fbpx
How to be Hopeful When There’s Not Much Hope

How to be Hopeful When There’s Not Much Hope

How do you feel hopeful when so much in the world is uncertain? At times, it can seem like there’s no hope.

Hope is a feeling of expectation and desire for positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.

How can you expect a positive outcome or make plans when things are beyond your control? I’m sure you’ve heard about people who had to change their plans due to COVID-19. Big plans. Big events. Things like weddings, vacations, graduations, anniversary parties, and other celebrations. All delayed, or even cancelled entirely.

There are many ways to find your way back to hope, below are just a few with specific action steps at the end.

Realize you get to choose

When events seem out of your control, do you choose to be hopeful? You can choose:

  • to be hopeful that our leaders will guide us properly during the upcoming weeks and months of opening our environments up again.
  • to be hopeful that the economy and your 401K balance will come back as it typically does during these cyclical times.
  • to be hopeful that you and your loved ones will continue to stay healthy and safe by taking the right precautions and following good advice and practices to stay safe.

When you take responsibility for your feelings and choose how you want to feel about a circumstance, you become empowered.

It doesn’t matter if that circumstance is within your control or not. You may not be able to affect the outcome, but you can affect the way you think and feel about it.

Modify your expectations

We set ourselves up for frustration and disappointment when our expectations are unrealistic and set too high. Or if we cling to the same expectations when current circumstances are calling for them to be changed.

What are your expectations for your 2020 goals? Now might be a good time to reevaluate where they are in light of the pandemic and modify your expectations for achieving them.

A business owner friend expected to double her sales this year and was on target in January and February, and then her business was forced to shutdown. She’s turned to plan B and plan C to bring income in, and has modified her expectations for the remainder of this year to minimize further disappointment.

Find the silver lining

Look for meaning in the most challenging of situations. It brings a sense of peace and satisfaction, even if the meaning is simply learning something new.

For example, if working from home is new and challenging for you, the deeper meaning could be viewed as an opportunity to work on a skillset you’re developing, like patience, perseverance or how to handle change.  

There are so many silver linings with the global pandemic. You can look for examples and find them every day.

I see neighbors being more neighborly and taking the time to get to know each other better, and support each other when in need. Even though we’re social distancing, I see more connection – and deeper connections – via phone calls and webmeetings. Friends and relatives are checking in on each other, even ones who haven’t spoken in years.

There’s less traffic, less air pollution, more empathy and more willingness to help others – so much good from this “slow down” that’s been forced upon us.

Take Purposeful Action

Hope is something you can create. I encourage you to take what you’ve learned above and act. Here are 5 steps to follow to be hopeful when there’s not much hope:

1. Notice the feeling of hopelessness; become aware of it. Awareness is powerful in itself. Pay attention to your feelings or thoughts that may be causing hopelessness.

2. Pause & breathe. It may help to think or say aloud “I’m going to pause right now and take a few deep breaths”, then take 3 or 4 deep diaphragmatic breaths to calm your nervous system.  

3. Get curious. Don’t try to stop or shut down the feeling. Sit with it and get curious about it. Ask yourself questions like, what’s causing me to feel this way? Could this be some other feeling instead? Am I physically run down and that’s impacting my mood and feelings?

4. Decide to take responsibility. Accept and trust that your life is exactly that, YOUR life. You create your experiences and can choose what kind of experiences they are. And if you desire, you can change what you’re experiencing at any point.   

5. Act: choose a better feeling thought and then take a small action in that same direction. For example, choose to appreciate the positive in your life: like being grateful that you’re still healthy, and then go take a quick walk around your neighborhood, enjoying the weather and fresh air.

You may not be able to control a lot these days. Uncertainty is at unprecedented levels. But you can dismiss the victim mindset, and instead control how you think and feel about certain things.

Hopelessness, and the inevitable suffering from it, is optional. Remember, you have a choice to be hopeful when there’s not much hope.

 

 

Photo by Rose Erkul on Unsplash

Why Everyone Needs Meditation

Why Everyone Needs Meditation

Everyone needs meditation, and this recent example is why.

Something felt off. I overslept the past two days due to poor quality sleep (seasonal allergies + a muscle pull in my neck) and I missed my morning meditation. I figured I’d have to time to get it in later in the day, but that didn’t happen.

Now that I reflect back on it, I felt less clear headed and energetic throughout these days. Was it the poor sleep, or missing my meditation practice? Most likely a combination of the two.

So this morning, I was determined to get back into my daily routine. I know from experience that meditation is a game changer for people.

I recommend it to all my clients and I’ve seen the phenomenal results that come from meditating regularly.

Personally, after two days of missing my meditation, it felt like coming home this morning. No racing thoughts, but instead peace of mind, tranquility, stillness, clarity – all the things that put a smile on my face during and after my practice.

I was floating afterwards and in a high energy, happy mood. So much so that my 14 year old dog picked up on it. This dog who now sleeps about 90% of the time, grabbed his toy and started chasing me around the house, poking me with his toy to get me to chase him back.

Our pets know energy better than we do, and he certainly was picking up on my high energy and was loving it.

Benefits of Meditation

Meditation has been around for thousands of years and has numerous benefits. It triggers your body’s relaxation response to reduce stress and anxiety, lengthens your attention span, and is highly beneficial to your emotional wellbeing and for people struggling with addictive behaviors.

Meditation also increases self-awareness and emotional intelligence, two very important traits for professionals and leaders to help with relationships in the workplace and at home.

I was encouraged to start a meditation practice by numerous experts during a health crisis years ago. The root cause of my illness was eventually determined to be work-related stress.

I only wish I took that advice to meditate regularly sooner, I may not have suffered as long. If you experience a lot of stress or have unresolved health related issues, read more about the impact of stress and why you should care here.

A simple practice of a few minutes of meditating per day or in particular situation (before or after) can bring you a sense of calm during stress or help center and ground you when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

I know meditation on a regular basis works, I personally don’t need scientific proof to experience something and realize the benefits directly.

However, if scientific confirmation helps others become more open to the concept of meditation and gets them to start practicing it, then by all means, keep the research going.

There are plenty of scientific studies reporting that meditation helps relieve anxiety and depression, improve focus and attention, increase concentration, and improve overall psychological well-being.

Meditation has also been shown to produce favorable changes in the brain. In this Forbes article, 7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change the Brain, several studies are cited showing how meditation preserves the aging brain, reduces activity in the “Me Center” or “monkey mind”, changes key areas of the brain that support learning and memory, improves concentration and attention, and reduces anxiety.

Are you convinced yet that everyone needs to meditate?

Take Purposeful Action: Start a Daily Practice

If you’re not mediating now, start a daily practice. If you don’t think you have time for it, start off with a 1 – 5 minute practice first thing in the morning.

