Maria Connolly, LPC

Tag: Healthy Sleep

It’s vital to end sleepless nights to improve your mood, mental health, physical health, focus, creativity, resiliency, productivity, longevity and happiness

Create a Master Plan to Make 2019 Your Best Year Yet!

Create a Master Plan to make 2019 your best year yet! “Stay focused, go after your dreams and keep moving toward your goals.” ~ LL Cool

I can hardly believe we’re at the end of 2018 and that it’s time to get ready for a new year. It’s an exciting time to create the life you want and to define your success. To that end, throughout this month I’m going to be sharing useful tips so you can make 2019 your best year yet!

It’s always good to take some time and reflect on what you did well during the last year. This is when your journal will really be helpful, because we tend to minimize or forget our wins. Or you could write a letter to yourself about the lessons you’ve learned this year.

To up your game and maintain greater focus, it’s vital to create a Master Plan to make 2019 your best year yet. I find that some of my clients get sidetracked in the minutia of life and lose sight of their bigger picture. Where can you start and what needs to be given priority?

#1 Priority – Fuel your body, mind and spirit. If you don’t take care of yourself first, you will not be able to implement the following suggestions. A successful Master Plan will make your own physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellness top priority. Feel free to download my 7-Point Wellness Assessment and it will help you begin creating a healthier YOU today! 

#2 Priority – Make restorative sleep a priority. Your health, mental clarity and ability to be productive depend on it.

#3 Priority – Develop systems. Goals are fine, but if you want to create real change, it helps to have supportive systems in your life so that you perform important tasks automatically rather than relying solely on using willpower.

Before you proceed, please, take care of yourself with these priorities first! Then the following suggestions for developing and maintaining your focus will help you make 2019 your best year yet.

Remove distractions. Use the rest of this year to get rid of the clutter in your house, mind, desk, email inbox or schedule. This will help make room for any opportunity that arises.

Define your goals. When you define your goals according to a yearly, quarterly, monthly, and daily schedule, you’ll be less likely to lose your focus. Yes, that’s a lot of work to do before the year begins, but it’s worth it. It’s how you connect each day’s activities to your significant life goals.

Divide each goal into small tasks. Do you find yourself saying, “Where do I start?” “If” and “then” are small words, but they are indispensable tools in your productivity arsenal. Ask yourself, “If I want to accomplish my big goal Z, then what absolutely has to happen? If I want to work on Y, then I need to finish S, T, U, V, and W.”  Baby steps and microhabits are your best friends for making progress.

Work on hard things when you’re fresh and energized. Days can pass without accomplishing much toward your big goals, if you don’t learn to work to your strengths. Whether you’re a morning person or not, be selfish and keep the first hour of the day for yourself. Start with something that gives you an immediate win, like meditation, exercise and setting your intentions for the day. As you’re feeling confident and centered, you can turn to working on the hardest project of the day. Leave running errands and repetitive tasks for lower-energy moments.

Create and stick to your boundaries. Especially if you work at home, you’ll benefit from creating boundaries about when you answer emails, the phone, the doorbell or when your family can interrupt you. I like this reminder from Steve Jobs:

“Focusing is about saying No.”     

Hold breaks as sacred. Under Oregon law, the typical adult employee who work eight hours must receive at least a 30-minute meal period and two ten-minute rest breaks. Yet many people who work for themselves will not treat themselves that kindly. They push until late at night, skip meals, and work through break times. And their bodies hurt! It’s time to listen to your body and heal yourself from that abuse.

Reward yourself. Celebrate every small or big win each day. Get up and dance, grab a latte, cuddle your cat, buy a flower. Make each win memorable, because that’s how you’re going to know at the end of the year that you really did make 2019 your best year yet!  

If you’re tired of going it alone and are looking for an accountability partner, please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype). Let’s work through the rough patches so you can make 2019 your best year yet!  

Daily Taking a Break from Work –The Secret to Innovation and Excellence

Daily taking a break from work may seen foreign to you, yet it’s really the secret to greater innovation, performance excellence, and a life filled with joy.“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” ~ Anne Lamott

Every day we’re bombarded with advice to become more organized, to get more done, to write endless to-do lists as we break big projects into smaller portions. So the idea of daily taking a break from work may sound strange to you. And while I wholehearted support the concepts of being organized and prioritizing to get things done, there has to be a balance in life.

