share. You’re in a rush, late for an appointment, and bump into a casual acquaintance. You mention your pending meeting and do your best to quickly exit the encounter. You say, “Well, great to see you!” Yet, the other party continues to engage in conversation. You smile, while nodding and walking backwards away from the conversation with the most obvious of “I really need to go” body language. All the while he/she rambles on, oblivious to your body language. Yet, most cues from the important people in our life are more subtle. We recognize the slight inflection in our spouse’s voice that tells us he’s in a great mood, the nervous hands of our Mother when she’s uncomfortable with a particular topic, the facial expression of a friend when we need to decline their offer to get together. These are hints. Disregarding these cues because “you don’t want to deal with it” may lead to trouble. We offer hints when we want to send a message but want to avoid direct confrontation. When our subtle cues are overlooked we feel rejected. Learn how to spot these cues and how to acknowledge the sender!

3. Listen. Consider the words people use. Know the communication style of the people most important to you. You can learn how to interpret a person’s feelings by their word choice. Words can convey mood, emotion, underlying feelings and even messages meant to be subtle. Words can invite more of a connection or tell someone that your guard is up! Words like “hurt”, “lonely”, “always”, “never”, “painful” are used to draw others in, to solicit empathy and a reaction. Ironically, these words can produce the opposite reaction. Emotionally laden words scare people and can further isolate the user. To improve your relationships know the communication style of the people dearest to you. Make note of “red flag” words, or comments, that invite further communication.

4. Appreciate. Our need to feel needed, to feel important and desired in all relationships is a driving force for most of us. One of the best things my Mom did was greet us kids after school with excitement and a hug. I always felt like she was excited to see us and that made us feel special. I try to do the same for my kids. I let them know my world is brighter when they’re around. When I walk in the front door at Powder Blue Productions, even after so many years, Ellie (our customer relations expert) makes me feel like the Queen of England. She doesn’t just greet our customers with this enthusiasm, but each employee too. It sets the tone for the mood in our office. Try this yourself with the important people in your life. Greet your partner like he or she has been away for months. Act excited, happy, and undistracted. Make your partner feel as though the sun rises and sets because of them. Tell your best friend what it is that you most appreciate about them. Do a better job of thanking your partner for the little things he or she does that you appreciate. Take the time to send a thank you note to someone whose relationship you realize you’ve taken for granted. Let people know how much they mean to you.

5. Let go. One of the best ways to strengthen important relationships is to let go of those that are not helpful, healthy, supportive or rewarding. We all have someone in our life who seems dependant on us for all the wrong reasons. While even the best relationships have ups and downs, relationships with “life suckers” are almost always troublesome, draining, difficult and one-sided. The challenge is not in our ability to know which relationships are toxic, but what to do with them and how to end, or at least lessen, the ties. I’m not a psychotherapist, but it has always been my belief that once you realize you need to spend less time with someone, you just spend less time with them. Simple. Oh sure, plenty of experts will disagree with me, but I just don’t think there needs to be some big “confrontation” during which you express your disappointment in the relationship, or highlight the one-sidedness of your relationship. What’s the point? People don’t change. Just go about your business and invest more time with the important people in your life.

All relationships worth having take work. It’s funny how much time people spend working on their businesses, their bodies, their homes, their bank accounts and worrying what other people think of them. Ironically, all those areas fall into place when you put important people, the right people first.

Monday, December 21, 2009

11 Ways to Create and Maintain Balance (part 2)

By: Chalene Johnson
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7. Make a "Transitional" To-Do list: Sometimes changes should be gradual. If, for example, your number one priority is to quit your current job and work a full-time fitness career, quitting your "day job" tomorrow might make it tough to fork over the car payment at the end of the month. Consider a gradual transition. Speak to your employer about the possibility of working just 5-10 less hours per week. If that's not an option, propose a flexible work schedule that allows you to do personal training, or pursue fitness opportunities, during prime time hours.

8. Openly communicate your priorities with others. This serves as a constant reminder to yourself and a means of personal accountability. In communicating your priorities, you also establish your boundaries. "I openly express my priorities, so those who I work with always know and respect where I am coming from." Barbara Brodowsky, group exercise instructor for 24 Hour Fitness, Lancaster, CA.

