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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.

What Were You Thinking? Harness the Power of Your Thoughts

What Were You Thinking? Harness the Power of Your Thoughts

What were you thinking?!

I remember that question being posed in a negative, judgmental or even joking way a lot in my childhood. Initially it was on TV show I watched where the main character did something to cause a big problem, like put a whole container of detergent into the washing machine and comes back a little while later to find a floor full of soap bubbles with more pouring out of the machine. And then her friend asks “what were you thinking?”

These days, I ask myself that question with a much different intention behind it. Not judging, or joking, but more from a curious place.

What was I thinking that led me to this problem, this poor result, or this frustrated feeling? It’s a great question to ask yourself, especially when working through challenging times.

For example, this morning as I stepped out of the shower I coughed and immediately winced in pain, as the muscle from my shoulder to my neck went into a painful spasm. The kind where you can’t turn your neck to see behind you without screaming in pain. This area had bothered me in the past, but not to this extreme.

As soon as it happened, as I worried about how this was going to disrupt my plans for today, I asked myself “what were you thinking” right before the cough. I’m moving to a new home in a few weeks, and was looking at the cabinet and thinking about all the things that have to get packed, and getting a bit stressed about it. Then the cough, then the pain: I interpreted it to be my body’s way of telling me to stop worrying about the future move, stay present and focused on today.

How our minds work

You see, our minds work in a particular way. It’s estimated that the mind thinks between 60,000 – 80,000 thoughts a day which averages to 49 thoughts per minute, according to the Lab of Neuro Imaging at the University of Southern California.

Thoughts are your natural response to a situation or circumstance. As the human body encounters sensory data (what it sees, hears, etc.), your brain naturally attempts to make sense of this sensory data and the mind turns these signals into thoughts.

In other words, we experience something and immediately our brain attaches a thought to it. You walk into a room and think “hmm, it’s cold in here”.

There are so many thoughts throughout the day that we can’t pay attention to them all, but it’s important that you start because our thoughts create our emotions or feelings. It happens so quickly that sometimes we think the emotion caused the thought, but the thoughts come first. Sticking with the earlier cold room example, after thinking “hmm, it’s cold in here”, you start to feel uncomfortable and a little disappointed. You don’t like being cold.

Next comes how we behave, or act, based on this emotion or feeling. Again, you’re in a cold room, feeling uncomfortable, and now you go find a blanket or jacket to put on, and turn the heat up.

And that action you took gives your desired result: you begin to feel warmer, and happy that you’re no longer cold.

What you think directly influences how you feel and how you behave.

Negative self-talk and limiting beliefs

This same process can work in an unhelpful way too. If you’re struggling in a particular area of your life, it could be your thoughts that are keeping you in that struggle.

Sometimes you may not even be consciously aware of these thoughts. When I work with coaching clients, it’s very easy for me to hear these types of repetitive, unhelpful thoughts come up as my client is speaking.

It could be something as simple saying the words “should” or “try” a lot. “I should start meditating every day then I’ll feel better”, or “I’ve been so drained lately, I’ll try to get to bed early this week”.

How do you feel after saying those sentences? Confident, enthusiastic, eager to feel better? Not so much.

Compare that with “I will start mediating” or “I am going to get to bed early this week” – big difference in not only tone and energy behind the words you choose, but the feelings they elicit (confident, enthusiastic, eager, positive) and the results you’ll get.

Using weak words that don’t produce the emotions and feelings you’re seeking is setting yourself up to fail and come up short of your desired results. 

Limiting beliefs are repetitive thoughts you’ve had that have become truth for you; they’re part of your belief system, and now they’re limiting you in some way.

For example, you could have a limiting belief from something you heard in childhood from a parent, like “all rich people are corrupt and evil”.

So now, when you achieve some financial success, earn more money and start to build some wealth, you spend it very quickly or lose it through a bad investment. You seem to have a pattern of struggling with building and sustaining wealth, and that can be traced back to this limiting belief.

Money, and your relationship with it, is a key issue for many people and many times we have these limiting beliefs keeping us stuck.  

Another one is relationships. Maybe you’ve had the experience of getting really close to someone and then they disappoint you or they leave you.

Now you may have a thought that runs through your mind “I better not get to close to him, he’s just going to leave me anyway and I don’t want to get hurt.” And then you find yourself unable to have the close relationships you want to experience.

Here are other examples of limiting beliefs. Do any of these sound familiar to you?

