by Kathy Zering
You’ve decided to invest your time and money into improving yourself and your life situation. Do you need a life coach or a therapist?
Well, as with most things, it depends. It depends on a lot of factors. We all need a little help sometimes. And it’s important to choose the right kind of help for your specific issues and what you’re hoping to get out of it.
So here’s what you need to know before reaching out.
What is Life Coaching?
I get this question a lot from people who are curious about life coaching or working with me, and they’ve never worked with a life coach. They usually know about therapy from personal experience, from friends or family going to therapy, or from seeing it in movies or TV shows (remember Frazier or even the Sopranos).
Life Coaching can be therapeutic, but the two professions are very different. I like to describe life coaching as a partnership with the life coach asking insightful questions that clients wouldn’t ask themselves, so that aligned and helpful answers can come to light. I believe you know yourself best, you just need a little help in the form of coaching questions and other support to experience that clarity or a-ha moment where things begin to make sense and can begin to change.
Life coaches also help you evaluate your current situation so you can get crystal clear on your true desires and goals. They encourage your progress, and provide you with accountability, support, structure and tools so you can produce your desired results more quickly and efficiently.
How is Life Coaching Different from Therapy?
The Core Difference
Most therapy involves a diagnosis of some mental or psychological disorder – a problem that needs to be treated because it’s disrupting one or more areas of your life. Life coaching typically takes someone who is already functioning well, but may still be suffering, and helps them to develop and grow to the next level.
When my Mom died expectedly I found a therapist to help me with that tremendous loss. I continued to function at work well, but my personal life was disrupted by my grief and sorrow; I didn’t think I would ever get past it. I needed support to work through the depressing thoughts and to function in this new world without my Mom. Therapy was the best choice for me at that time.
Past, Present, Future
Another difference is that therapy typically goes into depth about various issues, usually dealing with the past so that you can function better. And life coaching focuses primarily on the present and future and is more action-oriented and results-driven.
Types and Specialties
There are various types of therapy, like talk therapy, psychotherapy or hypnotherapy. There are also specialties within life coaching based on the coach’s skillset, training and experience.
In my life coaching business, I work with hard-working professionals dealing with a lot of stress and pressure (like me when I worked in my corporate HR job). I combine life coaching tools, like what I call thought-healing (or what others call mindset or mindfulness), and I combine it with my specialty, energy work, that is very effective at getting to the oftentimes hidden, or subconscious, root cause of what’s preventing you from achieving your goals. We meet weekly or biweekly for consistency and momentum, and before long goals like reducing stress, feeling better, improving relationships, or having more fun in life are achieved.
Lastly, sessions with a life coach will feel a lot different than ones with a therapist. Life coaching provides structure and accountability while therapy is more open-ended.
In my coaching sessions, I combine inner (energy) work and outer work – but there’s an underlying structure tied to the client’s prioritized goals. This structure helps us celebrate successes and progress, and discuss challenges or unhelpful blocks slowing down progress. And in each session there’s always homework for the client to accomplish between sessions.
So, Which One Is Best For You?
Do you need a life coach or a therapist? Actually, you don’t have to choose, if you need both. I have life coaching clients who are also actively in therapy, that’s perfectly fine. I’ve also had clients who I referred to other professionals, including therapists, for more specialized support.
The most important message here is to get help. I’m a big proponent of getting help rather than suffering alone. Especially in the challenging times we’re living in, life can be hard.
Some of us grew up being taught that asking for help is a sign of weakness and have a hard time with it, but you must push past that limiting belief for your health and wellbeing. It’s that important!
Over the years, I have had a hard time seeking out help, but I’ve come to learn and now know that most people love to help other people. It’s unhealthy to suffer for long periods of time, thinking whatever you’re grappling with will get better on its own; it usually won’t. There are resources out there for you, you just have to find the best one for your specific needs.
If you’re not spending time investing in your mental and emotional health, with a life coach or a therapist, you will not only continue to feel terrible but you’re blocking your ability to be the best version of yourself, in your personal life, your relationships and in your career.
