Is your emotional fridge empty?

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choosing from an empty place

If your emotional fridge is empty, you could make a mistake and end up with a more bitter than sweet sweetheart.

 Do you know how to choose a watermelon?  That’s something I did not know for years, so I would do what I saw other people do.  I would look at how people did it.  Some would smell it, others would knock on it.  Still others would turn it around and give it a good look.   The problem is even as I was imitating the melon pickers, I had no idea what it was I should look for or avoid.  In fact if I saw some yellowish dirty patch on the watermelon, I thought it was bad and did not choose that particular one. A few times,  I even asked a few people who seemed knowledgeable to choose one for me.  I have since learned, from one of the people I asked to choose for me, that it’s a good sign for a ripe watermelon!!!!

We often follow the same method to choose a sweetheart.  We look at what others (our parents did), we assume that’s what we should do too. If we belong to the minority who saw their parents have a healthy and loving marriage, our mate picking radar is well calibrated.  Otherwise, when we really don’t know what is truly important and healthy, we buy based on appearances and we often avoid someone who is right and just ripe for a good relationship because they lack the shine factor.

Or sometimes, we don’t spend much time choosing.  We take the first person who shows interest, while it would never occur to us to grab the chicken or bag of apples because it was the last one on the shelf.  Unless we were really starving.

How do you know if your emotional fridge is empty?  First, your fridge could be empty because you have just been dumped, or because you have not been in a relationship for a while or your last partner made you believe you were flawed and nobody would ever want you.  Maybe your fridge has been empty since childhood because that was a time when nobody could fill it well.  When our emotional fridge is empty, we think this is our only chance to have a relationship, we tell ourselves that we are too old, that we are not pretty enough, that this is the last boat.  We become clingy.  We obsess over our looks.  We do too much.  We give too much.  We let our life and our interests go.  We excuse poor behaviours.  We obsess over everyting. We become insecure and jealous.  We don’t inspect to evaluate whether this is the same kind of “love” that got us sick before, or if it shows signs of toxic mould (people who criticize you, your appearance, put you down, make off-hand jokes, use you, laugh at you, how you look, what you are trying to accomplish, etc., etc., etc.)

Is  your emotional frideg empty? What would fill it?

-The first way to fill your emotional fridge is to learn to love your own company. I know, you probably heard this before.  I can assure you it’s true. Learning to love your own company is more than spending your evenings vegging out in front of the tv.  It means getting to the point where your time alone is so precious you will not give it up unless you are getting quality company.  See how this is important.  You will not accept a date or to go out just because you are bored or lonely.   It won’t guarantee that you will find your sweetheart, but what it will guarantee is that you will be happy, even without a sweetheart.   This is the foundation and there is no shortcut.

-The second thing you need to do is to find activities that you love to fill your days.  Activities with others and activities and creative pursuits you can do alone, when there is a snowstorm and you are trapped in the house for the whole weekend.

-Nurture your family relationships.  Visit and invite your family over for brunch or a game of cards or to watch a movie.  Make time to call your kids or parents regularly.

-Grow a small group of friends.  Here quality is better than quantities.  I distinguish friends from activitiy buddies.  Close friends are those you can confide in and count on and they can also count on you.

-If you like group sports or activities, find a group to walk or play bridge, or go to movies.  Meetup has thousands of different groups, for all ages.

-If you have the time and energy, get involved in your community as a volunteer.  Some require that you commit for a number of months, others need volunteers once in a while, for a few hours, or a day.  Volunteering is also a great way to meet new potential friends.

-If you feel overwhelmed at the thought of filling your emotional fridge, get support.  Find a good therapist to help you heal what’s keeping you stuck.

Loving your own company and enjoying your life will help immunizing you against “buying” out of fear, boredom or loneliness.

Did you ever settle for the last “chicken”?  If you find this post useful, please share on social media and with your friends.  Please let me know how it was useful for you in the comments section.


Relax: a fun way to do it

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Have fun relaxing

I practice tai chi and I love it.  This was not always the case.  When I first enrolled in a tai chi class, maybe 25 years ago – the exact time is vague – I left just about each class with a headache and I did not know why.  Tai chi at that time litterally stressed me out, or more accurately, I was stressed out, too stressed out to relax and I did not know it.

Now that I am generally a lot more relaxed and in sync with myself, tai chi is totally wonderful.  I wish I had had more insight then.  It would have helped me understand where I needed to make changes in the rest of my life.

So how did I go for a stressed-out working full time and studying single parent to where I am now?  Yes the kids did grow up and are now building families of their own, but other things happened to help me to relax.  No I did not learn to meditate – in fact I tried it and it too left me impatient, which is about as far from relaxed as one can be.