If you feel as if you have to be busy every moment of every day, and you don’t think you’re successful unless you have a lot of accomplishments – and you’re in an endless cycle of “Check! Done that! Move on! Check! Done that! Move on!” – perhaps it’s time to reassess what you’re really accomplishing.

Actually, scheduling some downtime and taking a break from work on a daily basis will increase your ability to come up with innovative ideas and creative solutions. However, a more important reason to take a break is that if you don’t, it’s only a matter of time before you experience burnout, which could damage your body and spirit so badly that they’re not able to fully recover.

So as a friend, let me ask you: When was the last time you really disconnected from your business and responsibilities? When you didn’t listen to anything but the buzzing of the bees? When you didn’t watch anything but the clouds floating by? When you didn’t plan anything except…well, you didn’t plan anything at all! How often do you get to experience total creative silence as you simply practice being in and enjoying the moment? If you can’t remember, you’re way overdue. You are, no doubt, already on cognitive overload.

Think about it: You know you need to eat every day, right? You do it, not only because it’s enjoyable, but you expend the calories in your output of energy. And your body automatically knows to breathe in after exhaling. Why? Because you use up your supply of oxygen and your body demands more. As children, we knew how to play…when did that change? When did people forget to take breaks and enjoy life?

You constantly give all day long. You push to do things for your family, your friends, and your job. Yet if you aren’t regularly taking a break from work, you’ll run out of resources. Your body and brain needs downtime to repair itself. Not only is a good night’s sleep essential for refreshing yourself, but taking a little bit of time off during the day is necessary too.

The benefits of taking a break from work are countless. Your mood will improve. Your stress level will go down. Your energy will return. Your heart will be healthier. Your creativity and productivity will skyrocket. Your relationships will flourish. You’ll do your most excellent work if you’re regularly taking a break from work.

Isn’t it time to give your body and brain the space and time it needs to process all that you’re taking in every day? Your body may already be telling you it needs a break…are you listening? Unfortunately most of us have learned to ignore these messages from our bodies. Please, download my free 7-Point Body Wellness Assessment. Go to a quiet place and give yourself the gift of reconnecting with yourself this month. You owe it to yourself.

Restorative Sleep – Don’t Let a Hectic Schedule Rob You of Its Healing Power

Get restorative sleep, the secret to achieving success, as you function at your best, make good decisions and work in harmony with your own circadian rhythmIn our busy lives, we have to schedule important appointments, or they won’t get done. Are you putting yourself on your schedule and honoring that designated time? It’s important to do so. One of the most important things to schedule is restorative sleep. Your success hinges on getting enough restorative sleep so you function at your best.

But what if sleep is on your schedule, but your body and mind just won’t let you fall asleep or stay asleep all night long? Is there anything you can do about it? YES!

Our system likes routine and predictability. Going to bed and getting up at the same time – even during the weekend – is vitally important. It’s the only way to get in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm). Consistency is crucial.

And if you need an alarm clock, it’s a good indicator you need to go to bed earlier. You should wake up naturally without an alarm. Altering your schedule by even 1 hour can throw you off, so if you need to make changes, do it slowly in 15 minute increments over the span of a week.

If you need to make up for a late night, opt for a 15-20-minute daytime nap rather than sleeping in. This pays off your sleep debt without disturbing your natural sleep-wake rhythm.

Why not use an App like Sleep Cycle to track your sleep patterns and see what’s really going on. It even has an alarm to wake you up at the top of your sleep cycle, so you’re feeling refreshed. That’s so much better than being startled out of a deep sleep by your alarm clock.

Sleeping difficulty is a symptom of an imbalance. Although sometimes it is a symptom of organic problems, more often than not it is an indication of poor habits. One of the biggest culprits that hinders restorative sleep is not getting enough sunlight at the right time and getting too much artificial light at the wrong time.

Melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone, is controlled by light exposure that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Your brain releases more melatonin causing sleepiness when it’s dark and less when it’s light causing wakefulness.

When the sun is up, take advantage of it!

