Category Archives: Rejuvenate

Seven Reasons to Become a Quitter in 2016 (and Why Ditching These Bad Habits Can Make This Your Happiest Year Yet)

Life is built on routines. It’s easy to go years—or even decades—without consciously assessing what’s working and what’s not. As a result, many of us are surrounded by people, obligations, objects, and habits that aren’t exactly making our lives better (far from it!). Well, no more. With a new year upon us, it’s the perfect time to take a fresh look at your daily existence—and drop all the dead weight that’s holding you back.

We tend to think of “quitting” as a bad thing, but the fact is, the things that used to fit well into your life may not be honoring who you are now. It’s very important to live on purpose, not by accident. So instead of piling even more responsibilities onto your plate in the form of overly ambitious New Year’s resolutions, resolve to become a quitter in 2016. Here are seven habits and behaviors you might want to consider leaving behind:

Quit making excuses about your health. Have you been meaning to lose a few pounds (for the last 10 years)? It’s so easy to bump exercise and healthy eating to the bottom of your to-do list. There are usually so many other tasks that seem more pressing: Get that report to the boss. Set up a time to get the car inspected. Make sure the kids get to cello lessons on time. Meanwhile, you tell yourself, I’ll start going to spin class next week. Problem is, “next week” never arrives.

If you don’t like the number you see on the scale, it’s time for the excuses to stop, regardless of how legitimate they are. And there’s a good reason for this tough love: Your weight isn’t just about your silhouette—it’s about your health, your energy level, and your confidence, too.

Quit burning the candle at both ends. Do you pack your days too full and get too little sleep in order to accomplish everything you want to? You may think you’re getting ahead, but in reality, you’re hurting your quality of life. There are more studies coming out each year that affirm the health benefits of getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night.

If you make taking care of yourself more of a priority, you’ll feel better about taking care of other people and have more energy throughout the day. Taking time for yourself isn’t selfish; it’s healthy and necessary. Whether you spend a day at the spa or simply take ten minutes to purchase and enjoy a cup of hot tea in the midst of running errands, investing in yourself will make you more resilient and will also reduce your stress and tension.

Quit spending so much time with people who don’t enrich your life. How many people do you regularly spend time with—even though you don’t really want to? You know the ones: Perhaps your sister-in-law constantly asks to get together, but spends the entire time criticizing everything from your clothes to your career to your parenting. Or maybe a certain frenemy peppers the conversation with backhanded compliments and one-upmanship, making you feel like your whole life has been one long series of bad decisions.

People with whom you feel obligated to spend time can suck up your energy and positive outlook, dragging down an otherwise great day or week. Often it’s impossible to back out of the relationship entirely, but there are things you can do to minimize its negative impact on your life. First, make sure you have set up clear boundaries. In some cases, people might not realize how bad they’re making you feel! And second, remember that you can gracefully say no to one social activity while accepting another, more positive one.

Quit saying yes to everything. Many of us have trouble saying no for a variety of reasons: We don’t want to let others down, we don’t want to be seen as weak, we’re afraid to refuse, etc. However, until you learn to say no when you need to, you’ll never be in the driver’s seat of your own life.

You don’t have to chair every event, take on every project, host every party, participate in every activity, and accept every invitation. Remember, you—not your boss, your friend, or your child’s teacher—are in charge of your calendar. Right now, as 2016 is just beginning, decide ahead of time what’s most important to you and prioritize those things. Then you can feel okay about saying no to some of the rest.

Quit at least one bad habit. Maybe you’re always running late, or you’ve been overspending lately. Perhaps you tend to procrastinate on big projects until the last minute, or you stuff yourself with junk food when you’re stressed.

To start, pick one bad habit—something that causes you a lot of stress would be a good choice. Then design a game plan that will enable you to kick it once and for all. For instance, if you’re always dragging into work late, you might set out your clothes and pack your lunch the night before, wake up 15 minutes earlier, and refrain from turning on the TV until after you’re showered and dressed. You’ll probably find that in most instances, summoning the motivation to change and taking that first step are the hardest parts!

Quit looking “good enough.” Most of us will never be runway models, but that’s no reason to settle for a humdrum, forgettable appearance. Wearing clothes (or a haircut, or makeup) that are dated, not flattering, or “good enough” isn’t doing your self-image any favors. And like it or not, people really do judge a book by its cover. Don’t you want to make an impression that clearly communicates your drive, personality, and confidence?

Get clear on colors and styles that are most flattering for your age, coloring, and body type, and stick with those guidelines whenever you make a new purchase. You might also want to ask a trusted friend for honest advice. But if you want more personalized results, I recommend working with an image consultant whose trained eye can help you to look your absolute best.

Quit spending so much time inside. This year, make a resolution to get more fresh air. Take a walk, run, or bike ride a few times each week—or just sit in a local park or on your back porch while reading a book. Getting out of your office or living room will help you think about yourself and your life from a whole new perspective.

Spending time outside helps you clear your mind, makes you feel more energized, and improves your health. What’s more, doing even the most minimal exercise outdoors helps emphasize the need to drink more water and take care of your skin with sunscreen and moisturizer. And if you’re anything like me, seeing the beautiful pictures that only nature can paint will put you in a great mood for the whole day. It’s a totally different experience than sitting on the couch to watch a movie.
The beginning of a brand new year is the perfect time to reassess your life. Instead of adding more things to your 2016 to-do list, do yourself a favor and jettison what’s no longer working for you. When you get rid of habits, mindsets, and behaviors that are dragging you down, you’ll make room for new things that make you feel good and help you grow.

The Art of Listening: Eight Tips to Help You Truly Hear Others

If you were asked, “Are you a good listener?” chances are you’d answer “yes.” Maybe you pride yourself on your ability to stay quiet even when you really want to interject, or maybe you believe that you give sound advice after hearing another person’s problem or dilemma. But as I was reminded recently, you might not be listening as well as you think!

