Featured post

10 Ways Nature Helps Your Well-Being

Photo by Wil Stewart on Unsplash

Photo by Wil Stewart on Unsplash

“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir

 

Who doesn’t enjoy a walk outdoors in nature? The fact that nature settings are less and less accessible to those who live in cities should be concerning, especially with respect to overall health and well-being. The fact is, however, that continuing research shows nature has multiple benefits for your well-being.

More than 50 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas and that proportion is projected to increase to 70 percent by 2050. Despite many benefits of urbanization, studies show that the mental health of urban dwellers is negatively affected by their city environment, with greater prevalence of anxiety and mood disorders and an increasing incidence of schizophrenia. Finding that bit of green space in cities or spending time in nature visiting rural areas may do more than provide a temporary escape from concrete, steel and glass. Furthermore, nature activities greatly help in fighting stress, as this handy resource guide shows.

Being in nature improves creativity and problem-solving.

Ever been stumped, hit a wall, unable to arrive at a well-reasoned decision? Most people have, at one time or another. It isn’t coincidence that talking time out to be in nature can result in a subsequent creativity surge and/or the sudden realization of a workable solution. Beyond that, according to 2012 research published in PLoS One, there is a cognitive advantage that accrues from spending time in a natural environment. Other research published in Landscape and Urban Planning found that complex working memory span improved and a decrease in anxiety and rumination resulted from exposure to natural green space.

Individuals with depression may benefit by interacting with nature.

Research published in the Journal of Affective Disorders in 2012 suggested that individuals with major depressive disorder who engaged in 50-minute walks in a natural setting showed significant memory span increases compared to study participants who walked in an urban setting. That participants also showed increases in mood was noted, the effects were not found to be correlated with memory, leading researchers to suggest that other mechanisms or replication of previous work may be involved.

Reductions in anxiety levels may result from green exercise.

While exercise is nearly universally recommended as a means of improving overall health and well-being, the benefits of green exercise have recently been studied relative to how such activity reduces levels of anxiety. Researchers found that green exercise produced moderate short-term reductions in anxiety, and found that for participants who believed they were exercising in more natural environments, the levels of reduction in anxiety were even greater.

Urban and rural green space may help mitigate stress for children and the elderly.

Relief of stress is an ongoing goal for millions of Americans living in urban areas, as well as for residents of cities across the globe. For children and the elderly, access to parks, playgrounds, gardens and other green areas in cities can help improve the health of these groups vulnerable to some of the challenges of urbanization.

Reduce stress by gardening.

Gardening can produce more than food for the table or aesthetically pleasing plants and landscaping. Working in the garden is also beneficial for reducing acute stress. So says the research from Van Den Berg and Custers (2011) who found reduced levels of salivary cortisol and improved mood following gardening.

A nature walk could help your heart.

Among the many health benefits ascribed to being in nature, say scientists, is the protective mechanism that nature exerts on cardiovascular function. This is due to the association between improved affect and heat reduction from natural environments in urban areas. Other research found that walks in nature reduce blood pressure, adrenaline and noradrenaline and that such protective effects remain after the nature walk concludes. Japanese researchers in a study published in 2011 suggested that habitual walks in a forest environment benefit cardiovascular and metabolic parameters. Another Japanese study of middle-aged males engaging in forest bathing found significantly reduced pulse rate and urinary adrenaline, as well as significantly increased scores for vigor and reduced scores for depression, anxiety, confusion and fatigue.

Mood and self-esteem improve after green exercise.

A 2012 study published in Perspectives in Public Health found that study participants, all of whom experienced mental health issues, engaging in exercise in nature activities showed significant improvements in self-esteem and mood levels. Researchers suggested that combining exercise, social components and nature in future programs may help promote mental healthcare. Research by Barton and Pretty (2010) found that both men and women experienced improvements in self-esteem following green exercise, with the greatest improvements among those with mental illness. The greatest changes in self-esteem occurred with youngest participants, with effects diminishing with age. Mood, on the other hand, showed the least amount of change with the young and the old.

Green space in a living environment increases residents’ general health perception.

Not everyone lives in a natural environment, where abundant trees and open space provide welcoming respite from everyday stress and a convenient outlet for beneficial exercise. However, the addition of thoughtfully-planned open spaces in urban environments can add to city dwellers’ perceptions of their general health. That’s according to 2006 research published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Nature can improve the quality of life for older adults.

As adults age, they often experience diminished quality of life due to medical issues and mental health concerns. In a 2015 study published in Health and Place, researchers found that nature exerts an influential and nuanced effect on the lives of older adults. They further suggested that a better understanding of how seniors experience both health and landscape will better inform methods to improve daily contact with nature that can lead to a higher quality of life for this population.

Natural environments promote women’s everyday emotional health and well-being.

Sedentary lifestyle in urban environments has been lined with poor mental health among women. Yet, it’s more than just getting up from the desk in an office environment and taking a quick walk that works best to augment overall emotional health and well-being. There’s increasing evidence that public access to natural environments helps women to alleviate stress and anxiety and facilitate clarity, reassurance and emotional perspective.

 

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Related Posts:

Combat Stress With Mindful Walking

10 Ways Stress Harms You

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10 Proactive Ways to Figure Out What’s Most Important to You

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Life offers infinite variety, along with myriad challenges and opportunities. It’s easy to get lost in indecision with so many choices. You want success, yet wonder if you’re on the right path. You’d like to have balance in your life, but there are so many conflicts that you often find yourself spending energy too much in one direction.

What’s happening here is a lack of prioritization, of figuring out what in life is most important to you — and then acting upon it. While not life-threatening, a failure to identify what is most meaningful to you can erode your quality of living. To ensure that you have the most opportunities to live a full, happy and productive life, you must zero in on your key priorities. Here are some ways to do just that.

Identify the most important people in your life.

When you care about someone, they are important to you. Sometimes, however, we take loved ones, family members, friends and coworkers for granted. This does both them and us a disservice. By listing the most important people in your life, you make a conscious effort to recognize and value these meaningful relationships. Since man is a gregarious creature by nature, tending to those closest to you is a practical, effective way to make the most out of life.

Think about what you most enjoy doing.

For some, it may be arranging floral displays, trying out new recipes, walking at sunset with a loved one. Others may most enjoy sports and recreational activities, or reading books, listening to music, participating in spirited debates. Whatever you most enjoy doing is obviously important to you. It is more than passing time or relaxing. If you take the time to identify what you like doing the most, you are more likely to make room in your life to take advantage of those opportunities. In the process, besides identifying what is most important to you, you will also be acting upon that knowledge.

What qualities, skills or talents do you have?

Looking back at your life, what qualities, skills or talents would you say you have? When you were a kid, for example, were you great at marbles, ping pong, sledding, multiplication tables, spelling bees? Did you find you excelled in science or English or math? Are you skilled in carpentry, landscape design, building things, figuring out how to fix what goes wrong? Do you lose yourself in artistic expression, creating something from nothing? There is a strong likelihood that what is most important to you is deeply embedded in these qualities, skills and talents.

List your highest achievements and accomplishments.

In line with analyzing what you believe you do best, take some time to jot down the successes you’ve had. It doesn’t matter if it’s a huge accomplishment or something minor. What does matter is the feeling the result gave you. When you are proud and excited about your accomplishments, you experience joy and satisfaction in life. It is also a good hint that these are important to you.

Ask your friends, loved ones and family members to list your best qualities.

You might think you know your best qualities or strengths, but you might over- or underestimate what you’re good at. Besides, you are not very objective when it comes to self-analysis. That’s why asking those who know you best what they believe are your best qualities is illuminating. You might discover, for example, that you possess keen analytic ability, something you haven’t tapped or put to effective use. Maybe it’s your compassion that is most impressive. Or, the fact that you listen well and are supportive of others in a way that’s empowering and uplifting. Once you know what these qualities are, you can decide what, if anything, you want to do to take advantage of them. There is something here that is important to you. Perhaps asking others to help you identify them is a painless way to figure this out.

While it might be challenging, you don’t have to sacrifice a goal because it’s too difficult.

One of the saddest things to witness is someone giving up just as they are about to reach their goal. We’ve all done this, not that it’s anything we like to admit. Granted, some goals are incredibly challenging. They’re difficult, expensive, take an inordinate amount of time, or require resources and allies that are hard to come by. The secret to holding fast to a goal that seems out of reach is to parcel it into pieces. Take it apart and identify stages or steps. By focusing on the next stage instead of the end goal, it’s easier to make the effort necessary to see this phase through. Over time, you’ll pass through various stages on the way to the goal. That’s how you achieve even the most challenging goal.

You can still pursue your dreams and make ends meet.

Maybe you find yourself stuck in a job you don’t like. You took it because you needed the money and stick with it because things haven’t changed financially, or because you can’t see a way forward. It’s time to ditch this dead-end thinking and map out a plan to make changes that allow you to both pursue your dreams and take care of your financial responsibilities. It may be that you decide to back to school to get additional training or pursue or finish a degree. What you learn in the process, the people you meet, the opportunities you are exposed to can make a profound difference in your outlook. In addition, be sure to maximize your leisure and recreational pursuits. If you love skiing, schedule some ski trips. If painting is your forte, get busy creating in the medium of your choice.

Deal constructively with the depression or anxiety and may have stood in the way of doing what you want.

Fleeting sadness or anxiety is a normal part of life. The emotions, while not without pain, can motivate us to make necessary changes. Prolonged depression or anxiousness, however, will only be alleviated with professional help. Perhaps medication and/or therapy is in order. If you find that these powerful emotions are standing in the way of doing what is most important to you in life, you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to get the help you need.

Get past the feeling that you’re not good enough.

Most of us have felt the sting of disappointment, either that we didn’t live up to our own expectations or those of someone else. Overt or covert criticism, biting or harsh comments, the gradual shifting away of friends and colleagues just adds to the sinking feeling that we’re not good enough. Yet, others don’t define us and we should never allow them to act like they can. The only way to be good enough is to believe that you are. Since no one can make you do anything and only you make the decision how to live, choose the option that’s affirmative and uplifting. Select what gives you the best likelihood of achieving the outcome you desire. Give it your utmost effort, attention and diligence. If you do the best you can do, you’ll always be good enough. In fact, you’ll be better than just good enough. You’ll be right where you want to be.

What makes you happy? Do that.

Happiness is like sunshine. It makes you feel good, envelops you in warmth, and costs nothing. Yet, how many times do you walk away from happiness and instead involve yourself in some task or activity that’s boring, uninvolving, repetitive, endless or unproductive? If you want to be happy in life, think about what makes you happy. Find a way to insert that pursuit or activity into your everyday life. It might be walking in nature, working in the garden, whipping up a culinary delight, playing with the children, making love to your partner. Whatever it is, this is something important to you, something you value highly. Be sure to do it as often as you can, with full presence of the moment and joy that you can have this experience.

 

This article was originally published on PsychCentral.

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How to Manage Your Anger

how-to-manage-your-anger-photo-sollers-unsplash

Photo by Sollers, Unsplash

Anger is a much-misunderstood emotion. While powerful and often intense, anger can also manifest itself in subtle ways. It can motivate you to act or compel you to take inappropriate action. It’s also somewhat unpredictable, in that you may not always know when you’ll get angry, not understanding the triggers. Pent-up anger can lead to physical complications such as cardiovascular disease. Learning how to manage your anger is important, especially if you’ve noticed you’re experiencing this emotion more frequently or intensely.

Slow down and listen.

Let’s say you find yourself in a discussion with a co-worker, family member or friend and it starts to get heated. Listen carefully to what the other person is saying. Instead of blurting out an angry retort, hit the pause button. Think of what you’re going to say before it comes out of your mouth. Slowing down will also help you figure out what’s behind the words — yours and the other person. If your partner feels like you’re not spending enough time with him or her, for example, you can adjust your behavior and your words to recognize this fact and do something about it.

Say hello to humor.

Laughter is a wonderful antidote to negativity and anger. It helps you put things into perspective and helps you not take yourself so seriously. When you feel like you are up to the brim with hostile thoughts and must stop yourself from saying or doing something out of anger, turn instead to lighter fare. Watch a comedy. Go to a website with humorous quotes or jokes. Be sure to avoid sarcastic humor, though, as that is counter-productive.

Put some relaxation into your life.

There’s a lot to be said for learning how to relax and how that helps you deal with anger in a much more proactive and constructive way. Whether you engage in deep breathing exercises, yoga, meditation or a walk outside in nature, putting relaxation techniques into your daily schedule will loosen you up and help soothe angry feelings.

Switch your routine or environment.

If bottleneck traffic gets you riled up, try driving alternate routes on your regular commute. If you can’t stand the mess the kids leave in the living room that greets you when you walk through the door, go in a side door. Or ask your partner or an older child to clear away the biggest piles so it isn’t so noticeable. Sometimes it’s also about changing the timing. For example, let’s say you and your spouse or partner always argue at night. This could be triggered by stress, because you’re exhausted, just looked at the mountain of bills, don’t feel well, or are anticipating an argument. Make an appointment to discuss pressing matters at a different time so that your evening can be more enjoyable and relaxing.

Change the way you think about things. Psychologists call this cognitive restructuring and it simply means reordering the way you think about things. You replace negative thoughts and words with those that are more reasonable. Instead of saying you failed and will never succeed, tell yourself that this was a disappointing result, makes you feel frustrated, but it’s not life-threatening. You will have other opportunities to succeed.

Here are some other tips:

  • Words to remove from your vocabulary (and thought processes) include “never” and “always.” These are ultimatums that back you into a corner. It’s better to give yourself some leeway.
  • Be conscious of goals. When you always have something to look forward to, it’s a little easier to look beyond an immediate emotion, such as anger. You can take the next step toward accomplishing your goals instead of stewing in anger.
  • Remind yourself to be logical. People aren’t generally out to get you and their words and actions aren’t normally vindictive. Things just happen sometimes. By reminding yourself that this is a temporary rough spot you’ll help to deflate angry feelings before they become unmanageable.

