5 Guilt-Free Ways to Manage Stress

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Our overall well-being is dependent on our ability to manage stress. As women, we often juggle many things at once and the stress can have ill effects on our health. It is important to remember that we cannot do any good for anyone if we are not taking care of ourselves first. It is easy to forget; we always run out of time; there is always something else more pressing to handle; we feel guilty for thinking of ourselves…STOP. Below are 5 guilt-free ways to help manage stress.

Exercise

This area is so broad; it can be anything from a marathon run to a walk down the hall to the bathroom. Seriously, if it is a walk to the bathroom, take a minute, stop what you’re doing and while you walk, actually pay attention to the walk. Don’t rush down the hall, do your business, and rush right back into the next thing on your to do list. Preferably, you will have more time in your day than a walk to the bathroom. If so, try to find something you will enjoy. Something that makes you want to keep doing it. Yoga,  swim, hike, bike, walk, run, ski, volleyball, anything as long as you find joy and it makes you smile. Be sure to pay attention while you’re in the moment and don’t get lost in the “what do I have to do as soon as this is over” thoughts. Using exercise to manage stress is about reducing your level of stress, not adding to it with another thing to do. Don’t get worked up about the activity, and do not feel guilty for spending time doing something that makes you feel good!

Meditation and Breathing

When it comes to using meditation to manage stress, I feel like people imagine this padded room, you sit in lotus position, quite, and eyes closed, and wait for a bell to ring to let you know you are done. It can be that….or you can simply sit at your work desk for 5 minutes and close your eyes and focus on your breathing (in…out…in…out…). Again, this is not an all or nothing activity. You don’t need special pillows, timers, music, and guides; you simply need to be still for a period of time and focus on your breathing. Another form of meditation is mindful meditation. You can do this while you’re doing the dishes, eating dinner, or taking a shower. Whatever your activity, focus on that activity. Be present and aware of your actions, motions, and breathing during the activity. Pay attention to your body relaxing during this activity.

Sleep

Oh man, I am bad at this one. Every single day I swear I will get more sleep. As soon as I lay down, my brain turns on and everything starts to flow! I find myself checking the clock and getting more and more frustrated the later it gets and finally around midnight, I get to sleep. I know how important it is to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night, not only to manage stress, but also to allow your body to repair itself from the day; however, I struggle with getting 8 hours. Trust me when I tell you that sleep deprivation and stress are NOT a good combination. Some ideas to help fall asleep are: limit caffeine after noon, don’t nap in the afternoon (or if you do, not longer than 20 minutes), keep your bedroom temperature cool (60-67 degrees F), turn off electronics at least an hour before bedtime, and by all means, have sex! Sex actually reduces stress and increases oxytocin and dopamine which will make you feel sleepy. (Just don’t disrupt the sleep of your special someone, unless they don’t mind.) 🙂

Read

Whether it is fact or fiction, pick a genre you enjoy and lose yourself in a good book. Similar to television, books allow us to escape and forget reality for a time period, hence helping to manage stress. You can join a book club for some group fun or simply read alone at home in a favorite comfy spot. You can get books for free at your local library, so this doesn’t even have to cost you any money. If you prefer to purchase your books, I suggest checking out Amazon! Check out one of the running books I’ve read here, or one of the first novels I ever read by Wally Lamb here. The novel “She’s Come Undone” taught me how disappearing in a good book can be one the best feelings EVER!

Soak in a Hot Bath with Epsom Salt

ALL TIME FAVORITE!!! Epsom salt is one of my best friends! My absolute favorite kind is Dr. Teal’s with essential oils already added. Check them out here. Not only will it help relax you, the Epsom salt is good for recovering after exercise. This one idea is a definite winner to help manage stress. I actually use it after # 1, I incorporate #2 and #4, and I get nice and sleepy to help with #3. YEAH! See why it’s my favorite? 🙂 I make sure everyone else is tucked away nice and sound in their beds before I decide to soak.  I try to plan it when I know I will have at least 20 minutes of uninterrupted me time. Awe….feel it now.

What do you think? Have you tried any of these? Are there other ideas you practice? Please post your ideas in the comments below.

