Lifestyles

By Mary Corradino

Your Health, Your Terms

When I discovered
that our June focus was on health, I struggled for a long time to gain some fresh perspective. What could I say about this topic that has not been covered ten times over, ad nauseam, in a variety of other forums? How could I begin to formulate some solid ideas about healthy living that would make sense for all of our readers? I realized that I had to place this issue within a broader context, one large enough to encompass people from a variety of backgrounds. Our priorities, even for health, shift depending on our age, life circumstance and personal experiences. What works for one person in terms of their physical, mental, emotional and relationship health may not work for another. So I hope this article gets you thinking about your own definition of health, and the impact of your choices today. What are you doing well? And what would you like to tweak to better support your definition of health?

First, let’s accentuate the positive. What is consistent in your life that feels good, healthy, or simply makes you happy? Perhaps it is the quality time you spend with your partner or friends. Maybe it is the time you carve out of your schedule every week for exercise, a massage or just some alone time in your local coffee shop. Maybe it is your commitment to 7+ hours of sleep or your passion for your work or a hobby. Perhaps, you make a point to get to a doctor for a yearly check up. For me, this month, it was a very small change; I had read about the benefits of certain foods liked cooked tomatoes, raspberries and red wine, so I made a point to incorporate more of them in my diet. Every time I did it, it felt good–I was supporting my health. Decisions that support your health are in your life too. Start looking for them and then recognize and appreciate the good you purposefully bring to your life.

Let’s also consider the times when we want to make more healthful choices and yet don’t. Why does this happen?

The first thing that comes to mind is that we are used to living our lives as they are. Change is painful, even when we know it is for the better. It requires effort to get through our extensive “to do” list. How many times have you said, “Just one more thing is going to send me over the edge!” And so even though we intellectually understand the benefits of healthy changes, we make the determination that this too will just have to wait.

There are other times when our unhealthy choices are a misguided attempt at self-care. We want to avoid a difficult situation or confrontation, the stress is wearing, and we find some temporary relief and comfort in a smoke, a drink, a Krispy Kreme or two.

Consider for a moment the times when “health” guides us one way and we resist. We are afraid to trust ourselves. Our natural instincts have been drowned out by voices not our own.

“I’m beat, but if I leave work by 6, my boss isn’t going to think I am hard-working and committed? I’d better stay or I may risk that promotion.”

“I’m hungry, but I really shouldn’t eat more…Got to watch those calories. If I let myself eat every time I’m hungry, I’d weigh more than 200 lbs.”

“Do you really need that gym time? A ‘good’ Mom would spend that time at home with the kids.”

Recognize yourself in any of the above?

I imagine it is easy for all of us to relate. Solutions seem like climbing Mt. Everest–out of reach, impossible; we feel defeated before we even begin the journey, and so it’s understandable that we sometimes scrap the new game plan entirely. In turn, little by little, many of us trade our health, our self, our wants, our desires to meet the expectations of others.

Perhaps, if we could see into the future and really grasp the long term impact of our choices today, we would choose differently. But many times, the erosion happens so slowly. In the moment, we believe we are making the best choice. “It is more important for me to finish this project than take my spin class.” “My day has been so crummy; I deserve this bacon cheeseburger with fries.” “The kids need me to take them to karate so that coffee date with my best friend will have to wait.” “My partner will understand another canceled dinner; after all, we need the money.”

Yet, when you find yourself consistently making these choices that don’t feel healthy or align with what you really want, pause for a second and ask yourself?

What results can I expect if I continue my current behavior/choices/path?

What is the impact on the other aspects of my life, work, relationships, health?

How important is this to me right now?

Finally: What am I willing to do?

Really, only you can answer these questions, and you can’t fool yourself.

Take some time to reflect, identify what you value and then consider the longer term impact of your choices. This approach should help you decide how you want to live today. There will be trade-offs. You will prioritize different things at different times. Trust yourself to know when you are out of balance, when it is time for a new approach, and then implement change in small steps. Appreciate what you have accomplished, no matter how small; positive reinforcement creates momentum to continue. Good health, in its many facets, results when you live well on your terms.

Originally published June 2005
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By Mary Corradino

“Before you say, ‘I Do,’ have you?.”

Really thought about the significance of the time leading up to your wedding and the day itself?

I am sure you have given much thought to your dress, the perfect shoe, your make up and hair, but how much time have you allotted for reflection? To really consider why you are getting married. To fully appreciate the man you have chosen to spend the rest of your life with. To ponder the life you aspire to as a married couple.

Weddings are a time for love, joy and celebration, but if you are a bride in planning mode, that statement may cause you to pause, sigh and ask when the fun begins. It is easy to be swept away by the tide of dress fittings, reception choices and family drama, and many brides find their stress levels reaching new heights and themselves wishing away the time leading up to THE DAY. It is possible to use this time differently.

During a dinner with my mother around the holidays, I posed this question: If she could choose any time in her life to relive, what would it be? She thought only for a moment and said the year leading up to her wedding, her whirlwind courtship with my father. In over 40 years of memories, this is the time she held most precious. I was expecting her to say my birth, but hey, I have three other siblings and falling in love is a lot more fun than childbirth! Jokes aside, I knew that one day I’d like to be able to make the same claim – that being in love and getting prepared for marriage was a time in my life that was an experience rivaled by no other.

