Maria Connolly, LPC

Category: Health and Wellness

Instead of dieting and depriving yourself, learn valuable tips on Health and Wellness as it includes every aspect of your lifestyle – your eating and drinking choices and habits, your physical activity and exercise, your mental health, and your emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

Keep that New Year Energy Vibrantly Alive Throughout The Year!

Is the New Year Energy still keeping you inspired or could you use a boost? Fuel the New Year Energy and stay motivated by considering these 8 suggestions.“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.” ~ Joseph Campbell

There always seems to be so much pressure around the start of a new year that you can be swept away from your true course. You may start to think — he’s doing this or she’s doing that…well, that must be what I need to do, too! It can make you chase after goals that truly don’t serve you at this point in your life. At the same time, there’s such a vibrant energy at the start of each new year, it would be a pity to let it go to waste! How can you keep the New Year Energy alive throughout this coming year?

Now that resolutions pressure is over, you can start thinking about what you can realistically focus on this year. Renew your New Year Energy to see how you can continue to improve your life. Are there any places in your life that you’ve hidden away or avoided working on?

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Pain Changes People — How to Ensure It Changes You for the Better

Pain changes people. Break the cycle of fear, inactivity, misery, and pain by somatically improving the mind, body connection, which alters your pain level.“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” – Khalil Gibran

Do you think pain changes people? If you’ve ever been to a doctor and had to describe your pain, you know how isolating pain can be. “Where does it hurt? On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate it?” After these questions, the doctors think they know what you’re feeling, but do they really? Even your friends and family can become impatient with your pain and just want you to “learn to live with it.” It’s no wonder pain changes people!

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The Best Self-Care Practices Take Self-Discipline AND Self-Compassion

Here are 30 of my best self care practices, based on discipline and compassion, to help you care for your mental, emotional, spiritual and physical wellness“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” ~ John Steinbeck

It goes against popular thought, but I have to be honest with you — being self-indulgent is not a good basis for self-care practices. In the long run, this course leads to self loathing. Your body gets out of shape, your emotions become unruly and your spirit is stunted. The best self care practices take self-discipline, because you choose what’s good for you, rather than what feels good in the moment.

But getting tough with yourself is only part of the equation. When it’s your sole focus, it’s too easy to go to the extreme of getting down on yourself. That’s not helpful or healthful! We’ve had a lifetime to get where we are today. No doubt you’ve picked up some “baggage” along the way, like I have. It takes time to change your previous patterns, to create new ones that are in harmony with your higher purpose.

If nothing else, please take this away with you: The best self-care practices depend on self-compassion. Encourage yourself, not guilt yourself! Try to see each small step as progress and quit expecting perfection. It’s that negative, harsh self-talk that makes you want to quit, and you don’t deserve that. You wouldn’t talk that way to your best friend, would you?

The best self-care practices are also intentional. They don’t just happen. In your mind, consciously label an activity as self care — that it’s part of your “prescription” for wellness. After all, when a doctor prescribes a medication or course of action, you take it seriously, right? Well then, put your self care practices on that same level of importance and urgency, because your well-being depends on it!

When you truly care for yourself, you’ll have the energy to give of yourself and to live joyfully. As Steve Maraboli puts it so well, “Allow yourself to enjoy each happy moment in your life.” Perhaps the following list will give you some new ideas:

