Finding the balance between challenge and self-care

Solving the mystery_ what’s the right way to exercise for your body and the real results you want, Part 1 (4)

The value of testing oneself to achieve greater awareness and strength is found in nearly every religion, inspirational movie, and biography. We know that as humans, we grow the most when we are challenged.    

This gets a bit muddy, though, when we talk about self-care. If challenge makes us stronger, does self-care make us weaker?  

You might know in your head the logic behind the concept of ‘put your own oxygen mask on first’.  Why, then, do we struggle with taking time for ourselves? Does it have something to do with this emphasis in our culture on challenges being good for us? What is the right balance between self-care and personal challenge? 

Exercise is both of these wrapped into one. When you challenge your body, it gets stronger. Physical challenge also is shown to improve mental strength. Research shows the connection between youth sport participation and greater leadership skills. What sports do not do, however, is prepare you for using exercise as self-care. In fact, it makes it even more challenging.  

Exercise is moving to take care of yourself. When exercise is done for the purpose of health and well-being it is, by definition, self-care. Even if you are exercising to be a better athlete, it is still ultimately done for you. The difference is how you treat your body.  

In athletics, listening to and protecting your body can interfere with the goal.  If you try to protect your body from harm while competing, the competition will eat you alive! The idea can arise, then, that self-care makes you weak. This mindset about exercise has infused our approach to exercise for health and well-being. Exercising for weight loss has become a sport.  Getting enough steps is a competition. Our way of exercising to be ready for life, not just sports, is out of balance. 

For well-being and health, the balance between challenge and self-care is essential. This is why it is so important to keep exercising for athletics separate from exercising for well-being.      

There are many ways you can take care of yourself, but movement is essential for complete self-care. Movement is what your body is prepared for in a stress response. Movement gets your body back to to healing and repair mode. Now more than ever, we need to know how to exercise in a way that is stress-reducing, not stress-producing. 

Challenge in exercising is essential for staying strong because your body is a use-it-to-keep-it system. However, it’s important to challenge yourself in a way that is not stress-producing. If you push too hard with exercise and it leaves you feeling worse, your brain will make excuses so you avoid exercising again. Yet, without the challenge, exercise is boring, and your brain will steer you towards other activities and avoid exercising again. Either way, you lose the health and well-being benefits of exercise because you are not doing it consistently. Exercising with just the right balance of challenge and self-care is not so easy, but it’s possible.  

As we enter the season of giving and a time of year when many people struggle not only with getting enough exercise, but also with keeping up with self-care, I will be writing about how to make exercise a form of self-care. It will build on my last blog series about how to Exercise Right because when you know how to exercise right, you feel better and it becomes an act of self-care.  

Bottom Line:  Both self-care and challenge makes us stronger. Exercise, when it is specifically designed for health and well-being,  provides both.  However, you are the only one who can create the right balance for you between motivating challenge and moving for self-care. What do you need more of right now in your life—self-care or challenge? Try adjusting your mindset about exercise to give you just the right balance of self-care and challenge. Let me know what happens by emailing me at



Is even the thought of exercise stress producing?  Knowing how to use exercise to challenge your body at the just right level in a way that it feels like self care takes knowing how to exercise right.  Exercising WELL™ blends mindfulness and movement to create mindset that help you find that right balance for you each time.  Find out how to make exercise a source of self care with a unique, cost-effective blend of personal coaching and easy-to-use online learning.  Click here to get started with a FREE coaching call. 

The (Sneaky) Myth of Perfection

Woman's portrait 20,60 years old.Perfection is fabricated in media images and programs claiming to have the answers for what you are looking for – the ideal body, flawless skin, endless motivation, ultimate strength, power, and success!

Most of us know logically that perfection is a myth. Yet, we are lured to believe that somewhere out there is what we are looking for to finally have it all together. We are bombarded with images and messages that the perfect body, the perfect life is possible, and that the program, formula, or plan is right at our fingertips. We are told that this is the answer to all our “problems.”

One myth here is that life is static. That once we get it all together, it will stay together. The truth is life is dynamic. The only certainty is change. Perfection is a momentary state, not a lifestyle.

