Maria Connolly, LPC

Blog

Continually grow as a person and find your work/life balance

End Sleepless Nights to Improve Your Health, Longevity and Happiness

End Sleepless Nights to Improve Your Health, Longevity and Happiness“Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” ~ Thomas Dekker

Have you ever said: “Please help me sleep!” Or “Why can’t I stay asleep?” If you have trouble staying asleep you’re not alone. According to the CDC, about 9 million U.S. adults use prescription sleep aids. Over one-quarter of the U.S. population report occasionally not getting enough sleep, while nearly 10 percent experience chronic insomnia.

Insufficient sleep is associated with many health problems – diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, increased body fat, loss of lean muscle mass, depression, and increased risk of cancer. Lack of sleep really gives your body a beating that shortens your lifespan. But that’s not all.

When you include vehicular accidents and machine-related injuries you can see that loss of sleep isn’t a small problem. It also significantly decreases your enjoyment of life and interferes with maintaining good relationships with others. After all, who wants to be around a grump?

A good night’s sleep makes us feel alert, energetic, ready for the day, happier, stronger and more capable. Many of the body’s restorative functions occur while we sleep – muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis, and human growth hormone release. (HGH plays a huge role in muscle and cellular renewal.)

As long as you’re awake, the brain produces and accumulates adenosine, a by-product of the cells’ activities. The build-up of adenosine is associated with our perception of being tired. (Many people use caffeine to stay alert because it blocks the actions of adenosine.) Sleep lets the body clear out the adenosine.

You know from experience that the quantity and quality of your sleep has a profound impact on your ability to focus, which impacts your ability to learn, creatively solve problems, and remember. Sleep allows the brain to sort and store the day’s activities into memories, which determines how well you can recall that information later.

We need both Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, and Non-Rapid Eye Movement sleep. Normally we pass through four or five different stages of sleep, depending on who you ask. We cycle through these stages multiple times during the night. (Not necessarily in a sequential order.) A complete cycle takes an average of 90 to 110 minutes. The first sleep cycles have shorter REM sleeps but later REM periods lengthen. That’s why you need so many hours of sleep. You need to go through all of these cycles many times in order to feel refreshed.

What does each sleep stage feel like?

Non-REM Sleep Stage 1: You’re getting drowsy. This lasts about 5-10 minutes.

Non-REM Sleep Stage 2: Your heartbeat slows, your body temperature drops, and you fall into a slumber. This lasts about 20 minutes.

Non-REM Sleep Stage 3: You go between light and very deep sleep. This lasts about 30 minutes.

Non-REM Sleep Stage 4: Deep sleep. (This is when sleepwalking can occur.) This lasts up to 30 minutes.

Stage 5 REM Sleep: The deepest form of sleep. Your body becomes “paralyzed” so you don’t act out your dreams. And it repairs and regenerates tissue, bone and muscle, and strengthens the immune system. It takes about 90 minutes to get to REM sleep and REM sleep can last for very long periods of time.

Which stage of sleep you were in before waking up will dictate the type of morning you have. That’s why sometimes only a few hours of sleep leave you feeling great, at other times you can be groggy after many hours of sleep.

During our awake hours, our circadian rhythm (biological clock) ebbs and flows. Our body uses outside stimuli and our own activity level to produce hormones we need to match the task at hand. In the perfect situation, the sun coming up signals our body to reduce the hormones that make us sleepy and to produce other hormones to get moving. As the sun goes down, our body should produce more melatonin, which encourages sleepiness. However, alarm clocks, electric lighting, and electronic devices, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and many other modern products interfere with this natural process.  

Getting a good night’s sleep isn’t a luxury. It’s vital to end sleepless nights. The National Institutes of Health suggests that school-age children need at least 10 hours of sleep, teens need 9-10 hours, and adults need 7-8 hours. How do you measure up?

Everything is so interconnected – what you eat, how much you exercise, what you think about yourself and the world around you, and how well you sleep – these and so many other daily choices determine your level of resiliency, productivity and happiness. As you can see, a good health plan must take a holistic perspective that includes mindfulness around everything about you. The key is achieving a solid balance in your life.

Are you tired of being tired? Contact me and we can design a program to get you feeling on top of the world.

Types of Exercise That Foster a Healthy Lifestyle and Greater Happiness

Types of Exercise That Foster a Healthy Lifestyle and Greater Happiness “In order for man to succeed in life, God provided him with two means, education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but for the two together. With these means, man can attain perfection.” ~Plato

Would you like to improve your thinking, memory, motivation, mental wellbeing, physical health and even reverse some diseases? Well, you can by elevating your heart rate on a regular basis. Yes, I’m talking about exercise!

