Gratitude and appreciation are two powerful weapons we can use against depression and anxiety.
In fact, Dan Baker writes in his book, What Happy People Know, that it is impossible to be in a state of appreciation and fear at the same time.
Here, then, are some ways we can cultivate gratitude.
1. Keep a gratitude journal.
According to psychologists such as Sonja Lyubomirsky at the University of California-Riverside, keeping a gratitude journal —where you record once a week all the things you have to be grateful for — and other gratitude exercises can increase your energy, and relieve pain and fatigue. In my daily mood journal, I make a list of each day’s “little joys,” moments that I would fail to appreciate if I didn’t make myself record them, such as: “holding my daughter’s hand on the way to the car,” “a hot shower,” “helping my son with his homework.” This exercise reminds me of all the blessings in my life I take for granted and encourages me to appreciate those mundane moments that can be sources of joy.
2. Use the right words.
According to Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman, words literally can change your brain. In their book, Words Can Change Your Brain, they write: “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.” Positive words, such as “peace” and “love,” can alter the expression of genes, strengthening areas in our frontal lobes and promoting the brain’s cognitive functioning. According to the authors, they propel the motivational centers of the brain into action and build resiliency.
“Gratitude is the heart’s memory,” says the French proverb. Therefore, one of the first steps to thankfulness is to remember those in our lives who have walked with us and shown kindness for deeds big and small. I have been extremely fortunate to have so many positive mentors in my life. At every scary crossroad, there was a guardian or messenger there to help me find my way. The mere exercise of remembering such people can cultivate gratitude in your life.
4. Write thank-you letters.
According to psychologist Robert Emmons at the University of California at Davis, author of Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, a powerful exercise to cultivate gratitude is to compose a “gratitude letter” to a person who has made a positive and lasting influence in your life.
Emmons says the letter is especially powerful when you have not properly thanked the person in the past, and when you read the letter aloud to the person face to face. I do this as part of my holiday cards, especially to former professors or teachers who helped shape my future and inspired me in ways they might not know.
5. Hang with the winners.
Peer pressure never really goes away, you know. Studies show that married folks hanging out with happy couples are more likely to stay married themselves; that if your friends eat well, their willpower will rub off on you; and that if you surround yourself with optimists, you will end up more positive than if you keep company with a bunch of whiners. By merely sitting next to a person who likes the words “thank you,” there is a high probability that you will start using those words as well.
6. Give back.
A while back I wanted to repay a former professor of mine for all his encouragement and support to me throughout the years. However, nothing I could do would match his kindness. No letter of appreciation. No visit to his classrooms. So I decided I would help some young girl who fell into my path in the same way that he helped me. I would try to help and inspire this lost person just as he had done for me.
Giving back doesn’t mean reciprocating favors so that everything is fair and the tally is even. That’s the beauty of giving. If someone does an act of kindness for you, one way to say thanks is to do the same for another.
Originally posted on Everyday Health.
We all have one — an inner voice that expresses criticism, frustration or disapproval about our actions. It might sound like, “you should,” “why didn’t you?” “what’s wrong with you?,” or “why can’t you get it together?” The actual self-talk is different for each of us, as is its frequency or intensity.
It is a cultural norm to believe that criticism or guilt-induced comments will motivate behavior. Perhaps the thinking is that if you realize that your actions aren’t good enough or ideal, you’ll want to change. The critic also gives us a sense of control. So others in our lives may make “helpful,” yet critical comments to reinforce and control our behavior or control their feelings. We can also use judgmental or controlling thoughts with ourselves as a way of coping with fear, shame, and the unknown. Over time, these comments (from both others and ourselves) internalize and become our “inner critic,” the persistent negative self-talk that keeps us stuck.
Unfortunately, this type of communication is anxiety-provoking and shaming, which is the opposite of motivation. It triggers us to avoid, reduce anxiety and stay safe. Avoidance (reducing anxiety) is not the same as motivation to change. Avoidance generally includes things such as procrastination, addictive behaviors (such as overeating, grazing when not hungry, drinking, smoking); behaviors such as constantly checking your smartphone, or watching excessive TV; or even avoiding the source of the criticism or shame such as the person, activity, place, or even yourself (i.e., staying busy to stay out of your own head).