  • “I’m not good enough.”
  • “I never have any luck.”
  • “I have to work really hard to be successful.“
  • “Work can’t be fun.”
  • “I’m too old” or “I’m too young.“
  • “I’m not good at ____________. “
  • “I can’t afford that.”

Harness the power of your thoughts: become aware

The first step in harnessing the power of your thoughts is to become aware of what they are.

If you work with a coach, you can ask her to pay attention to any limiting or negative beliefs or repetitive language you use. Sometimes we don’t hear ourselves until someone points it out to us, and that awareness alone can begin to elicit change.

Like in my muscle spasm story above, you can become more aware by asking yourself “what were you thinking?” right when a problem, issue or negative feeling arises.

Pay attention to your feelings and emotions and how they may showing up in your body before you act. Does your chest or jaw get tight when you perceive someone is treating you unfairly? Does your stomach hurt when you worry about an upcoming work deadline?

Harness the power of your thoughts: challenge and change your thoughts

Once aware of your thoughts and of the signals your body gives you, those emotions and feelings, you’re in a position to challenge and change these thoughts for better results.

For example, if you consider yourself too scared to step outside of your comfort zone, force yourself to do something that feels a little uncomfortable. Or, if you think you’re not good enough or don’t deserve to have success, do something that helps you to feel worthy.

Additionally, recondition your mind with thoughts and beliefs that are empowering, that serve you, and that get you closer to what you really want in your life.

Let’s say you’ve decided to stop eating sugar for health reasons. It’s not so bad after you get through the first few days of withdrawals. But after a few weeks of feeling full of energy and proud of sticking to no sugar, you don’t feel well, maybe you’re catching a cold, and a thought goes through your head as you spot what used to be your favorite cookies in the grocery store, “if I eat this cookie I’ll feel better”. 

Logically you know this isn’t true, but the thought and urge are strong. Maybe your Mom would give you a cookie if you hurt yourself as a child, to make you feel better. But it doesn’t really matter what happened in the past, just stay in the present.

You now have a choice to make, and it’s always about what you choose to believe and then what you choose to do. You’re responsible and in charge.

You can change that thought to “if I eat this cookie, I’ll feel even worse” or “if I have some nice hot tea with lemon I’ll feel better and recover more quickly” or for more emotion, “sugar is poison to my body, I’d rather nurture my body and start feeling better another way”. Think about how you’ll feel too: bringing strong emotions and feelings into these thoughts will empower you.

Harness the power of your thoughts & recondition your mind

Your mind is very powerful. If you’re like most people, you probably spend very little time reflecting on the way you think.

But negative thoughts that you don’t challenge and change can have damaging effects to your wellbeing and prevent you from ever achieving your full potential in life.

It all comes down to being aware of your thoughts, deciding what you’re going to choose to believe about those thoughts (is it serving me or not?), and changing any limiting thoughts and beliefs to ones that benefit you.

Making the conscious decision to harness the power of your thoughts and recondition your mind with empowering thoughts and beliefs is key to your success. 

 

Photo by Hannah Olinger on Unsplash

 

How to Take Back Control –  First, Get Organized

How to Take Back Control – First, Get Organized

Feeling a bit out of control these days, like most working professionals? Whether it’s work or personal stuff, the fast pace and demanding times we live in now can make life seem overwhelming.

Taking back control with simple, consistent steps can get you feeling better quickly: calmer, less stressed and more empowered.

The key is doing something each day for lasting results. Keep reading to learn how to use these strategies for your highest benefit.

The strategies are about getting organized using a two pronged approach: organized from the inside out, and organized from the outside in. Address the issue from both directions and you’ll get to where you want to be going (your goals) even faster.

Getting organized from the inside out

Getting organized from the inside out is about organizing your thoughts, beliefs, and ideas in your mind.

Experts estimate that the mind thinks between 50,000 – 80,000 thoughts a day. That’s an average of 2,100 – 3,300 thoughts per hour. That’s a remarkable number of thoughts.

Many of these are subconscious and repetitive thoughts: they’ve become efficient over time and run automatically. These are the thoughts that benefit us and lead to actions like walking, breathing, typing, driving a car, opening a door, etc. We don’t need to concern ourselves with these thoughts; they serve us well.

The thoughts we want to organize are the ones that don’t serve us. If you’ve ever meditated or even tried to study or focus on a work task, that’s when you become aware of the many irrelevant thoughts trying to get your attention.