John J. Ratey, M.D., author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, and researcher on the mind-body connection, has found that exercise is our best defense against everything – mental disorders, addiction, mood swings to mention a few. “Moving our muscles produces proteins that play roles in our highest thought processes.” Ratey says.

The wonderful thing is that we can feel an almost immediate change in our brain after a workout. Why is that?

First, regular exercise helps your body optimally use energy. For example, food is broken down into glucose – the body’s energy fuel. Your pancreas produces a hormone called insulin, which regulates the amount of sugar in your bloodstream by letting glucose into the muscle, fat and liver cells. “We think of insulin as a ‘key’ that opens doors to the body’s cells, so glucose can enter,” said diabetes educator Gary Scheiner. 79 million people in the US are pre-diabetic because their sedentary lifestyle has made them insulin resistance. The insulin key can’t open the frozen lock, so glucose can’t get into the cells to fuel your muscles. The resulting increased blood sugar makes the pancreas crank out more insulin, which causes you to become very tired. It’s a vicious cycle! Exercise can reverse this process and give you your energy back. That’s just one of the many mind/body systems that your body needs regular exercise in order to function properly.

Regular exercise also builds a sustainable cycle of wellbeing. Regular exercise builds strong lifestyle patterns that support mental wellbeing, which in turn motivates you to keep exercising regularly. It’s a win-win-win! And when you are physically active, you’re more social, which boosts self-confidence. It alleviates anxiety, stress and depression. It improves focus and helps you replace addictive behaviors and bad habits with healthier choices.

How much and what types of exercise will help you achieve your peak performance? It’s recommended that you exercise 30 minutes per day/5 days a week at the minimum. That’s only 2½ hours out of 168 hours of your life every week. Isn’t that a small investment for the greatest return – a long, healthy, and happy life? (Note: If you have any medical problems, consult with your physician before beginning a new exercise routine.) Here are some suggestions:

Aerobic Exercise. This type of exercise gets your heart rate up and makes you sweat and can be sustained over a long period of time. Work up to doing aerobic exercise four days a week, at 60 to 65 percent of your maximum heart rate. Try running, swimming or biking.

Anaerobic exercise. This is high intensity exercise that can only be sustained for a brief time period, like sprinting. For example, after you’ve warmed up and have walked for about 10 minutes, break out into a sprint for 5 minutes, then go back to walking until your heart rate slows again to where you can comfortably talk, then repeat the sprint/cool down cycle.

Strength training exercise. Use weights or resistance machines twice a week. Do three sets of your exercises with weights that allow you to do ten repetitions in each set. Personally, I love my Cross Fit class!

Balance and flexibility exercise. Focus on this twice a week for thirty minutes. The Feldenkrais Method® (which relieved my chronic pain too), Yoga, Pilates, tai chi, Aikido, martial arts, archery, and dance are all good choices.

Brain exercise. Never stop learning. Numerous studies show that the more your brain continues to learn, the more likely you are to keep your thinking abilities and ward off dementia.

Doing a mix of low, medium, and high intensity exercise is important as each does beneficial things for your mind and body. If you need to split it up into 10-minute intervals, 3 times per day, that’s still effective. Your brain and all your muscles needs to be used in order to keep your quality of life at its best.

I recommend you read or listen to the audio of: Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John Ratey. It will get you up and moving as it changes forever how you look at the connection between brain health and exercise.

Are you motivated to try some of these types of exercise, but you need someone to keep you accountable and on track? Contact me and let me support and challenge you each step of the way as you activate your inner abilities to achieve and maintain your motivation for total wellness and fitness.  Let’s get started as soon as possible!

If you haven’t you received your free copy of The 7-Point Body Wellness Assessment yet, download it right now. It will help you get started on the path to a healthier you.

Supercharge your Power of Concentration by Learning How to Focus Better

how to improve your focus so you can supercharge your power of concentrationAre there times when you struggle to focus on the task at hand? Perhaps that’s because there’s too much going on in your attentional field. What’s that? It’s a term used to describe everything within your attention span – your thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, sights and sounds around you. Right now your attention is on the website reading this, but you may at the same time be distracted by other things like the mug of tea you’re sipping, the sound of your child or pet in the background, the thoughts of a deadline looming later today.

Focus is the ability to attend to internal cues (what’s going on inside of you, your feelings and thoughts) and external cues (what’s going on around you, like the knock on the door) in your attentional field. In all areas of life, whether you’re giving a presentation at work, having an important conversation with your spouse or training for a marathon, in order to excel you need to be able to focus.

