Tag: personal improvement

What Causes Intrusive Thoughts and How to Stop Them

Chances are, you’ve experienced intrusive thoughts. I’m talking about those odd or disturbing thoughts that pop into your head seemingly out of nowhere. Usually, they involve imagining yourself, just for a moment, doing something dangerous, harmful to others, or socially inappropriate. It’s not that you want or intend to do so, but you realize that you could stand up and yell obscenities in church, kiss a stranger on the bus, or ram your car into the car in front of you at the stoplight.

We don’t talk about intrusive thoughts all that much, probably because the content is often violent or sexual in nature. Yet, research suggests that intrusive thoughts are a near-universal human experience. More often than not, people simply dismiss them because they’re so “out there.” A particular thought may make you pause long enough to ask yourself, “Whoa, where did that come from?!” but then you move on.

For some folks, though, intrusive thoughts become incredibly disruptive because they arise with great frequency, or because the person finds them so disturbing that they have a hard time letting them go. Sometimes both.

People who struggle with intrusive thoughts can become sidelined by shame, guilt, or anxiety. They worry that these thoughts reflect who they “really are” deep down. They believe that friends and loved ones will reject them if they knew. When the same intrusive thoughts run on a loop in their heads, they may fear that they are willing those bad things to happen or creating self-fulfilling prophecies.

Often, these individuals are reluctant to seeking help despite their profound distress. Intrusive thoughts are incredibly normal, but they shouldn’t interfere with your quality of life. While banishing them is easier said than done, some techniques show promise for helping people deal with unwanted thoughts and the angst they cause.

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Ask a Health Coach: What’s Your Body Trying to Tell You?

Hey folks! This week, PHCI’s curriculum director, Erin Power is answering your questions about cheat days, how to handle hunger during intermittent fasting, and the best thing to do when you get the chills. Keep asking your questions over in the Mark’s Daily Apple Facebook group or post them in the comments below. John asked: “I’ve been doing intermittent fasting for a few months and it’s working well, but I get hungry after 14 hours or so. Wondering if it’s best to try to muscle through the hunger when I feel it kick in or should I just eat?” There are several different ways to practice intermittent fasting and they all have proven disease-fighting and anti-agent benefits. There’s the popular 12:12, 16:8, 18:6, and 20:4 methods, alternate day fasting, multi-day fasting, and really any way you can slice a period of time. The best way to figure out which method is right for you though, is to experiment. A longer fast may have worked for you in the past, but the human body is a miraculous and adaptable organism. What felt great at one point might not be in your best interest now. And if you’re feeling tempted to push yourself to resist eating for a few extra hours, thinking more is better, let me remind you that there’s no award given to the person who can fast the longest. You’re also not going to have your IF card pulled if you decide to eat outside your original window. Everything about our culture seems to discourage us from listening to what our bodies are telling us. We somehow believe that other people know us better than we do. Listen, if something isn’t working, my body will tell me, and I trust that. I try to teach my clients the same thing: to trust the signals they get from within; rather than relying on what a scientific paper, influencer, or so-called-expert tells them is going to prolong their life or bestow them with optimal health. So, instead of pushing through the pain (or hunger in your case), what if you took that hunger as a sign? What if you honored your body by listening to your grumbling stomach and sluggish energy levels and gave it the fuel it was asking for? How Do You Recognize Your Body’s Signals? Stop a few times a day and take inventory of your body. Identify any sensations going on – what’s happening in your stomach, your jaw, your shoulders, your focus, and your mind. Record the negative and positive feelings you observe, then connect the dots. Is your focus starting to wane because you haven’t eaten in awhile? Are your shoulders tense because you haven’t stepped outside all day? Adjust as necessary. What happens when you decide to break your fast with an epic protein-forward meal vs continuing to muscle through the hunger? Are you satisfied and satiated instead of unfocused? Experiment with responding to your body’s signs and see what happens. As I mentioned, I’m … Continue reading “Ask a Health Coach: What’s Your Body Trying to Tell You?”

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Could a Lack Mentality Be Holding You Back?

