Why a Whole Foods Plant Based (WFPB) Diet?
I started eating a predominantly Whole Foods Plants Based (WFPB) Diet a few months ago. I did this for health reasons motivated by my ongoing quest to improve my health, and after reading the book How Not to Die. In short, a diet that minimizes (or eliminates) animal based foods tends to help greatly reduce the risk of multiple health conditions including heart disease, multiple types of cancer, infections, depression, and more. As I look at people in my family who have struggled with health issues, I'm taking proactive steps to help maintain and improve my overall health and well-being.
Is Whole Foods Plant Based (WFPB) the same as Vegan?
My best answer to this question is "it depends on who you ask." Some will define being a vegan as including political views as well as dietary habits. Many vegans also champion causes against animal cruelty and beliefs impact well beyond diet to include choices in personal care products and clothing.
In addition, while vegan's don't consume animal products, they may eat process animal product substitutes like Tofurky, Morningstar, almond milk, or cheese made from cashews. People following a WFPB diet stay away from processed foods, and some may even still eat some animal based products, but in moderation. Some WFPB diet followers also avoid sugar and oil for health reasons. In short, WFPB and vegan aren't necessarily the same, but there is a lot of shared ground on the dietary front.
What's My Label?
When it comes to dietary choices, much like political parties, some people are strong enforcers of being a purist. Vegans must hold the corresponding societal views. WFPB followers must eschew oil and sugar. Some are strong advocates of eliminating dairy, meat, and eggs altogether. There are also varying degrees of acceptance on protein powders. Most are adamant on no meet whatsoever.
While I appreciate the keepers of the definition, I don't neatly fall into a category. I eat predominantly vegetarian but I don't scour ingredients lists for any trace of animal products. I eat avocados, which sometimes get labeled as "not vegan" due to bee involvement in production. I have whole cow's milk in my lattes because, honestly, soy milk and almond milk both taste yucky to me. I have accidentally eaten a bacon bit or two when picking through a salad ordered for a group of people at work. I have had a battered fried cheese curd or two because I enjoy them. I also know that I can't eat much meat or cheese because my body has next to no tolerance for those things. I also have not attempted to remove all oil or sugar from my diet because I've made so very many dietary changes so far that I want to give myself a break from perfection.
My label? I tend to say I'm "just this side of vegan" and call it a day. And yes, some groups that I follow online chastise one another for not buying organic, or completely eliminating oil, or eating meat occasionally. I'm not a purist because I don't think that's helpful for me. In short, I try to eat better for my own health, not to completely fulfill someone else's ideal version of whatever label is in vogue now.
So What Do I Eat?
What Do You Think?
How do you define how you eat? What are your healthy favorites? Include your thoughts in the comments.
There are several days each year where people typically look back and assess their lives. This could be the anniversary of a death, a holiday full or memories, or your birthday. For me, the day I look back at my life is Groundhog’s Day.
February 2, 2006
Early in 2006, my life was at a crossroads. My then-husband and I were in the process of getting divorced, and I was figuring out how to transition from a house to two houses and what co-parenting my 2-year old daughter would be like. The one stable thing I had was my job. I was happy to have one thing that I could count on not changing.
…and then February 2 happened.
That morning, I went to work. I took a few minutes between meeting to create a spreadsheet to figure out if I could afford to buy a condo I’d looked at the night before on my own. As I saved, I got a tap on the shoulder that I had an impromptu meeting. I grabbed a pen and a legal pad and walked into a conference room full of executives who informed me that position was eliminated due to restructuring because of the company being acquired. I was in shock. I returned to my desk, deleted the spreadsheet of my financial plans (which in just a few minutes had become irrelevant), told my coworker Brad “I’m gone,” and found myself sitting in my car with a box containing all of my formerly workly possessions.
From the parking lot of my ex-workplace, I called my soon to be ex-husband to tell him that I was now unemployed. His only response was “huh.”
Then It Got a Little Worse
That weekend, I was on a road trip to visit some of my high school friends for a fun weekend of reminiscing and going to the Snowflake Ski Jump. On my way there, a local cop pulled me over for speeding. As I sat there, I glanced at the notification I’d just received from unemployment sitting in my passenger seat—the one that said I’d receive less money than the previous time I’d been laid off—meaning I wouldn’t be bringing enough money in to cover my half of the mortgage. As the officer came to my window, I could feel the tears well up. I could not get a ticket, too. I would cry (as I often heard people threaten to do), but this was no empty threat that would come to bear only through theatrics. I was legit going to fall apart if this happened.