While taking a mindfulness course, I participated in an exercise that required each individual and a partner to take turns telling one another a story. The catch was that the listener couldn’t react at all. No smiling, nodding, changes in facial expression, hand gestures, verbal responses, etc. I was surprised by the impact this exercise had on me. I really felt heard, that my words were being fully considered but not judged. Not having to “play” to the other person was incredibly freeing!

The truth is, there’s a lot more to listening than “just” letting people talk. Listening is actually a powerful skill that must be mindfully developed. When you truly listen to others, you give them the valuable gifts of respect, compassion, and acknowledgment. Becoming a good listener is an enhancement for your life, too, because it strengthens your relationships, helps you to learn more, keeps you in the moment, and shows others how to effectively listen to you.

Here are eight tips to help you cultivate the art of listening:

Eliminate distractions. Your physical environment can play a large role in how well you’re able to listen to other people. For instance, the hustle and bustle of a crowded restaurant might impact your focus and even your ability to hear your companion clearly. It’s not always possible, of course, but if you know that a conversation is important, be proactive about removing anything that might distract you from being totally present. Go to a quiet place, mute your cell phone, and turn off the television.

Turn off your mental track. Try to turn off the constant chatter in your head while the other person speaks. Don’t think ahead to formulate a response or try to figure out how to “fix” his problem, as this will distract you from being in the moment. Just listen. This will take some practice, since it probably goes against your habits and instincts! Try to engage not only your ears, but also your heart and mind, in fully understanding what is being said. Remember, a conversation in which you are primarily a listener is not about your own needs and desires, but the other person’s.

Be still. We are all familiar with the concept of an “animated speaker.” Most of us don’t think about animated listeners, but they exist too! Over the course of your next few conversations, pay attention to the other person’s body language as you talk: arm movements, facial expressions, shifting positions, etc. These things aren’t always, but can be, distracting. So especially when the conversation is serious or important, try to keep your nonverbal reactions to a minimum. You may find it helpful to clasp your hands in your lap and keep your eyes focused on a particular spot, such as the speaker’s face.

Restate what you heard. Especially when something important is being discussed, make sure that you understood (as opposed to simply heard) what was said. Once the other person has stopped speaking, confirm that you are both on the same page. For example, you might say, “So, what you’re telling me is that you think your boss has been avoiding you and you’re afraid you might be laid off, correct?” Or, “You aren’t sure how to resolve the argument you’re having with your spouse and you would like to hear my insights, is that right?”

Save your stories. When someone tells you a story, it’s human nature to want to fire back with your own. You know how it goes: “That’s so funny, because the same thing happened to my cousin one time…” Or, “I know exactly what you mean, because I was in a similar situation several years ago at my former job…” However, you need to suppress the impulse to respond this way, because it swings the conversation back to you. You may think you are connecting by finding common ground, but from the other person’s perspective, you’re downplaying the issues or concerns she has just laid on the table. Instead, stay focused on the point your companion is trying to make or the problem she is experiencing.

Ask how you can help. Especially if you’re talking to a friend or loved one who is going through a difficult time, you may want to find a solution or lessen the other person’s pain. However, keep in mind that sometimes what people need most is to unload and be heard, not to be fixed. That’s why I recommend explicitly asking the other person what he wants from you after he has finished talking. If your companion asks for your help or advice, give it. But don’t be surprised if you hear, “I just needed someone to listen. Thank you.” The fact is, engaging with other people’s feedback, especially when you’re upset, worried, or emotional, is exhausting. In my personal life, I find that I’m most honest and transparent with friends who just listen.

Be honest. From time to time, you may find yourself listening to someone who has the facts wrong or who is out of line. If this person asks for your feedback, how should you respond, knowing that she won’t like what you have to say? It’s not always easy, but part of being a good listener is being honest. You can’t condone the other person’s bad behavior or lie to them just to keep the peace. Be gentle, but tell the truth. In most cases, the other person will ultimately respect you for your honesty.

Keep it to yourself. Even if you think a conversation wasn’t important, be careful about whom you share it with. One of the most important aspects of listening is being trustworthy. This point may seem obvious, but the truth is, it’s often all too easy for your mouth to get ahead of your mind in conversations. And once you’ve developed a reputation as a gossip, it’s hard to repair. That’s why it’s important to stay mindful even after you’ve finished speaking with a particular person. You need to demonstrate that your friends and loved ones can feel safe with you, that you won’t spread their concerns around your social circle or judge them.

Overall, keep in mind that the art of listening revolves around being interested, not interesting. When another person is confiding in you, your primary role is not to be entertaining or even to offer solutions—it’s to show your companion consideration and respect.

What I’m Loving Now: Holiday 2013 Edition

As the days get shorter and temperatures fall, our schedules tend to get busier and busier. Between your holiday schedule and the general end-of-year crunch, you may be spending less and less time on yourself—and feeling increasingly stressed. As you rush from errands to events to the office and back again, I encourage you to stop for a few minutes, decompress, and spend some time and energy on your own well-being.

The good news is rejuvenation doesn’t have to be difficult. Even a little bit of indulgence can go a long way towards helping you feel revitalized as you continue to tackle items on your to-do list. Here, I’ve put together a list of products that I’m currently loving—and that I hope will help you feel pampered, renewed, and indulged this season:

Button Pant Extender: Say goodbye to uncomfortable pants. As you spend time in fitting rooms trying to find the perfect pair of jeans, do you consistently find that pants fit well through the legs but are too tight in the waist? If so, you’ll understand why I was so excited to discover the Button Pant Extender. It’s a clever little device that adds one inch to your waistband by looping over the existing button—no sewing necessary. And since the Button Pant Extenders come in packages of five, you don’t have to switch the extender each time you wear a new pair of pants. You can purchase Button Pant Extenders here on Amazon.com.