What can you do to learn how to focus better? Here are two main skills you’ll need to master:

  1. In order to tap into the tremendous power of concentration, determine what the relevant cues to the task at hand are and learn to focus only on them. We learn to selectively focus on or block out cues every day, otherwise the background noises and activities would drive us crazy.

Think about a star ball player. He must be in tune to his technique, his opponent, the score, the referee, the coach, and time remaining on the scoreboard, to name only a few cues vying for his attention. What would happen if his focus shifted to the pretty girl in the bleachers? He, in all likelihood, might miss the ball flying towards him. Hence at this point and time, that pretty girl would be considered a performance-irrelevant cue that must be ignored.

  1. So the second skill for achieving better focus is determining what the performance-irrelevant cues are so you can ignore them as you strive to excel. These would be anything that would hurt your performance when you must accomplish a task.

There are two types of harmful cues that you’ll encounter:

Interfering cues are those that directly hurt your performance such as negative thoughts, anxiety, and concern over what others think.

Irrelevant cues are those that distract you from an effective focus including what restaurant you’ll go to tonight, the project that you must finish by tomorrow, or that pretty girl in the bleachers.

Each of us has a different dominant focus style, which is what we default to under stress. We pay attention in two distinct ways. These two focus styles are…

Internal-focus style. These people are totally and consistently focused during a specific activity like a presentation, a practice session or a competition. They need to keep their focus narrow, thinking only about their performance all the time. The down side of this intensity is that they also tend to be easily distracted by their surroundings.

External-focus style. These people only focus on their specific activity when they’re about to begin the event or competition. They function better by taking their mind off of the activity at all other times, because they tend to over-think, becoming negative, critical, and anxious. For them to excel, they must focus on other things when they’re not actually performing.

Neither approach is right or wrong. The important thing is identifying your focus style and utilizing it to improve your powers of concentration. If you’re trying to force yourself to adopt a style other than your own, you’ll find that under pressure you’ll revert back to your normal style and that could really throw you off your game.

Would you like assistance in utilizing your personal style to excel at everything you do? We can work together in person or via Skype. Please contact me and I’ll be happy to help you identify your weakness and learn how to tap into your strengths.

A good place to begin is by taking my 7-Point Wellness Assessment. You can download your free copy by clicking here.

How to Improve Self Image and Fitness with Cutting-Edge Mental Strength Training Techniques

improve self image by mental training“A strong, positive self-image is the best possible preparation for success.” ~ Joyce Brothers

Did you know that how you see yourself in your own mind has a great impact on your fitness level? Scientists and sports coaches have found that when you imagine yourself as fit and healthy, the brain believes it, which encourages you to make choices that consistently support your self-image as a fit person. To reinforce this positive shift you can definitely benefit from mental strength training.

That’s right! To improve your physical fitness you need to strengthen your mental fitness. Why? Because mental strength training will help you shift your self-image so you are empowered to reach your potential. Imagine how your fitness will improve when you can…

  • Focus and deal with distractions. Rather than having a result-oriented focus, you’ll be able to focus on the present moment rather than becoming self-conscious.
  • Develop a fearless mindset. You know that one event doesn’t define you as a person so you’re not afraid of embarrassment or failure.
  • Control your emotions. You’ll be able to deal with setbacks and errors as you stay composed under pressure to perform.
  • Improve endurance. You’ll be able to perform at your peak for a longer period of time when you are able to work in the “zone”.
  • Find your true motivation. You’ll be able to deliver your optimal performance because you’ll be doing things for the right reasons.  

 

What mental training techniques can you use to create a better self-image and boost your fitness level? Here are a few techniques I like to use with my coaching clients:

Relaxation: Calming your mind and body relieves tense muscles, which is essential to allow your muscles to stretch without tearing or pulling your skeletal frame out of alignment. By relaxing and contracting mindfully through all of your muscles groups you create deeper mine/body awareness that allows you to move more freely.

Visualization: Imagine yourself enjoying the benefits of reaching your goal. Do you want to reduce one size? Visualize how great that feels…how much better your balance is…how much stronger you are…how much more stamina you have…how well your clothes fit…how happy you are with the renewed energy to take that mountain hike or play ball with the children. The more engaged you become in this, the more your brain actually believes it to be true.

Anchoring: An anchor is a preset response to a specific stimulus. To help you feel like working out, recall a time when you had an awesome workout. Visualize the experience fully, and at the peak moment set an anchor or cue that makes your brain relive this feeling each time you employ the anchor.