This moment—sitting in the car with indications of my life failures greatest hits smacking me in the face, was a low point in my life—second only to my dad’s unexpected death.
Then It Got a Little Better
Fortunately, I think because of my street cred, which included being a native of a town nearby, I drove away ticket free. One thing had gone okay. Then I got to see friends, connect with new people, and spend more time with my daughter. I also had the time and space to figure out what to do with myself now.
The Transition Begins
It was an ugly, ugly few months.
I applied for countless jobs. I put our house up for sale. My daughter’s dad (new language from Mom’s House, Dad’s House) and I decided to move in tandem to Minneapolis, Minnesota from Madison, Wisconsin. I looked for jobs, made business connections, and stayed with friends on the way to and from my regular trips to Minneapolis. I didn’t sleep well for months. A tree fell down in my front yard the day of my open house, so I figure out how to have a giant tree removed while driving on I-90 from a job interview.
That May, I found a job, a pre-school for my daughter, a new place to live, and reconnected with one of my best friends from high school. Later, her dad found a job and moved, too, with his new girlfriend (who was a lovely person who was good to my daughter). Then, I totaled my car, dated and broke up with a couple of people, and got Shingles three times in a row. Some days, after work, I would lie on my floor and look at the ceiling in my apartment, my low-cost therapy as I adjusted to all of the life changes. I adjusted to my new normal after going through every major life change (save a death in the family) I could think to experience.
Then It Kept Getting Better
In October, on the same day, I was approved for a car loan and found out that my house in Madison had new owners. Over time, I made two great friends from my job and still spend time with them regularly. I got comfortable in a new city. I started dating someone who was great—then bought a house with and married that guy (who my daughter still calls “Mikey.”)
I got laid off again and got another good job, then got laid off again and got an even better job. My husband and I celebrate our 10th anniversary this year, my daughter is doing well, and my best friend and I get together most weeks to catch up. Life is pretty damn good.
A Frame of Reference for Gratitude
Sometimes, I see people who don’t seem happy with what they have. The strange upside of having gone through rough times is that it gives you a frame of reference. It reminds me to be grateful for the house that I love, my husband sitting in the living room with our two cats in his lap, my healthy, happy teenage daughter (including her brown, purple and blond hair), and my challenging job that I absolutely love.
’m grateful for being active, able-bodied, and having a strong sense of well-being. I am grateful for heat in the winter, air conditioning in the summer, and automatic garage door openers. I treasure mother/daughter movie night, trips to the skating rink, and even playing chauffeur on the girl’s friend outings. I value my roller derby skates, my outside roller skates, and my inline skates. I appreciate my cats, Zippy and Meathook, and the combination of disdain and affection they have for me. I am genuinely grateful for it all. Groundhogs Day is my annual reminder to remember all these things.
What Do You Think?
What reminds you to take time to be grateful? Include your thoughts in the comments.
The Challenge of Behavioral Change
About a year ago, I began driving to and from work on a daily basis. Consequently, I have become an avid audiobook listener. I enjoy reading non-fiction, and I focus on topics including business, management, social science, and health.
I've read a lot of books focused on personal improvement. While the information is always beneficial, here are three books that stood above the rest. They include convincing arguments for making positive life changes, straight talk about personal accountability, and specific steps to take to take needed action. In fact, each of these books was so helpful that I initially listened to them, then bought them in a hard copy to have access to the exercises and as a reference moving forward. Here they are in the order that helped me to take best advantage of the information.
1. Emotional Well-Being: Not Nice
Full book title:
Not Nice: Stop People Pleasing, Staying Silent, & Feeling Guilty... And Start Speaking Up, Saying No, Asking Boldly, And Unapologetically Being Yourself
Dr Aziz Gazipura
What I expected:
I was looking for a book on being a better conversationalist. After a couple of false starts with other books that focused on rehearsing conversations and strategies for coping with severe social anxiety, I stumbled across this book.
What I got:
This book is about being more authentic as a person, which can increase personal confidence and make it easier to move freely about the world--including having conversations with people you don't know very well. At it's core, it is about our misconceptions about being nice, and how we "nice" ourselves into insecurity, resentment, and unhappiness.
