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When Work Compromises Health: How to Draw the Line

It’s time we all admitted it: whether we like it or not, work is a major part of our lives. And more often than not, it finds its way into our personal lives—usually uninvited.

In today’s world, competition is on a global scale, and multi-tasking is the order of the day. With advancements in technology, everything is “now now now” and “go go go.” While you might brush off your work-centric lifestyle as simply being hardworking, this leakage of work into the rest of your life isn’t always a good thing.

These pressures in the workplace can overwhelm even the toughest among us and have a detrimental effect on our health and personal life. Balancing work and home life is a challenge for many, but add the title of mom to the equation and it’s a whole different ball game. Although us moms are the queens of multi-tasking and getting things done, stretching oneself too thin often comes at a cost—to our health.

If you find yourself having to constantly sacrifice your health, your family, and yourself for your career, something isn’t right. We all have different tolerance levels, but if you’re in an unhealthy work situation, you likely already know deep down (especially with that great mom instinct!) that lines need to be drawn and changes made regarding work.

The question many of us face is: What do you do when your job is literally draining the life out of you? How do you draw the line when your career leaves you no time for self-care (or anything else really) and is directly affecting your health and well-being? I’ve pulled together a few techniques to help you start putting yourself first.

Break Up Your Work

As super responsible moms and employees, we try to do it all with the limited amount of time allotted to us each day. As I mentioned in my post on self-care a couple weeks ago, it’s so easy to lose sight of yourself and your own needs as a working mom. Whether it’s at home or in the workplace, we’re constantly sacrificing our own well-being to meet the needs and demands of others.

That needs to stop, now! Make a conscious effort to break up your work day in healthy, productive ways that will make you feel better and give you more motivation overall. Try the following to prioritize your health at work:

Take that lunch break. Stop squeezing in your lunch between meetings or on your way to pick up the kids. Start by taking some time to sit down and enjoy a healthy meal, and let that be the only thing you do during this time. Don’t eat lunch and check emails. By taking some time out to nourish yourself without distractions, you’ll find you have more energy to finish your work and do something fun later.
Don’t overcommit. Prioritize your work for the day with two or three main items that you know you can reasonably complete during work hours. Before accepting responsibility for a new project, consider whether it means you’ll have to overextend yourself. Remember, stretching yourself too thin easily compromises your self-care.
Take a day off. Regularly. You have vacation days for a reason, right?! Your boss can survive without you, no matter what he or she may say.

Consider Alternatives to the Corporate Lifestyle

Being a working mom is no easy task. And we all know that being financially stable is an important part of our lives, especially when we have kids to provide for. But there is more than one way to achieve this, especially when your job comes between you and your health. Without your health, you aren’t much help to your company, your family, or yourself. Perhaps it’s time to consider an alternative?

Working from home, when done right, can be a great solution to achieving your financial goals and taking care of yourself and your family. Having the freedom to work on your own time—a time that works for your health and lifestyle—with no limits to your earning potential will give you peace of mind rather than added stress. And let’s be honest, stress and the corporate world often go hand in hand. Take the time to look into work-at-home options that will fit your needs.

It’s All About Setting Boundaries

“‘No’ is a complete sentence.” – Anne Lamott

How nice it would be to simply tell your boss “no” and leave it at that. But the point here is to set boundaries, both with others and with yourself. There’s a difference between compromise and sacrifice, so it’s important to identify what your boundaries or limits are, and communicate them clearly to your boss or coworkers from the beginning.

What makes you feel uncomfortable? When a colleague calls you with a work issue at 11pm and wakes you up from some hard-earned shut-eye? In this case, communicate to your team which hours you’re available for work-related calls (say 8am to 8pm at the latest!), instead of accepting calls at all hours. Continuing to give in to corporate demands and inadvertently be taken advantage of due to a lack of set boundaries only creates a domino effect in your life, negatively impacting your health and your personal life (or lack thereof!).

Get Back to Prioritizing You!

Work-life balance isn’t an unobtainable thing. It is very much a real possibility—and it’s important to achieve for your own sanity and health. By setting boundaries, breaking up your work, and even considering alternative career options, you’ll soon be placing your own health—and that of your family—first rather than always coming in last.

“The only real conflict you will ever have in your life won’t be with others, but with yourself.” – Shannon L Alder

Here at Moms Making Six Figures, we want to help you achieve that elusive work-life balance and start putting your health first. Contact us at (858) 837-1505 or www.momsmakingsixfigures.com to learn how you can work from home on your own terms.