Leopard Print Pants: Put some “fierce” in your fashion. In the cold gray days of winter, wearing a standout outfit can really put some pep in your step. If you’re looking for a style that’s eye-catching and unique, yet completely classy, I recommend purchasing a pair of leopard print pants in cream, buff, and black neutral tones. I bought my pair from Worth New York during autumn and find myself reaching for them again and again when I go into my closet to put together an outfit. I wear them with a low boot or flat, and pair them with a chocolate jacket and chocolate t-neck, camel t-neck, or an orange or red sweater if I want a pop of color.

Epicuren After Bath Kukui Nut Coconut Moisturizer: Soothe yourself while smelling great. For most women who are trying to combat the drying effects of cold weather, lotion is a winter staple. This year, elevate this daily ritual to a spa-like experience with Epicuren After Bath Kukui Nut Coconut Moisturizer. I use it every morning after my shower, and I love how soothing this wonderfully rich formula is. As an added bonus, it smells so great that people often ask me what scent I’m wearing. I don’t even wear perfume these days and still receive compliments well into the afternoon! I purchase this product from Leslie Sloane, who can be reached at (818) 348-4646.

Fresh Sugar Acai Age-Delay Body Cream: Feel younger in your skin. Here is another option to help you stave off the dreaded winter dryness. This product is not only super-moisturizing; it also firms and conditions skin to help it look and feel younger. A friend bought me a tube of this cream as a gift, and I loved the way it made my skin feel: soft and supple. My only problem is not using a whole tube in a week! According to my friend, though, a little goes a long way, so I’m trying to use it sparingly.

Tom Ford Intensive Eye Treatment: Say hello to brighter eyes. While purchasing a favorite lipstick at Saks, I was introduced to Tom Ford Intensive Eye Treatment. The saleswoman told me that many of her clients loved this product so much that they had given up their La Mer eye cream for it. I was skeptical, but decided to give it a try. I tested the Eye Treatment under one eye and thought I saw a difference, but decided to ask my husband’s opinion as well. He immediately pointed to the eye under which I had put the cream and said it was less puffy. That was good enough for me! Because of the price, I use this product only once a day in the morning.

Juice Press: Cleanse yourself. Chances are, you’ve heard of juicing (extracting juices from fruits and vegetables) and its benefits. Juicing is a great way to get more fruits and vegetables into your diet, to absorb nutrients, to cleanse your body, and to give it a break from digesting food. Juicing can even help you lose weight if you prepare juices with the right proportions. (Beware, though—adding too many sweet ingredients like cranberries and apples can actually make you gain weight!)

If you don’t want to buy an expensive juicing machine or don’t want to spend time preparing the juice yourself, using a juice bar is a great alternative. I go to Juice Press in New York City. I love many of their juices—particularly the green ones, because they contain so many enzymes and antioxidants—and have done Juice Press’s six-juices-per-day cleanse. I highly recommend searching for a juice bar in your hometown if you’d like to clean up your diet! 

The Time in Between: Get lost in a fantastic book. When life gets hectic, diving into a good story can give you the respite you need. If you’re wondering what should be next on your reading list, I recommend The Time in Between by Maria Duenas. It’s the story of a courageous Spanish seamstress who becomes an undercover Allied spy during World War II. It’s clever and full of suspense. My book group recently read it, and we all loved it. If you’re anything like me, you won’t want to put The Time in Between down.

Inner Defense: Stay healthy from the inside out. From one of my favorite companies, Young Living, this natural supplement offers health-reinforcing essential oils in a pill capsule. I always keep this product on hand, but I’m especially diligent about using it in the winter to keep my immune system strong. You can take one pill a day as a preventative measure, and up to five per day if you feel a cold or flu coming on. I purchase Inner Defense from Lucey Harley, who can be reached at (610) 641-1116.

CellPower Super Silica and Good Nutrition: Defy the weather with great hair (and overall health!). It’s no secret that winter isn’t kind to hair. Harsh weather, cold temperatures, static electricity, indoor heating, and more combine to make our manes extra dry, dull, and brittle. And that’s not even taking into account the everyday damage we inflict through poor nutrition, hot styling tools, hair ties, brushing, and more. The problem is so widespread, in fact, that the Today show recently noted that many women are cutting their hair into shorter styles because of damage. To rejuvenate your hair (and your health in general), I have two tips:

  • You may be focusing on healing your hair through external means, like deep conditioning treatments. While those methods are helpful, I’ve learned that the biggest changes occur not because of what you put on your hair, but because of what you put in your body. So first, I recommend using CellPower Super Silica, an easy-to-use supplement that can be taken in water. Since I started using Super Silica, I have noticed a big difference in how strong and shiny my hair is. And best of all, Super Silica’s benefits extend well beyond the hair: It can also strengthen nails, increase bone density, boost energy levels, and more.
  • Secondly, I suggest meeting with a nutritionist to see what your individual body needs. Nutrition is far from a one-size-fits-all proposition. My nutritionist, Dr. Jairo Rodriguez, told me I needed to take omega-3 oils for my joints. A nice side effect, he said, is that omega-3 oils contribute to healthier hair! Dr. Rodriguez is certainly worth the trip to New York City if you’d like to meet with him specifically.

So often, it’s the little things that take life from “humdrum” to “enjoyable.” No matter how busy you are this winter, don’t forget to earmark a little time and money for yourself. I hope that these suggestions will help make your life a little more comfortable and pleasant!

