5 Summer Fitness Tips

Time sure does fly. Seems like yesterday I was thinking summer 2017 will be my fittest ever.  I’m going to run more miles and lift more than ever. Well, here we are and it hasn’t yet happened. I’m not fretting though, because my rational mind says “this is not a race, it’s about being healthy.” However, my vain mind says, “I want to wear a two piece and turn heads.”  Okay, I digress. If you are having those same thoughts, no worries, there are a few ways to satisfy both concerns and achieve summer fitness.

Fitness Tips

  1. Goals – Set just a couple small realistic goals like committing to doing cardio 2-3 times per week for 30 minutes or going to the gym 2 mornings before work or 2 evenings after work. Don’t worry about getting in those jeans from homecoming 5 years ago. Don’t start reminiscing too much just yet.Gym Fitness
  2. Commitment – Seriously think about activities you will actually commit to doing. If you have a history of taking classes and leaving before the end this may not be the time to try something new. Start with walking, running, biking or a cardio machine at the gym. Oh yeah, move fast enough to get your heart rate going. If you are 10 minutes into your workout without one bead of sweat, stop and hit the reset button.
  3. Move – Now is a great time to add strength training since you are all set with a schedule and cardio activity. I assure you that you will not bulk up like that lady on the front of a muscle-building magazine who looks like she could possibly lift a tiny house. Keep in mind you are focusing on working towards a healthier lifestyle not changing careers to be a professional body builder. Fellas, strength training requires a little more than going to the gym and isolating your workouts to chest and biceps. Nice pecs and biceps are great, but total wellness is the main objective.
  4. Diet –  Let’s talk about that taboo four letter word–DIET. It is critical to take your diet seriously in order to improve your total wellness. I’ve heard many times that health is 80% diet and 20% exercise. Since I know you don’t want to reinvent the wheel, trust me when I tell you that it is true.  Through trial and error over the years and a few pounds later I am a believer. So you get the point. Exercise is important, but it doesn’t substitute for a good diet.
  5. Patience – This is by far the most important fitness tip. BE PATIENT. This did not happen overnight and it will not reverse overnight. Just because you worked out, ate clean, went to bed, woke up and still can’t fit in those jeans, it doesn’t mean positive things aren’t happening. Stay the course! Fitness is not a fad. There is more to it than a colon cleanse, wearing a sweat suit or taking diet supplements.

Off To a Great Start

Although summer is here it’s not too late to start. The reality is this race was never about anyone else but you. The moment you realize you are only competing with yourself is when you make the greatest strides.

Let’s revisit tip number 1. Set small realistic goals. Instead of cutting out all sugars, fried foods or junk food, think about what you seem to indulge in more. Is it soda, wine, pizza or cake.? Cut back from several times per week to maybe once per week. If you find yourself eating out several times per week for lunch, consider taking lunch except on Fridays. Make more meals at home. Change the way you cook from frying to baking. Most importantly watch your portion size. If you aren’t sure what one serving looks like visit ChooseMyPlate. It is an excellent source of information to get started. Don’t be so hard on yourself, there is always more to learn.

It’s okay if there are some missteps along the way. Some days seem damn near impossible to put one foot in front of the other, let alone workout and eat clean. Don’t stay stuck on the days you skipped a workout or ate too much cake. Simply learn and move on from it. Remember that fitness is about more than wearing a two piece or showing off pecks. Staying focused will keep you on the road to being fit for summer and beyond.

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Learning to swim: Tips to help adults

As it turns out, I was not the only adult who never learned how to swim as a child. Many adults are interested in learning to swim but are reluctant due to fear. I no longer see the pool as this scary place and can share a few things I’ve learned. Below are a few tips to help adults interested in learning how to swim.IMG_0833

Private vs group lessons

I’ve been fortunate enough to experience both. Group lessons can be helpful depending on your goals. Adults learning to swim who aren’t fearful of the water would probably do well in group lessons. Some adults and children do really well with group lessons because they are motivated by their peers.  Most group lessons are typically small groups about 10 or under. Private lessons are a wise decision if you are extremely fearful since you will have the instructors undivided attention.  For children, private lessons may be helpful if they are also fearful or have difficulty taking instruction in a group setting.

