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Elizabeth Barbour, M. Ed.
The Revitalized Business Woman
Missouri City (Houston), Texas

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3 Easy Ways to Shift from Tired To Inspired This Holiday Season!

Now that Halloween is over, the holiday season is officially here! It’s a season filled with love and laughter, families coming together, people talking about things that matter –gratitude, family, traditions and spirituality.

But it’s also a time of year that is really stressful for a lot of people. There are office parties to attend, extra school celebrations for your kids, gifts to buy and travel arrangements to be made and it can be quite exhausting. It’s hard to know what to say “yes” to and what to say “no” to and it’s important to listen to your intuition and also to the loved ones around you.

Let me share a quick personal story to illustrate this point. The first year that my husband and I were married, we attended 6 holiday parties during the three weeks leading up to Christmas, plus several family events at Christmastime itself. For me, as an extrovert, I was in seventh heaven having fun with all my family, friends and colleagues. My poor introverted husband was such a good sport but somewhere around New Year’s, he turned to me and said “That craziness in December? Never again! He told me that he would be glad to attend one holiday party per weekend the next December with me and then if I wanted to attend another soiree each weekend, I’d have to attend by myself. I had no idea that it was so difficult for him and was glad he spoke up and shared his experience and also set healthy limits for himself.

Here are a few tips to help you navigate the season with a little zest in your pumpkin pie instead of serving up a side order of Grinch! Setting goals and making a game plan for the holidays is an intentional act that doesn’t have to take a lot of time but can have really big results.

1.  What can you cross off of your list right now? For example, if you hate writing holiday greetings and mailing out tons of cards, make up your mind to not do it this year. Just this once. Don’t send any at all! If this is a tradition you’ve done for years, it may feel a bit shocking to consider this option. But once you settle into it and realize all the extra time you’ll have, you may just feel a sense of freedom! (If you need help with this, read five good reasons to say “no” here).

  • A gold star solution: Remember, you can cross something off the list this year just to try it on for size. If it doesn’t feel right or you simply needed a break from a well-loved tradition, you can always add it back in next year.

2.  What can you plan ahead for? Is it really that you don’t enjoy shopping or is it that you don’t enjoy being among the last-minute masses at the mall the last few days before Christmas and end up buying stuff just for stuff’s sake and spending way too much money?

  • A gold star solution: Pull out your calendar and create a plan.

1.  Make a list of who to shop for.

2.  Write in time to go shopping.

3.  Create a budget (and stick to it!).

4.  Take your list with you and cross each item off the list as you find teh perfect gifts for your loved ones!

3.  Who do you need to have a conversation with to make a change? Let’s say you host Thanksgiving (or Christmas or New Year’s Eve) every year for your family and you get frustrated because you get stuck in the kitchen with the bulk of the preparation, cooking and cleaning. No wonder you dread it!

  • A gold star solution: Talk to your family now. “You know _______ (honey, kids, parents, siblings), I’ve been thinking about our holiday plans and want to have a discussion with you about it. Let’s talk about what we like about our tradition and what, if anything, we might want to change.” If you open up some honest conversation, you may find that others are ready for something new. You may find that another family member wants to host at their house or someone else suggests “What if we all go out this year?” (They may secretly not want to come to your house every year but haven’t figured out a polite way to tell you – this gives them a chance!)

The key to really enjoying the holidays is to plan ahead, clarify your priorities and be honest with yourself about what delights you and what you dread. As we grow and evolve, our priorities change and our vision of an ideal holiday season shifts. Perhaps there’s a new baby in the family or a loved one has recently died or some relatives have moved making visiting more difficult. I know a lot of families with young children decide that they will stay home and no longer travel to be with relatives because they want their children to experience the magic of Christmas in their own homes. Be sure to take the pulse of each year and not assume that old traditions can’t be changed.

Lastly, honor the sacred time and space of the season and be sure to build self-care into the plan. During a hectic time of year, it’s amazing what a walk in the woods or a yoga class can do to restore your soul. After all, it is the holidays, and you want to celebrate and that starts with celebrating YOU!

Here’s to a joy-filled, stress-free holiday season for all!




Why You Should Read Liz Gilbert's Big Magic Today!

Have you read it yet? It seems like everyone is talking about this book!

Thanks to the pouring rain in Houston this weekend, I devoured Liz Gilbert's new book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Considering that I am working on my own first book right now, it was a very timely read for me.  Not only was it inspirational for my own creative endeavors, but she helped me think more about creativity in the context of self-care. And she can help you, too, think about creativity in the context of whatever you are committed to in your life.

I love the frank way that she calls “B.S.” on a lot of our limiting thoughts and stifling ideas about creativity in our society. And I found myself nodding my head and then adding my own commentary to support or expand her idea as it relates to self-care!


For example:

Liz writes: “If I want creativity in my life - and I do - then I will have to make space for fear too.”

My version: If I want self-care and self-love in my life - and I do - then I will half to make space for discomfort and unease.


Liz writes:  “You do not need anybody's permission to live a creative life.”

And I say: You do not need anybody's permission to live a life where you love yourself and take care of yourself.


Liz writes about actually enjoying creativity and she invites the reader to say “I enjoy my creativity

I would like to invite you to claim “I enjoy practicing smart self-care

(Because truly, what's wrong with getting plenty of sleep, eating food that tastes healthy and yummy, spending time laughing and playing with loved ones, and  connecting with nature that soothes the senses. That all sounds delicious to me!)


I could go on and on about this book (my original note to you, dear reader, was three times what this post has ended up being!) but instead, I’m going to tell you that you simply must go read it.