Do you have any questions about life coaching not answered above? Drop them in a comment below.
by Kathy Zering
Almost everything you do is driven by habits. We all have good, helpful habits and bad, or unhelpful, habits. You can think of your habits as the drivers getting you closer or further away from achieving what’s important to you. Habits are the foundation for major change in your life. That’s why it’s so important to understand if you’re cultivating helpful or unhelpful habits. To achieve your goals, you want to provide the best support and conditions that set you up to be successful. This happens by cultivating helpful habits that are directly aligned to those goals. And by eliminating any unhelpful habits that are slowing or blocking your progress.
How to Cultivate Helpful Habits
Bad habits are the saboteurs that make it harder to achieve what we desire. As mentioned earlier, helpful habits move you toward achieving your goals and desires, whereas unhelpful habits slow or block your progress. To increase your success when changing an unhelpful habit, it’s best to replace it with a new helpful habit. It may be as simple as making a small pivot. Like when you quit drinking soda you replace it with Zevia instead for a week or two, and gradually pivot again to water or herbal tea. Decide what you want to achieve and move toward that goal. It’s more effective than focusing on what you need to stop or get rid of which often creates more pressure and feelings of being deprived. Also, start small with new habits. If it feels too big you’ll either get stuck and never stop or quit after a few days. For example, if you want to begin a daily morning routine that includes journaling and prayer or meditation, start with 5 minutes per day, and gradually increase it by 1 minute each week. To increase your chances of success, create a process and track your results. Something as simple as placing a check mark on a calendar for every day you complete your morning meditation is helpful. Track your results for at least 8 – 12 weeks to evaluate your progress, make any adjustments and to ensure long-lasting results. Get leverage and support when working on your habits. Ask a friend or colleague to point out if you’re demonstrating a habit you’re trying to change, or to complement you when they see you sticking to your new habit. For instance, they can point out when you’re late to a meeting or if you’re on your phone and not listening when others are talking. Cultivating your habits using the above strategies will support positive results. More tips on cultivating habits for success can be found here.
Two Words that Help Change Your Mindset
Here’s a suggestion from one of my own coaches. Change the phrase “I can’t” to “I don’t” when in a situation where you have a hard time sticking to your helpful habit or goal. For instance, let’s say you have a healthy eating goal of limiting high carb processed foods like flour and sugar. You’re out to dinner and the bread basket arrives. Instead of saying or thinking, “I can’t have any bread”, say or think “I don’t eat bread, that’s not for me”. This subtle shift helps change your mindset. “I can’t” is very limiting, and puts you into a victim or less-than mindset which may blow up on you in the long-term. “I don’t” is empowering, you’re in charge, you’re taking responsibility and it’s your decision. You should be able to feel the difference in energy in these two statements. Where can you make this shift? Think of a few examples and commit to making this shift at the next opportunity.
Act with Intention: Cultivate Helpful Habits
This method of cultivating helpful habits works for creating helpful habits and for changing unhelpful habits. The key is to put intention into the helpful habits you want to create, and be as specific as possible by adding in a situation, time, and location. For instance, you’ll meditate each morning for 5 minutes in your bed immediately after waking up, at 6 a.m. Include how long, where, when and how frequently. Or another example is you’ll take a fun 20 minute walk around the block with your dogs after dinner on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. For unhelpful habits, you make the trigger of that habit your situation, and then change how you respond. It’s a simple pivot toward what you want to achieve, like in the quitting soda example earlier. That response (having Zevia, water or tea when habitually reaching for a soda) becomes your new habit. Two more tips for cultivating helpful habits are: Make it fun. You’re more likely to stick with something you enjoy doing. For example, add your favorite music to your exercise routine or listen to your favorite books or podcast during your new walking routine. Be compassionate, kind and easy on yourself. You may slip up and that’s ok. Pay attention and stop any negative self-talk or harsh judgments, like “I knew you’d fail” or “you never stick with anything”. Instead, just refocus on the results your striving for, get excited about achieving them, and kindly say or think to yourself, “this slip is ok, you’re making great progress”. In the comments, please share one helpful habit you’ve successfully created this year and what goal it has helped you achieve. Photo by Rawpixel on Unsplash
by Kathy Zering
Let’s put a stop to your self-sabotage once and for all.