Keep it simple. Find a space where you won’t be disturbed and sit comfortably.

Set a timer: I like the Insight Timer app available for iOS and Android.

Close your eyes and focus your attention on your breathing. It may help to count your breaths (inhale: 1, 2, 3, 4, exhale: 1, 2, 3, 4).

As thoughts arise, observe them without judging, and let them go.

Try smiling to support a feeling of inner calm and joy. It gets easier with continued practice and when you start seeing the benefits.

After some regular practice and when you feel ready, slowly increase the time you meditate. If you start with 5 minutes per day, increase it to 6 or 7 minutes after a couple of weeks. You’ll know when you’re ready.

Some additional tips: play soft music to help you get in a relaxed mood, write down how you feel before and after, and if you keep a journal write directly after meditation. You may be pleasantly surprised by the content.

Lastly, if you feel fidgety or tense while meditating remind yourself that it’s a normal part of the process and a great reason to continue. Over time you’ll find that getting into a relaxed state comes easily and quickly.

Next thing you know, you’ll be buying a “heavily meditated” t-shirt to wear proudly in public.

Take Purposeful Action (For Current Meditators): Try Something New

If you already have a daily meditation practice, I’m sure you see its value and don’t need me to tell you to continue it.

I do want to encourage you to change it up or enhance your daily practice by adding different types of meditation every so often, like once a month or once every few weeks.

You can try a guided meditation on YouTube or one of the meditation apps, a mindfulness meditation, a group meditation experience, or a walking meditation.

Here’s one to try this weekend. Take a walk in a wooded area or other peaceful place out in nature for a walking meditation.

While walking, get centered and grounded by paying attention to your feet as they move, the strength in your legs, and the air easily flowing into and out of your lungs.

Then, bring your focus to all the beautiful things that surround you. Notice the birds, butterflies, and other wild life. Pay attention to the trees, the wind moving the leaves, and the warmth of the sun on your skin.

Be present with the whole experience. Needless to say but I’ll say it anyway, no listening to music, books or podcasts during this walking meditation, and put your phone on do not disturb mode if it’s with you.

In the comments below, share the one benefit you want most from your daily meditation practice? Or, if you already meditate regularly, what’s the best benefit you’ve gotten from it? Please share to encourage others.

 

 

Photo by Raul Varzar on Unsplash

Don’t Put Your Goals on Hold

Don’t Put Your Goals on Hold

“I’ve been completely off my morning meditation routine for the last 3 weeks. The stress about this pandemic has gotten to me.”

“My health goals are so hard to stick to now.”

“I struggle so much with a lack of willpower to get anything done, especially with the pandemic and kids home and emotionally feeling off.”

“I’m having a hard time sticking to my exercise routine. I blame it on this COVID-19 pandemic.”

“I was doing so well before the pandemic, and now I’m not.”

Do any of these sound familiar?

We are living in unprecedented times. You can’t ignore the stress and uncertainty that is part of your daily life right now.

Even going to the grocery store can turn into a traumatic event. You’ve got a face mask and gloves on for protection and to protect others. You’re attempting to stay 6 feet apart from other shoppers, waiting and losing patience for someone to just pick a carton of eggs already and leave the area. The longer you’re in there, the more exposed you are. The anxiety is creeping in. Plus you’re struggling to hear and shouting to be heard because most people are wearing face masks. Not exactly a peaceful experience.

When I went to the grocery store last week, I saw a worker with no mask stocking the frozen section and openly coughing without covering his mouth; I couldn’t get out of that aisle and store fast enough.

And that’s a shopping trip; add all the other things we do on a daily basis that is now impacted and at times it can feel like your whole world is upside down.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and let that knock you off your normal routine.

Sticking to your healthy habits seems harder than usual. Staying focused on your daily actions that help you achieve your goals seems impossible at times with everything else you have to contend with now.

Don’t Put Your Goals on Hold

Despite our current times, it is possible, and important, to not put your goals on hold.

We don’t know how long this will last. It could be 2 more weeks or 2 more months before businesses, schools and all the other places now closed open up again. Can you afford to hold off on achieving your goals for that long?

Goals require weekly, daily or even more frequent, focus and nurturing. If you put your goals on hold until “COVID is over” you’ll lose the momentum and progress you’ve already made.

If you need a few hours, or a day or two to get through some challenges, by all means take it. I’m a big proponent of balance and taking the time you need to address your priorities and stay healthy and balanced.

I recently moved to a new home and purposely cut back my work hours for 2 weeks knowing full well I wouldn’t be able to handle all that change and still carry a full workload.

Structure is Key

It’s so important in these uncertain times to ensure you’re doing all you can to bring more structure into every day. Structure gives you a sense of stability and certainty; things we need more than ever right now.

I’ve had clients get away from their daily meditation practice or other healthy habits for weeks, reporting that they felt off and not quite balanced.

If you don’t have a daily morning practice and need some help and ideas on how to begin, read my previous blog: Connect to Success Every Day for Best Results. There’s a link there to get a Morning Routine tool and checklist too.

In addition to an intentional daily practice, little things like showering, making your bed, taking a walk, keeping your home clean – these all add structure and stability right now.

Take Strategic Action Now

There are plenty of things you can do now despite your current COVID-19 restrictive reality.

First, add structure to your day with some of the suggestions above. Be sure to include a daily action that supports one of your bigger, long-term goals. For example, if you want to improve your health this year, committing to a daily walk would be ideal.

Second, stay positive and appreciate what you’re learning from this experience.

A lot of people are loving this slow-down that’s been forced upon us. They’re spending more quality time with loved ones they live with (2 and 4 legged), getting outside more for walks and sunshine, and connecting with friends and family more to check in and see how they’re doing. It feels natural and easy, and reminiscent of less hectic times.

And we’re using technology in such positive ways. I think about all the people who had no idea what Zoom and virtual meetings were a few weeks ago, and it makes me smile.

Now they’re connecting virtually to spend holiday or Sunday meals together with kids and grandkids, attend church services, and go to networking or club meetings. Spend a few minutes right now and write down 5 or more positive things that this pandemic has provided to you.

And third, take advantage of all the extra time you now have.

Maybe you’re not commuting to work and now have 60+ extra minutes in your day, or you find working from home more efficient and you’re getting more done in less time.

What could you do with your extra time? Focus on your goals and tie them into your activities or projects. For example, complete some long-overdue home projects this weekend to give you a sense of completion and joy; plant some flowers or tomatoes to feed your nurturing side; exercise to bring movement and balance into your body; take a class or course for self-development and personal growth; visit some virtual museums or national parks and get excited about visiting there in the future; or rediscover your creative side with hobbies like painting or music.

