How to create a healthy relationship with yourself

How to create a healthy relationship with yourself

   Life. The day-to-day busy mom (who also happens to have a job) routine. Mornings that look like this: the alarm goes off, as if yelling at somebody, at 6 o’clock. Find the phone and snooze it at least once; get up and make the coffee, prepare breakfast for the kid; wake up everybody; eat; clean; wash; shower; dress; get out of the house and run – the kid needs to be in time or else … Rush to the subway station – there are so many others there, with the same already tired faces. Get to work. Grab a coffee. Begin. Than the day unfolds. Work – lots of projects all happening at the exact same time; people sending e-mails, always requesting, demanding, asking for stuff… conference calls, meetings. Stress. You take lunch break but somehow you end up talking about work as well. The day finally ends – you rush to the door, forgetting the keys or the access card on the desk. You go get them and than rush to the door once again. Get the kid. Go home. Do chores. Prepare dinner. Clean, wash, shower and finally, when the kid is asleep, when dishes are already washed and put in their place, when the kitchen is clean and the entire house is in good order … you do not know what to do with yourself. Because you see, doing the exact same thing day in and day out has left you exhausted. The connection that you had with yourself has been weakened if not lost entirely. You are 30, almost 40 or 40 something but you feel already so old. And lost – there is no link between who you really are and what you do, there is no real relationship between you (the physical body doing all that) and you (the soul that came on this Earth for reason). Being so many different things for so many different people made you lose … you from the equation.

   How can you establish connection with yourself once again? Where do you start? How can you win the war with your own abandonment? I have been there. I am still there sometimes. I still struggle but these days things got a lot easier and less painful. Therefore, I can safely say that it can be done. These are my “hacks”:

  1. Break the cycle – each morning decide on a “me” time during that particular day. And announce it to the world – meaning to the significant other and the kid: Today Mommy will need a good half of an hour/an hour/whatever for herself. And do it consistently. This is not a joke or a matter to be taken easy – this matters, you matter and so you deserve all the care and attention you can give to yourself, even if the available time is limited and you still have to do the Mom stuff and the professional woman stuff as well. You can fill that 30 hour/hour with activities that give you peace of mind (like meditation or yoga), with activities that give you a sense of self-care or pampering (like a massage or doing your nails) or with activities for the mind (like reading book or watching a documentary).

  2. Plan for your own well-being – schedule it, write it down in your planner/outlook or on paper if you have to, but mark it down somehow. Consider it an important task with a deadline attached. Change your way of thinking and invest some time and some resources in yourself. Even if the resources are scarce – you can use them wisely. Time and money invested in yourself are never lost. The return on investment is huge!

  3. Treat yourself with love – even when you fail your own expectations, do not punish yourself for your mistakes – even if they are foolish or childish, and strive to grow, not to be perfect. Change your self-related language and you will be able to change your life. Because you are important, you matter and you deserve to be acknowledged.

  Lots of sunshine to you all!

Near 40 Dana

How not to lose your mind in a crazy day – 6 easy hacks

How not to lose your mind in a crazy day – 6 easy hacks

   Sometimes life is overwhelming: things happen fast, unexpectedly, and you lack time for all the things you have to do. And there are not enough hours in the day and not enough days in a week. It seems that no matter how much you try to adjust and accommodate everything happening in your life drains you of all energy and stamina. And my response to that is … binging usually. On food, on coffee, on chocolate … There is clear connection between comfort and food. And there is a clear connection between comfort and coffee. And I do not smoke anymore. Sometimes I wish I did though now I cannot stand the smell of cigarettes.

   But there are things you can do to lower stress and not lose your mind completely in a busy, crazy week:

  1. Buy yourself some flowers so as your desk looks pretty and colourful; maybe also allow yourself a treat – a good coffee, a piece of chocolate (just one, not the whole bar!);

  2. Give yourself a 5 minute break at least once a couple of hours or so and stretch, walk, go somewhere private and meditate, anything that gets you standing and away from your desk would work;

  3. Take your lunch break even you are really, really tempted to eat in front of your laptop with one hand on the keyboard and your eyes on the inbox; this especially generates more stress in your life; so just stop doing that – it will make a tremendous difference if you do;

  4. Walk at least 30 minutes a day – just walk and think happy thoughts; relieve the tensions; yesterday I stopped and watched a beautiful orange sunset;

  5. Start being mindful, read about it, document yourself; you will find that being mindful really works – you will realize that we are here on this Earth to experience, to live, to grow; it isn’t meant to be stressful;

  6. Daydream at least once a day – yes – daydream! Think about all the things you want to achieve in your life, picture yourself already there; it is a powerful motivator.

