The Benefit of Giving and Receiving Thanks

This time of year, just before Thanksgiving, I am always thinking about writing thank you cards to those I love and appreciate. I think about writing a blog about giving thanks or gratitude but alas I am generally still in a sugar coma from Halloween which we know is the beginning of candy season. So, until now those ideas had lain among the Junior Mints and Jujuy Fruit boxes.

Giving thanks, showing appreciation, sending love and being truly grateful for the people and things that make life worth living is a powerful tool. Not just for the receiver but also for the giver. For the receiver getting thanked when the thanks are heartfelt and genuine is lovely and even sometimes overwhelming. I am not talking about oblatory thanks we do out of guilt or to be liked. But rather being thanked in a wholehearted way, this is something we feel in our chest not just hear. It is a visceral experience.

 A thank you is hard to hear sometimes, to let someone thank us. I have been terrible at receiving those lovely thank you’s over the years. My MO was to deflect, make a joke, move on quickly. That was disservice to those who were loving and genuine because I was awkward and embarrassed. I have become better at just saying you’re welcome, making eye contact with the person instead of my shoes and being in the moment. These same rules hold true of being complimented as well.

It dawned on me a few years ago that I like complimenting people and thanking folks for their help, support etc. It was important to me that they knew I appreciated them and their contributions to my life. So why should I deprive others of the same experience I enjoyed, by being a bad receiver. Just because in those days I was socially the equivalent to a badger, the least congenial of the weasel family, not like the otter a real charmer. This being said I worked on my receiving skills practicing being present and just listening and soaking it in. Soaking that love in helps for the bad days when I feel defeated and lost.

If soaking in the love of thanks and appreciation is good for the receiver it is as good or better for the giver. When we show gratitude, give thanks the love is a boomerang that comes right back to us. We rarely tell those closest to us what they mean to us, even in small ways or gestures. Doing this more regularly grows trust, deepens bonds and strengthens the relationship. This is true for co-workers, neighbors as well as friends and family. It helps us see more of the good in people, in situations in giving thanks and being grateful for all that we do have. Being happy for what we have, being grateful is the fertile soil of a good life.

Gertrude Stein said, “Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.”

If you aren’t good at thanking people, it just takes practice and just a little vulnerability. Tell them specifically what they did you are grateful for, how it made you feel and say, “thank you”. That’s it. Giving thanks, showing gratitude is like love: it needs to be shared. It doesn’t have to be a big production either, a kind heart felt comment, a small note. Whether it is the giver or receiver everyone needs to be in the moment, make eye contact feel what they feel and hold on to the good stuff. I encourage you all to, in the next week or two, consider adopting a practice of gratitude, of giving thanks. Think of at least two people who you are grateful for and thank them. Then practice doing it again with other people the next week and the one after that. Before long, it becomes a habit, and it is just a part of who you are. Just another happy grateful person.

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Floundering

Progress feels a lot like floundering. For those of you who don’t know what floundering means it is to struggle, to lose footing and show confusion. Think of pulling a fish out of water, perhaps a flounder, and it flops about in search of water, gasping and lost. That for me sometimes is what progress feels like. Ugly, gasping, confusion and second-guessing steps in trying to obtain any type of footing. Floundering is what transition feels like, what progress feels like… it feels awful.

Every transition in my life whether it be career, moving to a new state, starting a business or even a serious relationship is herky jerky, fraught with anxiety and worrying pauses between action. It is humbling. We can chalk it all up to learning. Learning something new is rough on our ego. We feel like we are out of our depth, stupid, inadequate, like a loser. These feelings are true and real and live in the second stage of learning something new. New meaning, something foreign to our current knowledge, experience or understanding. That new can be how to register your car in a new state, how to do a new job, what to do when the fire alarm goes off when you make crepes in a cooking class at the mall. 

There are four stages to learning. The first is that we are unconsciously incompetent. We are unaware of our lack of knowledge, we don’t know, what we don’t know. This is called happy.

We then face change, whether it was something we embarked on or that was thrust upon us we start down a path. Progress, a transition, moving forward into the unknown. We are now trying to do something new, whether it is leaning a new skill, being single again, struggling as a new parent, etc. We have now entered the floundering zone.

Noel Burch, an employee with Gordon Training International, developed the Conscious Competence Ladder. His model calls the floundering phase being consciously incompetent. We are acutely aware we do not know what we are doing or what is expected of us. The expect of us can be that of others or more frequently the bossy inner voice with unrealistic expectations and might have a German accent.

Being consciously incompetent is the danger zone. This is where may people give up because it is difficult, we feel terrible and if you are learning guitar your fingers hurt like hell. We crave normal, something easier, something we know and that makes us feel competent. The hard part is that those somethings of our past in reality didn’t fit and caused us to stumble up the road in search of new. Going back is a lot like trying to fit into your favorite outfit from 7th grade. It was wonderful in the time, but we have outgrown it. Trying to make ourselves fit no matter the reason is never the answer.

Staying with the foundering is painful, it’s an awkward dance of “I got it, I got it… oh hell I don’t got it.” It is one step forward and two back. It is not even being sure if the step you just took was in the right direction, because we don’t even know what the “right” direction is.