Find something that feeds your mind, body and soul and enjoy this time right now.  

 

Photo by Plush Design Studio on Unsplash

My Top 3 Go Tos for Anxiety and Stress Relief

My Top 3 Go Tos for Anxiety and Stress Relief

If ever there was a time to have some effective go tos for keeping anxiety and stress down, it’s now.

We are living in unprecedented times right now. The world has a lot of uncertainty and fear due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and all of its resulting consequences including job and income loss, lifestyle changes like social distancing, business closures, potential illness and death.

Add to this any planned activities you had scheduled for this time, and it can feel like it’s too much to handle. Life’s big celebrations like weddings, graduations and holidays are cancelled. People have been furloughed as many service industries are severely impacted. You’re putting your life at risk just to go buy groceries.

Moving During COVID-19

I moved into a new home last week. It was planned since January, not knowing all the complications that would be happening in March.

Moving is a big life change and full of stress, but add the pressure of not knowing if the transaction was going to get cancelled, if the deed could be recorded or if the movers would be forced to stop working (would they be considered an essential service during ‘stay at home” order).

Thankfully, I made it through the rollercoaster of emotions the week before closing on the purchase, but then came the next hurdle, physically moving to the new home.

Friends came to help move my breakable items and living plants, it was an exhausting day but went smoothly. I’m so grateful for their kindness and support in these social distancing times. The next day the moving company would come and move the rest.

That’s when the anxiety and pressure seemed to notch up again. Over the next 5 days, a new issue would arise almost daily, and each time I would get that tight feeling in my solar plexus area, directly under my ribcage and above my belly button. That’s my body’s signal telling me to brace for the uncertainty to follow. For example:

  • When the moving company called the morning of my move to let me know a couple crew members had head colds, and they weren’t chancing it. That they would send 2 others instead of the 3 planned, and another 2 would join later on;
  • When my desk for my home office wouldn’t fit through my new home office door;
  • When my washing machine was broken during the move, and I had to risk COVID-19 exposure to go buy another at Lowes. I’ve never been so excited to do laundry;
  • When the smoke detector in this brand new home kept going off making my 2 pups, already frazzled from the move, hide in the furthest bathroom and closet. The smoke detector was defective and was replaced;
  • When the toilets all backed up filling the tub and shower with sewer water because the pipes were filled with all sorts of new construction debris. The plumber came by and cleared out the main drainage pipe.

As I look back now, 2 weeks later, I realize what helped get me through that daily barrage of unexpected problems. It was the tools and techniques I’ve used over the years to become a more centered, present, and peaceful person.

Do I get angry, frustrated, and lose it sometimes? Of course, I’m only human. However, now I find it easier to recover from those feelings and realize, from experience, that all these issues do work out in the end, as all the ones above did. It may not be the result I was expecting, but it gets resolved.

My Top 3 Go Tos for Anxiety and Stress Relief

Here are my top 3 go tos to keep the anxiety and stress at a manageable level. I used them extensively over the past few weeks, and will continue to practice them as we all get through this new world with COVID-19.

1. A Morning Routine that Includes Meditation

My all-time favorite recommendation to coaching clients, and anyone really, is a morning routine that includes meditation. The benefits of meditation are well documented and include reducing anxiety, increasing wellbeing, better sleep, better attention and focus, decreased pain, better immune function, and more happiness overall.

My daily practice takes 30 – 60 minutes. If this is new to you, start off small and work up to longer periods of time.

You’ll find, as I did, that it increases very easily and you’re going to want to spend more time setting up your day for success with a daily practice that feeds your mind, body and soul.

For more information on how to create a morning routine, click here to read my blog Connect to Success Every Day for Best Results and sign up to get access to my free Connect to Success Morning Routine Guide and Checklist.

2. Positive Self-Talk

Positive self-talk is a habit we can all cultivate in order to proactively compensate for our brains’ automatic processes. Our brains naturally assess our environment and come up with thoughts to “help” us survive.

It’s the function of our brain. Unfortunately, we’re wired to seek out problems (in order to solve them and survive) and some of our thoughts could be unhelpful and even hurtful.

For example, I kept hearing myself say “this is a nightmare” quite a few times on my moving days, when all that could go wrong seemed to be going wrong. Was it really a nightmare? No. But it sure did feel that way, in that moment.

I caught myself thinking and sometimes saying it out loud. When I did, I would then take a deep breath, question that thought, and then change it to a more helpful, positive thought. Many times, just acknowledging different and helpful thoughts can make all the difference.

For me, acknowledging that moving to a new home is always challenging. It’s not fun, and it’s typical for things to take longer than expected, for walls to get dinged, for my body to get tired and sore after many long days and nights packing, moving, and cleaning.

That helped and completely changed how I was feeling and subsequently how I was reacting to everyone and everything coming at me.

3. Breathwork

Breathwork is another tool to help calm your body and change your state of mind. My favorites currently are box breathing and relaxing breath (4-7-8 breathing).

Box breathing is a deep breathing technique that increases calm and focus and reduces stress. You breathe in through your nose for a count of 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, and then hold for 4 seconds. You can repeat this pattern for a few rounds, or keep going for 5 minutes or longer until you start to feel deeply relaxed. For those of you who are visual, think of each of these 4 steps as drawing an outline of a  box when doing them – up, across, down, over.

Relaxing breath, or 4-7-8 breathing, helps reduce anxiety and is great to do to help you get to sleep more easily. You breath in through your nose for a count of 4 seconds, hold your breath for a count of 7 seconds, and then exhale forcefully through the mouth, pursing the lips and making a “whoosh” sound, for 8 seconds. Then repeat. When starting out, you can repeat this cycle up to 4 times, and build up with more practice and time.

Take Action

I’d like you to try one or all three of these techniques the next time you begin to feel the pressure building. Bonus points if you create a daily practice like #1 above to help keep you in a balanced state on a regular basis, so you’re already in a better space to handle the anxiety and stress that is very prevalent in our new normal world.

 

Photo by Thomas Rey on Unsplash

How to Worry Less in Uncertain Times

How to Worry Less in Uncertain Times

Worrying can become a self-sabotaging habit that drains your energy. When you’re in uncertain times worry can make you more anxious and prevent you from being fully there, in the moment and present, for yourself, family and friends.

We are in the middle of a global pandemic right now, COVID-19. People are worried about their health and the health of their loved ones, especially those in high-risk groups.

They are worried about the financial implications as the stock market crashes lower and lower each day and 401K accounts reaching new lows.

They are worried about what this means to their careers or businesses. Depending on your industry, there could be less demand for goods and services and potential layoffs or business closures.   

But worrying too much increases anxiety and fear, and can take away your power. Focusing on what you can control and harnessing that for your benefit is a surefire way to feel better.