What to wear

Swimming shorts for males and bathing suits for females tend to work just well. I have found that department store bathing suits and 2 piece suits don’t hold up that well in chlorine water. The type of one piece suits worn by swim teams works best in the pool. These suits are made of a material that typically withstands the waters of the pool. Specialty stores like Omega sports, have reasonable priced suits and seem to be knowledgeable about sizing. Swim suit sizing tend to be much different than typical women sizes.  Goggles can come in handy if you are like me and don’t particularly like getting water in your eyes. A variety of styles and colors can be purchased from just about any store that sells sporting goods. Early on I would simply focus on a pair that fits and protects the eyes. As you become more advanced, and you will, you may want to consider getting a specific type or brand.

Swim caps

The question of whether or not my hair gets wet often comes up as a topic when I mention swimming. Now I am sure this greatly contributes to the number of women not swimming. This is a serious subject that has impacted many African American women and contributes to their reluctance to learn to swim, myself included. Believe me when I tell you that I wouldn’t even consider swimming when I wore permed hair. I can go on and on about how my hair was a factor in my decision not to participate in many activities, but I digress. The good news is that there are many styles and sizes of swimming caps to choose from and I have tried a few. I no longer have permed hair but still prefer my hair to remain as dry as possible. I have found the best variety while shopping online since retail stores usually stock a limited supply.

Additional accessories

In terms of other accessories, your swim instructor will assist you based on your goals, what you are learning, and your skill level. I found fins to be extremely helpful while attempting to learn freestyle swimming. They really propel you through the water and make it less challenging in the beginning.

Location

There are several options to choose from when deciding where to take classes. Gyms, recreational centers, swim clubs, private pools or your local YMCA. Depending on your schedule, location and budget will determine the best option for you. I have experience with lessons at recreations centers and my local YMCA.  I was pleased with all the facilities as well as the variety of class offerings.  It is often helpful to speak with the aquatics director as well as a current or former student.

So there you have it. Have no fear if you are an adult learning to swim! The most important part is to find a place where you are comfortable with the environment and instructor. Swimming is one of the few activities that can be enjoyed throughout the course of a lifespan. You can swim from early childhood through the golden years. It really doesn’t matter if you learn to swim as a preschooler, teenager, young adult or over 40 like me. Everyone starts at the same place…The intersection of RELAX and BREATHE.

 

 

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My long break up

sugar-6-1466970I can’t believe it has come to this. By now, I have scoured the internet and read just about every article, blog and forum discussion on the subject of sugar. I know all about the ills of sugar, impact on weight, how it attributes to diabetes, obesity and is a factor in heart disease. I am still searching for that one article that explains how all the other billion articles and research are really myths and sugar is actually my friend. I know that article exists somewhere on the world wide web. Until then I guess I just have to go with the research from the CDC, WHO and other top medical experts that insist sugar is basically a killer. Even as I type,  this is becoming so painful with each stroke of the keyboard. I am in love with sugar. What I really mean to say is that I am in love with soda.

Oh how I love you, but I know you mean me no good. I know you lead me on, with your sweet smell, taste, and pretty packaging. After all, red is my favorite color and that font is so pretty. Remember the time you had a signature bottle with my name spelled out right on the side? Oh, I know you mean me no good. You and I have been together for quite some time, I mean we go wayyyyyy back. Okay, some of my first and fondest memories of you are from childhood. Remember when my daddy would give me a dollar to buy a snack after school and I just couldn’t wait to pick you up in that 12-ounce glass bottle with the curved glass and your name spelled in raised letters on the side? Those were the days. I had no idea we would be together this long and all the problems you would cause over the years. I have tried my best to break it off with you many times and somehow you manage to weasel your way back into my life. I remember that time I was “watching my coke-1325218weight” and I would only have a soda once per week. Then a few years later I was pregnant and knew I didn’t need to drink caffeine so I stopped seeing you for 9 months. What about the time I got braces and knew it was pointless to spend tons of money for straightening my teeth just to let them rot by drinking soda so I quit you again. Then there was that time I swore I was done with soda and just quit cold turkey for one month. Again, you somehow manage to weasel your way back into my life. Damn you soda!!!