Family Fitness & Health

Things I Learned from My Trainer

Moms at the gym

Until I recently began working with a trainer, I must confess that I had never spent much time in the gym. In fact, it really wasn’t until college (when I was on my own for the first time, working and going to school) that I began to realize that regular exercise needed to become part of my life. I had gained a few pounds, so I bought some rollerblades (yes, I said rollerblades!) and began doing long laps around Green Lake near where I lived – why I never took advantage of the incredible rec center at University of Washington, I can’t tell you. Fast forward a couple of decades and two beautiful daughters and cardio (though no more rollerblades ;-)) and healthy nutrition just weren’t cutting it anymore. So as I said, I realized that I needed to do something different and to help me with the process, I found a gym and trainer that would both keep me interested, and from hurting myself!  Below are a few things I’ve learned so far from the process:

  1. Start. I took way too long researching gyms, types of exercise programs, types of trainers and so on before I started. While a little research is fine, the most important thing you can do if you want to make a change in your life is to get moving in a direction that takes you away from your current circumstances. Inertia is defined as “a tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged,” so motion in any direction away from the status quo is going to be productive. Might you (as I was) be really bad at your new endeavor in the beginning, you bet. But as you gain experience in your “new thing,” you’ll be able to refine your technique and adjust both your direction and goals.  That’s probably why Nike’s famous tagline, “Just Do It,” resonated so deeply with so many people around the world.
  2. Take three deep breaths then get back at it. Obstacles are a fact of life, both in and out of the gym. When I feel my energy dropping and the quality of my movements starts degrading (which can lead to injury), my trainer has me literally take three deep breaths (i.e. a short break) and then continue. I have found this approach to be shockingly effective in my day-to-day life as well; whether dealing with traffic on my way to meetings or the girls’ practices, working through homework, the seemingly never ending pile of laundry and dishes, or my husband deciding to wash the colors with the whites (again!). Just take three deep breaths and get back at it. Don’t lose your momentum and allow zero inertia to take hold all over again.   
  3. You are capable of achieving more than you know. There are times in the gym when I have reached failure and yet, with the encouragement of my trainer, I am able to finish the set of whatever diabolical exercise he has devised for me. The point is, life is constantly grinding us moms down to the point that we forget how capable we are and that we can, in fact, rise to the occasion and achieve what sometimes would seem impossible. I think many of us have started to believe the naysayers who would limit our potential for greatness, when we really have so much more to contribute if we decide to just dig deep. It may be really hard and really uncomfortable, but YOU CAN!
  4. We need a support team. As with the example above, when we face and push through life’s challenges, having someone (or better yet, some people) there cheering us on enables us to succeed. In my life, I’m blessed with both family at home and amazing business partners who provide me with the support that I need to win. Life can be very hard at times, so being intentional about building your support team is critical. Explaining to family, friends and business partners your goals and enlisting their support in advance will help keep you from being derailed as you pursue your dreams.
  5. Time and intensity are a powerful combination – if you are consistent. One of the first things my trainer told me was that to achieve my goals I would need three things, time, intensity and consistency. If I failed or refused to give any one of them, I would be disappointed with my results. I thought about that and said to myself “wow, that pretty much sums up anything in life!” Many of us are willing to kick in and give great time and intensity in short bursts, but doing so consistently seems to be the hardest part of that “trio of success.” It gets back to momentum and inertia; picture a locomotive getting a train moving from a standstill and the incredible amount of time and intensity it takes to get things moving just a few inches at a time. After a while though, if that locomotive consistently applies energy, the train has positive inertia and will keep going (and will do so with less intensity than required initially). Whether in fitness or business (or anything) the analogy applies, and the most frustrating thing you can let happen is to find yourself at a standstill because of inconsistency.
article Fitness & Health

Overcoming Obstacles

Have you ever watched any of those obstacle race shows and wondered, “what are those people thinking?”

Or maybe you said to yourself, “I could never do that.”  I remember thinking, “those people are crazy!”

Then one day, I woke up and decided I needed to challenge myself. A group of co-workers and I decided to tackle a Spartan Race. Spartan races can vary from 3-15 miles with 20+ obstacles testing endurance, physical strength and (especially for the beginner) mental strength.

Our particular race was 5 months away at that point, giving me a good amount of time to train. The things I learned during this process really apply to anything in life.