How to Worry Less, Especially Now

One thing you always have the option to control are your thoughts. Your thoughts create the feelings and moods you experience. And they influence the decisions you make and actions that you take.

Here’s an example of an unhelpful thought: “I can’t believe I have to stay isolated and homebound for weeks. This sucks. I’m going to go crazy after a few days.” The feelings this kind of thought brings up is pessimism, doubt, worry, and discouragement. No surprise the actions following these kind of unhelpful thoughts and feels could be: fighting or getting annoyed with loved ones that you’re spending so much time with now, checking out and binge-watching TV shows, or not doing anything productive at home while you have this opportunity.

Contrast that with a helpful thought: “This isn’t ideal, but I’m going to make the best of this situation.” The feelings from these kind of thoughts might be enthusiasm, empowerment and positive expectation.

And typical actions following these kinds of thoughts and feelings may be: catching up on all the reading you never have time for, calling relatives and friends to check in on them and show them you care, and finally decluttering and organizing out your home office or desk that’s been on your to-do list for a while now.

Or you may find yourself able to work better if you’re now required to work from home due to social distancing. The quiet and lack of office distractions can lead to increased productivity and creativity.

If you find yourself working from home for the first time, or struggling with it, read my blog about how to be more productive while working from home here.

Thought-Work to the Rescue

I recommend thought-work to my coaching clients, a lot. It’s the process of becoming aware of your thoughts and changing them to serve you and your best interests. It’s the opposite of allowing your mind to take over, which can lead to feeling out of control and wondering why you’re more anxious or fearful.

Here’s the 2 Step Process

1. Notice your thoughts. For some people, it may be easier to back into what the thought was by noticing how you’re feeling. In that case, ask yourself what you were thinking right before feeling a certain way. That allows you to find the root cause, or thought, that precipitated the feeling.

2. Change your thoughts and repeat. Stop yourself and change it to a better thought, and repeat it over and over throughout the day.

Choose a thought that is positive to elicit useful and optimistic emotions.

One way is to create mantras (thoughts) that you repeat on a regular basis to bring calm when your mind tries to take over. One of my favorites in uncertain and fearful times is: “This too shall pass”.

Another idea is to attach your mantra to a daily activity and say it/think it during that activity. For example, when washing your hands frequently, like we’re being advised to do to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 spread, think about the positive reason behind it: it’s keeping me and my loved ones healthy.

Instead of singing some random song like happy birthday to make sure you’re washing long enough to be effective, sing “washing my hands keeps me safe and healthy”; or if you’re spiritually inclined and a student of A Course in Miracles, like me, sing “I am the Light of the World, Love is my only function, That’s why I’m here”.

Sing the same mantra over and over until you reach at least 20 seconds, the recommended minimum time when washing hands.

The point is to find an uplifting and comforting mantra to sing that reinforces the feelings of being empowered, hopeful and optimistic.

Take Advantage of this Time

One positive of social distancing is that it’s slowing things down. You’re being encouraged to take stock and find more appreciation for the simple pleasures in your day-to-day life.

Take advantage of this slower pace and don’t forget about self-care. Give yourself permission to rest, and to take time for you. Here’s a blog to give you more ideas you can try.

Stay Present to Lessen the Worry

Stay present. If you catch yourself worrying about the future, all the uncertain what-ifs that your mind makes up, remind yourself that you are safe at this moment, and that nothing bad is happening right now.

As you repeatedly work on your thoughts and practice some of the suggestions mentioned here, you’ll keep your worry in check so that you can live your life with more appreciation and less fear.

Who’s Taking Care of You? 3 Tips for More Self-Care and Self-Love

Who’s Taking Care of You? 3 Tips for More Self-Care and Self-Love

You’ve been stressed lately. There’s a big initiative at work and you’ve been putting in a lot of hours, even bringing work home in the evening and on the weekends, and getting up early to catch up on your email inbox that you never have time for during the workday.

You’re starting to feel the effects of too much work and not enough quality sleep. You’re feeling run down and hoping this itchy throat and congestion in the morning doesn’t develop into a cold or the flu.

You’ve got no time for anything you enjoy; you can’t remember the last time you had a massage or went out with friends during the week.

You try to unwind some nights by binge watching your favorite TV shows and Netflix, but that doesn’t really help.

You just want to start feeling better, to be full of energy, to really relax after a long day of work and running around. You want to stop working so much and have more fun with family and friends.

You want the control back in your life so life doesn’t feel like it’s running you.

This scenario sounds a bit out of control, definitely unbalanced at the least. It was my experience years ago when in my Corporate career and I wished someone asked me sooner: who’s taking care of you?

So, who is taking care of you? If the above sounds a lot like your current situation, you’re definitely not taking good care of yourself and I’m sure you know that. It’s time for a change.

It’s time for some self-care and self-love. In fact, if you’re not feeling well on a regular basis – physically, mentally and emotionally – it’s probably long overdue.

Self-care is actually part of self-love, and includes mostly physical aspects like going for walks, exercising, drinking plenty of water, and making sure you’re sleeping well. It’s taking care of your “self”.

Self-love includes not just your physical wellbeing, but also loving and caring acts for your emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing too. It’s about balancing and supporting all the parts that make you whole.

Self-love is having regard for your own well-being and happiness and doing the things that support it. And it’s also paying attention to when something isn’t working for you so that you can pivot quickly and make a better choice that’s more aligned to your best interests.

It seems pretty straightforward but many people act in ways that don’t support wellbeing, for numerous reasons. Sometimes they don’t even realize it’s happening until something makes them stop to listen, like a serious health crisis or the end of a relationship. It can go on for weeks, months, even years before being addressed.

Here are 3 tips to bring more self-care and self-love into your life, so that you take back control and start feeling better fast.

1. Get a pre-sleep ritual. Sleep is so important. For optimal health and wellbeing, it’s recommended that you get no less than 7 hours each night.

Make that happen by creating a ritual to help you de-stress at night. Take an epsom salt bath, read a book, meditate, do some stretching or relaxing breathing exercises. Do whatever works best to help you unwind after a long day.

2. Treat yourself like you treat your best friend. Most of us are our own biggest critic and we think and say some very mean and unhelpful things. Would you talk to your best friend like that?

Be supportive, be kind, and be loving to yourself. Compliment yourself without feeling guilty about it. Pay attention to what you say or think when you look at yourself in the mirror.

Shut down that self-critic quickly and replace any negative self-judgement with a more positive statement that supports you. Again, pretend like you’re helping your best friend.

Take a break from self-judgement; don’t be so hard on yourself. For example, call something you accomplished “good enough”, without worrying about all the ways you could have made it better.