The right direction, however, is anything that our gut, our deep-down selves that got us into this journey pushes us to do. Frequently that direction and intuitive step is also terrifying. We are pushed to pursue things that are scary, seem daunting and might even be. But so was everything we have done prior to this. All the previous struggles we have mastered and pushed through to success and mastery.  Afterward we think back and wonder what the big deal was as we rush on down the road. Many times, we don’t even think about our prior fears and struggles we just push on forgetting our previous learning, with our eyes focused on what is next.

So, what can we do when we are floundering, and feel awful? How do we trust in the forward motion while being in the dark?

Here are some ideas:

-The first thing is to remind yourself you have been in the unknown before and learned your way. You have been successful. You might want to look at a journal or talk to someone who supported you then and look for the tools you used that helped.

-Recognize that you are uncomfortable and remember that discomfort in learning something new is normal and it will pass given time and effort.

-Focus on the next small step, then after that is completed the following small step. Don’t look up or out at where you are going, just celebrate, take a breath and take another small step.

-Be very kind to yourself. Try to catch that bossy voice in your head that is preaching about timelines, underachieving, blah, blah more mean stuff. Shut that voice down to a whisper.

-Find things that you feel good about and do them. Whether that is fishing, yoga or reading mysteries. Find things that comfort you or support you in your journey. Now double that for effort in finding people to do the same thing for you.

-Remember we don’t own the timeline; it takes as long as it takes so let go of expectations. You might have to remind yourself this about 10,000 times a day.

-Even when we get to the other side we are in a new normal, or consciously competent so things still feel kind of shaky.

We eventually get to unconsciously competent. That looks like when we have driven home after work and it was so automatic, we didn’t even remember the drive. Very different from the first time you got behind the wheel of a car or even when you started to master it but were still careful and present as you drove.

The unconsciously competent stage is then our new normal. This is what mastery looks like. Progress is transition after transition. This cycle over and over. Growth, awkward growth in all arenas of our lives. Remembering this cycle when we are floundering and flopping about can help in understanding there is an end in sight, that we have done this before and will again. Each time being kinder, gentler with ourselves and others as they flounder. I believe that grace is born from this transition over and over. So, a better way to see our floundering is our transition into grace. 

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How We Drown, Float or Swim

A client recently sent me a note telling me they were drowning. I knew they had a lot of responsibilities, many balls in air to juggle. I offered them an option, perhaps they could consider flipping over on their back and floating. What does this mean? It means that the ability to recognize when we are, (drowning, floating or swimming) might help us either sustain if we are swimming or flip over to float if we are indeed drowning. This analogy is where we find ourselves daily, hourly and sometimes minute to minute. 

Below are some tips meant as a triage to help you identify where you are and where you want to go. 

Drowning: When I feel like I am drowning a couple of things may be occurring; I am trying to do too much and or I have unrealistic expectations of what I or others can do in the moment. 

  • Stop, take a breath and name what I am feeling, overwhelmed, drowning, exhausted. Being able to identify what phase I am in helps to address it and put it in perspective. 
  • Prioritize 2-3 needs and let the rest go. Let go of expectations on what I think should matter or get done.
  • Do something physical to in order to help letting go, a short walk, yoga, cleaning out a drawer… do some small act that will allow a mental shift or restart.
  • Flip over and float with the sole purpose of keeping my head above water and just do the top 2-3 priorities until I feel ready for more. 

Floating: Here I am maintaining and catching my breath. I am not making headway or progress in areas. I have prioritized wellness, quality of work, and life over unrealistic expectations from myself or others in this moment. 

  • Take deep belly breaths in order to unlock all of my brain from the fight, flight or freeze mode. I make better decisions and choices when calm and thoughtful.
  • Maintain keeping my head above water and assess where I am and what really is important. What are my wants and needs? Be clear on the differences between them. 
  • Rest, replenish and plan when is a good time to test the waters and swim for small distances building endurance. Then try it, always returning to float to rest and replenish. 

Swim: This is when I am moving in a direction I desire; I am making gradual progress toward a goal. I feel stable and competent in my direction and the ability to right myself when things go wrong.  

  • Focus on what I have control over even if it is my reaction to the world around me. I am responsible for my actions and words, so by taking time to consider them thoughtfully is important. 
  • Pace myself in a realistic way by assessing the external and internal conditions that are present. Take control of my direction, action, choices and speed.     
  • Understand what is mine to fix and what is someone else’s. Enabling others undermines them. We all have our own individual course and each of us has choice to act or not. Know that not choosing is also a choice.   

Remembering to check-in with ourselves all day, every day on where we are allows us agency over our lives through conscious choice. Putting our head down and plowing through our days, months or years invites dysfunction. In doing that we chance making ourselves ill, damaging valued relationships and our reputation. If we don’t pay attention to where and how we are, we can’t get to where we want to go. Changing a small thing can net big results, you know this to be true if you have ever tried to go to sleep with a mosquito in your bedroom. – Kyra

For more information about my coaching go to Trueroadtraveler.com.