When to Worry

While you can learn how to manage anger, there are some warning signs that should be heeded. You may need help from a psychologist or other mental health professional if the following occurs:

  • Your relationships or work begin to suffer because of angry outbursts.
  • You’re afraid you might hurt others or yourself.
  • You feel like your anger is getting out of control.

 

This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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Related post:

8 Ways to Let Go of Anger

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5 Tips on How to Get Started When There’s Work to Do

5-tips-on-how-to-get-started-when-theres-work0to-do-photo-geran-de-klerk-unsplash

Photo by Geran de Klerk/Unsplash

“A feeling of aversion or attachment toward something is your clue that there’s work to be done.” – Ram Dass

 

Ever wake up with a feeling of dread about some project or task you’ve got on your list of things to do today? This is a common feeling that no one likes but must learn how to deal with. There are also times when the opposite is true. Sometimes you wake up knowing what you must do today and just can’t wait to get started.

Either feeling – aversion or excitement – is a clear sign that there’s work to be done and you need to do it. The way you deal with either emotion will affect not only your motivation to keep going,

particularly when the going gets rough, but also the resulting outcome.

How can you turn dread or anticipation into action that makes sense, is effective, and allows you to feel a sense of accomplishment and increased self-esteem? Here are some tips to help get you started.

  • Take a minute to process the emotion – and don’t be overcome by it.

No doubt the prospect of diving into a mountain of tax receipts on deadline is the last thing you want to do, or you might just be so eager to get on the road on your vacation that you slip and fall out of bed. Take a minute to process whatever emotion you’re feeling before you get up. This gives your mind time to arrive at a game plan and put your thoughts in order before you need to do the work. Be aware that conflicting emotions can occur simultaneously. That’s OK. Acknowledge them, then proceed.

  • Learn to separate what’s nice from what’s necessary.

Both will not be true. You might find it pleasant to think about taking a swim in the ocean but you know that report for work demands your immediate attention. It might feel great to lounge around all day in your sweats but you’ve got clients to see, and such attire is no way to make a good impression. It’s fine to indulge yourself in thinking about what’s nice, but don’t dally. Get on with what’s necessary. The bonus here is that by dwelling briefly on what beckons gives you temporary satisfaction before you dive into the work that must be done.

Either take projects in order or arrange them according to a prioritization that works for you. Do the most difficult one first to make some headway at it, or start with some quick and easy ones you can get out of the way so that you feel a sense of making progress. Once you finish one, cross it off your list. This is a visual reminder that effort equals accomplishment.

  • If you’ve fallen behind, work out a plan that won’t overwhelm you.

Everybody gets swamped at times. Instead of tossing your hands in the air and writing off the project or task as hopeless, figure out a plan or approach that will be effective and won’t overwhelm you. This is a case where the intention to underpromise and overdeliver will pay off nicely. You’ll gradually become accustomed to the pace you’re comfortable maintaining and can better estimate the amount of time and effort specific tasks will take.

  • Recognize that work – what you do — is the best way to show who and what you are.

Another way to get started with work to be done is to keep in mind that your output is a clear way to show others who and what you are. Since no two people approach a project the same way, this shows your uniqueness, talent, decision-making ability and willingness to keep going until the job is done. You want to put forth your best efforts. This requires that you jump in and act. Perseverance, willingness to accept responsibility for your output and taking pride in your accomplishments are all part of what it takes to get the job done.

 

This article was originally published on PsychCentral.com http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2017/01/01/5-tips-on-how-to-get-started-when-theres-work-to-do/

 

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10 Ways to Make Mondays Better

How to Be Flexible With Your Perceptions

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How to Be Even More Effective

Success Means You Make Things Happen

 

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10 Tips to Start the New Year Right

10-tips-to-start-the-new-year-right-photo-by-tim-marshall-unsplash

Photo by Tim Marshall/Unsplash

It’s 2017, time to get off on the right foot. All the procrastination, stuffing yourself, indulging to excess, staying up too late – that’s got to go. Replace those bad habits and pure laziness with healthier behaviors.

Trust me. It’s not that difficult.

If you want to jumpstart a pattern of living life to the fullest, feeling joy and fulfilment as well as peace, some of these tips may be just what you need.

Set Your Priorities

You must set your own priorities. Never let others do this for you. The corollary to this advice is to never allow others to impose their priorities on you. To live according to someone else’s wishes is no way to enjoy life. That’s a charade, not something you want to pursue. When you make your own choices, prioritizing what’s important and what’s not, you’re in control. This is a top recommendation for starting off the new year right.

Be Accountable

Remember that what you do has consequences. Every word and action you take has reverberations, many of which you may never know about. People look up to you and model their behaviors after yours. Live with integrity, owning your responsibilities as well as your faults, making good on the mistakes you’ve made.

Prize Self-Improvement

Make it a point to continually improve. Whether it’s learning a new skill, taking a class, getting involved in a hobby, working on interpersonal communication or something else, self-improvement is integral to living a vibrant, purposeful life. The goal is to achieve the best you can, to be the best person you can be. Accept nothing less.

Know Your Limitations

In your drive to improve yourself, keep in mind that you must know your limitations. This doesn’t mean that you don’t push past your comfort zone. You need to do that to grow. Push, but not too far.

Recognize Opportunities

You can train yourself to recognize opportunities. In fact, being able to identify an opportunity is the first step toward success in any new endeavor.

Rely on Your Strengths

There are going to be rough times, periods when the only thing you’ve got going for you is your inner strength. This is what you call on to get you through problems, tragedies, pain, sorrow and suffering. It’s also your inner strength that will help you navigate complex situations, difficult challenges and obstacles.

Maintain Balance

It’s important to maintain a sense of balance in life. If you veer too far out in one area, rein it in. It doesn’t matter if its work-home balance, or diet-exercise-sleep balance, or another kind of balance. What does matter is keeping things in harmony. Lack of sleep and pushing yourself mercilessly won’t result in success. Just the opposite, in fact. But maintaining good self-care, recognizing stress and employing adequate coping strategies, taking time for fun and relaxation – these will help you maintain balance. Now’s as good a time as any to get started.

Be Genuine in Relationships

One of the most powerful resources you have can be summed up in one word: relationships. But just having mere acquaintances isn’t enough. To gain the most from relationships, you need to be genuine always. No phoning it in. A key aspect of being genuine is learning to be an active listener.

Speak Clearly

How many times have you thought one thing and said another? It’s no wonder others misinterpret your intentions. You’re not being clear. People aren’t mind readers. If you want to convey something, speak clearly. It’s also important to say what you mean and do what you say. This builds personal integrity, inspires trust and makes others view you as reliable.

Dream Big

If you’ve given up on something that you once thought important, maybe it’s time to revisit that dream or goal. Just because the time wasn’t right before doesn’t mean it is lost for good. With respect to goals and dreams in general, dare to dream big. Nothing inspires and motivates like a heartfelt goal. Consider the fact that if it means so much to you, it’s something to aspire to and figure out ways to bring the dream or goal to reality. This last part is vital. It’s not enough to dream. You must be willing to act on your intention.

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Related articles:

5 Ways to Find Peace of Mind

10 Quick Ways to Take a Much-Needed Break

10 Ways Stress Harms You

Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of Is You

 

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10 Ways Lies Hurt You

 

Photo by Matt Sclarandis/Unsplash

Photo by Matt Sclarandis/Unsplash

Who hasn’t told a lie from time to time? Maybe just a half-truth, but still a falsehood? Whether you’ve learned from experience that lying gets you ahead or destroys what you thought you had, lying will always have a profound effect. What you may not realize, however, is just how negatively lies and lying are. Here’s a look at 10 ways lies hurt you.

  1. The more you lie, the easier it gets.

Like a sled rocketing down an icy slope, repeated lies begin to spew out of your mouth without any effort. You’ve gotten away with it, suffered no ill consequences and have no governor on your tongue to keep your lying at bay. After a short time, it’s just easier to lie than tell the truth.

  1. The more you lie, the bigger the lies you tell.

What begins as a small lie never stays that way. One lie begets a slew of offspring, sometimes related, often just hanging around like ill-tempered friends. Think of a lie as a snowball, first small and accumulating in size as it rolls downhill. It’s also impossible to make a lie smaller once it’s begun to grow. Thus, the more lies you tell, the bigger they get.

  1. Lies destroy relationships.

No relationship can flourish on a foundation of lies. If you can’t rely upon a partner, loved one, close friend or co-worker to tell the truth, how can you put your trust in that person? When you know someone is a liar, it creates a chasm across which you’re increasingly reluctant to travel. In the wake of lies, relationships founder and fail or become quashed before they have a chance to begin.

  1. Lies trigger the release of stress hormones.

A lie isn’t just words that come out of the mouth. Precipitating the verbalization of the lie is a build-up of stress hormones. You get excited, releasing cortisol and readying you to combat the effects your lies might create. Long-term spikes in cortisol are bad for your health, creating a perfect stage for developing serious medical conditions.

  1. Lying uses a lot of negative physical and mental energy.

When you lie, you must constantly think of how to spin it, where there’s a nugget that others may cling to, how much they’ll be able to buy before beginning to question the veracity, how to keep others from finding out the truth. In short, it takes a tremendous amount of physical and mental energy to construct this negative and elaborate form of communication. That’s energy better spent doing positive things.

  1. Constant lying builds a false sense of reality.

It doesn’t take much time at all for you to begin to believe your own web of lies. In fact, the reality you inhabit is false. It just seems real to you. The more you lie, the more out of touch with reality your life becomes. You may not even recognize the truth anymore, let alone voice it – even to yourself.

  1. Lying creates a vicious cycle.

It’s often been said that once a lie is out of your mouth, there’s no putting it back. What’s also true is that lying sets into motion a vicious cycle. To exist, knowing that you’ve lied repeatedly, you must perpetuate the lie, rigidly adhere to it despite all proof to the contrary. Lying is a spiral that is nearly impossible to escape from.

  1. Lies are a way to avoid the pain of living.

Many people tell lies to mask the pain they feel in their lives. They don’t like that they have no or few friends, so they create imaginary friendships and boast of their connections. Pathological liars are all over social media, along with everyday fabricators who seek to maximize their made-up accomplishments to make them feel better about themselves and convince others of their superiority. This doesn’t work in the long run as constant lying is a sign of some serious deficit in the liar’s emotional well-being.

  1. You waste time covering your tracks.

While there’s much good you could be accomplishing in life, when you habitually lie, you’re going to miss out on opportunities because you spend so much time covering your tracks. This is time wasted, time you’ll never get back. It’s also increasingly impossible to cover the trail of lies you’ve told. Sooner or later, you’re going to get found out. Dreading that eventuality won’t make it go away.

  1. Lies extinguish hope and trust.

The accumulation of negativity because of lies has another life-altering effect: It destroys hope and trust. Not only is the liar incapable of trusting others or finding hope in any situation, he or she has drained all hope and trust in himself or herself. Life becomes bleak and dreary, indeed, when all there is to look forward to is a never-ending litany of lies.

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10 Tips for Less Stress During the Holidays

Photo by Toa Heftiba/Unsplash

Photo by Toa Heftiba/Unsplash

If the sounds of Christmas carols playing in the malls make you cringe, it could be you’re letting the stress of the holidays get to you. With so much to do and so little time to get it done, this seemingly-innocuous musical reminder just adds more fuel to the fire. You’re primed and ready for these 10 tips for less stress during the holidays.

  1. You Don’t Have to Do Everything

Where is it written that you must be the poster person for everything done and everything right for the holidays? If you’ve assumed this mantle willingly, now’s the time to toss it aside. It’s impossible to be perfect, so why should you pursue perfection? The biggest hurdle for you to overcome is your own self-expectations. Tell yourself – and listen so it takes hold – that you don’t have to do everything. This is the first step to much less stress this holiday season.

  1. Know Your Own Limits

You might think you’ve got everything under control, even after you’ve told yourself that you don’t have to do it all, yet you still push yourself beyond what’s realistic. When you wind up haggard and exhausted at the end of the day, don’t look forward to tomorrow’s to-do list, start shortchanging your own well-being in a constant quest to do more, you’ve got to stop. Here is where you must know your own limits and never exceed them. You’ll be tempted, but don’t succumb.

  1. Make Your Boundaries Clear

If you haven’t let others know what you will and won’t do, you need to make your boundaries clear. Let them know it’s not OK to automatically expect you to host the big holiday dinner, just because you may have done so in the past. Times change, other responsibilities may take precedence, or it’s just not equitable, besides no longer being fun. Don’t think that others can guess what your boundaries are, however, because they can’t. Most won’t want to. You must tell them.

  1. Shop Online

The best thing that ever happened with holiday shopping, in my opinion, is the ability to easily, quickly and seamlessly do almost all of it online. Free shipping, discounts, extra gifts, suggestion lists, cash for purchasing via sites like eBates.com and TopCashBack.com are all excellent for easing this type of holiday stress.

  1. Watch What You Eat

Gobbling a sandwich on the run, skipping meals, eating unhealthy snacks and eating too much are all a recipe for increased stress, if not a serious medical condition. The human body requires nourishment, not junk food. Eat sensibly, in moderate portions, at the appropriate times and regularly. Not only will you have more energy, with good self-care you’ll be better equipped to deal with the stressors you’ll encounter during the holidays.

  1. Get Some Good Shut-Eye

Just as eating too much, too little or the wrong kind of food can increase your stress level, insufficient sleep is a huge contributor to added stress. It might be tough to get 8 hours of sleep each night, especially if you wait until the last minute to wrap presents, clean the house, launder the holiday linens and make sure all the decorations are in good shape, but this is one area you can’t afford to ignore. Remember the tip about knowing your limits and not trying to do everything? When it’s time to go to bed, go. You need your sleep.

  1. Steer Clear of Alcohol

Another big culprit in holiday stress is alcoholic consumption. One drink won’t kill you and probably is fine – unless you are in recovery, do crazy things with the slightest sip of alcohol, or some other reason – but keeping up with the party-hardy folks is just going to land you in a tight spot. Maybe literally, as in handcuffs from drinking and then driving. Just say no. Drink something festive and non-alcoholic. No one will care. And this is a safe choice that will cut down on your stress level as well.