Dr. Aziz's personal stories resonated with me, and encouraged me to reexamine my attitudes and behaviors. The book includes exercises on everything from evaluating your personal "rules" for interacting with others to thinking through alternative ways to handle common situations. After going through these exercises, I am better at prioritizing what matters to me and living more authentically. As an extra added bonus, having a better sense of myself is helping me commit to the life changes I want to make. By giving myself permission to say no to things that don't appeal to me, and feeling more comfortable really committing to what I care about most, I'm making progress towards healthy eating and fitness.
2. Nutrition: How Not to Die
Full book title:
How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease
Michael Greger, MD
What I Expected:
I was looking for a book about nutrition. While I knew the basics, I wanted to eat better, and I thought having more information on nutrition would help. I also thought it had a high probability of being painfully boring.
What I Got:
I got nutritional information formatted in a way that I cared about it and decided to change my whole diet. Given family history of obesity, pain management, and limited mobility, I wanted to take positive steps to position myself for a long, healthy life where I could skip having to take multiple medications, increase my overall level of fitness, and bypass health issues.
This book guides the reader through health conditions and studies showing how healthier eating can minimize chances of getting the disease, or even provide treatment. Using scientific studies, and even acknowledging the shortcomings of some of them, this book lays out the "why" for the way of eating it advocates. The "why" is positioned not as fear mongering or shaming the reader into making positive life changes, but on the benefits of making eating changes that are completely within your control.
The author, Dr Greger, is an advocate for a Whole Foods Plant Based (WFPB) diet, which emphasizes leafy greens and lots of fruits and vegetables. He also mentions that even if people don't become strict in their adherence to this diet, including more fruits and vegetables will have positive results. I would have never seen myself completely change my eating, but this book gave tangible, specific reasons to upgrade my diet for the better and never look back.
I got more than a dry book on nutrition. Instead, I got the motivation and key strategies I needed to make positive, healthy lifestyle changes. As an extra bonus, the Daily Dozen (also available as an app) is a helpful tool to make sure I'm planning my diet around these core requirements.
3. Fitness: The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation
Full book title:
The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation
What I expected:
I will be completing an inline marathon later on this year, and I am making plans for my workouts leading up to the event. I also know that the last time I signed up for an inline half marathon, I managed to not make a training plan and ended up not even doing the event. I went in looking for motivation (and not even really knowing what I expected that to be). I was also not entirely convinced that I could get motivation from a book, but I was willing to give it a shot.
What I got:
This book is the stern talking to I needed to commit to a goal, take steps to motivate me to achieve it, and the "just do it" mentality to take action towards that goal. The focus is not just on thinking positive thoughts, but on doing the work to make success happen. Like with many books focused on personal improvement, there aren't a lot of new and unusual ideas. It does, however, bring together useful ideas and package them together to motivate action. It includes useful tools and exercises to get from "I should maybe sort of kind of do a thing" to "I'm going to the gym right now, and I'll continue to fine-tune my plan as I go."
There are a few helpful exercises to help empower people to get out of their own way. So often, people sort of, kind of commit to a goal, then find every reason not to follow through. Personally, I think of all the excuses I can come up with for not going to the gym. Using the techniques included in the book, helped me to eliminate many of those lame excuses and motivate myself to go even if I don't totally feel like it on a given day.
What Do You Think?
What books have influenced you to make positive life changes? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Feeling Behind? This Can Help.
I work at a fast-paced software company that is growing like crazy. That means that no matter how much I accomplish, there are always things left undone, and I feel like I should be able to figure out how to do more. In a meeting with my manager, where I shared this frustration, she told me that needed to remind myself of what I DID get done. She challenged me to take time each week to list out my successes. I've been doing that for about a month now, and it'a amazing what a difference it makes. Instead of focusing on the negatives, taking a moment to appreciate, and be grateful, for all the things I've accomplished really helped.
Applying Work to the Rest of Life
While completing this exercise for my job, I also included a few successes from life in my list. I quickly realized that, as at work, I get way more life things done than I realize. I decided to go bigger with my list. At this time of year--when we so often focus on all of the things we're going to totally change in our lives--I decided to take stock of what all I accomplished this year first. Here are 50 things I did this year.
26. Joined a gym.
27. Made my first smoothie in my very own smoothie maker.
28. Painted the living room walls red and gray (again, mostly my lovely husband).
29. Planned an upcoming vacation to New Orleans.
30. Read 13 audiobooks.
31. Rode the train from Duluth, MN to Two Harbors, MN.
32. Rolled over my old retirement account.
33. Roller skated at US Bank Stadium for the first time.
34. Saved money for retirement in a 401(k) and Roth 401(k).
35. Saw "Singing in the Rain" at the Heights Theater.
36. Shared my employment success story with the White Box Club.
37, Shopped for and bought my first inline skates.