If the messages are shaming, such as “what’s wrong with you?” or “you’re not good enough,” we can become paralyzed. When we feel shame, we feel that something about us makes us so flawed that we don’t deserve to be in connection with other people. Shame disconnects us from others and teaches us to feel alone. As humans, we are hardwired at a cellular level for connection. When we feel shame, these feelings physically make us want to go inside ourselves, withdraw, and can further trigger avoidance behaviors as a way to comfort or soothe. The point is that shame and self-criticism keep us from doing the things we need to take care of ourselves and ultimately find comfort, connection and motivation.
Awareness is the first step to recognizing and letting go of your inner critic. Many of us don’t even realize its presence. Catch yourself the next time you’re aware of feeling anxious, distracted or numb. Identify the voice of the inner critic. Identify the situation that may have triggered the inner critic. What are your authentic feelings about this situation? Remember, the inner critic helps you to feel in control. So ask yourself, “what am I afraid of? What would it mean if that happened? And what would that mean?” Allow yourself space to dig deeper and find your most vulnerable feelings about the situation. This is what the inner critic is protecting you from feeling. Do you really need all that protection? Probably not. You can handle it!
Here’s an example:
Jessica went shopping. She didn’t know her sizes at this store and tried on a few things. She thought, “Ugh, these clothes are tight, they don’t fit, I feel like such a failure, I’m so fat and ugly.”
What is she afraid of? “I’ve gained weight, which means I’m a failure. It means I’m old. I’m ashamed and scared of getting older and gaining more weight.”
What authentic feelings might she be having about this situation that aren’t related to shame triggers? What are her vulnerabilities? (Identify your vulnerability and feel those feelings.)
Jessica says, “I feel out of control, fear, grief/loss. My body is reacting differently than it did in the past. It’s harder to maintain weight and muscle tone, it feels hopeless. I feel afraid, overwhelmed.”
What do you really need? Jessica says, “I can deal with it. Acknowledging my vulnerability prompts me to take better care of my health. When I feel worthless, there’s no hope at all. Shame is not motivating.”
Try this for yourself. What are some self-criticisms that you are aware of hearing yourself say? Say it in the second person. For example: “You’re such a coward. You’re despicable, worthless. Be careful or you’ll get hurt. You should try harder.”
How do you feel as you hear that? Get in touch with that feeling. What are you afraid of or afraid of feeling? What are some authentic feelings you may be having about this situation that aren’t related to shame triggers?
What are some opposite feelings? What are some reactions to these?
What do you say to that voice that says you are useless?
What do you really need to take good care of yourself? Or, what is it that you really need to hear? Express this to your inner critic with compassion in the following steps:
Express empathy for the inner critic’s fear and out-of-control feelings (what you felt in step 3 above). For example, “I understand that you are terrified of getting hurt and feeling rejected. I know you’re trying to protect me from those feelings.
Express your reaction (steps 4 and 5). For example, “Your critical voice is not helping. Please do not talk to me that way. It is preventing me from getting what I need, which is to feel connected to others. I will be OK. I will be able to cope with whatever happens. What I really need (step 6) is to reach out and connect with others. I don’t have to be afraid nor do I have to deprive myself out of fear.”
The inner critic’s self-talk tends to fall into one of two categories, “bad self” and “weakness.” Bad self is shame-based. Those who struggle with it might feel unlovable; flawed; undesirable; inferior; inadequate; deserving of punishment; or incompetent.
The weak self is based on fear and anxiety. Those who fight it might feel dependent on others; unable to support themselves; submissive; unable to express emotions without something bad happening; vulnerable; worried about loss of control; mistrustful; isolated; deprived; or abandoned.
These beliefs are neither useful nor helpful. They are generally destructive. Practice listening for clues to these beliefs by paying attention to the self-talk of your inner critic. Challenge those beliefs! They are not true. You are worthy, capable, and deserving of love.
reposted from psychcentral.com
Great relationships develop not from the absence of conflict, but from determining an agreeable pattern for how to resolve conflict. Defining the rules of engagement for how you “fight” with someone you care about is ultimately much more important than trying to never have a disagreement.