Do you want something in your life but can’t seem to attain it? Maybe it’s a goal, dream, or vision you have and yet, month after month, year after year, the time passes by and you’re no closer to achieving it.
Have you already realized you’re sabotaging yourself? Do you actually witness yourself about to do the opposite of what could make you fulfilled, yet you still take that unhelpful action.
Sometimes it feels out of control or like you’re not the one driving that behavior. That’s your subconscious keeping you from living your best life.
Or maybe you’ve rationalized that it’s ok to watch TV for 5 hours when you planned to work on your finances, organize your office and then go for a walk.
You tell yourself that you’ve had a long stressful week at work and you deserve to numb out while binge-watching a TV show. But this short-term ‘reward’ doesn’t support or help your long-term goals.
Dissonance and Cognitive Dissonance
Dissonance is the opposite of harmony. It’s the tension when two conflicting or disharmonious things are combined.
For instance, you say you want less stress in your life and began to see good results by meditating daily, yet now you don’t make it a priority and don’t take the time to meditate at all.
More specifically, cognitive dissonance is a theory in social psychology. It refers to the mental conflict that occurs when your behaviors and beliefs don’t align, like in the meditating example above. You believe and know meditating daily reduces your stress, but your behavior of no longer doing so doesn’t align with that belief.
This mental conflict, or cognitive dissonance, can cause you to feel uncomfortable, stressed, anxious, ashamed or guilty. And since you have an instinctive desire to avoid these types of feelings, you attempt to relieve it.
That’s where the self-sabotage comes in and can have a significant impact on how you think and behave, and the decisions and actions you take. You may get some temporary relief, but in the long-run it’s unhelpful and destructive.
For instance, you may ignore your doctor’s advice, blood test results or published research that causes dissonance. And you may explain things away or devalue them to continue in your pattern.
Years ago, one of my co-workers knew smoking cigarettes was cancer causing yet she explained that it was necessary to calm her nerves given her demanding role at work. She also justified her smoking habit by saying she was concerned about gaining weight if she quit, like she witnessed in her other family members and friends. We’ll believe and keep doing just about anything to relieve the discomfort.
Self-Sabotage: Your Saboteur at Work
You may believe that this sabotaging voice is trying to protect you from harm or that it’s really helping you in some way.
But self-sabotage really is you creating problems for yourself that interfere with your true goals.
It’s not some outside force creating havoc in your life. Realize this and take responsibility for you and your saboteur.
And understand that your saboteur wants you to maintain the status quo in your life.
These are examples of saboteur thoughts. Do any of these sound familiar to you?
- You’re not good enough or I’m not good enough.
- You don’t deserve this or I don’t deserve this.
- They’re going to get upset with you.
- That’s too hard.
- I’ll never be successful at this or you’ll never be successful.
- I’ll do it tomorrow.
- It’s not okay to be wealthy/happy.
- It’s not safe to put yourself out there, they’ll criticize and judge you.
Listening to your saboteur is a choice you’re making so that you can feel differently. Pay attention to these thoughts or beliefs; noticing them is the first step in stopping your self-sabotage.
Additionally, expect the saboteur to get stronger whenever you begin to make positive changes in your life. Expect it and be ready for it. The action steps below can help.
Act with Intention: Identify your saboteur and stop your self-sabotage
The saboteur loses its power over us when we’re aware and can identify it, realize we have other options in that situation, and then consciously choose the action at that time that serves us best (gets us closer to our true goal).
Here are some actions to take to identify your saboteur and stop your self-sabotage. It takes practice and work, and consistency, and over time you’ll be back in control and seeing positive results.