So here we go again, right back where we started, I am officially quitting you again. I know it won’t be easy and now realize it will be a process.  I know I can’t expect to quit you cold turkey and I know I may even have setbacks, but I am quitting you slowly but surely. Are you having difficulty breaking up with something? If so, let’s chat.

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Learning to Swim Over 40

Wow! Who said this was going to be a good idea? This is more about overcoming a fear swim 3than it is about learning to swim. Forty years is a long time to carry a fear. What was I thinking when I agreed to get in a pool at this age? Looking back, and I do mean a long way back on my learning to swim journey, I had visions of swimming laps effortlessly after maybe a few sessions. I didn’t anticipate it taking long to learn all the basic stuff like breathing properly, the proper way to kick, and blah blah blah. Then the first days of swim lessons arrived and I realized that I had no clue. Just because you get in the water with all the right gear on doesn’t make you a swimmer. You may look cute, but a swimmer you are not. I knew I wasn’t ready to go to the deep end of the pool, but what I didn’t know was that I would spend the next several months hanging out in the very shallow end of the pool–and by shallow I mean 3ft and less. What I mean when I say 3ft or less is that I spent a considerable amount of time hanging out near the wall and rope area since you can never be too cautious. I never knew there was so much to learn about breathing, floating on your back and kicking.

I finally got off the wall and explored other areas of the pool once I finally realized I could simply stand up whenever I felt unsure of something.  Keep in mind that the pool is only 4ft deep and since I am a few inches over 5ft the water would only be chest level. Yeah, I would constantly remind myself of this fact to convince myself I would not drown. Now that’s easier said than done. Although I remained skeptical, I often gave myself secret pep talks before getting in the pool. After spending another lifetime working on kicking and getting comfortable floating, it was time to put everything together. I began working on swimming freestyle just like it appeared everyone else was doing when they showed up to the pool to lap swim. OK, not so fast, it sounded good but there is just something about connecting all the dots that didn’t click quite as fast as I wanted. So after seeing someone swimming the breast stroke it only made sense that I would try it out too. Alas, something I could do and not feel like I was too old to even be in the pool. After what felt like another forever, I was finally comfortable enough to venture into the lap pool.

Yay! I am finally in the lap pool, but man oh man, it was DEEP.  I mean really DEEP! Time for another pep talk. After trying it out, using a flotation belt, swim instructor assistance and lifeguards nearby I might be convinced I’m not going to die. After another forever of perfecting my breaststroke and getting acclimated to being in deep water, I am swimming. I mean really swimming in the deep end without a flotation device, unassisted and not holding the wall. swim 1

Learning to swim over 40 has been the most challenging and rewarding thing I’ve done in many years. I now realize that the swimming part is easy and actually has been from day one. The trusting and believing is the challenge. Persistence is key. Each day little by little I learned to trust myself more and fear less. As my trust level rose the fear factor went down. This experience has been a constant battle of the mind and a mental exercise. Not only has learning to swim increased my confidence in the pool but outside of the pool as well. I know that if I have the courage to do something I’ve feared for over 40 years there are simply no limits to what I can do outside of the pool.  The only limits are those I place on myself.

If you don’t know how to swim and are considering embarking on this journey, it is never too late. Remember to get out of your own way. Consider that learning to swim is not just a matter of exercise it is also a safety issue.  For more information on the importance of learning to swim check out this article in Essence magazine.

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Another biking adventure!!

Yep, we did it again, we survived another bike ride. I was sure that by now we had IMG_2780everything together since we are practically pros.  I mean I packed all the necessities, specifically water. Plus, we did not leave home without the magical bike seat cover, air in tires and helmets. Now we are all set since we even had a brief discussion and agreed to ride for six miles again. As we take off I feel like we are really getting the hang of this biking thing. We are moving right along on the trail, around the curve, a slight descent down a hill and all without any problems. Just as I am thinking no problems, I notice my son is abruptly stopping his bike on the trail. This time, it at least took about 5 minutes to register the first complaint. Winning! Read more…

Yikes! Bike rides with kids again.