If you care about someone, then consider adopting these 10 rules as part of the way you communicate with them when you are trying to resolve a conflict:
Rule #1: Don’t yell. Adding emotion clouds the clarity of what actually happened. If the other person is yelling, it becomes especially important that you don’t raise your voice so as to prevent a natural escalation of competing interests.
Rule #2: Always start and end the conversation by affirming that you care about the other person. In the midst of a disagreement, you can never underestimate the power and importance of reminding the other person that you care about them and believe in them.
Rule #3: Be open to the idea that you made a mistake even if you are sure you did not. People rarely get upset for no reason, so there is a good chance that there is at least a kernel of truth to what they are saying.
Rule #4: Don’t speak in generalities of another person’s behavior; speak only to direct examples and instances of action. It’s hard for anyone to own up to a generalization and so you’ll likely just see his or her defensiveness activate. By isolating an instance of fact, everyone can quickly see where he or she was right and wrong.
Rule #5: Always work to be the first to apologize when any dispute arises. Although the idea of waiting for the other person to apologize first seems vindicating, it’s actually a guaranteed sign of how you care more about being right than in coming to a reconciliation.
Rule #6: Focus on trying to discover what’s right, not who is right. When thinking about what happened, try to remove yourself from the situation and evaluate right and wrong based solely on the actions that took place regardless of which side you’re on. Treat it as if you are refereeing someone else’s game.
Rule #7: Do not cuss. Exaggerated language is often proof of an exaggerated understanding of what actually happened. If you swear, the other party is likely to only hear the expletives and will stop listening for any validity in what you’re saying.
Rule 8: No name-calling. Belittling a person always shifts the focus off of resolving the actual problem. Verbal abuse is never welcome to a conflict resolution party.
Rule #9: Remind yourself the other person also cares about reconciling the relationship. One of the fundamental causes of many disagreements is feeling hurt that the other person is no longer considering your perspective, but if they didn’t care about a resolution with you they wouldn’t be fighting for one.
Rule #10: Remind yourself to never expect the other person to fill a hole in your life that only they can fill. Sometimes we fall into the trap of placing improper expectations on other people because we are hoping for them to satisfy a need in our life that they are not really capable of satisfying.
If we are fighting with someone, it means we both care about finding the best course of action and we both care about preserving the relationship. If we didn’t care about one another, then we would just ignore each other and leave.
The reason these 10 rules are important is because as long as they are in place, then no disagreement or conflict will ever shake the critical bedrock of knowing that the other person cares about you. As long as we know the other person cares about us, it will give us a common ground to work from as we try to unite two seemingly conflicted views.
It is often the case that the people we love most are those that we have the worst conflicts with. Our most intimate relationships can touch upon our deepest places of hurt, mistrust and wounding often leading to misunderstandings, distance or fighting. Although these bumps along the path of relating may be inevitable, we can smooth the ride (or at least manage to stay on the path!) by remembering to return to a place of love in all situations of conflict.
What does this mean? Well, It means that no matter how you are triggered, how right you feel, how hurt you are there is nothing that will support your relationship (and you) more than being able to stay connected to the deep love that you feel for the person with which you are in conflict.
There are lots of ways to practice this but today I want to give you the step by step of how you actually make the physical, mental and emotional shift from negative emotion to a place of love. So, that you can be more effective at solving the conflict and building trust and intimacy. These are the steps to take when you start to see red while engaging with someone you love. Whenever possible, as soon as you become aware that you are getting agitated, take a breath and a moment to do the following:
Step #1: Recognize where you are. See your desire to hurt, blame or separate from the other person.
Step #2: Switch your perspective. You don’t have to forgive, agree or accept them, anything they say, or what they are doing. Just remember what it feels like to love that person.
Step #3: Think of what you would do or how you would act if you were feeling this love. In other words, if you were to choose loving connection over hurt, blame or disconnection what would you do.
Step #4: Decide what you want. Now that you have seen each of the options, which is the one that you want to choose?
Step#5: Love yourself for making the best choice you can in the moment regardless of what it is.
It is really easy in the heat of the moment to lose sight of everything that we valued and believed when we were not in the conflict. Simply by reconnecting with the memory of being loving towards the other person, it frees us up to find new options for resolution and connection.
