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How to Prioritize Yourself AND Be More Effective in Your Life


By Melissa McCreery, PhD, ACC

Learning to prioritize yourself and to claim time for your goals is critical for long term success with health and weight loss. Staying on track, finding the time, and maintaining motivation can be major challenges when you are trying to develop new habits. It’s all-too-easy for healthy eating, exercise, and self-care activities to slide off the to-do list. You’ve probably been there—you get worn out and lose your motivation or you just can’t figure out how to fit it all in your already busy schedule.

When life gets busy, personal priorities, self-care, or “me-time” may start to feel expendable and to drift off your radar. Many smart, busy people get stuck in the mindset trap of believing that self-care is selfish or a luxury—something you can get to later.

Not true.

Are you putting yourself at the bottom of your priority list?


The way you care for yourself counts and it counts big. The way you prioritize yourself affects your health and fitness goals as well as the time that you can devote to them. It affects your eating. Emotional eating, including stress eating, sky rockets when you aren’t getting what you need in other areas of your life. When you are at the bottom of your priority list, it affects how you show up in your relationships. If you struggle with the (incorrect) belief that making yourself a priority is “selfish,” know that prioritizing your wellbeing sets a powerful example for others in your life.

Taking care of YOU is not a luxury. Like getting regular oil changes for your car, prioritizing your self-care is what allows you to run smoothly and to bring your best to your other priorities and challenges.

The cost of not making and taking time for yourself:


The truth is, when your wellbeing isn’t a priority, just about everything goes downhill. When you don’t devote time and energy to your needs and your health:
Posted 4/13/2011  6:28:20 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 46 comments   19,942 views
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Do You Live (and Love) Your Life 7 Days a Week?


"2 hours down, 6 to go until quittin' time."

"I can't wait for the weekend. Could Friday hurry up and get here?"

"Staring at the clock, waiting for the weekend."

Without a doubt, most of us are working for the weekend. We're all guilty of clock-watching at least some days, and we've all wished that days would speed by. But if you're constantly miserable during the week and only living for the weekend, have you ever considered how much life you're missing?

Consider this:

The average American lives to 78.4, according to the World Bank. We spend, let's say, 17 years in school, then about 45 years working.

That leaves about 16 years where we're presumably free to do as we please seven days a week, and for many of us, those years come when we're either too young or too old to appreciate them. (Though I'm a firm believer in age just being a number!)

Those years of five days a week spent working and in school represent about 56% of our total days on Earth. Do you really want to wish more than half of your life away?

I challenge you to find joy in the mundane activities of daily life. Seek pleasure every weekday. Spread happiness an extra five days a week, in addition to anticipating your fun-filled weekends.
Posted 9/28/2010  1:08:04 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 76 comments   15,517 views
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Is My Child Destined to be a Worry-Wart Like Me?


There are lots of traits I hope to pass on to my kids, such as my strong work ethic and desire to succeed. But there are a few traits I hope they don’t inherit, and my tendency to worry is at the top of the list. My daughter (who is 3) has already started to exhibit some of those traits, being a little adult who wants to take care of everyone and everything. For a long time I’ve thought that it was in her genes, and maybe she’s just destined to be like me. But a new study is showing that environment might have an even bigger influence.
Posted 8/20/2010  10:21:46 AM By: Jen Mueller : 39 comments   15,261 views
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Perfectionism Leads to Poor Health


In many ways, I consider myself to be a perfectionist. I work very hard to be a good employee, good mother, good spouse, etc. I'm slightly fanatic about having a clean and orderly house (which is no small feat with two little kids), and I'm not good at sitting down and relaxing. I always feel like there's something I could (or should) be doing instead. I get stressed out about these things from time to time (okay, actually it's often), and I know it's not healthy. New research is confirming what I would have suspected: perfectionists tend to be in worse physical health and increase their risk of death.
Posted 7/27/2010  10:14:28 AM By: Jen Mueller : 87 comments   17,327 views
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Who's More Stressful: Your Spouse or Your Boss?