38. Signed up for my first inline marathon.
39. Started a new job as a training department manager at a growing SaaS software start-up.
40. Stood in two states at once – Iowa and Nebraska.
41. Switched banks.
42. Took a foam roller class.
43. Traveled to 13 US states.
44. Treated myself to monthly massages.
45. Visited my mom and had mother/daughter/granddaughter holiday lefse making day.
46. Walked along the beach and watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.
47. Watched "Lethal Weapon" at the Parkway Theatre.
48. Went to the gym at least eight times a month from April through December.
49. Won two Step Bets to and increased my overall activity level.
50. Worked my first learning and development contracting gig.
Whoa. I did accomplish a few things. I love that I had milestones including health, adventures, and garden-variety adulting. Seeing this list helped me remind myself of the amazing things I can do. Taking a moment to celebrate, and be grateful for, these successes has me excited to plan for next year's adventures!
What Do You Think?
What did you accomplish this year? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
Just Eat Healthy. Duh.
We all know that we should eat a “healthy” diet. What does that mean? It’s easy to get caught up in the whirl of diets that are popular today—be it Keto, Paleo, DASH, Atkins, Whole 30, or something totally else—and feel like whatever changes you make might be the wrong ones. So now what?
Words of Wisdom on Eating Healthier
Life changes are hard. Everything is new, and everyone has an opinion on what you should or shouldn’t do. We all know that we should move more and eat less, but we often get in our own way when it comes to making a healthier life happen. Here are three mindset tips that helped me stop overthinking and start making better dietary choices.
Tip 1: Never Miss Two in a Row
Over the years, I’ve dieted a ton—including Weight Watchers, Naturally Slim, TOPS, SlimFast and other ridiculous things I have blocked out. While I had success some (but not all) of the time, the effects were short lived. Changing your diet in the short term, but not looking at how to create sustainable changes, leads us right back where we started and leaves us feeling defeated because we succeeded, then failed. Such is the issue with going on a diet with the goal of losing a set amount of weight in a set amount of time.
Instead, it’s better to focus on changing your overall diet, and on a larger scale, your lifestyle. This means the possibility of fewer results right away, but a better chance of real deal, longer term success. Instead of lying to yourself that you’ll never eat [insert thing you absolutely love] again, figure out how to make better overall choices with food that will become just regularly schedule life longer term.
Steve Kamb, founder of Nerd Fitness, has advice to help stop the spiraling before it starts. One of the core tenants of Nerd Fitness is “Never miss two in a row.” Basically, if you miss a workout, or eat a not-so-healthy meal, instead of giving up, consider it the blip that it is and keep on going. Instead of eating a donut at work, deciding you are a horrible person who can’t commit to anything, and make abysmal food choices for the rest of the day—and perhaps forever—commit to not missing two in a row. So you had a donut. Make your next meal or snack better. That’s it. Instead of labeling yourself a “failure”, label yourself “human” and get back to your bigger plan of healthier living.
Tip 2: Get It Right 80% of the Time.
For every identified way of eating that could be successful, there is someone who is ready to proclaim that whatever you’re doing is not “right” or in keeping with said established diet. Instead of listening to the voices online, in your family, or simply in your head trying to convince you that you’re not a good enough paleo/vegan/pescatarian, tune out the unhelpful voices out and focus on eating more things that are better for you more often. Other people can pound their tiny fists as much as they want to, but they are not living your lives, and, honestly, they don’t get a say in your choices.
Dr Michael Greger, author of “How Not to Die”, is an advocate of the benefits of a Whole Food Plant Based (WFPB) diet, which he backs up with scientific research. However, he also points out that making positive changes can be iterative. For example, if you’ll eat salad greens (which have multiple health benefits), but you need to have Bacos on it (which are processed and not great for you), make that iterative, positive change! More than once, I’ve had a big salad loaded with vegetables and a side order of french fries. In short, improve your diet, don’t beat yourself up for doing things you want to do. That’s the path to self-loathing and general unhappiness, not an overall healthier you.
Over time, as you eat more things that are better for you, your body will start to crave healthier food and not have any time for the Bacos/fast food/whole entire cake that you would have eaten routinely in the past. That 80% gets you where you need to be in spite of a “keeper of the label” making uninvited commentary on your choices.
Tip 3: Sometimes, You Have to Eat Like a Dog.