Join Dr. Kate Siner with her guest, relationship expert, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and founder of Romantic Alchemy, Tabatha Bird Weaver as they discuss ways to connect with compassion no matter what situation you are in on this weeks hour of Real Answers Radio. Tune in for the tools to reduce conflict and create deeper levels of trust and health in all of your important relationships. Thursday, March 12th at 12pm EST. Learn more here.
There was a time when the boundaries between work and home were fairly clear. Today, however, work is likely to invade your personal life — and maintaining work-life balance is no simple task. This might be especially true if you’re concerned about losing your job due to restructuring, layoffs or other factors. Still, work-life balance isn’t out of reach.
Start by evaluating your relationship to work. Then apply specific strategies to help you strike a healthier balance.
Married to your work? Consider the cost
It can be tempting to rack up hours at work, especially if you’re trying to earn a promotion or manage an ever-increasing workload — or simply keep your head above water. Sometimes overtime might even be required. If you’re spending most of your time working, though, your home life will take a hit.
Consider the consequences of poor work-life balance:
Fatigue. When you’re tired, your ability to work productively and think clearly might suffer — which could take a toll on your professional reputation or lead to dangerous or costly mistakes.
Lost time with friends and loved ones. If you’re working too much, you might miss important family events or milestones. This can leave you feeling left out and might harm relationships with your loved ones. It’s also difficult to nurture friendships if you’re always working.
Increased expectations. If you regularly work extra hours, you might be given more responsibility — which could lead to additional concerns and challenges.
How to strike a better work-life balance
As long as you’re working, juggling the demands of career and personal life will probably be an ongoing challenge. Consider these ideas to find the work-life balance that’s best for you:
Track your time. Pay attention to your daily tasks, including work-related and personal activities. Decide what’s necessary and what satisfies you the most. Cut or delegate activities you don’t enjoy or can’t handle — or share your concerns and possible solutions with your employer or others.
Take advantage of your options. Ask your employer about flex hours, a compressed workweek, job sharing, telecommuting or other scheduling flexibility. The more control you have over your hours, the less stressed you’re likely to be.
Learn to say no. Whether it’s a co-worker asking you to spearhead an extra project or your child’s teacher asking you to organize a class party, remember that it’s OK to respectfully say no. When you quit accepting tasks out of guilt or a false sense of obligation, you’ll have more time for the activities that are meaningful to you.
Leave work at work. With the technology to connect to anyone at any time from virtually anywhere, there might be no boundary between work and home — unless you create it. Make a conscious decision to separate work time from personal time. When you’re with your family, for instance, keep your laptop in your briefcase.
Manage your time. Organize household tasks efficiently, such as running errands in batches or doing a load of laundry every day, rather than saving it all for your day off. Put family events on a weekly family calendar and keep a daily to-do list. Do what needs to be done and let the rest go.
Bolster your support system. At work, join forces with co-workers who can cover for you — and vice versa — when family conflicts arise. At home, enlist trusted friends and loved ones to pitch in with child care or household responsibilities when you need to work overtime or travel.
Nurture yourself. Eat a healthy diet, include physical activity in your daily routine and get enough sleep. Set aside time each day for an activity that you enjoy, such as practicing yoga or reading. Better yet, discover activities you can do with your partner, family or friends — such as hiking, dancing or taking cooking classes.
reposted from the Mayo Clinic Online.
Like a monster from under the bed, stress and/or anxiety is stealing the peaceful nighttime Zzzzzs of nearly 70 million Americans. Anxiety may also be sabotaging your confidence, turning your stomach into knots, and impacting your general wellbeing. Learn how to squash the uncomfortable consequences of stress and anxiety with these 5 tips.
1. Remember: This Too Shall Pass
Laundry is piling up, the baby has a fever, and your boss wanted that report yesterday. Sound familiar? No one managing his or her own life is devoid of stress and too much of it can lead to excessive worry, nervousness, dread, upset stomach, or difficulty breathing. The first step to overcoming such negative feelings is to recognize that you are experiencing a very common emotional state most commonly identified as anxiety (learn more signs of anxiety). Although it’s uncomfortable, the negative feelings WILL PASS. Fighting the anxiety can make it stronger. Paradoxically, accepting that you are feeling anxious helps activate the body’s natural relaxation response.