  1. Listen to your body. When you need down time, take it without feeling guilty.
  2. You don’t have to put up with stress triggers and Debbie Downers.
  3. Move, stretch, and breathe deeply often.
  4. Check in with your emotions. Sit quietly and name what you’re feeling, without judgment.
  5. Enjoy at least one hour of intentional silence every day; split it into 15-minute increments if that works best for you.
  6. Completely disconnect from your phone by a set time each day — no surfing the Net, no YouTube, no social media, just peaceful reflection on how this day has made your life richer.
  7. Learn to say no kindly, but firmly.
  8. Quit “making do” with that worn out shirt, broken can opener, or whatever it is you’re putting up with. You deserve something new.
  9. Do a mini-declutter and get rid of what doesn’t “spark joy” as Marie Kondo says.
  10. Dress up and admire yourself more often.
  11. Make a monthly “play date” with yourself and just enjoy your own company at the coffee shop, library, boutique, museum or whatever you fancy.
  12. Reconnect with something that gave you pleasure and filled your soul in the past – hiking and camping, listening to tunes, lighting candles, dancing around the room, a hobby.
  13. Take a blanket outside and do some cloud watching or star gazing.
  14. Create a new personal or family tradition.
  15. Make a new friend.
  16. Expand your mindfulness practice to eventually encompass all aspects of your life, by intentionally adding one new category per month, like driving, brushing your teeth, shopping, eating, breathing, walking, listening, etc.
  17. Read at least one book per month.
  18. Walk 15 more minutes than you usually do.
  19. Sign up for a course you’ve always wanted to take.
  20. Join an exercise class designed for your fitness level, so you don’t injure yourself or become discouraged.
  21. Hire a coach to keep you motivated toward a personal or professional goal. 
  22. Join a community to get you out of your rut and meeting new people.
  23. Intentionally mix things up — lunch in the park, drive a different route to work, buy fresh veggies at a Farmer’s Market, etc.
  24. Reconnect with people who matter.
  25. Feed your inspiration.
  26. Look for five beautiful things each day and fully feel gratitude for them.
  27. Start a Kudos File, collecting and appreciating every compliment you receive.
  28. Do something special to enhance important relationships; within healthy relationships you’ll find that the more you give the more joy you receive.
  29. Do acts of kindness; what goes around comes around.
  30. Play and laugh — keep your inner child alive.

The best self-care practices are whatever you do deliberately to take care of your mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health. Do you have any self-care practices you’d add to this list? Please visit my Facebook page and share them. And remember to sign up for my Newsletter. I may be biased, but I think that reading it is one of the best self-care practices you can have.

What Is the Purpose of Life — For YOU?

Young woman out in nature contemplating what is the purpose of life“The heart of human excellence often begins to beat when you discover a pursuit that absorbs you, frees you, challenges you, or gives you a sense of meaning, joy, or passion.” ~ Terry Orlick

Humans have always sought the answers to life’s big questions: Why am I here? What is the purpose of life? What is happiness? For inanimate and most animate objects there are finite and fairly straightforward answers to these questions. The purpose for each object is very limited.

Of all the living things on this planet, homo sapiens are the only ones that ask these questions and spend a lifetime searching for the answers. If the search is successful, the person is profoundly rewarded with a sense of well-being, happiness and fulfillment. If a person doesn’t find the answers he or she seeks, there can be an underlying sense of emptiness, helplessness, hopelessness and dissatisfaction with life.

What’s immensely freeing is recognizing that the answers to these questions are never exactly the same for each person. Nor are they bound by time, since your purpose evolves as you live. It’s not defined by what you have or don’t have. It’s not dependent on age, gender, race, status, location, situation or experience. It’s simply you being YOU, in this moment of time!

So ultimately, the answer I’ve found to the question, what is the purpose of life, is for each one of us to live the life you have authentically, without regrets, without shame, and without apology.

We have endless possibilities of what we do, where we go, what we see, who we become. The thing we all have in common is that we lead a purposeful life when we become aware of how we impact the lives of others. You may not think you’ve done anything noteworthy, but your smile brightens another’s day; your kind word starts a ripple of kindness; your example inspires; your wisdom provides guidance; your love strengthens the connection between all living things. You don’t have to be like Melinda Gates, Sonia Sotomayor, or Oprah Winfrey to fulfill a vital purpose on this earth. However, if you’re ambitious, go for it!

Perhaps it’s because we have so many choices, living with purpose becomes more challenging. We can second guess ourselves, wondering constantly if we’re making the best decision, worrying about what we’re missing out on. Just remember what Michel de Montaigne said, “The soul which has no fixed purpose in life is lost; to be everywhere is to be nowhere.”

As you live your life’s purpose, you will experience the gamut of emotions — happiness, joy, gratitude, sadness, anger, disappointment — none of which are “good” or “bad.”  They are simply fleeting states that inform you about the moment you’re living. Mindfully embrace each experience and learn what it’s telling you about yourself.