When you start to look at making a chance in how you eat, everything in life gets harder. If you’re no longer picking up a burger at the drive though, now what the heck do you eat? How much do you have to figure out how to cook? What do you even buy at the grocery store? Where is the grocery store anyway?
Enter my personal trainer, Colin, with the best, most practical advice ever. When I told him that I struggled with meal planning, he simply stated “sometimes, you have to eat like a dog.” He went on to explain that I don’t have to make something elaborate for every meal. Instead, I should pick a few staples and move up from there. He pointed out that we feed our pets the same thing every day for a reason—they need certain health needs met, and we know their food will do that for them. Why not do the same thing for ourselves?
When looking for recipes, we see many options that are colorful and beautiful and elaborate. We also tend to forget that every day is not a holiday, and we don’t have to make the equivalent of an elaborate Thanksgiving Dinner three times a day, every day. Instead, find a few basics that you don’t hate and that have nutritional value, build a routine, and then modify as you have the desire (and mental bandwidth) to do so. For me, I went with the following:
Done! I know I’m getting the nutrition I need, and I’m not spending an inordinate amount of my life trying to figure out what to eat. Problem solved. For others, it may be cooking up a whole bunch of chicken, boiling a dozen eggs then creating meals to take to work each day that include protein, frozen vegetables, an orange, and string cheese as a snack. For me, now that I have basic, go-to meals, I am starting to research additional meals I might want to make. The better you are at having at least a basic game plan for what you’re going to eat, the better set up you will be for success.
What Do You Think?
What are your best go-to pieces of practical advice for healthy eating? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Why Gluten Free?
I've been gluten free for a couple of years now. While it was a struggle at first (hello, donuts), I feel significantly better. Since I have Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, which sounds awful, but is totally manageable, eliminating gluten is one strategy that can help immensely. I also find that when I have to make special effort to eat things like bread, pasta and baked goods, I make way better food choices consistently since fruits, vegetables and lean protein are all naturally gluten free. Ordering at restaurants is also significantly easier since "salad with chicken" is now my go-to meal.
As a side note, I know people who shudder at the though of being gluten-free--and I get that. I'm not one to foist my diet on others (my daughter and coworkers often call dibs on my gluten, which is all good.) For many, the though of giving up bread is unthinkable. Personally, I also hate being the person who has to pipe up and announce that I have dietary needs. (Can I please call extra attention to myself while also being perceived as difficult? Ugh.) While initially I was also in that camp of both loving cake and not wanting to rock the boat, I now realize that I'm willing to do a great many things if the benefit is that I don't feel terrible all the time.
Sources of Gluten
So what is gluten? In short, "Gluten is a family of proteins found in grains like wheat, spelt, rye and barley." (See "Learn More" for additional details.) Here are the typical sources of gluten that are commonly present in the grocery store and on restaurant menus everywhere:
Some people suggest that "just this once" I should be able to eat gluten. That seems completely reasonable, but is not so much how it work. Upon the accidental ingestion of cookies and cream ice cream or a wayward crouton, bloating and a general feeling of yuckiness result. In cases where I have eaten something over the course of a few days that I later learned contained gluten, the condition intensifies to what I would ever-so-politely call "severe intestinal distress." It is not pleasant to say the least.
Sneaky Sources of Gluten
I now read labels like crazy. Fortunately, most labels have "contains wheat" at the bottom of the ingredients list. Other items will be labeled as "gluten-free"--sometimes even things like carrots. (Really, carrots? You're bragging about being gluten-free? By that logic, shouldn't you also be bragging about not being made of meat? I'm dissappointed in you, carrots.)
However, there are a few things I would have never have thought to check to see if they contained gluten. News flash: some of these are not even food.
Food You'd Never Suspect
Vitamins, Medications and Pills
I would have never expected to have to look for gluten in medications. (I'm not sure what I thought "pills" were made of, but it never occurred to me that it might be something I need to check.) Now, when I shop for vitamins or supplements, I make sure that they are listed as gluten-free. At one point, I bought melatonin in chewable form--which I now know not to take since "chewable" often equals "gluten." It's also worth asking your pharmacist to clarify that medications are gluten-free. Who knew?
Makeup and Personal Care Items
Now I feel like the glutens are just out to get me. After doing a bit more reading, even though personal care products (like shampoo, makeup, and lotions) sometimes contain gluten, they probably aren't going to have much of an impact (see "Learn More" for additional details). The main concern is ingestion gluten, not having it absorbed through the skin. Since gluten-free has become a buzz word, I'm sure that putting "Gluten Free" on items enables companies to charge more for them and promote that they are possibly better. Regardless of whether this is a legitimate concern, personal care items like cosmetics, hair care products and lotions may contain gluten. There are also companies, like Jason, who promote their products as Gluten Free.