  1. Begin (or End) Each Day with Something You Enjoy

If you want to have something to look forward to, begin or end each day with something you enjoy. Maybe that’s a massage from your partner, a specially-prepared latte, a hot bath or soothing shower, listening to your favorite album, taking a mindful walk outside, working in the garden. What it is matters less than you derive pleasure from doing it. The release of endorphins you get from doing something you enjoy will dramatically reduce your stress.

  1. Enlist Help and Make It Fun

Since there’s a finite amount of time and you only have so much energy to go around, one way that you can reduce your anxiety and stress during the holidays is to ask for help. If you also make it a fun activity, there’ll be less chance others will resent the request. Furthermore, if everyone pitches in, the task or project will get done that much quicker. Be sure to let others know you’ll reciprocate. It’s more than a grand gesture. It makes them even more willing to lend a hand.

  1. Cherish the Moments

Think about what it means to you to have your loved ones and family members to spend time with this holiday season. What you take for granted, others would gladly trade places to experience. Also, time goes by quickly. The moments you cherish and share now will be loving memories later. Love is a healing balm that can magically erase stress. Be open to it and soak up every minute with those you care about.

* * *

Related articles:

Combat Stress with Mindful Walking

How Your Memory Suffers with Poor REM Sleep

Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of Is You

To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.   

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my daily blog and more.

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10 Ways to Make Mondays Better

Photo by Albert Amor/Unsplash

Photo by Albert Amor/Unsplash

No matter what you do in life, you can’t escape Mondays. You can dread them, try to avoid them, delay the inevitable by coming up with all sorts of excuses not to do what you must, but Mondays will still arrive each week like clockwork. The best you can do is figure out how to embrace them. Here are 10 ways to make Mondays better that may change your mind about this day of the week.

1. Have something to look forward to when work is done.

Nothing motivates more than the prospect of doing something enjoyable after the workday is done. What that is doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you put it in your schedule. Having fun, spending time with loved ones and friends, working on a hobby, participating in sports or a recreational activity, engaging in an educational pursuit, shopping, writing or whatever gives you a positive endpoint to your Monday that puts a lift in your step and jazzes your spirit. Mondays may even turn out to be one of your favorite days of the week. If not that, at least they’ll be more pleasant.

2. Get to work early.

Sleeping in, trying to grab the last few winks, throwing the alarm clock or jangling cellphone across the room won’t do anything to make your Mondays better. What may give you a leg up, however, is becoming an early riser — getting your legs out of bed a little earlier than usual. Go for a half-hour ahead of your normal wake time. That’s sufficient to help you gather your thoughts, prepare for the day, allow for unexpected traffic, weather or last-minute family details and get to work ready to go. Stopping for your favorite latte along the way is another reason you might want to get up earlier.

3. Go big.

Many employees put off the tough and difficult tasks until they’re smack against a deadline or the boss is banging on their door looking for answers. Another way to make Mondays better that seems counter-intuitive is to charge ahead and tackle something you know is important and demands your full attention. While it causes you to work a little harder than you probably want to first thing Monday morning, the sense of accomplishment and progress you’ll feel be getting to it is a huge boost to your self-esteem, self-confidence and overall well-being. Besides, the boss will likely take notice, and that’s always good for raising your work profile.

4. Prepare with good self-care.

If you’ve made a practice of partying until all hours from Friday night on, chances are you are still hung over or feeling the effects of such disdain for your well-being. You can turn this around by instituting good self-care. In addition to getting sufficient rest (forget the three hours of sleep; go for 8 hours), eating well-balanced meals (and no late-night snacking), cutting down on alcohol and curbing smoking, find other ways to relax, restore and rejuvenate. These include meditation, yoga or Pilates, walks in nature, listening to calming music, self-reflection and prayer. Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it. Greeting Mondays with a healthy body-mind-spirit makes the day so much better.

5. Map out time chunks.

Instead of looking at your to-do list with a grim demeanor and a sinking feeling that you’ll never get it all done, try this: map out time chunks. For example, if you have a report that’s due tomorrow, allocate one to 1-1/2 hours or so to work on it today. If it’s something critical, move everything else aside until you get it done. Set aside a half hour to tend to emails at a scheduled time, not whenever they come in. If you must answer emails from your boss, give them a priority with an alert. The point is to arrange your day in time chunks. This provides a sense of order and a schedule you can easily follow.

6. Craft a plan.

For any project or task, your best approach is to craft a plan. How will you arrive at the result you’re looking for – or that someone else demands? What resources do you need? Will you need the assistance of others? Are some elements missing? How will these items affect timing or delivery? With well-crafted plans, you’ll boost your self-confidence, knowing that you’ve taken variables into consideration and have a workable approach to pursue.

7. Take mini-breaks.

You can’t go breakneck speed without a break, not unless you want to risk crashing to a dead stop along the way. Exhaustion, physical or mental, work stress, tension, irritability, anger, disappointment and other negative effects from working nonstop will take their toll. Ward them off by the simple and quick practice of taking mini breaks throughout the day. Walk to the water fountain on the next floor. Get up and stretch. Do isometric exercises. Close your eyes and meditate. Take the stairs to your next meeting instead of the elevator. Whenever possible, walk outside instead of within the building so you get some fresh air and a different perspective.

8. Go somewhere different for lunch.

Like having something to look forward to at the end of the workday is the idea of going somewhere different for lunch. If you always brown bag it at your desk, go to a park or somewhere in your work complex to eat. If you go out for lunch only on Wednesday or Friday, switch to Monday to give your first work week day a changeup. Not only will this brighten your day, it will make it speed by.

9. Skip coffee and go for a walk.

Coffee may be a workday staple, but it doesn’t have to be a boring routine you’re locked into. For one of those times you’re headed to the coffee room or vending machine, skip the brew and indulge yourself with a brisk 10-minute walk. Outside is best, but even a walk in the building will suffice. You’re getting up and moving, always good for mental stimulation and physical exercise.

10. Celebrate all the things you accomplish.

While you’re busy working on Mondays, be sure to take the time to celebrate all the things you accomplish today. It may seem like a trivial thing, but giving yourself credit for your hard work is important to your sense of completion, tending to your responsibilities, seeing the fruit of your labors, and making progress. It also helps make Mondays better. What better way to start the work week than with a string of accomplishments?

* * *

Related articles:

10 Tips to Decrease Work Stress

5 Tips on How to Make Plans

Time-Saving Tips for Early Risers

How Do You Get Ready for the Day?

Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of Is You

* * *

To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.   

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my daily blog and more.

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Forgetful? 8 Tips to Help Memory

Photo by Stefanos Martanto Setyo Husodo/Unsplash

Photo by Stefanos Martanto Setyo Husodo/Unsplash

 

“We try many ways to be awake, but our society still keeps us forgetful. Meditation is to help us remember.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

 

The days leading up to a holiday are often filled with chores, errands and obligations. Not only do you find yourself with endless lists of things to do, but you often neglect good self-care in the process. No wonder you forget details, fail to live up to your obligations, or walk around in a fog.

Everyone has bouts of forgetfulness from time to time. It’s generally nothing serious and doesn’t linger. If forgetfulness does become persistent and begins to cause problems in your life or that of your loved ones, see a doctor to rule out any medical issue.

For the occasional memory problems, however, here are eight tips that may help.

Learn how to make and use lists.

Far from being a bother, lists are very effective in helping keep track of important tasks and goals. When you take the time to construct a list, you’re removing the burden of trying to keep too many things in your head. By eliminating this logjam, you’re freeing up memory. Listing things on paper is much simpler and more effective than juggling, and dropping, them in your head.

Get a good night’s sleep.

Lack of sleep is one of numerous causes of forgetfulness. In addition to waking up grumpy, insufficient sleep messes with your memory. You forget details, don’t remember what you told yourself the night before was important. The solution is to make it a habit to get a good 8 hours of sleep each night, more if you’re a teenager or young child.

Avoid drugs and alcohol.

As the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) warns, one of the ways alcohol affects the brain is by impairing memory. Memory deficits can occur after only a few drinks, increasing in length and severity with more drinks consumed. Binge drinking – consuming five or more drinks in about 2 hours for men, four for women – causes blackouts. These are serious episodes where you wake up and don’t remember anything from the night or day before.

Drug use, whether prescription or illicit substances, can produce similar impairment in memory. Some drugs also interact with other medications and significantly impair memory when used in combination with alcohol.

The best way to protect your memory is to avoid drugs and alcohol, especially to excess.

Meditate.

Clearing your head of all the conflicting messages can give you more than just peace of mind. It can also aid memory. For centuries, people have been practicing meditation to produce a sense of harmony and balance, as well as the calming influence it bestows. And studies have shown that mindfulness meditation helps with attention span and memory. When you meditate, you’re not shutting off all thoughts as much as you’re acknowledging them and letting them go. The resulting peace of mind disentangles those internal conflicts you felt and allows your memory to recalibrate. Also, try mindful walking to ease stress and help with memory.

Do one thing at a time.

Unless you’re a professional juggler, you can’t juggle more than one thing at a time. In a similar manner, trying to do more than one thing at a time is likely to result in a less-than-favorable outcome for both. Not only that, but you don’t focus completely on the task at hand, thus splitting your concentration and causing your memory to work overtime when it doesn’t have to. The clear solution is to do one thing at a time. Then you can move on to the next item, task, project or goal with a clear head and a sense of accomplishment.

Eliminate distractions.

How can you concentrate on a project that’s on deadline when you’ve got your social media messages flooding in, the phone’s jangling nonstop, you allow interruptions from your co-workers or seek out distractions to keep you from tending to the job? In addition to wreaking havoc with a work, school or home assignment or duty, constant distractions produce a confusing effect that’s bad for your memory. When you eliminate distractions, however, you facilitate full use of your mind without overtaxing it.

Make use of reminders.

Sticky notes, post-its, alerts, reminder calls and emails are a great way to keep from forgetting important things. There’s nothing wrong with using these to ensure you never miss what must be done. That way, even if you didn’t get enough sleep last night, are ill, overstressed, had too much to drink or too much on your to-do list, you’ll have a ready reminder at hand.

Take time to relax.

Not only do you not want to be that dull boy (“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”), but you want to have quality time for yourself. This means making sure that you take time to relax. Whether the relaxation takes the form of a hobby, walking outdoors, going to a movie with a friend, shopping, recreational activity or sport doesn’t matter. You and your memory need some downtime, time that you spend doing something you enjoy.

* * *

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Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my daily blog and more.

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10 Tips to Decrease Work Stress

Photo by Kristopher Allison/Unsplash

Photo by Kristopher Allison/Unsplash

Are you stressed to the max at work? Feel like you can’t catch a break no matter how hard you try? The truth is that work stress will kill you if you don’t do something about it. But what should you do? Here are 10 tips to decrease work stress you can begin today.

Figure out what’s causing you stress.

Before you can begin to decrease work stress, it’s helpful to know what it is that’s causing you to be stressed in the first place. Are you taking on too many projects at once? Is your boss expecting too much from you and have you not mentioned any limitations to what you can reasonably do to him or her?

By analyzing what bothers you at work, you’ll be better able to pinpoint ways to effectively deal with the stressor. If, for example, you’re overworked, you must carve out some of those responsibilities and either delegate them or reduce them.

Your supervisor will be a great help in this area, although it might be tough to broach the subject. Construct a proactive approach. If you let your boss know that you’ll be able to finish X project within deadline if Y and Z are either delayed, assigned to a different person or team, or can be consolidated, he or she may be amenable to making some changes.

Take regular breaks.

Working non-stop is going to wear you down, increase stress and make you miserable. The only way out of this dilemma is to institute a practice of taking regular breaks. Even if you only get a 10-minute break in the morning and afternoon, you can still stand up and walk around at regular intervals.

Instead of staring at a computer screen for hours on end, avert your eyes and gaze outdoors once an hour. These mini-breaks help you compartmentalize what you were doing and provide a buffer so that stress doesn’t exact too great a toll.

Cut down on tasks.

When your to-do list starts to resemble a phone book, you’ve got too much to handle. No human being can possibly tend to an overwhelming number of tasks, not to mention the unnecessary stress such an accumulation tends to produce.

The quickest and perhaps the only way around this is to simply cut down on the number of tasks. Streamline the entries, combining similar ones and deleting, delegating or deciding others. For example, if you have 30 tasks listed, see how many are necessary and which ones are perhaps holdover items no longer relevant. Cut the list in half. That’s a good start. Shedding this amount of weight will lighten your load and help to decrease work stress.

Prioritize what’s necessary.

No doubt there are some work items that need to rank high on your to-do list. Your boss may demand action on a project, or you’re the head of a team working on a hot development. Some are time-sensitive, while others require the assistance of others only available for a certain period.

But there are also other items on your to-do list that don’t require immediate action. They may be better suited to a lower ranking on the list or even deserve their own list of tasks and projects for when there’s a lull.

Mark each item on the list in numerical order, with #1 being the most important and requiring prompt attention. You might even color code those items in the top five, assigning different colors to those further down the ranking of priority.

By prioritizing things, you exert control over what and when you intend to work on them. This alone will reduce the type of stress that often goes together with work-related duties and responsibilities.

Limit distractions.

When you’re trying to work on a task or project, listening to your co-workers’ conversations in adjacent cubicles or offices isn’t exactly conducive to productivity. Neither is having your email client notifications of incoming messages going to keep you focused on the work at hand. Constant interruptions of any kind drain your energy, scatter your attention and limit your ability to get work done.

What’s helpful is to schedule times to check emails, take or make phone calls. Turn off your email client, put the phone on silence mode and automatic answer. Tell co-workers you’re not going to be available for the next hour while you tend to an assignment. Most of all, don’t allow yourself to search for distractions to keep you from your work.

When you’re less distracted, you can concentrate on what you need to do now. This is a great way to curb stress at work and something very much in your control.

