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Why Taking Responsibility Feels So Good

Why Taking Responsibility Feels So Good

Responsibility is part of your personal power and that’s why taking responsibility feels so good. When you’re feeling powerless, stress and anxiety increase, and it’s a small step to blaming and complaining about others or the situation. Responsibility is about responding to your circumstances from a higher place, a place aligned with your goals, your dreams, your values, and your contribution to others and society. The empowering nature of responsibility amplifies feelings of satisfaction and fulfillment.

Response – ability. What responsibility really means

The word responsibility broken down is response – ability. It’s simply the ability to respond. It’s when you intentionally and consciously make choices and take actions for the benefit of others or for yourself. You choose behaviors and make decisions to bring about change, change for the better. For instance, say you’re leading a team at work and one of the team members seems disengaged in meetings and is missing deadlines and deliverables. Do you immediately blame the individual or ignore the situation, hoping it’ll improve on its own? Or, as a responsible team lead, do you have a private conversation with him to share your observations and find out if there are legitimate reasons for the lack of engagement and poor follow-through?

Owning it

Most importantly, when you’re taking responsibility you take action and you own the outcome of that action (your choice or decision). Refusing to take responsibility by blaming others or the circumstances for your situation gives away your power. You ultimately are denying your ability to respond – to take action to change the circumstance for the better. It’s the law of cause and effect. You take action, create the cause, watch the effect and take responsibility for the outcome – good or not so good. In the earlier example, the responsible team lead took the action to have a private conversation to find out if there are legitimate reasons for the lack of engagement and poor follow-through. The outcome could be a turnaround in behavior and results just from that simple conversation. Or it could be continued problems with this person. Either way, a leader takes responsibility for both actions and outcomes, owns that outcome and may have to take additional actions if the situation does not improve.

Leadership, not victim-hood

Imagine if this leader never addressed the issue, and this situation jeopardized the entire project getting done on time and on budget, not to mention the poor morale from the other team members. These types of choices happen in our personal lives too. The choice to be proactive and empowered and take responsibility or do the opposite: be the recipient of things “happening to you”. Victims avoid taking responsibility; they feel powerless to effect change and so they don’t take any action. They may complain about the pain and suffering it’s causing them, and you might hear them say “why is this happening to me?” or “it’s just not fair”. Ultimately, they wait for someone else to fix the problem. This victim-hood has some benefits, like getting sympathy or attention from others, but long-term it can have a negative impact on your physical and mental wellbeing, your peace of mind, and your overall fulfillment in your career and life.

Why you feel good when you take responsibility

The empowering nature of responsibility amplifies feelings of satisfaction and fulfillment. The feel-good chemicals and reactions in our body go off when we stand in our power, for our own benefit and especially for the benefit of others. By taking responsibility, we build trust and confidence in what we can do. And helping others just feels good, plus it strengthens the trust and relationships we have with them. Even if you don’t get the result you wanted, you still feel good knowing you tried your best in the action you took. As the saying goes, “it’s better to try and fail than to never try at all”.

Act with intention: Take responsibility

Here’s a great exercise to help you nurture more responsibility in your career and in your life. Step 1: Pay specific attention to your language and behavior during challenging situations. Become aware of any blaming or complaining language or behaviors you exhibit throughout the day. Do you say things like “someone should fix this”, or “why is this happening to me?” Are you reactive or defensive a lot? Do you find fault in others or whenever something goes wrong do you immediately shout “it’s not my fault” or ask “whose fault is this”? Jot it down when you hear it or make a mental note. Step 2: Next, begin to change the language or behavior as it’s happening or immediately afterwards. When you hear yourself saying “why is this happening to me?”, change it to “What can I learn from this?” or “How is this challenge causing me to grow and expand?”. Come from a place and attitude of growth, learning, expansion and responsiveness. Other healthy responses are “what do I want as on outcome out of this?” or “what can I do to positively change this?” These statements and new behaviors will build your personal empowerment and responsibility. It’s best to use your energy productively and responsibly. Remember the law of cause and effect and take action, observe the effect, take responsibility (own the outcome) and adjust your actions going forward to bring about your desired results in your career and in your life.   Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash

Is a Fear Mindset Causing Your Stress?

Is a Fear Mindset Causing Your Stress?

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

What’s Draining Your Energy and What to Do About It

What’s Draining Your Energy and What to Do About It

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

The Greatest Advice Ever – Do What’s Best for You

The Greatest Advice Ever – Do What’s Best for You

Here’s the greatest advice ever – do what’s best for you.