They may be habitual and seem harmless, but a little deeper digging can bring these thoughts to the surface, to your conscious mind where you are now aware of them.

Once you’re aware of them, then you can ask some questions and determine if they are leading to poor results or sabotaging you from achieving your goals.

These thoughts may be creating feelings and beliefs, like fear, that are not supporting the dreams you have for your life.

Then we have new thoughts that we are aware of in the moment, like opinions or judgements about what’s happening now, or in the past or future.

These may be helpful, like thoughts about how to prepare for an upcoming staff meeting you’re leading, what you still need to do to prepare, when to schedule those tasks, and what the agenda will be.

Or you may have new thoughts that don’t serve you. It could be a negative thought that’s detrimental to your continued growth and development in life.

How to organize the mental noise and constant chatter

There are so many tools to help organize your mind and thoughts. What’s most important is to find a tool that works for you and stick with it.

Try one of my suggestions here, daily for at least 21 days straight. If you’re beginning to notice some positive shifts, keep it going.

A daily Thought Release each morning can really put things into perspective. Take about 5 minutes or more to write down your thoughts. Every single thought that crosses your mind: just observe the thought and write it down and move on to the next one. Its stream of consciousness writing, you’ll be writing the whole time. Some people call it a brain download, brain dump, thought download or even Morning Pages as described by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way.

I like to call it a Thought Release process because I picture the thought being released from my mind as I write them in my journal. Most are unnecessary and don’t serve me, and are just clogging up the mind.

Another thing to try is reviewing these daily Thought Release thoughts and replace any repetitive negative thought with a better, more positive one.

Awareness of these thoughts is the first step, and then asking questions about it is step two. Is this thought even true (especially if a judgement)? Is it serving you? Is it helping you in some way? Do you really need or want it? Is it time to let it go and release it? Can you replace it with a better, more positive thought?

Lastly, meditation is a practice I encourage all of my clients to adopt. Meditation teaches you how to be still, to become more focused, and to lessen the stream of thoughts running through your mind.

It brings calmness, a sense of inner peace and more happiness to all aspects of your life, when practiced consistently. Read more about meditation and morning routines here.

Getting organized from the outside in

Getting organized from the outside in is organizing your external surroundings – your space. It involves organizing your home, your office or desk, and even your car.

This helps you live intentionally and have a physical space where every single thing in that space serves you. It has a purpose.

I’m an organized person. I don’t leave things laying around, and I don’t have closets or a garage full of things I’ve never used. I know many people who never use their garage to park their car because it is stuffed full of things they’ve never used or maybe used once, years ago. There’s so much stuff the car won’t fit.

Despite how organized I felt I was, last year I made an intentional commitment to organize myself even more. I went through the process I’m about to share here, and came up with 15 bags of things to donate – 15!  And that’s not including items that were either thrown out or sold.

By going through this exercise, I knew I’d get benefits from it, but didn’t realize just how great I would feel.

You see, it’s not simply the removal of the physical items. It is the energy of those items, of that clutter and disorganization, and what it represents. Removing it impacts on your emotional and mental wellbeing too.

People say they feel lighter, obviously more organized and less stressed. They know what they have in their house or office or car, and can easily find it.

It’s easier to get ready in the morning when the closet it organized and you can see all the potential outfits you’d like to wear that day. The clutter is gone too, taking up space. All the duplicate pens, pencils, paperclips and rubber bands from desk drawers that are unnecessary – how many does a person need? I knew someone who had 8 pairs of scissors and 4 boxes of tacks – in one desk.

The kitchen is another area that could have a lot of items you never use. Tupperware and other plastic containers that are looking a little over used or that may have been used once 3 years ago, extra utensils that can be donated, and even pots, pans, serving bowls and platters that you don’t currently and never will use.

When people declutter and get organized, they feel more at peace when in these rooms, seeing everything in its place and even empty space in drawers and closets.

Benefits of getting organized

The empty space in shelves, drawers and closets is symbolic of making room for new opportunities to present themselves. That idea alone can provide the motivation you might need as you sift through all the shoes in your closet and hesitate giving up that new-ish pair of boots you paid so much money for, that hurt your feet every time you wore them (not serving you).

Another benefit of organizing your space is the sense of contribution you get. Knowing that you’ve only kept what is still useful to you, and that other people can now enjoy the items you donated.

