Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Slippery Slope

Welcome to a time of year when our already busy lives get cranked up a notch (or ten) on the stress-o-meter.

Work. School. Kids. Illness. House. Holidays. Travel.  Parties. Projects.  In the months of November and December, it all seems to amplify to some deranged crescendo. 

Taking care of ourselves is the MOST important thing during these crazy times. But what actually happens?


It's a slippery slope.  We start NOT taking care of ourselves because other things take time and priority.  Before long, we're more stressed and exhausted.  Even though intellectually we know we need to recharge our batteries and take better care of ourselves, the idea of investing anything more seems impossible.

In my Corporate USA job, I work with companies to help them maximize resources so that ultimately they are more strategic and save money.  Smart companies who are looking for sustained success are able to see that although there's some investment in this process, the gains are much greater. 

You can imagine it takes some work to get past no budget (aka "the lazy objection") and the misguided perception that the only time to invest in something is when it's already doing well.

Just like in business, we have to think about our life in terms of the strategic big picture.  This is why I call it "Personal Strategic Management."  

We have to prioritize and invest.   We have to get past our own lazy objections. Especially when things aren't easy.

In an ideal world, my goal is to have healthy habits every single day; eat well, meditate, exercise and live in a perpetual state of gratitude.

Okay well, in an ideal world my goal would be to have a personal chef, better genetics, my own tropical island and a perpetual vacation.

At this very moment, I can honestly say I'm not living in either of these scenarios.

Over the past couple of weeks I could feel myself on this slippery slope.  Working and traveling more have had exponential side effects: physical, mental and emotional.  Add being busier at home, more stuff going on with the kids, more family events.  Eating more crap.  Working out less. Feeling more stressed.  Exhaustion setting in while the treadmill of life just goes faster.

Recently I knew I was in trouble when someone offered me a second cupcake and I said, "Sure.  Why not?"  I didn't even want the flippin' thing. I was just too tired to say "no."

If there's the big yellow warning sign on my slippery slope, it has a picture of a cupcake on it. 

(I started to write a bunch of stuff about warning signs and how you know when you're on the slippery slope.  But usually if you're on it, you just know.  If you're not sure, ask me and I'll tell you.  And if you're asking me, you're on it.)

In my last post, I wrote about Carol Evans giving me some simple advice.  This wisdom also applies to taking care of ourselves.   DO IT.

So, "How?" you cry.  How? How? How do you do it?

I'll cover more in the next couple of posts but here are just a few initial thoughts which I know help me get re-focused on my core and walking on even ground again:

1. Martyrdom is so first century. 
I have to remind myself that in order to survive the next couple of months (never mind the rest of my life), I will need energy, health and strength.  In order to do for others, I must do for myself. 

The crazier things get, the more often I have to focus on this mindset.  I visualize what I want my holidays to be like for example.  Do I want to be a cranky, sniffling, tired, ugly mess on Thanksgiving?  Not so much.

The great thing about shifting perspective is it requires no extra time and I can do immediately.  Not on Monday. Not after the next event. Now.

 Remember me writing about BE --> DO --> HAVE?  This is a BE thing.

2. Food is fuel.
For many of us, eating habits are one of the first things we stop paying attention to when stress hits. 

Personally I'm more likely to go into fatigue induced "aw screw it" mode such as in the whole cupcake incident.  I have a lot of friends who say they eat the cupcake (or whatever) because they rationalize eating as a reward or a coping mechanism for dealing with all the stress.

In any case, it helps me to remind myself that what I eat matters. That it's even more important during the busiest times.
Before I eat anything I'm asking myself, "Is this going to give me the nutritional fuel and energy I need? Is this the best available choice I have right now?" 

Over the course of the day or week, this awareness has a cumulative effect which leads me to healthy (or at least balanced) choices. I find myself more focused on getting the variety of fuel/food I need. If I "carb out" in the morning for example, I make sure I get some kind of really good lean protein at night.

When I'm in a state of food mindfulness, I'm also more likely to think ahead and plan better.

3. Say "When."
One of my problems has been not setting clear boundaries around new tasks and responsibilities, particularly when it's to make someone else's life easier.    Not sure if it's altruism, leftover childhood trauma or pure ego but I'm investing in getting over it. 

I just bought two little signs which may help:

    "Poor planning on your part is not an emergency on my part."
     "I can only please one person per day.  Today is not your day.  Tomorrow is not looking too good either."

Feel free to borrow these as needed.

                                                                                            (But... back away from the cupcake!)


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Sarah said...

it's so hard to say no to junk food around holiday - they are everywhere! i think i'll borrow your second sign and order the pre-made thanksgiving dinner.

Charlene said...

Sarah - so true re: junk food! That's where being in a mindset of caring enough to think ahead and plan to have healthy (but still yummy)options around is so very important.

Hunter said...

That first sign could come in handy in my workplace. Seems to be a recurring theme.

Innocent Owner Of Mad Cats said...

I'll take sign number one. The food part is the hardest part for me. I run out of energy and get cranky when I'm hungry.

The Blonde Duck said...

Popped in from SITS to say hi! The food part is so hard. In the South, we love our pies and comfort food...

Charlene said...

Yep - the food part is definitely hard this time of year. Even thinking about the term "comfort food" - it's as though we instinctively want to eat food which will make us warm, cozy and sleepy. What I'm trying to do now is get my body to crave ENERGY food. (I'll let you know how it goes!)

kys said...

Thanks for this. I need to start saying no right now. Temptations are only going to get worse as the season moves on.

Heather said...

I love that first one. And we are always the worst for putting our needs last to help with someone who is having a crisis or emergency. I think that may become my new motto!

Fruitful Vine2 said...

These are excellent points for me to think about. I really need to shift my perspective.

Blogger_babe32 said...

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Blogger_babe32 said...

Congratulations! Blogger_babe32 has bestowed upon you the Scholastic Scribe Award! Please visit her blog at and redeem your award and review the rules!

Charlene said...

Thanks Blogger Babe - I'll check it out! :-) player said...

I can't say no to Vanilla Mocha Crunch shake! Excellent post! I love your signs

Ellad2 said...

Wonderful to read your blog and you give me many things to think about. I just started to make my own blog in English!? You have to know that English is not my mother tonque so it's not so easy.. take a look

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