Caring for Yourself in the Midst of Stress

Everyone goes through rough spots in life—it’s an unfortunate but unavoidable fact. You might feel worried about an upcoming move, overwhelmed as you try to deal with an illness in your family, or anxious about a looming project at work. Maybe you’re simply worn down by the never-ending stress and relentlessly hectic pace of modern life.

I can sympathize. I’m going through a rough spot myself. Due to several different factors, I have been extremely busy over the past few months. When I’m under pressure, I become stressed (no surprise there, I imagine!) and feel “wired,” meaning that I go to sleep later at night and wake up early each morning. And, of course, because I’m perpetually tired, I tend to worry more about significant and insignificant things. Not a very healthy cycle to be caught in.

After one particularly crazy day, it occurred to me that I should take my own advice. I always urge my clients to take care of and honor themselves in all situations, but especially when life is chaotic. If you don’t focus on your own well-being when times are tough, you won’t have the mental, emotional, or physical energy you need to change external circumstances for the better, either.

In this blog post, I would like to share a few taking-care-of-myself strategies that have been helpful to me the past few weeks, and that you can put into practice to help you make it through the next rough spot in your life, too.

Realize that things will get better. When you’re in the midst of a tough time, it’s easy to believe that things will never change. But sooner or later, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. No matter how you feel right now, the truth is that you won’t be stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed for the rest of your life. Think back on past obstacles you’ve overcome to give yourself motivation to press on, and ask a trusted friend or family member to help you put your current struggle into perspective. This last strategy is particularly effective because not only will sharing your burden help to lighten it; the other person might be able to help you think of solutions you were unable to see on your own.

Hydrate. Drinking water might seem a little odd a first glance, but it’s actually one of the best things you can do to keep yourself looking and feeling good when you’re under stress. Staying hydrated helps you stay energized, ensures that your body operates optimally, and can even improve the appearance of your skin (a welcome gift when you’re worried and tired!).  Personally, I drink a quart of water every morning, and I carry a bottle with me throughout the day.

Exercise. Working out is often the last thing you want to do when life is tough. (Flopping onto the couch probably sounds a lot more attractive!) But the truth is, even a little bit of physical activity can work wonders in terms of how you feel. Exercise makes you feel more capable mentally and physically. It can help you sleep better, reduce feelings of stress, and even relieve symptoms of depression as effectively as medication. In other words, a half-hour at the gym or a walk around the block is one of the best decisions you can make. That’s why, no matter how busy or unmotivated I am, I commit to working out at least two days a week.

Give yourself credit. When you’re upset or worried about one aspect of your life, those feelings can easily spill over into your general attitude and outlook. You start looking at your whole life through a negative lens, and if you’re anything like me, you start to focus on the mistakes you’ve made and the things you could have done better. If that sounds familiar, stop! Think of one, or two, or ten or twenty things you’ve done well in the recent past and give yourself credit for accomplishing them. Remember, nobody is even remotely close to perfect. Don’t make a tough situation even worse by remaining your own worst critic.

Prioritize. Especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, it’s tempting to fixate on each shiny ball that rolls past instead of directing your energy and attention to the problem at hand. When your efforts are scattered, though, nothing gets done and you end up feeling even more frazzled than you did at first. Remember, you can focus only on one or two big goals at a time, no matter how adept you are at multitasking. As you work through the next rough spot in your life, sit down and decide what is most important to you. If spending time with your family is at the top of your list, for example, put them first and consciously make sure that other things remain on the back burner.

Say no. Many of us have trouble saying no for a variety of reasons: We don’t want to let others down, we don’t want to be seen as weak, we’re afraid to refuse, etc. However, until you learn to say no when you need to, you’ll never be in the driver’s seat of your own life, and it will be more difficult to steer yourself out of draining, stressful situations. Realize that you don’t have to do it all—nor should you. You don’t have to make every decision, supervise every person’s schedule, chair every event, host every party, and come to the rescue every time something goes wrong. Again, decide ahead of time what’s most important to you and prioritize those things. Then you can feel okay about saying no to some of the rest and focus on working toward your own well-being.

Take time for yourself. Whether the current demands on your energy and time are coming from your family, your job, your friends, your finances, or something else, it’s important to “get away” every so often—literally or at least metaphorically. To make sure that you don’t become too drained and burned out, do something for yourself. Maybe it’s sitting down to enjoy a cup of coffee in the midst of running errands, locking the bathroom door and taking a bubble bath, reading a motivational book during your lunch break, or going on a walk through the park. When you unwind and take a breather, your perspective will stay clearer and your stress will be more manageable.

In the end, you can’t avoid going through rough times in life, but you can decide how to respond to them. Remember that your own health and sanity are paramount, and most of all, have confidence that the sun will emerge from behind the clouds soon!

Your Spring Awakening: Mind, Body, and Soul

As the temperatures rise and the flowers start to bloom, do you catch the spring cleaning bug? If so, you’re not alone. If you’re anything like me, when the bright, warm rays of spring sunlight begin to finally stream through your windows, you feel the urge to make sure everything in your home is fresh, shiny, and dirt-free.

This year, I encourage you not to stop with sponging the baseboards, dusting off the shelves, and washing your windows. Take this opportunity to clean out your life, too! Think about it this way: Just as it’s easy for dust and clutter to accumulate (relatively) unnoticed during the short, dark days of winter, it’s also easy for bad habits, poor outlooks, and unhealthy relationships to pile up in your life. If you don’t make a conscious effort to detox, they’ll continue to hold you back and weigh you down. And what better time than during the renewal of spring to refresh your mind, body, and soul?

Read on for six ways to breathe some fresh springtime air into your life.

