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

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Wednesday
Apr292015

Eat Sweet Potato Fries (because YUM!)

When I first wrote the Revitalized Business Woman Manifesto (you can sign up to snag it here -->), this phrase kept coming up: “Eat Sweet Potato Fries”.  I remember thinking to myself “why am I going to be writing about sweet potatoes? And what does that have to do with self-care for busy professional women?”  Turns out, it’s a great metaphor.

You see, I’ve had to work long and hard on my relationship with food over the last 25 years due to chronic health issues. Of course I’m not perfect with this and I struggle with wanting to eat “normally” all the time.

I remember when I lived in Tallahassee whining to my brilliant nurse practitioner Patrice Bullock of New Genesis Center in Thomasville, Georgia, “But Patrice! I want to eat a “normal” diet!”

Her response: “But Elizabeth, the “normal” Standard American Diet is filled with junk!”

Ah. She has a point there.

Food is medicine.

Food is fuel.

Food is power.

When I follow a clean eating plan, I eat whole unprocessed foods, I avoid gluten, sugar and dairy and I always feel better. Not only am I physically stronger, I am mentally sharper and emotionally more stable.

But who doesn’t want a “treat” now and then, right?

One thing my work with Patrice and other Functional Medicine practitioners has taught me is how to tune in to Mother’s Nature’s natural “treats” – her gifts of color, flavor and texture when it comes to natural, whole foods. They are a much better choice to ingest and enjoy than the processed, greasy, sugary foods that are part of the Standard American Diet (SAD).

I don’t know about you, but give me crisp, colorful sweet potato fries any day over those lame soggy white potato ones.

If you like sweet potatoes, you know what I mean, right?

Sweet potato fries FEEL like they are indulgent. They are pretty on your plate which makes your taste buds even happier. They have that awesome juxtaposition of sweet and salty flavors. And they have that stick-to-your-ribs quality which leaves you feeling satisfied.

Plain old white potatoes are OK. If they have the right seasoning, they can be pretty yummy, but I don’t usually feel like I’ve treated myself after I’ve eaten then, I feel like I have to eat salad for a week afterwards!

If you read my recent article about how subtle changes can make a big impact when it comes to your self-care decisions, you know that choosing your self-care strategies is a little like choosing which French fries to eat. Both will provide sustenance but one feels more decadent and self-loving at the same time, right?

Try these subtle changes and see if your self care feels more decadent and self-loving:

1. Start your morning with dedicated time to pray, meditate or do yoga vs. just hopping out of bed, grabbing a shower and coffee and running out the door.

2. Hike on a trail in the woods vs. walk your neighborhood’s concrete sidewalks.

3. Pack a healthy lunch and sit on a park bench at work vs. running out to grab a meal at a local deli or fast food chain.

4. Luxuriate in a bubble bath with candles & jazz music vs. grabbing a quick shower.

5. Buy a few quality investment pieces of clothing that will last for a decade vs. buying cheap trendy clothes that you’ll only wear for a season.

6. When commuting to work, listen to motivational CDs vs. numbing out to lame top 40 tunes on the radio (I like Maroon 5 and Taylor Swift, too, but enough is enough!)

7. Shop at the farmer’s market each week to buy local produce vs. buying produce that’s been shipped 1500 miles to your local grocery store

8. Plan a girlfriends weekend at a retreat center with a labyrinth and organic food vs. going partying and shopping in Las Vegas

9. Choose a journal with a gorgeous cover and paper that feels good to the touch and use an elegant pen vs. grabbing a black and white composition notebook and a ballpoint pen to capture your precious ideas

 

Revitalizing Action: Grab a sheet of paper and on the left side of the page, make a list of 5-10 things that you currently do for your self-care. Then, on the right side of the page, come up with the corresponding self-care strategy that would feel a little more like eating sweet potato fries. Try doing a few of those in the next week and share your comments below and let me know how you did!

Thursday
Apr232015

Realize Your Worth

Brene Brown writes in her book The Gifts of Imperfection:

Worthy now.

Not if. Not when.

We are worthy of love and belonging now.

Right this minute. As is.

Her writings about shame, vulnerability, wholeheartedness, enoughness and worthiness are powerful medicine. I highly recommend both The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly. I had the privilege of hearing her speak in Houston last year and if you ever get a chance to hear her live, go!

I believe that we come into this world knowing that we are whole and perfect and amazing beings. But somewhere along the way, we absorb messages from the world around us – what I call the “mother, father, teacher, preacher” messages – about our worth, our value and how we “should” be in the world. And often these messages lead us to believe that we are somehow “less than”, “not enough” and “unworthy”.

And for many people, especially women, one of the ways we attempt to reclaim our sense of worthiness is to take care of others. Being a caregiver comes naturally to many women. It almost seems to be written in our DNA “my job is to take care of others.” Loving and nurturing those around you – children, partners, parents, friends, colleagues and more – is one of the most beautiful things we can do as human beings.

But I don’t think it is written in our DNA that “my job is to take care of others and totally and completely neglect myself in the process.

Nope, I don’t buy it. I don’t think that mandate is there.

Yet why do so many women do it? Why do you do it?

