My Year By Design

The journey to living by design.

Archive for the month “January, 2014”

Doing Good II

So not long ago, I talked about doing good as a way to fight anxiety and depression. I’m still at it. I’ve been making a conscious effort to bring a little something good to people who seem to be having a difficult day.

The other day, I saw a woman at work who was telling someone about her bad day. I know my co-worker loves chocolate, so after work I grabbed a dark chocolate bar and put it in her mailbox. I hoped it cheered her up.

Another co-worker of mine was complaining to me one day that a parent had yelled at her and made her feel quietly badly about something that really wasn’t her fault. The next day I left an origami heart on her desk that said, “Today will be a better day.” She hung it above her desk so I think she liked it.

Last week I had to be out of the school and that meant a number of my fellow teachers had to cover my classes. When I returned, I sent them a short email tanking them for their help. I know that covering classes I part of our job but that doesn’t mean it isn’t nice to be thanked.

Three small things I did that made me feel better about my place in the world. I hope they had the same kind of positive effect on the people to whom I extended these small kindnesses.


Winter Classic

If you like sweating and pot lucking, this event for you! It’s time for the Winter Classic. See the Café of Life or West London CrossFit trainers to sign up.

11x17 WC Poster

Good Stress, Bad Stress

I’ve been thinking a lot about stress lately; not just managing stress, but also what stress is. The dictionary definition of stress is, “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances”. Our bodies are meant to deal with stress but like all things in life, it’s about balance. Too much stress and we crash, not enough stress and we are unmotivated. I think there are constantly positive and negative stressors at work in all our lives. I decided to test out how each type of stress affects my thinking. I used Wordles to illustrate my theory. I gave myself three minutes to type out words I associate with negative stress, repeating words as often as they came to mind for me. Then I did the same thing for positive stress. The Wordles (word clouds) I created are below.

The negative aspects of stress:


The positive aspects of stress:


So from this little experiment I have learned that I am afraid of negative stress and my main fear is that I will end up alone. This makes sense as I have a wonderful support system and without my caring people I don’t think I’d be very healthy right now. On the other side of things, positive stress makes me feel powerful because I can accomplish goals and manage my anxiety. Obviously, I still need stress in my life but my next step will be trying to experience more positive stressors and seeing my negative stressors more positively so I can overcome them. Although I can’t eliminate or fully control stress, I can choose to manage it better and make myself happier in the process.

I deserve to feel good!



I needed a little pick-me-up today and I found it online by Googling the sentence “I deserve to feel happy”. The images above are just a small sampling of hat I found. Now it’s your turn. Google your own positive phrase and remember, you deserve to be happy too!

Everyone Deserves a Treat

So, as I mentioned before Eat by Design is meant to be 80% or better. You do not need to be 100% compliant to be successful and healthy. I’ve been pretty honest about my slip-ups and bad food practices, but I don’t want you to think I’m the only one! I asked some of our Life by Design guides what their last naughty treat was (and how delicious it was, of course!)

Michael Gibson – Dark chocolate and I don’t mean on occasion. I mean every day, not much, just a couple of squares for 2 or 3 months. I was really busy and it was my reward…and yes it was so delicious.

It got to the point where I decided it was too much, and have been chocolate free now for 35 days!

Brent Tiesma – I like my treats so anyone says you can’t live by design with a sweet tooth isn’t really trying… What I’ve found is that as I started to Live by Design my tastes changed and now what I consider a treat is very different than what I considered a treat a couple of years ago. My tastes have evolved and as you live with less and less sugar you need and crave less and less sugar.

First dark chocolate is a main stay at our house. I’ll usually have a square or two with my morning coffee during my power hour. Every once in a while, Shoko and I will sneak out and get Marble Slab (usually after a hard & busy week)

My last treat was a Grande 2 pump caramel whole milk Latte with my free beverage at Starbucks. I do Americanos – unless it’s my free reward ; )

Jamie Richards – Grain free chocolate cake with icing. Delicious !!!

Joel Richards – Artichoke dip and corn chips. Ummmhh!

So, give it up, folks! What is your treat?

Always at my expense…

Alright folks, show of hands, how many people can say they do this? “I accommodate others at my own expense.” I was reading this blog posted called Always at my expense… with increasing anxiety. This writer can’t see a way to find balance in her life. I know I struggle with this. I bet many of you do as well. Look for the signs in your own life. For example, I can tell I’m trying to accommodate too many people when most of the lines in my weekly agenda are full. That’s my sign that it is time to slow down. 20130512_154707It’s time to say no. We cannot fulfill every obligation and meet every deadline. We have to make more time for ourselves. We will never be healthy unless we can say no. So I am going to say no to something this week. I don’t know what yet. I’ll wait until I feel overwhelmed or tired and then I’ll take something off my list; no guilt, no shame, just more free time. I urge you to do the same. I promise the world won’t stop turning if you do it.