Personally, I tend to use products that contain less (for lack of a better term) crap, many of which also do not contain gluten. See "learn more" for additional details on what to avoid in cosmetics.
What Do You Think?
Were you surprised by any of the items possibly containing gluten? What other gluten-containing products are available? Include your thoughts in the comments?
Standing on the Corner, Waiting for a Bus
When I moved to Minneapolis, I started working downtown and realized that many people opted to take public transportation rather than driving. A few years later, I also moved not far from the light rail train, so for a solid decade, I took the morning train, worked from 9-5 and then I took the train back home again. As job possibilities presented themselves, one of my ongoing requirements was being able to continue my easy train commute.
On a Downtown Train
After my position was eliminated at the end of last year, I started a new job, and for the first time in 12 years, I am driving daily to and from work. I was reticent to make this change, but I also received an offer for a job that was a perfect fit for me, so driving to and from work seemed a small price to pay for a great career opportunity. The other day, I took the train downtown to meet a friend for coffee. It reminded me of the good, the bad, and the ugly about commuting to work my train.
Why I Usually Loved My Train Commute
For me, taking the train was quicker, safer, cheaper, easier and enabled me to have a smaller carbon footprint. What’s not to love?
Why I Occasionally Disliked My Train Commute
Lower cost? Easier? What's not to like? Well, there are a few things...
What Do You Think?
What are the good and bad parts of commuting to and from work using public transportation? Include your thoughts in the comments.
First, Let's Celebrate!
I have great news! My job search has come to a successful close. As of this week, I have accepted a full-time position as an instructional design manager with a software company. I’m excited about this role and happy to get to change gears from being tastefully boastful about how good I am at working to having a job where I actually get to do some paid work. I’m way pumped up about this opportunity and the fun challenges it will bring. Hooray and woo hoo both!
A Note About My Observations
I’m including several numbers in this article. Keep in mind that while I pride myself in my ability to count and do basic math, I’m dealing with a very small sample size. (See the “Learn More” section for issues that can be caused by having a small sample size when it comes statistical information.) This article can only barely be called “research” and is more appropriately described as me sharing my personal experience. With that disclaimer, on to the numbers!
Now, Let's Look at the Numbers
As a bona fide Excel nerd, and meticulous planner, I have kept detailed records on my job search journey from layoff through my exciting new job. Here are a few statistical highlights of what on earth I did with myself since my position was eliminated oh-so many months ago.
How Long Will This Take: Job Search Length
Please, Please Look At My Resume: Job Applications Submitted
Now We're Talking: Interviews
I Know People: Referrals and Impact on Interview Likelihood
I Will Never Work Again: Low Points During The Job Search
Everything Works Out: Lessons Learned During the Job Search
What Do You Think?
What are your job search insights? What worked well for you? Share your ideas in the comments.
I Am Sooooooo Tired!
In adult life, “I’m so tired” is a common complaint, second only to “I am so busy.” Of course, we are so tired and busy because of how important and in-demand we are, therefore we don’t have time to take on one more thing because, for goodness sake, we don’t even have time to sleep!
#Humblebrags aside, there are certainly many life habits adults have that can mess up the ability to sleep—including our 24/7 culture, using our smart phones late in the evening and that cursed show we’re watching on Netflix that somehow tricks us into watching the next episode. Once you do call it a night, here are three tactics for getting yourself from being physically in bed to actually asleep.
I read way more non-fiction than fiction. I read books on time management, making better business decisions and promoting positive behavior change. While I love these books because they help me improve my work skills and excel in life, reading non-fiction activates me. I usually take notes, make observations and think of all of the things I should DO. While this a helpful mindset for overall life success, it’s not going to do my sleep any favors.
Now, I read non-fiction during the day, and fiction at night. I read stories that are entertaining and engaging, but help my mind wind down. So far, my teenage daughter (a voracious reader) has gotten me hooked on dystopian young adult fiction trilogies including Hunger Games, Divergent, Matched, Uglies and more. They are quick reads that are well paced with interesting plots. They also serve as entertainment that helps me transition from awake, functioning adult to ready to go lights-out adult.
Not sure what to read? Grab something from an area little free library, grab a book at the local coffee shop’s free shelf or get thee to the library. Check out what friends and family are reading and get recommendations. Pick something and start. If it’s not your thing, pick something else.