Especially now as many parts of the world are slowly opening back up following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here in the U.S. we’re at the beginning stages and it’s bringing on another set of decision making and coping skills.

Some people are acting like nothing’s changed and have jumped right into the deep end of the pool. They are going to restaurants (if open and permissible), to the beach or to other crowded places, like bars. They wear no masks and aren’t concerned with staying 6 feet apart or washing their hands frequently.

Others are optimistically cautious and dipping their toe in, venturing out to a store for the first time in weeks, sometimes months. Proud of themselves that they are taking this big step.

They wear masks and gloves and do all the right things – staying 6 feet apart, minimizing exposure by shopping alone, going through the self-checkout and getting what they need and leaving as quickly as possible.
It feels best for them.

We’ve got more decisions to make now. There’s a constant push and pull of going too fast and not going fast enough.

Occasionally there’s pressure to socialize before you’re ready. Here’s an example: an acquaintance invited you to a 50th birthday party, where you can drive by in your car or venture into the driveway to celebrate (there are lots of creative social distancing party ideas here). Do you go? What will she think if you don’t participate? You may think, I barely know her, why is she inviting all these Facebook friends like me to do this at a time like this?

You may be conflicted when your neighbors ask you over for wine or dinner, yet you know they’ve been shopping every day for weeks just to get out of the house, ignoring the stay at home order. Are they carrying the virus? Will it be safe to be so close even for an hour or two? Even if you stay outside and 6 feet apart?

Or maybe you have a friend who wants to visit you after visiting her son who works in a healthcare facility where they’ve had cases of COVID-19. Do you visit with her outside only? What if she needs to use the bathroom during the visit – is that safe? How will that work?

Sometimes it’s a fine balance between wanting to please others, wanting to enjoy yourself (you miss socializing), and doing what you know is best for you.

Do What’s Best for You

The greatest advice during these times is to do what’s best for you.

Whether or not you’re in a high risk group for getting sick (or living with someone that is), you must do what makes you comfortable and don’t let pressure from others, self-doubt or feeling bad for saying no prevent you from taking care of yourself first.

No one is going to watch out for you so you must do what’s right for you – no matter what. It is that important.

Even if it’s hard to say no. Even if the whole neighborhood is gathering in street for a social distancing party and you don’t feel comfortable being around neighbors who you know have had visitors and service people in and out of their homes recently.

Trust Yourself

Learning to trust yourself and your decisions is a skillset worth cultivating. It gets easier with time and practice.

Paying attention to your body’s signals is one way to build your intuition. Some people call it a gut feeling; they may feel a tightness or knot in their gut when something doesn’t feel right for them. It’s their signal to say no.

Others really pay attention to their emotions and get curious. For example, maybe you’re feeling excited but also scared when your hair stylist calls now that she’s reopened and has an open spot for you.

You’re conflicted about going to get your haircut and colored – you know you’ll look and feel better, but how safe will you be?

You want to support your stylist who hasn’t been working in almost 2 months which makes you feel connected and supportive, yet you’re not willing to being in a confined space with her for 2 hours. The fear enters again.

Realize it’s perfectly normal to feel conflicted, and trust that you’ll make the best decision for yourself. Perhaps you followed the advice here about trusting your body’s signals (feelings and emotions), and decide to get your haircut but schedule it for 3 weeks from now.

That way, you figure your stylist has some time to work the kinks out and adjust to how she can best keep her customers safe. That helps reduce the fear you were feeling.

At the same time, you’ll be supporting her business and feeling excited about finally getting your hair done. The choice is still yours but you’re doing it on your terms, aligned to making you feel safe, connected and supportive.

Take Intentional Action

The next time you feel conflicted about how to proceed, follow the two steps here to get back to a centered place and do what’s best for you.

1. Slow down and notice that this decision is causing conflict in you; becoming aware is key.

As humans, many times we’re in automatic mode and don’t take the time to slow down. We react quickly without much thought.

This fast-paced world we live in doesn’t help. Taking a few deep breaths and intentionally slowing down does help.

And don’t be afraid to delay your decision – letting someone know you’ll get back to them tomorrow, and then sticking to that agreement, is very empowering. Saying “Let me sleep on it and get back to you tomorrow” works well.