How to Transition From Road to Trail Running

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Running is running, right? Well, yeah, kind of…Most of us started out either road or track running, so the transition to trail running can be intimidating for some people. Below are four tips when transitioning to trail running.

1: Get the right gear. It’s important to make sure you have the right shoes and a hydration pack when trail running. The shoes made for trail running have more of a grip to help with the terrain. You won’t find any water fountains or hydration stops on top of the mountain; be prepared with enough hydration and fuel to get you through the run and back to the car. You can find a list of my favorite trail running goodies HERE.

2: Forget your road pace. Trail running takes more energy than road running, so your pace will be slower. When starting out, it’s best to pay attention to total running time. You will most likely have to climb more hills than your normal road run. Although this is great exercise, it often kills your pace in the beginning. Be kind to yourself and just ignore it until you get comfortable out there.

3: Be safe. There are less people on the trails, but more wild life. Just yesterday my dog got into a fight with a racoon. (No one was injured, thankfully!) But you have to be prepared for all kinds of scenarios. I always carry my cell phone and share my location using a free app called, Glympse. It allows you to share your exact location for up to 4 hours, and later you can add time if needed. I share mine with a family member and let them know what time I plan to be done. This way, if they notice I’m not moving (injured) or if I get lost, they can get help. You need to have any emergency medical aid you may need in your pack. My sister is allergic to bee stings, so we make sure she has what she needs in case she ever got stung. Help could be hours away. Plan accordingly. It’s always better to be prepared and not need it than not be prepared and need something.

4: Soak up the scenery. This is one of the main reasons I love trail running. I can’t explain the views you will see from all levels of the trail. The mountaintops come with a sense of accomplishment and looking out over a vast area never gets old. When standing at a stream bed, it is amazing to see how regardless of the season, the water finds a way to still flow through the creek beds. Something as simple as a fallen tree covered in snow can be absolutely beautiful when the sun rays shine down upon it. I always have my camera ready. I love looking back at the pictures (which never seem as beautiful as the real thing) and remembering the run from that moment. It’s what keeps me coming back for more!

I hope these tips help you find your way to the trail. Feel free to add a few of your own in the comments below!

Weekly Running Log – Feb. 19

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Running log totals: I hit all my runs this week. Not on the scheduled day, but I still got them all in!

Weekly mileage: 31.4

Weekly elevation:  2,743ft

Year to date mileage: 131

Year to date elevation: 14,790 ft

My favorite products for trail running are the Nathan VaporAiress Race Vest, Cockatoo found HERE, and my all time go to trail shoe Salomon Speedcross 3 found HERE. Additional 125 ft in elevation from setting the treadmill to incline. I use Strava to track my running log; you can’t add elevation to treadmill runs. How is your training going?

Womanhood and Self Discovery

Turning 40 years old this last year was life changing for me. I have never been bothered by a birthday, NEVER. But this one got me. It latched a hold and didn’t let go for a while. I still do not fully understand what it is that bothers me so much, but I’ve learned to deal with it and move on. I have learned to celebrate who I am, and embrace the struggles that brought me to where I am.

So, I decided to solidify this moment in time with a photo shoot. If you know me, you know it is difficult to get pictures beyond a selfie on the trail or our annual family photo day! This photo session was a little bit different. I found a local photographer, Ali, whose art is boudoir photography. Check out her website here.

Here I am, not even knowing the correct way to wear make-up; the idea of doing this photo shoot was completely outside my comfort zone! I wear comfortable clothes, running clothes, or work attire. I am NOT used to lingerie, accessories, and SUPER high heels! But, I did it and it was amazing. I saw myself like I have never seen myself before.

Ali has a way of making you feel sexy, honored, and powerful. I am so comfortable being the wife, mom, and boss. I never imagined myself as a sexy woman. That area of my life has always taken a back seat to being the one to “get shit done.” Who knew by taking an hour and a half one morning, I would have a life changing experience. I love to laugh. I love to smile. I never noticed how much I loved those things until that morning.