Confide in someone you trust.

When you’ve bottled all that stress inside you, you feel like you’re going to burst. That’s not a pleasant feeling and it won’t go away on its own. A huge help is finding someone you trust that you can confide in. This doesn’t mean you do a dump of everything on your mind. That will just succeed in exhausting you and your confidante. Maybe talk about the biggest thing that’s bothering you, the one causing you the most stress.

Also, be aware that you can go to the well too often. Instead of abusing your relationship with too many instances of crying the blues, balance your time with that person by doing other things. Ask about his or her problems and listen without jumping in to talk about your own.

Sometimes it’s enough that you have someone you can go to and talk over things. It isn’t always necessary to dwell on them when you’re with that person.

Meditate or try yoga.

You don’t have to be spiritual to get value from meditating. Think of meditation to get in touch with your inner self, whatever that concept means to you. Through the practice of meditation, you’re not forcing items out of your mind as much as you’re acknowledging their presence and then allowing them to dissipate. This is a huge boost in reducing work stress. You can take classes to learn how to meditate or teach yourself with the help of books, tapes and information on meditation websites.

Another way to decrease work stress is to practice yoga. Again, there are classes you can take to learn yoga as well as self-help instruction. There are numerous types of yoga, so you can check out what resonates with you.

Eat well and sleep better.

Too much stress at work also wreaks havoc on your health in other ways. You tend to eat inappropriate foods, eat too much or fail to eat altogether. You’re also likely to toss and turn at night, mind racing over things left undone at work, remembering something you should have done but didn’t, endlessly going over in your mind what’s on tap for tomorrow.

A key part of your quest to decrease work stress begins at home. You need good self-care: to eat well-balanced, nutritious meals and get a good eight hours of sleep each night. There’s no getting around the fact that your body requires adequate nutrition and rest to function properly. This includes the ability to fight the cumulative effects of stress.

Start to exercise.

You might think that scheduling time for exercise has no place in your busy life, especially given all your work responsibilities. Who has an hour to devote to something that doesn’t lighten your work load? When you exercise, your energy levels get a boost, your mood lightens, and you’re better able to channel the anxiety and stress you feel at work.

Furthermore, after a quick, brisk walk, riding an exercise bike or working the treadmill – or any other vigorous physical exercise that gets your blood flowing, heart rate increasing and oxygen coursing throughout your body – you’ll likely return to the task at hand with greater focus and a resulting increase in productivity.

Enjoy a recreational activity or hobby.

All work and no play is bad for your health. If you’re so caught up in work projects that you never have time to do things you enjoy, your life is seriously out of balance. It’s time to remedy that by figuring out something you can do away from work that, well, takes your mind completely away from anything related to work.

What the activity is doesn’t matter. It can be a recreational activity you do alone or with others. It can be a hobby you’ve long wanted to pursue or just discovered you have an interest in. Spending free time with friends, loved ones and family members also qualifies if this brings you a sense of contentment, love and fulfillment.

* * *

 

Related articles:

Combat Stress with Mindful Walking

10 Quick Ways to Beat Stress

Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of Is You

10 Ways Lists Rule

To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.   

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my daily blog and more.

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Are You Lonely Tonight? How to Combat Loneliness

Photo by Molly Belle/Unsplash

Photo by Molly Belle/Unsplash

 

Are you lonely tonight? Do you feel powerless about how to combat loneliness? You’re not alone. But there are things you can do about it.

 

Loneliness is a powerful emotion that can be devastating in its consequences. Being alone and isolated has been shown to be an underlying factor in some of the most common health conditions, including depression, substance abuse and chronic pain.

 

This is borne out by the findings of a recent study conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of the American Osteopathic Association. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of more than 2,000 American adults surveyed said they have felt loneliness, while nearly a third (31 percent) admitted to feeling loneliness at least once a week.

 

What Loneliness Is…And Isn’t

 

Do not confuse loneliness with being alone. You choose to be alone or solitary, sometimes to meditate or think through problems, sometimes for other reasons. Loneliness, on the other hand, is a state of mind. When you are lonely, you may feel unwanted, empty and isolated. Most lonely people desperately want contact with others but find it difficult to make connections because of their state of mind.

 

10 Effective Ways to Combat Loneliness

 

As dire as loneliness sounds, it can be overcome. Whether your loneliness is situational due to travel, business or other circumstances, or the kind that almost always accompanies the loss of a loved one or close friend, there are things you can do to combat it.

 

Get checked out. To rule out any underlying conditions, physical or mental, it’s important to get a thorough medical checkup by your doctor. This is especially true if your loneliness has spiraled downward into depression that lasts for longer than two weeks. If there is a medical reason at least contributing to your lonely feelings, your physician will be able to offer approaches to remedy the situation, perhaps with professional counseling, a prescription for medication or other treatment.

Recognize loneliness for what it is. Just saying you feel miserable isn’t going to make things change. You need to recognize that what you’re feeling is loneliness in order to make a decision to change.

Understand the effects of loneliness. Talking with your doctor and reading about the effects of loneliness will give you a clearer picture of how loneliness affects your physical and mental well-being. If you’re so lonely you don’t want to eat, for example, your physical and mental health will suffer as a result of poor nutrition. Once you know the ways loneliness is bad for you, you can concentrate on working to change those areas of your life that need attention.

Learn to be resilient. Instead of breaking under the weight of your problems and withdrawing even further into a shell of self-imposed isolation, work on cultivating resilience. Granted, this might seem impossible at first, but learning to bend with the wind and not snapped by its force will help you nurture resilience.

Adopt a positive outlook. When everything seems dark and hopeless, it might appear to be counter-intuitive to look on the bright side. Yet, when you adopt a positive outlook and see life’s possibilities instead of its negatives, you’ll find yourself more willing to go after opportunities. Furthermore, you’ll be more motivated to be with others and end your self-limiting isolation and loneliness.

Be sparing with social media. Connecting virtually with others on social media isn’t the same thing as one-on-one and face-to-face interaction. When you’re lonely, the last thing you need to do is immerse yourself on Facebook and other social networks.

In fact, studies have shown that social media addiction actually contributes to feelings of loneliness and depression. For now, go for a hiatus on using social media. At the very least, limit your time there. Get out and interact with people real-time.

Take care of yourself. When you’re lonely, you tend to ignore good self-care. You likely aren’t getting enough sleep, or the sleep you do get is fitful, interrupted, plagued by unsettling dreams. You wake feeling exhausted and even more lonely.

Sleep deprivation erodes mood, contributes to getting sick, saps energy and becomes an ingrained pattern. Along with ensuring you get sufficient, quality sleep, also work on eating healthy, drinking plenty of water, and getting a good amount of physical exercise.

Create a list of goals and plans to achieve them. Many times, when a person says they feel lonely, they also describe feeling that something is missing from their life. Spend some time to determine what that might be.

o Is it that you have no hobby or interest to devote your time to?
o Do you feel unable to make any progress in your career?
o Is the house just too empty?

Once you know what that missing piece is, you can work on finding potential solutions. Most of them, you’ll find, involve interaction with other people.

Take action. In order to stop feeling lonely, you have to take action. Sitting around the house feeling sorry for yourself is not the solution. If you identify that there’s no one in your surroundings that you can hang out with, join a club or group.
o Connect with others at work with whom you share something in common.
o Go visit your neighbors.
o Volunteer at church.

Making new friends and keeping your social calendar filled will help dispel loneliness.

Consider a pet. For some people, there’s nothing like a pet to help banish loneliness. Why is this? For one thing, pets need nurturing and attention. Along with feeding and grooming and cleaning up their mess, pets naturally gravitate toward displays of affection. They give as well as receive. As the pet’s owner, you benefit from this loving exchange. It helps you feel less lonely when you have your constant pet companion.

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Also see these articles for inspiration and uplifting messages:

7 Tips on Mastering Change
Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of is You
5 Tips on How to Make Plans
Stuck in a Rut? Tips on How to Break Free from Monotony

* * *

To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my daily blog and more.

I also invite you to like me on Facebook, facebook.com/suzannekane.net follow me on LinkedIn, on Twitter, @SuzanneKanenet and Google+ .


Featured post

How to Be Fair to Yourself

Photo by Lance Anderson/Unsplash

Photo by Lance Anderson/Unsplash

“You cannot be fair to others without first being fair to yourself.” – Vera Nazarian

 

Are you quick to criticize others? Do you find fault in the smallest things? It might be that you lash out at others to mask what you don’t like in yourself.

And that’s not fair.

It’s not fair to you most of all, because you’re capable of so much more that you’re not giving yourself credit for.

If fairness is important – and it’s a highly desirable trait – what can you do to start being fair to yourself so that you can be fair to others?

This isn’t a trick question. It does, however, deserve some careful thought.

What is Fairness?

What does it mean to be fair?

When you consider a solution to a problem, several options or approaches likely come to mind:

  • You might brainstorm and arrive at these, or they may be suggestions from trusted advisors, friends, family members, co-workers or someone else.
  • Some you might toss out immediately as unworkable, impractical, too costly or time-constraining.
  • Other ideas you may mull over for a while before deciding which category they fall into: toss, analyze further, modify or use.

When weighing the pros and cons of each possible solution, giving credence to fairness should be part of the equation. Often, however, it’s not. Instead, other considerations take precedence, such as expediency, return on investment, instant recognition, catapulting to the top or edging out someone or something else.

Ask yourself, is that fair?

Don’t Sabotage Yourself by Being Unfair

Why do people fail to give themselves a fair chance? Why have you done this? Is it because of a feeling of inferiority or that something’s lacking? Is it that you never received encouragement as a child, have a history of mistakes or failures, or never believed enough in yourself to take a chance? Any or all of these could be underlying contributors to a lack of self-fairness.

And they’re all examples of sabotaging yourself by being unfair – to you, most of all.

Steps to Take to Be Fair to Yourself

But this tendency to self-sabotage can be overcome. You can learn how to be fair to yourself. It just takes determination and practice.

  • Think first. The next time you want to take an action and think about what it is you’re going to do, take a minute to think how this proposed action is fair to you – before you proceed. Are you doing yourself justice? Are you taking advantage of strengths and abilities you possess but haven’t allowed yourself to pursue? Or, are you doing what others tell you without any thought to whether it’s fair or not? Figuring out your underlying motivation will greatly aid in your goal to be fair with yourself. You have to know what’s driving your behavior before you can change it.

 

  • Commit to self-fairness. When you insist on fairness to yourself, you’ll radiate that sense of fairness to others. Indeed, after you diligently practice fairness, you will find it easier to be fair in your dealings with others. For example, instead of demanding employees stop everything to jump on a project you deem important, you’ll consider whether this is a fair request. This means putting yourself in their position, to understand how your request affects them. If it’s not absolutely critical, you may decide to alter the due date or timetable for completion, allowing for other high priority items already on your employees’ work schedule to continue. The positive reinforcement you’ll receive from grateful employees will add to your recognition that being fair to others starts by being fair to yourself.

 

  • Put yourself first for a change. Often, you’re the last person on your list. Everyone else’s needs are tended to before you even think about taking care of your own. That’s definitely not conducive to overall well-being. In fact, it sets you up for disappointment, increased tension and stress, and a general malaise and dissatisfaction with life. On the other hand, when you take your own needs into consideration, in conjunction with or ahead of those you know you need to attend to, you’re inserting balance into your life. After all, you need to do what’s right for you in order that you can do right for others.

 

  • Model fairness to others. Be a leader who models fairness. This type of leadership is inspirational and motivational. When you show others that fairness is important in all dealings, and being fair to yourself is part of that, you’ll be demonstrating an admirable trait of effective leaders. If you need any help with this, take a lesson from some of the world’s most respected leaders, from Winston Churchill to John F. Kennedy to Mother Teresa. They not only knew what was fair, they embodied fairness. Others, seeing such leadership, were inspired to insist on fairness in their own lives.

At the heart of living a vibrant and purposeful life is a fairness to self. Being fair to others will naturally ensue.

 

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Combat Stress with Mindful Walking

Photo by Sylwia Bartyzel/Unsplash

Photo by Sylwia Bartyzel/Unsplash

“When you look at the sun during your walking meditation, the mindfulness of the body helps you to see that the sun is in you; without the sun there is no life at all and suddenly you get in touch with the sun in a different way.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

 

A lot of people are scared off by the words “mindfulness meditation” and likely shy away from anything mindful. That’s a shame, because research shows that the practice of mindful meditation and mindfulness in everyday activities is powerful and effective.

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to get involved with mindfulness is to begin mindful walking. To gain some insight into how meditation can work to help manage stress, I got in touch with David Lynch, Namaste Culture Limited, who practices in the United Kingdom.

Is there a simple statement you use to help people be more present – even if they are resistant?

Meditation can seem like a daunting prospect, especially if you’re already feeling anxious or low in mood. When addressing an audience who have little experience of it, I tend to talk more in terms of a practice that helps you still your mind, in the way that a run or yoga might do. I use terms like an invitation to experiment with a new approach to managing stress. I make reference to the findings of neuroscience and the many proven benefits of developing a regular practice.

What is a mindful walk? How do you do it?

It’s like any other walk with an extra focus on all the senses, exploring both internal and external landscapes, and their interconnectedness. It’s walking more slowly than usual, less concerned with the final goal, more engaged with the sensations of the body, and savoring the impact of the external world on the inner experience.

How long does it take while walking to let go of all the “noise” in your head and embrace nature?

Not long at all, although it can feel like a long time, if you’ve come straight from a busy office environment, where you’ve been very goal-focused. Walking outdoors in nature helps you to switch off, to disengage from fast thinking and problem-solving.

Suppose there aren’t any gardens near work or school or elsewhere to walk. How can you get the same effect otherwise? Can you walk up and down stairs, for example, and be mindful? Or do you need some calming influence you best achieve when in nature?

In some ways, it can be easier to walk indoors, either in a circle or in straight lines, where the invitation is to focus very much on your body’s internal experience, without the distraction of nature’s beauty. I think you have to be clear in your motivation to walk purposefully in a room, to be yourself on track, but once you get going, the rhythm of your body and the simplicity of the task soon stills your mind. Even 10 minutes on your lunch break can make a difference.