  Lots of sunshine to you all!

  Near 40 Dana

How to build a lifestyle -Part II

How to build a lifestyle

Part II

   Practical things come in handy, don’t they? Building your own, unique lifestyle, one that you enjoy and love living is – I think – a question of understanding the importance of mindfulness and conscious choices. Analyze your life as if you were a mere spectator; analyze your habits, your ways of expressing yourself, your reactions to day to day experiences. In order to build something different, you need first to understand the present as it is.

   Start to change from the inside by searching your true, deep self and pushing it out, letting it being expressed in your way of facing day’s challenges, the way you talk, the way you interact with people around you. Are you happy with the way things are? You most probably are not – at least not 100%. What can you change to make it better? Maybe you could be more calm? Learn to express your emotions without going over the top with anger or frustration? Can you be more compassionate toward others? Well, if there are some aspects that can be improved, make a plan to address the issues. The thing is: you need to – first of all – be aware of all those features that need to be adapted and changed and than you need to be opened to do the work in order to shift them in the right direction!

   Shape your environment – at the office and at home. You can keep on your desk in the office some small objects that help you get though the day – maybe some pictures, flowers, a cool pen and notebook … I know that some companies have pretty drastic policies regarding the office space, but I am sure that you can find a way make your desk look more appealing and fun.

   Look, this is mine:

   The same thing applies to your home – maybe you do not have the money or the time to redecorate each and every room in the house, but how about having some corners re-arranged so as to be visually stimulating and to make you feel good?

   Listen to music – the one you like, the one that inspires you, and the one that has message preferably (for my taste that is). Try to discover new artists that maybe have something to say. Listen to classical music – if you did not already. There is a real treasure out there, and there are so many free resources!

   Dress the way you like, choose your clothes to be as comfortable as they can be, to make you feel good about your body – if asymmetric dresses are not trendy anymore, I am happy to say I still fancy them and I do not care if fashion decided that I should like maxi floral stuff (which I do not like, not on me anyway, as I am rather short and not so skinny anymore…). Mix and match: buy clothes that work together with other items that you have in your wardrobe. Versatile is the word – and it is useful, believe me.

   If you are almost 40, for sure you can do with a bit of help. Some mascara maybe? Or a bit of concealer? Blush perhaps? Anybody can do it. There are so many resources nowadays! If you did not master the art of make-up, you can learn a bit right now, in front of your computer: you just google it. If you want to. If you do not want to, that is fine also.

   Realize you uniqueness and … take a chance: you are different so why not put that in the most favorable light? You do not have to follow the latest fashion; you do not have to be trendy; you can be … you. That is all. You are enough.

   Your lifestyle is your choice. The most important thing is realizing that you are the master of the show. You make the choices; you need to be aware and present each step of the way.

Lots of sunshine to you all!

Near 40 Dana

How to build a lifestyle-part I

How to build a lifestyle

Part I

   Living is not that easy … Years pass by and we grow older, but sometimes it takes ages to discover that we forgot the journey and we are just chasing something, day in, day out, something that we cannot define, nor attain. My frustration grew exponentially when I realized that it happened to me. It seemed like each day was beginning and then ending in the same way – with no joy, other than my family, and with no other goal than to tend to the obvious chores, to go to work, come home – do more chores, eat, sleep and all of that over again.

   It did not occur to me – for many, too many years – that life is a journey and not a destination. It did not occur to me that enjoying the present, loving the journey, is actually the goal! And when I finally woke up, I was already almost 40 and in need of redefining my way of leaving or else ….

   So: how to build a lifestyle that matches your core identity and that gives you the most fulfillment and joy? How to overcome the power of the habit? Because living each day like I was leaving was only due to the habits that I have created and then mentally nourished all those years.