Write It Down
Admittedly, the world “journaling” makes me throw up a little bit in my mouth. These days, journaling is often the go-to remedy for everything from being more grateful for what we have to figuring out why we do the crazy things we do. Do you know why journaling is recommended so much? Because it works. Getting information out of your head and on paper has huge value. It helps you not only process your ideas, thoughts and feelings, but it enables you to take part in the process of taking a thought your mind is stuck on and physically put it somewhere else. Offloading that thought—at least until morning—frees up our minds to get some damn sleep.
When I’m supposed to try to sleep, my brain liked to occupy itself by rehashing every dumb thing I’ve ever said, revisiting movie trivia I can’t quite remember and stewing on problems I can’t quite solve. Keeping those thoughts inside my head (or trying to will them away) only results in more tossing and turning and less actual sleep.
The answer? Write it down. Next to your bed, keep a pen and a writing surface—no matter if it’s a proper journal, half used notebook or the back of an envelope. Trying to pinpoint why that project failed? Write it down. Finally remember the name of your coworker three jobs ago? Write it down. Finally figure out the right way to word that paragraph? Write it down. Instead of either stewing on a topic (and not sleeping) or trying to hold on to that thought until morning (which I never manage to do), you guessed it—WRITE IT DOWN! It also frees up your mind to wander and dream and sleep instead of turning a problem over and over in your head until morning, when you’re thinking even less clearly due to lack of sleep.
If I’m having a tough time sleeping, or even dealing with a stressful situation, I will often take deep breaths. Recently, I attended a training session about resilience. The presenter referenced 4-4-8 breathing and mentioned this technique helped soldiers in the special forces handle stressful situations. As an extra added bonus, it also works as a way to get your mind to calm down and get to sleep.
Here’s how it works:
Variations on this idea abound—including 4-4-8 breathing, 4-4-4 breathing or Circle 7 Breathing (7-7-7). Regardless of the numbers you use, the whole point is to help your mind focus, pay attention to your breathing and calm yourself down. If you’re in a stressful situation, using this exercise can help clear your head so you can deal with the task at hand. If it’s bedtime, tactical breathing can push you from pre-bedtime routine to sound asleep.
What Do You Think?
What are your tried and true tips for getting to sleep? Include your thoughts in the comments.
Welcome To The Suck
The process of being "in transition" is like no other. Not only do you have no outwardly dictated plans on any given weekday, but you don't really know how long your unstructured time off will last (another week, another month, a few months?) or what your day to day life will look like once the transition is over. There's also the issue of figuring out what to do with yourself when you're not job searching--in addition to feeling guilty because you're not doing more job searching, that is. As an extra added bonus, there are the occasional freak outs about money, nervousness about career prospects and the once in a great while "I will never be employed ever again!" full-on panic.
Suffice it to say that job searching can be full of obstacles that make the process hard to manage. Knowing the possible issues is the first step towards figuring out how to mitigate each challenge and move forward. Here are five unfortunate truths I have discovered about dealing with an unexpected career transition and a few coping strategies for dealing with each.
1. You won't always get an interview for THE PERFECT JOB.
Congratulations! You just found THE PERFECT JOB! You have all of the required and preferred qualifications! It's at the right level, with your dream company, and you even know someone who works there who will say great things about you! Surely your days of job searching are coming to a close because you are the purple squirrel for THE PERFECT JOB!
Enter reality. I'm sorry to say that you may not even manage to get so much as an initial phone screen for this position. Even when you feel like the job was tailor made for you, someone in a decision making position may not agree. Why might that happen?
For one, the position may not actually available. Some organizations post job openings to gauge interest in the position even though they have no plans to hire anytime soon. Conversely, the role may have been open for a while and the selection process may be well under way. There could also be an internal person who will take the job without additional people being considered. In some cases, companies may have a policy that they need to post positions externally for a given length of time even though they already have a candidate in mind. Still other organizations may decide part way through the hiring process to leave a position unfilled, but not remove it from their posted jobs.
Assuming the job is really and for true accepting applicants, there may still be issues. For one, key stakeholders in an organization may have a lack of common agreement on what a job role will do and what constitutes being a well-qualified candidate. Decision makers may also each have their own non-negotiable requirements for the qualifications for the potential hire--which may or may not relate to the person's ability to do the job. Remember that, no matter what the issue is, it seldom has anything to do with you personally. It's just the life of recruiting for and trying to fill positions with the best candidates they can find--sometimes with people who are (unfortunately) not you.
