3 Simple* Ways to Stay Healthy This Holiday Season

Love it or hate it, the holidays are upon us. Add holiday stress to what has become known as “cold and flu season” and the odds of coming down with something are pretty good.

Unless you’re me. I’ve got a pretty healthy immune system. I didn’t always though.

I used to hate winter because, for me, it was ear infection season. Now I just don’t like it because I don’t like being cold. But I digress.

So how’s a person to avoid catching everything that’s going around at the moment?

1. Minimize sugar and alcohol consumption.

I know this is a sacrilege. No cookies?! No festive drinks?! Before you have my head, go back and re-read that. I didn’t say NO sugar or alcohol, I said MINIMIZE. And no, I’m not trying to be a Grinch.

Our immune systems live in our digestive systems. Sugar and alcohol throw off the balance of good bacteria to bad by directly feeding the bad bacteria. This, in turn, opens up the door to viruses that want to get in and wreak havoc on the rest of the body.

Besides keeping consumption down, you can help yourself by getting probiotic-rich foods into your diet on a daily basis. It doesn’t have to be a lot (actually, it shouldn’t be a lot – there is such thing as too much of a good thing with this), a couple swigs of kombucha (I recommend GT’s Organic or homemade because there isn’t sugar added to it) or a fork-full of raw fermented sauerkraut with a meal is all you really need.

2. Prioritize sleep.

What’s this sleep I speak of? This might also land me with a Grinch label but not going to every single party you’re invited to helps twofold: it minimizes your exposure to viruses in the first place and it means you’re able to get a good night’s sleep more often than not.

Why is sleep important? Because it’s when the body heals. There is also mounting evidence to show that lack of sleep directly correlates with increased cortisol production (our primary stress hormone) which also directly affects our immune system. So lack of sleep + excess sugar and alcohol = virus breeding ground.

Set yourself up for good sleep by practicing good sleep hygiene: keep the temp down while you sleep, turn off your electronics at least an hour before bed, develop a routine that encourages rest. Ideally, you’d not have ANY electronics in your bedroom but even I can’t do that as I use my phone as an alarm clock. Just do the best you can.

3. Get outside.

Our grandmothers knew what they were talking about when they said fresh air does wonders for the mind and body. But it’s more than just fresh air; getting into direct sunlight for a Vitamin D boost is great for our immune systems. Going for a walk does a wealth of good for the mind and body but even if all you have is ten minutes to stand outside (with a cup of tea or coffee maybe), do it. Your immune system will thank you. You’ll appreciate the psychological boost as well.

Look, I’m not trying to be a killjoy, I promise. But you have a choice here, sort of a choose your adventure kind of choice. You can either continue business as usual and come down with a cold or 3 and be miserable, or say no more than yes, realize you’re not actually missing out on anything (it’s about discernment here – is the possible outcome worth the indulgence) and sail through the season, if not completely healthy, catching fewer of the creepy cruds and healing faster. Because there’s nothing worse than being sick on Christmas.

*I didn’t say EASY 😉

I AM

I AM.

I wasn’t sure what it meant when that statement popped into my head. Not “I am.” I AM. All in caps, even in my head. Bold, maybe, too.

I AM.

Thinking about all of the “I am” statements that come out of our mouths on a daily basis, I wonder how many of us are truly aware of these declarations. I nearly started this paragraph with “I am”. It’s not just about labels though, as I originally thought it was. It’s deeper than that.

Think about it: when I say “I am…” I’m declaring, affirming, labeling, calling into being, and accepting whatever it is that I follow it up with.

I am an introvert.

I am in a transition period.

I am a single mother.

All of these declarations carry meaning and depth to them beyond the original statement. And while all of those declarations may be true, as may be the labels, I can choose something else. YOU can choose something else. We don’t have to be caged by these declarations.

We also get to, if we so choose, to accept or reject the declarations given to us from others in the oh so common “you are” statements we so love to dole out unconsciously.

You are more fun when you’re drunk.

You are too intense.

You are brilliant.

I’ve been on the receiving end of all of the above statements. The two negative statements I accepted without question. The positive one I only accepted because I trusted the source, though it was still shocking to me. Isn’t interesting to notice how quickly we accept negative statements?

One of the best things about being a writer is that I get to think. I like to think. It’s fun for me. Except when it’s not. Except when declarations go unchecked and I’m blindly accepting everything my mind generates.

The mind loves a good story and it’ll create one when there’s an absence of information.

I AM. It’s a complete sentence. I don’t have to quantify it. I don’t have to create a story. I just AM.

It’s quite liberating.

Try it. Let me know what you think.

Things I’m Pondering Volume 2

I’ve been bouncing around a lot this month, mostly in my head, some out of it. What can I say, I really enjoy THINKING, which not to be confused with RUMINATING. Ruminating is bad, m’kay?

I’ve mentioned previously that I’m participating in a 10-month mentorship program. I’m getting immense value from my relationship with my mentor. In the last few weeks, the switch finally flipped and things are starting to snowball for me, which is amazing. I’m lighter, free-er, and oh so much more open. Like WIDE open. While I originally thought I’d be working on my business acumen, I’ve shifted to getting back in touch with my creativity and the ways in which that creativity strengthens me. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.