2. Learn How to Self-Soothe
Imagine walking down a nature path only to be greeted by a snarling grizzly bear — or worse, your boss demanding that report. When we are faced with an anxiety-inducing situation, our body’s sympathetic nervous system automatically triggers physiological changes. Our breathing quickens, adrenaline is secreted, and our heart begins to race. This natural survival mechanism — called the fight or flight response — is intended to help us to escape a true, life threatening emergency. However, when the threat is imagined (e.g., I’m going to bomb this presentation and everyone will know I’m a fraud), the fight/flight response is unnecessary and very uncomfortable.
Self soothing techniques that reduce the stress response:
One of the most effective ways to activate the relaxation response is by decreasing the heart rate. Since we can’t voluntarily alter our pulse, more tangible measures are needed. Luckily, a rapid heart rate can be lowered with deep breathing techniques. The most commonly utilized strategy is breathing by contracting the diaphragm, a horizontal muscle in the chest located just above the stomach cavity.
If a small child told you he was nervous about going to school the next day, what would you say? Unless you’re an abusive lunatic, phrases like “you’re such a dumb little kid” or “you should be nervous because no one will like you” would never leave your mouth. This is because we intuitively know how to help others combat stress sometimes better than ourselves. To increase emotional comfort, it’s imperative to practice reassuring and realistic self-talk. When anxious, practice self-talk phrases such as:
“This feeling will pass.”
“I will get through this.”
“I am safe right now.”
“I am feeling anxious now, but I have the power make myself calm.”
“I can feel my heart rate slowing down.”
Stress causes our muscles to tighten and become tense. To increase a relaxed state and physical comfort, tighten and release muscles beginning with the largest muscle group. Watch this video to learn progressive muscle relaxation exercises.
3. Check Your Diet
What we eat and drink largely impacts our emotional state. Foods most associated with exacerbating anxiety are ones containing caffeine and alcohol. Even consumed in small amounts, studies have found that the stimulating effects of caffeine can cause anxiety, trigger panic attacks, and increase feelings of nervousness and irritability. Caffeine — commonly found in coffee, colas, tea, and chocolate — also causes physical symptoms such as trembling and shaking. Abruptly eliminating caffeine from the diet can lead to withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, restlessness, and irritability so it’s important to decrease caffeine consumption gradually. Similarly, although alcohol is often consumed to “take the edge off” it dehydrates the body and ultimately increases anxiety.
An imbalance of bacteria in the gut can also cause many symptoms associated with anxiety and other mood disorders. Researchers at McMaster University found evidence that the balance of bacteria in your gut may have more to do with your mood than any other contributing factor.
4. Get Moving
Most of us know that exercise is good for our physical health. For the past few decades, research has suggested that exercise is even more effective than medication (learn more from this helpful article from Huffington Post (link is external)). Maintaining a regular (healthy, non-obsessive) exercise routine has been proven to reduce stress, improve mood, enhance self-esteem, and increase energy levels. During exercise, the body releases chemicals called endorphins which interact with receptors in the brain to causing euphoric feelings and reduction in physical pain.
5. Get More Sleep
Nearly everyone feels a little crabby after a rough night’s sleep. Disrupted sleep is common in many emotional disorders and it’s difficult to know which started first — stress or poor sleep. A study from the University of Pennsylvania (link is external) showed that losing just a few hours of sleep increases feelings of stress, anger, sadness, and exhaustion.
“People tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will descend like fine weather if you are fortunate. But happiness is the result of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly.” ― Elizabeth Gilbert
reposed from Psychology Today
The saying, “listen to your gut”, really makes sense. Your gut is basically your digestive system. You know when you feel hungry. Some physical signs can include stomach pains, growling, or even headaches. If you feel tired, your body is usually dragging. It’s incredible but true, your body just knows!
Our body always talks to us but we’ve taken it for granted. In fact, when a psychotherapist wants a client to connect to his/her feelings, she will ask, “Where in your body do you feel_______”.
It is essential to to make the feeling-body connection. Otherwise, one externalizes feelings and situations instead of understanding that it comes from within. The answer is always within.