Posted in Change, choices, Faith, Fear, foundation of change, Health and Wellness, humor, intent, Learning, mind shifts, Stress, Stressed Out, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Note to Self…

Dear Kyra,

You are forgetting some things these days, important things.  Things that cost you blood, sweat and tears to learn. I know you are stressed and it’s looking a lot like the end of the world. There are those dark, nuclear winter orange skies in the daytime. There’s unemployment, a global pandemic, really the list goes on and on.

First up; it’s not the end of the world, really, it just feels like it.  In fact, you are forgetting that just because you think something doesn’t make it true, even if it feels true. You just thought it is all. Without a closer look using your curiosity and discovery, and maybe even data it’s just an idea, something you thought. A story you are telling yourself. Okay wait, this is not the best delivery system for you, you like lists. I know myself; I just forget it sometimes is all…

  1. Trust yourself. You can do this; it never has mattered what this is… you always figure it out. I know the learning curve is a bitch and you hate her, but she teaches us grace, humility and patience. Plus, she gives you something to write about.

2. Champagne is good any night of the week, it goes with everything.

3.  Kindness is king, not just for others but for yourself. If you are not kind to yourself you will burn out, crank out, if you don’t live from the inside out when it comes to kindness.

4.  Napping is essential for creativity, as is “goofing off”, daydreaming, wandering and playing. Answers come when you let go of the problem. It’s hard but unclench your fucking fists, just sometimes… okay? How else can you receive without open hands?

5.  Eat healthy, move daily, laugh a lot, try to sleep. These were the basic operating instructions you got when you showed up to this rodeo. If you don’t take care of the equipment, game over. So, prioritize it, do it, do your best. It really matters and so do you.

6.  It’s not a big deal that you can never remember how to spell their, or is it thier, or then or than, don’t get me started on effect and affect. You are dyslexic and that is what Google is for. You can use mellifluous and tintinnabulate in a sentence. Relax. Just because you think you “should” know something doesn’t mean that’s true. We all know different things, important things, and that is that.

7.  Slow down, pay attention, notice the changes and see where you fit in the future, not the past that is burning down. What do you want to help with, create, build… focus more on solutions not just problems.

8.  It’s not a big deal, not everyone can wear corduroy pants…

9 . Remember life is like driving at night. You can only see the next 150 ft, but you can get anywhere you need only seeing 150 ft at a time. Focus on the next three small steps that move you forward, and then do it again and again. This is not a race so try to remember to enjoy the ride.

10. Send more cards, it’s nice to get something besides a bill or flyers in the mail. People forget you are thinking about them and that they are loved. Small thoughtful gestures can change a life, a community, the world.

11. It’s okay to feel, I know you hate that shit, but you are human, and they feel things. Stuffing those feelings is like trying to hold a pool noodle underwater all day, sooner or later it pops up and hits you in the face and water goes up your nose and you cry anyway.

12. You are loved, nuff said

13. Looking at art, listening to music, and laughing changes your brain chemistry for the better. These things heal. Remember to find beauty every day, it’s good medicine.

14. Trouble is a lot like Pizza Hut, don’t go looking for it, it delivers.

15. You are going to make mistakes, all kinds of them. Avoiding them makes for a smaller life. Get comfortable with being lost, getting confused and go make a great big mess. Try things, be brave and look like an idiot sometimes, okay maybe lots of times. The payoff is huge. Flaws are where the beauty lives. Appreciate all your quirk, your struggle and your triumphs, then get up and do it again. Amen!

Note: I wrote this in a whirl after a particular hectic day. It helped to remind me of what I know but somehow, in the crazy days, I sometimes forget. I invite you to try to write your own “Note to Self”. To remind you of what you already know.  – Deep Breaths, Kyra

 

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Professionalism vs Fun

In texting with a friend today she revealed that during the pandemic she was trying to add more fun during her days which made her think of me. She shared that being with her daughter between work assignments forced her to start playing more. She also shared that going back and forth from play mode to “being a professional” was tricky all day. This made me think, not that thinking is a stretch for me, but some days it’s a sketchy proposition at best. I never thought that my options were being a professional or having fun. For me it was always an And not an Or choice. Here’s the thing, I am fun. I am fun to work with, I bring it, I pack it along like I would my Chapstick, my keys and my phone. It is a tool that elevates everything, work, learning, creating, everything in life is better when fun or levity is introduced. Think of laughter as the language of God.

I can understand my friend’s conundrum. We are trained, most especially women, to be serious so we are taken seriously at work. We all are taught that work was serious business and we needed to focus, produce and excel. Those are all good things, but all done better with humor and fun. Here’s an example where I injected a small dose of fun into a small thing that netted a great result:

I taught Career Readiness workshops.  As students came into our center, they were checked in and went into the classroom for the start of the session. I asked the front desk staff if they wanted to bet on how many students would come to the session. There was no wager, the fun was purely in the guessing, estimating and teasing that went with this small tweak of competition. It was playful, created laughter and the level of delight we exuded as we greeted everyone who walked through our door for those 15 minutes, exuberant. Not that we didn’t always give folks a great reception, but now they got a group of delighted faces as if they were celebrities coming down the red carpet. That small game became part of our culture and a common experience that bonded us in a different way than we had before, we bonded in play and laughter.