- Identify your saboteur by answering these questions. Where are you sabotaging yourself? What does your saboteur often think or say? In your environment, either at work or at home, what self-sabotaging language is being used, by you or others? For instance, a new opportunity at work has come up. It would be a promotion for you and you’re excited to learn more about it. Then you feel a little apprehensive, even nervous or scared, and the following thought stream pops into your head “I’m not ready for this. What if I fail? It’s easier to just stay in this role and not put myself out there to be rejected.”
- Next, you want to challenge and change those beliefs. Every time that thought, belief or language comes up, recognize it as your saboteur and change it. Then consciously choose a new thought and behavior that supports your long-term goals and wellbeing.
In the example above, you recognize those thoughts and beliefs for what they are. It’s your saboteur.
- Challenge “I’m not ready for this” with “Of course I’m ready, this is the perfect job for me.”
- Challenge “What if I fail?” with “What if I don’t fail? What if I don’t even try?”
- Challenge “It’s easier to just stay in this role and not put myself out there to be rejected” with “This new role is part of my long-term career plans, I’m ready for it and I’ll do a fantastic job. If I don’t get selected now, they may consider me for other opportunities in the future because I pursued this role and they know I’m interested in my career growth.”
You may need to get some leverage involved in order to change that thought or behavior. To do that, ask yourself, “What is this costing me in terms of health, wellbeing, relationships, and success? How is this holding me back from my goals and dreams and the vision I see for myself?”
In the example above, the leverage could be envisioning yourself in 2 – 5 years in the future, in the same role, earning a similar salary, not being challenged or growing professionally or personally. How would that feel? What have you missed out on? What are you still tolerating? How does staying stagnant impact your wellbeing, relationships, your long-term goals and dreams?
If you’re struggling with achieving a particular goal, your saboteur could be at work. Sometimes you’re not even aware of it.
I challenge you to get really focused, act intentionally, identify your saboteur and stop your self-sabotage once and for all.
Leave a comment below when you start seeing the positive changes from stopping your self-sabotage. Share your success to encourage others.
by Kathy Zering
of integrate is to form, coordinate, or blend into a functioning or unified whole.
Taking the time to integrate is to intentionally stop taking in more and to combine what you’ve already have for deeper growth and development. Once you integrate, you get to deeper levels of knowledge and fulfillment in your life.
For instance, if you love to learn new things, you may have a tendency to read more and more books, take more workshops and listen to more podcasts. It almost feels like an addiction at times. A friend or colleague recommends a new course or workshop and you sign up, take it, and quickly move on to the next one.
Many times you don’t gain much, in fact, you just consume and never implement what you’ve learned.
You never integrated it; you never took the material to a deeper level where it could make a significant impact in your career or in your life.
The Myth of More is Better
More is better is a myth. The constant strive for more in our culture prevents us from seeing and experiencing the true value of what we already have.
It supports the idea and feeling that wherever you are is not good enough, because more is always better.
It’s hard to be grateful and appreciate all that you have now when your focus is on getting more.
I’ve worked with people who were always focused on the next project or the next job, and never appreciated all they were experiencing in their current role. They missed the fulfilling things like the relationships they were building, the people they were helping and the new things they were learning.
The energy around more is better feels like a chase – a futile one. You’re chasing after things just to accumulate more. And once you have it, you’re dissatisfied and off to the next thing, and the next and the next.
And it’s not just physical things. We’re constantly absorbing more and more experiences, information and energy but without the time or opportunity to sort through it all.
Take the time to sort through it and you’ll begin to feel some significant improvements.
Why It’s Important to Integrate
The chase for more erodes your energy and your sense of fulfillment. Taking the time to integrate gives you your energy back. You begin to feel more in control and organized.
Taking the time to integrate helps to reduce the overwhelm, stress, and exhaustion you experience in your day to day life. If you’re feeling uncentered, off-balance or even fractured, it may be the signal that it’s time to integrate.
Act with Intention: Take Time to Integrate
Here are some suggestions to start taking intentional action around taking the time to integrate.