   Well, first of all, do the obvious: do something that breaks the pattern of learned behaviors and that makes you feel alive. Like taking some tae bo classes or starting to attend lectures on your favorite topic of the moment. Alternatively, simply use YouTube as a source of inspiration and find free materials on whatever topic might interest you. Slowly, implement new habits that give you a sense of doing stuff for fun and because you want to, not because you need to. I know it sounds a bit strange: you will not be decluttering your already busy life, you will be starting things to do on top of the usual TO DO list! But trust me on that one: it works! You will find that it is possible to more and you will find that the mental freedom that you gain is priceless. Give up some of the old habits, if you can. This will feel like a victory! But the war is not won. Yet.

   Realize this: you are building a lifestyle that ultimately leads you to the life of your dreams. So start to plan: set goals, chase them and make them come true. Plan for “off times”, little islands of time for yourself, and design them in such a way that they feel like real rewards for the hard work you will still be doing day in and day out. Plan for the perfect vacation and – when things get tough – visualize yourself already there. I seldom imagine myself on the beach, listening to the waves and admiring a sunset painted in all the right colors!

   Make the right choices for you and for your body and soul. Meditate or do yoga if you can, eat right and think about nutrition rather than calories. Postpone desert until Saturday or Sunday – or any other day you might decide it is “your day off” in what regards food and so you are allowed to eat whatever you like. Drink lots of water, green tea (did you know that it is high in antioxidants that can improve the function of both your body and your brain?).

   Move in a way that makes you feel right – do not lift weights or run because it is trendy! If you love to swim, go swimming! If you just enjoy walking, than do not take bus all the way home: try to walk for at least 30 minutes a day.

   Stop and enjoy: a coffee, a beautiful flower, a painting, a dress, a car! Create the habit of giving yourself 5 minutes each time you find something you like and just enjoy it.

   Building the lifestyle you enjoy makes the journey that much loveable and precious! All that stands between you and loving it all is just a construct of your own mind – “I am too busy” or “I am too tired” or whatever excuse you use can be deleted as they are not you. You can overcome them. You just have to try, and try and try again until you do! Next week we are going to talk about more practical things.

Until then, lots of sunshine to you all!

Near 40 Dana

Inspiration. The Muse.

Inspiration. The Muse.

   Sometimes life … just happens and the events of the day take us by surprise. And we feel like we do not have the time to take a breath, because this 21st century is all about movement, mechanical devices and engineering, because everything has become too technical, too complex, and we, poor, helpless human beings, are trapped in this world – like flies in the webs of giant spiders. In the middle of this chaotic universe, when everything seems to plot against you, how can we discover something inspiring, something that makes the day easier and, yes, beautiful?

   Inspiration. Some call it Muse. Where and how to find her?

   It is so complicated and yet so very simple. It is hidden and yet it’s in plain sight. It is all around you and yet you seldom do not see it. One Muse is LIFE itself. It is the most important one. Enjoying a blooming tree, smelling the beautiful spring flowers, eating a sweet, perfumed fruit, looking at your beautiful, perfect child, the sunrise, the sunset, the mountains, the see or the ocean, people … Search the world around and search the world within you. This is how the Muse works. And it never fails.

   Life is tough sometimes, it is tough for all of us – we have talked about this in a past blog but it is beautiful, it is surprising, it is all that we have.

   Now and again, it is not easy to find time for listening to the Muse, but for sure, it is worth trying to find those moments of peace and give the Muse a chance to express herself. We all need something inspiring in our life, something that makes us tick, gives us purpose beyond our own existence as man/woman, wife/husband, mother/father, or whatever role we decide to play besides the ones already stated here. The Muse can help you find what you need. For you, it maybe painting, sculpting, playing basketball, having a garden full of flowers … For me, it is writing.

   For years and years, I forgot that writing made me happy, liberated me of all my fears, insecurities and doubts. Writing has healing powers; it gives me comfort and hope. It makes me go deep inside my soul and deep inside my own mind, analyzing feelings and thoughts as they occur. It gives me the power to focus on things that matter the most. I cannot function without writing – weather it is creative writing (like the posts published on this blog) or day to day to do’s, analysis and notes.