Clean your closet. A messy closet is a metaphor for a messy life. For many people, a reluctance to change something as simple as the contents of a closet is a symptom of a bigger problem. Maybe you’re afraid of change and what the future holds. Maybe you just ended a romantic relationship and are clinging to the past. Maybe you’re dissatisfied with your life overall and don’t feel ready to take the initiative to change it. Whatever the case may be, it’s time to stop procrastinating. Decluttering the spaces in your home will help declutter your life. I promise, there’s something really refreshing about walking into a clean, organized closet. It will make your mornings less stressful by cutting down on the time it takes to rifle through and find the perfect outfit for the day. And when you look good, you’ll feel good.

First, get rid of any clothes that are old or worn, that don’t fit, that you never wear, or that don’t honor you and your lifestyle (ask a friend for help if you want an outside perspective). Then, organize what’s left, and treat yourself to a few new pieces that embody the blooming spirit of spring. This is also a good time not only to give your closet a good scrub down, but also to evaluate your wardrobe. Your winter coats, wool scarves, and other cold weather items should be packed away until the fall to make room for floral prints and pastels.

Get some fresh air. Unless you’re fortunate enough to live in a location where it’s balmy all year round, you’ve probably been cooped up inside during the cold, icy winter months. Welcome the sunshine and springtime air by taking a walk (or run!) outside a few times a week. Not only will this help you clear your mind and make you feel more energized, it will also aid in shedding some of those unwanted pounds we all put on during the cold winter months. And as a special bonus, if you’re anything like me, seeing the beautiful colors of blooming flowers and trees will put you in a great mood for the whole day.

Do some weeding. I’m sure you know how a few weeds can ruin the beauty and health of a flowerbed…and also how quickly they can spread. Well, people are the same way. Individuals who are critical, mean-spirited, jealous, or just plain negative can spoil your own happiness and even infect you with their poor outlooks. It won’t be easy or enjoyable, but it is important to evaluate the relationships in your life.

Think especially about your friends: Are they supportive or snide? Do you feel energized when you spend time with them, or drained? Are compliments genuine or backhanded? If your friendship with a certain person isn’t enriching, back away. Choose to spend time with people whom you genuinely like and who make you feel good. Life is too short to spend time with people you don’t enjoy.

Set healthy boundaries. Moving away from toxic people is a good start when it comes to filling your life with healthy relationships…but don’t stop there! With everyone in your life—even with people who make you feel good and who have your best interests at heart—it’s important to set healthy boundaries. In other words, you need to be clear about what you need and what you expect from others.

For example, let people know what’s important to you. (“My birthday is something I really look forward to, and it’s important to me that we celebrate it as a family.”) Learn how and when to say no. Don’t let yourself be bullied or guilted into overcommitting and overextending yourself. Lastly, stop making excuses for other people; for instance, I’ll overlook that comment—that’s just how she is. If you don’t set clear boundaries like these, even good relationships can turn sour and become weighed down by resentment. But when you’re up-front about what’s best for you—in a kind way, of course—you’ll enjoy more authentic, mutually beneficial relationships.

Get rid of bad habits. Chances are, you can name several of your bad habits off the top of your head, and some focused thought would probably reveal a few more. Maybe you’re always running late or you’ve been overspending lately. Perhaps you tend to procrastinate on big projects until the last minute, or you stuff yourself with junk food when you’re stressed.

The truth is, we all have bad habits. And here’s the good news: You can change them! You can consciously improve your reactions, change your routines, and become healthier (mentally, emotionally, and physically!). For this spring cleaning project, pick one bad habit—something that causes you a lot of stress would be a good choice. Then design a game plan that will enable you to kick it once and for all. For instance, if you’re always dragging into work late, you might set out your clothes and pack your lunch the night before, wake up 15 minutes earlier, and refrain from turning on the TV until after you’re showered and dressed. You’ll probably find that in most instances, bad habits really aren’t that difficult to change. Summoning the motivation to change and taking that first step are the hardest parts!

Plant yourself in something new! If you want a flower to bloom as beautifully as possible, you make sure it’s planted in nutrient-rich soil and placed in a spot with just the right amount of sunlight, warmth, and water. The same principle will hold true for you, too. You’ll blossom when you’re doing things that make you feel happy and fulfilled. As the days get longer, take this opportunity to finally sign up for that art class you’ve been dying to try, for example, or attend a hot yoga session with a friend.

Overall, as you work to spring clean your life, I advise you to simply be aware. Be aware of what feels good and what doesn’t, of what’s healthy and what isn’t, of what makes you happy and what makes you sad. Try to pay attention to areas of your life that you normally take for granted, and ask yourself, Is this working? Does it honor the person I am right here and right now? You may be surprised by how much dead weight has been holding you back…and by how quickly you bloom when it’s gone!

What I’m Loving Now: Winter 2013 Edition

Now that the busy holiday season is behind us and a new year stretches ahead, it’s an ideal time for reflection. Personally, I have been asking myself questions like, What behaviors and habits worked for me this past year? What do I want to change in 2013? Is it time to turn over some new leaves? Essentially (like many other people), I’m trying to find the right balance between focusing on others and making sure that I’m taking care of myself, too. Remember, you won’t be as effective in any area of your life if you’re overwhelmed and depleted. It’s important to honor your own needs and desires, and to make sure that the way you live your life reflects who you are and what makes you happy.

As an image consultant, I have learned that the clothes you wear and the way you style your hair are only a small part of honoring and expressing yourself. How you feel about yourself—mind, body, and spirit—are just as important. I urge you to use this time of transition to renew and reinvigorate your life, whether that means finding the perfect vacation spot, splurging on beautiful jewelry and new shoes, or simply discovering a new recipe that makes your taste buds tingle.

Discovering a wonderful new scent or great pair of jeans is always exciting, and being able to share it with everyone is one of my favorite things to do. Read on to learn about the top nine things that I am loving now:

1. Savor the soup of the season. There’s nothing better than a mouth-watering soup for both a chilly winter night and a growling belly. One of my staple recipes for this time of year is called Farmer’s Market Zucchini Soup. My friend Beth gave the recipe to me a couple of years ago and it is so simple and delicious!

