Tag Archives: Hope

SUBSTITUTES

IMG_1997.JPGLearning to live well is as simple as your ABCs. Let’s think holistically, shall we?

A is for ACKNOWLEDGE.

The very first step toward change is realizing that a change needs to be made. Insight. Awareness. Call it what you’d like, but it’s the very first step.

B is for BEING INTENTIONAL.

Nothing changes if it only goes as far as your thought process. [The counseling arena as a 5 point process to acknowledge the complexity of our thought lives in deciding to DO something with our lives.] And, lest we fool ourselves, it’s not up to anyone but us. Proactivity. Period.

C is for CHANGING OUT ONE THING FOR ANOTHER.

This is also known as replacement theory. You can try to delete, delete, delete, but there HAS to be something to take the place of that which you are deleting or else you feel depraved or default back into the comfort zone that you’ve known and become all to familiar with.

Whether it is your physical body, your thought life, your friend group, your spiritual life, it’s prudent to be intentional about making the wisest choices possible that are within your locus of control.

On a singular level, let’s take food. I love it. Period. But I have to A) Acknowledge where my vulnerabilities are [sugar], B) Be intentional about drawing boundaries that work for me, and C) Change out one thing for another.

Here’s an easy one. Substitute romaine lettuce leaves for bread. Yes, you can. Create a new mindset about what you usually do for your meals and replace it with a new, wiser choice.

Can you delete a number of things from your daily intake? One thing at a time? What has worked for you? What hasn’t worked? Whatever you decide, it has to be realistic and achievable.

Try this healthy swap. Eat clean in 2017. And if you need a little help getting started, visit Amazon for my Recipes Unveiled cookbook to get you started!

This is Hope Unveiled!

**The above meal has substituted romaine lettuce for bread, apple chips for potato chips, and a turkey burger for red meat.

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FASHION FOR A REASON

FOOD. FASHION. FITNESS.

In that order, that’s my personal progression of late.

Time for honesty.  The ONLY reason I left the comfort of my warm house on a rainy, cold January day is this:  my new workout clothes from @Calvin Klein.  That’s it.  I decided to use gift money on something that would give me a REASON for action.

How about you?

Do you feel guilty that you’ve eaten too much?

Do you dread the idea of working out?

Take on the mindset of replacement / substitutes.  Replace the bad food with choices that take the place of what you’re deleting. Another post this week will elaborate on this concept.

Replace your old workout wear with something new, fresh, and bright.

If you need a jumpstart on food, fashion, and fitness – all grounded in faith – you may want to head over to Amazon and pick up a copy of my book Change Unveiled.  Gather with friends and talk about these topics.

Remember:  It doesn’t matter where you’ve been, it matters where you’re going!

This is Hope Unveiled!

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Why Not Being Athletic Doesn’t Matter Anymore

The irony of it all.

PAST

My father went to college on a football scholarship.  He majored in P.E., took a leave during World War II, and then returned to complete his degree and become an Army officer for life.

He and mom adopted me as a baby so, unfortunately, I didn’t have his gene pool.  But he was determined to trade the gene pool for a swimming pool, and we spent endless summer days with him trying to teach me to swim and dive. My skills in both still leave a lot to be desired.

As the years of childhood progressed, I was usually the last to be picked for the kickball team in P.E. class, hated anything to do with physical activity, and used a supposed heart murmur to keep me from intentional exercise during high school and college. As a college senior, I was praying I wouldn’t fail the freshman P.E. class due to having to run a mile and a half in a certain amount of time.  My only goal was to keep up with my roommate who used to run in high school.  I’m thankful I didn’t literally pass out or worse… I had had NO physical activity throughout my life until that very day.

While my husband was in dental school, my mother bought me the Jane Fonda workout video.  That was my first attempt at any cardio.

PRESENT

Today, I’ve progressed from Jane’s workout to cardio, strength, and other forms of physical activity.

Since I’m adopted and I have no medical history, I have made a decision to control all the variables that I CAN without knowing my genetic pool.  Of course, this includes diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices.  Don’t think for a minute that your lifestyle choices – day in and day out – don’t have a cumulative effect on your overall health.  If nothing has happened yet, let these statements resonate from Gary Thomas’ book Every Body Matters:

“Fitness isn’t about avoiding disease; it’s about avoiding frailty” (p. 114).

“About 66 percent of adults in the United States are either obese or overweight, with abut one-third being obese” (p.120).