Even if something goes wrong or you don’t get the result you wanted, make sure you treat yourself like someone you love. We’re all human and we’re supposed to make mistakes, that’s how we learn and grow.

3. Speak your truth. Express what you truly feel, think, or want to do – respectfully without regard for what people might think or how you may be judged.

We’ve all done this before: where you agree to help out a co-worker with a project, and then end up doing most of the work while he gets the credit and your own work gets put on hold. You were trying to be helpful and a team player, but as it kept taking more time away from your priorities, you began to really regret helping out, even getting short-tempered, frustrated and angry about it.

In these kind of cases, don’t hesitate to say “no” when you have to. Your most valuable assets are your time and your energy, and it’s an act of self-care and self-love to prioritize your wellbeing over any requests from others.

If you have a hard time with implementing self-care and self-love on your own, I urge you to pick one of these tips and commit to it for the next month. And after that month, spend 15 -30 minutes to focus on where you are and evaluate your progress. Has your overall stress lessened? Are you sleeping better? Do you feel like you have more control of your work life and balancing a healthy personal life too? Most importantly, are you feeling better and more in control? Feel free to share in the comments below.

Another act of self-love is to get help when you need it. If you feel like you could benefit from someone partnering with you to reach your career and personal goals, I offer Free 20 Minute Insight Calls for professionals. You’ll gain greater insight into your specific challenges and how coaching can help. Schedule your call directly by clicking here or via my website at www.energyrapport.com.

The Impact of Stress and Why You Should Care

The Impact of Stress and Why You Should Care

The impact of stress is well-known but often overlooked or ignored, and it could be negatively affecting you to a great degree without you even realizing it.

Too much stress can have serious implications and cause imbalances in your physical health, your emotional and mental wellbeing, your energy levels, and even spiritually (your connection to what brings meaning to your life).

Do you have a problem with stress?

Do you think you have a problem with stress in your life? If you’re anything like I used to be, you probably justify your stress as the normal challenges that occur at work and personally. Often people downplay the seriousness of it, and ignore what stress can become if not addressed right away.

Pay attention to the physical, emotional and mental signs your body is giving you

I recommend you check in with your body to see if there really is a problem. How do you feel when you’re feeling stress or under pressure? Do you start holding your breath or does your breathing become shallow and rapid?

I experience many challenging people and situations during my corporate HR career. During these times, I distinctly remember a burning, and tightening in my stomach, like a knot was forming in there. And sometimes that tight feeling would start climbing up to my chest and face where I could feel my face becoming hot and blood pressure rising. Talk about my body sending signals.

Another thing to consider is how much stress do you have, and are you managing this stress well. Is it happening on a regular basis? Is it going away within minutes, or lingering for hours, days or weeks in the form of physical, mental/emotional or energetic issues.

Here are some telltale signs of too much stress becoming unbalanced and unmanageable.

Physical signs may include:
  • Upset stomach;
  • Burning stomach or indigestion;
  • Pounding heart;
  • Serious cravings for food/sugar, nicotine, alcohol or other substances or activities to “numb out” or “take the edge off”;
  • Headaches or migraines;
  • Back pain, many times inexplicable or chronic;
  • Other body aches and pain;
  • Low energy, always feeling tired;
  • Immune system is weak, getting sick frequently;
  • Sleep problems (too little, exhausted upon waking, waking up during the night and unable to get back to sleep).
 Mental / emotional signs may include:
  • Feeling anxious or in a panic, often;
  • Mental fog, unclear thinking;
  • Difficultly concentrating;
  • Confidence problems, feeling off your game;
  • Angry often, usually snapping at others, very little patience;
  • Feeling overwhelmed or like things are out of control;
  • Unable to turn off work once home or when trying to fall asleep.

These are warning signs. They are your body trying to get your attention, warning you to take action.

If downplayed or ignored for too long, they can impact your energy levels to the point where you’re always feeling run down, unmotivated and unhealthy.

Like you, I’ve been there many times in my professional career, attempting to manage a high-pressure, demanding business environment with all the personal challenges life throws at us.

My stress seemed manageable; but, on two separate occasions throughout my corporate career, after ignoring some of the signs listed above while trying to be strong and push through it, my body took over and put the brakes on. My stress became chronic.

I developed a serious health crisis that made me take action to address and alleviate the stress at work and in my personal life. With the proper support and focus, and taking action against the root cause of my health crisis – the chronic stress – I was able to successfully get past it on both occasions.

Why you should care – the long-term issues of chronic stress

The really bad type of stress is chronic stress. It is when distress continues for a prolonged period of time, typically 21 days or longer. It can be shorter or longer depending on the stressor and how much you can tolerate.

This long-term activation of the stress-response system – and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones – can disrupt almost all your body’s processes.

It can put you at an increased risk of physical and mental/emotional health problems including diseases, chronic health conditions, high blood pressure, depression and anxiety. You can read and learn more about the different types of stress, including chronic stress, and how to prevent it here: A Moment of Silence for Your Chronic Stress.

What you can do about your stress

There are numerous strategies and tools you can use to counterbalance your stress. Think of it like taking a proactive “time out” from work and other stressful activities in order to minimize the stress-induced symptoms that may follow.

Two things in particular are very useful: 1) getting and staying active and 2) finding a support network.

Daily activity and exercise is the ultimate stress buster. It strengthens the physical body as well as helps to release those feel good chemicals affecting our moods and wellbeing. Go for a walk with your dog, take a break from your computer and walk around the office, or dance around to some favorite song. Just move, every day.

A support network helps you stay connected to others and nourishes your spiritual side.  Make a list of people in your personal life and professional life who you like and trust and can confidentially share challenges and concerns and then brainstorm solutions.

Here are three additional resources with other options for you to consider and use to prevent or lessen the impact of stress regardless of the cause.

  • Do have a hard time letting go of thoughts about work or personal worries, to the point where it prevents you from falling asleep easily or wakes you up at night? Restful and rejuvenating sleep is the ultimate tonic to building your defenses against stress’s unwanted side-effects, like a low immune system or brain fog. Read more about stress and sleep and try the suggestions here: Too Stressed to Sleep? Here Are 3 Things to Try.
  • Do you need help getting centered and focused for the day ahead, so you’re in the best possible shape to handle any challenge that may come your way? Mornings set the tone for the rest of your day. That’s why most successful people have an intentional routine where they take care of their top priorities before the demands from work and others begins. Done consistently, it impacts your health and wellbeing and keeps your stress levels manageable. Read about options for morning routines here: Connect to Success – Every Day for Best Results­­
  • Being prepared and organized is a proactive way to repel the stress in situations. You can organize what’s going on inside, namely your thoughts, beliefs, and ideas in your mind. And you can also organize your physical space to release the things weighing you down, increase your energy flow and make room for new opportunities. Read and learn more about how to get more organized here: How to Take Back Control: First, Get Organized
Stress and spirituality

Spirituality has many definitions, but essentially it’s a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves. It’s not necessarily a specific belief system or religion, but comes from your connection with yourself, with others and with your purpose or meaning in life.