The other myth is that we are problem to fix, a “hot mess” that needs cleaning up. By nature we will focus on problems because the brain has a negativity bias. This is what the brain does to keep us safe – it constantly searches for threats to our safety, contentment, and connection. Expect to find problems in your self, in others, and in life – it’s normal and is not going away.

In fact, finding faults is an important part of being well now. The key is staying aware of when the brain is looking for problems in the past and future that are not based in the reality of now. The brain is an “experience simulator.” It can conjure up the worst case scenarios in the future, see the problems in the present, and recall past mistakes in a nano-second! If we don’t know that our thoughts are not reality, these simulated experiences can seem like a real problem we need to fix right now.

Add the photo-shopped images and messages about perfection all around us and we have a perfect storm for discontent.  We have all the ingredients for putting off being well until we can finally fix these “problems.”


How do we calm the storm?

  • Awareness:  of what is real, right here, right now, so we can respond with calm rather than react to what is imagined.
  • Gratitude:  to shift the brain out of the negativity bias.
  • Kindness:  so we remember we are okay now, and stop the chase for the perfect body, the perfect life.
  • Mindful movement: because it is the antidote to guilt, worry, and discontent, rather using exercise as a means of suffering now in order to be well…someday.

The great news that the brain can change and these resource become easier to access when the storm arises.  We can learn how, in the midst of imperfection, to be well now!

Be Well Now,


PS:  The online video workshop Unleash Your Superpower of Calm is a user-friendly way to practice these skills and build these resources into your own life.  Click here to learn more today and stay tuned for our Valentines Day special!


Calm is Contagious

“Really everything is contagious.  Panic is contagious, chaos is contagious … if you keep your head, it means others around you will keep their head too”.  Commander Rorke Denver


Test this out for yourself. Next time you feel stress building in those around you, unleash your superpower of calm and see what happens!

When we are calm, we can think clearly, conserve energy, be creative, problem solve more effectively. And science is providing clues for us about this tremendous resource we all have.  Mindfulness recharges.  Movement recharges.  Togehter they are a powerful force when things get a bit haywire!

How can we best help those we care about most?  By building our own resources for  calm.  When we are aware of our own state of mind and body, filling our own cup first before trying to help others, taking care of our own stress buildup before attempting to deal with challenges, we are most effective at helping others.  We need resources right at our fingertips, though.  When life gets challenging, there is usually no time to pack up and go on vacation to recharge.  We need the kind of recharge that is as quick and accessible as plugging our cell phones into a charger.

Fill your toolbox with my online video workshop Unleash Your Superpower of Calm.  This is not a workshop you need to set aside large amounts of time to do. It is specifically designed to be done in the midst of life, because this is where the best learning takes place. Taking ten minutes a day to watch part of the program primes you for learning how you can unleash calm all day long.

To sign up, click here and until midnight tonight, November 23 2016 take 30% off!

Unleash Your Super Power of Calm is a positively life-altering program. We hear all the time that to maximize ourselves and our potential, we have to live in the moment, be present, and avoid worrying about the past and future. This is easy to say and really really hard to execute. Janet and her incredible teaching skills, expertise, and passion has put together an all-encompassing, accessible, and efficient program that from start to finish ignites all our personal potential and gives us the tools to be the best version of ourselves possible.

 …after completing the series, I can honestly say it is WELL worth it. I have never felt so connected with my purpose and my potential and never been so efficient and motivated with my career and personal life. I now view the daily “grind” as a a daily gift or opportunity. I am more focused, free, and poised each day to tackle any challenge life presents and I feel accomplished at the end of each day rather than drained. Gift yourself with this series and having Janet coach your life. If you follow her lead, she will get you to achieve daily and long-term excellence through this series.

Evren Gunduz

Founder and Director of

Enjoy Life Leadership

What Activates Well-being? Introduction

The name Activate Well-being reminds us that being well does not need to be complicated or time consuming. We have the power to promote our own well-being with simple momentary shifts in how we think and what we do.

I have noticed imbalances over my years working in health care and wellness promotion. First, there’s an imbalance between the multitude of scientific discoveries about how we can promote our own health and the amount of people actually putting them into action. With too many conflicting recommendations, we can get stuck between feelings of guilt and being overwhelmed. Second, there’s the growing use of medications to treat the “side effects” of physical inactivity and high stress levels and a large market for quick, yet not scientifically proven, remedies for these same health concerns.