I always like my soups thicker, so I prefer to use just four cups of chicken stock instead of six—but that’s just my personal preference. When I make a batch, I usually freeze some so I’ll have it on hand later. This scrumptious soup will keep your family nice and cozy this winter. (Please see the end of this blog post for the recipe.)

2. These shoes are made for walkin’. Let’s face it—sometimes you just don’t want to wear high heels, but your outfit looks too casual with a ballet flat. Enter Diane B. With a classic style and comfort, these fabulous shoes can easily become a staple piece for your wardrobe.

Quite simply, I am in love with these shoes. They have a half-inch angled heel that makes them look dressy, but they’re so comfortable that you can run around in them all day. My favorite is the camel-colored patent leather flat, because it can be worn with so many different looks. I also ordered the black patent shoe without the silver buckle. One of the best things about Diane B. is that you can custom order. The company has a wide variety of patterns, from stripes and florals to solids and polka dots—so there’s something for everyone!

3. Pucker up. During the coldest months of the year, taking care of your lips is a must, and a perfect lip stain is just what the doctor ordered. I recommend Yves Saint Laurent’s Glossy Stain Lipstick.

They have created the perfect combination of lipstick and gloss that’s a steal at $32. It’s one of Allure magazine’s top picks, and one of mine, too! I originally bought a coral shade (#12), but recently purchased a red for winter: #9. YSL’s Glossy Stain Lipstick goes on like a gloss and stays on like a lipstick. Even after you eat, the stain stays on your lips so you won’t have to run off to the ladies’ room to reapply.

4. Plan a visit to Downton Abbey. Everyone is talking about Downton Abbey, which has mesmerized viewers on both sides of the Atlantic—and I’m no exception. The third season just started on PBS, and in my opinion, it’s well worth spending an entire Saturday on the couch catching up if you haven’t seen the first two seasons. The show follows an aristocratic British family and their servants as they are impacted by events including the sinking of the Titanic, World War I, and more.

 I love the show because it gives you a fascinating glimpse into the lives of people in a very different time and place, while remaining very relatable. The writing is incredible, and the costumes and sets are gorgeous. Before long, you’ll feel like you know the people who live in Downton Abbey—both upstairs and downstairs—and you’ll be cheering on your favorite characters through their obstacles and triumphs. Once you start watching, you won’t be able to pull yourself away…and you may find yourself wanting to plan a trip to England.

5. Seams or no seams? (That is not a question.) In the under(wear) world, you have two choices: endure the dreaded thong or feel self-conscious all day about your panty lines showing (a major no-no!). At least that’s how it used to be. But after I worked with a client who kept going on and on about Uniqlo seamless panties, I finally had to check them out for myself—and I’m so glad I did.

These undergarments are called ultra seamless briefs, and they are such a find! A lot of women don’t like to wear thongs, so these are a perfect alternative. They are made of nylon and spandex and have no seams. It’s like wearing a really comfortable bikini, but with all the benefits of wearing a thong. They are $9.90 a pair and come in several different colors, including pink, black, beige, and white.

6. Discover something scent from above. You can never underestimate the power of a beautiful scent to make you feel confident and feminine. Travel-Reviving Cempaka is a scent by Molton Brown that I am really enjoying right now.

I use the bath and shower gel and the body lotion. What I really love about it is that lift it gives you in the morning, when you aren’t quite ready to start the day. And the scent, of course! It’s heavenly!

7. Make a statement. A beautiful piece of jewelry can truly complete an outfit and help you stand out. I recently discovered Alexis Bittar, who is known for his exotic acrylic and crystal jewelry. I have two cuffs that are acrylic with gold accents (you can also get silver). It’s the perfect backdrop to any outfit because it’s acrylic, so your skin shows. These cuffs don’t overpower your outfit like some jewelry can; instead, they complement it.

One reason women shy away from buying expensive statement pieces is because they don’t know if the dollar per wear ratio is worth it. But in my opinion, if you’re looking to buy jewelry that goes with everything, this is it. The cuffs are terrific, and could definitely transition into warmer-weather accessories, too.

8. Get the ultimate fashion staple. As the temperatures hit their low points, finding the perfect pair of jeans is on the top of the to-do list. Luckily, I’ve already done the legwork.

I got my first pair of DL 1961 jeans around a year and a half ago. I prefer the angel cut, because it’s midrise, skinny ankle, and has four-way stretch. Unlike so many other brands, these jeans don’t lose their stretch, which is important. They come in several different winter colors like taupe and dark green, and are $158. They also look fantastic on, which makes me feel good.

 9. Most importantly, remember to take a breather. Just thinking about everything you have to do, want to do, and should do this year can be stressful. It’s so important to take time for yourself to relax and revive your spirit. My new favorite place to enjoy some R&R is The Grand Del Mar, a resort in San Diego.

Everyone needs a special place to go to revive their spirit and take a moment to release stress. Once I lay my eyes on some beautiful scenery, my tension immediately begins to melt away. The staff at The Grand Del Mar are very polite and friendly, but not overly so. It’s extremely nurturing, the perfect getaway.

Ultimately, remember that the most important criteria to keep in mind when it comes to fashion, beauty, or anything else in your life are: How does this make me feel? Does it honor who I am? Does it boost my comfort and confidence? It has been my pleasure to share nine things that meet these qualifications for me. I hope that some of them will enhance your enjoyment of the upcoming months, too!