This was small and silly, but it created a bond and common experience that elevated a simple task into play. It made everyone’s experience in that 15 minutes better than it would have been, and that energy moved them on through other work in the day. Play shifts us to look at what is possible, it opens us up to new ways of thinking, doing and being. I think that being good at what you do should not be tied to being serious. As an example, in operating rooms they play great music to set the mood and create an environment of positivity. That does not in any way undermine the tasks at hand but rather enhance teamwork and energy.

Fun and play have a reputation of being frivolous, however, this runs contrary to what science and nature show us. Animals teach their young how to hunt, to survive, through play. All great learning happens during play. Cancer patients are frequently told to watch comedies as laughter changes our chemistry for the better. Endorphins, oxytocin, serotonin are all released during play, laughter and closeness. Why wouldn’t these same things make us better teams, workers, thinkers, creators and people?

So how does one start to introduce play and fun in all aspects of their lives? Here’s a simple list of steps to try and see what happens.

  1. Notice where does play or fun live currently in your life, at work, home, relationships. Start to notice those moments in small conversations with co-workers that are playful or fun, see how that can be deepened if only in your enthusiasm or appreciation. Know this person is now a coconspirator to fun in the future. It also makes you notice folks who may not be open just yet to this way of thinking.

 

  1. Opportunity comes after you have noticed where play currently lives and where it can be expanded. You now know who is open and you can create your own moment or instigate one. That can be meeting at the coffee truck first thing to share a moment of laughter. In these virtual days, a drop-in lunchroom where folks can chat and share their lives. Noticing leads us to finding opportunities for play and fun.

 

  1. Practice gives us mastery of a tool. A well placed and appropriate joke in a meeting can cause a small bout of laughter and that extra oxygen gives everyone a boost. It builds teams and goodwill. It can also break tension and help find a way to be better able to focus on solutions not just problems.

 

I will make a note of caution here- play and the introduction thereof can make you vulnerable and sometimes a target. Always start small, know you audience, never make anyone the butt of a joke and keep inclusivity and kindness in your sense of play. We know humor or play is also the weapon of a bully. It has been pervasive in many work cultures that are toxic. The play I proscribe is out of generosity, kindness and love…In this practice, I am, if anyone, the only one who is vulnerable in that moment. These are crucial points to make note of when going forward.

Start small if this is new or scary to you, start at home, with your family, your partners even your pets. Bust out that tiara, that ridiculous hat you were bullied into buying on vacation or even a fake accent and try them all on as a surprise at the dinner table. Could that turn into Friday night dress up dinner? Maybe. The worst thing that could happen is people don’t laugh. On the flip side, you may have a great story of your silliness and a cherished memory is born. The practice of gratitude is shown to improve our lives and well-being. I believe a practice of play will do the same thing. Give it a whirl and share the fun… cheers. – Kyra

For more information about my coaching go to Trueroadtraveler.com.

Posted in Change, choices, curiosity, fellowship, Fun, Happiness, Health and Wellness, humor, Learning, mind shifts, Play, Professional, Prosessionalism, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

5 Steps to Help you Navigate Change

We are being pushed to change in ways we never imagined. Changes to how we live, how we work, our schooling, socializing- everything has changed quickly. It was sudden, like a tidal wave. Our old lives were swept away, and we are now figuring out our new lives stumble by stumble.

These are the circumstances of living through a pandemic. The key here, is to live, not just survive, even perhaps to aim for thriving. We have an opportunity to consider other options and ways of living. Maybe get away from old ways of being, thinking and doing. Circumstances are pushing us to do that anyway.

Here’s the thing, change happens with or without us. I would rather be in the driver’s seat of that change, than in the backseat complaining about it. By being in the backseat, or in denial about change, is to be without any influence or agency on the direction your life is taking.

Here are some ways start a conversation with your new friend: Change

1. Name it. Address how you feel about whatever change is in front of you. If you are anxious, excited, angry… name your feelings. This allows you to work with what is and where you are. Denying our feelings make them stronger. It is like throwing gasoline on a fire instead of water. Pain and fear don’t dissipate until they are seen and are acknowledged.

2. Be Kind. Be kind to yourself and be patient in looking at where you are and how you are feeling about it. This is not a time to judge ourselves but simply notice with compassion. As an example: I am angry that my hours were cut and frightened I can’t pay my bills. Talk to yourself as you would a friend. You would not berate a friend in hard times so don’t do it to yourself.

3. Be Curious and Creative. These go hand in hand here. Being curious invites us to look at our limits in a creative way. We get curious about the nature of that limit, what about that limit do we control? Curiosity is the best way to approach change and adversity to see your way out. Being creative brings us to problem solving, looking for resources, thinking outside the box of possibilities. In brainstorming, there are no bad ideas. The more the better. Evaluation comes later but just filling a page of ideas and possible solutions is freeing and opens you up to new ways of thinking, being and doing.

4. Explore it. Here is the stage of talking to trusted friends, experts and colleagues, researching, evaluating, and finding resources that can help move you from brainstorming to action. Then making a list prioritizing the best 2 or 3 options to move you in a better direction. Don’t spend too much time here or it can turn into analysis paralysis.