Do you recall a time when you knew how you felt in your body about something but you didn’t listen? How about when you did listen? Did you listen right away or did it take time? Think about the consequences of listening vs not listening. I am certain that when you listened the outcome was more favorable.
I believe we humans are not as conditioned as we’d like to listen to our bodies. I do believe we have certain feelings, like fear or nervousness, that can be very strong. The fight or flight response comes to mind. But there are the more subtle signs that come from our bodies that we have not yet tuned into.
I know I had a hard time tuning in to my intuition. It definitely took me some time to learn to listen to it, at least in terms of making important life decisions. But why? What got in the way? Why couldn’t I tune in? Well, of course! The dreaded mind! Our mind is often very busy undermining us. It is very good at distracting us from what we already know in our heart, in our soul.
As a business owner there are so many things to think about. But there are as many to feel about! According to Human Design, a subject I learned about at my retreat, our mind (head) is in charge of reason, logic, and execution. But it is not the Authority. Our mind wants to be the authority and make the decisions for us but our Authority lies below the throat center, within. This is a fascinating subject to learn more about and can help you understand more about how you, the unique you, functions.
As children, we are definitely more attuned to our bodies but contamination happens and our bodies get silenced as we get older. Or at least it seems a little harder to hear when we get older, literally for some of us, right?
Where does this contamination come from? Usually from things we are taught as children or grow up believing about ourselves. It could be we learn that we shouldn’t make noise or speak up. It could be that we learn that what we feel is not important. Both of those beliefs can silence us and our bodies.
Trauma is another example of something that silences our bodies. Especially physical or sexual. This subject area is more delicate and needs special intervention but your can begin to understand how different situations in our childhood or throughout our life affect our ability to pay attention and listen to our voice, our truth, our intuition, our bodies.
As adults, how can we decontaminate and practice listening and paying attention to our bodies? By being more aware of our bodies. By knowing that we can trust our voice, our intuition. By realizing we can and should feel connected to our bodies, our hearts, our souls. And by doing physical activity to help us do just that.
The practice of yoga, quieting the mind and connecting to the source, is a good way to help us listen more to our bodies, our soul, our hearts. Dancing is another activity that helps you focus on your body, as long as you can stop thinking about your next step. Letting go of our thoughts can be so very complicated and yet so necessary.
Everyday we have an opportunity to FEEL MORE and THINK LESS. When you woke up this morning, how did you feel? Sleepy? Where in you body did you feel sleepy? Or maybe you felt tired? Where in your body did you feel tired? Did you feel energized or excited? Where in your body did you feel this? When you arrived at work, how did you feel? Where did you feel it?
The above is a good example of how we can practice getting used to making the feeling-body connection. Try it! Maybe it could be a nice practice to help you listen and pay more attention to what your body is telling you. Just remember, think less, feel more!
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The story goes like this, eighteen hours before my plane is going to leave for vacation, I discover that I cannot find my passport anywhere. I spend the next 10 hours turning my house upside down –still no passport. I was calm at the beginning. Of course it will show up I thought. It really can’t be that far but by the time I was convinced it was in fact lost and began looking for solutions to replace it, there were very few solutions and all of them were expensive and time consuming.
Still not fully convinced that I was not leaving in the morning, I went to sleep. When I woke up I gave one last search and surrendered to the fact that I would not be getting on the plane in a couple hours. This is what my day looked like. I showered, drank some coffee, jumped in the car and picked up new passport photos. I started the trek to Boston in rush hour traffic. While in the car I was talking to the airline, the passport agency, a friend at the airlines, and finding a place to print my itinerary. It seemed everything could get done but not in the order it needed to get done so I kept wiggling the pieces to try and get them to fit to get on the plane the next day while driving down the highway in stop and go traffic.
Um, yeah, stressful…
There were some things that helped me navigate this situation and remain relatively unstressed but more than anything what this situation reminded me of what how important it is to remember that stress is not an essential part of the equation and to use the tools that I know work!