Each photo captured a different side of myself. A different challenge. A different experience. A different feeling. All the differences that make me, ME. It was amazing and I suggest every woman take a day and invest in themselves and DO IT! Trust me, if Ali can teach me how to be comfortable in this setting, she can teach anyone!

Benefits of trail running

Lately, I have heard a great deal about the healing powers of nature. I have even heard stories of doctors prescribing nature walks for individuals suffering from depression. I am not a doctor, but can attest to how trail running helps me both mentally and physically.

1: Overall easier on the body. When I was in school, I ran track and as I got older, I often took to the roads. I always had issues with shin splints and felt like my body was taking a beating when I ran. It was not until my mid 30s when a friend asked me to go for a hike that I discovered trails. The impact of running on the trails is not as hard as hitting the pavement. Because trails are rocky and uneven, your body benefits from increased core strength, balance, and stronger ankles. You get a full body workout with the terrain changes and hills you are bound to come upon. I feel like the chances of injury are lower when trail running versus road running, but again, I am no doctor!

2: Sounds of nature. When I run the road, I always put on the headphones, cranked up the music, and hit the streets. Running the trails, I leave the music at home. Instead of hearing traffic, I enjoy hearing the sounds of nature. Sometimes that means I hear nothing. I soak up all the silence I can get. Have you ever stopped and realized how much noise goes on around you? All day long. Whether I am at work where the phones are ringing, people are asking questions, or in the car where my kids are talking; there is rarely a moment of silence. For me, the trails allow me the time to be quiet and really think.

3: Shift in focus. When road running, you must watch for cars, people, stop signs, etc. On the trails, your focus shifts to rocks and tree limbs. You can allow yourself to focus on the trail while falling deep into the trance of the woods. I can’t explain how this feels, you just know when you hit it. You’re in it. You are flying down the side of a mountain, watching about 15 feet ahead for any trail obstructions, breathing the fresh air in and out, and your body is full of energy. It’s a feeling I never experienced on the road due to being interrupted by the focus of trying to stay aware.

4: Less harassment. I am not sure how often men get harassed on runs, but I can say as women, it happens almost every time I head out on a road run, alone. It does not matter the time of day or the area I choose to run. I remember getting a quick run in over my lunch break, down town, along our riverbank. Two men chased me until I got off the dike, and ran up the main street back to my office. I just do not understand why people can’t leave other people alone. Sorry, that is a whole other topic for a separate post. My experience on the trails is different. I find most people are there for the same reasons and just want to run and be alone. I have not met too many people willing to follow someone to the top of a mountain just to harass them. This is not to say the trail is danger free; my personal experience has been less harassment on the trails, and for me that is a huge benefit! It makes for an overall better run.

5: Spiritual connection. I try to get my long runs in over the weekend. This often times means Sunday morning. For me, I am happy to spend my time connecting spiritually on the top of a mountain. I love getting to the top, looking out over the view, and giving thanks for the ability to do what I can and appreciate the body with which I have been blessed. I am not a top finisher in trail races, but I do not do it for that. I do it because it feels good to reconnect with nature and myself in those moments. To remember to take a minute and be grateful for the life I get to live. I do it because sometimes when I am in the midst of climbing that mountain, the struggle is comparable to situations I am struggling to work through in other areas of my life. Just getting to the top gives me the strength to continue pushing through in my daily life. It reminds me: I am worthy. I am strong. I am not alone.

Living Through Your Budget

Last week we reviewed 3 simple steps to create a budget. If you missed that post, you can read it here. Now that you have a budget, let’s talk about how to actually live with it.

1: Track your spending. The best way to see if your budget is accurate is by tracking your spending for the first month. You can do this several ways. Choose a way that is easy for you and does not create a lot of work for yourself. Remember, SIMPLE is the name of the game. If it feels like added work, you are more likely to give up. Also keep in mind, it has been said it takes 21 days of doing something before it becomes a habit. Keep at it for at least 3 weeks. To track your spending you can use your online banking system, or a notebook and a pen. Again, whatever works best for your household. Be sure to write down every expense. If you are using your online banking system, make note if you take out cash, where did the cash go? During this first month, it is all about tracking, not about changing behavior.   You have to first understand where your money is going before you make any changes.