What actually helped me relax is the fun I put into my life, specifically in the form of ballroom dancing.  About 16 years ago I started taking ballroom dance classes.  And to help me improve, I also started attending the weekly dances at the studio.  This was so incredibly liberating from all the stress I had in my life and a huge counterbalance to my work as a psychotherapist in addictions.  To get the most benefits of dancing I had to leave my perfectionist self at home and be in beginner’s mind to avoid comparing my humble progress to that of more advanced dancers.

How did ballroom dancing work on my stress?  Music for one is a great de-stressor.  There is a saying in French that says “la musique adoucit les moeurs” or “music soothes the soul”.

Then learning to move and do certain steps, in order, occupies all of the mind. When the mind is occupied on a specific task, it cannot roam and worry.

Third, the atmosphere in a dance studio is fun and light.  There is a lot of laughter and laughter is the best destressor there is.  I still do take classes and they still have the same beneficial effect.

I understand that not everybody wants to learn to dance.  For some it may be equal to torture.  What would you like to do that would both be physically active and engage your mind too?  One thing I am sure of is that if you try meditation or tai chi or even yoga and it makes you want to pull your hair out, you really need to find a way to relax on a regular basis, ideally a few times a week.

Yoga or tai chi are two other physical activities that like ballroom, also require concentration and coordination. In another category there is tennis, or other ball sports – racketball or team sports.  Some swear by knitting – and if you choose knitting, do add a physical activity to your life, be it ballroom or jogging or swimming.  That part is essential to evacuate the stress.

Whatever you choose, choose something that appeals to you and give it at least 3 months.  This is just enough time to develop some skills and decide if you want to continue or find another activity.  And yes, even if it is challenging, it should also be fun.  If you are not having fun, choose something else.

Let me know what you decide to try to de-stress.  If you find this post useful, please share it with your friends.





From negative to healthy self-talk for more energy

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negative self-talk

Self-criticism can be a real downer.  The trouble is if you are someone who does it, you have come to believe it’s ok to talk to yourself in a way you would never think of talking to someone you love. Negative self-talk has become like emotional abuse is: almost invisible but often the most lethal.  You may continue to do it because it was done to you, a a child or in a relationship and you may actually believe you are not too bright, or not pretty enough or any other “enough”.   I regularly hear and read how some people talk to themselves out loud using words that are cutting and amount to character assassination: “I am so dumb, I am so stupid, I’ll never get it, I am so fat, I am so ugly, I don’t have what it takes to succeed, to be loved, etc.”

While you may think that it’s no big deal, I can assure you that it negatively reinforces your insecurities and your feelings of not being good enough.  I remember at the beach last Summer I heard a young’ish, 30 or so woman, keep on telling the man she was with that no she would not get into a bathing suit because she hated her legs.  She was wearing pants.  This seemed like a “dating” couple and I felt so sorry for her and wondered how the fellow with her felt at her constant self put-downs.  When she finally did change to a bathing suit, she looked perfectly fine, legs included.

You may argue that it would not help you to change if you simply ignored your mistakes or other flaws, imperfections,  and that reminding yourself that you need to improve is the way to go.

Well, let’s try another way.

First no one is perfect.  We all make mistakes, klutzy things, our bodies do not resemble that of a photoshopped model or that of an 18 year old or 25 year old.

When we are down on ourselves through negative self-talk, it’s usually as a result of some kind of comparison (the 18 year old’s body) or the successful colleague, or the glowing energetic neighbour, or someone’s car or holiday or bigger house.  Up to there, there is nothing wrong with seeing others have what we want.  Or with feeling dissatisfied with some of the things we have, whether it’s success, love or better health.

The way to start is to ask “is this something that I really want to change or am I reading too many glossy magazines, comparing my 45 year old body with that of an 18 year old or comparing my success as a beginner, dancer, entrepreneur, blogger, to someone who has been at it for the last 10 or more years, even 1 or 2 more years.  The same way, if your friend was born “into money” or married someone who makes double or triple your salary, you can’t compare.  It’s like comparing oranges to something else.

Then the second question is to ask “what am I willing to do to get better at this, and do I value it enough to give it my all?” or can I just accept that I will never win a dance competition but want to continue for the exercise and the fun (that’s one of mine), accept that I am not the greatest houskeeper around, but I prefer to read and to blog instead of having a spotlet house, or that I should not compare my starting blog to that one that has been around 5 years or my body has changed because I have had children and I could be the grandma to that 18 year old!

Then, commit to first stopping the abusive self-talk and accept that it will take some time to get it (perfect).  Second, do a reality check every time you catch yourself comparing yourself to others.  Third, commit to making the changes you want.  Whether it is to put more working hours in your business, or getting a cleaning lady if you really want a spotless home, or taking better care of your health, both with nutrition and exercise.

Finally, end each day with writing 3 things you are grateful for in your life, whether it’s your health, your kids, your partner, your best friend, the country where you live, today’s sunset.  And appreciate yourself for 3 things you did today: caught yourself about to insult yourself, ate better, took a walk at lunch, had that talk with your spouse to clear a misunderstanding, cleaned the fridge, talked kindly to yourself, made for time to accomplish your goal.