Starting a diet? A new workout routine? A weight-loss regimen? If you’re most people, you’re ready to approach your health endeavors with a white-knuckle, uber-disciplined mentality. As a culture, we thrive on it. We get a pat on the back for how much we can sacrifice. For what we’re able to limit. For how much we can push and how long we can go without. We see it all the time too. Sugar detoxes, juice cleanses, or that ridiculous “75 Hard Challenge” that made the rounds on TikTok last year. We get the message that in order to succeed, we have to embrace the suck, believing that by depriving ourselves we can have what we want. Problem is, approaching your health and fitness goals from a place of lack typically leads to more lack. Meaning, instead of feeling inspired, energetic, and focused, you end up depleted, grumpy, and ultimately, too discouraged to keep it up. Do You Have a Lack Mentality? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to clients who’ve said that doing one diet or another “worked for them.” They tell me how they lost tons of weight by eliminating all fruit or bread or wine. To which I typically reply, “if it worked so well, why are you working with me?” That’s the catch, right? When you look at things through the lens of what you can’t have or can’t do, that’s all you see — that’s called a lack (or scarcity) mentality. In contrast, when you look at what you get to do, getto eat, or get to become, a whole world of possibilities starts to open up. This is what’s known as an abundance mentality. Examples of Lack Mentality Always wondering what you’ll need to give up Believing you can’t have certain things Feeling jealous of others Withholding calories, foods, or joy in general Waiting for the “other shoe to drop” especially when things are going well Examples of Abundance Mentality Noticing what you can be grateful for in life Being open-minded and compassionate Thinking about how your actions can benefit others Believing that anything is possible – and that you’re worthy of achieving it Respecting and appreciating your body for the miracle it is Are You Team Lack or Team Abundance? Initially coined in the best-seller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen R. Covey refers to scarcity mentality as seeing life as a finite pie, so if one person takes a big piece, that leaves less for others, whereas with an abundance mentality, the belief is that there’s plenty for everyone. The pandemic has shed a lot of light on how we as a culture tend to operate (toilet paper shortage anyone?). Fear of the unknown causes us to think with more of a scarcity mindset. Which, as we witnessed over the past year, was actually accurate in certain instances. But for some, this type of mindset isn’t exclusive to the pandemic. People who struggle with a lack mentality … Continue reading “Could a Lack Mentality Be Holding You Back?”

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How to Really Bond with Your Family This Holiday Season

Let’s not beat around the holly bush: the holiday season just isn’t the same this year. You could get down in the dumps about it OR you could get creative about finding ways to celebrate with friends and family. Honestly, it’s ok to do both. Grieve the ambiguous losses we’re all experiencing this season while also looking for ways to make the best of what we have. We might be apart from loved ones, but we can still be together in spirit. One thing I’ve realized this year is how often physical closeness is used as a proxy for bonding. That is to say, people get together in the same physical space and call that “bonding,” when all they’re really doing is being near one another. Being in the same room is great—oh, how I miss it—but by itself, it doesn’t generate emotional closeness or deep connection. Nobody is making lasting memories simply by virtue of watching a football game and eating turkey together. This year, we have an opportunity to get out of old holiday ruts and try something different, maybe even start new traditions. Somebody needs to put the ho-ho-ho back in the holidays, and I nominate you. Here are some ideas you can put into action: Things You and Your Loved Ones Can Create Together Family members or friends all contribute, and the final project is something special to keep for years to come. You’ll learn more about your family members and end up with a record of special memories or family favorites. As a bonus, these ideas are all free! Shared photo album Set up a shared album in any of the many online photo album tools. Invite family members to submit their favorite family photos from years past, or ask for old holiday photos specifically. Level up: Optionally, arrange the photos chronologically. Do a family Zoom session and view the slideshow together, pausing to reminisce and tell stories about the scenes from the images. Family cookbook Everyone submits their favorite recipes. A shared Google doc will do the trick, but it’s even better if someone collects the recipes and arranges them in a pdf. Free tools like Canva make it simple to lay out a basic cookbook, which everyone then gets as a holiday gift. You could even have them spiral bound and sent to folks who prefer hard copies. Level up: Host a Zoom party where everyone cooks a special family recipe together or a virtual dinner party where everyone prepares recipes from the cookbook at home. Memory book Same idea as the cookbook, but everyone submits their favorite memories of holidays past or recounts the wildest family legends. Level up: Have one person collect the memories and put the stories in a slideshow to be shared during a virtual get-together. Music playlist Nominate an “emcee” to collect everyone’s favorite songs (holiday or otherwise) and create a family playlist in Spotify, for example. Level up: Everyone agrees to play the playlist at the same … Continue reading “How to Really Bond with Your Family This Holiday Season”

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How Do You Start Asking for Help?