   I do have another Muse however. I was passionate about reading ever since I can remember. Books gave me so much! Through books, I had the chance to receive so many hours of pure joy, I have learned so many things, I have seen so many places that I was not able to visit – at least until now, so many experiences and so many dreams! Reading inspires. It inspires you to be better, to reach your full potential, to grow and develop as much as you can. From “The name of the rose” (Umberto Eco) to “Cat’s Cradle” (Kurt Vonnegut), from “Les Miserables” (Victor Hugo) to “Anna Karenina” (Lev Tolstoi), all of them and many more are masterpieces that open your eyes to new dimensions and aspects of the human spirit.

   In recent years, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram and all that we call Social Media has gained much importance as source of inspiration. They also claim a piece of action as Muse. There are so many content creators, from all the domains – from lifestyle, to book reviews, from how to achieve a certain thing to travel blogs…. We change, we adapt to this new media. People create in order to become the source of inspiration for others.

   But, whatever your Muse, whatever drives you on this path called life, it is important to remember one thing: we are meant to leave something behind, something that adds value to people’s lives, we are meant to build, not to destroy.

   Until next time, lots of sunshine to you all!


Live for today

Live for today

   Almost 40 is a time to review and assess your take on life, your why’s and how’s. Almost 40 is the frontier to the rest of your life: now you are truly an accomplished adult – one that has gathered enough experience not to be scared of all the deadlines, meetings, bossy bosses, and life anymore. You have conquered many obstacles and you have been defeated sometimes. You have learned how to climb and you have learned how to fall. But have you learned the biggest lessons of them all? Have you learned how to LIVE?

   Sometimes, much more often than I would like, I find myself wondering where did time fly. It seems like now is Monday, and than, all of the sudden, it is Friday already.

   And, much more often the than I would like, my carefully planned week is going over board and I find myself addressing a completely different list of priorities than I originally scheduled. Just when I am convinced that I am going to have a quiet, more relaxed week, a super urgent – very important Something happens and my entire agenda needs to be rearranged accordingly. This is how I end up on Friday wondering what happened with my plans for the week and where did time fly. So have I really learned how to live? I sometimes doubt that, since all sorts of more or less significant events can overthrow my entire world. Is this happening to anybody else? Am I the only one?

You only live once, but, if you do it right, once is enough.” (Mae West)

How do we live “right”? What is “right”?

   It took me more than two decades to learn that “right” means gratitude and compassion: gratitude for all the good things we have in our lives and compassion for others and … for ourselves, for our own losses, miss happenings and mistakes. Doing it right means having the courage to live for today while building tomorrow. Live in present, always appreciate life and enjoying the journey! Make today beautiful and make it count. Don’t forget your dreams, your aspirations and desires. But do not sacrifice today in the process, as today only happens once. Be grateful for today and all the beautiful moments it brings. Be grateful for today and all the challenges it throws your way.

   Live for today by taking time to breath and enjoying whatever experience comes your way. Live for today by taking the time to do something that gives you joy. Move more. Take a walk on the busy streets of your town or in the park (if you are one of the fortunate people living close to nature – take a hike in the woods or on the beach). Listen to your favourite music and read a book, a blog, a magazine – in other words make your brain happy too).

   Enjoy the food you eat: do not punish your body with fad diets and diet pills that it does not need.

   Call a friend. Tell people in your life that they matter, that they make today beautiful and meaningful.

   Live for today. Love life. Just Love.

   Until next time, lots of sunshine to you all!

Near 40 Dana

Rough days

Rough days

    Unquestionably, once in a while, everybody has rough days. You know, those days when you open your eyes in the morning and wish that it was evening already, since even before getting out of the bad you know that the agenda of the day is full, that you will probably eat lunch too late due to the endless meetings that you are going to have, and, on top of that, at the end of the day you need to go to the supermarket for food and other much needed stuff… And you get out of bed at 6 o’clock in the morning and you begin your daily routine, always in a hurry: boil water for tea and coffee, get breakfast started, wake up the rest of the family, clean after breakfast, put some make up on to cover the dark circles under your eyes and … run.

    Outside it has been raining. The city looks so gloomy and miserable… Halfway to the kid’s school you realize that you forgot to pack his lunch … And you start ranting – looking at your significant other and the poor kid: “you need to get involved more, don’t let me be the only one struggling with all chores, you (that is the kid) need to be more responsible and so on and so forth ….”. All around you, hundreds of other cars, finding their way in the same old, grey, gloomy city. All around you, hundreds of similar scenes unfolding.