2: Compare to your budget. Once you have a full month of spending tracked, you want to compare it to your initial budget. Break out the detail by each line item you assigned a budget to and name that column “Actual Expenses”. This way you can review each line item and see where your money is actually going. This step is shocking to most people. They don’t realize they are spending more on entertainment or allowances than they think. For most, it is the small expenses that add up at the end of the month. For the items on your budget that you don’t pay monthly, i.e. doctor visits, you should have zero spending for the month, but should also have that cash in the bank. For most, it is not in the bank because it disappeared at the local coffee shop or that night out with friends.  In the example below, you can see the amount spent in the month was $4,905 out of the monthly budget of $5,500. There should be $595 in the bank to make up the difference, but when you start to look at each line item, you notice the household is over spent for the month. There are items they did not pay that month. If every line item was due in that month, they would be in the red by $265.

Expenses Monthly Amount Actual Expenses Difference
Mortgage 1 1,400.00 1,400.00
Student Loan 1 150.00 150.00
Student Loan 2 50.00 50.00
Car Payment 1 300.00 300.00
Car Payment 2 350.00 350.00
Credit Card 1 50.00 50.00
Credit Card 2 50.00 50.00
Bank Loan 1 25.00  25.00
Bank Loan 2 75.00  75.00
Life Insurance – 1 30.00 30.00
Life Insurance – 2 45.00 45.00
Heat/Gas 280.00 280.00
Vacation 200.00 200.00
Christmas 150.00 150.00
Savings 100.00 100.00
Car/Insurance/Reg. 50.00 50.00
Emergency Savings 50.00 50.00
Allowance 80.00 120.00 (40.00)
Groceries 700.00 500.00 200.00
Garbage 30.00 30.00
Cable 200.00 200.00
Cell Phone 200.00 200.00
Electric 125.00 110.00 15.00
Vehicle Gas 200.00 250.00 (50.00)
Dry Cleaning 75.00 50.00 25.00
Hair / Clothing 75.00 100.00 (25.00)
Entertainment 200.00 350.00 (150.00)
Water / Sewer 80.00 80.00
Doctor 100.00 100.00
Pets 50.00 50.00
Recycling 30.00  30.00
Total 5,500.00 4,905.00 595.00

 

3: Make some decisions. When analyzing your budget to actual expenses, now is the time you have to decide what you want your money to go toward. Do you have a goal of getting out of debt? Do you want to have cash available when you need heating oil or when your annual car insurance is due? What are your goals? If you don’t have a plan for your money, your money will disappear. It is ok to have long term goals, but when you are starting out, it’s best to start with something small that you can accomplish in a short period of time. Usually people aim to reach a goal within the first year. This allows you to see progress and stay motivated. Maybe your goal is to have $1,000 in an emergency savings account. You already decided to budget $50 a month toward that goal. It will take 20 months to reach $1,000. If you want to reach that goal in 10 months, you need to decide where you can cut spending by $50 a month and direct $100 a month to the emergency savings account. Remember to be honest with yourself and make decisions you feel you can live with. This is not supposed to be painful or feel like you are punishing yourself. Start small and keep it SIMPLE.

4: Tweak the budget, again. Remember, a budget is a living document. It is supposed to change and represent your life. It is ok to change your mind and tweak budget line items. Emergencies may happen before you have the $1,000 saved and you may be forced to tweak line items. Don’t get discouraged. Make the adjustments and start over. That’s the glory of budgeting, you can always start over. You will change your budget every time you pay off debt or acquire new debt. (I am not a fan of debt and prefer to pay off versus get more, but sometimes life happens and it is out of your control.)

Welcome!

Welcome to my journey. I look forward to figuring out this thing called life, now that I am 40 years in to it. Something happened when I turned 40. I am not sure how to explain it, but at first I was bothered by the number. I never had a birthday effect me quite like this one and I’m not even sure why. Maybe because I am so used to planning for the future that I forgot to live for today? Maybe because I am so used to playing things safe that I forgot to take some risks and see where I landed? Not sure. But here I am, right now, in this moment, and I am ready to share it all with you. Let’s go! Time is wasting. 🙂