5. Test it. Time to try some options. In the above example of lost hours, maybe one solution would be to do a remote side hustle online in customer service or consulting or with Instacart to tide you over in the bills department until you find something more sustainable. Maybe it is to invite in a roommate, cut out some media services, or get less take-out. Small changes add up just reducing the times a week you order out from 4 to 2 at say 10 a meal adds up. Instead of spending $2,008 a year on takeout you would be spending $1,004. Small changes over time net large results in our life.

We humans hate change, I get that. I am a Professional Life Coach who shepherds’ folks through the process of big and small life changes daily. It is hard, it is messy and fraught with uncertainty- but the rewards are immense. The reward is living a life with passion and purpose- Cheers Kyra

For more information about my coaching go to Trueroadtraveler.com.

 

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Stressed Out

We live in a crazy, busy, and chaotic world. We also live in an abundant, nurturing and rich world. What we expect to see, is what we see. If we expect to see something different, we then see that. All of these world conditions exist, and many we can create. What do I mean? That our lives are a combination of what happens around us, which we have no control over, and what our reactions are, which we do have control over. Think of a traffic jam: there is the traffic jam, then how we react to that traffic jam. Being able to manage parts of our lives to invite calm, joy and lightness can be done.

We know that high levels of stress can contribute to most major illnesses and risk factors for them, like heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, weight gain, sleeplessness, and the list goes on. We also know stress is a naturally occurring phenomenon for protection in our DNA. When a caveman met up with any unknown it was generally life or death. Very little of our unknowns are life or death: the darkness has no saber tooth tigers waiting for us. We are still surrounded by unknowns and they still can trigger anxiety and stress, but we have to evolve to manage the triggers differently if we don’t want to live with chronic stress, burnout and depression.

Being able to stop and identify what is going on in our bodies when we do not feel well is our first step of finding what triggered our stress. I notice where stress articulates itself in my body: is my stomach flippy, am I wearing my shoulders like earrings? Turns out walking around looking like Nixon with my shoulders around my ears is a sign I am stressed. We all carry stress in different places: some folks clench their fists, while others have lower back pain. I always find it interesting how our bodies are reflective in poetic ways of what we feel. Those whose shoulders jack up to their ears might feel like the weight of the world or their world is on them. Those with stomach problems feel gutted or carved out, lower back pain can be someone who feels unsupported, balling our fists means we are readying for a fight. Our mental state is connected to our physical state: always the somatic ties of body to mind and soul.

Once we have identified the first signs of stress in our bodies we can trace it back to the triggers. What caused my reaction? What just happened in the last minute, hour, or day that I can trace back to the person, the feeling, the situation that started me feeling stressed? This is about pulling that thread of conversation, of action that brought us from feeling okey-dokey to uh-oh. As an example, I am in a hurry and I hit a traffic jam, my blood pressure goes up, I am feeling my stomach go wonky and my shoulders are at ear level. I take notice of what I am feeling; I identify those feelings as feeling overwhelmed and powerless in that moment. I make note of what I’m feeling and then later I can reflect back to other times I was stressed: were these themes there? Or were there other themes? Do I see patterns to what triggers my stress? Do I see patterns to how I react to the stress? I start to think like a researcher, like an anthropologist studying me. I try to be neutral and curious and look at what is happening without judgment.

Knowledge is power. The act of identifying our patterns and triggers, then maybe the whys of those feelings, help us to look for ways to minimize our stress. Minimizing our stress comes in many forms but the root of each lives within our locus of control. Going back to the traffic jam example, I start with the knowledge that traffic tends to make me feel overwhelmed and powerless. Then I begin with solving the lowest and simplest form of the physical problem here. Can I remove myself from this stimulus, the traffic? Can I be flexible with my schedule to minimize the times I am in traffic jams? That can lead me to tweak my schedule, the route I take, public transportation, etc. If I cannot remove myself from this traffic, can I come at this problem another way? If I am stuck with the traffic, how can I make it better? If I am struck in the car for commutes, what can I do to make that trip more enjoyable? I then can look at how I am seeing this “stuck” time in the car and take my feelings of powerlessness and create some choices for myself. Can I make my trip better with audio books, music, pod casts, ride sharing with others, learn a language, daydreaming etc.? I can choose to see this traffic jam as a time for me time, quiet time, learning time. I cannot control what happens outside of my car but my choices in my behavior and how I use my time I can control. Long-term I can find a different and more permanent solution perhaps if this is a huge part of the anxiety and stress in my life.

I step-by-step problem-solve by thinking critically about the physical, emotional, and psychological aspects of my stress triggers, and I can also bring in friends who do this well and chat over wine, coffee or tequila. I can also pull apart the mental aspects of what stresses me. For example what expectations I had for this event, person, job, that were not met. Stress from expectations we had for something or someone is a huge stressor. Having expectations can be the building blocks for stress if we are not careful. Being flexible with what we expect helps as does communicating our expectations. Knowing our expectations are just our thoughts about what we would like to happen or what we see happening doesn’t make it so. It just makes us frustrated nobody is following what we scripted in our head. Crazy is as crazy does, especially if we have not shared that script. When those expectations are communicated and create real-life feedback and data, they are built on reality. Sometimes we need to invite in friends, counselors or life coaches to problem-solve some of these triggers and their roots. Asking for help is one sign of wisdom, so feel free to get your wisdom on.