“The reality is, however, that exercise usually adds to our lives.  A Harvard alumni study, which tracked deaths among 17,000 men for more than two decades, suggests that “overall, each hour spent exercising adds about two hours to a person’s life expectancy” (p.165).

FUTURE

Here’s the reality:  I have no idea how many days have been ordained for me (Psalm 139:16). But God has created you and me with a WILL to choose how we each will be a steward of the ONLY body He has given us.

In addition, He has a plan and purpose that only YOU can fulfill.  That only I can fulfill.

It’s your mission.  It’s my mission.

How can you NOT take care of yourself to complete the tasks He has for you?  How can I NOT take care of myself to complete the tasks He has for me?

I’m now in a class with likeminded students as we encourage each other to fitness. Forget the P.E. class of old.  It doesn’t matter anymore.

The irony of it all.

If I can change, so can you. Today.

This is Hope Unveiled!

 

 

 

 

Anxious Living: “C” in R.E.S.I.L.I.E.N.C.Y.

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The “C” in R.E.S.I.L.I.E.N.C.Y. acknowledges four concepts for buffering stress. Consider the following:

CALM

Learn to cultivate calm evenings.  In particular, there are two recommendations:

  1.  Do not discuss “heavy” topics at night with family members.  This activates the brain in ways that is not conducive to restful sleep.  If needed, discuss stressful topics during daytime hours.
  2. Develop a calm bedtime routine.  This may include a relaxing bath, soft music, no blue light (for an hour and a half before bedtime),  reading a hardcover book, etc.

CONNECTION

Share your stress with a trusted friend or professional.  You are a “jar of clay” (2 Corinthians 4:7) and need to have an “inner circle” to connect and commune with during challenging times.  In addition, these trusted individuals can bear the burden of your stress by either just listening, or actively serving you to lighten the load. In either instance, put pride aside.

CAFFEINE

The tendency to be stimulated during a time of stress is a vicious cycle, especially if you haven’t been able to sleep well.  Be intentional about greatly reducing your caffeine intake.  If you’re used to caffeine at all three meals, begin by deleting it at the dinner hour.  Once your body is used to this, delete the caffeine at lunch as well.  Ideally, drink your cup of Joe in the morning and be done.  Your body is already stressed enough; caffeine doesn’t help the cause.

CRY

My grandmother always told me that a good cry was good for the soul.  Neurobiology has confirmed her wisdom.  The hormone that causes the production of cortisol is found in your tears.  Specifically, a 2-4 minute cry has stress reduction benefits. So go ahead and cry; however, beware of a pattern.

With these 4 concepts in mind, how can you…..

A. Make one change – and eventually more – in your bedtime routine to alleviate stress?

B.  Identify a trusted friend, family member, or professional to share your stress with?

C.  Monitor and delete your caffeine intake? Perhaps a family member to hold you accountable?

D.  Not suppress your feelings and give yourself permission to cry?

In summary, use these tips to manage stress.  Remember: The idea is to buffer and build (resiliency).

This is Hope Unveiled!

 

Anxious Living: “E” and “N” in R.E.S.I.L.I.E.N.C.Y.

IMG_0039These beautiful roses were given to me yesterday by a new friend who picked them from her garden.  The mere sight of them makes me smile!

The two concepts discussed today for stress management are EVALUATE and “NOTICE.”

EVALUATE

Evaluate what? Hydration.  When your body is under stress, you produce more cortisol, a “cousin” to adrenaline, that is in excess supply. Cortisol is good for you only to a point when you are stressed.  During times of normal stress, this hormone helps you feel more efficient and productive.  If you are overstressed, however, this hormone works against you when you’ve got too much on your proverbial plate.

Neuroscience now postulates that during water during times of stress is beneficial in lowering your cortisol levels.  Whether under excess stress or not, drink.  Constantly.  And how much?  Let’s just say…. until things are “cleared” up, if you catch my drift. Furthermore, staying properly hydrated prevents a whole host of other health concerns.  Another benefit of drinking water is to “DRINK THIS, NOT EAT THAT” when you think you’re hungry.  Chances are, your body is screaming for water, not food.

How can you begin the process of habitually drinking more water?

NOTICE

Are you too busy to stop and pay attention to what’s going on in the moment?  Does it pass you by? Or do you pass it by? This could be anything of valuable, intangible importance:  people, pets or animals, music, sunsets, birds chirping, the sound of ocean waves?

Be mindful of daily “miracles” – those things you take for granted that lighten your spirit. These things make your “Mind Full” and help you stay present focused rather than future focused.  Our American culture works against this.  Go to Europe or another country.  Observe how they do life.  Meals are long, and fellowship equally so.  The aroma, sights, and sounds are absorbed and assimilated into everyday living.  God gave us senses to enjoy all that He has placed around us every single day.