  • Expose yourself to sunlight upon waking up. Look out a sunny window, take your coffee outside, get dressed and go for a walk. Anything to get some sun. 
  • Spend more time outside. Take your work breaks outside in sunlight.
  • Exercise outside or at least during the daylight hours.
  • Let as much natural light into your home or workspace as possible.
  • If necessary, use a light therapy box. This simulates sunshine and can be especially useful during the short, rainy, winter days we have in Oregon.

When the sun goes down, start winding down your day. Of course, during the shorter days of winter, that’s not practical. You’ll have to rely on indoor lighting to extend your day. Just remember that the light emitted from your phone, tablet, computer, or TV is disruptive to your circadian cycle. So, try to avoid these screens two hours before bedtime and replace them with relaxing activities such as music, reading a “real” paper book, listening to audio books, meditating, planning the next day, and talking with friends.

It’s also helpful to use a dim nightlight in the hallway or bathroom for any nighttime trips. And make sure your bedroom is darkened. Even cover your clock, if it emits light.

One other thing – with all the “health” fads people try, it’s important to note that we need protein and good fat (i.e. grass-fed butter, coconut oil, MCT oil) at dinner. Your body needs it for repairing your muscles and immune system overnight. If you have trouble digesting proteins at night, use enzymes to make them more digestible.
Restorative sleep is one of the most important healing practices and needs to be cultivated, supported and made a priority in order to cultivate wellness. Are you tired of being tired? Does something feel out of alignment in your life but you just can’t put your finger on what it is? Contact me about one-on-one coaching options that will help you enhance your wellbeing so you can wake up excited about each new day!

Sleep is just one indicator of your wellness. There are seven we all need to be mindful of. If you haven’t taken the 7-Point Body Wellness Assessment yet, please do so right now. Click here to download your free copy.

Learn more sleeping tips here.

You Can Be Merry and Be Healthy – It’s Okay to Take Care of Yourself!

it's okay to take care of yourselfDon’t you love the holiday season with its bright lights, lovely music, and pleasant aromas of pine trees and baked goodies? It’s such a festive time of the year!

Yet all that glistens is not gold, as the saying goes. There are inevitable stresses during this time of year. Rather than writing a typical “how to relieve your holiday stress” article, I’m sharing something you really need to hear…

But first…Which of the follow stress triggers really get you down the most? (Please come over to my Facebook Page and let’s share.)

  • Is it feeling trapped by obligations, being pushed beyond what you can physically and emotionally handle?
  • Is it spending beyond your budget, thinking you’ll deal with it later, when in reality the bills nag at you, robbing you of joy?
  • Is it falling into unhealthy patterns due to your history, family traditions and personal beliefs?
  • Is it being thrown together with a family member who brings you pain?
  • Is it seeing an empty place where a loved one was last year, but isn’t this year?
  • Is it the disruption to your routine that allows little down time that makes you crazy?
  • Is it feeling guilty for eating and drinking things you normally wouldn’t?

Your ability to handle all of these stress triggers revolves around one thing…your self-care. And I’m sure you’ve already read plenty of articles of how to deal with holiday stress that tell you to do this and do that. What you really need is permission to take care of yourself – to be told it’s not selfish to nurture your own wellbeing. So let me reassure you…

It’s okay to set limits to what you can do physically and emotionally.

It’s okay to set a budget for what you can spend and then stick to it.

It’s okay to do things differently than everyone else.

It’s okay to start a new family tradition.

It’s okay to schedule alone time to think about how you can make even a slight change in the coming year.

It’s okay to be more deliberate about your choices.

It’s okay to indulge a little.

It’s okay to treat yourself to a massage or a brief getaway to gain some breathing room.

It’s okay to walk away from family squabbles and go for a walk or to the gym.

It’s okay to insist on getting to bed at a reasonable hour.

It’s okay to bring new meaning into your holiday: identifying why and what are you celebrating… family, connection, or spiritual growth.

It’s okay to take time out to do breathing exercises to center and balance yourself when you feel tense.

It’s okay to view friends as family, if your family has let you down.

It’s okay to say, “No! Not this year”.