Some people find spirituality in religious services, church membership, prayer, belief in God or a higher power. For many, spirituality is found in nature, art, music, writing, gardening, animals or spending time with others that you connect with (community).

However you define spirituality, know that it has numerous benefits for stress relief and overall mental wellbeing. Having a sense of purpose and defining what’s most important allows you to focus less on the unimportant things and eliminate stress.

The belief that there’s a higher power allows you to realize you’re not responsible for everything that happens and you can surrender that “control”.

Cultivating more spirituality into your life brings more peace and calm and helps you cope with stress better.

In closing, it’s worth the effort

It takes some effort to manage constant sources of stress, or to reduce your chronic stress and become a more balanced person, but take it from me, it’s so worth it. It took almost 2 years for me to find the right help and support during my first health crisis.

My main message for you is to not let your stress get out of control, and get the help and support you need to manage as soon as possible. Make it a priority before it’s too late.

Try using the tools and strategies suggested above. And if you’re struggling on your own, find a professional who can provide the guidance, support and accountability to aid in your success.

 

A Moment of Silence for Your Chronic Stress

A Moment of Silence for Your Chronic Stress

Stress is a normal part of life. There’s good stress, bad stress, and then really bad stress: the chronic kind. Chronic stress is very serious. Left unchecked, it can lead to poor job performance, sleeping problems and major health issues – or worse.  

Let’s have a moment of silence for your chronic stress. It was there for a reason. It made you aware of an imbalance in your life, and now you can move past it to a better state for your health, wellbeing and success.

[Not sure if you’re experiencing chronic stress? Below in this post is a quiz to find out.]

Is your chronic stress still alive and kicking, and causing all kinds of havoc for you emotionally, mentally, and physically? Not quite past it yet but ready to put it to rest?

Below are some ways you can start taking back control and start feeling better again.

The different types of stress: the good, the bad and the really bad

There are 3 different types of stress: the good, the bad and the really bad.

The good stress is called eustress. It’s a positive form of stress that has a beneficial effect on health, motivation, performance, and emotional wellbeing.

This positive stress happens when you’re promoted, or given a new work project you were competing for, or during a vacation.

Anytime you stretch yourself outside of your comfort zone, which is a good thing for your growth and personal development, you’ll experience eustress. You may not be consciously aware of it, but it happens. 

Endorphins, the feel-good chemicals our body produces, are released. It’s exciting and fulfilling, but the feelings can also be a bit challenging and unsettling.

This type of stress helps you to develop and stay emotionally and mentally balanced due to the positive feelings you’ll experience. Eustress also supports your physical body too, like when you work out, lift weights or finish a challenging hike.

The second type of stress, the bad stress, is called distress. It’s defined by Merriam-Webster as pain or suffering affecting the body, a bodily part, or the mind.

It is the body’s response to changes that are creating a demand on it. We experience physical changes as part of this “fight or flight” response, like the release of stress hormones (e.g., cortisol), and an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, perspiration, and respiration rate.

In addition to the physical changes, distress taxes your resources on all levels: mentally, emotionally, energetically, and even spiritually. It can lead to poor performance, mental fog and confusion, scattered thoughts, or a feelings of anxiety or depression.

The really bad type of stress, the third type is chronic stress. It is when distress continues for a prolonged period of time, typically 21 days or longer, but the timing varies from person to person. It can be shorter or longer depending on the stressor and how much you can tolerate.

This biological response to the challenging and demanding situations that are a regular part of our life is normal, but becomes dangerous when it continues for this prolonged period of time.

This long-term activation of the stress-response system – and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones – can disrupt almost all your body’s processes, putting you at an increased risk of physical and mental/emotional health problems.

It can go on long-term because we either ignore or push down the negative effects of it. For example, one of my clients worked in a demanding environment. She was so busy working on the next new “emergency” and feeling under pressure to deliver results on time and under budget, that weeks went by while she ignored the burning sensation in her stomach every time she ate or drank something.

Working together we made the connection of her stomach pain to the work stress. She had a vacation planned and to no one’s surprise, her burning stomach went away during that time away from work.

The consequences of chronic stress can be much more serious than my client’s, she recognized and made the connection early on, before her burning stomach could escalate to a serious health problem or illness.

Like in my personal case when I worked in Corporate Human Resources, I was ignoring my chronic stress and thought I could push through it. I thought that things would get better tomorrow, or in a few days.

That never happened. I remember the work demands seemed to lessen, but that was temporary, and before I could take a breath, the next new “fire” was screaming to be put out.

That chronic stress led to physical symptoms that I ignored for months. My body was trying to get me to slow down and make some changes, with excruciating joint pain, lethargy, body aches, night sweats, shortness of breath, sleep issues and digestive problems – all of these things on a daily basis. 

This eventually led to a serious inflammatory disease that finally got my attention. The scariness of a health crisis was the turning point for me to re-evaluate my chronic stress, and start making changes to address the root cause.

My only regret is that I didn’t get the help and support I needed sooner.

That’s another reason for getting help, and getting it quickly: chronic stress can lead to a feeling of overwhelm and make the situation seem hopeless if it goes on for months or years.

The right professional to partner with can bring a whole new perspective and viewpoint along with support to start seeing positive shifts.

Do you have chronic stress?

It’s critical to recognize the signs of chronic stress and to take the necessary steps to remove it from your life – to have that moment of silence for it.

Take this quiz (click here) to find out if you have chronic stress.

Additionally, stay present and mindful, and pay attention to the bad stress in your life, and any physical, mental or emotional symptoms because of it. How long does it last? How frequently does it occur?

If it’s been going on for weeks or months without any improvement, and you’re beginning to feel overwhelmed and like things are out of control, take back control and address it like your life depends on it, because it does.

Here are three ways to take back control and start feeling better

1) Get organized and start setting limits. It’s okay to say no.

Make a list of all your commitments and projects and identify the ones you absolutely must do and the non-essential ones that can be removed, delayed, or delegated.

My previous corporate career was very demanding with new priorities every day. As the tasks and expected deliverables kept coming in, instead of just adding them to the list and beginning to feel like I was drowning and out of control, I took control.

I would review these new items with my manager, in relation to the others. Specifically asking which were the top priorities to work on immediately and which would have to be delegated, delayed, etc. Setting these expectations and being clear on a regular basis was key to keeping things organized and in control.

For personal non-work commitments, you may want to postpone non-critical items like volunteer activities or home-improvement projects until a later time. Or, delegate or hire someone to take the pressure off of you.