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Farmer’s Market Zucchini Soup

2 tbs butter

1 carrot, sliced

3 celery stalks, sliced

1 onion, diced

2 tsp thyme

5 zucchini, ends cut off, cut in half lengthwise and then sliced

4 cups of chicken stock (you can use 6, but I prefer 4 for a thicker soup)

2 tsp salt

2 tbs pesto sauce (store bought!)

In 8-quart soup pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, and onion and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add thyme, zucchini, and chicken stock and increase heat to high and bring to boil. When boiling, reduce heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in salt and pesto.

Working in batches (no more than ½ the blender), purée the soup in blender or food processor until smooth. Enjoy!

Want to break a habit?

Whether it’s mindless snacking, sitting on the couch instead of exercising, sleeping with our makeup on, or biting our nails, we all have bad habits. I think that most people know when a particular habit isn’t good for them. But they continue to stick to their less-than-ideal routines because forming new habits is just too time-consuming or frustrating, or because other tasks take priority. (I know I’ve been guilty of this!)

Over the years, though, I’ve learned that the seemingly little things have a big impact on your overall quality of life. Say, for example, that you habitually run late in the mornings. On the surface, it might not seem like that big of a deal. After all, you may be rushed during your commute, but you usually make it to the office (more or less) on time. But what if you allowed yourself an extra ten minutes to get ready? You would be so much less stressed while getting dressed. You might have time to eat a quick breakfast. Your blood pressure wouldn’t shoot through the roof every time you hit a red light. And you’d feel calm when you sat down to begin your work day.

Trust me, it’s almost always worth the time and effort it takes to break habits that aren’t enhancing your life. The key to making it work is to figure out what the payoff is. In the example above, the payoff would be smoother, less stressful mornings (very important since mornings can set the tone for your whole day!). I’ve found that if you can explain to yourself why a new habit would make your life easier or better, you’ll have the motivation you need to follow through with real change. Here are some examples of changed habits that have happened in my family recently:

  • Whenever a restaurant brings out a starter, like bread and butter or chips and salsa, it’s so easy to eat it mindlessly while waiting on your meal. But really, wouldn’t you rather save your appetite and calorie intake for the entrée? My husband, Barry, and I have recently started sending the bread away so that we can savor what we order. The payoff is that we can eat our meal without feeling overly full, and without feeling guilty about all of that mindless eating. We have also started ordering peppermint tea instead of dessert.
  • Barry’s blood sugar tends to get low in the afternoon. In the past, though, he was often so absorbed in his work that he ignored the way he was feeling. Recently, he has set up an alarm on his computer that goes off mid-afternoon and asks, “Do you want an apple?” That’s Barry’s cue to eat an apple and take a short walk around the office to talk to employees. He feels so much better, and he’s more productive afterward.
  • I really love my job! And sometimes, I’ll stay on my computer late into the night. (I suspect I’m not the only one.) Now that I am married to Barry, though, it’s important to me to spend quality time with him. If I get caught up in work after hours, he’ll remind me to come watch a show or drink a glass of wine with him. I’ve found that my career hasn’t suffered…but my personal life has really improved.

Make a short list of habits that you would like to break, and then figure out what the payoff for doing so will be. I look forward to hearing how your life has changed for the better!

 

Essential Oils

You’ve probably heard of essential oils, but do you know what they are? The name is somewhat misleading, because essential oils don’t have an oily consistency at all. They are liquids that are distilled from various parts of plants, including basil, cedar, jasmine, lavender, lemongrass, sandalwood, and many, many more. I have learned that the plants used to make essential oils are carefully selected because of the therapeutic benefits they confer when you inhale their fragrances and apply them to your skin.

Recently, I have begun to incorporate essential oils into my everyday morning ritual after I shower. They’re easy to use and can make a big difference in how you feel throughout the entire day. In fact, I often think to myself that applying essential oils is like a miniature trip to the spa: good for balancing my mind and my body.

I’d like to share with you how I use four of my favorite essential oils: Valor, Harmony, Joy, and White Angelica.

  • Place one drop of Valor on the inside of your left wrist. Hold the inside of your right wrist to your left wrist for a few minutes. This step balances the body.
  • Apply a drop of Harmony to your solar plexus (the area just above your belly button) to calm your mind and promote positive feelings.
  • Apply one drop of Joy to the area above your heart. This step helps bring happiness to your mind and body.
  • Place a single drop of White Angelica in the palm of your hand and rub your hands together. Lightly brush both hands over your head, face, shoulders, chest, and down the rest of your body as though applying an angelic shield.

If you don’t already use essential oils, I encourage you to give them a try and see what you think! Personally, I use Young Living Essential Oils because I know that they are pure oils. I have actually studied with Young Living’s founder, Gary Young, and am certified in Raindrop Therapy. I recommend “remedies” to clients for certain issues they are having.

If you’d like to try some of the specific blends I mentioned in this post, please contact my own wonderful aromatherapy consultant, Lucey Harley, by going to her website: www.luceyharley.com. Lucey will work with you individually to choose products to enhance your overall well-being.

Less Busy, More Boundaries: Respecting Yourself Enough to Say No

In today’s world, having a busy schedule is a given. Whether it’s serving on the board of a charity, working long hours, or just trying to find time to have dinner with friends, it seems that there is no shortage of events to fill up your calendar. The problem is that most of us have simply accepted our over-scheduled-ness as a way of life, and that has led to a generation of women who neglect themselves in order to fulfill the duties others ask of them.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with making commitments and keeping them. I have a very full schedule and life myself. What I find, however, is that most of us allow those things—the meetings and obligations—to take over. We forget to do the things that make us happy, to take time to renew our minds, to rest our bodies, and to rejuvenate our spirits.