Just like toxi relationships are the greatest energy suckers, so is sel-abuse and negative self-talk is self-abuse.  When you change the way you talk to yourself, you will have more emotional energy and this will translate into more physical energy.  It may feel imperceptible at first, but one day you will wake up and be totally in awe of the wonderful human being that has emerged.

You may want to enlist the help of a friend, or a partner to remind you when they hear you being hard on yourself.  Changing an ingrained habit takes time.  Be patient with yourself.

If you enjoyed this post, please let me know and share with your friends.




Energy: 7 drains and a simple 5-Step plan to stop the leaks

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Energy is essential for a great quality of life, yet even with enough sleep and good nutrition and vitamins and all kinds of supplements (and a clean medical checkup), many of us go through life without much of it.   And when we don’t have it, life feels like hell.  You don’t care to go out and meet friends, you stop working on your favorite project, you feel grumpy, blah.  Pessimism is your new best friend and you wonder if this is all there is.  You think it’s because you are getting older, but there is a part of you who still hopes for an answer that brings a solution.

I have good news for you.  Energy is not age-dependent.  All things being equal – you can have more energy at 40 than 30, at 60 than at 50 and I can go on.  You probably know a few people who have more energy than many people their age. They are vibrant, active and have many interests.  They can’t wait to get up in the morning.

What is that missing ingredient that has nothing to do with sleep, nutrition and exercise?  It’s emotional energy.  Mira Kirshenbaum, author of The Emotional Energy Factor has defined it as “a special energy that’s all about feeling young and deeply connected to the fun and hope in life”. I would add “it’s like being 20 again”, whether or not you slept enough the night before.  Yes lack of sleep and age will slow you down but emotioal energy will keep the twinkle in your eye.  Annie Perrin, of the Emotional Energy project, says “the greater the alignment between what you say you value and how you actually live, the more energy you have available to you”.

What we value is what we find important.  However, we do not always live in accordance with our values.  Here are some ways we unconsciously sabotage ourselves and end up depleted and exhausted.

Energy drains

  • the one I put first is the failure to set clear boundaries, which is usually due to not feeling good enough to assert ourselves.  So we tolerate bad behaviours, intrusion, lack of respect, lack of mutuality – which makes it hard to look forward to tomorrow, since you can’t envision a change in the future
  • lack of being clear on what we want  (again not feeling we have the right to say so) which leads to do things because of what others expect or what we expect we “should” do.  “Should’s” then become our mantra, instead of asking for what we truly want.
  • we are hard on ourselves – we totally lack self-compassion (again based on not feeling good enough).  This often leads to ignoring your pain, minimizing it and not seeking help when needed.
  • we don’t recognize the voice of intuition – that little persistent inner voice- or we ignore it.  Again not feeling good enough runs the show.
  • we worry about what people will think – Again this can be bundled with the “should’s”.  We dress, live, and show up to either impress or to avoid criticism, confrontation or anything potentially different from your colleagues, friends, family, etc.
  • we are unhappy but stay in relationships, marriages, friendships out of obligation, for fear of displeasing, making waves or being seen as the “bad” one.  Because close relationships – marriage and other family connections,  are what feeds or destroys our soul on a daily basis, this energy drain is a biggie.  The closer the relationship, the more it takes our energy if it is not a healthy and loving one, or worse a toxic one where there is emotional, mental, verbal or physical abuse
  • we go through life on the automatic pilot, never asking ourself what we are feeling, what we want, because it has never occurred to us to treat ourself as well as we treat others in our life.  Learning to live consciously is essential to be mindful of what is going on in our life and to see how it affects us.

Energy fill-up

Now that we know why we feel drained even with good physical self-care, and we are clear of depression, we will look at what to put in place on the emotional side.

I am pretty certain that you have already identified your main energy leak(s).  If you did not know before you read the list, now you do.  We always do, even when we resist seeing the truth.  Because change is not easy, the status quo often wins even when it’s totally not in our favour.

To make it easier to tackle the changes,I have summed up what sucks our energy into 3 main categories:

  • Relationships – that is what others bring to the table which can be pretty challenging, whether we are talking about life partners, friends, neighbours, or business, work colleagues, boss.  Whether you need to set boundaries, express your needs and stop accepting less than, or walk away, this is often the most challenging area.  Working on your mindset, your self-compassion and self-love will help you stand up for yourself, stop living according to others’ expectations and ultimately clarify who deserves to stay in your life.  The more toxic the relationship, the harder it is to walk away because the most toxic people are good manipulators.
  • Our mindset – our thoughts – our often learned way  (in childhood) of seeing the world and ourselves – our tendency to pessimism, comparing ourselves, etc., because there is a thought, conscious or not that precedes every emotion. You will have to fire your inner critic and treat yourself as your best friend. 
  • Our behaviours – what we do, often unconsciously, throughout the day. Including what we put in our mouth, our ears (the news and our internal gremlin), whether we exercise or not, how we keep our environment. Start honoring what you truly want by taking action.