The last place I go to in this process is what tools and practices can I use to invite in clarity, balance and wellness to my life? There is nothing I will tell you here you don’t already know. Things like taking me time, meditation, gratitude practices, journaling, exercise, healthy eating, and strong social network, doing things that we are passionate about. All of these and many other things work. The trick is you have to do them. You have to make it your wellness a priority in your life. A hammer is a tool made of a chunk of metal and wood or plastic, it does nothing. When we choose to pick it up and use it to hang a picture we have a result. If we choose to use it to build a tiny house in our backyard or make beautiful furniture we then start to master a tool through repeated use. We then derive pleasure from that tool and in our lives because of our mastery of it and what it brings to us. Picking one small tool, a practice, to help manage our daily stress though the above list moves us toward being an active agent of change in our life. We own how we spend our days, in what frame of mind we do that, and that in return ripples out and splashes back. What we think and do have resonance with not only our world but for everyone. The abundant, crazy, nurturing, busy, rich and chaotic world waits. What are you going to do about it?

Below is my list of questions that I use to help lead me to finding ways to reduce stress. They are by no means complete or foolproof but they are a start. I hope they help!

Steps to Identify and Manage Stress

Step 1- Questions I ask myself for identifying stress in my body

  • Think back to the last time I was stressed: How did my body feel?
  • Where in my body do I first feel unwell?
  • Where do I carry my stress in my body at the end of a busy day?
  • What do I notice is different in my body after a massage, walk on beach, relaxing day?

Step 2- Questions I ask myself to identify what triggers stress for me.

  • What events, situations, feelings do I see that triggers my stress?
  • Do I see patterns to my stress triggers?
  • I am most stressed when I feel _______________
  • ____________________ always stresses me out
  • The last time someone asked me if I was stressed where was I and what was I doing?

Step 3 – Questions I ask myself to eliminate or minimize my identified stress triggers

  • What resources can I identify to help me, e.g. therapist, friends, coaches, books?
  • How can I minimize my stress triggers I have identified with critical thinking skills, problem solving techniques and resources?
  • Can I remove the stress triggers?
  • If I cannot remove the stress triggers can I improve the situation to make it more bearable?
  • What three things can I do under my control to make this situation more bearable?
  • What part do I play in setting these triggers up?
  • Can I adjust my thinking and expectations around the triggers?
  • What two small things in my thinking or behavior can I adjust to make things better?
  • Is there something I need to let go of that does not serve me around this trigger?

Step 4 Questions I ask myself to invite in clarity, balance and wellness and the action items attached

  • What tools or practices can I bring in to invite in clarity, balance and wellness?
  • What resource do I have to help me create wellness?
  • Make a list of five to ten things that make me feel good and the date the last time I did it
  • What is one thing I can add monthly/weekly /daily to my schedule that makes me feel strong?
  • What is one thing I can remove from my life that drains me?
  • What is one thing I can do daily to make me feel calm?
  • What three practices in wellness do I most want to cultivate? e.g., exercise, mediation, me time,
  • What is one tiny step for one or all of these things I could do this week?
  • What class, app, coach, friend will help me with my journey to less stress?
  • In what ways do I show that my priority is my mental, physical and emotional wellness?
Posted in Change, choices, curiosity, foundation of change, Gratitude, Happiness, humor, intent, Joy, Learning, Manifestation, mind shifts, Stress, Stressed Out, truth, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Connect the Dots

The phrase “connect the dots” can mean anything: from a game of tic-tac-toe, to running our tongues over hard pastel-colored sugar lumps on what looks like receipt paper strips, to drawing meaning from a sequences of events. All are good things, and in this instance I will not be talking about the game or the candy, but oh we know how I can go on about candy!

Looking back at our lives it is easier to connect the dots, to look at our actions, patterns and trajectory of choice and fate after some time has passed. I believe we have a few fixed dots on our path, like destiny points if you will. They are set in stone; we can get there the easy way or the hard way, that part us up to us. If you have never seen the movie Sliding Doors, they do a good job of laying out this premise of destiny points though, they don’t call them that: just points we land on in our lives no matter what choices we make, at least that was my take-away.

I believe we have some fixed points or destiny dots in our path.  I was curious if I could look back and identify some of those destiny dots thus far. I was also curious about what I see as defining moments. Defining moments are events or people that change the trajectory of our lives and leave us forever changed. Generally they lead us toward those fixed points or destiny dots to get us on our path.  These defining moments can be large or small but like a pinball game when I hit them I shot off in another direction. It was something I learned or did that made me fundamentally different, so different in fact that I would always see the world and myself differently again. Kind of a “genie out of the bottle thing”.

