It’s two days after Thanksgiving, and I know what you’re thinking . . .

MH900448550You just spent two days eating way too much and you’ve been beating-up on yourself for almost as long. And, you are now making promises to yourself you can’t possibly or won’t keep. “I’m not going to eat anything at all today.” “I’m going to fast and just drink liquids.” “I’m going to go to the gym right after I go shopping.”  “I don’t care how cold it is , I’m going for a walk.” Problem is you do care, and you probably won’t.

Or, you’ve already thrown in the towel and decided to spend the next few weeks eating anything and everything you want, since you’ve already blown your diet and your good intentions. Your new plan is to worrying about it in the New Year.

If I’m reading your mind, before you think another thought, take a deep breath.

That’s good, now take another one. Belly breathe, which means you not only inhale through your nose and fill your chest with air, you fill your belly as well.

Now, simply note “I probably ate more than I should have.” Followed by another deep, belly-filling breath. “Yup, I did.” “I kind-of wish I hadn’t done that, because now I feel bad about it.” And, breathe . . . take two more deep breaths.

The deep breathing gives your brain enough time to focus on what you are saying and feeling, and will relax you even if were feeling guilty or frustrated a few seconds before. Relaxing your brain also gives it time to readjust and switch gears, and that’s a good thing.

Now tell yourself something positive. “Hmm, I’ve been in a tough place before and I have gotten myself out of it. I bet I can do it again.”  And, breathe. Try to keep the deep breathing going, as it not only relaxes you, it breaks the negative spiral your brain is used to going into at this point. (Oh, why do I even try. I always overeat, I can’t lose weight, Why do I even bother, Besides, my family just metabolizes food different, other people eat more than me and they are skinny; it’s not fair. . . )

And, breathe.

You’re right, it’s not fair, and I’m sorry you can’t just keep eating everything you want. It’s hard to pass-up all that food, especially during the holidays, but you can do it.

Start by picturing yourself at your ideal weight. You know, when you can slip into your skinny jeans and zip them up with no trouble. Or you can wear that dress you love and not feel you have to add a jacket or shawl to cover your jiggling bits, wherever they are. Or, you can run around with the kids and not feel winded or tired.

The more detailed and real the picture is in your mind, the more likely you are to achieve it. (Accessorize it – I know exactly which jeans and which boots I’m wearing!) The key is to create the picture that works for you – you will know what works for you when it feels real and makes you feel good at the same time.

Now, mentally give that you a hug.  Do it, because that is the you that you truly want to embrace. The you, you know deep down inside you can be.

And, breathe.

Now figure out what you can do today, right now to take a step in that direction. Throw out the leftovers, find your walking/running/hopping jumping shoes, and put them on.  Or simply head up and down the stairs a few times. Do what ever you have to do to set yourself on the path you want to be on.

And, remember to breathe, deep and long and often as you go, and to bring the picture of you, the you you know you can be, wherever you go. Every time temptation strikes – and it will – picture that you. When you wake up or before you go to sleep – breathe long, and deep, and slow and picture that you. Make it a part of you, and it will be!

Now you have a plan and you are not alone. The breathing and the picture of you are the perfect holiday gift to give yourself. After all, ’tis the season for believing, why not start by believing in yourself?

You can do it!

5 P’s for Perfect Party Planning

Young Woman Holding Christmas Gifts‘Tis the season when holiday parties dot or engulf our calendars. While many are fun and festive, thinking about attending others may be adding to our holiday stress. 

Have you ever dreaded going to a family, office, or neighborhood holiday gathering?

Or, maybe you’ve worried that your own event might not turn out “right.”

You are not alone. Attending and hosting holiday gatherings is a big contributor to holiday stress; accepting and sending invitations can make us feel like jumping for joy or running for cover!  

Not to worry, my “5 P’s” can help you reduce your holiday happening woes.

“5 P’s for Perfect Party Planning”

1. PRIORITIZE

If you are dreading attending an event, not going may be a perfectly valid option. If your schedule is too full, and you need to prioritize time with family or you’re just not up to it, let the host or hostess know as far in advance as possible. Last minute cancellations, except for true emergencies, are a no-no and just add to everyone’s holiday stress.  If you can’t make it, after sending or calling with your regrets, send a short, but sweet email, FB message, note, or card as a follow-up, and then try to arrange to share time together after the holiday rush. The goal is to let them know you care, even though you can’t be there.