2. Take responsibility and act in a way that’s aligned to what is best for you. Realizing that you are the creator, not the victim, of your life is a great core belief to have. In other words, you GET to decide, what a privilege.

And being clear about what’s best for you before you act is important. Build your instinctual power by practicing it on a regular basis.

A great time to get clarity for me is during or right after meditating. For most decisions, I spend a few minutes slowing down, getting centered and then trusting my instinct and decision. But for bigger choices or ones that I still feel confused about, during or after meditation the following morning is the solution.

So remember, always do what’s best for you. You’ll feel better, make better decisions and have more control as you continue to navigate the uncertainty in this journey ahead.

 

Photo by Mike Petrucci on Unsplash

How to be Hopeful When There’s Not Much Hope

How to be Hopeful When There’s Not Much Hope

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

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

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

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

Realize you get to choose

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

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

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

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

Modify your expectations

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

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

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

Find the silver lining

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

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

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

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

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

Take Purposeful Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Photo by Rose Erkul on Unsplash

Letting Go of Fear

Letting Go of Fear

Becoming skilled at letting go of fear is a powerful step in creating a happier and healthier life. What you may not realize is that fear, like all your emotions, is under your control.

With the proper techniques and practices you can get really good at managing unhelpful emotions and experiencing more positive, helpful ones.

These days many of us are being forced to let go of things due to social distancing and other measures to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

This sense of uncertainty can bring up fear: when will stores and restaurants open up, when will I be able to go back to working in an office, how will this all work so that we stay safe and healthy? There’s no shortage of fear and uncomfortable feelings.

You can let go of negativity around a current situation and focus on positives, and address the fear when it gets to be too much.

Why let go of fear

Fear is your body’s signal alerting you to danger, or what is known as the fight or flight response. However, when you’re not being chased by a tiger or in some other life threatening situation, and that situation is not under your direct control, it’s not helpful.

Fear produces cortisol and a stress response in the body, and if it occurs too frequently (chronic stress), it can lead to health issues and negatively impact your emotional wellbeing.

We often don’t realize how long-held thought patterns and emotions that no longer serve us prevent us from moving forward. Feeling the fear and letting it go helps you move forward and closer to achieving your goals and dreams.

It may be challenging to let go of what you once cherished or feel pressured by others to hold on to, or that you’re accustomed to. But the more you let go, the more space you create for new opportunities and people to come into your life, and the easier it becomes to address future fear or other unhelpful emotions.

Strategic action you can take

Try these 3 steps the next time fear is taking its hold on you.

1 Notice the fear. Become aware of when it comes up – awareness is a powerful tool. Appreciate that this feeling is totally normal. Your mind is trying to resolve what it perceives as “unsafe” to your survival.

2. Be with that feeling. Don’t try to fix it or get rid of it. Take a pause and as your notice it, see where it appears in your body. Maybe it’s a tight feeling in your gut/stomach, or in your chest. Some people say it feels hot, or heavy, or that it has a shape to it. Be curious, and appreciate that it’s there.

3. Let your body do its thing and process it. As long as you don’t attach any more energy to this feeling by creating a story around it and making it more than it is, the feeling will usually dissipate on its own in less than 90 seconds. Remember: notice it, be curious, and see if it’s changing as you stay present with that feeling.

You can do some breathing exercises or body movement to match the energy of that feeling. For example, if it’s a tightness or heaviness in your chest area, take a few deep inhales and imagine the oxygen going directly to that tightness or heaviness. Typically, you’ll begin to feel a shift of energy, and you may notice a lighter feeling or opening of that area.

One of my most scary times

A few years ago I was driving on one of the top 10 most dangerous roads in the world, the Hana Highway in Maui (read more here).

It is a 60+ mile curvy road full of over 600 hairpin turns, many of them blind turns (click to take a virtual drive). There are over 50 one-lane bridges and the trip is full of twists, with the road not wide enough for two cars in many places.

As you can imagine, the fear of driving this road consumed me. The trip takes 2.5-3 hours to drive straight through, for roughly 60 miles!

As far as working through the fear, I had no problem noticing it (step 1). I felt it for weeks. But I couldn’t let it cause me to freeze while driving.

So I felt it, and noticed where it was in my body (tightness from my stomach up to my chest) and felt how strong it was, especially during especially scary parts of the drive (step 2).

Then, I let my body do what it was meant to do, process it (step 3). Lots of calming breathing exercises helped.