Best of London

It’s time to vote for the Best of London categories. You can vote for everything from best businesses to best coffee. You can also vote for best chiropractor, (number 106,) and best gym, (number 115). I know who I’ll be voting for!

Café of Life earned:


Overcoming the Scale

I like the message of this commercial, (even though I don’t eat cereal). Too many women live by the number on the scale, rather than how we feel.

I try not to weigh myself often. Not long ago, I was blogging about how my healthy eating plans went off the rails over Christmas. There was some mention of deep-friend pickles. Let us never speak of it again.

Once my vacation ended I went right back to Eating by Design, but I didn’t weigh myself. I don’t need to torture myself with a number. I know my weight went up over the break because of how I felt (sluggish) and how my clothes fit (snugger than usual). Instead, I waited until I felt better and my clothes fit better and then I stepped on the scale. Happy days, I’m the same weight I was before Christmas. This is just more proof that a small diversion out of healthy eating isn’t the end of the world and that returning to my healthy habits as soon as possible afterwards works.

Counselling Works

So for those of you who are joining the blog a bit late, I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I take medication for it. More important than my medication, though, is my time in counselling. I see Dr. B once a month, (more as I need,) and it does me a world of good. I’ve been having some really great sessions lately so I thought I’d take this chance to talk about counselling in a bit more detail. So here’s what people usually ask me about seeing a counsellor:

What exactly is counselling? Like, what do you do there?

I talk…a lot. I try to be really open and I talk about what is stressful for me. Dr. B listens and asks questions. I have read a lot about anxiety since being diagnosed, so as Dr. B puts it, he “listens, makes suggestions and then gets out of the way.” He also gives me articles to read, which I do and then pass on to Nick and my mom. Your counselling sessions might not be exactly like that and that’s ok too. It should suit your personality.

Do you have to talk about your childhood?

Not if you don’t want to. Bring up what is most relevant to you and the counsellor should help you make sense of it.

How did you find your current counsellor?

Dr. B was recommended to me by my doctor and I’m really happy with him. However, I went through about five counsellors before (both men and women) who didn’t work for me because they were too patronizing or they told me I was fine even though I didn’t feel fine.

Is it expensive?

Yes. This is the drawback so it is important to research how you can afford counselling. In my cause, my employer’s Employee Assistance Program pays for ten visits to a counsellor. After that, I pay myself. However, there are other forms of help that are inexpensive or free and many workplaces will subsidize you getting help. I suggest talking to your boss, union representative (if you have one), family doctor, or calling the London-Middlesex Health Unit (or a health unit in your area). They can make better recommendations than I can.

Are you embarrassed to be in counselling?

I was at first. I felt like I was admitting weakness and that my anxiety was somehow my fault. Now I know that I can’t help being anxious but I can work on being less anxious. I’m proud of myself for getting help and for sharing my story.

How do I know if I need counselling?

If you feel like it would benefit you or your doctor recommends it, you should go. If you don’t like it, you can find another counsellor or strop going. You have nothing to lose but an hour of your time and some bad feelings.

So I hope that helps shed some light on what it’s like to be in counselling for anxiety. If you have more questions, email me or post a response below. I’ll answer them as best I can.

Snow Days!

At the end of a break or vacation, do you ever think to yourself “I could use a day or two more”? Wish granted. Monday and Tuesday this week I woke up to this message from the school board:

Extreme cold weather closes schools today

Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014 – Due to unprecedented and dangerous wind chill temperatures this morning, all schools and facilities within the Thames Valley District School Board will be closed.
“We share parents’ concern for the safety of students and have decided to remain closed for a second day today,” said Education Director Laura Elliott.
Facilities department staff members are asked to follow the inclement weather procedure and report to their supervisor if they have any concerns.
Please monitor or your school website for the latest information.”
So I’ve been at home shoveling snow, marking and huddling with the cats for warmth. Remember, in this kind of weather, exposed skin can freeze in under two minutes. Dress warmly and keep drinking water, (dehydrated skin gets frostbite faster than well hydrated skin, plus you’ll need those fluids for shovelling!) Keep warm.

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