2. PREDICT BETTER

Thinking about a positive outcome – even for a few minutes, will make you happier than worrying about a negative outcome for weeks, days or hours in advance – predict success! Parties and life get better when we predict better. Take a minute or two and picture the party working out great. Picture yourself leaving the soiree thinking, “Wow, that wasn’t so bad. In fact, I had a great time.” or “OMG, that was wonderful.” Envision whatever works best for you; the more details you create, the better. If you’re hosting an event, and are nervous about how it will go, picture everyone complimenting your food, decorations, (or whatever you really want them to compliment) and telling you what a great time they are having.

3. PREPARE – CREATE PLAN B, C, D

If you fear the folks or the situation, giving yourself options in advance will help you relax. And if you are creative with your “blanks”, they may provide you with a few well-needed laughs. Come-up with what you will do if you do find yourself getting frustrated or bored. “When I start feeling ___________ (frustrated, angry, annoyed, impatient, bored, out-of-place, etc.) I will ___________ . Fill-in the blank with a series of workable options: check on the kids; compliment someone; help with the food or dishes; play with the kids; walk the dog; ask about vacations or recipes; sneak a peek at presents; dance; sing; play the piano, or move to a new chair or room (without making your exit too dramatic!) Be sure to include some fun and out-of-the-box options that you would never or can’t do, but make you smile: standing on your head, releasing a protective shield, spinning like a top, floating above the guests –  get creative, have fun with it!

4. PAY ATTENTION

Shifting your attention from your worries to the eyes of others is a great way to focus on what really matters. When people are talking to you don’t worry about what you are going to say in response or look above their heads or around the room, simply notice their eyes. Take a second to really look into their eyes. This small, but meaningful gesture will let them know you are really listening and will bring you fully into the moment, which can lift your mood and theirs. You’ll be amazed how relaxing and rewarding it will be. (Most of us think we are already doing this, but more often than not, our minds and our eyes are focused on something else.)

5. PUT OTHERS IN THE LIMELIGHT

Focusing on what you can learn about others can lead to rich conversations and connections. I use this strategy almost every time I attend a party where there will be lots of folks I don’t know or don’t know well. Although I’m an extrovert, I’m a closet introvert at parties. I’ve done PR and special events for years, and I’m completely comfortable in those realms, but for some reason small talk at social gatherings is often difficult for me.

I’ve learned to take a few minutes before going to a party to think of at least three things I have enjoyed learning about folks in the past. I love finding out what people like to do in their spare time, what they enjoy about their professions, where they grew-up, or where they like to go on vacation. Another favorite topic, especially at this time of year, is to ask about their favorite Thanksgiving or Christmas or how they celebrated the holidays as children. I always learn something new and interesting. Before you head to the party, remind yourself that if you feel nervous or self-conscious, you will ask about  ________, __________, ___________. With those thoughts in mind, it will be easier to shine the light on others and to keep it shining as you ask follow-up questions about what they’ve shared. When we put others in the limelight, we are giving them a precious gift – being heard. It’s a priceless gift, something everyone wants, and we can deliver it anytime, anywhere.

Each of the “5 P’s for Perfect Party Planning” is cost and calorie-free, and will enhance your experience at any event. The “5 P’s” work so well because they put the emphasis on people not the party, which is a warm and wonderful way to celebrate the holidays.

P.S. This is an updated post from 2010. Since holiday happenings, happen each year, I thought I’d make this column an annual event, as well. Do you have tips that have worked well for you? If so please share them! We’d love to hear about your best holiday party experiences. 

Social Media Quick Holiday Pick-Me-Up

Patrice Koerper  Life Coach Wishful Thinking Quick Pick Me upWhen the weather outside is frightful or the pace of the holiday season is not-so-delightful. Or, when your thoughts and reactions are more Scrooge-ish than Tiny Tim, why not enjoy a social media quick pick-me-up? Here’s how:

  1. Go to You Tube and find some holiday or soft music to get you in a relaxed mood. I enjoyed listening to this while I enjoying my pick-me-up, but the choice is yours.
  2. Go to Facebook and instead of posting or reading, begin looking through some of your oldest albums and photos. Relive all the fun of those moments with family and friends by letting the warm fuzzy feelings sink in. (You are releasing all sorts of wonderful endorphins.)
  3. Create a FB Flashback by sharing a photo or two with the friends in the photo, reminding them of the fun you were having or how happy you are that are in your life. (Private or public sharing, again, your choice.)
  4. Tweet about how happy you are feeling.
  5. Go back to whatever you were doing with a smile on your face, and maybe even a song in your heart.
  6. Repeat as necessary.

Social media to the rescue. Happy Holidays!

A less stressed holiday season

Patrice Koerper Life Coach Wishful Thinking Works (2)It’s time to create a less stressed holiday season for you and your family with my foolproof holiday survival plan!