My mother’s words got me thinking, there is so much great “food for thought” and practical advice out there for the asking. What would I discover if I polled some brides who have already walked down the aisle?

Following are their unedited comments:

“Challenge the ‘princess myth’ that all little girls hear and think about when their weddings are mentioned. In order to be princess for the day, other things and people often need to be pushed aside. At most it is an 8 hour period from wedding to reception and eventually, the ‘princess’ wakes up to reality….you have just entered into a relationship that requires much compromise and if that compromise was already neglected because ‘princess’ took over, it sets a bad pattern for the marriage. Instead, use the planning of the wedding to practice negotiation and compromise. The wedding is one day, your communication and ability to negotiate and compromise needs to last forever…why not use it then? You need to decide who ‘owns’ this day…you or you and your partner.” – TD, married 3 years

“Don’t let the wedding planning consume you or allow the reception to become the ‘be all and end all’ of the day. The most important thing is the ceremony, be completely present for it, the vows shared are the foundation for all to come.” – MC, married 42 years

“Make the wedding for yourselves, not just your families. Try not to compromise what you really want.” – ES, married 13 years

“It is a once in a lifetime day. Your guests will have a good time no matter what, so focus on really enjoying your day with each other.” – EE, married 2 years

“Go with your gut and make sure you know what you’re doing. If you go with your gut, you usually know what you’re doing.” – AP, married 42 years

“Wait until you are 30 and know yourself before you take this leap.” – RC, married 10 years

“Keep it fun. It doesn’t have to be ‘pull your hair out’ stressful. Plan it like a party.” – DE, married 30 years

And from my token grooms:

“Let the person who is coordinating know that you don’t want to hear any problems on the wedding day. They should just fix it and not tell.” – Chris, married 15 years

“Be sure to enjoy your fiancé during all the hullabaloo. I don’t think anyone ever regrets spending more time with the person he/she loves. It all passes so quickly; so, take time to enjoy each other.” – Jack, married one year

My hope is that these words will reach the brides for whom they will have the most meaning. So, what can be taken away from their comments?

In a nutshell, the message I got was to take your choice in a spouse very seriously, your wedding planning much less seriously and ENJOY! ENJOY! ENJOY! Let this time be brilliant and unforgettable–think of it as a microcosm of your life together. Who do you want to be when things don’t quite go your way? When you get an unpleasant surprise? Strive to want to relive this time 40 years from now and let it be a highlight in your bank of memories.

So when you feel consumed with the small stuff, the wedding stress and strife, anything that robs you of delight, pause and say “thank you” for the love you have found and know that a less than perfect wedding day makes for great laughs on the honeymoon and a much better story for your kids!

Originally published May 2005
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By Mary Corradino

“Certain” Insights:

A 28-year-old actress wants marriage from her live-in boyfriend.

A writer is anxious to find a publisher for her latest novel.

A COO of a media company wants the promise of job security from her boss.

A 52-year-old, self-made millionaire is remarrying and chose a wife that he hopes will be there for him as he ages.

The common thread in such a seemingly diverse group of people, the pursuit of certainty. While not immediately obvious, in coaching each individual, it became clear to me that the ambiguity of the future and the inability to secure a certain outcome were causing stress.

It seems natural that we want our needs met and a given that we will work to mitigate the potential for an undesirable outcome. As a life coach, exploring the “givens” of the human condition have always intrigued me. Must we expend a lot of time and energy seeking certainty in aspects of life that are innately uncertain? Does the uncertain future need to provoke fear? Intellectually, we know the unexpected happens in life so why do we still try for a guarantee? And when someone else factors into the result we seek, we push, however subtly, for the response we need from him/her. The harsh reality, though, is that even if we hear exactly what we want (we get THE GUARANTEE!), guarantees in any relationship, though great in the moment, are only an illusion.

What would happen if we let go of the need for “certainty,” and got comfortable with the idea that the only thing predictable in life is its unpredictability? How would life be different? I, for one, know that I would relax more, and not try so hard to control the outcome; the “not knowing” would become part of the fun. Faith would play a more significant role – a feeling that everything will be OK even when the path is unclear. That gnawing need to know would evaporate and leave room for the expectation that something outstanding is just around the corner.

So, how do we get there?

Looking at what we do know for certain is a good place to start.

Human beings are incredibly resilient. Most of us have weathered tough times and found a way to get through it. In many instances, we emerged stronger, changed for the better by the experience, with new facets and dimensions to our life experience.

Many times the outcome we feared most never happened.

The true and lasting certainty we really desire is only found within ourselves: the knowledge that we will be OK no matter what, that we are loved no matter what, that there is more to life than our daily grind. This type of living leads us naturally to spirit beyond human ego and need. Although these concepts may be difficult to fully appreciate absent a particular context, it is worth reflecting on the connection between abstract principles and our lives.

What would happen if you began to see the perfection in your imperfect self? What would happen to your demands of others? To your need for assurance and certainty? Would they begin to dissipate and leave more space for love, joy, peace and contentment?

There is no magic wand that brings us to this place. It is a process made of many small steps. It is a matter of awareness and choice in every moment – a choice to let go, to worry less, to not manipulate a certain response. Will you get it “right” every time? Of course not, but you will certainly enjoy the ride!

Originally published April 2005
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