Here are my top 5 lessons learned:

1. Train hard.

The biggest part of training is creating a routine so your brain knows exactly what to do even when stress or other factors come into play. I trained hard for this race. Never having done anything like it, I was truly nervous.

Anxiety and fear crept in the week before the race.

But the day of the race, I felt I was ready. I trained and worked for it.

I learned to climb ropes, carry ridiculously heavy objects and pull sleds with massive weights, NONE of which I’d ever done before. When I was up against an obstacle that wasn’t exactly what I’d trained for, my body was up to the task because I’d trained my muscles well.

Oh, and I’m including my brain in the definition of my “muscles.” Creating habits and a routine allows you to stay focused even when other stress factors are in play.

 

2. Ask for help.

At the start of the race, the very first obstacle was a hurdle. I saw it and thought, “no problem, I’ve got this.”

And then I slammed into it…over and over again. I have huge bruises on my ribs from slamming into it. I couldn’t get the height I needed to push myself up. I couldn’t get over that dang hurdle. I tried, and failed repeatedly.

I felt tears welling up. It was the first obstacle and I couldn’t complete it on my own. The team cheered me on and let me try over and over again. Finally, I accepted the help. I let a friend give me his knee and give me the boost I needed to get over it.

My ego was shot, as I had wanted to overcome those obstacles on my own; I mean, I had been training for this!

I could have quit right then.

I could have let my head take over; the negative thoughts were strong.

But I knew that as in life, we have a choice; a choice to pick ourselves up, swallow our pride, recognize that we need help sometimes, put on our game face and put one foot in front of the other and carry on. And it didn’t hurt that I nailed the next several obstacles climbing over walls.

 

3. Have a team.

Working with others is so incredibly rewarding. It’s always amazing to watch how much more excited and fulfilled we are when we achieve things together.

The success is stronger and more exhilarating. Our team had different strengths and, therefore, certain obstacles were easier for some than others. Having your team there to support you gives you that help when you need it, but also affords you the opportunity to pick someone else up when they need you.

 

4. Anyone can do it!

Seriously. You may go slowly, you may cry, but you can do it.

I watched people cross that finish line who I never would have thought would even consider a Spartan Race.  That, in itself, was so inspiring! Pick your dream, identify your goal and work for it.

“Can’t” is just a word, not a reality.

 

5. Our mental game is so key.

If you want ANYTHING in life, you have to make the choice to get over those inevitable hurdles…and the good things usually have really big hurdles!

The challenges can be overwhelming.

You will question why it’s so hard.

You will want to give up, go the easy route.

You will think you can’t do it, but you’ll be wrong. You can. You truly can.

When the noise creeps in, focus ONLY on the training and the activity that will allow you to achieve your goal. Just take it one step at a time, one foot in front of the other.

YOU CAN, TOO! GO ATTACK THAT HURDLE, DANG IT!

Fitness & Health

The real impact of alcohol on your health – it might surprise you.

What is the actual impact of alcohol on our health?

Alcohol is social, it’s used in celebrations, relaxation, or as a reward when a goal is reached. But what effects does it really have on you physically? How does it hinder your overall athletic performance?

1. Cancels Gains!

It’s after a workout or race and you want to celebrate, it’s deserved right? Maybe, it depends on what you want to get from all that hard work. Those drinks can completely cancel out any physiological gains, meaning it can and will decrease muscle build-up and growth.

Alcohol is extremely demanding and when consumed it demands that your body tend to it first before any food or nutrients. Your muscles will only absorb the processed alcohol and none of the food eaten during or after consumption. This will in turn lead to poor nutrition.

2. Affects Sleep

Sleep is also necessary for muscle growth and gain. Since alcohol robs your body of sleep, it decreases the production of HGH “human growth hormone” by as much as 70 percent. This decrease will inhibit your body’s ability to repair and grow stronger. Another important hormone that is demolished is testosterone which is also essential to development and recovery of your muscles.

Alcohol inhibits your ability to remember and retain new information. It’s unfortunate, but it’s not simply avoiding alcohol while learning. In fact most memory is solidified when you are no learning or concentrating, but rather in a state of relaxation, mostly during sleep. While you may feel that alcohol makes you sleep sounder, it actually affects the quality of your sleep and disrupts the sequence and duration of normal sleep. Even drinking up to six hours before you go to sleep will negatively affect your sleep cycle.