Because no matter what creative project you are working on – writing a book, building a business, parenting a child, organizing your house, creating a garden, developing a non-profit – you will find treasure in this book.

And you will also begin to look for the “treasures hidden inside you,” a concept she references a lot.

You have treasures hidden within you… and the clock is ticking, and the world is spinning, and we simply do not have time anymore to think so small.”

Excavating the treasure requires exquisite self-care. It calls us to say yes to that which nurtures and supports us, and it calls us to say no to things that distract us, diminish us or otherwise hold us back.


Revitalizing Action: Read “Big Magic” and then let me know what your “gems” are. (Anyone who has coached with me or taken a class or retreat with me knows that for the last 15 years, I always ask my clients about their gems from a coaching conversation, a group, a workshop or retreat.) What are the gems that you will gather from the wisdom in this book?

Here’s to Big Magic!



7 Best Hospital Survival Strategies for Sandwich Generation Caregivers

I’ve spent a lot of time in stale, sterile hospitals as I’ve embraced my role as a “sandwich generation” caregiver in recent years. I know that I’m not alone because a recent Pew Research Center study has shown that almost half of all Americans ages 40-60 are still raising a child at home while helping to care for a parent 65 or older. My 82-year old mom is now two years in remission after a grueling treatment for throat cancer in 2013 and I’ve spent hundreds of hours at MDAnderson with her these past few years.

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that my mom spent several days in the hospital last week with some heart issues. She is home and feeling much better now. She is preparing to have surgery to repair a blocked carotid artery in a few weeks. (I appreciated all of the messages, e-mails and texts checking on her – and on me. Thank you!)

At some time or another, we all will find ourselves spending long hours in the ER or a hospital with a loved one.  Whether it’s with a child, a partner, a parent, a grandparent or other family member, unfortunately life brings opportunities to seek medical care and assistance. And thank goodness for the talented people who work in medicine to help our loved ones and/or ourselves.

It is critical, however, to ramp up your self-care during these times. The physical, mental and emotional toll that being in a hospital environment can take on you is not to be underestimated! Last week, I spent three 8-hour days at the hospital and was completely wiped out by the time I got home each night.

Here are some tips to help you navigate the long days at the hospital:

1.  Bring your own food. Eating last night’s leftovers (warmed up in the nurse’s lounge microwave) is far more satisfying – and sustaining for you – than almost anything the hospital is likely to serve. Or stop by the grocery store on your way to the hospital and pick up a fresh salad or some sushi.  And snacks. Bring plenty of snacks or you’ll end up eating way too many bags of popcorn (not that I know from experience! LOL!).

2.  Step outside several times during the day. Most medical facilities have learned to build green spaces into their environments. And if there aren’t a lot of trees or grass, at least there might be a water fountain and some nice benches for sitting outside in the fresh air.  Every time my mom went for another test, I’d dash downstairs and walk around the building, then I’d sit in the courtyard and listen to the fountain and feel the sun on my face. It’s a quick and easy way to recharge before heading back inside.

3.  Befriend the nurses. These people can make or break your experience in the hospital, let me tell you! 48 hours into my mom’s recent hospital stay, we still didn’t have any answers. I was getting angry and frustrated but we were waiting on the surgeon to arrive. I kept breathing and praying to help keep myself in check. I joked with the nurses about “packing my boxing gloves in my purse” and told them “just tell me when I need to pull them out” and they got a good laugh out of it. Once the surgeon arrived and we had a game plan, I relaxed – and I realized that my mom’s nurses did, too. They get worried about their patients and also appreciated having a plan of care in place.

4.  A sense of humor is a powerful ally. If you are going to be stuck there, you might as well have some fun. Last week, my mom was preparing to have an MRI of her brain. (Sounds a little scary, eh?) She had to fill out a questionnaire beforehand and one item asked "in your own words, why is your doctor ordering this test?" Her response was "To make sure I'm not losing my mind!" I said “Mom! You don’t really want me to write that, do you?” and she grinned and said “Sure, why not!” I’m sure the techs reading the paperwork got a good chuckle out of it.

5.  Ask clarifying questions. Often. New information comes in all of the time so it’s OK to repeat yourself. Also, medical personnel speak a different language from the rest of the world and if you don't understand something, ask them to repeat it or explain it using different words so that both you and your loved one can understand what they are saying.

6.  Bookend your time at the hospital with things and people that you love. When I got home after the second long day with my mother, my 4 year old daughter had received a Halloween care package in the mail from one of her other grandmothers. She immediately wanted me to get crafty with her. And I had zero interest. But, I made myself sit down with her and I’m so glad I did. She needed the gift of my presence and I needed the gift of hers. We laughed and giggled as we put together little bats, cats and spiders in honor of Halloween and doing something kinesthetic was the perfect transition for me into home life.

7.  Ask for help. Because my daughter is only in school for 5 hours a day, I had to get creative with her care while I was needed at the hospital with my mom. I pieced together some afterschool care, asked my husband to come home from work early a few days and called a girlfriend who was willing to watch Riley for a little bit while my husband and I did a “changing of the guards”. It’s not always easy to ask for help, yet I know that I’m happy to help a friend in their time of need so I trust that what comes around goes around.


I hope you won’t need to use these tips anytime soon, but maybe you know someone who is dealing with long and grueling hospital visits right now. I’d encourage you to forward this article to them with love.  And if you ever find yourself in this situation, simply come back to the blog and you’ll find the information there.

Here’s to smart self-care… even when you’re at the hospital!


P.S. If you are a sandwich generation person, too, I’d love to know what your biggest challenge is as a caregiver. Would you mind e-mailing me at elizabeth at elizabethbarbour dot com and just let me know?