Remember that stress is optional: Somehow we collectively came to the decision that if things are not going the way we want them to, stressing out about it is the right thing to do. While a small amount of stress can increase our focus and performance a large amount of stress has a very clear detrimental effect. When things are spinning out of control the only thing that is in our control is how we feel as we go through it. If you find yourself getting stressed, you can ask yourself if that is how you want to feel. Believe it or not sometimes we are hooked on our negative states and we are reluctant to let them go. It can be helpful to accept the desire to be negative and find out why it seems so important to hang onto. Maybe it is a form of self-punishment or maybe it is a desire to get support or attention. If it feels too important to let it go then awareness is all you need to do. When you are ready, you will be able to choose to put down your unnecessary stress regardless of the situation.
Ask yourself if it can be easier:
One thing that can slip our minds when we are stressed out –as I said being stressed out is not good for our decision making- is to remember to make things as easy as possible. So, stop, take a breath, or maybe even three. Look at the situation. Aside from your mood, what can be done to streamline or simplify things? Do you ever find yourself getting ready to go on a trip or prepare for some event and all of a sudden you add in a bunch of other things to get done? For example, it is your kids birthday party in a few hours and you decided to clean out the laundry room all of a sudden? May sound crazy to some but I know plenty of people who have done it. Finding a smoother and easier way to do things is usually possible. Like I said, stop and take a breath and then ask yourself “What can I do to make this easier?”
Focus on what you want:
When things start to go wrong it is so easy to start to focus on everything that goes wrong. Every little bump becomes another stress and every potential bump is seen and fixated on well before it has even arrived. The purpose of stress is to make us hyper aware so that we can solve the problem at hand. However, while that makes sense evolutionarily, it only gets us to baseline –we can only prevent bad things from happening we don’t have much of an ability to make good things happen. By switching our focus to the outcome we desire in the big picture and in each moment the potential that we can create is much, much, greater.
Be nice, use your people skills, and ask for help:
When we get stressed it is really easy to share our stress with others via being curt or even aggressive. If we can take a moment and recognize that the other person has no way to understand why we are acting the way that we are and stressing them out only makes for two stressed out people, then we might be able to adjust our behavior to get more of what we want. So, remember to smile (which coincidentally will help your mood!) and use please and thank you! In addition, it is easy for some of us to go it alone. Remember that people are out there and can help you through this challenging stretch so if you know someone who might be able to help, ask and make your life a little easier.
Is stress an issue in your life? Tune in this week to Real Answers Radio. I will be hosting Grace Dulude, integrative therapist and yoga instructor. Grace and I will be sharing special insights on how to make each moment of your life more stress-free.
As an entrepreneur, you have a lot on your plate. Staying focused can be tough with a constant stream of employees, clients, emails, and phone calls demanding your attention. Amid the noise, understanding your brain’s limitations and working around them can improve your focus and increase your productivity.
Our brains are finely attuned to distraction, so today’s digital environment makes it especially hard to focus. “Distractions signal that something has changed,” says David Rock, co-founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute and author of Your Brain at Work (HarperCollins, 2009). “A distraction is an alert says, ‘Orient your attention here now; this could be dangerous.'” The brain’s reaction is automatic and virtually unstoppable.
While multitasking is an important skill, it also has a downside. “It reduces our intelligence, literally dropping our IQ,” Rock says. “We make mistakes, miss subtle cues, fly off the handle when we shouldn’t, or spell things wrong.”
To make matters worse, distraction feels great. “Your brain’s reward circuit lights up when you multitask,” Rock says, meaning that you get an emotional high when you’re doing a lot at once.
Ultimately, the goal is not constant focus, but a short period of distraction-free time every day. “Twenty minutes a day of deep focus could be transformative,” Rock says.
Try these three tips to help you become more focused and productive:
1. Do creative work first.
Typically, we do mindless work first and build up to the toughest tasks. That drains your energy and lowers your focus. “An hour into doing your work, you’ve got a lot less capacity than (at the beginning),” Rock says. “Every decision we make tires the brain.”
In order to focus effectively, reverse the order. Check off the tasks that require creativity or concentration first thing in the morning, and then move on to easier work, like deleting emails or scheduling meetings, later in the day.
2. Allocate your time deliberately.
By studying thousands of people, Rock found that we are truly focused for an average of only six hours per week. “You want to be really diligent with what you put into those hours,” he says.
Most people focus best in the morning or late at night, and Rock’s studies show that 90 percent of people do their best thinking outside the office. Notice where and when you focus best, then allocate your toughest tasks for those moments.