One of my clients would get stressed about not having the time to keep a clean home. She would get mad because her husband and children wouldn’t help clean.

She found the perfect solution in hiring a cleaning service to clean on a regular basis. The cost was well worth it; she has more time for priorities and for quality time with her family, and feels more in control and less stressed.

Most importantly, remember that it’s okay to say no and to set limits.

Don’t accept any more commitments until you feel that your stress is under control. And don’t feel guilty about it – your wellbeing and health is of the utmost importance.

2) Commit to one simple change.

To increase eustice, or good stress, and keep distress at bay, learn how to set professional and personal goals that are challenging and realistic. Track your progress to hold yourself accountable.

Your one simple goal, or change, may be adding in some regular physical activity a few times a week – exercise is a great stress buster.

Or you may want to enhance the quality of your sleep and can commit to getting at least 7 hours a night of good quality sleep.

3) Get support from family, friends and professionals.

When I was so sick, I sought help from the typical sources: doctors and health specialists. Fortunately, after going the standard healthcare route and becoming increasing hopeless in finding a diagnosis and treatment, I began sharing my struggle with close friends and family who in turn led me to some alternative health specialists and therapies (energy healing, naturopathic medicine, plant-based supplements, meditation) that worked for me and helped in my recovery.

In most cases, even more support is needed and a professional coaching relationship could be the solution for you. With a good coaching relationship, you have an unbiased professional devoted to their clients’ progress and wellbeing.  

It’s a different dynamic than support from family and friends, who may think they are helping but they might be biased, incapable, or too close to you to help.

Take action now

Trust me, from someone who’s been there and learned – if you think you’re experiencing uncontrolled chronic stress, please take action now to address it.

Take one small step to start, and before you know it you’ll be able to look back like I can now, and see how far you’ve come.

 

Photo by ­­­­­­Ben White on Unsplash

 

Connect to Success – Every Day for Best Results

Connect to Success – Every Day for Best Results

Consistent and intentional daily practices, in particular morning routines, are one of the best tools to connect to achieving success in your life, professionally and personally.

Mornings set the tone for the rest of your day. That’s why many successful people have an intentional routine where they take care of their top priorities before the demands from work and others begins.

Why You Need a Morning Routine

We’ve probably all been there at one point in our lives where things felt out of control – think back when you were in your twenties. You overslept, and you’re running around getting ready quickly so you’re not late for work again. You finally do get to work, late and stressed, and the chaos of the workday begins. Not a great beginning to a productive, fun workday.

Contrast that to getting up early, maybe meditating or getting in some exercise, and filling up with positive energy and inspiration. You’ll start the day feeling accomplished, at ease, and ready for anything that your workday may have in store.

Having a pattern of starting the day off in that hectic, frazzled way leads to progressively worse things. Things that can cause pain, injury, hurt feelings, or financial loss.

I’ve seen it all in my HR career and with my current coaching clients, things like strange accidents (slipping on ice and injuring yourself), speeding tickets, car accidents, being short-tempered with people, productivity issues, inability to concentrate and get tasks done, frequently getting sick, and a general lack of energy.

The Benefits of a Morning Routine

An intentional morning routine provides a sense of control, and sets you up to have a productive day. A morning routine makes the most of your time and your busy schedule.

And, as this morning routine becomes a habit, it frees up space in your mind to focus on other things and strive for bigger aspirations.

It helps change your mindset, training your brain to approach the day in a more focused and productive frame of mind.

In addition to optimizing your time, a morning routine like the one I’m outlining below contains three distinct areas to support (1) your mental and emotional health, (2) your physical wellbeing, and (3) your spiritual side, the bigger picture as I like to call it, your soul’s wellbeing. It’s the complete package!

My Connect to Success Morning Routine Tool (Get it below)

I created this morning routine after years of practicing and studying this topic. It needed to be fun, effective in its use of time and the results it brings, and easy enough that people could follow it and make adjustments to ensure they stayed consistent.

This is a complete, intentional way to set up your day for success. When you commit to it and stay consistent, you’ll see the improvements you’re striving for, and unexpected ones too.

The Connect to Success Morning Routine consists of purposeful activities that can be done in minutes, in fact, it’s best to start off slow and build up to a longer routine. Most people enjoy the process, and the positive changes they’re getting, and begin going to bed and waking earlier, so they can expand their morning routine to 20 to 30 minutes or longer.

It’s important to stay balanced and spend time doing activities in each of the 3 areas. Activities include decluttering your mind, visualization and affirmations to stay on track with your goals and priorities, reading inspirational books, finding peace and calmness with prayer or meditation, and being sure to move your body.

This isn’t a big time commitment. In fact, if you aren’t doing anything in the mornings now, except showering, brushing your teeth, getting dressed and heading to the office – you owe it to yourself to try this out for 21 days.

And you’ll find the more consistent you are, sticking to it every day, the better the results over the long term. Make it a habit, just like brushing your teeth.

Challenge Yourself

I urge you to create a morning routine that works for you. Make sure it’s comprised of each of the three areas I mentioned above, and challenge yourself to make it a non-negotiable habit you’ll practice every day for the next 21 days.

Evaluate Your Progress and Make Adjustments

Get my Connect to Success Morning Routine Guide & Checklist below that you can use every day.

At the end of 21 days, evaluate your morning routine for its effectiveness and adjust as necessary. Ask yourself:

  • What’s working?
  • What’s not working?
  • What parts of this morning routine do I really enjoy?
  • Do I feel more energized and focused throughout the day?
  • Am I more aligned with what my priorities are?
  • Are my loved ones or work colleagues noticing a positive difference in me?
  • What could I add or remove from this morning routine for even better results?

Make any changes to your routine, and keep up the good work.

One of my clients felt calmer and less anxious after only 1 week, and decided to adjust her morning routine from 10 minutes to 30 minutes. She especially enjoyed the peace and quiet and the spiritual part of it – she would read passages from the bible. She credits her new morning routine with feeling less frustration and more enjoyment in her high-stress work life.

Whatever your goals, a morning routine can help you connect to your priorities, optimize your life and keep you on track to reach your highest goals and dreams.

By decreasing stress and fatigue and helping you focus on the task at hand, morning routines can make a significant positive impact on your day-to-day life and your long-term aspirations.

Is Stress a Major Factor in Low Employee Engagement?

Is Stress a Major Factor in Low Employee Engagement?

Back in my corporate days, employee engagement was a big deal – and it still is today. As a Human Resources Business Partner, every year I partnered with Gallup and company leaders to run employee surveys, track metrics, and create and implement engagement programs with the goal to increase our employee engagement.