3. Dehydration & Depletion

Alcohol is a toxin that travels and invades every organ and tissue in your body. It robs these areas of much needed hydration and slows down your body’s ability to heal itself. Hydration is a key player to ensure optimal performance.

By disrupting the water balance in our muscle cells the body is altered and those cells can no longer produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is your muscles’ source of energy. ATP provides the fuel necessary for your muscles to contract. Another method alcohol reduces energy sources is by inhibiting gluconeogenesis, a process by which glucose is formed by other substances. So that protein shake or grilled chicken will be rendered useless.

4. Inhibits

Alcohol keeps your body from using fat as an energy source during exercise, so forget running off those calories the next day. It unfortunately won’t happen. So how long after a drink are you affected? Consuming five or more alcoholic beverages in one night can affect your brain and body activities for up to three days. Two consecutive nights of drinking five or more alcoholic beverages can affect brain and body for up to five days. Even if you don’t ‘feel’ it, it’s affecting you.

Each alcoholic beverage contains approximately 100-150 calories, empty calories at that. The body treats these calories as fat and converts the sugar straight to fat for storage.

Are there any benefits? In moderation some alcohol has been shown to have health benefits, such as heart health and clearing out your arteries. But this means moderation of 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men. What equals a drink: 12 oz. of beer; 4-5 oz. of wine; and 1.5 oz. of 80 proof hard liquor. That is not a lot. What if you wait until the weekend to consume the amount of alcohol in one day instead of daily? NO HEALTH BENEFITS!

As with anything moderation is key. And when trying to reach specific goals abstaining completely is most beneficial.

Fitness & Health Food & Nutrition

Fighting Inflammation: Quick Tips From a Dietician

No doubt over the decades nutrition information has been confusing and conflicting. Butter or margarine, sugar or artificial sweeteners, cow’s milk or soy milk? Recommendations have certainly wavered. As a dietitian, I have seen standards of practice evolve over the years as our science has improved and products have stood the test of time to determine safety.

The big buzz word now is “inflammation”. We now know that uncontrolled inflammation is the root cause of most all chronic disease, and a bigger culprit of heart disease than dietary cholesterol. We experience inflammation from a host of different causes, from environmental pollutants, to sun exposure, our aging process, and of course our diet.

While we can’t always control the environment we are surrounded by day to day, and we certainly can’t stop the years from going by, we can control what we put in our bodies that can either nourish us and fight inflammation, or cause inflammation to spread like wildfire.

Making changes doesn’t have to be overwhelming. In fact, a few substitutions in your kitchen of commonly used ingredients can make a big difference! Let’s just focus on two simple changes: sugar and oils.

Refined sugar

Aside from a fleeting moment of sweet yumminess from that frappuccino or piece of cheesecake (my favorite dessert!), refined sugar has no benefits. Granulated sugar, pure cane sugar, cane syrup, brown sugar…they are all highly processed sugars that increase blood sugar, spike our insulin levels and cause major inflammation.

When you are shopping, you want to avoid processed foods that contain sugar, high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar or cane syrup. But what about when you are cooking and baking in your own kitchen? Here are some alternatives to refined sugar:

Coconut sugar

While this is still high in fructose and glucose, it is slightly lower on the glycemic index than refined sugar, and it is not chemically processed.

It does contain nutrients that refined cane sugar does not have, such as potassium, calcium, zinc, iron and copper, and small amounts of phytonutrients like polyphenols, flavonoids and antioxidants. In the interest of being mindful of our environment, it is a much more sustainable crop than cane sugar.

Honey

Natural honey provides several benefits when it comes to sweetening your foods or beverages. It provides a nice source of Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C, and it also provides a small amount of fluoride which is beneficial to your dental health. But, honey is still higher in fructose than glucose (this is only able to be processed by the liver, leading to fatty liver, elevated triglycerides and more inflammation than glucose. Note – this is not the same as fructose from fresh fruits that our bodies need). Still, a better choice than refined sugar and a great substitution.

Pure Maple Syrup

This is my number one recommendation, and here’s why: pure maple syrup is a wonderful source of antioxidants and minerals, including iron, calcium, zinc, manganese and potassium. It is mostly glucose, easily processed by the body without the fructose load on the liver, and per serving it is significantly less overall sugar than honey. It can easily be substituted into recipes.