That sense of contribution and sharing is very uplifting and makes donating these items an easier task, especially for things you may have an emotional connection to or that remind you of a cherished memory. For example, I had a whole boxful of stuffed animals that my mother collected that I received after my Mom passed away years ago. They were sitting in that box, unused, in great shape for years until last year. I decided to keep a couple of them and the rest were donated. Hopefully some children can enjoy and play with them now.

Now it’s your turn to take action

Now it’s your turn. I challenge you to take back some control in your life by getting organized. From the inside out, commit to the following:

  • Daily thought release every morning as described above. Set a timer for 5 minutes or more and get those thoughts out. And if your mind races at night, thinking about work or worrying about everything, try the thought release exercise before bed too.
  • If you notice you’re having a lot of negative thoughts during this daily thought release that don’t serve you, take some time to replace them with positive ones. For example, if you have a lot of thoughts about all the things at work that stress you out, write about how your work is serving and helping other people. Or if you keep thinking about a coworker’s negative comments to you, write one positive thing about that person.
  • If you don’t already have a morning routine that addresses organizing your mind and thoughts, learn more in my blog called Connect to Success Every Day for Best Results where you can also get access to my Connect to Success Morning Routine Tool to use every day.

From the outside in, commit to the following:

  • Block out one hour on your calendar for this weekend and select one part of your house, or car, or office/desk to organize. It’s best to take everything out of the closet or drawer or area, then look at each item and ask yourself some questions: when is the last time I used this, or wore this? If not within the past year, let it go. Does it make me happy? Does it serve me? Would someone else enjoy this more? Is it outdated (clothing, etc.)?
  • Set a goal to organize one area every week. And then pay attention to the changes that follow.

Look for larger shifts that can occur after getting more organized.

For me, I felt like being more social. It included getting out more, meeting new people, taking day trips, and networking more with other business owners. It opened up space and energy for these new things.

Organizing the mind also opens up space and energy for you to be more aware of your thoughts, beliefs, and emotions too. You can discern which ones are or aren’t helpful, and then organize them and release the unhelpful ones.

Getting organized is a very powerful tool that increases your emotional intelligence and supports personal growth, and provides a sense of fulfillment and peace in the long term.

I’d love to hear about the progress you’ve made and the positive shifts you’re experiencing as a result of getting organized. Let me know in the comments.  

 

Photo by Douglas Sheppard on Unsplash

Don’t Take It Personally

Don’t Take It Personally

When I was younger, and in my previous career in Human Resources, I thought the way someone treated me was all about me. I would take things personally and even think I was at fault. As if I had any control in the way others behaved or what they said.

My work back then involved partnering with and providing guidance to people managers. Managers came to me frustrated about a situation with one of their employees or with a particular business objective like the need to reduce labor costs.

I was typically the first to hear their frustration. And in some cases, these managers would take that frustration out on me, in a way that felt like I was being attacked – just for bringing up the subject or holding them responsible for actions they needed to take.

By taking it personally and making it about me, the self-doubt and negativity would begin to spin.

Did I handle the situation correctly?

Should I have waited for a better time to discuss it?

How could I have reacted better?

I must have caused their reaction.

It must have been something I did or said.

It must be my fault.

See how easily it spirals? I think we all may have experienced this at some point.

This is critical self-talk, brought on by trying to take responsibility for someone else’s behavior.

It’s not productive, and it doesn’t make you feel very good either.

Here’s a more recent example from one of my coaching clients. One of her colleagues at work saw her as the bottleneck to a problem he was trying to solve in his department. She pushed back at the salary he wanted to offer to a potential new hire, it was above the maximum for the scope of the role and not in budget.

She was following best practices, and suggested other options like additional vacation time and a sign on bonus as a compromise, but the hiring manager exploded at her when he didn’t get his way.

He was rude, dismissive, talked over her and wouldn’t listen to her reasoning. Not what you’d expect from a professional at any level in the organization. Not what she expected from him.

His overreaction made it clear that this was a bigger ordeal for him and much larger in his mind. Stress and pressure can express itself in very inflated ways. His explosion over not getting approval to offer the high salary was not in line or what you’d expect for this situation. 

My client said it felt like a personal attack at the time, raised voices and attacking language makes most people upset and feeling knocked off balance.

He even accused her of not being supportive; a low blow because she was known for and very proud of how she supported and collaborated with her colleagues.