Let’s start. Get a notebook and a pen. This is a simple 5 step plan.  I said simple, I did not say easy.

Step 1

First write down what you really, really want.  What you want in terms of relationships, environment, work, fun time.  What you dream of and maybe never thought you could have.  Write down the major energy drain you have identified in your life.  Be specific.  Give it a name.  Write down how it affects you, how you feel when it’s happening.  Write down a few instances when it happened.  Write the when, where, how and what of each instance.  Make it so specific you can see it in your mind.  Take as much time as you need to complete this first step.  This is the foundation of change, because we cannot change what we don’t acknowledge. Writing it down will also make it harder for you to minimize the problem.

Step 2

Now write down what that drain leak has cost you on top of being an energy sucker.  It may have cost you sleepless nights, nightmares, money, time, to do what you want, to spend with people who really matter to you, to sleep, worry, headaches, stomachaches, even depression and anxiety. It may have also cost you friendships, jobs.  Be ruthless.  Don’t hide any cost. This too will help you when you doubt whether this is important enough, whether you are important enough.

Step 3

Decide whether you are willing to live with the consequences identified in Step 2 or whether you would rather live with the consequences of taking action.  Because there are always consequences to our choices.  If you choose to continue to live with the consequences of the cost identified in Step 2, I urge you to seek support, because it means you don’t value yourself enough or there is some fear making the decision for you.  This is usually traceable to childhood – you deserve to be happy and it’s not possible to be happy when you don’t have emotional energy.

Step 4

Make a list of specific things you want to change: say no, catch yourself when you start comparing yourself, change a pessimist thought to a possibility of a good outcome, spend less time with negative people, choose to treat you more kindly, overlook what you see as your flaws and concentrate on your gifts.  Talk to yourself like you would to your best friend.

Step 5

Start practicing and keep a journal to document every attempt and success at the new you.  Acknowledge yourself for taking even the smallest of steps.  Document how you felt – yes scared but maybe excited and alive?  In your journal, imagine in writing how your new life could look like, feel like.  Draw a mental image, in full color, see yourself in that picture, with who you would like there, how you will look like and feel: happy, contented, excited.

We need to start by changing on the inside before we make changes on the outside.  In most cases changing our our beliefs about ourselves is the first step -we need to believe we are worthy of happiness.  That’s why getting outside support is important.  Then it will be easier to say no, set boundaries, express our needs, not worry about what others think, show more self-compassion and generally do what is best for us.

Please leave a comment if you enjoy this article.  And share if you think it could be useful for someone else.

This article is my opinion and is not meant to replace therapy or any other form of professional help.  It is meant to inform and entertain only.

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Drop your guilt to lower your stress

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Stress and guilt and forgiving yourself

Guilt, like any other emotion, is your internal GPS.  It’s your conscience speaking when you have not respected your moral compass.  It’s a sign to do something different, and to apologize for the misbehaviour.

Unfortunately, many of us, while born with an intact moral compass, have grown up in ways that put that compass out of whack.  It overfunctions so we find ourselves feeling guilty even when we have not done anything wrong because we inherited our parent’s guilt.  It’s passed through generations and it shows up as toxic guilt.

We can feel guilty for not meeting the unrealistic expectations we put on ourselves, whether it’s about something we did when we did not know better or how we don’t manage to keep up today, also called the Superwoman or Superman syndrome.  We can so so feel guilty when we get involved with people who are masters of manipulation, have unrealistic expectations of us and always blame others.

One particularly insidious form of toxic guilt (the non-real type), comes from having grown up in a dysfunctional home – home with either parental alcoholism, mental illness, violence, neglect, etc.  This makes us prone to feeling responsible for others because it was a responsibility put on us (being parentified) when our parents were less than able to mentally and emotionally take care of our needs.

This inherited toxic guilt (and shame too) makes us work harder and harder to please and to take care of other people’s emotions, leaving our needs out of the equation.

I worked in the field of addiction for over 20 years.  Mostly with women, addicted to alcohol, cocaine, and other drugs, including prescription drugs.  One common theme in addiction is guilt – about 100% of my clients carried guilt.  For having used, i.e. done drugs or drunk, for having neglected their kids, spouse, friends, jobs, finances.   Guilt figured highly in the time we spent together.  Guilt also figured largely in the lives of my clients as it was often a huge trigger for a binge or a relapse.

While they had an extremely hard time and strong resistance to forgiving themselves, these same women were extremely generous – sometimes too generous – excusing other people’s behaviours.  Often very abusive behaviours.

This difficulty forgiving ourselves is not limited to the world of addiction.  If you ask 10 people around you whether they have a hard time forgiving themselves, most will say yes.  And those same people will say it’s a lot easier to forgive others.  Maybe you too will admit you find it easier to forgive others than to forgive yourself. I often have to talk to myself when I see myself starting to beat myself up.  The good news I now catch it pretty quickly and you can too.