I took my journal and a giant cup of tea and started from childhood and slowly stepped forward. I have to say it might have been easier to start from today and go backward but lordy I have never done anything the easy way so why start now. I don’t think it matters which way you go but I think it is important to take a look regardless. Hindsight is 20/20, but looking at decades of what appeared to be meandering on the surface brought out patterns I had not seen before. What once appeared to be capricious was indeed a larger pattern and I saw themes emerge out of what felt like chaos. Why chaos? I have had at least six different careers over five states in 35 plus years and counting. I have three degrees in very different disciplines: communications / radio and TV production, electronics and circuit design, and counseling.

Pulling my lens back and seeing the longer story arch was fascinating, comforting and educational.  I highly recommend this exercise in self-reflection. I got a deeper appreciation for my journey, my learning, my fabulous mistakes and resilience. I also got a deep appreciation for those who played their part in my life, both good and bad. It gave me comfort in seeing this pattern emerge that was unknown to me. It revealed a path that had focus when there felt like none, and meaning when I sometimes felt that I was lost and flailing.  I could see I was held up with nothing but faith, intuition, and an itch to move in a certain direction regardless of what appeared on the surface to be best for me.

I had a student come up to me after class not too long ago. I had been talking about making choices on how to live and not to letting those life choices be made by inaction or other people. I had shared that, a month after receiving tenure as a school counselor I gave notice to move from NY to CA, a place that had terrible statistics for school counselors, and this was at the start of a recession. I did it none–the–less. The student found it inspiring that I followed my gut, my passion. And with patience, grace and a lot of faith, I landed in a job and a place I loved like no other. I also landed a life I would not have seen coming, ever, ever, ever… I advocate that sometimes we just have to be brave and jump. I told her I could be a cautionary tale for some in how I lived my life, but she told me it gave her license to think bigger, be braver, and trust herself more. That is always good.

So I invite you to step back and take a look at your destiny dots, things that make you think, “ah so this is what all those random acts lead me to.” Go back and look at those defining moments, the events, people and things that left you forever changed and see if they move you to or away from the fixed dots of destiny. Look at the long game. The longer learnings, where you had to be beaten over the head over and over with the same life lesson until you learned it. Those can be hard to look at, but what shines through are the grace, humility, tenaciousness and resolve we possess in the face of change, challenge and cheap candy. Go ahead and connect the dots and see where it takes you.

Posted in candy, choices, curiosity, Faith, foundation of change, Health and Wellness, humor, intent, Learning, mind shifts, truth, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Joy

I have spent some time thinking about what happy feels like versus joyful. They feel different. I believe they come from different places, and our ability to increase them in our lives might be done differently as well. Noticing where and how they occur in my life was the first step to understanding the components, factors and juju involved.

Happy is good. I think happy is something that happens based on my response to external factors and how I choose to see them. My choice in how I see them is based on my biases, expectations and internal rules of the road. What I mean is those factors help grow or inhibit my happiness. An ability to see the silver linings, see set-backs as opportunities for growth or learning instead of a perceived failure, are some of those factors. The sense of play that can be teased out of almost any situation and grow a culture in it with friends and family is another component. Like attracts like, so if I only see rude people, or misery, it is a reflection of where I am in life, and if I see humor and kindness more than anything then I am reflecting that. This does not mean that I dismiss the ugly things that happen but I look to the learning, the action towards helping, the meaning and move toward the solution and underlying causes rather than focus solely on the problem.

Happiness feels more external in my response and reaction to the world, with how I focus my lenses in life. I can grow it by my actions, by my gratitude and practices. Things like exercise, meditation, naps, time with friends and being alone to play and reflect help cultivate the happy gene. One major factor science shows us is time in nature, even 20-30 minutes a week in nature, helps alleviate stress and enforce well-being. All of these factors and components we choose to build in our lives help us to cultivate happiness.

Let’s break this down more in the practical sense:  Make a list of five things you love to do. They can be small like taking a nap, or larger like travel, it doesn’t matter just make note. Then next to each thing write when was the last time you did it, and if you have to estimate it do that. Then notice how often you invite things in your life that make you happy. Notice if you make time for things you have passion for. Look at the reasons you have not made time, created space. Even risked looking foolish to try something you haven’t done in years. Don’t judge just notice, and then decide what one small thing you can do this week. Then plan when, put it in your calendar, tell someone so you are accountable or better yet invite them along. Then go do it. Then do another, and another… as a practice it take motion, emotion and reflection and repeating the cycle.

So what about joy? Joy feels very different to me. Joy wells up from inside like a huge warm wave of love, being one with the world, of appreciation and feeling whole. It is a soul connection and an inside job for sure. We in a moment of observation, reflection or happenstance are swept away in emotion that brings tears to our eyes. It is connection to source, to light, to love that wells up from our roots and fills us in awe and peace.

Increasing joy has been a tougher nut to crack. I think because a small part of it is driven by the external factors but mostly it feels organic and out of control, a little like a 7th grade science project with a volcano bubbling out on the linoleum floor. It comes from our relationship to ourselves, to self-love and connection. Happy sets the stage for joy; it creates practices that raise our mood, our vibration and wellness. It creates an atmosphere where we notice miracles, great wonders and love all around us. Then we feel joyful, we feel connected.