What are the specific benefits of mindful garden walks?

My experience is that the combined regenerative effects of walking in nature’s beauty, breathing fresh air and practicing mindfulness, results in an immediate uplift in mood and outlook. It’s as if these combined forces offer a fresh perspective on whatever your mind is grappling with.

How long do they last?

This summer, I was inviting office workers to a 40-minute experience, enough time to get back to the office during a lunch break. [This included] 10 minutes [of] instruction, 20 minutes walking and 10 minutes debrief and discussion.

Can you talk about the benefits of mindful walking to relieve stress? How does this work? Do you intentionally shut your mind off from stressful emotions, thoughts, etc., or do you go through a process of letting go?

Mindful walking helps relieve stress because the invitation is to connect with the felt experience of stress in the body and mind, the opposite off switching off from it, or suppressing the unwelcome and sometimes painful sensations of stress.

Walking works on at least two levels to relieve stress:

  • The mind is focusing on the moment by moment experience of the walking movement, the placing of the foot, the shifting weight from leg to leg, and not on the source of what’s inducing the stress response. Just keeping balanced and upright is enough to focus the mind.
  • The invitation is to acknowledge and connect with the sensations, emotions and thoughts, no matter how unpleasant and unwelcome, e.g. I can feel my heart racing, I feel nausea in the pit of my stomach, I notice my racing obsessing thoughts.

The additional benefit of walking in nature is that our mind’s attention falls on the sound of the rustling leaves, on the beauty of the light falling on the path, and gains a broader perspective on our experience. Suddenly, we note that we are part of something bigger and [better] than our stress response.

Is it better to walk with others or alone – or does it matter?

It’s probably easier to practice together when you first start, as it helps motivate you. However, once learned, mindful walking can be done anywhere and enjoyably by yourself; walking to work through busy streets, walking to your next business meeting. You just choose to do it with your attention on your felt experience, slow down and enjoy the sensations of walking.

How long does it take to make mindful walking a healthy habit?

Our program is for eight weeks, because that’s what the researchers/experts recommend to establish a sustainable meditation practice, to embed a change in our daily routine, to commit to a lifestyle shift in how we manage demands, responsibilities and stress.

Of course, it is not enough to learn mindfulness practices for eight weeks and then to expect the change to happen, without maintaining a daily practice, or at least regular practice. We’re talking lifestyle change. That said, I have trainees who have said that although they no longer meditate on a regular basis, they have learned the tools to address stress differently when it arises, and therefore benefit from the skills development, no matter what.

Any final thoughts?

I am no expert in mindfulness. I am a practitioner, a facilitator of learning, a coach, who has combined several professional qualifications (teaching, counseling, management) and 30 years’ experience to create an experiential model of learning that adapts to the learners needs and vulnerabilities. They learn, I learn, and I love my work.

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Also check out My 10 Favorite Summertime Stress-Busters and 10 Quick Ways to Beat Stress.

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10 Ways to Feel Good About the Money You Make

Photo by Jason Chen/Unsplash

Photo by Jason Chen/Unsplash

Money isn’t bad or evil. It’s what you do with it that counts. In fact, according to recent research involving two studies, money can actually contribute to happiness.

That’s money that’s readily available, not funds locked away in pension or retirement accounts or tied up in real estate.

Not that you shouldn’t allocate some of what you earn for either of those. You definitely need to plan ahead and likely want to invest in a home for the comfort and well-being of your family.

The Wall Street Journal interviewed Joe Gladstone, a research associate at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, and a co-author of both studies. The takeaway from the first study is that a bank balance may be more important to happiness than overall wealth. Meanwhile, the second study found that the things that you buy can result in you being happier, if they are a fit for your personality.

While this all sounds great, for those of us who’ve worked hard for our money and want to spend a little of it now, not 20 years in the future, here are 10 ways to feel good about the money you make:

    • What you earn is a reward for your hard work. Think of the investment you’ve made in your career, in learning new skills, getting a degree or two, pushing past failures and disappointments. The resulting financial largesse – call it your spending cushion or dream account – is very much a product of your continued effort. You deserve it. You should feel good about making it and spending it the way you like.
    • Money gives you freedom. When you have money, there are many things you can do with it. This freedom of choice also means you get to do something with it that makes you happy.
    • It can’t buy love, but it can help you love what you do with it. If you are an ardent skier, having some extra cash on hand can mean you take that ski trip to the Rockies this winter instead of putting it off for another year. If you love music and play it well, the money you put toward that grand piano or guitar will be music to your ears and fill your heart with happiness.
    • Since you can’t take it with you, it’s smart to spend some now. Your life insurance and named beneficiaries on pensions and other investments will ensure you take care of loved ones, but there’s no sense accumulating wealth and never doing anything with it while you’re alive. It’s no good to you after you die, so take some time and take some cash now to enjoy life.
    • Money helps reduce stress. If you’ve struggled most of your life to have two dimes to rub together, you know the value of having some money in the bank. Knowing you have this safety net helps reduce the levels of stress that a bank balance of zero never can. You have the added benefit of knowing that some unexpected event won’t wipe you out, and you’re not living paycheck to paycheck. As stress goes down, you feel the freedom to pay more attention to what matters in life. And that might mean using some of the money you make.
    • Having some makes you less needy and vulnerable. When you’re in deficit mode, having little or no money, there’s a tendency to be dependent on others, even to the point of being needy. You’re also vulnerable when you are penniless or strapped for cash. On the other side of the coin, having some extra cash – the result of your hard work – boosts your self-confidence and makes you feel more in control of your life. That’s a great reason to feel good about the money you earn.
    • A good bank balance can help you sleep better. Tossing and turning over an inability to stay on top of financial obligations is not pleasant. Your slowly growing bank account can benefit your sleep quality and duration since that’s one less problem you have to worry about.
    • Your intimate relationships may improve. Money problems and sex are two of the biggest conflict producers in intimate relationships. When money is not an issue because you have enough, that barrier can crumble. Besides, when you have some funds left over after paying the bills, think of the things the two of you can do to spend some quality time by spending some of that cash.
    • The focus isn’t on acquiring, but enjoying. The money you make has yet another decidedly enticing aspect: It allows you to focus not on acquiring and holding onto it, but enjoying the fruits of your labor.
    • You choose when and how to spend it. It’s your money. You worked for it. Outside of tending to your necessary obligations, what, when and how you spend your money is entirely up to you. At least it should be. There has to be some allocation, some mad money, some do-whatever-you-want-with money that’s yours.

 

After reading these ways to feel good about the money you make, aren’t you feeling better already?

I’m interested in hearing how you feel about the money you make. Do you give yourself permission to do something purely enjoyable with some of that cash?

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7 Tips on Mastering Change

Photo by Roberto Nickson/Unsplash

Photo by Roberto Nickson/Unsplash

“You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.” – Brian Tracy

 

Change is nonstop. Life coaches and proponents of positive thinking are nearly unanimous in recommending that we accept and embrace change.

While that is good advice, sometimes change brings with it uncertainty, fear, doubt, failure and dashed hopes. We may start off with an optimistic outlook, only to encounter some difficulty or unexpected problem that throws everything we had planned off-kilter.

We might just give up on the change we’re trying to make.

Or, we might become even more determined to see it through.

The attitude we adopt is really the key to what comes afterward. Granted, we cannot predict what will happen or what will ultimately be the result of our actions, but we can control how we think about our prospects, what we believe our strengths are and how self-confident we are.

It does take practice to see the hopeful, rather than the dismal, but we can learn how to do this.

Here are some tips on mastering change:

  • Keep your eye on the goal.

While interruptions and challenges are bound to occur, if you have a firm grasp of what you want to achieve, you’ll be poised to weather distractions and detours along the way.

 

  • Revisit your plan often.

Sometimes, with everything being thrown at you, it’s tough to stay focused on the plan. That’s why you write it down, so you can refer to it as often as necessary to remind you of your goal – and the steps you need to take to be successful.

 

  • Be optimistic about being able to find solutions.

Problems will occur, but you have been through these kinds of situations before and figured out solutions. Remind yourself of this and it will help bolster your resolve and maintain your optimistic attitude.

 

  • Don’t be afraid to adapt and revise.

Just because you have a plan doesn’t mean that you have to adhere to it so rigidly that you miss opportunities. The key here is to remain flexible so that you are able to adapt and modify your plan to incorporate new ideas and perhaps take advantage of a different approach. Flexibility is one of the hallmarks of mastering change.

 

  • Surround yourself with positive people.

When you’re embarking on change, or making a decision to change, you don’t need naysayers around you challenging your actions. Choose to be with others who are upbeat, supportive of your ideas and goals, and whose success and demeanor you admire. Positivity is contagious, and you’ll benefit from associating with positive friends, co-workers, neighbors and acquaintances.

 

  • Find the lesson in failure.

No one likes to think about failure, but the fact is that it happens. Should this quash your attitude about ultimately succeeding? Not if you study what happened and discover the lesson the experience holds. This makes you that much more prepared to handle whatever comes next and to take proactive measures to deal with them.

  • Be open to new ideas.

You wouldn’t eat the same meal day after day, would you? Just as variety is the spice of cuisine, so, too, is the willingness to entertain new ideas. Even if what you read, see or hear is a somewhat different way to accomplish a goal than you’ve used before, it might hold some merit in terms of adaptation, revision or addition to what strategies you have in your toolkit. Knowing you have options is a great confidence-builder.

Keep in mind that the way you regard change says a lot about who you are. You can be in control of your attitude and master change, or allow change to master you.

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Success Means You Make Things Happen

Photo by Joshua Sortino-Unsplash

Photo by Joshua Sortino-Unsplash

“There are people who make things happen, there are people who watch things happen, and there are people who wonder what happened. To be successful, you need to be a person who makes things happen.” – Jim Lovell

 

Are you a doer, a watcher or a wonderer? The answer may lie at the heart of whether or not you find yourself successful in life.

Granted, sometimes you need to watch for a while to become motivated to take action. After all, what interests you may involve stepping outside your comfort zone and taking a few risks. Well, nothing worthwhile ever occurred without a little discomfort. For one thing, it’s anxiety-provoking to think about taking on a challenge, something you’ve never done before. Maybe you should watch and wait for a while.

But not too long. If you wait until the proverbial time is right, you may still be waiting months and years down the line. At that point, instead of being successful, you’ll be one of those people who scratch their heads in dismay and wonder what happened.

Making things happen sounds too easy. It isn’t. Often, it involves long periods of practice, building skills and acquiring knowledge. It generally takes longer than you anticipate and requires more work than you intended.

But success is worth it if the goal is one that you truly desire.

Are You Ready to Make Things Happen?

Ask yourself these questions to see if you’re ready to make things happen.

  • Is this (goal) something I really want?
  • How much effort am I willing to put into achieving it?
  • What will I do if distractions get in my way?
  • Do I have a plan to follow, or am I just going to wing it?
  • What about resources? Do I need to line them up or are they readily available to me?
  • How will I handle criticism, failure and rejection? Am I strong enough to get past this?
  • Am I willing to learn from my mistakes?
  • What about revising my plan along the way? Have I incorporated that into my strategy?
  • Have I factored measurement into my plan so that I know when it’s a success?

The Caveman Scenario

I’d like to illustrate this with the following scenario. Early caveman enjoyed sitting around the fire with his companions, partner and offspring. Telling tales of hunting exploits got everyone going and lasted well into the night. But some of the little ones fell asleep, missing out on the stories.

The caveman started etching shapes into the earth with a stick, but the images were quickly obliterated as everyone dispersed. This same stick, used to poke and prod the fire, was blackened at the tip. The caveman pondered the sooty blackness on his fingers and noted it was tough to remove. He looked up at the empty cave wall and thought about scratching his pictures there.

First, it was just a rudimentary sketch. Then, the images grew in size, complexity and number. Before long, they told a complete story. Now, not only the little ones, but everyone in the caveman’s group, could enjoy the tale. He was designated as the official keeper of the tales and his stature grew in the community.

Was this a success? Did the caveman make things happen? From a desire to share his tales with his children, he figured out a way to do that and made it happen. It was an absolute success.

If the caveman could do it, just imagine what you can do.


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8 Ways To Let Go of Anger

Photo by Wil Stewart

Photo by Wil Stewart

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” – Buddha

There are lots of frustrations in life to deal with, many of which ignite angry feelings and a desire for retribution or revenge. Some inconsiderate driver cuts you off in traffic. The woman in front of you in line at the coffee shop gets the last pastry – the one you had your eye on. Your co-worker takes credit for the report you researched and wrote. Neighborhood kids smashed your car with rocks, causing extensive damage.

You seethe with anger, wanting to lash out at the perpetrator, giving them their just desserts. But will this do anything to change what happened? Or, will it only result in you feeling more miserable as you can’t escape the fire of your anger?

No one would ever pick up a hot coal with their unprotected hands. That’s the action of a fool. Fire burns. Yet, when it comes to powerful emotions such as anger, that’s exactly what we sometimes do: We hold onto it. Expecting a different outcome than us getting burned is the definition of insanity.

If the better way to deal with anger is to let it go, how do we go about doing that? Here are some suggestions:

  • Walk away. Putting some distance between you and the situation or people that prompted the angry feelings to begin with is a logical first step. If you aren’t in proximity to the source of your anger, you’re less likely to lash out and do or say something that will cause harm to another. In addition, by walking away you’ll allow yourself time to cool off, so that you can think about what happened in a more rational way.

 

  • Identify why you’re angry. Take the inconsiderate driver that cut you off. This happens all the time. Why is today any different than another day? What is it about being cut off that makes you so angry now? Is it that you’re already late for work? Is it just another in a string of things that went wrong today and this is the last straw? Are you upset with yourself for failing to complete a task or due to an argument you had with your spouse, child, or co-worker? By identifying what’s underneath your anger, you’ll be better able to get past it.

