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Archive for the ‘Stress Management’ Category

1. Sometimes more mess can equal less stress.  Learn how to tolerate the natural chaos of your life and feel happier.

2. As you know, I am a big fan of Gretchen’s Happiness Project.  Today I want to direct you to her tips for dealing with criticism so that it is less stressful and more helpful.

3. An article after the early childhood educator in my heart- Scientific American Mind explains the seriousness of play.

4. Stressing about money?  Who isn’t?  The growing field of behavior economics is looking at the ways in which money drives us crazy.

road-to-happy

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girl-with-bubblesMy Friday was a little on the busy side, so this list is a bit late.  However, better late than never, right! 🙂

This Friday I wanted to focus on creating our dream day.  What would your dream day, or perfect day, look like?  Sound like?  Smell like?  Feel like?  Even taste like?

And, more importantly, what can we do to bring in elements of our dream day into our realities?

As adults, we tend to think about work and then family and then if there is any energy left over we can think about ourselves for a minute.  But we have to remember: you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else.  This is a lesson I learned the hard way.  As a teacher, I was so busy taking care of my 4- and 5-year-old students that I neglected my own health.  It came back to haunt me.  My health became so poor that I had to quit teaching in order to get back on track.  We have to make sure that we are taken care of before we take care of others because if we get sick there will be no one left to take care of any of us, right?

So, focusing on our five senses, let’s take a moment to figure out how to incorporate some comfort into our hectic lives:

1. Think about the things that make you feel comforted.  Those items, people, and experiences that you crave after your most hellish days.  I discovered my own set of comforts after my father died.  I realized there were certain foods, sounds, activities, people, and thoughts that bring me comfort.  I noticed that my comfort foods were foods I grew up eating- cheese toast, chicken salad, Drumsticks ice cream, white grapes, Granny Smith apples with peanut butter, hot tea.  What foods do you find yourself craving when you need comfort? Try to eat one of your comfort foods this week and see if you don’t feel your shoulders relax when you take your first bite.

2. What about your sense of touch?  Most everyone loves to get a hug when they are having a bad day.  But what can you do to soothe yourself?  After my boyfriend and I broke up, I found my cat to be a great source of not only companionship but she also soothed me when I pet her.  There is something very cathartic about a pet.  And there is research to prove it.  If you don’t have a pet, borrow one for a while and just pet it.  Today I, along with my mother and sisters, received prayer shawls from my mom’s church to help us with my father’s death.  They are beautiful to look at, but best of all they are made of the softest yarn and they are warm.  We were all wearing ours around the house this afternoon, feeling great comfort in this simplest of ways.  Soft fabrics such as wool, silk, and cotton are very relaxing to the touch.  Having a wool or cotton blanket on hand that you can bring out when you need some pampering can do wonders.  Massages are a nice way to relax your muscles, as well, whether you seek the expertise of a professional massage therapist or give yourself a pedicure at home.  Having some thick lotions on hand that you can rub into aching feet and tired hands can make a bad day seem to float further away from your consciousness.

3. What about your other senses?  Aromatherapy candles can bring relaxation to your mind or can bring back memories of a time when you were happy.  I love the smell of coconut.  It takes me away to a tropical place where I can imagine lying on the hot sand at the beach, listening to the cool waves of the ocean crash on the shore.  Very dreamy!  Peppermint is a great aroma for times when you want to feel more alert and energized so you can spend the day surfing or playing a pick-up game of basketball.

4. What about sight? Think about the colors you surround yourself with.  Then consider how you want to feel when you are in your home.  Soft blues and muted greens and beiges are good for a relaxing bedroom.  Bright yellows and vibrant reds are perfect for a recreation room.  Bring nature into your home with a potted plant or two or decorating in greens and browns with the occassional hint of color (as long as it is not too bright). If you love the outdoors, get out there more!  Eat dinner on the back porch during the summertime (don’t forget your citronella candle!) and take in all of the beauty of the trees and flowers and sky.  Pencil in time to go skiing one day in the winter and take in the majesty of the mountains covered in white snow.  Take the kids on a hike and try to name as many plants and trees and flowers and forest animals that can.  Take in the beautiful sights that are right there for you, free, anytime.