Sadly, most women say yes more than they say no because they feel as though they are expected to be everything to everyone. They don’t want to appear weak or incapable. And in refusing to set those boundaries, they are allowing others to take advantage of them and treat them badly. Do you have clear boundaries set in your life? Or are you allowing obligations to others to take up your precious time and energy? Give careful thought to how you will allow others to work with you. Consider the following tips to help you get your boundaries in check:

  • Be clear from the beginning. Setting boundaries has to happen at the beginning of any new relationship. Unfortunately, once you set the standard it’s nearly impossible to change. Make sure that you are clear with people—your boss, your employees, your acquaintances, etc.—about what you will and will not allow.
  • Be deliberate. Think carefully about what it is that you want out of your relationships, both professionally and personally. Make deliberate choices about what you want out of those relationships and what you will commit yourself to. If it helps, try writing it down in an actual list to help you see things more clearly. It’s a great way to prioritize!
  • Be where you are. When you’re out to dinner with your spouse, going for a run, or enjoying a cup of hot tea on your porch, turn off your phone, step away from your inbox, and let everything else go. If you allow yourself to be accessible all the time, people will try to get in touch with you—no matter what the day or hour. You need to have time to invest in yourself and your relationships. And you can’t give either of those the focus they deserve if your phone is ringing off the hook.
  • Be confident enough to say no. It’s okay to say no, but it can be hard to actually say it. Feel confident in your choice to opt out of something or to turn down an opportunity. If it isn’t right for you, then there shouldn’t be any reason why you can’t confidently tell other people so.
  • Be honest about why you are saying no. When we do say no, we often feel compelled to give an excuse along with our reply, and often that excuse isn’t entirely honest. You aren’t doing anyone any favors by being dishonest. In fact, the more honest you are about why you can’t or won’t do something, the better other people get to know you. You can’t expect people to understand your boundaries if you aren’t honest about them in the first place.

Remember, you’re not in this world to make everyone else happy and neglect yourself as a result. I challenge you to evaluate the commitments in your life. Which ones do you truly enjoy and value? Which ones are merely obligations you do because you feel you have to? Think about what you can feasibly cut out of your life so that you can start to re-invest in yourself.  Embrace the boundaries in your life. I promise you won’t regret it.

 

 

So, How Are You?: Striking the Balance Between “Real” and “Rant”

Think about it: When you run into someone you haven’t seen in a while (whether it’s been a month or a day!) or even when you meet someone new, what do you say? Chances are, you stick with the tried-and-true “Hi, how are you?” (For most of us, it’s sheer reflex.)

Usually, the answer to this old standby is short and sweet. In fact, we generally expect a reply along the lines of “Very well, thank you.” Sometimes, though, a friend or acquaintance can go into a lot more depth about how her day is progressing—no matter how good or bad that might be! And (let’s face it) it’s those people, the ones who detail how tired, busy, or just plain bad-off they are, who can really make you regret asking at all. And what most people fail to realize is that your answer to this very simple question will either draw people in or scare them away.

The lesson here is clear: When you’re on the answering end, try not to respond to “How are you?” in a negative manner. (This is especially important with new acquaintances—first impressions are a big deal.) Responding negatively presents you in a less-than-ideal light and gives people the sense that you’re a real drag. And if you do it often enough, people just might stop asking you how things are going altogether (and start avoiding you instead).

The next time someone inquires about your day, challenge yourself to be real without descending into a pit of negativity. Use it as an opportunity to further that connection, rather than as a chance to dump your own personal problems on someone else. And yes, you can do that without being ultra-sweet, as I’ve noticed some women feel the need to do. Believe me, it’s completely possible to put a positive spin on an answer that’s still honest. Here are a few examples:

Busy, busy! It’s a given that most of us are busier than ever. Our calendars are so full that we barely have time to blink. But that doesn’t mean others want to hear the details of your schedule! In fact, turning into a verbal datebook may come off as a venting session and give the impression that you’re really too busy to talk. Believe me, I know—I’m so busy planning my wedding that I have to put a little effort into making sure I’m not unintentionally sending out busy vibes when I’m telling others about my day. Here are some fun ways to respond to those how-are-yous the next time you’re feeling the urge to complain about how busy you are:

  • Humor never hurts! In a joking manner, say, “Hanging on by a sheer thread! How are you?”
  • “I’ve been busy, but busy is good for business!”
  • “I’ve never been so busy—but I wouldn’t have it any other way!”
  • “You know me—always on the move!”
  • Relate it to something personal (in my case, that would be my wedding) and say, “This wedding planning is a full-time job, but it’s been a lot fun!”
  • “You know, I’m really busy right now. But I feel very lucky to be so busy!”

Yawn. Let me tell you how tired I am. So you just downed your fourth cup of coffee when some smiley, energetic person comes at you with a how’s-it-going? Perhaps it’s your first week back at work after the new baby, or maybe you’re still recovering from daylight savings time. Even though you may feel that you don’t even have the energy to address the question, try to rally with one of these responses:

 

  • “I’m still recovering from the fantastic concert, movie, etc. that I watched last night. Let me tell you about it!”
  • “A little sleepy, but thank the Lord for caffeine!”
  • “I got to stay up late holding my baby last night, so I’m a little tired, but I’m so blessed I can’t complain.”

 

Ugh…I really don’t feel like talking. There are times when we just don’t have much to say. Maybe you’re tired, busy, or just not in the mood to have a conversation. Know that it’s perfectly fine to keep your answer short and sweet. (Plus, the person asking how you’re doing may very well be reaching out just to be polite, anyway!) So when you’re feeling antisocial, simply say, “Never better!” or, “I’m fantastic!” Voilà! Question answered.

 

Ultimately, we’re all asked quite a few questions throughout the day, so don’t stress over greeting others. Remember that when you’re asked how you’re doing, it’s not an opportunity to vent! Instead, keep your casual conversations positive. And don’t forget that a simple smile can dress up any conversation.