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Archive for February, 2009

quit-signTwo weeks into a new job, I realized I had bit off more than I could chew. I was working late every night, I was stressing about meeting deadlines, and I was generally feeling stressed and unhappy. What was I to do? My gut and intuition were telling me to quit, particularly before I became more invested in the company, colleagues, and projects, after which it would be harder to make a clean break.

 

I encountered a similar experience one year ago while working for a client that required jugging schedules, relying upon others to complete their work, and partnering with colleagues who did not respect my personal time — all factors I find particularly difficult to deal with. Despite my misery, I continued working on the project, ignoring my intuition and the multiple signs chauffeuring me away from the job, as well as the very real problems of my constant headaches, tense muscles, and restless sleep. If I continued on with this new job, I risked failing to benefit from the hard lessons learned from this previous experience. 

 

So why couldn’t I just pull the trigger and fire off the resignation e-mail? Rationally, I knew quitting was the right step for me; I could spend at least 20 minutes giving a detailed description of all the reasons I should quit. Yet I questioned whether the situation would improve and wondered whether I should try harder to make it work.

 

Several days of hemming and hawing later, I had an “ah-ha” moment while discussing the topic with my mom. My problem was that I equate quitting with failing. Quitting, to me, meant admitting that I was wrong. In this case, I was wrong for accepting the job, wrong for being unable to complete the task, wrong for disliking the work. But in reality, quitting is about taking control of your own life and setting clear parameters for yourself. When you realize that an action, project, friendship, or situation does not fall in line with your particular boundaries, you must take steps to self preserve.

 

That doesn’t mean that you were wrong for trying something new. We were not meant to do everything. We are not perfect. The best thing we can do for ourselves is clearly identify our own limits and balance them with new endeavors, recognizing that not all of our goals will be realized — and that’s okay. Instead of believing that quitting a venture that is too painful or not worth the effort means that you failed, consider quitting a step toward controlling your own life, digging the boundaries in deeper to secure your balance.

 

Personally, I value time with my family and friends more than I value a high-powered career riddled with stress and pressure. Since this new project was requiring longer than I wanted to give, it wasn’t right for me. It doesn’t matter how my husband, friends, or family might have been able to respond under the same conditions, since parameters and boundaries for balance are inherently personal. All that mattered was I became conscious that this particular career move was compromising my life/work balance. So I sent that resignation e-mail and, not surprisingly, immediately felt relief. I had succeeded.

 

Next time you find yourself in a situation that feels out of control, consider whether quitting would preserve your mental well-being, overall health, and balance. Quitting just may be the most successful step you can take.

 

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minestroneAs most of the country experiences frigid temperatures this winter, I suspect many people gravitate toward warming comfort foods like soups to take the edge off the chill in the air. But the store-bought cans of soups are loaded with sodium, often busting your recommended daily allotment of the salty seasoning in just one or two servings. That’s why I make my own soups with fresh ingredients, loads of nutrients, low sodium content, and almost no fat. One of my favorites is a chickpea and cannellini minestrone that takes about 30 minutes to prepare, but tastes like it has been cooking all day long.

 

Chickpea and Cannellini Minestrone

 

Ingredients:

Extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp. dried rosemary

1 medium onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 bay leaf

1 14-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2 14-oz. cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 medium carrot, chopped

2 celery ribs, chopped

1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes

8 cups vegetable broth

1 lb. kale or spinach

Salt and pepper

1 cup ditalini or tortellini pasta

Romano cheese

 

Directions:

Heat oil over medium heat and add rosemary, onion, garlic, and bay leaf over medium heat. Add beans, carrots, celery, tomatoes, broth, and kale. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Stir in raw pasta and return to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and cook for 10 minutes (or until vegetables are tender and pasta is al dente). Remove soup from heat and adjust seasonings, as needed. Sprinkle servings with Romano cheese.

 

Note: This soup freezes well, so you can make it once and enjoy it for dinner several times!

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knee-painI have had chronic knee pain for 13 years (I can’t believe it – 13 years!). My knees hurt after standing for 20 minutes or longer, so it obviously limits my activities. I have taken several steps to ease this pain, including two knee surgeries, multiple rounds of physical therapy, consultations with countless doctors, and acupuncture. The ancient Chinese tradition of acupuncture has by far been the most successful approach, but it has not completely eliminated my knee pain.

 

For the first 10 years or so of this chronic aching, I lamented my situation, rhetorically asked why this happened to me, and whined and moaned whenever I had to sit out some activity due to my “bad knees.” But my tune has changed during the last three years as I have begun to accept the persistent knee pain and explore whether it can add balance – and perhaps even a spiritual element – to my life.  

 

My knees are the weakest spot in my body, so when they start to hurt (particularly when I am not engaging in an activity known to cause pain), I know something is amiss within. I now take the cue to explore whether I am too stressed or unbalanced at that point in my life and then take various steps to regain my footing. My chronic knee pain even helped signal excess stress due to a demanding job that provided no satisfaction. Acupuncture had lessened my pain overall, yet I was still experiencing unexplainable pain in my knees at all times of the day and night. After some reflective thinking, I ended the job and my knee aches eased up again.