First off, slow down and realize if you’re in a “more is better” mindset and exhibiting behaviors like described above. When you notice this behavior or thought, change it to a more helpful behavior or thought. Simply saying “slow down” or “stop” can be enough to bring about some awareness.
It took some time to get here, but now I quickly recognize if I’m going down a ‘learning” rabbit hole. Any emails or suggestions for a new book, course, training program or free live event I either delete immediately or I scan it to see if it’ll be useful and put it on my “maybe later” list.
Taking time to integrate is more than just not taking more in. You want to intentionally integrate experiences and information as they occur or directly afterwards.
One good practice is to spend 5-10 minutes after a meeting or workshop to integrate your key takeaways. Things like what you learned, what you’d like to implement from the training, if anything. Better yet, take notes during it to include which things you’d like to test out and apply to your own life.
Additionally, take a break and stop taking more in – for days, weeks or months if needed. That means no new podcasts, books, workshops or courses during this time period.
During this break from consuming more info, data and things, sort through what you already have. This can be done by simply taking the time to think about things. Embrace daydreaming. Let you mind wander. Meditate. This is how your brain sorts and categorizes information.
A good question to ask is: Is this information useful for you and can you apply it to your life? If not, let it go.
If it’s useful, your next step is to take action and test it out. Apply it and experience this information.
Lastly, after testing it out review what you’ve learned through the application and experience of integrating it into your life. Are there any additional lessons or knowledge? Have your beliefs changed as a result?
Taking the time to integrate is the best way to become a more unified whole. You’ll find it brings new levels of understanding and wisdom, and you’ll feel more fulfilled in your life.
Photo by Aiony Haust on Unsplash
by Kathy Zering
You know what you want in your career and in each of the important areas of your life (finances, health, relationship, spirituality, etc.), yet you’re not seeing the desired results. Are you getting in your own way? If so, get out of your own way and get things done.
Does this sound familiar: “I set a goal on January 1, here we are halfway through the year and I’m no closer to achieving it.”
How do you get in your own way? This could be an extensive list, but to keep it short I’ll focus on two areas: 1. Energy drains and 2. Unmet or unacknowledged needs
One way you get in your own way of getting things done is by not managing your energy drains. Energy drains are the little or big things that tax your attention and energy.
They slow down your progress and prevent you from achieving your goals. Read more about what could be draining your energy and what to do about it here.
Unmet or Unacknowledged Needs
We all have needs and its okay to have them. Needs are a normal part of being human. It’s important to recognize if you’re not meeting those needs in a healthy or satisfying way, or you’re not even acknowledging them. You’re slowing down or stopping important things from getting done.
You’ve most likely learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in psychology class. It’s a five tiered hierarchy that’s typically shown as a pyramid. that suggests people are motivated to fulfill basic needs before moving on to more advanced psychological and self-fulfillment needs.
It’s helpful because it illustrates the various types of needs and reminds us that all humans have needs. It also stresses the importance of self-actualization needs at the top of the pyramid.
It includes physiological needs like food, water and sleep followed by safety and security needs like health and wellness, or a safe place to live. Social needs like family, romantic partner, and community come next, followed by esteem needs like appreciation and respect from others. Last are the self-actualization needs which are growing and developing to achieve your highest potential.
What are your needs?
Use these categories in the Maslow’s Hierarchy to think about and identify your needs. How are you meeting these needs? Can you find healthier ways to satisfy them? Are there any needs that you’re not fulfilling? Do you think it’s not okay to have these needs?
An example that comes to mind is the typical caretaker who puts everyone’s needs ahead of their own. My mother would work all day, and then go visit each of her parents (one lived at home, one was in a nursing home in another town) every evening after work and on the weekends.
On her way home she would do grocery shopping or pick up dinner for her husband and kids. She pushed her needs aside while everyone else’s needs were the priority.
Like my mother, many of us learn to pretend like we have it all together and can handle it all without help from anyone. Unfortunately, that’s how we get in our own way and prevent or delay the achievement of our biggest dreams and goals.