2. People who aren't good at their jobs will make your life harder.
Remember a time at your last job when you had to deal with someone who was not good at what they did for a living? Like the salesperson who was rude, never did their paperwork right and missed deadlines? Or the recruiter who didn't keep good notes and forgot who they had phone screened? During your job search, you'll realize those people exist in other organizations, too, and they sometimes stand between you and the job you want.
It could come in the form of an administrative assistant who is supposed to coordinate your travel for an in-person interview--who didn't make reservations then went on vacation leaving you scrambling to find someone else to help. It may be the recruiter who doesn't realize that a learning management system and a learning content management system are roughly the same thing and wrongly screens you out early on in the process. It may be the hiring manager that is overly concerned with your lack of knowledge of their industry and doesn't believe that anyone could just LEARN what they now know. It might be an insecure possible future coworker who doesn't want to hire someone who might outshine them. Just like in the rest of life, things are not always "fair" and you may not get a job, even if you are a strong candidate. Such is life.
3. Along the way, someone will dislike you.
I don't know about you, but I am friggin' delightful. I'm also able to connect and get along well with most people. However, during the interview process, no matter who I am or am not, it's not going to match what someone else thinks the candidate for the position should be. Whether they thought I should have smiled more, made a different outfit choice or given more detailed examples, someone's negative reaction to who I am may take me out of the running for a job.
People often have their own pet theories about what they'd like in a coworker, manager or direct report. They may be convinced that having the title "account manager" is pivotal for success, that all candidates must have a master's degree, or that people who ride horses are pretentious. You might also have the misfortune of reminding them of the mean girl in high school and BOOM--instant dislike. Again, life isn't necessarily "fair."
4. The interview process may be extensive and/or disorganized.
The job interview process can be anything from one interview to many, many, many interviews depending on the organization and the role. Typically, I expect to have a phone screen with an entry level HR person to confirm that I can speak in sentences, an in-person interview with the manager and potential coworkers and a final interview to either demonstrate skills and/or meet with my potential boss's boss. In addition, a given employer may want to have you do more to demonstrate that you have the skills necessary to do the job. You might be asked to pass written assessments, submit work samples, present to a group or complete a project. They may even have you come into the office for the day and "work" as if you are already in the position for which you are applying.
Interviews could take place over the phone, via web conference, through email, in-person or (more likely) a combination of all of the above. Some companies will have a pre-defined, structured process for the pacing and format of interviews. Other organizations will appear to be making it up as they go along. You may inadvertently skip steps and realize near the end of the process that you missed talking about a basic topic like salary range or work location. You may have interviews one-on-one with many people who you might work with going forward including coworkers, people with whom you'd collaborate with and executives. Sometimes, it may seem that the interview process is never-ending because you have not yet talked with every single person in the organization.
5. Time passes more slowly when you're waiting.
I remember being a child, and how LONG the year seemed. It always took forever to get from my birthday at the end of August to Christmas. Enter adulthood. I find myself consistently marveling that it's already whatever day/month/season it is because it seems that it was just that other day/month/season. In this scenario, your employer is the adult, and you are the child.
Some companies will be motivated to fill a position and move things pretty quickly, while others might have days, weeks or even months between your contacts with them--all because something that wasn't filling that position became a priority.
What about that two days that the employer estimated it would take them to contact you? It may easily turn into a week, or two. Since they're busy addressing customer issues, traveling to client sites and doing their expense reports, they didn't even realize it took that long. Meanwhile, you're stocking your pantry awaiting the unemployment apocalypse because you will never get a job ever, ever again. (Except not really because, well, reality.)
I have also had cases where I've had one or more interviews that went well, and then not heard from the company for a week or two. I'll send a follow up message, which sometimes gets the process going again, but at least makes me feel like I've taken the action I can take to let them know I'm still a potential candidate. Keep in mind that holidays, summer, natural disasters, other company events and a host of other valid reasons may keep people from following up with you.
Or, as any job seeker really doesn't want to hear, you may not be getting the job. Responding to a candidate quickly usually shows that the potential employer is interested. In many cases, taking longer to respond may indicate lagging interest. Such is how the whole process works.
What do you think?
What unfortunate truths about the job search process have you found? Share your thoughts in the comments.
I learn for a living. I distill my research into useful blog entries. Geek, parent, knitter, yogi, writer, educator, businessperson, health advocate, & skating nerd.