Try not to get caught up in pursuing happiness through escapism or hedonistic pleasures. Yes, they have their place and can be very enjoyable, if they’re used to refresh yourself. However, focusing solely on them exacts a toll on finding your deeper mental, emotional, and physical well-being. It isolates you from close social connections that are critical for nourishing you. A gutsy, strong woman, Helen Keller, came to the same conclusion. She said:

“True happiness…is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”

There are a multitude of studies that show that living YOUR purpose will benefit your long-term health and well-being. Here are a few of the benefits of living in alignment with your purpose:

When you take the time to find YOUR purpose and express it, you’ll absolutely love your life!

So I ask, “What is the purpose of life – for you?” Have you discovered it yet? Do you jump out of bed, fired with passion to live another day? If so, I’d love to hear about it on my Facebook page. If you’re still in the discovery part of your journey, I can help. Please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).

Recovering from Burnout — 18 Tips for Restoring Balance

Burnout syndrome endangers many people who work in high-pressure jobs. Learn to recognize its symptoms and how you can start recovering from burnout today.“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” ~ Lou Holtz

The doctors say there’s nothing wrong with you, except for a little high blood pressure and fatigue. But you know there’s something seriously off. You’re not yourself. You drag yourself out of bed. As you walk around the house, you mutter “I’m just so tired,” but you can’t figure out why. Could it be you’re suffering from burnout?

Are you uncharacteristically short-tempered? Has your positive attitude been replaced with critical comments? Do you exercise less? Drink more? Have you lost touch with friends?  What should take minutes now takes hours. Sounds more and more like burnout!

No, it’s not all in your head. Less than a week ago, the World Health Organization posted their 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases, listing burnout as an occupational phenomenon. They state that:

“Burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  • reduced professional efficacy.”

Burnout syndrome contributes to heart disease, diabetes, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and premature aging. This is not something you want to ignore and hope goes away!

Some professions, (e.g. medical, legal, teaching, social work, entrepreneurship), are more prone to causing burnout, because they demand all you have to give and then more! You could be fulfilling responsibilities that are clearly out of the bounds of your job description, without being compensated for them. You may be working in an unsupportive or toxic environment. Perhaps you’re asked to compromise personal values and beliefs. On top of that, you may have unrealistic expectations of yourself.

Did you notice WHO said burnout results from “stress that has not been successfully managed”? That should give you hope, because you can learn to manage stress and start recovering from burnout, with a few adjustments to your life. Right now, you may feel like you can’t do one more thing! But, please, take steps to get your life back in balance.

How do you start the process of recovering from burnout? It all begins with a practice of mindfulness to check in with yourself throughout the day. Here are some other suggestions:

  1. Learn stress management skills. Yoga, deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation techniques, reconnecting with nature, and utilizing the power of gratitude are all helpful.
  2. Tune into body sensations. Focus on your body’s response to movement. For example, stretching releases tightness and tension.
  3. Talk to someone. Find a good listener who isn’t going to try to “fix” you or judge you.
  4. Rekindle friendships. Phone someone and schedule a lunch date, or better yet, go for a walk with your friend and get some exercise, too.
  5. Limit contact with negative people. Your may have to work with them, but you don’t have to eat lunch or hang out after work with them.
  6. Learn to speak Positivity.
  7. Reframe the way you view work. Focus on how you help others.
  8. Set boundaries that support your valuesLearn to say “no!” and rediscover your happy place.
  9. Develop curiosity about emotional distress. Think of it as a learning tool.
  10. Take time off and get away. Ovid wisely said ~ “Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.”
  11. Stop the tech addiction. The world isn’t going to end because you completely disconnect from your devices at the end of each day!
  12. Feed your creative side and find a hobby.
  13. Get restorative sleep
  14. Make exercise a priority. Aim to exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes/day. Mix it up with activities you like.
  15. Eat healthfully. Just cut out one harmful item and add one healthful item at a time. It makes a difference.
  16. Avoid narcotics, nicotine and alcohol. Stimulants and depressants alter your brain chemistry. The temporary euphoria isn’t worth the negative effects.
  17. Find a better job. It took courage, but I have never regretted shifting my practice to coaching women!
  18. Work smarter. Hone your time management and organizational skills.

Jonathan Lockwood Huie reminds us, “Say NO to the demands of the world. Say YES to the longings of your own heart.”  Are you ready to make that shift? Does recovering from burnout feel too overwhelming — you don’t know where to start? I’d love to help you create a plan that gets you to where you want to be. Please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).

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