IMG_2682Well, we had our first ride of the summer season a couple of weeks ago. This turned out to be a very long short ride. After spending too much time getting everything together for the ride (bike rack, hats, water bottles, proper gear etc.), I secured the bikes on the rack and headed for an afternoon of fun, well at least that’s what I thought. I was way too excited. I should have known right then I was living some type of fantasy. Crazy me, I’m still a believer. As I sat in the car line waiting for my son’s school to adjourn I just knew this was going to be the perfect after school event. It only took a nano second for me to wake out of my slumber once he reached the car. “Can we go home before we ride bikes?”, he asked.  I replied, “no” we will be really late.” We were meeting some friends and going home would mean we would be at least 30 minutes late. I asked the reason for wanting to go home and of course, this was the one day that he felt like he needed to use the bathroom (yes, it was more than pee). I offered to take him to a public restroom but he insisted he could wait until later. Cool, we are all set. We met up with friends and about one minute after taking bikes off the rack he announced, “I really need to go now.”  Luckily we parked at a shopping center so we made a pit stop at our friendly electronic store. Ok, now we are rocking and rolling and maybe after being on the trail for all of 2 minutes he declares, “My butt is hurting” and needs to stop to rest. I oblige and after he also has a drink of water we are all set, for the umpteenth time. Now I am enjoying the ride and I be damned if we aren’t stopping again. His butt is hurting and the handlebar doesn’t feel right, the gears aren’t changing properly. Now, I want to have a meltdown but I’m trying to hold it together. After all, we are riding with friends and I don’t want to look like I don’t have it together, but really I don’t have it together. My friend must have sensed things were falling apart and offered her son’s seat cover for him to try. Jesus is real, because once he sat on that seat cover he took off and rode like the wind. I had to pedal like a mad woman to try to catch up with him, afraid he would try crossing the busy street without supervision. We survived. Whew, still wiping sweat.

So….. I decided I just didn’t get enough and we headed back out again this week. This time, I was feeling like a pro after getting our first ride of the season behind us. First things first, I purchased a seat cover. I picked him up from camp and the first thing out of his mouth is “Are we still going biking?” I replied, “Yes” and his response was “It’s too hot to ride bikes.” So I explained the plans and he insists he still wants to go but was just saying it was hot.  I just couldn’t wait for him to try out this new seat cover because I knew it was going to forever change our bike riding experience. We didn’t even make it onto the trail and I hear him say, “I’m gonna take this cover off.” I’m pretty sure I had a fire in my eyes when I asked the reason and he explained it was making his seat too tall. To the rescue again, my friend had a quick fix and lowered his seat. Good save!! Now we are on the trail riding. There were about 10 more abrupt stops and wobbling across lanes. Even though it started off rocky, and we had to stop for tired legs, gear checks, water stops and just because stops, we made our very long short ride of 6.2 miles. Not only did we make it, he even requested to go a little further the next time. And just like anyone who’s a glutton for punishment, I’m sure I will oblige on our next bike ride.

I’m still learning lessons. 1.Perseverance is powerful, and I’m not talking about kids, this was for me. 2. Have all the necessities checked before leaving home (inflated tires, water bottle holder, seat adjusted, seat cover if needed, bug spray etc.) 3. As long as you are moving, fitness is in progress. 4. Take a deep breath and enjoy, believe it or not, it doesn’t last long. Fleeting memories.

 

 

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A few things I didn’t know or took for granted before running

runningThere are many things I didn’t know before I became a runner… Not to mention the things I am still learning and the things I knew but simply took for granted. I’m thinking back to a time before running on a regular basis and competing in races. I use to see other people up first thing in the morning or late into the evening running and my first thought would be, “they are crazy”. Once I started running I changed my mind about the crazy part. Then my new thought became, once I build up my endurance, I will be able to just get out there anytime and run for miles and miles like the wind. Needless to say, both of my thought processes involved faulty thinking. Now, after doing this running thing for a little while I have some new insights. I have a bit of wisdom I would like to share with anyone considering taking up running as part of their fitness regimen. There are 5 things that have been paramount in contributing to my success in keeping running as part of my exercise routine.