Holding on from truly forgiving does affect more than our moods.  Whether we don’t make peace with what someone did or we did, those repressed emotions of anger, hurt, pain are stored in the body and it affects our health.

What is the difference between forgiving and making excuses, also called pseudo-forgiveness?  And why is it important to know the difference and make sure we truly forgive ourselves?

Why does self-forgiveness sound so self indulgent to so many people? Like I said at the beginning, when we grow up we have to be responsible because we cannot count on the adults in our life, there is a good chance we don’t always succeed and this unfair burden sets the stage for not feeling good enough.  This in turn makes us feel we have to try harder to feel worthy and not feeling worthy makes it very hard to even think about letting ourselves off the hook when we don’t reach perfection.

You don’t need to be abused or like Rhonda Britten, author of Fearless Living, to see your dad gun your mother down and then turn the gun on himself.   It can be living day in and day out with a workaholic dad, or an alcoholic mom, or dad,  like losing a parent in childhood, or like me, being sent to live with relatives for a year because my mom was sick.

For someone else it can be because money was tight and they did not have as much as the neibourhood kids or being the youngest of a big family and feel like an afterthought.  Or a thousand other reasons you felt you did not measure up.  So instead of believing you made a mistake, you start feeling you are a mistake.  A loser. A no-good nobody.

Imagine the fear of looking inward when you believe you are a mistake or that you are so bad (because that’s what abuse led you to believe) that you don’t deserve to feel good, to let yourself off the hook, to find some peace and happiness.

What real forgiveness is not is minimizing what happened  “it was not so bad”, making generalizations “it happens to everybody”, too early “understanding” “he was doing his best”, “that’s how it was done then”, etc

Real forgiveness involves a very profound reflection and holding our pain, touching it and grieving the loss of what did or did not happen and the effect it has had on our life.  It’s a painful process – although it does not have to be long.  I remember the moment I did it for my being sent away from from my parents when I was 9 years old.  I cried what I had not cried at 9.  I extended empathy for the child I was then, feeling alone and scared.  It left me raw for a couple of days, then it started healing.

The important aspect is we must acknowledge the effect, acknowledge the pain and often the anger,  instead of using humour or other means to push it away.  The same holds true for forgiving ourselves.  Which is not like saying “oh, well, it happens”, or “too bad”.  Forgiving ourselves also involves an interior voyage to touch the guilt and often the shame associated with what we either did or did not do.  It involves acknowledging our responsibility for what happened and then choosing to forgive ourselves for our own sake and that of those around us.

In the process of forgiving ourselves, it’s important to take responsibility only for our behaviours and avoid taking the responsibility of others.  This is especially important for those of us who have a big tendency to feel responsible for everything.  Most likely if you are reading this, you may fall in that category since people who never feel responsible seldom read personal growth material.

So, how are you going to do it? To forgive others but first of all, to forgive yourself ?   The first step is to look at whether you are guilty of anything. Did you do something wrong and did you do it willfully?  If you did not do it willfully, you are still responsible but you are not guilty of anything. Guilt implies that there was an intent.  No intent no guilt.  Second, do you tend to feel guilty and to take on the sins of the world, or your family and friends?  Here you have to look at whether you are the scapegoat of the family or whether you are dealing with a narcissist or a sociopath.  Those are the people who never, but never feel guilty.  How to recognize them: they never apologize or do it quick without feeling, with a “whatever” thrown in to signify they are just placating you.   Then go gently, very gently.  You are going to have to make the decision to love yourself unconditionally – that is with all that you find wrong and ugly in you, including those things you don’t want to forgive.

If you did willfully commit an act that constitutes a crime, then as Mira Kirshenbaum explains, put yourself on trial and decide on an appropriate sentence.  If you can repay or make amends to whoever you hurt, do so if it is safe to do.  If not you can make a donation to a charity or commit to doing volunteer work for a certain amount of time.  And then, you have to let it go.  The same way you let go and make peace with other people’s misbehaviours, you do with yourself too.

The bottom line is it all starts with loving yourself and that requires a big decision.  There is no way around it.  And blindly.  With a leap of faith.  Trusting that what you have done up to now has not worked and trusting that what I say is true and is backed by science: self-compassion and self-forgiveness is essential for your health.

While alcoholics and addicts go and relapse when they don’t forgive themselves, you may just continue stuffing yourself with junk food .  Sweets (and alcohol) give a physical energy spike which translates into an emotional energy spike.  It’s also called medicating your emotions.  Or maybe you will continue shopping too much, sleeping too much, or not enough, or gambling, or  somehow sabotaging yourself and your happiness.

If you find it difficult to do the self-forgiving, give yourself a gift and find a qualified counselor, psychologist or psychotherapist to help you so you can unload that unfair family baggage.  You will breathe easier and you will have more to give to your loved ones.