    I could go on telling you more, but I think that by know the picture is quite accurate and you have an idea of the kind of days I am referring to.

   So: what do you do when things get a little tougher?

   Looking at the clouds and admiring some old buildings that I pass by every morning on my way to work, it came to me that it is a question of choice: either I can choose to be miserable the entire day and continue on that path of negativity or I can choose to have a good day instead.

   Yes, it is that simple! You have the power to change it all. You need to stop, take a deep breath and state with all conviction that you going to have a good day. Find a solution for kid’s lunch (stop at the nearest store – if you have time, which I did not – or give him/her a little money and trust that he/she is going to make the correct choice regarding the purchase).

Than smile to your significant other and to the kid and say that it is going to all right, you can handle it.

   Take a deep breath again and this time ignore the rain. Spend a little time being grateful for all the wonderful things in your life. Start your day at the office with your favorite treat – mine is coffee and maybe a small piece of dark chocolate. Those e-mails can wait for a couple of minutes.

   I find that particularly when I am having such a challenging start of the day, my environment is very important – the way that my desk is organized, all the small objects that I brought form home and that trigger pleasant memories – like a small, colorful box where I keep my post-it cube and other paper accessories, or the small turtle I purchased during the summer holiday a couple of years ago, all of that is very important. Because here I am, in front of my computer, sipping coffee and day dreaming for a couple of minutes about the wonderful, still to come summer holiday.

   Than take a piece of paper and get organized – your good day can begin! Like Maya Angelou beautifully put into words: “This is a wonderful day. I have never seen this one before.”

Until next week, lots of sunshine to you all!

Near 40 Dana

About the power of goals

About the power of goals

    Goals are very powerful weapons. They can make you or break you, if you let them. Goals need to be realistic – although if you do not push yourself a little, if you do not challenge yourself enough, your goals can be pretty useless. If something is easy to achieve, than it can hardly be qualified as an accomplishment, can it? Goals and challenges make you grow, drive you to move forward.

   But this life is crazy. Life as an almost 40, near 40 and I presume life as a 40 something individual is pretty crazy. Nothing is simple anymore. When I was in my 20s and even in my 30s, things seemed to come natural, effortlessly. Work, life, friends … everything was … cool. Now, two decades later, we are each on a different path, leading very similar and yet very different lives. Change has happened and not always in the right direction.

   Not all of us master the art of goal setting. Or not anymore … For some of us it has always been hard to set personal goals. For others, what happens in their late 30s and continues during their 40s is that they forget to set goals for themselves. They sometimes have been idealistic in their youth, they believed that they can move mountains, they did not and then they have stopped trying. Sometimes, having a family, kids, professions, jobs, busy lives in general, seems too overwhelming and we simply start delaying any goal setting in favor of chores, appointments, meetings and all that jazz.

   But goals are so essential for our growth and development! One day I realized that my life was a dull linear path of chores, appointments, meetings and all that jazz and I was so, so tired of all of that. Consequently, what I started to do – and I advise you to do the same – is that I set one goal for myself each week, one goal corresponding to each month and a couple of important, complex goals to achieve by the end of the year. Write those down in a note book, diary or even in your agenda. Having written goals helps you focus on them more. Then move forward towards achieving them.

   For example, my weekly goals are typically linked to my need to reconnect with myself, to take of myself and they usually generate a state of wellbeing. They are usually just little things that I do for myself – this week, for instance, I decided to start walking on foot more – thus increasing the level of my physical activity.

   As for the bigger goals, they relate to things that I want to achieve in this life, since it is the only one I have. This blog is one of my yearly goals. I usually treat them differently because I split my bigger goals into smaller actions and attach deadlines to those actions. This, I think, helps me to advance. I am not perfect; I still strive to get everything done for all the others (family and job wise) without neglecting my goals and myself. It is still hard at times – when I come home from work drained of all energy and exhausted. However, after having this system in place for while I can tell you that it works, even if the change is only psychological (so even if I walk more, my weight did not go down – and maybe it will never go down – but my state of mind has gone up).

   Tony Robins is seldom quoted on this one, and it is so, so very true: “Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.” Goal setting, if used correctly, is an instrument of change. Life is change. Your 40s will not be the same as you 30s or 20s. And it is OK.

Until next week, lots of sunshine to you all!

Near 40 Dana