I first shared this post in 2010, and for years made it was my annual Monday-after Thanksgiving post, but since the holiday season seems to be starting earlier and earlier each year, I thought I would share it with you today  . . .

Many, many years ago in the wee hours of the morning, after yet another exhausting holiday baking binge, I had a groggy-eyed epiphany: I was ruining my holiday! My husband and two young sons didn’t care if they had dozens and dozens of homemade, hand-twisted candy cane and other complicated cookies, nor did they care if we had the “perfect” tree or artfully wrapped gifts, I did. What they did care about – and I wasn’t giving them – was a well-rested, stress-free happy wife and mother.

I was the problem. Don’t you hate when that happens?  The good news is: the problems we create – we can fix, and since they are the only ones we really have any control over, they are a great place to put our energy.

After a few hours of sleep (and an attitude adjustment), I came up with a holiday survival plan that was simple and successful; I gathered everyone together and asked the following questions:

What do you need to have the holidays feel wonderful to you?

  1. What cookie do you want?
  2. What food must be served?
  3. What decoration must be displayed?
  4. What activity must be included?

I was shocked when my husband and sons quickly agreed they only wanted chocolate chip cookies – no Christmas cookies? Fortunately, I ignored my born-to-bake Polish upbringing, and my sons and their Dad began a baking tradition that has outlasted high school, college, divorce, and grandchildren.

Next, they all agreed that visiting Santa and having lunch downtown was tops for them; I threw in a night-time activity at a nearby park, and our schedule was set. (Church services and Christmas Eve and Christmas Day family gatherings were a given for us.)

Favorite decorations turned out to be things we had made in earlier years. (The tree was another given, but we later simplified decorating it, as well.) The selected dinner dishes were simple to make: my husband and I voted for standing rib-roast and Yorkshire pudding (much easier to make than it sounds), and the boys wanted plain-old mashed potatoes and green bean casserole.

Problem solved – everyone was included, happy and satisfied. Oh, I had my internal struggles about giving up my “perfect” holiday, but one stress-free season made a believer out of me. I quickly realized I was focusing my attention on the people I loved and the things that made each of us happy, which gave me the perfect holiday I had been seeking.

If you would like to create your own satisfying and low-stress holiday zone, here’s how:

  1. Adapt my questions to your needs.
  2. Ask your loved ones.
  3. Do those things and very little else.
  4. Then sit back and enjoy your holiday.

Now wasn’t that easy? Happy Holidays!

Developing mindfulness

Patrice Koerper  Life Coach Wishful Thinking MindfulnessIncreasing your mindfulness is a great way to center, relax, and refresh yourself.

Becoming more mindful or more aware, will help you focus on what really matters to you and will allow you to live or define your purpose and to ignite your passion for living with purpose. It can provide you with new energy, enthusiasm, and motivation.

Like the words of a good friend or a caring, loving parent or mentor, mindfulness can pave the way or provide a sense of permission to help you erase any lingering doubts that you have the right to live with passion and purpose.

Mindfulness takes practice, but is a warm and kind way to treat yourself, to allow your dreams to surface and grow, and to give thanks and wings to who you really are or want to be.

Here’s how to develop daily mindfulness . . .

As you go through your day and doubts or recriminations enter your mind, stop what you are doing, take a deep, slow, breathe and gently tell yourself “As I follow my passion, the world becomes a better place.”

If that particular sentence doesn’t work for you, create one that does and use it throughout the day to build your confidence and to create space in your mind and heart for peace and tranquility and new pathways for positivity. The more meaningful the sentence you create is to you, the more likely you will be to remember and use it. Using it will create the space your need to grow more mindful by allowing you to control what you choose to focus on any moment.

Living with purpose can be as personal as wanting to be the best person, friend, staff member, mom, sister, aunt, dad, brother, or uncle you can be. It can be as global as righting social wrongs and inequalities and saving lives. It can be fueled by the fun of inspiring others to learn, sing, dance, paint, read or write or the creative satisfaction of doing those things yourself.

True passion is like slipping into your favorite jeans or pajamas. It’s not fueled by anger or resentment. It’s based on understanding, compassion and joy. Pursuing your passion, feels good – or at least worthwhile – even when challenges arise. True passion and purpose provide the energy and creativity to move forward or around obstacles and provide a soft place for you to fall at the end of each day. Living with purpose it not always easy, but it is rewarding.

You alone get to choose your purpose. And, as long as you choose, you can’t get it wrong, because if you choose it for yourself you are on the right path.

This post was inspired by mindful moments of peace and passion experienced while listening to 21 Days of Gratitude, for which I am very thankful! My favorite sentence thus far is –“With profound gratitude, I live my purpose.”

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