5. And don’t forget about sounds! Keep some CDs or I-tune playlists on hand that have just the right mix of music for you when you are feeling nostalgic or needing a pick-me-up or just wanting to bask in the happiness that surrounds you.  What songs elicit certain feelings in you?  And if you have trouble sleeping because of traffic noise or noisy neighbors, invest in a white noise machine.  It can help even the lightest of sleepers get some zzz’s.

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This quick and to the point article is from the blog On Simplicity.

  1. Resign from a commitment you’re not passionate about.
  2. Stop trying to be perfect.
  3. Implement a basic cleaning schedule.
  4. Sign up for automatic billpay.
  5. Automate a portion of your investing.
  6. Clean out your media collection and keep only the items you love.
  7. Plant perennials that will automatically bloom next spring.
  8. Clean out your purse or wallet.
  9. Put a paper shredder next to your mail spot.
  10. Winnow your wardrobe down to pieces that work together.
  11. Delete any social networking accounts you don’t actually use.
  12. Add your number to the do-not-call list.
  13. Create a car maintenance schedule and post it somewhere you’ll see it.
  14. Design a filing system that you can stick to.
  15. Start your day with a healthy meal.
  16. Turn your phone off when you need quiet time.
  17. Invest in a programmable thermostat.
  18. Set one good goal, and go achieve it.
  19. Record your good “shower” ideas and then implement them. (Don’t we all get our best inspirations in the shower?)
  20. Write to a friend with (gasp!) pen and paper.
  21. Set limits on your bad habits, and reward yourself when you stick with them.
  22. Stop trying to be a saint and indulge yourself every once in a while.
  23. Pay off your credit card debt.
  24. Avoid watching commercials and reading advertisements.
  25. Rediscover the pleasure of reading purely for enjoyment.
  26. Plan two weeks of delicious meals ahead of time and skip the nightly grocery run.
  27. Go to your doctor for a preventative checkup.
  28. Remember the joys of doing nothing.
  29. Singletask as much as possible.
  30. Learn to ask for help.

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This post was found at The Change Blog.  You can visit the blog here.  This is a longer post than just a list by itself , but definitely worth the read.

How often do we overlook the above aphorism as we repeatedly revisit past mistakes, injuries, and confrontations?  There are times I lie sleepless and recall arguments I had with college sweethearts, high school teachers, and even the grade school bully.  What do I get for my trouble?  Sometimes I experience that all-too-familiar wave of panic, other times an uneasy stomach or a rapidly beating heart; that feeling is almost always accompanied by guilt, resentment, or both.  The experience never benefits me and I’ve reached the point in my life where I need to stop it.

The Problem of Repunishment

We’ve been conditioned from birth to retain our flaws and mistakes in two ways: by example and through confrontation.  The first form of conditioning is by example; we see and hear our parents do it every day.  Your dad forgets to take the trash out after dinner; your mom gets angry and calls him on it.  But instead of saying: “Dear, your forgot the trash”, she says: “You forgot the trash again!  You NEVER remember to take it out!” Now your dad doesn’t deal with the current situation, rather he relives every time he forgot.  He feels guilt and frustration well up, he becomes defensive, and the argument begins.  The second form of conditioning is more direct; someone will be displeased and say: “How many times do I have to tell you…” Then we relive each of our past mistakes and feel the guilt, the pain, and the frustration.

By the time we’re in high school (if not long before), we’ve become so conditioned that we put ourselves through the ringer.  We don’t need anyone else to do it to us; we start repunishing ourselves.  You run late for work after school, again.  Instead of focusing on today’s tardiness, you relive each time you have been late.  The panic and guilt start to build, and build, and build as you revisit each transgression.  When you finally get to work you have rehashed every time you have been late to work, and you re-experience all of the negative energy from each time.

The worst part of the situation, however, is that we don’t let anything go.  We retain all of this emotional poison and add the new stuff.  Then, the NEXT time something happens, we get to revisit it all AGAIN.  And the cycle continues, because we have great memories and consciences.  We make a mistake, we judge ourselves, we find our selves guilty, and we punish ourselves.  No wonder we go through our lives feeling defensive, guilty, and uncertain.

Taking Control Of Our Lives

However, we can take control of our lives and stop this painful cycle.  The process isn’t difficult, but it will be unsettling at first and require some adjustment.  We experience this discomfort as we rebel against what we’ve learned and become accustomed to our entire lives.  The more ingrained our solution becomes, however, the more comfort it provides as we adapt to the new standard.  I’ve outlined below the process I have been using to stop this self punishment.