How can you begin the process of habitually noticing what’s going on in your moments during the day?

Fill up on water and daily “miracles.”  When you do so, your gratitude for everyday occurrences will start to bloom.

Meanwhile, I’m taking time to “smell the roses” from my new friend.

This is Hope Unveiled!

 

 

Grieving the Holidays: When You Have Lost a Loved One

I’ll never forget the holiday season in 2001. While Americans were still in denial and shock while grieving the pain of a historical mile marker on domestic soil, so was I, but for additional reasons. A double dose of grief was personally felt that holiday season as I experienced, for the first time, the loss of all the members of my family of origin while I was still in my 30’s. My maternal grandmother had passed away in 1987, and both of my parents passed away in 2001.

My personal “firsts” of life experiences with my “new normal” rang in the season with a vengeance much faster and furious than the songs of the season.

To anyone who has lost a loved one this year, let me first “normalize” some things you may be thinking about or experiencing. I will first discuss grief in general and then give some tips for the holiday season.

❤️ Time does not heal.

That’s right. Time is neutral. In and of itself, it does nothing. What you do with the time, however, is crucial to the grieving process. And, yes, it is a process that is not to be rushed.

The grieving takes at least 6 months to two years. Be kind to yourself as you maneuver through life without your loved one.

❤️ There is no “right” way or “wrong” way to grieve.

Members in your family may grieve differently than you do, and that is okay.

❤️ Do not stuff your emotions.

Our emotions are God-given. Give yourself permission to cry over the loss of your loved one and realize that it is the first step for processing your loss.

I’ve heard it said again and again, “I have to be strong.” Where did the origin of that belief come from? Since I’m a former “stuffer,” I can tell you that it just doesn’t work.

❤️ Talk with friends and/or family.

My experience with friends was that they were hesitant to ask how I was doing in the weeks and months following my parents’ passing because they didn’t want to upset me. If you would like to talk with a close friend, give yourself permission to initiate the discussion.

❤️ Journal your thoughts and emotions.

This is very therapeutic to the healing process, and is extremely beneficial even if it is just for your personal benefit.

❤️. Do not be surprised by unexpected triggers.

One year after my parents’ passing I was having a fun day at a mall with two close friends when the song my mother dedicated to me as an infant started to play over the audio system. Tears rolled down my cheeks faster than I could retreat to a corner to pretend I was looking at the items on display.

These triggers will come unexpectedly, so it’s okay to know that you will be caught off guard.

❤️ Don’t pretend that you are okay.

Stating it simply, this doesn’t help you at all. Maybe to the acquaintance you see in the grocery store, you may put up a strong front, but don’t try to do that with those with whom you have closer relationships.

❤️ Don’t choose unhealthy behaviors as you grieve.

Troubling your trouble only complicates a very difficult situation. Examples include, but aren’t limited to, the following:

– alcohol and/or drug consumption
– spending money
– rushing into a new relationship

❤️ Monitor your thinking.

Be careful how you interpret this loss. For example, statements like “I wish I had….”, “I ought to have….”, or “I can’t move on” serve no purpose in your healing and only keep you stuck in the past.

❤️ Write a grief letter to God, close friends, or family members.

This therapeutic exercise allows you to further process your emotions and assists in the cleansing process.

——–

Now I’d like to address some tips especially for the holidays. Remember that there is no “right” way or “wrong” way to handle the holiday season, especially if this is the first one without your loved one. Here are some things to consider and discuss with close friends and family members:

🌲 Accept the fact that this time of year will be difficult.

🌲 Lower expectations for yourself and your “to do” list.

There is no “rule” about decorating the house, attending parties, or having the same expectations for yourself as in previous years.

🌲 Verbalize your feelings to a close (same sex) friend, family member, or spouse.

If you are married, make the intentional effort to discuss your feelings with your mate. If your spouse has lost a parent, be proactive in connecting with your spouse who has been on an emotional roller coaster ride, and have a daily check in with him/her to see what he/she is feeling and how you can be the emotional support that he/she needs.

🌲 Set boundaries.

It’s okay to say “no” to certain events or activities.

🌲 Cope in healthy ways.

Do not numb your pain with drugs, alcohol, overeating, or other unhealthy behaviors. Don’t rationalize these behaviors, especially since it’s the holiday season.

🌲 Start a new tradition in your loved one’s memory.