It is easy to forget that we are not problems to be fixed. The sense of well-being we seek is not found in someone or something else. Our natural state is well-being, defined by ourselves, waiting to be activated.

What Activates Well-being will be an ongoing blog series. These blog posts will be short, simple, and science-inspired and remind us how do-able it really is to activate well-being. However, if  feelings of guilt or being overwhelmed come up, please pause and listen to them. Are those pangs of guilt informing you about you really want for your own well-being? Is feeling overwhelmed telling you this is not right for you right now?

Either way, know that these tugs are your natural inner intelligence guiding you to your own definition of well-being, asking you to listen. To activate well-being, apply the information in a way that promotes well-being for you right now and put the rest aside.

I hope the information inspires as it leads to more and more moments of being truly well.

Listening for Well-being

Well-being is not what you do
rules to follow for health
well-being is within
it is known, not done
felt, not seen
to be sensed and honored
in a quiet celebration of an inner “yes”.
Instead of a prescription to follow
it is momentary knowing
with natural intelligence
that can only be felt
in sweet presence.
Be well now
smile inside
no one else
defines your well-being
it’s yours to discover.
Welcome the guides
as inspirations to choose from
 always directed
from deep within
only within.

May You Be Well,


Janet Huehls, MA, RCEP, CHWC

Clinical Exercise Physiologist

Health and Wellness Coach

Yoga and Meditation Teacher

Week 9 – Motivation Insulation

insluation 2Living in an old house in New England, the insulation can be a bit spotty! When the cold air seeps in, my hard-earned resources slowly slip away.

In our ‘building a home for motivation’ analogy, a strong support network is the insulation that helps preserve what we work hard to create. As I am sure you are aware, motivation can also be sapped by the people around us.

  • Surrounded by the super-fit and athletic. It seems like this should be motivating, yet being around super-fit folks often leads to feeling overwhelmed and guilty. Self-criticism ramps up and we are distracted from our true goal. Keep in mind you do not need to be super fit to be healthy. Even if it is your goal eventually, when the gap is too large, motivation can easily slip.
  • Stuck in the mud. Your healthy changes may be seen as a threat to the status quo. The people you used to share unhealthy habits with may try to pull you away from your goal saying things like, oh, just skip your lunchtime walk and order take-out with us! 
  • Media meltdown. Do you ever feel overrun with information about what is good and bad for your health? Conflicting information in the media can drain the motivation to figure out and choose what is healthy.
  • Competition confusion.  When the focus becomes about winning competitions for daily steps, pounds lost, or minutes planked, we can lose our way to the true goal.
  • Super strong external supports. While it is great to have a strong support network, it can be easy to rely heavily on the positive encouragement of others while the internal supports start to weaken. Remember these external supports are only the insulation. What holds this house together is the foundation and the strong internal supports you set for yourself.

This last one I find to be especially true in weight loss. When weight loss stops, the positive comments stop. This is when internal supports are especially essential to stay motivated.

Activate It:  Mindfulness helps reveal the holes and discover sources of support:

  • Who is in your true support network? Make a list of the people who understand not only what your goal is but why it is so important to you. These are the people who will bring you back to your foundation instead of just giving you empty praise when you’re feeling discouraged.
  • How do you use virtual support?  Social media can be helpful to provide 24/7 support. With so many forms out there, be choosy! Use only what aligns with your true goal.
  • How is your media diet? The media sound bites about health studies don’t give the full story about the research. Stick with advice from professionals, blended with what you know is right for you.
  • How do you compete? Notice how you handle competitions. Do they take you closer to your goal in the long run?
  • Where are the weak spots in your motivation insulation? Be prepared for any resistance to your healthy changes. Visualize how you will handle situations of temptation from the naysayers in your life.
  • What groups could boost support? Groups can provide support with a sense of camaraderie. Consider both online and in-person sources.
  • How effective are your support groups? Evaluate this regularly. Often groups can become set in their ways and support the problem rather than progress toward the goal.  If you notice the group is stuck, either shake it up or move on.

May You Be Well,


Janet Huehls, MA, RCEP, CHWC

Clinical Exercise Physiologist

Health and Wellness Coach

Yoga and Meditation Teacher