A highly engaged workforce means the difference between a company that outperforms its competitors and one that fails to grow. Gallup’s 2017 State of the Global Workplace survey finds striking differences between the most engaged workplaces and ones that aren’t, specifically: 21% greater profitability, 17% greater productivity, 41% less absenteeism and 24% less turnover. Gallup also reports in that same survey that 85% of employees are not engaged or actively disengaged at work. Said in another way, only 15% of employees are engaged.

I think about employee engagement in a holistic way – looking at the employee as a whole person, not just the one that comes to work.

Human beings are complex, and multiple factors should be taken into consideration when looking to improve engagement including health, wellbeing, relationships, and finances. Because of my experience with chronic stress and burn-out, both personally and with helping others struggling, I know the impact that stress can have on engagement.

Think about it: when you’re under a lot of pressure, are you making the best choices or acting the same as you would when at ease? Even now, when I’m under a tight timeline to get something done, I can sometimes get short with colleagues and feel some unwanted anger and anxiety creeping in.

Too often at companies I worked for and with current coaching clients, I see conflict in the workplace due to the pressures of a fast-paced and toxic environment. The pressure and subsequent stress seemed to change the people and their typical behavior for the worse. They’d lash out, yell, get angry, and have to apologize later (some never did). It’s not the best behavior in a professional work environment, or any environment really.

Recognizing employees comprehensively, as complete people, is a great approach to increasing engagement. In fact, some companies are beginning to evolve their workplace wellness to address stress and provide unique all-encompassing offerings. For example, the company Asana has “nap rooms” where employees can de-stress and recharge. They also offer mentor programs that provide coaching, along with monthly workshops with different health-themed focuses like an immunity boost workshop before flu season.

Intuit’s program offers meditation and mindfulness classes as reimbursable expenses as well as incentives for employees engaging in stress-reduction habits, like practicing breathing exercises, taking walks or listening to calming music. Their website provides mindfulness resources and employees see “mindful moment” tips on the whiteboards in the conference rooms.

If you’re not fortunate enough to work at a company that provides these types of trailblazing programs, you still have options. If you’re in a leadership role, you can suggest bringing similar initiatives to your workplace, reinforcing the importance of high employee engagement and its impact on profitability.

Or you can personally pursue any of the examples above, like taking a walk, mindfulness classes, working with a coach or mentor, listening to calming music – until your company provides them. Yes, it would be better to have it included and paid for by your employer. But if you value your wellbeing, you’ll find the time and money.  

We all can benefit from learning more about increasing engagement and taking steps to increase it. Prioritizing and supporting employees’ success at work, and our own success overall as people, is key.

Too Stressed to Sleep? Here Are 3 Things to Try

Too Stressed to Sleep? Here Are 3 Things to Try

Experts recommend between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Think about the last time you had a really restful, comfortable sleep of at least 7 hours.

The bed was super cozy, the room was dark, and just the right temperature, and the pillow was supporting your head and neck in a perfect way.

You woke up feeling rested, refreshed and ready to tackle the day. And you felt energized and really good the entire day – no mid-afternoon sleepiness, no lack of focus – you were on your game.

So, when was the last time you experienced this?

If you can’t remember because it’s been so long, or you don’t think you’ve ever experienced this and good sleep is a challenge for you, keep reading.  

In a report published by Sleep Health the key components of quality sleep include:

  • Sleeping more time while in bed (at least 85 percent of the total time)
  • Falling asleep in 30 minutes or less
  • Waking up no more than once per night; and
  • Being awake for 20 minutes or less after initially falling asleep.

Stress can affect your ability to fall asleep, to stay asleep and the overall quality of your sleep.

We all go through stressful situations in our lives, and many times that stress carries over into our sleep. Both minor everyday stress or chronic stress can impact your sleep.

Maybe you’re thinking about non-stop pressures at work, financial problems, or simply what’s on your plate for tomorrow. Or maybe it’s a situation that happened, like an argument that you had with a loved one that keeps running through your mind.

I could list a dozen examples that could ‘weigh heavily on your mind’ that then keeps you from having a good night’s sleep.

What is it for you?

Do you have a hard time turning off your busy mind?

Or does your heart race or are your muscles tense when you lay awake in bed, unable to sleep?

Do you wake up after sleeping for 2 or 3 hours, and then find yourself unable to get back to sleep? – and then get more and more frustrated as you check the clock and realize you’ve been up for 1 hour, 2 hours, 3 hours or more.

To make matters worse, not addressing poor quality sleep could lead to insomnia – the habitual inability to sleep that can lead to devastating effects, like poor focus and concentration throughout the day.

If it goes on long enough, insomnia may lead to problems in your career, in relationships, or while doing typical daily activities like driving (car accidents), etc.

An estimated 30-40 percent of Americans report experiencing insomnia each year.

Here are three things to try for improved sleep:

1. Increase your physical activity.

Physical activity taxes your body and your mind. It supports good quality sleep.

When I travel to new cities, I enjoy visiting the local botanical gardens. I walk for hours enjoying all the sights, and log 3 to 4 times my typical miles on my tracker. Not surprisingly, I fall asleep within 5 minutes of my head hitting the pillow.

So if you’re not active enough like many of us professionals who spend a lot of time sitting in meetings or working on our PCs, find a physical activity that you love (walking, jogging, dancing, etc.).

Schedule it on your calendar like any other meeting, and do it on a regular basis; 30 minutes 3-5 times a week is a great goal to work toward, and you can start off small with 1 or 2 times a week.

2. Practice relaxation techniques right before bed to calm your body and mind.

Whether you choose a few yoga poses with slow rhythmic breathing, your own regular meditation practice, or a guided meditation on YouTube, engaging in a few calming exercises before bed can help quiet your mind so you can drift off to sleep.

Here are some to try and feel free to search for others on YouTube:

  • Body scan meditation, full body relaxation or Yoga Nidra meditation. These are especially good if your body is tense because you are guided to bring awareness to each part of your body during them. Here’s one to try: 20 minute yoga nidra.
  • Sleep Meditation: Release Worry Guided Meditation for a Deep Sleep & Relaxation (1 hour): 1 hour sleep meditation
  • Binaural Beats Sleep Music (8 hours each, you can play them throughout the night): Binaural beats for sleep 1 or Binaural beats for sleep 2

3. If you’ve been struggling a while, and have ruled out any serious medical issues as the cause, consider getting some one-on-one focused help like coaching.

Together with a coach’s guidance, you can dive deep into what the underlying causes of your stress and sleeplessness are, and come up with strategies to implement that reduce stress and improve sleep.

I coach many overworked and overstressed professionals, and when a client begins to understand and address the underlying causes of any issue, things improve quickly. And best of all, they see improvements in other areas of their lives too.

Photo by MMPR on Unsplash