1. Acknowledge and own the mistake. This not only calms us but gives us some power over the situation.  If something “isn’t our fault”, then how can we take action to correct the situation?  We can’t.  By accepting responsibility for a situation, we make ourselves “response able” (thanks to Steven Covey for this phrase).

2. Identify the mistake. Analyze the situation and see just exactly what caused the undesired outcome.  It could have been a simple typo, it could have been procrastination, it could have been a misunderstanding, it could have been an omission, etc.  Whatever the source of the problem, we need to identify it as clearly and completely as possible.

3. Correct the problem. Implement a new system to avoid omissions, determine where our scheduling technique broke down, etc.  Make sure that, to the best of our ability, that we have implemented a solution that should prevent the same (or a very similar) mistake from recurring.  Be proud of this accomplishment – it enables us to let go of our disappointment, guilt, frustration, fear, anger, etc.

4. Move on. Obviously this is harder than it sounds.  However, our preparation above has led us to a position where we can honestly tell ourselves that we know what happened, we don’t like what happened, and we have fixed the problem that led to it occurring.  By taking both responsibility and action, we create a powerful combination that allows us, with a bit of discipline, to live in the present and not rehash the past.

Final Thoughts

If we find ourselves trying to rehash a past mistake, it is important to STOP.  Observe what we are doing, identify the problem triggering this response, and remind ourselves of the solution we implemented to stop that problem from repeating.  Then focus on our solution and a couple of instances where our solution has led to positive outcomes.  As we train ourselves to make this part of our process, we’ll be pleasantly surprised to find this easier and easier to accomplish.

This post was written by Forrest McDonald.

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We’re 3 days into 2009.  I thought I would give you a short list of quotes to inspire you to keep going on those New Year Resolutions.  The first month is the hardest!

1. “The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow for a solution.” -Bertrand Russell

2. “The first step towards success will be the biggest one.” -Dennis Waitley

3. “Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated.  You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.” -David Lloyd George

4. “We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” -Aristotle

5. “Whether you think you can or think you can’t–you are right.” -Henry Ford

6. “Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone.  The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of nonessentials.” -Lian Yutang

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This article was originally posted at ThinkSimpleNow.com.

1. Look Up!!!

The fastest way to change negative feelings is by changing our physical position right away. The easiest way to physically change is by moving our eye position. When we are in a negative state, we are likely looking down. Suddenly looking up (into our visual plane) will interrupt the negative patterns of sinking into the quick sand of bad feelings.

Any sudden physical change will do the trick:

  • Stand up and stretch while letting out an audible sigh.
  • Exaggerate and change your facial expressions.
  • Walk over to a window where there is sunlight.
  • Do 10 jumping jacks.
  • Do a ridiculous dance that pokes fun at you.
  • Massage the back of your neck with one hand while singing happy birthday.

Try this next time you feel a negative or unpleasant thought come up.

2. “What Do You Want?”

Sit down and write down exactly what it is that you want out of the current situation. Your job is to describe the end result you would like to see. Be clear, realistic and fair. Be specific with your description. Including dates of when you would like to see the results.

Once you have this clearly mapped out, and when you find yourself drifting into negative thoughts of what you don’t want, you can shift your focus on this list instead.

Also, when we do this exercise consciously, we’ll come to find that the arbitrary and materialistic things that we thought we wanted, aren’t want we want, after all. Clarity is a beautiful thing.

3. Eliminate: Don’t, Not, No

Words such as Don’t, No, Not, Can’t gets us focused on the things that we don’t want. Language is a powerful thing and can influence our subconscious mind, and ultimately our feelings. When you catch yourself using a negated word, see if you can replace it with another word of opposing meaning. Example: instead of saying “I don’t want war”, say “I want peace”.

4. Finding the Light

Darkness can only be eliminated when there is light (like a lamp, or sunlight). In the same way, negative things can only be replaced by positive things. Remember that regardless of what is happening to us externally, or how bad things appear in our mind, we always have the choice to speak and see things positively.