Didn’t you feel the stress flow away as you read, “it’s okay”? We all need reassurance that we can choose what’s okay for us.  In the same manner, we respectfully and lovingly allow others to have the same freedom of choice. As each person calmly explains their point of view, it can promote peace and greater awareness – the very foundation of being merry and being healthy. And that’s what I wish for you. Have a happy holiday season everyone! See you on my Facebook Page.

Sleeping Tips: Seven Ways to Sleep Like a Baby Again

sleeping like a baby tipsNothing is as peaceful or sweet as a tiny baby sleeping in his or her crib. Do you remember the last time you had a refreshingly, uninterrupted night’s sleep and you could say, “I slept like a baby”? When babies are deeply asleep, nothing disturbs them. Is it possible for you to sleep that soundly again?

As sleep expert James Maas, Ph.D., author of Sleep for Success and Power Sleep says, “When it comes to getting rest, adults should do things more like infants do. Adults are always trying to work both ends of the clock, staying up late, getting up early. They treat sleep as a luxury and it is not. It’s a necessity and babies already know that.”

What are some sleeping tips we should learn from babies?

1. Make sleep a priority.

When babies are tired, they go to sleep. As adults, we try to cram as much into a day, often sacrificing sleep to other less important pursuits, like watching that late night TV show and getting up ultra early the next morning to catch up on something we neglected to do. If you want to sleep like a baby, the smart thing is to prioritize what’s important to you and rearrange your activities around the 7 to 9 hours you need for a full night’s sleep

2. Stick to your sleep schedule.

If you don’t want a cranky baby, you honor the baby’s routine. By keeping the same bedtime and wake up time each day, even on the weekends, you’ll have more energy and will bounce back more quickly from the occasional late or sleepless night.

3. Initiate a wind-down ritual before bedtime.
Most parents prepare their babies for bed by giving them a bath, reading a story or singing a lullaby. If you want to sleep like a baby, you can benefit from a similar wind-down ritual. Schedule 30 to 60 minutes every evening to allow your body to transition from the day’s stress to a night of inactivity. Turn off the electronics and TV and keep them out of the bedroom. Meditate. Do some light reading. Listen to music. Take a warm bath. Write in your gratitude journal. Clear your mind by jotting down tomorrow’s to-do list, putting it on the table and mentally walking away from it.

4. Don’t obsess about sleep. When a baby can’t sleep, mom rocks her to sleep while humming a restful tune. If you’re lying awake, use an APP to play soothing music and schedule it to go off in 45 minutes. Or it’s fine to turn the light on and read a few pages in your book or use the time for meditation until you fall asleep.

5. Don’t hit the snooze button. Babies sleep until they wake up naturally. Rather than artificially forcing yourself to awaken, go to sleep earlier, sleep uninterruptedly until you absolutely must get up, then get out of bed when the alarm goes off. In time, if you’re getting enough sleep, you won’t even need the alarm clock.

6. Exercise throughout the day

When babies are awake, they’re constantly moving, strengthening their muscles for the day they can run around the house. Too many of us have sedentary jobs. Then we go home mentally exhausted only to sit around some more. Because exercising right before bedtime isn’t the best practice, doing some sort of physical activity throughout the day will make you tired enough to sleep. As little as three, 10 minutes bursts of exercise throughout the day – like walking, climbing stairs, and stretching – can help you sleep better at night.

7. Watch what you consume

A sugary drink before bedtime can cause your baby to be agitated and hyperactive. What we feed on physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually affect how well we sleep. Even the quality of our relationships with family, friends, and business associates will dictate how well you sleep. So take some time this week to mindfully identify how your daily decisions affect your quality of sleep.

Sleep is so important because it’s the only way for our bodies to energize, reboot and regenerate. Babies have it right. Sadly, when we grow up we get away from the healthiest routine.  However, we can always improve by making little incremental changes. You can’t expect to fall asleep and wake up feeling refreshed by drastically altering your sleep/wake up times. Shift things by 15 minutes every week. Go to sleep 15 minutes earlier and get out of bed 15 minutes earlier. Over the course of a few weeks you’ll ease into a new schedule.

Sleep is just one indicator of your wellness. There are seven we all need to be mindful of. If you haven’t taken the 7-Point Body Wellness Assessment yet, maybe it’s time. Click here to download your free copy.

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