 

  • Let it out. Instead of bottling up your anger and holding it inside like a captive coal that continues to burn, find a place where you can let it out with a scream, a vigorous physical workout, a good cry. Letting go of the anger before you decide to confront the person that prompted the negative feelings will allow you to behave in a more constructive and proactive manner.

 

  • Figure out what to change. Realize that you have three options when dealing with anger: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it. Once you decide that there’s something you can do to change the situation, act on that. It will help you let go of the anger and move on.

 

  • Own responsibility. Secretly, you might be the one who prompted the situation that made you angry. Instead of trying to shift the blame and punish others, take responsibility for your part in what happened. Even if you only acknowledge this to yourself, it’s a huge step. Then, focus on what you could have done differently so that the next time something like this occurs, you’ll act in a more responsible way.

 

  • Calmly talk with the offender. You’ll need to use the walk away technique before you confront the offender about what made you angry. When you’ve put some time and distance between you and the person and situation, you’re better able to tell that person how you feel about what happened. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that you’re not going to be able to control how that person reacts. The only thing you can do is express your feelings kindly and calmly. This will help you let go of the anger.

 

  • See the anger melting away. The anger you feel doesn’t affect the other person as much as it does you. Knowing this, why hold onto it? Instead, visualize the anger as ice that’s melting away in the heat. Feel the sense of coolness that replaces the anger. This will help you regain peace and kindness toward yourself.

 

  • See it from the offender’s perspective. Maybe the person who so angered you wasn’t aware he or she was doing anything wrong. They could have inadvertently done something, not out of malicious intent, just without thinking of the potential consequences. Mistakes happen. People don’t necessarily intend to do harm. Recognize that you’ve probably done the same thing to other people. Have a little compassion. This will go a long way toward your ability to let go of anger.

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Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of is You

Photo by Wilson Magalhães

Photo by Wilson Magalhães

“There are days I drop words of comfort on myself like falling leaves and remember that it is enough to be taken care of by myself.” — Brian Andreas

 

When life swirls around us, it’s often difficult to remember that the first priority has to be taking care of ourselves. Instead, we look to care for others, even to the point of self-exhaustion. While it’s loving and kind-hearted to be so selfless, it’s not good for our overall well-being in the long run. In order to be around and able to help others, we have to be physically, mentally and emotionally healthy.

Good self-care, then, is not only important, but also imperative. Here are some tips on how to take proper care of you.

Eat right. With life so hectic, the temptation to skip meals, scarf down junk food and eat too much at once is sometimes tough to ignore. That doesn’t mean it’s good for your body. Think about what you put in your mouth before you eat. Maintain a well-balanced diet and eat regular meals. Your body will thank you for eating healthy.

Sleep well. In order to be alert and ready to go each day, you first need to get a good night’s sleep. Sleep, according to experts, plays an important role in everything from memory to learning. Adults generally need 7-9 hours of sleep a night. The key is uninterrupted sleep.

Get regular exercise. A healthy body and mind requires regular physical exercise. What you do is less important than doing it. Start with something manageable, such as a good run or walking in a park or through the neighborhood. If you have a dog, this is a natural for both of you. Ask friends to accompany you. Walk instead of drive to a nearby coffee shop. Take up a recreational sport. Join a gym. The choices are endless. The point is to do it.

Drink plenty of fluids. You might not realize it, but your body constantly loses fluids during the day. Such losses occur naturally in urination and elimination of stools, in breathing, and skin evaporation. The more physical exertion you do, the faster you lose fluids. The human body requires hydration for organs to operate efficiently. In fact, the body is about 60% water. The best way to replace lost fluids is to drink water. It’s readily available and the fact is that you can’t live without it.

Manage stress. Allowing the day’s turmoil to eat at you is going to drag you down, physically and mentally. Taking proper care of yourself means that you do whatever you find that works to manage stress. This can take many forms, from meditation to deep breathing exercises, massage, prayer, yoga or other relaxation techniques, to cognitive-behavioral therapy and setting clear goals.

Spend time with friends. You know how much you value friendships, particularly with those who share your interests. Studies show that friendships enrich life and make it healthier. Not only do you enjoy being with good friends, the interaction is good for your overall health and well-being. What more evidence do you need to share some quality time with your friends?

Engage in learning new pursuits. When you pursue something new, something different, your mind is actively involved in a desirable goal. The unknown, while sometimes scary, can also be stimulating, challenging and ultimately rewarding. Learning something new can help you overcome fear, push you beyond self-imposed boundaries, and provide a much-needed boost in self-confidence and self-esteem.

Tap into your spirituality. You don’t need to be religious to be able to tap into your spirituality. Tending to your spiritual needs is as important as getting sufficient sleep, eating well and everything else you do to take care of your body. There is more to life than just existing. You are more than the sum of your parts. Take time to reflect on the bigger picture, using yoga, meditation, self-reflection or whatever helps you get outside of yourself.

Avoid excessive alcohol intake. Using alcohol as a coping mechanism is bound to backfire. The tendency to reach for a drink to deal with problems or forget about them for a while can quickly spiral out of control. If you aren’t able to decrease your drinking on your own, get professional help. Otherwise, cut down on how much you drink.

Don’t smoke. There is absolutely no physical benefit to smoking. If you’ve never smoked, don’t start. If you do smoke, make a decision to stop. Smoking can lead to serious health problems, but you will improve your health by quitting the smoking habit.

Pay attention to your needs. Put yourself at the top of your list of priorities. Remember that you need to be healthy in order to be available to help others. This means being mindful of what you need to do to stay healthy. It isn’t selfish, it’s actually self-care.

Maintain an optimistic, hopeful outlook. Life will throw you a few curve balls, to be sure. And you never know when you’ll be called on to deal with them. The best thing you can do is to adopt and maintain an optimistic, hopeful outlook. If you believe you will succeed, you will. If you see the positive instead of the negative, the results are likely to follow suit. Don’t be afraid of challenges. Be hopeful, prepare yourself to act and follow through.

 

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My 10 Favorite Summertime Stress-Busters

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

A writer by profession and a long-time executive in public relations and communications, I’ve experienced the cumulative effects of stress on more than a few occasions. While each person needs to find their own unique ways to combat stress, I’d like to share my 10 favorite summertime stress-busters here – while summer is in in full swing.

Bicycling on Mackinac Island

Although it was many years ago, the fond memory of bicycling on Mackinac Island (situated between mainland Michigan and the state’s upper peninsula in Lake Michigan) with my mother and my son and daughter still lowers my stress level. It was a wonderful bonding experience between three generations and great exercise to boot.

Go out and rent a bicycle when you’re on vacation or during a trip to an inland lake or other recreational area and see how your cares seem to float away as you pedal along. This is an inexpensive and effective summertime stress-buster that anyone can do.

Going for a long drive

When I’ve had it up to here with deadlines, pressure to finish a task, non-stop phone calls and nagging emails – not to mention all the things left to do around the house – I get in the car and head out for the open highway.

Since I live in California, however, that means timing my escape to avoid the gridlock on the freeways. Still, there’s nothing like cruising along the 101 freeway somewhere north to clear the cobwebs from my mind – and melt any stress that’s built up.

Hiking a new trail

I’m fortunate to live just blocks from the Santa Monica Mountains preserve and numerous hiking trails. This sounds like a lot of work, but there are easy trails to climb as well as more strenuous ones.

An early morning hike – especially when I’m able to check out a new trail – is one of the quickest ways to dissolve stress for me. My family members are equally appreciative. And who doesn’t love to spend some quality time outdoors with those you love?

Taking a well-deserved vacation

Too many times we tell ourselves that we can’t afford to take a vacation or don’t have the luxury of taking that much time off work.

I know. I’ve said as much myself.

The truth, however, is that a vacation is not only deserved but necessary in order to recharge and revitalize, to gain peace of mind and restore a sense of balance.

Thinking back on memorable vacations, I count trips to Cancun, Kauai, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, as well as visits to great national parks such as Yosemite, Yellowstone, and more.

Arranging a long weekend getaway

Sometimes a weeklong vacation just isn’t practical. There’s still the opportunity to take a break by going for a long weekend getaway.

Head out to the beach or a cottage by the ocean. Explore what nature has to offer in a national park in the area. Visit a not-too-distant city to sample cuisine and nightlife or other attractions.

Romantic, sight-seeing, educational or pure leisure – whatever inspires you can be the ingredients in a getaway this weekend.

And the stress will just disappear.

Attending an outdoor concert

My daughter and son remember going to Bob Seger, Beach Boys and Fleetwood Mac concerts with me at an outdoor concert venue in Michigan. Just recalling those magical nights under the stars gives me a nostalgic rush. How perfect to wash away stressful thoughts?

No matter where you live, there’s probably a venue offering outdoor concerts, music festivals and the like. Check out some of your favorite artists, search for some reasonably-priced tickets and take the family for an unforgettable outing.

Digging in the garden – and creating a lush landscape

Whether I’m yanking out weeds, cultivating an area to plant flowers, shrubs or helping to dig the requisite size hole for a tree, the sheer enjoyment I get from digging in the garden is undeniable.

The fact that the result is something I’m proud of – and don’t mind accepting compliments from others for – is a plus.

Don’t think you have a green thumb? I didn’t either, but years of practice and effort have definitely paid off. Now, even if the plant eventually dies, I know I’ll get something to replace it that will prove equally lovely in my garden.

And there’s something about washing away the dirt from my gardening sojourn that is very satisfying as well.

Reading a good book

I’ve loved to read all my life. Still do, although I don’t seem to do it as often as I’d like. Now that I have Kindle, though, I can quickly access new ebooks from my favorite authors.

Mysteries, true crime, thrillers, autobiographies, inspirational – you name it, I’m there. Nothing like whiling away an hour or so engrossed in a good book. If you get into the habit of reading something you like, you’ll find that the stress you had is gone, faded away like a distant memory.

Seeing an adventure movie

Movies are another favorite pastime of mine. I actually like a number of genres, but for dissipating stress, a go-to favorite is an adventure movie. I can feel the adrenaline rushing through my body and while that seems counter-intuitive to eliminating stress, it actually works.

Realizing the outcome along with the protagonist (or hero) is doubly satisfying. It’s like I’m there. Not bad for a quick escape from stress, right? Best of all, there are always plenty of adventure movies to choose from at the movieplex near you – or available to rent or download from your TV provider or Netflix.

Checking out an amusement park

Do you love roller coasters? I do. When I have the opportunity to check out an amusement park with the family – and occasionally for business, believe it or not – I head straight for the biggest roller coaster in the park.

If you’re going to go, go big or don’t go at all. That’s my motto.

Part of the reason I’m so drawn to this particular ride is that I remember riding a roller coaster with my dad just a week before he died. I was thirteen. He was my everything.

Other attractions in the amusement park are also great stress-busters for me, including the haunted house, dodge ‘em cars, the Ferris wheel and more.

And who doesn’t love the cotton candy, hot dog on a stick, outdoor cafes and other tempting gastronomic delights? You can work out later. For now, indulge and have a good time.

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My 10 Favorite Ways to Waste Time — and Not Feel Bad About It

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

So much has been written about how not to waste time that I thought it might be fun to list some of the ways we waste time all the time. I’m as guilty of this as anyone else, so here are my favorite time wasters.

I should add that I don’t feel bad about doing any of these. In fact, I rather get a kick out of how good I feel after I’ve lollygagged, been consumed with and totally exhausted from any of them.

 

Getting Lost in LinkedIn

 

Networking is an absolute must for anyone in business. Whether your business is writing or recruiting or manufacturing electric cars or anything else, who you know can sometimes make all the difference in the world.

Need an introduction? Your LinkedIn contacts may be able to provide that. What about a recommendation or endorsement? Ditto.

Building a LinkedIn network (or any social media, for that matter) takes time. Often, that’s a lot of time.

I know. I’ve spent many hours reading profiles of LinkedIn members, absorbing their posts and likes, commenting on what I see and hoping others will reciprocate.

Come to think of it, LinkedIn is pretty essential to what I do. There’s no way this is a waste of time.

 

Searching for the Perfect Photo

 

When I write a Daily Thoughts or blog post, I’m always on the lookout for the perfect photo to illustrate them. I can literally spend a couple of hours searching for one photo.

I use multiple free and paid sites for photos. And I love discovering new photographers.

Since my profession is writing, it’s not a stretch to say that my time spent in pursuit of just the right photo is far from a waste of time. Yet I do find that I get a little carried away at times, continuing to search through photo albums and recent posting to see what’s new – in case I want to use it sometime.

 

Writing To-Do Lists – and Promptly Losing Them

 

I’m an inveterate list-maker. I’ve gotten it down to a science, in fact. I jot down items, then prioritize them, revise and add or subtract – and then put aside the list for later.

Somehow what happens more often than not is I lose the list.

Then I start over.

All is not lost in this seemingly hopeless endeavor, however. My mind catalogs what I’ve written, cementing it in place. It lets me know that there is a list somewhere, just in case I forget. So I don’t have to worry that I’ve missed something.

And that gives me great comfort.

Just don’t ask me where my list is.

 

Going for a Walk

 

Why do I walk? I used to think it was for healthy exercise, and there certainly is that component to it. But the underlying reason I walk is that I like being out in nature.

To me, a walk affords me the opportunity to connect with life outside the home. I take the time to listen to the birds and watch them flit from tree to flower to bush and back. I particularly enjoy watching the interplay between birds, protecting their mates and nest, doing the courtship dance, feeding offspring, etc.

I also feel good knowing I’m burning fat – but that’s another story. My sore muscles tell me if I’m giving it what I need or not. Still, my 45-minute walk may be considered a waste of time to some people, but not for me. I’ll do it any chance I get.

 

Working in the Garden

 

There’s nothing like getting my hands dirty digging in the garden. Granted, I’m not that fond of some of the bugs I have to pluck out, but wrestling with weeds to give my flowers, bushes and trees room to grow gives me great satisfaction.

It’s also wonderfully fulfilling to see the results of my carefully-tended garden. Worth all the hours I toil in garden, no matter what time of the year.