Reframing: Identify your unhelpful thoughts and replace them with positive statements that support a positive self-image. Remove the phrase “I should” from your vocabulary. Instead use “I can do X now, which is so much more than when I started.” Also, get rid of the all-or-nothing mentality by refusing to personalize or over-generalize each event. One event does not define who you are as a person.

Mental editing: Whether you perform an exercise routine or only picture it, you activate many of the same brain connections that link what your body does to the controlling brain impulses. It also stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which increases the heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. For example, Jack Nicklaus excelled because he practiced each shot in his mind before taking it.

You’ll get the best results if you enlist the assistance of a trained coach who can teach you how to do each of these techniques correctly. Mental strength training is all about taking you from where you are now and enhancing your fitness and self-image incrementally until your mind/body health transforms you into a top performer. Contact me and we’ll schedule an appointment so you can get started on your path to an excellent self-image and improved fitness.

Stuck in a Exercise Rut? Discover How to Use NLP to Ramp Up Your Fitness Motivation

feeling stuck in a rut so use neuro linguistic programming NLP for fitness motivation

 

“Achieving good fitness involves making yourself a priority.”  ~ Robert Dilts

Do you know anyone who has turned their indoor treadmill into a clothes hanger? It happens more often than not. People in the United States are spending billions of dollars on physical fitness equipment each year, too much of which sits and collects dust. Just the gyms and health & fitness clubs alone this year are estimated to be $30 billion industry!

We all want and are trying to buy what they’re selling…to live longer, have more energy, enjoy better health, maintain greater flexibility, and create lean bodies that look super. So what’s causing this huge gap between the desire to be fit and the reality of everyday life? If spending money isn’t the answer, what is?

There are no magic pills or quick fixes to obtaining your optimal fitness. For many people, fitness depends on overcoming long-held habits and adopting a healthy lifestyle. Complete fitness applies to the combined health of your body, mind and spirit, which are supported by proper nutrition, exercise and a healthy outlook on life. These are the things that fuel your motivation to make real change!

How can you step up your inner game for physical fitness and lasting motivation that gets you through the tough times?

While the outer game focuses on your physical skills, the inner game focuses on your mindset, your mental approach and wellbeing – such as your attitude, self-confidence, your ability to deal with setbacks, and your commitment level.

First do a reality check. If you keep doing what you’re doing …

  • What will you look like when you’re 70?
  • Will you have the flexibility to tie your own shoes?
  • Will you have the stamina to dance at your granddaughter’s wedding?
  • Will you greet each day with joy?

 

If you don’t like what you see, then NOW is the time to start making changes. You are the master of your own body. No one can live your life for you. Each decision is your alone – to eat healthfully, to exercise regularly, to think positively.

Right now, take a moment, close your eyes, and visualize how you want your life to unfold from this day forward.

Visualization is powerful and can be dramatically enhanced by NLP. What’s NLP and what does it have to do with fitness? It may surprise you to learn that using Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) for fitness motivation is highly effective. It’s a set of guiding principles, attitudes and techniques about real life behavior. NLP allows you to change, adopt or eliminate behaviors as you desire. It also gives you the ability to choose your mental, emotional, and physical states of wellbeing. It’s a powerful tool you can use to create real and lasting change in your mental and physical wellbeing.

You may think you need a physical trainer to get in shape and that might be true. But it is also true that our physical wellbeing is dependent on our mindset. Working with a life coach or psychotherapist can help you achieve excellence in every aspect of your life, including your physical fitness. For example, you can work with a life coach on…

  • Setting achievable goals for where you are right now.
  • Developing self-discipline to make these goals part of your new lifestyle.
  • Making being fit part of your new identity by breaking old habits and setting new ones that create the lifestyle you want to live.
  • Updating your self-image and self-esteem by appreciating the progress you’ve made.

Are you ready to learn how using NLP for fitness motivation can help you achieve the healthy lifestyle you desire? Let me support and challenge you each step of the way as you activate your inner abilities to achieve and maintain your motivation for total wellness and fitness. Contact me and let’s get started as soon as possible!

If you haven’t you received your free copy of The 7-Point Body Wellness Assessment yet, download it right now. It will help you get started on the path to a healthier you.


Let's get started with 30 free minutes

I invite you to learn more about me and my coaching and counseling services. Please contact me to schedule an “It starts with you!” 30-minute complimentary consultation with me, in-person, by phone or via video consultation, so we can explore our partnership.

SCHEDULE


RECEIVE YOUR FREE 7-POINT

Wellness
Assesment

Create change through awareness with a FREE gift from Maria to you.
Download your Assesment today!

© Neways Integrated Wellness Center. All rights reserved. Site developed and hosted by Rogue Web Works.
Professional Certified Coach by International Coach Federation