Feel like you’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders? I can totally relate. If the struggles of living in an overly busy, stressed out society weren’t enough, the fear of navigating it all mid-COVID is the proverbial icing on the cake. Whether it’s the overwhelm of managing day-to-day tasks or deciding to get a handle on your mental or physical health, it can be hard to go it alone. Which leads me to the question: why do we feel compelled to do it all ourselves? Do You Have a Do-It-All-Myself Mentality? I ask my health coaching clients this question anytime I can feel them slinking back into their old patterns of avoiding asking for help. We sort of live by this notion that we should all be able to handle anything that comes our way. And if we can’t handle it ourselves, well, that’s a sure sign (at least in our own minds) that we’re weak, incompetent, or somehow unworthy of achieving success in that area. New health diagnosis? Sure, no problem. Relationship problems? Got it all under control. Global pandemic like we haven’t seen in our lifetime? No freakin’ sweat. The trouble is, asking for help can bring up similar, uncomfortable feelings. Research done in the fields of neuroscience and psychology confirm that there really are social threats involved in doing so. In fact, researchers found that an emotionally painful threat activates the same parts of the brain as physical pain does — which of course gives us even more reason to avoid asking and continue struggling in silence. Reasons You Avoid Asking for Help You may avoid asking for help for several reasons: You’re unsure where to turn You don’t want to be seen as weak Fear of being rejected Showing vulnerability Not sure how to ask Feeling like a burden Worrying people won’t like you Relinquishing control Admitting you can’t do it all Feeling like your problems are less significant You grew up with a pattern of being let down in childhood There’s no shortage of reasons why it feels hard to ask for help, but here’s where it gets wild. Studies show that people actually like helping other people — they get a huge benefit from it. Nothing we do as humans proves to be as fulfilling as lending a hand to someone else. To test this theory, researchers had participants write either a supportive note to a friend or write about their route to school or work before undergoing a lab-based stress task. Physiological responses like heart rate, blood pressure, salivary alpha-amylase, and salivary cortisol, as well as self-reported stress were collected and measured throughout the experiment. They found that participants who had written the supportive notes had lower sympathetic-related responses than their counterparts who just wrote about their routine. Asking for help makes people like you more too. This concept is called the Benjamin Franklin effect and is based on cognitive dissonance theory, which refers to “a situation involving conflicting attitudes, … Continue reading “How Do You Start Asking for Help?”

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Ask a Health Coach: Dealing with Overwhelm, Naysayers, and Kid-Friendly Fitness

Hi, folks. In this week’s edition of Ask a Health Coach, Erin shares her strategies for staying on track while sheltering in place, navigating toxic relationships online, and how to make fitness fun for the whole family. Remember, you can ask your questions in the MDA Facebook Group or below this post in the comments section. I’m really struggling here. Between my new routine and trying to eat healthy, it’s just too much. How do I avoid losing all of my progress during the quarantine? -Lizzie I actually hear this a lot. Not just from my clients who are heeding the stay-at-home orders right now either. Feeling overwhelmed by a change in routine or diet or job is normal. That said, choosing to stay overwhelmed is a choice. Often, I’ll hear my clients say, “I can’t do this.” Sometimes it’s in the week after enrolling them in my health coaching program. But honestly, a lot of times it’s even sooner — like the moment I’m telling them the good news that they can reach their goals with a few tweaks in their diet. You can feel the panic setting in. “I can’t” has become such a common phrase in our vocabulary. And it’s complete BS. You absolutely can do it. You may not want to, but you certainly can. No doubt in my mind. You can do anything you set your mind to, even during the quarantine. Can you load your plate up with protein and veggies instead of the refined, starchy carbs that make you feel all bloated and sleepy? Yep. Can you commit to starting your day with a nutrient-dense breakfast instead of eating grab-and-go snack foods from the pantry? Sure can. Can you dial down your sugar intake? Go for a stroll around the block? Put on a yoga video? Yes, yes, and yes. Sure, buying groceries is a little more challenging right now. And exercising when your whole family is around may not be ideal. But using the excuse that a change in routine is keeping you from your health goals is nonsense. It may be more difficult to make these changes, but I know without question, that you can make them. You can do anything if you decide it’s worth it. My family and close friends are supportive of my Primal journey, but whenever I post about it on Facebook, I get a lot of negative comments. What am I doing wrong? -Annette First of all, I love hearing that you have a great support system in your family and close friends. But here’s the deal with “online friends,” everyone’s a critic. It might be jealousy or trying to get your attention, or whatever. But the bottom line is that your journey is your journey — and every moment of it is worth celebrating. Every. Single. Moment. I’ve learned the hard way that the jerks on social media are just show-offs who want to seem like they know more than you do. They’re always scavenging … Continue reading “Ask a Health Coach: Dealing with Overwhelm, Naysayers, and Kid-Friendly Fitness”

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6 Concrete Ways to Rewire Your Brain for Successful Habit Change

We all know the grim stats about how many New Year’s resolutions fail. It’s not because making resolutions is hokey or people are inherently lazy. It’s because most resolutions come down to one of two things: adopting new (good) habits or breaking old (bad) habits, and habit change is hard.

People struggle at every step, from picking the right goals—ones that are motivating and achievable—through the implementation process.

The trick is to be strategic and intentional about changing your habits. Rather than relying on willpower and wishes, get good systems in place. As James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, says, “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

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5 Easy Promises to Make and Keep This Year

This is the time of year where we audit what we can change, improve, and do away with in our lives.

What goals can we crush this year?

If there was a phrase that could be done away with it, this would be it for me: “CRUSH YOUR GOALS.” It sounds exhausting, and a little angry.

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