3. Train your mind like a muscle.
When multitasking is the norm, your brain quickly adapts. You lose the ability to focus as distraction becomes a habit. “We’ve trained our brains to be unfocused,” Rock says.
Practice concentration by turning off all distractions and committing your attention to a single task. Start small, maybe five minutes per day, and work up to larger chunks of time. If you find your mind wandering, just return to the task at hand. “It’s just like getting fit,” Rock says. “You have to build the muscle to be focused.”
It’s tough when you are being pulled in a million different directions and what seems like little time to get everything done. When one is working against the clock, this can only exacerbate the stress levels, which is why routine is such an important part of my life. Unfortunately, decisions have to be made and they don’t always align with my schedule, but I have come up with some tips to keep me on board until I weather the storm.
1. Ask for help
You do not have to go through life alone. It’s OK to ask family and friends to help you out. You do not score any brownie points by trying to do it all. In fact you may find yourself so overwhelmed that staying committed to your healthy lifestyle is much harder than when you have others to help you along the way.
2. Keep exercising
This can be tough when you feel as though you are being pulled in a thousand different directions, but I remember my former running coach telling me years ago, “no run, no matter how short is ever wasted.” As many of us are well aware, exercise is a big stress reliever. Even if you can’t keep up with your normal exercise routine, going for a quick walk or even doing some stair climbing can do wonders to clear your mind and more importantly reduce the stress.
3. Rest is important, too
If you have children you know that when they get overly tired they are much more difficult to manage. Sleep and rest help us recharge our batteries. Even if you find yourself sneaking in rest when your loved one is resting, it may be just what your body needs.
Deep breathing seems like such a simple act, but it can do wonders in helping relieve stress and tension we hold in our bodies. Just three short minutes of concentrated breathing can help lower stress levels and release tension and anxiety.
5. Be sure to eat
Remember food is fuel for your body. It is what gives us energy especially when our meal time schedule is off. Sugary foods and junk food from the vending machine can actually leave you drained, therefore bringing healthy snacks is a great option. I keep nuts, raisins and a granola bar with me in my purse so that I never am without a little something.
6. Talk with others
While what ever you are going through may seem overwhelming, sharing your concerns with others who are or have experienced similar problems can actually validate your feelings. As my therapist Ann told me months ago, validations of emotions can make us feel normal– that it’s OK to feel the way we do. And you may be surprised that sometimes others who have walked the journey can offer you help and insight to your own situation.
7. Accept that you cannot do it all
This is by far one of the most difficult areas for me to accept. As a type A perfectionist, I do not like when I am forced to shorten my workout sessions, maybe not eat as well as I should, get upset with the way things are done or not done, etc, but this is life. A few weeks of not so healthy choices will not knock me down UNLESS I allow the guilt to consume me. I can only do the best I can do knowing that it will only be a matter of time before I am back to my normal, or maybe even my new normal, routine.
8. Seek guidance from others
When I was dealing with my father’s illness, a social worker at my father-in-law’s rehab facility was instrumental in helping us locate an assisted living facility in a very short time. While my husband and I did have to visit the places she recommended, we did not have to waste time wading through the lists of facilities. It is amazing how many people are willing to help, you just need to step out of your comfort zone.
9. It’s OK to let things slide
I love an immaculate home, but life gets crazy, accepting that there is only so much time in a day to get everything done has become my new way of living. It’s OK that I do not get EVERYTHING done. It will still be here when things settle down, but giving myself permission to let the household duties slide is a huge stress reliever, too.
After 50 years on this planet, I am learning to accept that there are many things out of my control. I can either wallow in my sorrow or I can take on the challenges. Smiling can do wonders to lift our moods along with the release of the mood calming endorphins. It can make us more positive when things in life appear to be so challenging.
While there are many things in life we can’t control, there are many things we can. Life is not meant to be experienced without sorrow and stress. It is how we manage the curve balls or the obstacles in our life that allow us to grow, change and transform into the people we are meant to be. It doesn’t mean it will be easy, but having a few tips to help you through can do wonders in making a not-so-great situation in to the best situation we are to deal with.
Reblogged from www.sparkpeople.com