Another example is the person who hears they shouldn’t be boastful or act too proud as a child. Her needs for recognition and being valued are not satisfied. goes unmet as her achievements are not acknowledged.
Now as an adult, she’s often frustrated and feels disappointed when her efforts are not recognized at work. She feels incomplete and sometimes communicates all that she has done to anyone that will listen.
Oftentimes, this comes across as attention seeking or boasting by her colleagues and supervisor. She really wanted acknowledgement, but this isn’t the healthiest way to satisfy that need. She could find a healthier way.
Act with Intention: Take these steps now
First off, acknowledge that all humans have needs and its okay for you to have needs.
Then think about your needs and write down your top 3 needs right now. To help you create your list, review these categories of needs: security and certainty (safety and stability), significance (power, achievement and influence), love and connection (relationships, being listened to and connected to something greater than yourself/spiritual), and growth (learning, development and creativity).
Ask yourself for each of these 3 top needs, how are you meeting them?
Is it in a healthy or unhealthy way? What unhealthy ways are you going to let go of right now? What healthy ways of meeting those same needs are you going to create instead, not only in your career but in your life?
For example, let’s say one of your top needs is to feel safe and secure. Last year you earned a promotion at work and have an exciting and fulfilling new organization to lead. You felt secure in your role.
This year, because of outside circumstances everything is uncertain, especially your role. You put in even more hours and you’re working holidays and most weekends to feel secure in your position, putting your health and relationships at risk.
Perhaps a healthier way to fulfill your need for safety and security is to fulfill it outside of work since you don’t have direct control over the current work environment.
You can satisfy that need in your home environment or with your relationships. You can spend more quality time and get a sense of security and safety from those close beneficial connections you have with your family and friends. Experiencing their unconditional support for you and knowing they are there for you when you need them helps you feel safe and secure.
Remember, we all have needs and it’s critical for you to meet these needs in order to have a fulfilling career and life. So get out of your own way and get things done in healthier and more satisfying ways.
Photo by Minh Pham on Unsplash
by Kathy Zering
A fear mindset could be the main cause of your stress
Your mindset is how you think and what you believe about yourself and your environment. It plays a critical role in how you cope with life’s challenges.
What you think determines what you believe, and what you believe influences what you experience in life. Thoughts shape your reality.
The ancient Chinese philosopher and writer Lao Tzu wrote: “Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”
If a majority of your thoughts are fear-based, you’ve got a fear mindset. It could be thoughts and even statements (your words) about fear of rejection, fear of failure, or fear that you’re not enough.
This fear mindset saps your energy. It keeps you in the predictable and comfortable, preventing you from challenging yourself to achieve your full potential.
Fear is a normal emotion and has its function. It serves as your natural response to possible threats to your physical or emotional safety.
Unfortunately, in our modern world this response can be misused, overused or chronic. (See my previous blog called Letting Go of Fear.)
Too much fear causes stress. A fear mindset is contracting, and exemplified in chronic tension, struggle and hardship. This unhelpful energy is energy you could be investing in growth, in achieving your dreams and desires.
People often give up on what they want because they believe that reaching their goal is beyond their abilities. They continue living in fear and settle into their lives, thinking they shouldn’t try at all.
Fear is part of the fixed mindset
Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, writes about the power of mindset. She states that success is influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities.
People with a fixed mindset – those who believe that abilities are fixed – are less likely to flourish than those with a growth mindset – those who believe that abilities can be learned and developed. Fear is part of this fixed mindset.
The most successful people have a growth mindset. They don’t freeze up or flee when fear shows up, they embrace it and leverage that fear into taking action. When faced with a setback, they try harder.
They keeping looking for solutions and trying new strategies. They adapt and grow.
What mindset do you have?
What are your predominant thoughts and actions? If they seem fear-based or fixed, there’s no need to worry. The best part about your mindset is that you can change it.
You can move from a fixed, fear mindset to a love-based, trust-based, growth mindset where you’re more likely to flourish. Trust and love drives out fear. They can’t exist at the same time.