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”
Jalaluddin Mevlana Rumi

Living from our soul, our light and our love means being willing to look foolish, leaving fear behind, and opening to the world. It is wholehearted living, being vulnerable and willing to suspend judgement and listen. It is lightening our load by dropping expectations, being in the moment and appreciating deeply the gift of life, those around us and opportunities we have. It is about helping others to achieve their dreams and us living ours if only by simple acts of kindness, compassion and play.

So we start with happy and graduate into joyful in our practices. Find ways to let things go, to not judge yourself and others too harshly, find things that make you feel good, loved, successful, peaceful and full of purpose. Make connection to those you love and build moments of laughter and memories. As the holidays are bounding in, be mindful of how you want to spend them. How do you want to be during them, what actions, words and behaviors are going to define you? What are you going to give to this one beautiful life as you go tripping through it? Pay attention, notice, look for the love, laughter and build your joy bank for short days and long nights. Choose love, choose light, choose something decadent or funny or uplifting and bring along everyone around you for the journey. Cheers and make mine a nog!

Posted in Being Open, celebrate, Change, choices, Gratitude, Happiness, Health and Wellness, holidays, intent, Joy, Learning, mind shifts, Play, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Take it Easy

I probably have ten to fifteen conversations about over-thinking with clients, students, co-workers, friends and myself at least weekly. That number might be on the low end really… What does this mean? It means over analyzing everything; living in our heads; editing our action based on what we think others will want, will judge us harshly for; trying to find the “right” answer, path, choice; any and all of the above. We crunch on things over and over: what did that remark, look, tone, gesture mean? We get stuck in loops in our heads playing out scenarios, playing detective, projecting, constructing myths. All that is just fiction, myth and ego— plays all written with fear. Based on these fears we sometimes choose our actions, our beliefs and our lives.

We have control over what we think. Sometimes it does not feel like that, but it is true. We default to revisiting or playing tapes in our heads and we feel compelled to stay there. Instead of listening to what someone is telling us we choose to focus on what they think of us: do they like us? Should we talk? Should we express our needs and wants? We edit our actions based on whether we believe they will be received well. We edit ourselves to fit accepted molds and stereo-types we have seen. We edit ourselves to be liked and loved, to be valued or just not to be shunned. This editing only makes us smaller. It does not make us better, more worthy, more loveable. It creates a persona we put on like a bad ill-fitting coat we don as we walk through life.

Stopping the loop, the crunching on data can be difficult. It takes practice to reach for a better thought, creating a practice of redirecting our thoughts to the present and now, instead of the past or future.  Recognizing we are spiraling and caught in that crazy loop is the first step. Pulling back, knowing we are over-thinking and in our head helps us choose something better.

“Don’t let the sounds of your own wheels make you crazy” – Jackson Browne and Glen Frey

The sounds of our own wheels, our own fears, our own thoughts, spin around and around in our heads getting distorted and mythicized. This is the crazy-making process we indulge. Having a bag of tricks to pull tools from to halt over-thinking and stop the chatter is key. Paying attention to the things that self soothe, things that make us feel better, more sane, grounded and lighter. Coming out of obsessive thought is a practice consisting of reaching for a better thought and stopping the flow downward. Of doing instead of thinking. Of letting go and letting God, The Giant Space Monkey, The Void, Chance, or whoever we believe in, take over.

Years ago my sister Chris said to me, “Your head is like a bad neighborhood, you can’t spend too much time there alone. It’s dangerous.” Though she has reported I said that to her we have co-writing credit, like Browne and Frey I guess.  Learning to extract myself from my bad neighborhood of over-thinking and practicing doing it regularly has given me an arsenal of tips, tricks and tools. Most of them work most of the time, sometimes none in the moment but always over time.

Here are a few things I do to try getting my brain unstuck.

  • Take a short walk and only focus on my senses. If I can’t see it, smell it, feel it, taste it, hear it, I can’t think about it. I try to immerse myself in my surroundings.
  • Recognize I am doing over-thinking and take a breath and move onto a better thought.
  • Do something that I have to concentrate on that requires my full attention like cooking, painting, writing, Pilates.
  • Call someone who makes me laugh.
  • Watch or read a comfort movie or book that helps me shift my perspective for the better.

Things I don’t do because they exacerbate the voices or my crazy are equally important

  • Journal, it seems in the moment to give more voice to the voices in my head and gives them a bigger stage to obsess on.
  • Drink alcohol, it is a depressant and just grows monsters
  • Sit still
  • Eat
  • Call someone and go over and over and over whatever I am obsessing about for the billionth time
  • Look at “evidence” in old journals, emails, photos, social media, etc…
  • Looking backward or forward is bad, bad, bad in this instance

I do my best to remember this is a practice, a process and a way of choosing to be in the world. By stepping away from my mental monsters and behaviors of over-thinking, editing, and justifying I can break the negative flow. It is taking steps toward doing, being and playing more. It is not letting the sound of my own wheels make me crazy and learning to just take it easy.

Posted in Change, choices, Fear, foundation of change, Health and Wellness, intent, mind shifts, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment