Creating a Life Free From Chaos

A Lazy Girl’s Simple Guide to Exercise

A Lazy Girl’s Simple Guide to ExerciseThis is a guest post by Dr. Tracy Papa.

We all know we should be exercising, right? We all know that exercise improves high blood pressure and diabetes, boosts energy, and lifts our mood. So if we all know this, why is it that most of us do not have a regular exercise habit? As a physician, here are some of the reasons I hear most often from my patients:

  • I don’t have time to exercise.
  • I’m too tired.
  • I can’t afford gear.

On a personal level, here is what I find frustrating about exercise — I read articles all the time that tell me that this new exercise is better than whatever I’m currently doing. For instance, I was on board with high-intensity interval training (HIIT) when I read about Tabata training. According to the cool kids, Tabata was soooo much more effective than just HIIT. And I was having fun with Zumba when I heard about hip-hop and barre and Bollywood dancing classes. And what about TRX training, suspending yourself with straps? Kettlebells? Aero bars? Shake-weights, anyone?

Enough already! Quit trying to keep up with the sexiest new exercise trends, and just land on a routine that you can live with. One that’s simple so that you have no excuse not to do it every day (although I still don’t manage to do it every day). Here are the answers to the most frequent questions about exercise, my fellow time-crunched friend.

What kind of exercise should I be doing?

It doesn’t matter. If there is a form of exercise that you enjoy (or that you maybe just don’t loathe), do that. The more important priority is to be doing something nearly every day. It doesn’t always have to be the same something. You can ride a stationary bike while watching “Fixer Upper” or a TED talk. Take a brisk walk with the kids or the dog. Walk on a treadmill and listen to a podcast. Stressed out today? Go to a yoga class and zone out while you stretch, strengthen, and breathe. Most studios sell multi-class passes, so you can drop in when you want to.

How much time should I spend?

It doesn’t matter. The truth is, any exercise is better than none. Some people are more comfortable with a slower, steady pace for 40-60 minutes. If you are impatient like me, high-intensity intervals make sense — I work hard, but I don’t have to do it for as long. There are tons of HIIT workouts on Pinterest, and they combine cardio with strength training. Scroll through and choose some to try. Personally, I skip past any workouts that involve a lot of Burpees. Don’t know what a Russian twist is? Google it. You may alternate HIIT workout days with easier workouts. But whatever you do, pour it out every time. Go home tired.

Should I exercise in a group? By myself? At a gym? On a team?

It doesn’t matter. You know what kind of person you are. If you like the camaraderie (and the accountability) of a team, look for a running group or a basketball/soccer/softball league in your area. Or try what I did: I signed up for a cycling event with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training. I joined a cycling team and trained for a 100-mile bike ride. And completed it, I’m proud to say. I loved having an event to train for, a team to show up for, and a goal to achieve that helped both me and a great cause. If you’re not much for teams but like the idea of a goal to stretch for, there are plenty of ways to train for individual events. Do some 5K walks in your area and try to beat your personal best time with each race. The question of where to work out is also an individual decision. I like the gym because there is nothing to do there except exercise. When I’m at home, I tend to get distracted by laundry, clutter, and family needs. If the expense or the inconvenience of a trip to the gym is not your thing, exercise at home or in a local park.

That’s about as simple as it gets. You’re overthinking this. You don’t need special clothes or equipment. If all you have is a few minutes, dance it out your favorite song. Do more if you have more time or energy on any given day. The secret is getting some activity in every day. Even a little bit, in the way that best suits your abilities, budget, and interests. And see how much those little sessions add up to big changes!

Tracy PapaTracy Papa is a board-certified Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist (perinatologist) in Fort Worth, Texas. She blogs about pregnancy issues of all kinds on her website,

Why Simple Living is Eco-Friendly

Why Simple Living is Eco-FriendlyI don’t remember exactly what enticed me toward eco-friendly living. It might have been the PSAs on TV about conservation, or the growing number of eco-friendly tidbits in my favorite magazines, or the posts popping up in my Facebook feed, or even Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth, that I watched one afternoon while recovering from a kidney stone.

I do remember when I started though: when my first son was born. The thought crossed my mind that my child will inherit a dirty planet, and that was heartbreaking.

Around the same time, I was reading books about how to simplify my increasingly chaotic life, and I was changed. I believe that simple living and eco-friendly living go hand-in-hand. The “simpler” your lifestyle is, the more eco-friendly it probably is. And if you’re a greenie, you’re probably following the first R, “reduce” anyway, by default living a simpler lifestyle than someone who isn’t eco-minded.

I remember when I started my simple living journey: when my first son was born. The thought crossed my mind that my child will inherit a dirty planet, and that was heartbreaking. Click To Tweet

An important part of modern simple living is to cut out all the unneeded “stuff,” which also reduces your ecological footprint. On a global scale, continued over-consumption of the world’s natural resources by wealthy nations means fewer resources for the world’s poor. Not only is this incredibly unjust, it’s unsustainable.

Just this summer, our family went on one of my “bucket list” trips — a cruise to Alaska. I wanted to see, wanted my kids to see, some glaciers before they all melt and are gone. And they are melting, at an alarming rate. While cruising through small icebergs and up to see one of the bigger glaciers from the ship, we went on an excursion from Skagway, Alaska, to get up close and personal with one. We canoed out to the site, then hiked all the way to the glacier. It looked deceptively close when we started the hike, and the glacier looked small. But after hiking much longer, much further than anticipated, we were right there, in front of a huge glacier. The kids got to see ice calving off the side and picked up a giant chunk of ice, but a just a tiny bit of the larger picture.

Why Simple Living is Eco-Friendly

The earth’s natural resources are limited, and ecosystems can only absorb so much pollution and lose so many species before the damage becomes irreparable. On an individual level, the endless pursuit of “more” is stressing out families, who work and commute long hours to afford the big house in the suburbs and all the “gotta have” possessions. We have less time for the things we claim are most important: our families, our friends, our faith, our hobbies.

The endless pursuit of 'more' is stressing out families. We have less time for the things we claim are most important: our families, our friends, our faith, our hobbies. Click To Tweet

Instead of expending all your efforts into paying for, storing, and maintaining all your possessions, why not eliminate the things that are unnecessary? I’m frequently asked, “where do I start?” My answer: start at home, right now.

The simplest way to make your current home more efficient, eco-friendly and clutter-free is to go back to basics: the 3 R’s. The first R is the most important: reduce. Reduce your possessions by eliminating the non-essentials and only keeping what you truly use and love. You don’t have to go minimalist overnight, so don’t go crazy thinking you have to do it all right away. The important part is to get started.

The second R, reuse, is the next most important. Before you run to the store for every “I need,” take a look around and see what you already have that you can repurpose or “multipurpose” to get the job done.

The third R, recycle, is your reminder to take care as you shed extra possessions and get rid of the excess responsibly. Sell or give away usable items to people who need them, and recycle as much of the rest as possible so that it doesn’t wind up in a landfill.

We do not inherit the earth from our parents — we borrow it from our children. Living a more sustainable, earth-friendly lifestyle is not about doing without –- it’s about having enough.

Why Simple Living is Eco-Friendly

Simple, eco-friendly living should be about what works for you and your family. If each of us did a little something every day, if we each made one small change in our lifestyle, the collective impact would be immense.

We do not inherit the earth from our parents -- we borrow it from our children. Living a more sustainable, earth-friendly lifestyle is not about doing without –- it's about having enough. Click To Tweet

Do You Feel Like You’re Behind? 7 Ways to Conquer the Overwhelm

Do You Feel Like You're Behind? 7 Ways to Conquer the Overwhelm“I have so much to do, it’s insane.”

“My to-do list is a mile long.”

“I will never catch up.”

Sound familiar? Do you feel like you’re behind, like you’ll never get caught up? That feeling of being behind causes some serious overwhelm, and that overwhelm blurs your vision and clouds your thoughts. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because that overwhelm kills both your creativity and your productivity.

Overwhelm can cause frantic action, when you’re thinking, “I’ll work really hard and get all this stuff done so I can finally breathe.” The rushing causes you to feel super stressed, and you’re not sure how long you can keep up the pace. Your productivity suffers as your attention stretches too thin.

Or maybe that overwhelm paralyzes you — you aren’t sure what to do first, what is most important because it all seems important, it all seems urgent. So you do nothing because you just can’t deal.

Overwhelm kills both your creativity and your productivity. Click To Tweet

Both of these scenarios send your mind to negative places, and you find that you’re beating yourself up for taking too much on, for not being productive enough, for not working hard enough. The negativity spirals until the overwhelm wins.

Change your thinking

The key to conquering that overwhelming feeling of being behind is to change your thinking. Focusing on the past, on the things you didn’t get done, will get you stuck and set you up for failure. Instead, focus on what you can do, what you can control.

Think about what is truly important to you. We try to be everything to everyone, but in reality, we may actually be accomplishing nothing because we are not focused. What is one big thing you want to work on right now? Is it something you can focus on for the next month?

7 ways to conquer the overwhelm

  1. Whenever possible, put like activities together. I have two kids. They always go to the dentist together, on the same day, same time, so I only have to deal with it once. Doctor appointments are always scheduled one right after the other. If I have errands to run, I’ll set aside time to do them all in one day. Think of it as batching tasks.
  2. Before you add any task, ask yourself if it’s something you really need or want to do. Don’t fill your calendar with stuff you hate just for the sake of doing things. It’s OK to say no and create margin in your days.
  3. Organize your task list. Go through your to-do list, and reorganize your tasks. Cross off anything that you really don’t need or want to do. Group similar tasks together, such as errands, phone calls, emails, online work, home tasks, etc. Mark the most urgent tasks with a 1, important but not urgent tasks as a 2, and tasks that aren’t urgent or vital with a 3. Make it a goal to do at least one #1 task per day.
  4. Done is better than perfect. We often procrastinate because we think we won’t be able to do the task perfectly, and that leads to projects staying on your to-do list for far too long, creating that “left behind” feeling. You do nothing because you don’t think you’ll do it well enough. It’s hard to perfect something that isn’t there, so how do you plan to make your project good enough when you don’t have a place to start from?
  5. Do it now. Whenever possible, start the task right away. Don’t put it off. Recognize that you won’t have more energy, or more time, or more inspiration, tomorrow. Make it as easy as possible to start now.
  6. Schedule time to check email, social media, read the news, any of those little habits you tend to do throughout the day. Don’t use them to fill the time, or to distract you from more important tasks. Write down when you’re going to do them, and for how long. Put that in your calendar or post a sticky note somewhere that you’ll see every day and follow that schedule. Don’t let those little habits take you away from tasks you need to finish.
  7. Check your phone and delete all those little apps that you waste time on. Remember Candy Crush? I could waste hours on that game. Maybe it’s not a game that distracts you. Is it social media? Facebook? Twitter? Pinterest? Delete those apps from your phone now, at least as an experiment. Same goes for iPad. Try it for a week, and see if you get more time back to focus on more important things.

Will you ever finish every task on your to-do list? No, none of us will, so making “to-do list zero” isn’t a viable option. Give yourself some grace, organize your tasks, and be thoughtful about adding more to your plate. As long as you’re moving forward, you’re not behind at all.

Give yourself some grace, organize your tasks, and be thoughtful about adding more to your plate. Click To Tweet