9. Take cues from people closest to you: Sometimes we are too close to a situation to be able to make clear decisions. Listen to the questions and comments of those you most trust and admire. Has your significant other suggested that you look tired, seem distant, stressed or stretched too thin? Has more than one friend suggested you lighten your load or teach fewer classes? Have you seen a change in the behavior or mood of one or more family members? Projects consultant for AFAA, Amy Nestor, agrees, "When every day begins to feel hectic, rushed, and stressful and my mind feels like it's racing, I know it's time to take a look at what I'm doing. I also take cues from my family.”

10. Practice saying, “Can I get back to you on that?” If you know you should say “No” more often, yet find yourself saying, “Yes” just to be accommodating, try using “Thanks for thinking of me! Can I get back to you on that?" Just a few days will give you the time you need to evaluate the opportunity to see how it fits with your priorities, and if need be, politely decline.

11. Identify, and then remove your balance blockers. All of us have self-imposed balance blockers. These are deep rooted feelings that keep us in unhealthy or stressful situations based on fear or insecurities, like the need to please, misplaced guilt, fear of rejection, false appearances, believing that you’re supposed to be able to "do it all", perfectionism and more. These items will inhibit your ability to make sound decisions; decisions based on “your” life’s priorities. These 11 steps will change your life, as you strive to strike a balance; just know you’re not perfect. If you can’t put them all into action immediately, pick one or two and start there. Always keep in mind what your goals are and what’s important to you. By doing so, your entire being will be transformed!

Whether you want to try for the promotion at work, gain confidence, learn how to better connect with others, or maybe, you just want to improve yourself. You can do it, one step at a time.

Monday, December 14, 2009

11 Ways to Create and Maintain Balance (part one)

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By: Chalene Johnson

1. Prioritize, in writing, the most important areas of your life based on your current situation. Many skip this all-important first step or fail to re-visit this question on a regular basis. Although you may believe you have prioritized your values, goals or agendas in your mind, listing them on paper helps to clarify their importance, so you can re-evaluate your activities. Our top priority is often easy to identify, its numbers 2, 3 and 4 priorities that sometimes over-lap in our minds and fluctuate depending on changing circumstances. Writing down your priorities makes it easier to make tough decisions.

Be ready to “shift and move”. As circumstances change, so will your priorities, therefore, so should your schedule. Any shift in circumstances, work-load, family, finances, health, etc. should require you revisit your written list of priorities.

2. Create a calendar, or list, of your regularly scheduled activities. List everything, including leisure time and sleep. Closely estimate the amount of total time each activity requires. For example, when listing a class or client, be sure to include set-up, cleanup and drive time.

3. Star those activities that support one or all of your top 2 or 3 priorities. These are the items you should fight to keep on your list, but be careful you don’t have too many! Fitness is on my list of priorities, but when too many workouts cut into family time (my first priority) then a few work outs need to be moved.

4. Underline neutral activities. Neutral activities are those which neither take from, nor support, your priorities. Some examples of neutral activities might include Saturday morning coffee with your girlfriends, art class, watching television, surfing the internet, etc. These are activities that you could give up if needed, but should be evaluated for their “peace of mind” value. Never underestimate the refueling power of mindless down time, something few A-type personalities allow for.

5. Next, boldly circle the activities or obligations that contradict your present order of priorities. This is going to take some courage. In some instances, it takes a non-objective 3rd party. Here's a personal example: One of my weekly activities was a late evening class at a health club 35 minutes away, at a rate of pay far less than I normally earned. I had the class for years and felt the students, who had become my friends, would “perish” if I gave up the class. Even though I was a new Mom, I felt I'd be letting them down if I gave it up. I was keeping the class out of guilt, a sense of obligation and, to be honest, ego gratification! It took a friend to point out, that by keeping the class, I was actually hurting my young family in terms of loss of time with them. Giving up that class was far less painful than I imagined.

Now, when I personally struggle with the decision to get a sub or give up a class, I remind myself that at the end of my life, I want my family at my bedside, not my Saturday morning step class.