Intentionally Expand and Grow – Take Action
Use one or more of these techniques to move from a fear mindset that’s causing your stress to a new mindset of trust and growth.
1. Watch your thoughts.
First off, pay attention to your thoughts and the words you use. Are you frequently telling yourself fearful or limiting things? Things like: “I’ll never be able to get that promotion, I’m not experienced enough.”; “I’m not smart enough to lead this project”; “What if I fail – will they fire me?”
2. Choose to adopt a new mindset. Change your limiting thoughts and beliefs.
Start by challenging your thoughts the next time you don’t do well on a task. For example, if your presentation at work didn’t go well, and you hear yourself thinking “I never do anything right”, “I’m not good at my job”, or “I’m such a failure”, stop and ask some prodding questions.
What is the evidence for and against your conclusion? You can create a list of all the times your presentations were successful and when you were great at your job in the past.
You could think of reasons why it didn’t go so well this time, rather than concluding you’re a failure. Did you get enough quality sleep?; did you plan and prepare enough?; are there other things going on in your life right now causing you to be off your game?
Answering these questions leads to the new mindset. Figure out what new beliefs are more supportive and adopt those beliefs. Your internal dialogue of “I’m such a failure” can change to “If I’m prepared and feeling well physically and emotionally, I’ll always succeed.”
Keep in mind, these new beliefs take their place alongside the old ones, and as they become stronger, they give you a different way to think, feel, and act.
3. See everything as an opportunity to grow and develop.
Another way to change your mindset is to see every situation and person you encounter as an opportunity for expansion and development. When challenging events happen, ask yourself: “How is this calling me to expand and grow?”, “What am I learning?”, or “How can I improve?”
This strategy works well if you have a demanding or controlling leader at work. You can switch the focus of being judged or criticized to how this is calling you to develop.
It could be as simple as witnessing their behavior and realizing you never want to treat others that way, or maybe it’s a challenge about developing a relationship with a difficult personality.
If you stay in a fear mindset, the stress of living every day in fear of disapproval or of doing something wrong can become toxic. You may become paralyzed from moving forward in attempt to protect yourself.
Changing your mindset to embrace the challenge and grow allows you to take back control in what feels like a powerless situation and live up to your potential.
4. Use the word yet
Adding yet to your inner dialogue may be enough to change your beliefs about yourself and what you’re able to do. It helps with motivation too.
You can change:
- “I can’t do this” to “I can’t do this yet”;
- “I’m not good at this” to “I’m not good at this yet”;
- “This doesn’t work” to “This doesn’t work yet”.
One last thing. Make sure after you change your thoughts you step into those new beliefs. Take an action step in that direction to support the new thought.
Changing the fear mindset that’s causing your stress will change your outcome and results. With a new mindset, you can transform your life and the lives of others.
Photo by Bram on Unsplash
by Kathy Zering
Have you ever thought about what’s draining your energy and what to do about it?
In our fast-paced and ever-changing world, we react to things and don’t realize the negative impact until later. These energy drains can lead to all sorts of issues and keep you from a satisfying career and happy life.
You’re probably familiar with the typical energy drains: not enough sleep, not drinking enough water, little to no physical activity, too much TV or social media, not eating well. In addition, you may be struggling with habits, coping mechanisms, and other situations that have an impact on your energy levels and wellbeing.
When I worked in corporate, the pressure to perform was extreme and unfair. There was a lot of complaining and working in HR, I heard it from all directions. There wasn’t time to take a breath, step back and act with intention. Things felt out of control. Add in office politics, power plays and changing priorities, along with the latest fire to put out, it was the definition of an energy drain on steroids.
These perfect-storm situations suck the life out of you, are unproductive, and at times physically and mentally debilitating. It crushes your spirit, and your happiness.
The Little Things That Drain Your Energy
The little things that drain your energy are the things you just handle. They seem insignificant, or not worth giving much thought. Unfortunately, they add up over time.
