ACES, or Adverse Childhood Experiences study, looks at childhood experiences like divorce, neglect, abuse, loss and trauma and the connection to long term adult health problems like heart disease, cancer, depression, autoimmune disease and more.
One of the comments I got from a client last summer in a group coaching program is that I “took away the stigma” from seeing a mental health professional because I talked so openly about my own relatively high ACES score.
I am lucky in that I have been in and out of therapy since I was 10 years old and realize how much better off I am because of that experience. I feel it really saved my life and I’ve been able to heal so much of my ACES experience and build up my resilience.
The long and short of it is if you’ve had early trauma and you haven’t yet dealt with it, now is the time. There are long term health consequences that might lead to early death.
Watch this TED Talk from Nadine Burke Harris — she breaks down what ACES is and what the study is finding long term. She also brings up the point that many people write this off as something that happens to other people’s kids ie the poor kids.
That couldn’t be further from the truth. People across all races, socioeconomic backgrounds, genders have high ACES scores.
If you’d like to find out your own ACES score and learn more about what it means, click here.
If you’d like to learn 8 Ways People Recover from Post Childhood Adversity Syndrome, click here.
I have done 7 of the 8 practices mentioned in the article: taking the test, writing, yoga, meditation, therapy, EMDR, building community are all part of my healing.
There is hope. We can heal from our past. But first we must admit that we bring our past into our present.
What practices will you do to help recover from your ACES?
Today I’m sharing the 6 Common Mistakes That Get In Your Way of Developing Healthy Habits.
The first mistake I see people making is in wanting to change everything at once. This is so common! Every client I work with comes to me wanting to make change in their lives and they are ready to get to work.
The secret to making change is to add one small step at a time. It’s not sexy, but it works.
We will use exercise as an example. (I like to call it movement because exercise has too many negative associations with it).
If you want to become someone who moves their body daily and you currently don’t move at all, an every day goal is unrealistic when you are starting out.
Set your movement goal to be 20% of where you’d like to be. Once you have mastered that 20% you can add another 20%. Keep mastering your smaller goal until you reach your ultimate goal.
The second mistake I see people make is in their mindset: it is all or nothing. The thinking goes if I do not move my body every single day, I might as well do nothing.
Nothing will set you up faster for failure than a black and white way of seeing things. Progress over perfection every single time.
The third mistake I see people making is they fail to keep track of their progress. What we monitor grows. I have been wearing a Fitbit for the last three years and just the simple act of noticing the number of my steps motivates me to move my body.
The forth mistake I see people making is they fail to set reminders of their desired new habit. It is hard to be what you can’t see.
If you want to be someone who is a daily exerciser, how will you remind yourself of that? Some of my clients are visual and love making checklists to hang next to their beds, others let their phones remind them by setting daily alarms and others use the remind features in their activity trackers.
The fifth mistake is failing to set up accountability. If you aren’t someone who is internally motivated, you are not alone! A big part of the population are Obligers (otherwise known as people who need outside accountability). This could look like hiring a coach, finding a friend to meet you for walks, or joining an accountability group.
The sixth mistake is failing to celebrate your accomplishments along the way to reaching your goals. Some clients celebrate by shouting it from the rooftops, others buy themselves gifts they want, others want gold stars. No matter what each milestone is worth celebrating.
You can apply these same principles to making new healthy habits.
Less that two weeks before we flip the calendar over into the new year.
How do you want 2019 to feel?
We get to decide how we feel.
Revolutionary, I know.
For the last decade plus I have been choosing a word of the year. Those words have helped me feel the way I want to feel and to practice a different way of being in the world.
Words I have chosen over the years:
That last one was so freakin hard (Enneagram One here), that I ended up changing it to Lighthearted (also so freaking hard see Enneagram One).
I also have feelings that guide my life:
In choosing these words and feelings I want in my life, it doesn’t mean I am not also experiencing a range of feelings good and bad. That’s real life.
But by choosing to have a touchstone intention for the year, I feel THAT feeling more often. Perhaps because I am focusing on it. Perhaps because the universe is giving me what I asked for.
All I know is that since starting this practice I have felt so much more intentional in my life. Like paying attention to the details of how I want to feel gives me the prompt to check in with myself frequently about how I am actually feeling. That in turn helps guide me back to what I’d like to feel more often and make life choices to support those feelings.
If you’d like to be intentional with your feelings in 2019 there are many ways to do that:
there’s too many things to do (shopping, presents, cooking, travel)
there are too many parties (and I suck at parties)
there are too many obligations (two birthdays, two holiday meals, presents, all.the.things),
Then there’s the stories I tell myself about the holidays and family and the comparison monster comes to visit hard. Especially on Christmas Eve when I start seeing other people posting on social media about their families’ huge extended family celebrations and mountains of gifts.
This year I decided to do December differently: Welcome to De-stress December.
As part of our NOvember challenge we were to write out our fantasy holiday scenario: who is there, what we’re eating, where we are, who is cooking, what we’re smelling, tasting, touching – the works. Then to make one of those fantasies come true for ourselves.
I’m happy to report that is exactly what I did and it was the best Thanksgiving in years.
This got me thinking, why not do that for the December holidays as well?
And since I have my December stories, why not orchestrate the entire month?
That’s how I am de-stressing December.
Step One: Write out every single thing you want to do, the things you feel like you have to do and all the things you’ve already said yes to doing and wish you could get out of.
Try not to get a cramp in your hand. It’s going to be a lot.