6. Make an "Immediate Action" To- Do List: Each item which you bravely circled now needs to be removed. These aren’t areas that you’re going to “try to do better.” It’s time to take specific action. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. The change doesn't have to be permanent, but it should be immediate. If the act of relinquishing responsibility, inconveniencing others, or change has you frozen in your tracks, look at your top three priorities and find the courage to endure a few uncomfortable moments for lasting peace of mind.

Monday, December 07, 2009

9 ways to avoid holiday weight gain


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Happy Holidays

Aaahhhh, the holidays…the scents of fresh pine and baked goods fill your home; everywhere are twinkling lights and culinary delights…but every to die for dessert and festive cocktail represents temptation, overindulgence, and missed workouts. The season can be downright frightening for those struggling to lose or maintain weight. While gathering with family and friends is one of the best gifts shared during the holidays, most American families, including my own, gather with a healthy dose of high fat, butter infused, sugar coated, carbo-loaded family favorites. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without Grandma’s homemade apple squares. The crust alone calls for 4 sticks of butter! (I am SO not kidding)

It’s hard to say how many pounds the average American gains between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Some studies suggest the average weight gain to be as high as 10 pounds while others argue the statistic is closer to a pound. Regardless of the number, most of us would like to enjoy the traditions of the season without the traditional weight gain.

Here are 9 tips to help you enjoy the traditions and treats that make your holiday season special without blowing the progress you’ve made all year.

1. Start your day by pushing play: No matter how many guests you have coming for dinner or how much you have left to do, make time to start your day with exercise. By “pushing play” and doing an exercise video like Turbo Kick®, Hustle™ or PiYo™ you’ll have more energy, decrease your appetite, reduce stress and boost your spirits.

2. Don’t deny yourself: Studies show that those who deny themselves their “favorites” often consume more calories in other food selections and are more likely to “binge” later. Decide in advance what you’ll have and how much you’ll put on your plate, and then stop. Make your calories count. Avoid mindless munching and take time to truly enjoy a small dose of any decadent treat your heart desires.

3. Keep a running total: Estimate your calories as you consume them. Research shows that those who are aware of their calorie consumption eat less and fill up faster. Don’t forget to include those “sneaky” calories consumed when testing and tasting recipes or the handful of nuts you ate while catching up with cousins.

4. Drink water before and after your meal: This rule applies regardless of the day of the year. Water consumption decreases cravings and helps to regulate hunger. Be sure to consume water after your workouts as well.

5. Use a smaller plate: If salad plates are available, use one for your main entree. A smaller surface area will help you become aware of moderate portions of all your favorites.

6. Plan a physical family activity. Start a family tradition of splitting into teams for a “friendly” game of flag football or doing a 5k together. Meet for a morning walk on the beach or take a post-feast stroll through the neighborhood to enjoy the Christmas lights. (Although in my neighborhood, there’s no sense in walking far because ours will be the best for miles! Honestly, I’m not a competitive person…except when it comes to my Christmas lights. Those Griswold’s ain’t got nuthin’ on the Johnson’s!) Anyway, even if it’s 20 below, you can have a dance party inside with the kids. Be silly, play and laugh with your family. Doing physical activity together strengthens family bonds and builds traditions that can last generations.

7. Give it away: If you’re hosting the festivities, add disposable containers to your shopping list so you can send guests home with ALL of your leftovers. Eliminate a week filled with left over pie, stuffing, gravy and goodies by sending family members home with special care packages. Ok, if you must, save yourself that one piece of cold pumpkin pie for breakfast or fixins for ONE of dad’s traditional turkey, mashed potato, and cranberry sauce sandwiches and send the rest packin’.

8. Throw it away: If you find yourself on the receiving end of a half eaten pecan pie, or a neighborly plate of cookies, graciously accept but once home…toss it! Yes, I said, “TOSS IT!” Which would give you greater long-term happiness, more pie or to fit into your skinny jeans?

9. Get back on track: Remember that the occasional splurge is what diet experts call “moderation”. Go ahead…treat yourself! You deserve it! Remember, a splurge should last a meal or a day at the most. By eating poorly for several days, you set yourself up for a season of weight gain. Plan for and enjoy your favorites then get back on track to your journey of healthy living.

Happy holidays! Enjoy the season and all of the goodness it brings