  1. Eating the right breakfast is critical to ensuring a great run. We already know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it gives your body the boost you need to start the day and get moving. It is important to have the right breakfast because exercise requires you to use so much fuel and just like a car if you don’t fuel up you aren’t going very far. Although there are many choices we can bagelmake for breakfast all things are not proper to consume before a run. It took me a while, but I learned a few things about what works and what doesn’t. One of my favorite breakfast meals is oatmeal with fresh fruit. However, I quickly learned that high fiber foods are great for my diet but do not work before a run. It’s difficult to make it through a run if you breakfast is literally running through you. There’s nothing like a bacon and egg sandwich with a side of hash-browns but after a breakfast like that, I’m too lethargic and bloated to do much of anything. So the right breakfast for me usually consists of two items, one serving of carbs (toast or bagel) a protein (bacon or sausage) and water.
  2. Foot care is crucial if you plan to have longevity. I know that having the right shoe is important and thought that was my only concern. Let me tell you just how wrong I was for thinking shoes are everything. In addition to offering variety, there is a reason sneaker stores have shoes organized by type of activity; walking, running, cross train, etc. Always make sure to get help when purchasing sneakers. Buy shoes based on your primary activity. If your feet are not comfortable you will not make it very far. Now let me tell you about something I took for granted but learned along the way. Blisters can occur on your feet while running and they are painful. Although there is no way to completely prevent them from occurring, there are a footcouple of things you can do. Always wear running socks, which means you do not want to wear the traditional 100% cotton socks. Run from cotton. Instead, choose socks made from synthetic materials that  reduce friction and moisture which are two of the culprits responsible for blisters.
  3. Stretching is very simple to do but often skipped. I use to think that anything that simple wasn’t important otherwise everyone would be doing it. Well, I was wrong about that too. Stretching allows your muscles to wake up and gets your blood flowing.  I equate not stretching to getting in a cold car after it has been sitting all night and immediately turning the heat on high then wondering why it isn’t getting warm. The engine hasn’t had proper time to warm up and do its job. The same thing happens to your body when you don’t stretch. Skipping stretching may add stress to joints and muscles causing injury. I have attempted to run without stretching and each time I experienced problems with my legs or joints. When I stretch before running I have fewer problems. Stretching before and after running are equally important. Stretching allows the body time to cool down and return your heart rate to resting.
  4. Sleeping an 8 hour day is something I thought was overrated. I am a night owl by nature and have never been interested in napping. As a preschooler, I would often run from my great-grandmother because if you ever sat in her lap she would surely rock you to sleep. In kindergarten, I only took a nap one time. As it turns out my mother stopped by to pick me up early but since I was asleep she decided to let me stay at school. I vowed right then, I would never miss an opportunity to do something fun because I was sleeping. Forty years later, I still don’t like naps! Even though I knew getting up for early morning runs would work best for my schedule I didn’t think about how it would impact my evening habits. Initially, I tried to keep my routine of going to bed about 11:30 or after and wake up at 6am for Saturday morning runs. I would barely make it on time and felt groggy during and after my runs and for much of the day. This was crazy, so I broke down and started getting at least 7 hours of sleep, anything less than that I am having a bad run.
  5. Running with friends is never a need, but having a buddy along can be a good thing. There are times when the only companion needed are DMX and Tupac on your playlist or the sounds of the birds chirping as you go running along. Then there are those times that having someone along just makes getting through that group class you were too embarrassed to try alone a little more bearable. It will also make that 5-mile morning run that you were thinking about skipping out on not so 2016051595072547daunting after all. Sometimes there is no substitute for having a friend to commiserate with after a tough workout. Nothing is better than having  a friend to share in the joy of what it took to make it across the finish line in a race that seemed impossible.

There it is, a snapshot of just a few of the things that I took for granted. I know this is just the beginning of what are many more lessons on the joys of running. Stay tuned as I share more new-found wisdom. What have you learned on your journey to better health?