Refined Oils

Shelves and shelves of cooking oils, the choices are endless! But I think after this discussion we can narrow it down to only a few that are the healthiest choices for all your needs. Many of our oils come from our biggest genetically modified crops – soy, cotton, rapeseed/canola, corn.

Cottonseed oil in particular is known to have higher levels of pesticide residues because it is regulated as a textile crop, not food. In addition, the refining process of all these oils involves chemicals such as hexane, which are often still remaining in the final product. The oils are also often bleached and deodorized as they can become foul smelling when they become exposed to oxygen or high heats.

High in omega 6 fatty acids, the oils are highly inflammatory to our systems when not balanced out with omega 3s.

Ideally in our diets we should have a balance of 1:1 between these fatty acids, but unfortunately our western diet is unbalanced as much as a ratio of 15:1 or more. Avoiding oils such as soy, cottonseed, canola, corn, sunflower is a great start!

Instead, fill your kitchen with these oils:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

High in Vitamin E, great for cooking and for salad dressings. Look for a cold pressed oil from fresh olives and be aware of any sneaky ingredients mixed in – olive oil is catching some negative attention for brands that are mixing unlabeled GMO oils like soybean oils in with the olive oil. Avocado and Almond Oil are both great for high heat cooking.

Coconut Oil (unrefined)

Quickly becoming a preferred oil by many for good reasons! Coconut oil is relatively versatile, it tastes great, and its fat composition (medium chain triglycerides) actually help reduce cholesterol. It’s a great oil to experiment with when cooking and baking, because the mild flavor can end up creating a great twist in whatever you are making!

Whatever oil you choose to use, look for unrefined (or virgin), expeller presser or cold expeller pressed, and organic. Organic oil production is prohibited from using GMOs and hexane extraction.

Next time you are at the grocery store, take a few extra minutes to browse the oil and sugar shelves. Experiment with new brands and new, healthier ingredients for a healthier kitchen!

Fitness & Health

3 Simple Steps to Improving Your Resting Heart Rate

The number of times your heart beats per minute is a significant predictor of not only current health but also an independent marker of life expectancy. In other words, a person with a resting heart rate of 80 beats per minute (bpm) dies 4 to 5 years earlier than someone with a heart rate of 65 bpm, although both people technically have resting heart rates considered within the normal range. Whoa!

We’ve known there’s a link for about a decade between resting heart rate and life expectancy. Now a recent study published online April 15 in the journal Heart suggests that the heart rate even in people who are regular exercisers and are “healthy” correlates independently to life expectancy – meaning your resting heart rate is important regardless of your current health habits and exercise regimen.

So what to do?

First, if you’re not exercising for at least 30 minutes four times per week, begin.

Walk, jog, jump rope, vacuum your stairwell nonstop, dance, do air squats and burpees after every five minutes of walking – do whatever increases your heart rate. When you are breathing a bit heavy, but can still speak, you are likely at a good aerobic heart rate.

Calculate your maximum heart by subtracting your age from the number 220. Then get your target heart rate by multiplying the resulting number by percentage.

For example, if you are 45 years old: 220 minus 45 is 175. Moderate exercise is 50-70% of max heart rate and vigorous is 70 to 85%. So your upper max target heart rate is 175 multiplied by 0.85, which is 145 and lower end 175 multiplied by 0.70, which is 123. Exercise to keep your heart rate between 123 and 145 beats per minute. Usually, if you can sing while exercising, it’s not vigorous enough. And try moving more in general and minimize sitting throughout the day. I’m marching in place as I type this, ha-ha.

Second, if you are already exercising regularly, check your target heart rate range as calculated above and adjust your workouts to fall within those ranges and mix up your aerobic workouts.

The body adjusts to aerobic exercise within 7-10 days. Changing what you do at each workout (or at least changing every 7-10 days) will keep your body guessing and provide you with the most benefits and results …and will lower your resting heart rate further!

Third, don’t be fearful of exercise – meaning what you can do and what you cannot.

What works for you may not work for another. You will make progress. Remember the enemy of progress is perfection. The thought of perfection often paralyzes. In our home, we proclaim, “Strive for progress, not perfection!” And remember to consult your physician on exercise recommendations specific for your current level of fitness and to listen to your body!

Make exercise a habit and avoid asking yourself each day if you are going to partake. I admit that I still haven’t been able to form the habit of exercising at 4:30am as my husband does. Although I haven’t mastered that one yet, I’m still making progress.