I know this is harder to do when you’re in midst of heated emotions, but I’m a big believer that there is something to be learned from every situation we encounter. Look for the lesson. Find something about the situation that you’ve gained, whether it’s a material possession or an understanding or a personal growth. Find the light so you can uncover the darkness of your mind.

5. Surrender

Surrender to our ego’s need to be right, to blame, to be spiteful, and to be revengeful. Surrender to the moment. Surrender to the pull to become worked-up by the situation.

Become mindful. Watch your thoughts and learn to separate your thoughts from your own identity. Your thoughts are not you.

Things will play out regardless of whether we become emotional or not. Trust that the universe will work its course and do its job. By not surrendering, we get worked up for nothing, and our body will suffer as a result of it.

6. Circle of Influence

When we are feeling down, it’s easy to be sucked into the downward spiral of bad feelings. It really doesn’t help to be around others complaining about the same issues. It’s counter-productive to getting well.

Instead, find a group of people with a positive outlook. When we are around such a group of people, they will remind us of things we already know deep within us, we can start to recognize the good, and the positives. When we are down, we can draw energy from them in order to rise above the problem and negative state.

In the same way that being around negative people can affect you in a negative way, being around happy and optimistic people can raise our awareness, and help us move out of the un-resourceful state.

7. Gratitude Exercise

Find an uninterrupted space, and bring a notepad and pen with you. List out (in as much detail) everything you are grateful for in your life, either in the past, or present; either experiences, relationships, friendships, opportunities or material possessions. Fill up the page, and use as many pages as you have things to be thankful for. Be sure to thank your heart and your body.

This is a simple, yet underestimated tool to help us focus our attention on what matters. This exercise can also shift our state of mind from one of a lower frequency to that of a higher frequency. It also helps us to gain clarity and to remind ourselves that we have much to be thankful for.

No matter how bad things get, we always, always have things to be grateful for. If anything, we have the opportunity of life, in which we have the freedom to grow, to learn, to help others, to create, to experience, to love.

I’ve also found it particularly effective to add silent meditation for 5-10 minutes prior, and visualizing everything on your gratitude list after the gratitude exercise. Try it for yourself!

8. Meditation

Meditation is training for the mind; to calm the noise in our mental space, to lower our thought count, to draw out inner wisdom, and mostly it helps us to recognize and remain anchored in our divine state.

Regardless of what is happening external to us, we have the capacity to remain centered, in a state of acceptance, of flow, of peace, and of love. When we are in this state, we are rational and have the clarity we need to handle any situation with grace, and with minimal stress on our body.

9. Breathing Relaxation Techniques

Most of us are shallow breathers, and air only stays in the top of our lungs. Deep breathing exercises will get more oxygen into our brains, and into the rest of our body. Try this:

  • Sit up straight in your chair, or stand up.
  • Loosen up clothing, especially if your stomach feels tight.
  • Inhale through your nose. Exhale through your mouth.
  • Put one hand on your abdominal area (over your belly).
  • When you inhale, feel your hand expanding as air is filled up in your diaphragm.
  • When you exhale, feel your hand retracting to the initial placement.
  • Count in your mind the number of inhales and exhales, and gradually level them off such that both take equal counts.
  • Slowly, add a count to your exhale.
  • Keep adding a count to your exhale until the count for exhales doubles that of the count for inhales.
  • Repeat this breathing rhythm for 5 to 10 times.
  • Keep your eyes closed in silence for a few minutes afterwards.

10. Laughter!

We cannot laugh and be upset at the same time. When we make the physical movement required to laugh or smile, we instantly feel light-hearted and joyful.

Try it now: give me that beautiful smile of yours. I want a genuine and large smile now!  How do you feel? Do you feel an instant jolt of joy? Did you temporarily forget about your problems?

List out a series of movies that make you laugh and stock them up at home. Or meet up with a humorous friend who can really get you laughing. For my friend going through the divorce, I prescribed Episode 10 of “Survivor Gabon”, he laughed until his stomach hurt and told me the next day that he slept very well, without once thinking about the negativity that would otherwise trigger anger.

11. Forgiveness

For my little vindictive rascals out there, I know the idea to forgive your ‘enemy’ sounds counter-intuitive. The longer you hold on to the grudge, the more painful emotions you will experience, the more turbulence you are putting on your body, the more damage you are inflicting on your long-term health and wellness.

Unable to forgive someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. And there’s no way around it.