Let me know how you plan to unload that heavy “guilt” baggage.

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7 tips to Eat healthy fast food

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Healthy fast food is not an oxymoron.  With the return of the school year, with kids big and small, and teachers returning to school, and many parents going back to work after the Summer holidays, a large number of people think about eating good nutritious meals but are stressed at the thought of preparing  not only 7 dinners a week but taking care of the lunch both for the kids and themselves.  Easier meal preparation and eathing healthy is a top way to minimize the stress in your life.

Here are 7 ways I use alternatively, to make sure I always have a nutritious dinner and lunch too. I call it healthy fast food.

1.To eat healthy you must have healthy food in the house.  My fridges, yes two, brim with vegetables: brocoli, cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, onions, parsley, lettuce, corn, and tomatoes (onions and tomatoes are not kept in the fridge). I also always keep oranges, apples, bananas and during season, like now, baskets of peaches, blue grapes and nectarines. Having enough healthy food in the house ensures you don’t have an excuse for not cooking and it saves time.  No need to stop at the store to grab a missing ingredient.

2, My easiest go to meal is wild canned salmon and canned tuna in oil.  Easy, affordable source of protein and Omega-3. I pair this with the large container of vegetable fried rice I cook on Sundays, as well as another batch of quinoa.  And of course I add at least a cup of veggies and a salad.

3. Third but not necessarily a third choice is the tomato sauce I make and freeze in Mason jars.  With lots of celery, carrots, eggplant and onions, as well as garlic and italian herbs.  Sometimes I make it with ground meat and at other times I just add cooked chickpea for protein.  Can be used with pasta or over a potato nuked for 3 minutes.  Real fast-food.

4. Cooking either a chicken or a small roast beef or a pork tendeloin on Sunday is a great way to have protein around for lunch sandwiches, wraps, even to grab with your morning toast.

5 Eggs.  Eggs are cheap, cook quickly, can be made into salad, sandwiches, or marinated.  For either breakfast, lunch or dinner, with some vegetables, of course.

6. Not something I do often, but occasionally.  The bbq chicken at the grocery store.  A lot cheaper than ordering in.  Usually less than $10 – enough for a family.  One of those lasts me a week.

7. Finally, something I did yesterday: pizza on a tortilla.  Pile home made tomato sauce (tomato, garlic, a bit of salt and olive oil cooked a few minutes) onto the tortilla, add the sweet pepper, onion, zucchini, mushroom, pieces of leftover chicken or beef, and or any vegetable you have on hand, grate mozzarella cheese and put under the broiler for 5 – 7 minutes.  Serve with a large salad.

And with each meal, a fruit and once in a while, the cake you baked on Saturday.  Healthy fast food can include the occasional treat of something like cake or pie, just not every day.

If you would like more help with cooking nutritious, low-cost meals, check $5mealplan – some free resources and you can receive meal plans in your inbox, including the list of ingredients, mal planning done for you.

Do look at my other post about healthy eating here

Buon appetito

Bon appétit


Be debtfree in January

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There are 16 weeks left to mid-December and the full swing of Christmas shopping.  Ahhhh! I hear you say.  Last year’s painful wake up from Christmas expenses still fresh in your mind, as you remember the huge credit card bills you got during the first weeks of January.  How great would it be to be debtfree of Christmas expenses on January 1st?

This Christmas, you don’t have to recreate the past.  You can change what you do and how you do it so that you wake up to a zero balance on your January credit card statement.  Follow these 3 steps to skip the January bills.

Evaluate your budget

How much can you spend on Christmas gifts?  Not what others expect you to spend  Not what you feel you should spend or what you spent last year. What is a reasonable amount you feel comfortable giving away? One way is to decide the amount you could comfortably pay on your credit card statement of January.  If your bill was $700. you could easily pay it off befoe the due date.  If however you feel you would need 2 months to pay it off, then  $350 is most likely the maximum you should spend on Christmas gifts.  If it would take you 3 months to pay $700. then $235 should be your top budget for Christmas.

make a list

Start with your most inner circle and continue to other people: spouse, children, parents, siblings, friends, co-workers, mailman, hairdresser, etc. The farther down the list, the less of a priority to buy a gift.  The smaller your budget, the shorter your list or the smaller each one needs to be.

put money aside now

As of today, there are 16 weeks left to mid-December.  How painless would it be to look at your non-essential expenses and put them under the knife.  Instead of buying coffee at $2 or $3., bring some from home.  Instead of buying lunch at $7 to $10. bring a lunch.  Cut dinner out once a week and you have an extra $30+.  Or simply take $10., $15 or $20. from the amount you give yourself every week, and put that in a special saving account for your Christmas shopping.  You could end up with $160, $240 or $320. to pay cash for your gifts.