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Staying active with children in tow

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Well it’s official, summer vacation has begun for my eleven-year-old son. In between summer camps and time with family, what shall we do? Getting workouts done is still a must.  Well, we could go for another one of those very long short distance bike rides where we stop every few minutes for water. I know he means well but when you are hoping to sneak in an 8-mile bike ride things can get a little dicey. I’ve learned that while I am not able to keep my routine workout or schedule, we can still accomplish a lot and have fun. Well, a little fun on some days. In addition to biking, there are other great activities such as swimming, hiking, a group fitness class, or going for a walk/run that you and your kids can enjoy as a family.  There are a few things you can do to make sure these activities are filled with laughs and less crying (and I don’t mean the kids either).

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  • Going for a bike ride or jog on the trail is a great way to burn calories. Prepping in advance is essential to making these successful activities. Start by having completely filled water bottles, explaining the bike or walking route and assuring them IMG_1361that lunch or snack will follow definitely helps. Going out on the trails late morning is the ideal time. By then most people have cleared it to head off to work and it’s also late enough so that everyone can sleep in and finish up with the ride just in time for a snack or early lunch. This is a great time to practice interval training. Make it fun by giving them a short distance to run and follow-up by a brisk walk and repeat. When you return to the trail see if you are able to increase your run distance before having to walk. Not to mention, if you decide to bike and they are still learning etiquette while riding on the trails you probably won’t get too many glaring eyes or near miss collisions.
  • The pool can also be a saver if your child is a pretty independent swimmer. While you are swimming a few laps they can get in a swim with you and maybe even work on their stroke/technique. It’s a good idea to build in enough time at the end so they are able to just have fun and play in the water before leaving. Did you know swimming is a total body workout and one of the top activities for burning calories?
  • Taking an exercise class together is a great way to get in a workout and maybe even be a team. Participating in family boot camp classes or Zumba will give you the opportunity to get in a total body workout. These classes are a great way to challenge you and perhaps try something new. Keep in mind that if you have younger children some of these classes may last an hour. It fine to leave early because it’s all about having fun. Managing expectations and being supportive is what’s important when starting a new activity.
  • Hiking is a great way to get to in exercise and explore at the same time. Hiking is about more than exercising and is learning and bonding experience. We’ve learned so much IMG_1847during hiking about the outdoors as well as ourselves while hiking. I’ve even been able to overcome some of my own fears and be simply amazed at how courageous my son has become.  Packing snacks and dressing for the occasion is critical.
  • It also helps to have incentives to take part to get started without a lot of fuss and opposition. Although I would much rather not see electronics while I am outside, I must admit, initially, the DS was a life saver while going for walks. Apparently you are able to collect game coins to use while playing simply by turning the device on while you are walking. Finding friends to go along for a group adventure has always been a motivator, a great way to explore and spend time with my son.

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Initially, the thought of participating in some of these activities with my son seemed daunting and even got off to a rocky start. There have been many times I questioned what sane person would even consider taking this on since a headache seemed to outweigh the benefits. However, by the end of what sometimes appears is a “what are you thinking” kind of an ordeal, I am always proud that we stick it out.  I know I certainly gain a lot from our experiences and think he does too. Now, let’s see what this summer has in store.

What are some ways you have found to stay active with a child in tow?

 

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5 ways to choose healthy snacks

healthy snacks

Staying fit is about much more than signing up for a class at the gym, completing a 30-day squat challenge or making it to the leader board in your Fitbit group. Believe it or not, it’s even about more than successfully completing your first unassisted pull-up or 20 burpees with good form. Staying fit is about resisting the urge to pull into Krispy Creme just because the “Hot Now” sign is on. It’s about not getting a big gulp soda since you were already outside pumping gas. It’s about not getting a second slice of cake just because someone said it is made from scratch. Staying fit is about the choices we make after we leave the gym and are no longer under the watchful eye of our personal trainer or accountability partners. Although I sometimes fall short, I have developed many strategies to help me along the way. Read more…

7 Great ways to stay fit after the gym

 

healthandwellnessrounds

Ok, you had a great gym workout, way to go! It’s pretty easy to stay on task when following the lead of the fitness instructor or moving between weight machines and cardio equipment. What happens once you are back at home to fend for yourself? The hours that span between each gym visit can feel like a lifetime when faced with endless food choices, work and home stressors and self-defeating thoughts. Here are  7 tips to help ensure success. Read more…