 

Shopping for Organic Produce

 

I’ll admit I was a little slow getting on the organic food bandwagon, but now I’m a firm believer. So much so that I can literally spend more than an hour just roaming the aisles of my go-to grocery store (even Costco) looking at the newest organic versions of produce I’ve eaten in old form since I was a kid.

If I had to excuse my wasting time on this activity, I’d have to say that putting the healthiest food into my body is a priority. I’m OK with any amount of time I spend looking for anything organic.

 

Doing Price Comparisons on Running Shoes

 

First, a confession. I don’t run – at all. But I am an aficionado of running shoes or cross-trainers or whatever the latest athletic shoe is.

My reason for the obsession is that I want my feet to be well taken care of. Whether I’m hiking a mountain trail in the preserve near my house or traversing the mall in search of a good deal or just driving, I want a great pair of shoes on my feet.

As such, I’m always looking for the best price on shoes and have bookmarked my favorite websites. Time just flies by when I’m on the hunt.

And I don’t regret one minute of it. So, there.

 

Going for a Massage

To some people a massage is an indulgence they can do without. Not me. I learned long ago that my Thumper I bought from Relax-the-Back does a great job easing out a kink, but I’d much rather get an expert to do the work for me.

It feels so much better when I don’t have to exert myself.

And the massage professional can reach areas I can’t.

Besides, the overall effect afterward is simply out of this world. The therapeutic aspects alone are worth the time I take from my day to get the massage.

Come to think of it, I haven’t had a massage for a while. Time to make an appointment.

 

Trying Out a New Recipe

I may not be the greatest cook around, but I do enjoy trying out new recipes. Like searching for the perfect photo, checking out recipes is a real time-hog.

Once I’ve found a recipe to make, I often have to go to the store to get the ingredients. Invariably I’m missing one or more. And I learned long ago that substituting what might work usually results in a disaster.

As a professional chef once told me, stick to the recipe until you’ve amassed years of experience and absolutely know what you can safely substitute without ruining the dish.

Regarding the mess that I have to clean up when I’m done, that’s another chunk of time that necessarily has to occupy my time.

 

Watching a Great Movie

Another one of my favorite pastimes – and a huge time waster – is watching movies. I love a number of different genres, so a drama doesn’t necessarily lose out to suspense, thriller, comedy or horror.

I’d much rather watch a movie that’s gotten stellar reviews, but I’m also game to check out the little-known or obscure flicks as well. This is especially true if they’re by famous directors or ones whose other work I’ve enjoyed.

Get out the popcorn, chips, ice cream and other snacks (OK, junk food, but sometimes you just have to indulge) and I’m good to go – for at least an hour or two.

Chores can wait until later.

* * *

What are your favorite ways to waste time? Comment below and I may do a follow-up blog post mentioning some of them – giving you credit, of course.

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How to Be Even More Effective

Photo by Anders Jilden

Photo by Anders Jilden

Everyone is always on the lookout for a better way to do things, to accomplish goals in record time, to improve effectiveness. While such a quest is admirable, it can prove problematic if you begin to fixate on success instead of searching for ways to be more effective.

Can you improve on your rate of effectiveness? Absolutely, and here’s how:

  • Learn to manage your time. It can’t be stressed enough that lack of time and trying to crowd too may obligations and tasks into a 24-hour day will quickly overwhelm almost anyone.
    • Instead of fighting the clock, trying to cram in that last item on today’s to-do list, put some space between duties and eliminate some from the list altogether.
    • Time management isn’t only for business people. It works for busy moms, students, artists, inventors, scientists and, well, everyone.

 

“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.” – Peter Drucker

 

  • Keep a list of what worked well before. Making incremental improvements in your effectiveness is the best way to gradually become more successful in whatever you do.
    • One way to do this is to keep track of what you did before that resulted in a favorable outcome. Maybe there’s something about that technique that you can utilize in a similar or even different project, task or endeavor.
    • When you have a reserve of effective approaches (as in, they worked before), you’re never going to be at a loss for ideas.

 

  • Ask for suggestions from trusted others. Just because you generally accomplish what you set out to do doesn’t mean you’re as effective in your approach as you could be.
    • Make use of your network of trusted friends, co-workers, loved ones and family members and ask them for suggestions on how you might improve your rate of effectiveness. Their comments may prove helpful in identifying gaps in your method or highlighting areas of strength and expertise you haven’t yet tapped into.

 

  • Take time to reflect on your accomplishments. Once you do succeed at a goal and before you rush into the next thing on your list, take the time to reflect on your accomplishments. This can be viewed as a small self-congratulation, but it’s actually much more than that.
    • Away from the whirlwind of activity, your mind can calmly assess the various aspects of the now-completed job or task and come up with inventive approaches and ideas you may be able to use the next time.

 

  • Aim for continuous improvement. If a job or task seems too much of an obstacle, but you still want or need to tackle it, instead of fixating on only complete success the first time around, it might be better to aim for continuous improvement.
    • Do the best that you can on whatever portion of the project you’re on.
    • Learn from what you do. Strive to put that knowledge to use when you pick up the project again and move on to the next phase of it. This will help you increase your overall effectiveness.

 

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Why You Need a Vacation

Photo by Faye Cornish

Photo by Faye Cornish

If your days are filled with crashing deadlines, too much on your to-do list and never enough time to get things done, you might be more than a little stressed. In fact, overwork can lead to dissatisfaction in other areas of your life as well.

What a perfect time for a vacation.

Before you object that you just don’t have time to get away, consider the following very good reasons why you actually need a vacation.

 

Vacations help you disengage and reconnect with self

You can’t hear yourself think when you’re all caught up in forcing yourself to finish this project and begin work on the next. Facts and figures, phone calls and emails, the boss barging in with yet another hot assignment – no wonder you’re feeling frazzled.

Getting away from it all, however, frees your mind from incessant interruptions, constant distractions and self-imposed pressure. What better way to reconnect with self than relaxing in a hammock under a shady tree, gazing out at nature?

How about going out on the river or lake in a canoe, rowboat, sailboat or powerboat? Nothing like being in the outdoors, taking in the sounds of silence and just hanging out to clear your mind.

 

Taking time for yourself helps you unwind and relax

Rushing from one task to another without a break is enough to cause anyone distress. High-pressure office environments and frantic schedules at home and school do nothing to bring peace of mind.

On the other hand, when you physically get away from the normal routine, the picture changes dramatically.

Instead of reacting to what people demand, you can act in accordance with your own wishes. If you feel like doing nothing, that’s just fine. If you want to hike a trail in pristine wilderness, there’s nothing to stop you.

Whether you choose to be alone or in the company of loved ones, family or friends, taking time for yourself is just the right tonic for relaxation and unwinding.

 

Vacations help you free your mind

When all the noise subsides and you’re on the beach, at the lake, hiking, golfing, getting a massage or doing whatever you like, a curious thing happens. Your mind empties.

All the stuff crowding your brain, those urgent projects you told yourself you couldn’t forget, the massive responsibilities you felt you had to shoulder – they seem to melt away.

It’s not that you’re walking away from anything. You choose to be away, and for valid reasons. Research shows that people are more productive after they’ve taken a vacation than those who stick it out at work.

Furthermore, solutions to problems often seem to magically appear when you’ve stopped thinking so hard about them. While you’ve shut down the engine, so to speak, your mind is still humming away in the background, making connections, figuring out creative approaches, relishing the time to arrive at a sound decision.

All this from just taking a vacation? What a bonus.

 

This is the time you can be yourself

A vacation is when you don’t have to prove yourself to anyone. Not your boss. Not your neighbor. Not your best friend. Certainly not to yourself.

In fact, one of the great things about a vacation is that you can dress how you like, eat what you want, do what you feel like when you want to. There are no schedules to keep – unless you want to make them, no one you have to impress with your PowerPoint presentation or glitzy ad campaign.

It’s all about you.

Some people have a hard time being alone with themselves. So unused to having time off, too tethered to duties and deadlines and making a good impression they don’t know where or how to begin to enjoy a vacation.

Try it. You’ll soon get into the rhythm of doing whatever you like or nothing at all.

 

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5 Tips to Make the Right Choice

Photo by Dave Meier-Picography

Photo by Dave Meier-Picography

“Nothing is so exhausting as indecision, and nothing is so futile.” – Bertrand Russell

 

Standing at a crossroads and deciding which way to go is a metaphor for life. No matter who you are, you’re going to be faced with situations where you need to make a choice every day. Even deciding to do nothing is a choice, although not the most productive one.

Still, it can be extraordinarily difficult to know what the right choice is. Here are some tips that may help:

 

Tip #1: This particular choice isn’t life-altering.

Most likely, the choice you make now isn’t going to drastically change your life. It also isn’t generally going to be of long-term duration. So, you can enter into a decision with the confidence that you can revise your actions later, take a different course of action, learn from your mistakes, and keep going.

 

Tip #2: Weigh and balance your options, but do take action.

You can put off making a decision for a long time, but what does that really get you? It’s just a stall tactic that buys very little and may cost a lot. The wiser approach is to carefully review your options and tally up the one that has the most positives going for it. Then, take action. It’s much better than sitting by the sidelines doing nothing.

 

Tip #3: Seek advice from trusted others, but tailor your actions to suit your circumstances.

It’s OK, even recommended, to ask others what they think. This is especially true the more challenging or important the decision you need to make.

After you hear what your network of loved ones, family members, good friends or other trusted individuals have to say, sift everything through the lens of your mind to come up with a plan that will work for your particular situation.

 

Tip #4: If it doesn’t work, do something else.

No one is going to be successful in making the right choice every time. That’s not how life works. But giving up when you encounter disappointment or failure isn’t the way to get the most out of life. Doing something else, however, is.

If you stumble the first time out, it doesn’t mean you’re awful at making choices. It does mean there’s a lesson here you need to learn. Take stock of the lesson and figure out a new approach.

 

Tip #5: Find your best time to think about your choices.

If you try to make a decision when you’re stressed out, tired, hungry, angry or depressed, the choice you make may not be well-informed. Instead, pick a time when you’re well rested, full of energy and receptive to taking action. This may be early morning, a mid-afternoon break, after you wind down at the end of the day.

Whatever time works best for your decision-making process, when you feel you can objectively analyze the various choices and come to a reasonable, workable decision, use that time to your advantage. The choices you make will reflect this proactive approach.

 

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8 Tips to Help Decision-Making

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Do you agonize over choices or waffle back and forth before finally settling on one? Even if you don’t think you have much difficulty arriving at a decision, everyone can always use a few pointers, right?

Here are some suggestions on how to make the decision-making process a little easier, less stressful, and a lot more satisfying. 

Get organized

To get started, you need a clean and clear space. A cluttered desk, sloppy workspace or no space to sit comfortably do not help you do anything productive – least of all make an important decision.

Take the time to put things where they should go, wipe up spills, toss out unused and unwanted items or trash, and for the files and materials you will need, arrange them neatly on your desk or work area.

If the project or task that requires your decision involves specific files, folders, artwork, renderings or other items, keep them front and center. 

Eliminate distractions

When it’s time to think about a decision, you can’t afford any distractions. Simple tips to eliminate them include:

  • Turn off your cell phone or let it go to voicemail.
  • If you’re in a physical office with a door, close the door.
  • Turn off email notification sounds on your computer.
  • Better yet, get out of your email client for the time being.
  • Let co-workers and your boss know you’re working on a project and are trying to concentrate. (It helps if this is something you’re on deadline to do, as the boss will likely understand.)
  • Avoid the tendency to doodle, no surfing the Internet to kill time or game-playing just because you think you can.

Clear your mind

Now it’s time to get down to the business at hand. In order to begin the process of decision-making, it’s necessary to clear your mind. This is often one of the hardest things for people to do, especially in today’s non-stop world.

Since it’s next to impossible to completely wipe out extraneous thoughts, the best way to deal with them is to acknowledge their presence and allow them to go away on their own.

You need a bit of time for all the “noise” in your head to die down, so don’t be in a rush. Gradually, your mind will quiet and your thoughts can become better focused. 

Focus on the goal

Speaking of focus, once you’ve cleared your mind it’s the right time to focus on the goal. What do you hope to achieve? What’s your optimum outcome? Are you trying to solve a problem, brainstorm ideas, come up with a creative approach, make a tough choice involving conflicting ideas or options?

Knowing what you want to achieve as an outcome will help you in selecting various avenues and possibilities to consider.

Analyze the pros and cons

The things that come to mind will each have plusses and minuses that you’ll need to take into account. To get through this part of the decision-making process involves the ability to envision what might happen if you choose option A over option B or C, and so on.

Really take the time to think this through. Jot down into columns what the potential outcomes or ramifications for each choice might be. When you can look at these pros and cons on paper, the decision you need to make will be easier, if not obvious.

Sometimes, however, the decision you make will need to be the lesser of two negatives. Always strive to select the choice with the most positive outcome.

Finalize the approach

By now you’ve probably narrowed down your choices and selected the one that you think will serve your needs and help you arrive at the goal you intend.

You’re not done yet.

This is the time to fine-tune your approach, adding the various elements that will make it stand out and shine. You want it to be the best you can do, to reflect your strengths and talents and the benefit of your experience.

It’s possible that you’ll want to make use of one or more facets of other approaches or solutions you were considering. If it helps solidify your ultimate choice or gives it a better chance of success, by all means add it to your approach.

Factor in follow-up

Once you zero in on your decision, the final step before taking action on it is to spend some time figuring out what you’ll need in the form of follow-up.

Will reports help determine the success or failure of your decision? How will the choice you make affect others in the workplace? What benchmarks are important to achieve in order for the decision to be considered effective, valuable, repeatable or industry-first?

Follow-up is one aspect of decision-making that many overlook; yet it is critical to the success of any major decision.

Make the choice

This is the final stretch in decision-making: actually making the choice and beginning to take action. There’s no turning back now. If you’ve gone through the process in a thoughtful and purposeful manner, the decision you make now reflects your attention to detail, your creativity and vision.