On top of the gifts, there are also other expenses related to the Holidays. More entertaining, hostess gifts, a new outfit for yourself or the kids, traveling to see family.  Try to get an idea of what those extras will cost.

In the end, taking care of your finances is taking care of yourself and of your peace of mind.  Nobody ever regretted having more of that.

If you travel during the holidays you may want to look at AirBnB  I am using the for the first time on the September 10 weekend to Quebec city and for 3 people we get to pay less than a hotel room for a full apartment, and parking.

Take a look at my Resources page and other posts for ideas to save money

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The 4 reasons you started tolerating and what to do about it

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 stop tolerating - set limits
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This could have been titled “how to learn to set limits because your health depends on it.”    Because we do teach people how to treat you, either by doing something or not doing something and whatever we end up tolerating  does have an impact on our health.  If you have been putting up with other people’s bad behaviour, this is the right place for you.

What you should not tolerate

When we say “ toxic relationships” a lot of what has been written is about romantic relationships and family relationships.  And those are the most important ones in our life because those people should be the ones who can be a soft shoulder to land on and they should be the safest.

However, any relationship can be hazardous to your health.  Bad bosses, insensitive co-workers, bossy friends, intrusive neighbours and all the other takers that are in your environment can impact your health negatively, sometimes as bad as closer relationships, if you let them.

Examples of stuff you should not tolerate: someone who does not respect your “No” and tries to intimidate you by making you feel guilty, stupid, not intelligent, etc.  Someone who insults you, calls you fat, stupid, or worse.  Someone who talks behind your back.  Someone who tries to force you to do anything.  Someone who does not respect the agreement you had with them. Someone who criticizes you constantly.   Someone, a boss who abuses of your goodwill and expects you to work overtime, either without pay or habitually, when he-she knows you have family or other obligations.  Someone who yells at you – be it partner, boss, co-worker, friend or neighbour. A co-worker who does not pull his or her weight.  Someone who takes your possessions without permission – borrowing means to ask first.  Someone who uses jokes to belittle you and tells you you have no sense of humour.  I could go on and on.  Usually you can recognize you are about to tolerate because you don’t feel good about what is happening.  I did not mention physical abuse: slaps, blows, pushing, etc. because they are obvious.

Why we tolerate

If you are in an unhappy marriage, friendship or other relationship or in the job with a bad boss for a while,  it may have become the norm. It most likely became the norm because you avoided speaking up the first time something unpleasant was said or done, by your partner or the boss or the colleague.  And if you avoided speaking up at the beginning, it was 1) most likely because you did not want to rock the boat, or 2) you did not think it would happen again, or 3) you were afraid of their reaction or 4) you did not think you had the right to. You may have convinced yourself it was no big deal.  The psychological forms of abuse are harder to pinpoint simply because we can be manipulated into feeling we are too sensitive, we have no sense of humour, we are party poopers, etc.  The literature is clear that many in those unhealthy relationships do not realize there are in unhealthy relationships because they have low self-esteem and they blame themselves for their problems (and they often never saw what a healthy relationship was.)  If they were treated poorly as children, they simply believe that that’s life.

Many of us have been brought up to “be nice”.  Not that being nice is not nice.  It’s absolutely better than being rude or arrogant.  But the being nice we have been told to practice means to be tolerant (tolerate), to try to understand, to put our needs last and stop being so selfish, to not ask for what you need or want.   Unfortunately not speaking up and swallowing your unhappiness can be can be lethal to your health, both your physical and mental health(s).

Speaking up is also scary because we are afraid it will lead to people breaking off the relationship.  The more unhealthy your family of origin was, the more likely you are to tolerate in life, unless you became an abuser or a bully, in which case you would not by reading this article.  The more the relationship is important, the scarier it becomes to speak up.  And the less self-esteem and self-confidence we have, the more we become sitting ducks for those who like to take advantage.

How tolerating affects your health

How does a lack of setting boundaries impact your health? Let’s just look at one time when you were nervous about an interview, or the time you almost had a car accident, or the first misunderstanding with your sweetheart, or the time a loved one was very late and you were worried “sick”.  All these events have one thing in common: stress.  Whether it was the nervousness, the sadness or the worry, you most likely felt it in your body.  Sweat, digestive issues, palpitations, headache, difficulty sleeping, etc.

Now imagine that this kind of stress becomes chronic.  So chronic that you don’t even realize it anymore.  Yes you have headaches, trouble sleeping, digestion problems, but you can’t pinpoint it to one single event like in the above paragraph..

In a 2000 study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, women who had moderate or severe marital strain had 2.9 times more chances to need heart surgery, to suffer heart attacks or to die of heart disease.  The same holds for unmarried women who lived with their life partner.  Dr Dean Ornish, a cardiologist who treats his patients with diet, also reports that a good marriage has a huge influence on the health of his patients and their recovery from heart disease.  “The diet can play a significant role,” he said. “But nothing is more powerful than love and intimacy.”   You can read more in his book Love and Survival.

From The American Psychosomatic Society we learn that more conflicts and disagreements put one at higher risk of elevated blood pressure, abdominal obesity, high blood sugar, and elevated bad cholesterol.

The Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine in a 1993 issue links marital conflicts with disruptions of the immune system and the Journal of Physiology and Behaviour links marital distress to a worse recovery from breast cancer.

Analyzing data from nearly 5000 participants, with a follow up at 10 years, researchers have scientifically established what most people know intuitively. If your relationships are bad, your mood is likely to follow.  “Our study shows that the quality of social relationships is a significant risk factor for major depression,” says psychiatrist Alan Teo, MD, of the University of Michigan. …  “The magnitude of these results is similar to the well-established relationship between biological risk factors and cardiovascular disease,” Teo says. “What that means is that if we can teach people how to improve the quality of their relationships, we may be able to prevent or reduce the devastating effects of clinical depression.”


I would like to say that speaking up and setting boundaries will always work out, but I can’t because there will be times it won’t.  Not only it won’t but it can cause huge drama and break the relationship.  Although it can be upsetting when it happens, we must remember that if we want to live a healthy life, we also must let go or minimize the time we spend with less than healthy individuals.  Even if it does not work out well, I can vouch for the fact that every time you exercise your “setting limits”muscle, you will feel more confident and you will be proud of yourself for really taking care of yourself.  I know it did for me.

If you are dealing with mature people, there is a good chance that you can come to an understanding and mutual respect for your needs and the other person’s needs.  However, the more toxic or immature the person you are dealing with, the worse the chance of a peaceful resolution. If you are dealing with someone who is emotionally immature or worse, toxic, there are good chances they will turn your request to respect your needs as an attack and it will end up in a shouting match.   If you are dealing with someone who has been physically violent or you fear can be, do not attempt to reason with them.  For your sake, get outside help or if, as it happened to me in a bus a long time ago, being harassed and threatened by a male passenger, keep quiet and try to get away, fast.

How to set limits

Give yourself a break if you are terrified of setting limits after many months or even years of tolerating.  It’s a process and we have to learn and practice.  It’s also easier to practice when the stakes are not very high. Easier to say no to an acquaintance than to a friend, or a life partner.  Start small.  Learn to say “No”.  One of my favorite sentences is “it does not work for me”.  I also used that sentence to terminate a romantic relationship.

I you want to come to an understanding with someone who is usually stable and mature, do use the “I feel…. when you…. and I need-prefer-want…….  Can we talk about it.”  A good way to start the conversation is to express how much you value the relationship and that’s why you are coming to them to find a solution that will benefit both of you and make you feel closer.

If you have found this article useful, please share it with your friends and your network.  If you would like to work on becoming more assertive and would like to work with me, please use the form in the Contact Us to send me a message.


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Putting things in perspective or how to feel better in 10 minutes or less

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What is perspective.  The dictionnary says :a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view.

I don’t know if it’s the full moon on the 18th but I have had a couple of upsetting happenings in my personal life in the last few days which have totally derailed the happy-go-lucky me.  As I am taking it all in and trying to make sense of it all (maybe there’s a reason my website is makesenseoflife), I needed to put things in perspective and stop the internal turmoil to better face the situations(s).

Luckily I remembered one method I used to teach my clients in my previous careers – that is “put things in perspective”, or look at it from another angle, in this case, against a background of potentially much worse situations.

The way to do so is awfully simple.  It consists in writing down at least 10 potentially negative situations you could face right now, including at least 3 that could qualify as very bad.

Once you have listed them, you need to write a list of numbers from 100 to 0.  Then take each of the 10 potentially negative situations and write each besides a number that corresponds to how awful this would be.  For example, if being told your child has cancer is the very worst that could happen, then put that item besides the 100 (100%).

Choose the next item, like “losing my job”.  Compare this item to the one you assigned 100% – this might be 75 or 85 – thus making it high but much easier to face than getting a cancer diagnosis for your child.

Now look at the situations are are actually occurring in your life and also give them a number.  The chances are those difficult moments will rate lower than the items on your list of potential disasters.  When you now look at your list, there is a high probability that you will feel grateful for not having to face the worst, thus making dealing with what is actually happening a lot easier.

Ideally this tip will work for you.  I have seen examples where something that felt like the end of the world managed to look better than some alternatives.

When I did the exercise this morning, what I am facing is manageable.  It’s not the end of the world, unless I make it so. Being in that frame of mind will make it so much easier to find solutions than if I had remained in the space I was last evening.

If your peace of mind is turned upside down because of an event or a relationship in your life, take 10 minutes to do the exercise to put things in perspective.  And let me know in the comments if you got some benefit from it.

Before closing I want to add that this exercise is not to help you accept or tolerate unhealthy, toxic situations or people.  If either consistently treats you badly, you need to find other ways to protect yourself, including leaving.

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