I also matched that feeling of fear with singing and praying – loudly – to match the energy of that fear. Especially on those blind hairpin turns, when I had no idea if I would have a car coming right at me when I got around the corner. I also proactively forced a huge smile on my face and appreciated the beauty of the ocean and waterfalls and flowers.

I survived the Hana Highway, and hope this story helps you the next time you’re feeling fear.

Review and practice the above steps with fear, or any unhelpful emotion, and see how things begin to improve.  

 

Photo by Mazhar Zandsalimi on Unsplash

Don’t Put Your Goals on Hold

Don’t Put Your Goals on Hold

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

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

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

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

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

Do any of these sound familiar?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Put Your Goals on Hold

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

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

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

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

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

Structure is Key

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

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

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

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

Take Strategic Action Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo by Plush Design Studio on Unsplash

My Top 3 Go Tos for Anxiety and Stress Relief

My Top 3 Go Tos for Anxiety and Stress Relief

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

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

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

Moving During COVID-19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Top 3 Go Tos for Anxiety and Stress Relief

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

1. A Morning Routine that Includes Meditation

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

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

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

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

2. Positive Self-Talk

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Breathwork

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

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

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

Take Action

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

 

Photo by Thomas Rey on Unsplash

How to Worry Less in Uncertain Times

How to Worry Less in Uncertain Times

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

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

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

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

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

How to Worry Less, Especially Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought-Work to the Rescue

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

Here’s the 2 Step Process

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take Advantage of this Time

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

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

Stay Present to Lessen the Worry

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

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

A Subtle and Effective Way to Be More Grateful

A Subtle and Effective Way to Be More Grateful

Gratitude changes everything.

In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly associated with greater happiness and wellbeing. 

It’s been found to help people feel more positive emotions. They enjoy the time they spend with others more, deal with hardships better and improve their health.

Studies show that making a conscious effort to feel gratefulness helps you develop the habit of being optimistic, leading to increased joy in your life.  

How Do You Express Gratitude?

People feel and express gratitude in numerous ways.

You may send thank you notes to others, pray on a regular basis, volunteer, or spend time with loved ones.

You can look for silver linings even in the most difficult life challenges. If you get injured you can be grateful for the compassion and help of family and friend. There’s always something positive if you look deep enough. When things feel hard, ask yourself: What’s good here?

Focusing on others helps you feel grateful. When you’re having a hard time coming up with something to be grateful for and are too internally focused on your problems, empathy and a change in perspective can help. For example, you can feel grateful for your home and safe living conditions if you think about someone who is homeless or in the military away at war.  

Other ways to increase gratitude consist of keeping a gratitude journal, counting your blessings every day, meditating or thanking yourself for taking care of you – like after eating a healthy meal or working out.

Try This Gratitude Experiment

I’m suggesting a subtle yet effective way to cultivate more gratitude into your life. Replace the words “I’m sorry” with “Thank you”.

I see it more often in women than men. Maybe it’s a societal thing, or the way we were raised by our families. We tend to apologize too much, many times for things that don’t need apologies.

If you tend to say “I’m sorry” a lot, out of habit or from years of conditioning to be nice or to please others, you’ve got to try this.

Think of it as an experiment, and for the next 7 days replace the words “I’m Sorry” with “Thank You”.

Here are some examples:

• Change “Sorry, I’m late,” to:
“Thank you for your patience” or “Thank you for waiting for me.”

• Change “I’m sorry for making you work late,” to:
“Thank you for working so hard on this assignment.”

• Change “I’m sorry I got that wrong,” to:
“Thank you for catching my mistake.”

• Change “I’m sorry for unloading all of this on you,” to:
“Thank you for listening and being here for me during this tough time.”

• Change “I’m so sorry to stick you with this extra work” to:
“Thank you so much for taking care of this.”

• Change “I’m sorry for taking up so much of your time” to:
“Thanks for spending so much time with me.”

I find this approach very effective. You’ll get the benefits of being more grateful.

And you’ll find its empowering too; it just feels better to reduce or eliminate saying sorry all the time.

You’re not allowing your position and status to be devalued, and you also make the person’s whose receiving your thanks feel valued and better about the interaction too. 

It’s a 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.  

So again, I challenge you to try this for one week or longer. Make it a habit.

You’ll get better at hearing your automatic apologies and be better able to quickly change it to “thank you” with practice.

Let me know in the comments how it worked for you and how you’re feeling by making this one shift.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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