It has been four years since I made the commitment to lose weight. Since then I have lost 40 pounds (give or take a few depending on the week) and feel better than I did in my 20s. I actually look better too. Maybe one of these days I will dig out some pictures to share. Anyway, while my weight loss is a result of the food I eat, and whether or not I exercise, it also has a lot to do with the lifestyle I created for myself. A lifestyle that minimizes chaos, keeps peace in my life, and encourages me to make healthy choices.

When your life is filled with chaos and disorder you feel like you lost control. That loss of control puts you into a "hot zone." When you are in the "hot zone," you go into survival mode and make whatever choice you need to, in that moment, to regain control. But often that choice is not healthy and one you will later regret. For example, ordering pizza because dinner is not ready. Being late for work because you can't find clothes to wear. Your kids forget their lunches and homework because bags were not packed the night before. You stop for fast food because you did not eat breakfast. I could go on and on. We have all been in the hot zone before. It is probably safe to say we would rather live outside the hot zone. Not to say life will always be perfect and peaceful but if you are intentional with your actions moments in the hot zone become more of the exception than the rule.

I find it very difficult to function effectively when my life is in chaos. I can't focus, I lose patience easily, and my body will start to shut down if the chaos becomes to much. I get headaches, stomach-aches, and I want to sleep all the time. So, personally, I try to be very intentional in avoiding the hot zone whenever possible.

Below are seven things I do daily to keep my life in order and myself out of the hot zone. Now of course, I am not perfect and not everything on this list is going to happen all the time. However, I know I perform at my best when I am purposeful in keeping my hot zones under control. Please note these are not in a particular order.

1. Make my bed every morning

My bed is made every morning. I either make it as soon as I wake up or right after I get out of the shower. It only takes about 5 minutes, if that. I know this might seem a little odd, to have in this list, but seeing my bed made gives me so much peace. It should be your own personal retreat, love nest, and Shangri-La. I find that if my entire house is trashed, but my bed is made, I can exhale and just relax. To me it is a great start to the day. If you don't make your bed every morning I recommend giving it a try and see how you feel. Trust me there is nothing like walking into your bedroom, after a long hard-working day, to see your beautifully made bed waiting for you to crawl in to.

How does this help me lose weight?

It helps me start my day with a healthy routine. Sometimes it only takes one healthy choices to keep the rest moving. Also, when my bed is made I feel productive and, for some reason, that keeps me productive.

2. Use a calendar

I am pretty sure I have talked about my love for calendars a million times over the last few years. If you don't remember then let me say again, if it is not in my calendar it does not exist. Period. Without my calendar I would have no clue where I need to be or what I need to do. Keeping a calendar has been critical to creating my healthy lifestyle.

How does this help me lose weight?

It keeps me out of the hot zone by reminding what I need to do and where I need to be. It also helps keep my menu plan and exercise schedule on the brain. Without my calendar I get confused very quickly and start walking aimlessly towards the nearest Starbucks.

3. Lay our clothes out the night before

One of my biggest time wasters in the morning was (and sometimes still is) looking for something for my kids and I to wear. Add to that ironing, if needed. This can catapult me into the hot zone like nothing else and seems to have a negative domino effect the rest of the day. I start rushing around looking for something to wear, then I run out of time for breakfast, then I stop for an "on the go" breakfast sandwich, and well you can figure out the rest. Therefore, I make it a priority to have clothes ready the night before.

How does this help me lose weight?

It reduces the morning hot zone and the unhealthy choices that can easily occur when I get stressed.

4. Say no to things

We can only do so much. There comes a point, to keep life in balance, you must say no to things. "Things" being anything that fills up your schedule and brain but drains you instead of giving you energy. I know there will always be things we need to do but may not want to. However, I am sure if we all wrote out our commitments we could start scratching out a few we can give up.

I started really saying no about 2 years ago. Don't get me wrong I still am busy, with a full schedule, but I have prioritized the commitments that enter my schedule. For example, I might not have time to plan the 2nd grade holiday party but I can certainly bring in food or supplies. I do what I can but I am adamant about not over committing. The problem with over committing, at least for me, is two-fold. One I get stressed out because I have too much on my plate and end up practically killing myself trying to get everything done. I ended up being miserable and not enjoying anything. Second, I get stressed out because I may not be able to fulfill my commitment and might let someone down. So I learned that I would rather say no than over commit and possibly let down anyway.

When I say no and prioritize I can focus more on the things that matter most to me, give my best, and actually enjoy them.

How does this help me lose weight?

Time is the biggest excuse for putting a healthy lifestyle on the back burner. By saying no to things, I am able to free up more time to prepare foods in advance, exercise, and make living a healthy lifestyle a priority. I also have more energy because I am not tired all the time trying to do everything.

5. Work on relationships

When I say relationships, I am referring to your spouse, siblings, kids, parents, friends, boss, colleagues, or anyone who you spend time with. Basically, I mean all relationships that are important to you or have influence in your life. When relationships are unhealthy, they can consume your mind with negative thoughts. These negative thoughts can play a huge role in stress. I don't need to say again what stress does to us.

Now, I am not saying obsess over every little relationship. What I am saying is focus on the relationships that matter. If they don't matter then _let it go_. One of the best ways to work out problems is to COMMUNICATE. That's right. Sometimes just sitting down and having a genuine conversation is all you need to turn a wrong into a right. I am certainly not a relationship expert but I will say that talking things through, in a mature respectful manner, has done wonders for the relationships in my life. And when my relationships are good I am good.

How does this help me lose weight?

Positive healthy relationships make all right in the world. My mind can focus on other things because I am not worried or stressed out. I feel happy and find it much easier to make healthy choices.

6. Create a peaceful place for a few minutes a day

In our busy lives finding a peaceful place to relax and unwind might seem impossible. However, I think it is so important to find time to be quiet and at peace. It does not need to be hours at a time or a special location. Just sitting on the couch for 15 minutes, listening to music, after the kids go to bed may be all you need to recharge. This time gives you a moment to reflect and exhale.

How does this help me lose weight?

Between being a mom, wife, taking care of my house, and running a business it is so easy to lose myself. In order to be the best version of me for my husband and kids I need to take time for myself. I need to reflect and think. This keeps me a priority in a sea of a million other things that are begging for attention.

7. Put together a to-do list before bed or first thing in the morning

I love my to-do lists, and like my calendar, could not survive without it. With my busy schedule I can get distracted and overwhelmed pretty easy if I don't write things down. My to-do list takes everything out of my head and puts it on paper or my notes app. Once it is out of my head I can prioritize tasks and check them off once they are complete. To-do lists keep my life in order and moving forward.

There are MANY to-do list systems available, and I have tried them all, but I learned simple for me is best. I hate over-complicating things. All I do is write out the 5-6 top things I need to get done that day. Then I prioritize. I know my limits and try to keep my tasks within them. I then schedule my day around my list. I don't get to hard on myself if I don't get everything done, I will just move them to the next day.

How does this help me lose weight?

It might sound silly to say but I find to-do lists very powerful. To-do lists keep me focused, serve as a reminder, and help to prioritize the things that are most important. They reduce my chances of falling into a hot zone, which then increases my chances of making healthy choices.

I realize that everyone is different and some things may not work for you. The goal is to create an environment, which keeps you out of the hot zone, so you can focus more on creating a healthy lifestyle that will make you the best version of YOU.

Editor's note: This article was originally published on Organize Yourself Skinny. It has been republished here with permission.

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