I’m wrapping up Week 13 of Bigness Project, a hypertrophy program written by Kourtney Thomas and Jen Sinkler (who is one my favorite people I’ve never met…one day), and with only one week left I’m beyond proud of myself. I’m actually FINISHING! This has been about rewriting my story about being a quitter (I’m NOT) and really just seeing what my body can do. I cannot wait to show you the before and after pics because WOW. Suffice it to say my body LOVES training this way. I’ve fallen back in love with the gym and it’s a boatload of fun.

One of the byproducts of the changes in my body has been noticing how others see (with their eyes) me. This is often a double-edged sword for women. We’re told so many conflicting things about how we should view ourselves, how others are allowed to view us, we’ve experienced so much negative and positive around our appearances that sometimes we aren’t sure what to do. Here’s what I’ve decided for myself: your value isn’t in your appearance. But there is nothing wrong with valuing your appearance or wanting it to be valued by others. This came to me after not once, but twice, men opened the door for me just so they could watch me walk away. And I LIKED it. Note that this wasn’t done in a way that I felt threatening or sleazy. They were simply appreciative. I guess the bottom line is that I get to choose. I get to choose to feel empowered by being appreciated for my appearance, even though I’m so much more than that. After nearly 30 years of hiding, this is a MASSIVE shift for me.

Another thing I’m pondering is around where the line is between compassionate self-improvement and the self-hatred of obsessively striving for better. I don’t have any solid thoughts here yet, only that I’m reaping the benefits of compassionate self-improvement as I write this. As Brené Brown has written, at any given moment we are all doing the best we can. Compassionate self-improvement comes more from acknowledging that making changes is about feeling good whereas obsessive self-improvement is about perfection. It’s letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. It comes at the expense of various things in our lives, such as our relationships. This line may or may not be indelible and its position will vary by person. All I can say with any certainty is that fighting myself has not yielded nearly the results that loving myself has.

They Like Me Better When I’m Drunk

Driving home from the gym and lost in thought, I came to a startling realization.

Years ago, my ex-husband made the very painful remark that people like me better when I’m drunk. Back then, this was just another reminder that I was too much and therefore unlovable.

As I was driving, though, it occurred to me that there is a positive to this. And I’m going to premise this with “this is not a glorification of alcohol”.

As we all know, alcohol is a great remover of inhibitions and, for most of us, a truth serum of sorts. What that looks like on me is unfiltered, raw, relaxed, and real.

I have spent most of my life hiding. There are briefs moments when I shine, those moments when my passion pours from my eyes and mouth or when I’m slightly inebriated.

I stop trying to hide and simply AM. I stop thinking so hard and simply AM. I stop trying to be proper, articulate, intelligent and just AM.

I stop trying and just AM, unapologetically, in all my glory, lit up like a Christmas tree.

The good/bad thing is that I don’t drink very often (it’s not in alignment with my health goals and it’s really superfluous). Addiction is something that occurs on both sides of my family so I’ve always been very aware of what, how much, and why I’m drinking. But for a brief period of time in my early adulthood, numbing was never in the why category. Neither was “because I’m more me when I’m a bit loopy”, but this is now my sad realization.

I’m reminded of that Maya Angelou quote “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” Except that I don’t know what “better” is. I now have to figure out how I remove the crutch I didn’t know I had been using (a handful of times per year).

I write all this as if the person I am when I’m sober isn’t also me. It is also me, just the me that finds the shadows safer but constricting. It’s the me that struggles HARD, that fights everything. It’s just not the me I was before the world told me I had to be different. It’s not the me that is joy and free.

That’s also not to say inebriated me is the best version of me. It’s not. Which is why being drunk all the time isn’t something I’m willing to try or be. But it does provide a glimpse at what is possible should I choose to point myself in the direction of less hiding, more living.

Which, of course, is exactly what I’m going to do.

“Always” + “Never” = Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Words are things.

Very powerful things.

Last night my mentor wondered aloud if I realized how often I made “always” and “never” statements. It’s been pointed out to me before how often I do this, but I hadn’t (nearly used “never” there) stopped to actually notice.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that so many people have stopped me recently to point out how often I use those two words. It’s no wonder I feel stuck, I’m creating and perpetuating myths of my own design, whether that’s what I consciously want to do or not.

Now I’m left wondering how I can be more conscious of my word choices. I’m usually pretty conscious, especially when I write. But when I’m just talking, especially from the heart, rambling, unfiltered, the truth always reveals itself. “Always” and “never” sprinkle themselves like salt and pepper through my speech and it is immediately constricting.

When I decided that I was going to complete Bigness Project, a strength training program designed around hypertrophy, I was adamant this be the one I finished. I was saying things like “I NEVER complete these programs” and “I ALWAYS get bored halfway through and quit”. For about 5 weeks after I started I was STILL making these statements, even though that wasn’t the reality I wanted to create. Even though I knew better. Then it was pointed out to me and I was a bit gobsmacked. Am I really saying those things?!

Today I ask you to consider your words, to notice them and how they feel when you say them. There is no need to judge them as correct or incorrect, right or wrong. But consider them within the context of the reality you are trying to create. Do they serve your intended creation? If not, how can you choose differently?