You ignore them, or think they’ll get better on their own without making any kind of focused effort toward making it better. Typically, you don’t act until it gets so bad that you can’t stand it anymore.
For example, let’s say you have a messy desk, and your desktop and folders on your PC are disorganized too. These are the little things that keep you from finding things easily. When you have to spend extra time to find something, you get frustrated. Your work and how effective you are suffers as a result.
Other little things that drain your energy are unfinished work items like a project that you push aside for more urgent matters.
Unmade decisions, like hiring a new team member or buying a new mobile phone, pick away at your vitality too. Every time you think about how you haven’t made that decision, it robs you of your energy.
Clutter, in all its forms, drains your energy too. It could be a garage overflowing with unnecessary things you’ll never use again or the clutter in your head as you worry about things outside of your control.
One last thing that you might not realize is an energy drain is a toxic relationship you tolerate. These are the one-sided friendships or the negative friends that leave you drained after spending any amount of time with them.
Let’s say you plan to have an enjoyable lunch with a friend, and the entire conversation is all about her and her problems, all the negative things in the world and a rant about politics.
When you finally get a chance to share about you she’s on her phone or has to leave. It’s exhausting. These types of relationships are energy vampires – they suck all the life out of you and you leave feeling tired, numb and upset.
The Big Things That Drain Your Energy
The big things that drain your energy are the things you know are diminishing the quality of your life. You may accept them as normal, as I did when I brought work home to do in the evenings and weekends. Or tolerating a toxic work environment as if all companies would be the same.
These big things may stem from a habitual pattern you have, like taking things personally when they have nothing to do with you. That in turn leads to hurt feelings and strained relationships.
They may be the things you don’t know how to effectively deal with, like a demanding boss, a challenging relationship with your child or an aging parent who needs more time than you can give them. All draining your energy.
Remember that life is a journey and it’s meant to have positive and negative aspects. You don’t need to create suffering, there will be plenty of it naturally.
Your goal with small and big energy drains is to acknowledge they exist, accept what they’re costing you and then move beyond them.
Here’s a 3 step process to intentionally address how to do this.
Take Intentional Action
1. Make a short list of the energy drains, or obstacles, getting in your way of being satisfied and happy – include 5 from work and 5 from home.
2. Next, ask yourself what each of these items is costing you and write that down. It could be loss of time, exhaustion, inconvenience, frustration, loss of health or wellbeing, strained relationships, or missed opportunities.
For example, your closet is a disaster and every morning it takes way too long to find the clothes you want to wear, usually making you late and frustrated (cost = frustration, being late, anger).
Or you haven’t decided to start looking for another job yet despite thinking about it for months given the current climate at your workplace. It’s causing you stress every time you think about it or when you see colleagues taking action to benefit their careers. The cost here is the negative impact of stress on your health and wellbeing, plus loss of quality sleep since it’s been keeping you up at night too.
3. Lastly, find ways to eliminate, minimize or manage these obstacles. Start off with an easy one, like plan two hours to clean out and organize your closet or garage this weekend. Or commit to updating your resume one evening this week. Click here for help with getting organized.
Delegation works well too. If your energy drain is finding the time to keep a clean home, delegate it by hiring someone else to clean it.
Some of these obstacles could be intentionally delayed. For example, if you need to buy a new computer you can put a day in your calendar for three weeks from now to start the research and shopping, when you’ll have more free time on the weekends.
When you eliminate an obstacle, you’ll feel like a weight’s been lifted when you make that decision. It could be as simple as refusing to spend time with any energy vampires or others that don’t treat you well. Or deciding to not participate in any workplace gossip or drama is another empowering and energizing step.
Keep working your list until you’ve moved beyond all your obstacles that are draining your energy. At any point in the future, redo this process to ensure you’re keeping your energy and wellbeing at optimal levels.
Photo by Twins Fisch on Unsplash
by Kathy Zering
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
by Kathy Zering
“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
by Kathy Zering
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.
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.
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
by Kathy Zering
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.