I wrote down all my work related stuff: new client meetings, Girls on the Run training, on going client sessions, traveling to LA for a work meeting, speaking on a panel at a women’s conference, shooting a TV segment for self-care in the new year.
Then I wrote down all the stuff I want to do: let my kid decorate my house, wrap everything in twinkle lights because they make me so happy, nog (aka eat candy cane Joe Joes whilst sipping vegan nog) every day, outdoor ice skating, Mary Poppins Returns movie, grandparent lunch for the girl’s birthday, holiday event at school, husband’s birthday, brother and his kids visiting, neighborhood Christmas progressive dinner, hikes on Christmas eve and Christmas day, ordering Thai food on Christmas eve, ordering Chinese food for Christmas day, seeing my parents, seeing his parents.
Step Two: Make a list of who you want to see before now and the end of the year. Make a list of all the people you’d rather see in January when there is less pressure to see every person on the planet. Keep in mind we all still have friends and family in the new year.
In fact, every person I’ve suggested moving a social thing to January has given me an enthusiastic wholehearted yes! Who knew?
Step Three: Decide where you’d like to be in December and make it happen (if possible). If you’d love to be in Paris, but haven’t gotten your plane tickets yet, that might not happen (this year). You can save for next year and spend the year planning what you’d like to do.
If you wish you could be with family and that is not happening for whatever reason, know you aren’t alone this time of year feeling sad. I am sending you really big hugs because sometimes the holidays suck.
If you’d really like to stay home, you can make that happen. Again, you have to let yourself want what you want and make those wishes public.
One of my least favorite parts of the holidays growing up is that so much of it was spent cramped up in the car in uncomfortable dress up clothes sitting in traffic between each stop to see extended family. We barely had time to eat and hang out with our cousins before we were on to the next brief stop.
I decided that wouldn’t be my daughter’s holiday memory. Instead we invite everyone to come to our house (turns out they don’t want to sit in traffic either) and we order delicious take out. No traffic, no one is stuck in the kitchen when they’d rather be reading a book and then we get ourselves outside for a neighborhood walk to see the lights and up to the foothills for an easy day hike.
We schedule holiday time with extended family on days where there is less traffic. Not everyone’s ideal, but it works for us.
This was a conversation that happened WELL BEFORE December. It was uncomfortable and we had it anyway.
We decided what we thought would work for us and tried to make that happen. We compromised with our loved ones and we’ve been making it work.
Start with a MONTHLY calendar view. This is important because those squares are only one by one inch.
Why does this matter?
If I am trying to de-stress my December I can’t have endless space to write all my to-dos on a day.
I need limits.
My limits are one by one square inches of a monthly calendar. I put each thing I want to do in December in its place. I had to move somethings to other days because the one by one inch square got full.
That’s my limit: one by one inch square.
Perhaps you are super human and can have more than a one by one inch square.
I know myself well. I need lots of down time and space between activities and entire days without social events. Or I am grumpy, resentful and usually downed by a virus.
Once I started seeing my December calendar fill up beyond my capacity to still be a good person I decided I need to start delegating stuff to others, cutting out some stuff and moving social and “winter” stuff to January.
I can’t stress this part enough.
We can’t do it all in December and feel the way we want to feel.
Step Five: Decide how you want this month to feel and maybe more importantly how you want feel at the new year.
My word of 2018 is Satiate. That is a pretty freaking good indicator of how I was feeling at the end of last year – all into nuance.
Well, 2018 was way bigger, brighter, bolder, grander and humbling than satiated nuance. It was more drinking from a fire hose than a champagne flute.
That being said, I want to feel stable, healthy and even keel at the turn of the new year.
So I have to decide what’s going to get me there. Knowing myself, it’s not endless partying, staying up late, socializing or otherwise pushing myself.
Step Six: Edit, edit, edit
Go through your calendar and see what you can consolidate, reschedule or bow out of. Be ruthless.
This is how the business trip to LA became a same day trip. This is how the Grandparent lunch turned into soup and sandwiches at home following a matinee showing of Mary Poppins Returns. This is how my December kid got a (tentative) January birthday party with friends. This is how I am going ice skating in January. This is how I’m socializing with local girlfriends in January (and already dreaming of a Galentine’s brunch).
This is how I have no less than five days on my calendar with the word REST on them.
Summer is upon us folks and I don’t know about you, but I like to make the most of the season. With both the kiddo and my husband out of school for two months and not a lot of structure, we go crazy without our Summer of Intentionality aka How to Have the Best Summer Ever.
Rosie Molinary introduced me to The Summer of Intentionality years ago. The long and short of it is each summer we make a list of fun things to do, books to read and things to learn. For our family these lists give us just the right amount of structure to our time away from the school year and a chance to keep learning and growing.
— The to-do list must be FUN stuff. Things you actually want to do.
— Once your list is made, you have to actually commit them to the calendar so they will happen.
— Go into your Summer of Intentionality with the idea that this is a starting point: you can change your lists at any time and you do NOT have to complete everything on the list.
— Even if you have a full time job, you can still do a Summer of Intentionality! Your lists might be shorter than mine, but there is still time to have the best summer ever!
The intention behind this exercise for my family is so we aren’t all consumed with screen time and complaining about how hot it is every day. Instead our days are filled with fun, reading and learning.
I teach 100% guilt-free self-care to busy women who want to drop the story that self-care is selfish and start feeling powerful and strong as the leader in their own life. All without them feeling overwhelmed or breaking the bank.