She didn’t know how to respond to his unexpected outburst, except to stay composed, tell him they would discuss it later after he had some time to think about her proposal, and then she promptly left the room.

Upon reflection she realized it wasn’t personal. Her colleague had big plans for his new team and department, and this was the latest rejection of the plans that he had. It didn’t excuse his outburst and poor behavior, but she now understood more fully what it meant to him.  

With practice it gets easier to not take things personally. When someone decides to lose their temper and treat you in an unprofessional or rude way, very rarely is it ever about you.

Simply becoming aware is half the solution. The other half is deciding how you are going to think and act about it, before it ever gets to the point of affecting your emotions.

So when you feel someone intentionally hurt you with their words or actions, you may feel thrown off balance, but try the following:  

As you start to feel some emotions coming up, sit with them for a minute and put some understanding around the situation too. Excuse yourself if needed, especially if it’s a very tense situation.

Step back and put context around what was occurring to really see what was going on. Is there more to this situation? What else could be causing such a surprising reaction? The context could lead to you realizing it really had nothing to do with you.

You never know what someone else is going through. Maybe the person unleashing on you is having a very bad day, week or month…maybe she has a loved one that’s dying, or maybe he is dealing with an illness that’s causing a lot of stress.

It doesn’t excuse their bad behavior, but it allows you to think about the situation differently and act in a healthier way, for you and for them.

Don’t take it personally. If you do, that’s when it can spiral into feeding insecurities and self-doubt. Or worse, letting it repeat in your mind, negatively affecting your productivity and mood for the rest of the day.

So remember: you can’t control others, you can only control how you think, feel and act about a situation.

And if someone has treated you poorly, don’t take it personally.

You’ll be amazed at how this simple shift in perspective increases the productivity and happiness in your life.

– Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Are You Telling Yourself the Right Stories?

Are You Telling Yourself the Right Stories?

Storytelling is a very powerful tool, and we humans have a hardwired capability of having thoughts and creating stories.

Like any tool, it can be used for beneficial purposes, or not so beneficial purposes.

I’d like to point out here the automatic nature of thought and storytelling, and how to ensure you’re telling yourself the right stories that will benefit you the most.

Parents read stories to children at bedtime to help them fall asleep. Business owners and salespeople use stories to build rapport with potential clients and make sales.

We all can use stories to relate to others, especially new people we’ve just met.  

It’s a way to foster imagination, to connect, to share, and to educate.

Have you ever thought of your internal storytelling – the thoughts that pop into your head, how your brain tries to automatically label or classify these thoughts (good or bad, etc.) and put a story around them?

Our thoughts and stories can have a big impact on our lives. It’s good practice to make sure these thoughts and stories are serving our best interests and goals.

Think about this statement: What you tell yourself, you believe.

We’ve all met the confident colleague who takes on new projects and stretch assignments knowing that they’re going to do well and most times they do.

And if they end up not doing so well, it’s still positive for them; they’re telling themselves it’s a learning experience to help them the next time.

Then there’s the colleague who didn’t do so well, but they tell themselves it’s a crushing blow, and a sign that they’re just not good at this project. What’s the likelihood of this person challenging themselves with a new assignment in the future? Pretty low.

What are you telling yourself? If you’re telling yourself lies, do you believe those too?

By lies, I mean stories like I’m not: good enough, old enough, young enough, talented enough, smart enough, etc.

If we’re telling ourselves these kinds of things consistently and over time, they can become limiting beliefs that will change the course of your life – and not in good way.

Here are some common types of stories people have:

I can’t do that; I’ve never done that before. We all have to start somewhere. Did you know how to drive a car when you were 10 years old? What about reading and writing? I’m sure you weren’t born with the vocabulary and speech skills you have now.

Don’t let something that may seem challenging be turned into a story about how you can’t do it because you have no experience doing it.

I’ve met so many successful entrepreneurs since leaving my corporate job and one thing they all have in common is the story that they don’t need experience in something in order to get it done. They roll up their sleeves and just get it done.

Things like build a website, write a blog, produce a podcast, run a business, hire employees – you can learn how to do these things, or hire someone to do them if you don’t want to do them yourself.

With repetition and practice, we can become very skilled and successful at whatever the task is, or in finding the right people to help us. But you have to take that first step and try. 

I’m too young or I’m too old. Don’t let a story about your age limit your opportunities.