12. Snap a Rubber Band

Wear an elastic/rubber band around your wrist, at all times. Every time you find yourself having a thought that would lead to a downward negative cycle, snap the rubber band. It might sting a little. But this actually trains our mind to avoid triggering those thoughts. Pain is an amazing motivator.

13. Identify and Eliminate Your Triggers

Sit down and brainstorm a list of reminders and activities that will trigger this negative emotion in us. It might be hearing the word ‘divorce’, or someone’s name, or going to a particular restaurant.

Commit to yourself to eliminate the mentioning of these triggers from your life. If we know something will upset us, why would we bother triggering it?

14. Identify What Anger Brings

List all the things that you’ve gained as a result of being angry. When you’re done, go down this list and count the number of positive things that are actually conducive to your wellbeing. By the way, “making the other person suffer and feel pain” does not count as “conducive to your wellbeing”.

This exercise helps us bring more awareness, rationality and clarity into the situation.

15. Seek Closure. Solve the Problem

To the best of your ability, do not drag anything on for the sake of “winning” or “being right”; it’s not healthy for anyone involved.

Just because we surrender to the external events and choose not to give them any more attention, does not mean that we sit back passively to let others step all over us.

Take action that will help you move onto the next step, and closer to resolution. Be proactive and thoughtful. The faster you can get the problem resolved, the quicker you can set yourself free, mentally.

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We are always struggling to find balance in our lives. With the constant demands of work and family, often our mind, body and spirit pay the price for getting things done. What follows are several important strategies you can employ today that will help you achieve a terrific balance and give you the power to do more things that really matter.

  1. Don’t work yourself to death. Set some boundaries when it comes to your work life. Predetermine certain days of the weeks, or hours of the day when you only focus on yourself or your family. Instead of causing you to fall behind, this will actually help you work more efficiently during the rest of the week.
  2. Don’t let regret enter your life. The things in your past have already occurred. You have no power to change these things. Why then, do so many of us allow regret to throw us off of our balance? Living in the present, and enjoying each moment as it occurs, is one of the easiest ways to enjoy more spiritual and mental balance in your life.
  3. Don’t take on too much. It is hard for many of us to delegate responsibility to others. Whether it is at work or in the home, we become victims of the “I’ll just do it myself” mentality. The result is that we spend too much time focusing on certain aspects of our lives while neglecting others. We quickly forget that everything is a trade-off. Learn to delegate to co-workers, family members and your spouse. Return the favor for them to achieve an even greater balance.
  4. Treat yourself to something nice. Many times we don’t reward ourselves enough. While it is kind and decent to always try to put other people first, this should not come at the expense of our own well-being. If you work hard, reward is the proper balance to putting forth that effort.
  5. Be nice to others. In order to achieve real spiritual fulfillment, one must rise above the fray and…just be a nicer person. Acting with kindness to other human beings has a “pay it forward” effect that not only makes you feel good, but improves the world around you as well.
  6. Get organized and reduce clutter. Sometimes, we look back on a particularly busy day and ask ourselves, “what, exactly just happened here?” Lives filled with too much clutter and racing around from Point A to Point B are going to lead to stress and health issues. Take a day and get organized. Prioritize your life. Like a garage sale, it may be time to get rid of some things that are cluttering up the corners of your life.
  7. Get back to basics. For many people seeking balance, there’s nothing better than the traditional arts of meditation, yoga or acupuncture. All three can provide a pathway to spirituality and greater union of the mind, body and spirit. In a stressful, ever-changing world, constants such as these can be an ideal way to achieve balance.
  8. Be positive. Far too often, a negative attitude can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Or to put it another way, when we keep focusing on bad things, they often end up happening. Positive, upbeat people have a clearer point of view and generally speaking get more of what they want out of life…including proper balance.
  9. Exercise often and eat right. A healthy body is the quickest way to a healthy mind and spirit. Proper nutrition provides the fuel for exercise, which in turn enhances every aspect of your life.
  10. Have more fun. Many experts assert that consulting with your “inner child” as often as possible is the key to striking a harmonious balance in life. You remember your inner child, right? The little person who understood the simple pleasures of life and the importance of play? Get back to that child today and find out how you can inject some activities that aren’t so serious into your day to day existence.

This article was first published at EnlightenmentRing.com.

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