Jobs are a big source of stress for many people. It's hard when you're trying to balance tight deadlines, a demanding boss, competition with co-workers, etc. So you'd assume that a good way to unwind after a tough day and might be to go home and spend some time with loved ones. According to a new poll, you might want to rethink that decision. Spouses can end up creating more anxiety than your boss at the office.
Posted 7/6/2010  6:00:19 AM By: Jen Mueller : 124 comments   14,079 views
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Life Isn’t Always Fair


One of the biggest lessons I have learned in my 48 years is ”LIFE JUST ISN’T ALWAYS FAIR.” However, we know that by walking through life’s storms, we usually come out the other side stronger than when we entered them. Some days are most definitely more challenging than others, but with the support and encouragement from our friends and family, life doesn’t have to be so overwhelming.

Have you ever experienced a time in your life when one area begins to unravel and it seems as though there is a chain reaction and before you know it, we feel tremendously overwhelmed and burdened with the changes we have to make or better yet, endure?

Posted 5/29/2010  11:15:48 AM By: Nancy Howard : 100 comments   13,048 views
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Decreasing Calories Can Increase Stress Level


Let's face it: Dieting can be stressful. Especially when you begin to change your eating habits, there are lots of things to think about. It can be hard to count calories, track food, read labels, and do it all with a "lifestyle change" instead of "diet" mentality. New research is showing that it's not only mentally stressful, but can also be physically stressful on the body to restrict calories.
Posted 4/16/2010  3:09:47 PM By: Jen Mueller : 91 comments   20,930 views
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Broken Hearts Can Be Mended


How many of you have watched a movie or TV show where one of the characters, who has experienced a stressful situation in her life, suffers from what appears to be a classic heart attack but isn't? While this may sound a little farfetched, doctors are beginning to recognize a condition that mimics a heart attack, but after further testing there is little or no sign of cardiovascular disease. Doctors refer to this condition as stress cardiomyopathy, also known as broken heart syndrome. In all my years in nursing and reading up on health matters I have never heard of this syndrome before, until I came across an article in the Spring 2010 issue of Better Homes and Gardens Heart-Healthy Living Magazine.

After doing my own research, I discovered that broken heart syndrome can mimic a true heart attack but does not cause death or irreversible damage to the heart like a classic heart attack can. However, the two conditions can be difficult to differentiate when a patient presents to the emergency room with chest pains, shortness of breath, nausea and in some cases even heart stoppage.

Posted 4/7/2010  2:56:28 PM By: Nancy Howard : 102 comments   16,452 views
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Coping with a Loved One’s Diagnosis


A few months ago I wrote a blog on how to cope when caring for aging parents; little did I know then that this was just the beginning of a new set of challenges. Last month my mother-in-law called me on a Tuesday morning complaining of a mass in her abdomen. She was not experiencing any pain, discomfort or any other symptoms, but as a former Registered Nurse, this was something we could not ignore.

Posted 1/27/2010  5:01:44 PM By: Nancy Howard : 253 comments   12,518 views
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7 Easy Ways to Relax on the Job (without Getting Fired)


Your boss just dropped another project on your desk. Your co-worker spends more time at the water cooler than at his desk. The phone won't stop ringing, your email inbox is so full it's about to burst, and you've got a meeting with a client in an hour.

Yep, you're stressed.

So how can you present your most cool, calm and collected self and accomplish all the tasks you have to do today?

Take a breather, and try a few minutes of yoga.

Most of us can't unroll a yoga mat and drop into down dog at the office, but that doesn't mean we can't take time for a bit of relaxing and energizing stretches. (Note: These poses are also appropriate for people with mobility issues.)

The next time you need to chill out, try some or all of these poses:
Posted 1/25/2010  12:09:24 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 98 comments   38,017 views
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Is It Time To Relax When It Comes To Your Health?