The truth is you’re never too young or too old. I had a friend, in her late 50’s at the time, who was laid off from her job and the first thing out of her mouth was, no one is ever going to hire me at this age.

If you walk into a job interview with that story playing in your head, do you think you’ll do well in the interview? Probably not.

Simply changing the story to something more positive and truthful can turn things around.

Think of the amount of experience you can bring to that job and how the company would benefit by having you as an employee so that you can mentor the millennials in your office.

With these positive thoughts, you’ll shift that defeated feeling to one of more confidence and ease, and you’ll be more likely to get a positive outcome: to get that new job.

I don’t have a choice. We always have a choice and it’s best to remember that when you’re under the impression someone else is in charge or is to blame for what’s going on in your life.

Yes, sometime it feels more comfortable to not take responsibility: to blame others or blame fate for our actions or lack of action.

As an example, if you make a commitment to have a meeting with someone, and then choose to do something else instead and blow them off, own up to it. Accepting responsibility by being direct and apologizing can be very liberating, and the person you’re dealing with will probably appreciate your honesty.

The good news about limiting beliefs is once you become aware of them, you can change these stories and beliefs, and ultimately change the outcomes in your life to more positive ones.

But how do you that? And then how do you change it?

Here are three strategies for you to try that can help you become more aware of your thoughts and to improve them:  

1. Find something in your life that isn’t working or it could be a goal that you haven’t been able to achieve. Maybe it’s the same New Year’s resolution that never gets done, like, you still haven’t lost those 15 extra pounds that you’ve been carrying over the years.

Take 5 minutes to sit with your unachieved goal, and write down the thoughts and feelings you have about not reaching it yet.

You may be thinking that it’s too hard to do, you don’t deserve to be healthy and fit, you don’t know where to start, or you feel scared about what it’ll take to achieve, even overwhelmed, deprived or confused.

If you still really want to achieve that goal, the next step would be to write down new thoughts and feelings that will support you achieving it. Using the earlier example, instead of “losing this weight is too hard”, you could change your thought/story to “I’m so successful with achieving career goals that losing this weight is going to be easy and fun; I’ll simply apply that same focus and follow through to this as I do in my work”.

2. If you’re working with a coach or mentor, let them know you’re working on becoming more aware of your thought patterns and stories you’re telling yourself, and ask for their support.

I partnered with a coach who would point out every time I said the word should, as in “I should be doing this”, or “I should have completed that” – I was “should-ing” all over myself.

Those reminders made me aware of that pattern that I wasn’t really noticing before. Eventually, I’d either hear it as I said it and would correct myself, or I’d catch myself before saying it and change it to “I could do that” or “I will do that”.

3. Pay attention to generalizing words you may be thinking or saying, words like always, never, every time, etc. If you say or think to yourself, “I’m always late to work on Monday mornings” – is that really true? Have you always been late on Mondays for every job you’ve ever had. I doubt it.

Take a more realistic approach and acknowledge that you seem to be having a hard time getting to work on time now, and commit to change it. You can start by changing your thought to “I enjoy being on time for work and look forward to starting my day”. 

Please try some of these strategies out and see if they work for you.

And remember:

Your thoughts and stories are more powerful than you might have realized and they have a direct correlation to your happiness, success, and achieving your most important goals.

Now that you know this and have some tools to help you, take action: change your thoughts and your story to the right story, and you’ll change your life for the better.

Photo by Social Cut on Unsplash

Apologizing Too Much? Try This Gratitude Experiment

Apologizing Too Much? Try This Gratitude Experiment

I recently shared a post on facebook of something I heard about years ago. It was a good reminder – and something I want you to try – I call it a Gratitude Experiment.

Lately I’ve been noticing myself and others saying “I’m sorry” a lot, almost out of habit, or from trying to be nice or to please others.

Let’s try an experiment: replace the words “I’m Sorry” with “Thank You” – for example, if you arrive late, instead of saying “Sorry, I’m late,” say “Thank you for your patience.”

I was at a new grocery store with very tight aisles last weekend, and you couldn’t move 5 feet without getting in someone’s way. I must have said “sorry” at least a dozen times. Instead I could have said “thank you”.

This is a very subtle and easy way to change how you think about yourself and others, and it sends a positive message rather than a negative one: a message of gratitude.  

I’m going to try this experiment this month and see how things change. So far I’ve felt better about myself, and more positive. If you hear yourself saying “sorry” a lot too, give this a try.