I can’t tell you how many times in the past fifteen years that my 1:1 coaching sessions begin with clients breaking down in tears. These are strong, smart, educated women who seemingly have “everything going for them.” They often hire me to help them start a business, manage the growth they are experiencing in their business, change careers or tackle an important project … and the first thing they do is spill it about how exhausted they are. “I’m taking care of my spouse, my kids, my aging parents, my employees at work who are having hard times, my best friend whose mom just died, I’m volunteering at my kid’s school and my church really relies on me to keep this program running…. I’m worn out.”

“And where do you fit into this equation? How are you practicing self-care?” I ask.

And the answer is usually “I don’t. There’s no time for me.”

Newsflash dear reader: Smart self-care is not a luxury… it’s a requirement for healthy, balanced, joyful living. If you don’t take time for yourself now, you will get to the point where you won’t be able to give your time, love and attention to others in your life because you will be burned out, sick or dead!

Stop giving away ALL of your life force – your blood, sweat, tears, love, generosity, appreciation, commitment, investment and more – to everyone else. Keep some for yourself. And if you’re really smart, do what the financial advisors tell you to do: Pay Yourself First!

What does that mean? It means incorporating meaningful and intentional self-care into your daily life.

Not just occasionally. Not just “when you feel like it”. Not just “when you have the time or money”.

Always. Daily. Like brushing your teeth, eating or sleeping.

The sooner you start taking care of yourself, the sooner you’ll get what you want.

Why? Because you’ll decrease stress which will help you focus your priorities, claim your voice and regain some order, balance and yes, even sanity(!) in your life.

Feeling good, balanced, happy and energized is not a reward for success. It's an essential component for success! And that starts with knowing that you are worthy of your love, care and attention.

Not if, not when, but now.

Revitalized Action: Look at your children, your beloved, a best friend or a mentor and take time to think about their worth and their value in your life. If you’re inspired, go ahead and tell them! Then, take stock of your own sweet self. What is worthy and valuable about you? Make a list of 5-10 things and write them down.

If you can connect with this part of you on a regular basis, you’ll be more likely to practice smart self-care because you know you deserve it. You’ll feel better and the people around you will notice. It’s a win-win situation!

Wednesday
Apr152015

Legitimize the voice that says "I need rest!"

How many times in a week do you say out loud or in your head “I’m tired!” or “I’m exhausted!” or “I need a break!”

Once a week? Once a day? Once an hour?

And how many times do you actually listen to… and HEED… that message?

Here’s the thing... by the time you think or say “I’m tired”, the truth is that your body has already been sending you signals before you can even verbalize what is going on for you.

You may have fuzzy thinking, poor coordination, feel fatigued in any part of your body (joint pain, back pain, headache, etc), crave junk food or caffeine, feel stressed out a lot…. The list goes on.

Our lives have gotten so cluttered with input and information that we have stopped listening to our body’s natural messages to us. It starts with a whisper, then a yell, then sometimes a whack on the head (figuratively or literally… have you read Arianna Huffington’s story about her wake up call? Whoa!)

You don’t really want to wait for a whack on the head, do you?

No, I didn’t think so.

I’d like to encourage you to really listen for the whispers that invite you to rest.

And once you’ve heeded those inklings, here are a few things you can do about it.

1. Stop. Take 5 minutes to assess. Pause what you’re doing and just breathe. So often when we realize we are tired, we keep going or push through until it’s “convenient” for us to slow down. (Ever hear yourself say “I don’t have time to be tired!”) By then, it’s often too late and then you make really poor choices. Like eating a bag of potato chips, a chocolate chip cookie AND drinking a cup of coffee. You feel fantastic again for all of 5.3 minutes and then the sugar crash rains on your parade and you feel even crappier and more tired than you did at the beginning. If you truly stop what you are doing and take a few minutes to tune in to your body’s messages, it will help you know where to go next.

2. Course Correct. This is a gentle reminder that you have choices. You are in charge of your life, of your schedule and of how you choose to manage it. I can hear you now saying “BUT my _______________ (kids, spouse, boss, staff, clients) NEED me….!” Yes they do, but you are no good to them if you are burned out, exhausted and running on fumes. You can always make changes. You can reschedule that late afternoon meeting. You can ask someone else to pick up your kid from soccer practice. You can decide that you will go to bed a full hour early tonight because your body is craving sleep. You can rearrange the rest of your week. You can say “no” to the volunteer commitment that you were just about to say “yes” to.

3. Repeat steps 1 and 2. Truthfully, it’s that simple. The more we stop throughout the day and take mini-assessment breaks… for a few deep breaths, a moment of silence, a quick meditation, stepping outside into nature, a 5 minute brisk walk… the easier course correction becomes and then it’s a gentle veer from the planned course versus a complete 90 or 180 degree turn!

Revitalization Action: Stop and take a 5 minute assessment right now. Think about the rest of your day. Look at your calendar. Listen to your body. Does it feel good? Are all systems go? If so, hooray! If not, if something feels wonky or out of alignment, pay attention! And do a little course correction. The little voice that says “I need rest!” will feel heard and validated. And your whole being (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) will thank you.