The Christmas following my parents’ deaths, I decided to decorate a small, artificial tree for each of them that reminded me of them. My father’s tree is decorated in red, white, and blue since he was a career military man; my mother’s tree is feminine with many sparkles and shiny ornaments.

🌲 Self care is crucial.

Sleep, nutrition, exercise, having a support system, and incorporating your walk with God into your daily life assist in combating depression and stress.

🌲 It’s acceptable for you to spend time alone, say “no” to holiday gatherings, or not be as involved in holiday festivities this season. However, if there is a PATTERN of isolation, changes in eating or sleeping habits, or feelings of hopelessness/helplessness, seek professional help as soon as possible.

🌲 After the holiday season is over, reflect on what was easy and what was difficult.

Make notes for changes in future holidays or special occasions.

🌲 Be kind to yourself and show yourself grace.

Many emotions will manifest themselves.

Let me offer a final word of HOPE during this holiday time.

Immanuel – “God With Us (YOU)” – can now be manifest in an entirely new way. That is why God incarnate came to you. Watch how He guides you through this season with a light that shines brighter than the one that announced His birth. You don’t have to find Him as the wise men did. He’s with you every step of the way.

Cultivating Hope

Hope.  You can’t live without it.

HOPE…

  • Keeps you from losing heart
  • Allows you to persevere through difficulty
  • Shifts your focus to an unseen reality

If you lose heart, you have tragically shifted your mindset from hopeful to hopeless.  How does hopelessness occur?

In a landmark study by Martin Seligman  (1967),  two groups of dogs received electric shocks while strapped in a hammock.  While one group was able to exert some control over the situation and could turn off the shock by pushing a panel that was close to their noses, the other group – yoked to the first group – had no such power.  For them, the shocks were inescapable.  Ultimately, the dogs in one group were able to exercise some control, while the dogs in the second group could only endure.  When the dogs in the second group were later faced with a new situation and were provided with an escape from electrical shocks, they had already learned to become passive while (incorrectly) perceiving no control over their circumstances. They had learned to become helpless. In other words, they gave up hope and became passive even when future options and opportunities were presented.

Likewise, individuals who are clinically diagnosed with depression usually meet the criteria of “hopelessness” and “helplessness” because they perceive they have no control to make their future better (no hope) or have any mastery to change the way things are (no options).

Barbara Fredrickson, nationally known scientist and researcher,  contends that “Hope comes into play when your circumstances are dire – things are not going well for you, or there’s considerable uncertainty about how things will turn out.  Hope arises precisely within those moments when hopelessness or despair seem just as likely” (Positivity, p. 43).  Furthermore, it is the belief that “Possibilities exist. Hope sustains you.  It keeps you from collapsing into despair.  It motivates you to tap into your own capabilities and inventiveness to turn things around.  It inspires you to plan for a better future.”

How, then, do you embrace hope?  You cultivate it, especially when your circumstances do not look promising.  How do you start the process?

  • Start a gratitude list.  If you’re not used to doing this, begin  by listing 1-3 things a day for which you are thankful.  Look for anything – however small or seemingly insignificant – that is a blessing in any given day.  Did someone pay you a compliment?  Did you get a good night’s sleep?  Did your spouse or children offer a hug before heading out the door?  Did you enjoy learning a new task at work? As a side note,  have you ever noticed that negative people are seldom thankful or show gratitude?
  • Look for a deeper meaning.  Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning, was able to cultivate and keep hope alive in his dire situation because he looked beyond his current circumstances for a deeper, broader  meaning that could motivate and propel him for a greater good and purpose in the future.
  • Refuse to become passive.  This is a choice!  If we learn to become passive because we perceive we have no control, then we can learn to cultivate hope in the midst of despair.  Do changes  need to be made in your life? In your health?  In your marriage?  Giving up is certainly an option, but it’s not the option that God desires for you.  He never imposes His best on you, but He invites you to it.  And He created you with volition.  Refuse to embrace the mindset that “This is the way it is” or assume a victim’s mentality (much like the dogs in Seligman’s experiment) which says “I’m a product of my upbringing or my environment” or “I have no control to change things.”
  • Do not ask “Why?” since knowing the answer will likely not change the situation.  Instead, ask “What am I supposed to learn?”  If you are willing, allow yourself the option of learning something meaningful and beneficial that not only will benefit you, but encourage others in the future.
  • Ask what God is trying to do in your life.  He loves you  far beyond your comprehension.  Cultivate spiritual growth in the midst of dire circumstances.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Heb. 11:1).

Cultivate Hope.  It’s Your Choice.