 

Although that might sound far-fetched, it’s true; and so my knees have become my internal compass, my guide to balance. I am now conscious of taking self care and don’t mind sitting down and resting, enjoying the moment and intentionally observing my surroundings. Rest is crucial to our well-being and overall health; however, we rarely make it a priority, instead often choosing to cram in every last to-do list item and social activity. My knees force me to recognize the importance of rest. I now schedule rest in between long stretches of errands, house cleaning, and exercising, for example. Knee pain also can be a sign that I need to stretch my muscles, particularly those in my legs and hips, to ease the pain, and also to engage in deep breathing and quiet moments where I turn my thoughts inward.

 

My bad knees have also created opportunities for me to cultivate new interests in exercises that I previously would not have explored. As my normal routine of stair-step machines, aerobic classes, and other hard-hitting activities became too painful, I was forced to slow down my workouts and re-evaluate my goals. I am now an avid walker and swimmer – two activities I considered too low impact to be worthwhile before my knees acted up. And I now love yoga and tai chi, which I credit for bringing more spiritual awareness and meditative practices into my life.

 

This limitation, as I formerly considered it, has actually become one of my keys to balance – warning me whenever I am about to step over the edge and tip the scale in the wrong direction.  Don’t get me wrong, I would love to completely eliminate my never-ending knee ache, and I continue to explore options to do so. In the meantime, I think the pain is a unique tool I have been given to help me achieve balance, and I continue to look to it as my gauge to enhance my quality of life.

 

Next time you feel the urge to lambaste your particular ailment, pause for a moment. What is your body trying to communicate? Perhaps you’ve found your own balance barometer…and maybe it is suggesting that changes are in order.

 

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salt-deodorants2When people think of salt, they usually conjure up images of salty foods like chips and pretzels or they think of the ubiquitous salt shaker always within arms’ reach on the dinner table. But salt also has a dirty little secret – it can be used as a natural deodorant.

I prefer to eat natural foods, use natural products to clean my house, and apply natural products to my body. So when my dad mentioned that salt was an effective odor killer, my interest was immediately piqued. I had already been experimenting with natural deodorants, all of which, annoyingly, left me smelling a bit ripe (I hate to admit it, but it’s true), so I started researching salt as an effective alternative deodorant.

Natural salt contains no aluminum additives, which is suspected to contribute to health problems like cancer, and it has no artificial or chemical ingredients. Aluminum-based compounds are frequently used as the active ingredient in mainstream antiperspirants, but some research has found the skin might absorb these compounds, causing hormonal imbalances that can lead to cancer. The research findings have been inconclusive, however.

If you want to err on the side of caution while researchers decipher the deodorant/antiperspirant-cancer link or if you just prefer natural products, I recommend checking out salt deodorant. Another bonus to salt – it is inexpensive and extremely long lasting. I  have been using the same salt deodorant for more than a year and I’ve barely made a dent in that rock. Plus it doesn’t leave a yellowish residue on your clothes.

Want to give salt a try? To use, slightly dampen the rock salt with water and apply as you normally would any regular deodorant. Salt deodorants are available at health food stores and most drugstores. My only warning associated with this uber natural odor eliminator is that it interacts with marble and other natural stones, leaving permanent marks. So if you have marble or granite anywhere in your bathroom like I do, you might want to place a towel over the counter. (I am quite clumsy and already damaged parts of the countertop before I discovered this little trick!)

Who knew a solid rock of salt is all you need to naturally keep the stinky body odors away?!

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new-years-resolutionsI don’t believe in making New Year’s resolutions. But I do believe in periodically reflecting upon my life and then determining which conscious steps I can take to improve it.

 

This might sound like oxymoronic thinking, but consider this: We all know several people who have made a resolution, only to break it shortly thereafter, often within the first two months of the year. New Year’s resolutions are so popular that the federal government keeps track of the most frequently made resolutions. (I know you’re curious, so here a few of the most common choices: lose weight, manage debt, get a better job, quit smoking, drink less alcohol, reduce stress.) Yet a Google search on “New Year’s Resolutions” results in 2 million Web sites promising to help you keep that resolution. Why do we continue to make resolutions but always need help with their upkeep?

 

It’s my personal belief that New Year’s resolutions fail because they are made for the wrong reason – a sense of guilt due to societal expectations and pressures. People might say something like this to themselves: “I don’t want everyone else to think that I am not interested in improving myself” or “I don’t want to be left out of the resolution conversation among my friends,” thus leading to an arbitrarily made resolution. We may not consciously connect all the dots and follow that same thought process, but the end results are the same – empty promises made with no real intention, or desire, to keep them.

 

These resolutions are driven by an outside, unrelated factor of a new calendar year. But there’s no passion and drive to actually implement improvements because they are not internally driven and created after introspection and reflection. No one is going to successfully quit smoking or lose those extra pounds just because we bought new calendars. Our bodies don’t understand these outside factors and, as a result, our spirits won’t respond with the follow-through needed for success.

 

Instead, we should resolve to improve our lives, health, relationships, habits, and well-being – but only after being personally stimulated to do so. I make conscious choices to change my life for the better all the time, but never starting on Jan. 1. Just in the last year, I have started eliminating sugar from my diet and incorporated Eastern medicine and philosophy into my life, which are two changes that have drastically improved my quality of life. All of these decisions and improvements have been successful and fulfilling and were driven from my internal desire to create a change for myself. None of these resolutions began in January.  

 

So spend some time really analyzing what aspects you want to improve in your life, do some research to decide which methods or steps you want to take to achieve that goal, and then wait until you are spiritually motivated to act upon that desire. Then, and only then, will you be successful.

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