I see this scenario pretty frequently at this time of the year: A person decides it's time to get healthy. So they start reading about all of the foods they should and shouldn't eat, all of the habits they should and shouldn't have, and they are ready to completely change their life. There are so many different things they could focus on, so why choose just one? Right away they start drinking more water, eating lots of fruits and veggies, tracking how much fat they are consuming (and what kind it is), getting more sleep, burning exactly 325 calories per day through exercise, wearing sunscreen daily- whew! The list goes on and on….

A week later, they are totally stressed out and ready to throw in the towel because it's too many things to think about. Does this sound familiar? Have you ever fallen into the trap of feeling like you have to become perfectly healthy and do everything exactly the way the experts tell you to? With so much information out there, it's easy to get overwhelmed with what you should and shouldn't be doing when it comes to your health.
Posted 1/19/2010  5:41:03 AM By: Jen Mueller : 110 comments   11,927 views
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Caring for Your Aging Parents: How Do You Cope?


For many, caring for an aging parent is not an issue, but for others it's an all too familiar scenario. With life expectancy on the rise, caring for an aging parent(s) will, in all reality, be a likelihood for a number of us. And I am no exception. For the past 3 years, my husband and I have been caring for his aging parents--age 83 and 88. Their care has become a major part of our lives, especially this past year as both have experienced a major decline in their health.

Three years ago after shuttling our daughter off to college, my husband and I were looking forward to having some empty-nest time--time to spend together. However, those plans have been put on hold for the time being. With his parents advancing age and declining health, coupled with the stress and financial obligations of maintaining a home, they made the decision to sell their home and move closer to us.

Posted 11/14/2009  6:45:37 PM By: Nancy Howard : 109 comments   19,385 views
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Habits of Healthy People: Stick with It, Especially When Life Gets Stressful


This last month has been perhaps one of the busiest and most fun of my life. Since late August, I've traveled to Detroit to help my grandparents move, spent a long weekend in Chicago, signed a lease for a new apartment with my boyfriend, packed up and cleaned our old place, moved and unpacked. We moved the same day as the Spark Your Life Convention, which meant I missed most of the heavy lifting. The next day, I ran my first 5K with several SparkPeople, then I ran another one last weekend. Now I'm in Vancouver on a quick business trip.

Despite all that activity--and most of it was fun and exciting--I stuck with my healthy habits. I tend to get stressed out rather easily, but I survived with only one minor meltdown. I very easily could have relied on takeout, pulled all-nighters and skipped workouts to free up more time for everything else I had to do, but I knew that in the long run, it wouldn't be a good choice. Looking back, I realized that a few simple steps saved me from letting stress get the best of me. Here's how I stuck with it when the going got tough.

Posted 10/7/2009  11:34:49 AM By: Stepfanie Romine : 80 comments   13,367 views
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Overweight and Stressed? Watch Out!


Do you often feel like you're being pulled in a million different directions? You've got deadlines at work, it's your night for the kids soccer carpool, you need to squeeze in a workout and there's no food in the refrigerator for dinner. Whatever your responsibilities happen to be, it's enough to get completely stressed out. But did you know that if you're overweight and stressed, you're more likely to gain weight?
Posted 7/14/2009  5:56:55 AM By: Jen Mueller : 77 comments   13,380 views
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Notes From Behind Enemy Lines


“So I find words I never thought to speak
In streets I never thought I should revisit
When I left my body on a distant shore.”

--T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding


Many of you have probably noticed that I haven’t been blogging recently. As this situation is likely to continue for awhile yet, I thought it would be good to at least let you know what’s going on.

Basically, I haven’t been doing very well physically or mentally for the past couple months, to the extent that my ability to concentrate on reading and writing for this blog has been very compromised. The good news is these problems have nothing to do with my recent heart surgery and aren’t life-threatening or anything like that. In a nutshell, I’m having problems with pretty severe depression and a return of old post-traumatic stress symptoms. I guess they may have been triggered by the surgery, but their real roots go back a long ways before that. Physically, everything is fine (except for some annoying nerve impingement problems caused by bad spinal arthritis that I’ve also had for years, but which is now producing symptoms).
Posted 6/24/2009  11:33:13 AM By: Dean Anderson : 393 comments   7,437 views
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