Go ahead. Make the choice. And feel good about your decision.

 

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Leadership Lessons I Learned from Dad

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Among the many articles written about leadership, how leaders develop, if they’re born with the ability to lead, how to nurture and mentor someone to become a leader, I’ve rarely seen one that mentioned the importance of fathers modeling leadership for their children.

Personally, wouldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t for the lessons I learned from my dad. So, in celebration of Father’s Day and an acknowledgement of the profoundly important role fathers play in the development of their sons and daughters into leaders, I’d like to talk about my own father.

Clem Harland was the eldest son in a family of four children, one of whom died in infancy. His father was a lumberjack in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, after toiling as a farmer in North Dakota for many years. When Clem’s father died, he had to leave school to begin providing for his mother and two sisters. He took up lumberjacking, the best income potential for the family.

His mother was sickly and died young. This left Clem the sole provider for his two sisters – and he put them both through college, sacrificing his own personal needs and putting the idea of getting married and starting his own family on hold for years.

Although Clem was born with a congenital heart defect and doctors told his parents that he probably wouldn’t live past his teens, nothing deterred the young man from pursuing life to the fullest.

Whether it was lumberjacking in the bitter cold, stinging rain and dangerous conditions (his father died by being crushed between logs jammed up in the water), working a second job as a musician, taking a third job as a cook, or staying up all hours to care for his dying mother, he persevered.

Years later, when he was 31, Clem got married to Mary Jean. By now, he lived next door to her in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They soon were the parents of one boy, lost several infants to miscarriage and finally welcomed their only surviving daughter, me, some four years after the birth of their son.

Clem worked in an automobile factory in Detroit, Michigan. He generally worked the graveyard shift, coming home just as my mother was headed off to work. His health continued to deteriorate, but he never let on.

 

“Everything you want to know is in here.”

While he never went back to school to finish his education, let alone go to college, he taught himself by reading books. When I was about five and asked my dad how he knew so many things, he closed the book on astronomy he was reading and pointed to it, saying, “Everything you want to know is in here.” I thought he was talking about the stars and planets, but he meant that knowledge is readily available to those with a desire to learn.

This was my first leadership lesson from my dad.

Another came following a heated fight I had with my brother. He broke my doll (we didn’t have much, and this was my favorite toy) and I beat on him with my little fists. He was much bigger and stronger than me and just laughed. I ran to my father crying that life wasn’t fair, boys were mean and I hated my brother.

My dad listened to my complaint and comforted me as best he could. He promised to fix dolly (and he did) and told me that I should never let others take advantage of me. Even though he didn’t condone fighting (and my brother had a stern talking-to from dad as a result), he believed that individuals have to stand up for themselves.

This important leadership lesson sticks with me today. A leader doesn’t back down just because there’s opposition. He or she takes a stand and leads by example.

When I was 12, I was fearful all the time. I was aware that my father wasn’t well. I’d heard my mother discussing how the factory put him on a sweeper’s job due to his poor health. But he was still the breadwinner and the factory took care of its employees.

I began having nightmares about my dad dying. I was so frightened that I didn’t dare tell him. All I could muster was a conversation where I asked what he wanted out of life, did he ever regret his choices, and was he happy?

“…Don’t let anyone or anything prevent you from following your dreams.”

His answer still brings me to tears. He said, “I have everything I ever wanted. You, your brother and your mother mean the world to me. As for my life, I am happy and blessed. What you need to know is that you can be whatever you choose to be. Don’t let anyone or anything prevent you from following your dreams.”

We even went to a local amusement park over the Fourth of July to celebrate his 52nd birthday. We screeched in glee as the cars lurched to the top of the roller coaster and flew downward with neck-straining fore.

My father was dead less than a week later. His death was massive coronary occlusion. He died on the job. The personnel people that came to the house to inform us said he died in seconds.

 *  *  *

I also remember long walks on the beach of Lake Michigan, running up and down the sand dunes, catching and cleaning perch and whitefish after being on the frigid lake since before dawn.

And so much more.

All these things happened decades ago, but the memories are as vivid as if it was just yesterday.

My father taught me everything I ever need to know about leadership. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

 

 


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Why I Hate Clutter

DeathtoStock_Creative Community8

If you’re like me, sometimes it’s hard to get your head in the game. The deadline’s looming, you’ve got a sore back from doing too much over the weekend, you had to skip breakfast because you slept in, and now you can’t seem to get started. Looking over your desk or workspace, all you see is clutter.

 

It’s enough to make you want to turn off the computer, get up and walk out, right?

 

For me, clutter is a big four-letter word. I just can’t stand to come to work, all ready to go (or not) and be confronted with a pile of disorganized papers, mail someone dumped in the middle of the desk instead of the inbox tray, pens that found their way into corners, empty paper ream wrappers and so on.

 

I think to myself that this is a big waste of time – but I can’t help myself. I have to tidy up before I do anything else.

 

Most of all, however, I’m angry with myself that I didn’t take the time before I left the office yesterday to do what I normally do: clean up my workspace.

 

In reality, it only takes a few minutes to do the job properly. The caveat is, of course, that it’s done regularly. It kind of defeats the purpose if the clean-up task is left undone for a solid week. That just results in a massive job that takes time away from more productive or enjoyable pursuits.

 

Here, in no particular order, are the reasons I hate clutter. Maybe some of them resonate with you.

 

  • Clutter makes me look disorganized.
  • The boss doesn’t take too kindly to a messy workspace.
  • It takes much too long to find what I’m looking for, especially when I need it quickly.
  • I can’t think clearly when I’m surrounded by clutter.
  • If it’s a leftover food container or latte, there’s a smell I have to deal with in addition to the mess left behind.
  • Ever have a problem with ants from something sticky or sweet that didn’t get cleaned up? I have. And I hate bugs even more than clutter.
  • The messier my desk looks, the worse I feel.
  • I think clutter is contagious. It often seems like my co-workers don’t tend to their mess if I don’t keep my workspace clean.
  • When I’m surrounded by clutter, I feel completely unmotivated to get anything done.
  • Clutter reminds me that I need to do a better job managing my time – so there’s enough time to take care of this annoying, but necessary, daily task.

 

Change Your Habits, Change Your Life

 

I’m a big fan of Gretchen Rubin and I’ve gotten a lot of inspiration from her tips on how to change your habits to live a healthier life.

 

I’ve also read books and blog posts, and watched how-to videos and presentations on time management, simplifying your life, prioritizing goals and how to become successful in everything you do. I think I’ve done my research.

 

What I’ve learned is that not only is cleanliness next to Godliness, the sign of an orderly mind and a good habit to practice, it also feels good to get rid of all that clutter.

 

It really is possible to change your habits and change your life.

 

Now, what happened to my to-do list? It was just here somewhere…

 

What irks you most about clutter? More important, what tactics do you use to deal with it?

 

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How to Deal With Insidious Office Gossip

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

You’ve heard the whispers, caught the sly glances cast your way, felt the cool brushoff from co-workers and people you thought were your friends. No matter how connected and well-liked you think you are, you’re not immune to being the target of gossip.

While it can seem harmless, gossip can also ruin your career, seriously damage relationships and crush your self-esteem. So, it’s never something to take lightly. How do you deal with insidious office gossip? Here are some suggestions.

Don’t Repeat It

You can’t stop other people from spreading gossip, but you can stop yourself from repeating it. This means you don’t repeat it in any form whatsoever, not in person, over the phone, in an email or text or any kind of written communication. Repeating gossip reinforces what may very well be bad information, lending credence or some air of authority to baseless, harmful words.

Never Encourage It

When you ask for more details, nod in agreement, look interested and keep the conversation going with the gossiper, that’s just giving the person the green light to keep spreading such tales. Even if the tidbit might give you some kind of leverage over the person gossiped about, it’s very bad form to be part of this tangle of negativity by subtly or overtly encouraging the gossip to continue.

Change the Subject

Suppose you have coffee with some co-workers before heading into work or dashing off to your desk. In the middle of exchanging pleasantries, talking about the great game your child had yesterday, making plans for lunch or after work, one of your co-workers says with a hushed voice, “Did you hear that Marsha (your boss) is having an affair with Dave (her boss)?”

Instead of immediately requesting details, the best course of action here is to change the subject. Tell your gossiping co-worker that you have to go, you’ve got a project that’s due, you forgot something in your car, or something else. Without an audience, the gossiper will have no one to dish to. And you’ve helped possibly halt the transmission of office gossip – at least with you and for now.

Don’t Make Time for It

It’s not always non-stop work at the office. There are periods of downtime as well. It could be during a coffee break or lunch or walking from one meeting to the next, in the car on the way to an office function or on the phone chatting when you have a minute. It’s during such times that gossip can be inserted as a way to shake things up, keep work interesting or attempt to garner support for someone with an ulterior motive.

You, however, have the power to not be a part of this. All you need to do is not make time for it. When you refuse to participate, the gossiper can’t draw you in. Use whatever statement or action works best for you, but just don’t allow yourself to be swept up in the gossip.

Don’t Confuse Gossip with News – It Isn’t

Most gossipers have a great lead, as if what they’re about to say carries the importance and timeliness of news. You’ll know fairly quickly if what comes after the headline – or even the headline itself – is legitimate news or something else, like gossip.

While the person spreading the gossip wants you to believe and join in the gossip trail, you know instinctively that this is not good for anyone. It won’t help you in your dealings at work, won’t elevate you in the eyes of others (who trusts a gossiper, anyway?), and may very well come back to bite you.

Again, use your most effective tactics here to get away from the gossiper, but never confuse gossip with real news.

Think How You’d Feel

If you want to know the effects of gossip, put yourself in the shoes of the person being gossiped about. Think how you’d feel if everyone was saying these awful things about you. That sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, knowing that others are spreading gossip about you? Multiply that by 10 and it won’t even come close to the damage insidious office gossip can create.

Watch What You Say

If you start a conversation with “You can’t tell anyone…”, it’s almost guaranteed they will as soon as they’re out of your sight. For this reason, watch what you say to others. Before you say anything, think about why you’re saying it, what purpose your words have and what the effect may be on whoever hears them.

Will your comments be taken as literal, fact, rumor or innuendo? Is this something that you really need to say? Suppose you are behind on a project and need help to get it in on time. Ask for help, but don’t blame your shortcomings on someone else on your team, sabotaging them behind their back. Rally those whom you know you can count on, especially people whom you’ve helped in similar circumstances.

Confront the Gossiper One-on-One

When you’ve heard negative office gossip and especially if you are in a position of authority, the best way to stop it in its tracks is to confront the gossiper directly. Do so in a private location where no one else will hear the discussion – and seek to spread even more gossip about the goings on.

Let the gossiper know that what he or she is doing is harmful to others, and can result in disciplinary action or other negative consequences. While the gossiper may have thought their actions harmless, reminding them that gossip is anything but may be enough to quell it.

Model the Best Behavior

If you’re the boss, the leader of a team, or just one of the employees who contributes to the overall company’s success, you can make a difference when it comes to dealing with office gossip. How you do this is to model the kind of behavior that’s proactive, positive and uplifting.

This is called leading by example and is something that every employee can do. By showing through your words and actions at all times what is acceptable behavior, you will be serving as a role model for others.

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How Your Memory Suffers with Poor REM Sleep

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Photo by Jordan Whitt

Do you find yourself yawning during the day? Are you tired, listless and can’t seem to focus on the task at hand? Is it difficult to remember things – like what you have on your to-do list, what you did an hour ago, the promises you made yesterday?

You could be suffering from the effects of poor sleep.

Thanks to a study published in Science by researchers at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute at McGill University, and the University of Bern in Switzerland, there’s new awareness that rapid eye movement sleep, or REM, plays a direct role in the formation of memory.

REM sleep, also called dream sleeping, is actually the fourth and final stage of sleep. This sleep stage is characterized by rapid eye movement back, shallow breathing, heart rate and blood pressure increase, and paralysis of the legs and arms.

Although scientists already knew that the brain stores newly acquired information into different types of memories. These are spatial or emotional memories. After they are stored, they are consolidated or integrated.

But how this brain function performs has remained a mystery until the researchers proved, using optogenetics, that REM sleep is critical for the normal spatial memory formation in mice. Optogenetics is a recently developed technology that helps scientists to precisely target a population of neurons and control its activity by light.

REM sleep has long been considered a critical sleep component in all mammals, not just humans. Poor sleep quality is also becoming increasingly associated with onset of brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The results from this study suggest that disrupted REM sleep may be a direct contributor to the kind of memory impairment that those with Alzheimer’s disease exhibit.

But disrupted REM sleep isn’t good for anyone, not in the short- or the long-term.

 

How to Ensure Good REM Sleep

If disrupted REM sleep is wreaking havoc with your memory, there are some things you can do to ensure you get back to having a good night of REM sleep.

  • Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages – particularly in the hours just before you head off to bed. While alcohol may make you drowsy, it interferes with REM sleep. Caffeine, meanwhile, negatively affects REM sleep. So drink that latte earlier in the day.
  • Sleep on a comfortable mattress that is supportive of your body.
  • Watch out for taking certain medications, including decongestants and diet pills, because they also have a negative effect on REM sleep.
  • Medications taken to promote sleep, both prescription and over-the-counter medicine, work to suppress REM sleep.
  • Cigarette smoking is also counter-productive to a good REM sleep. That’s because nicotine withdrawal wakes the sleeper prematurely, thus disrupting adequate REM sleep.
  • Maintain a comfortable sleeping environment. If the room where you sleep is too hot or too cold, it will interfere with your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. That’s because the body loses its ability to regulate temperature during REM sleep. So, if you wake up because you’re shivering or in a sweat, your REM sleep is disrupted. It may be a while before you fall back asleep, and your REM sleep may not be enough.
  • Keep a regular sleep schedule. Retire for the night at a consistent time and wake up at the same time each morning. When you maintain a regular sleep schedule, you’ll be giving yourself more opportunity to cycle between the various sleep stages and experience longer REM sleep later in the night.
  • Get rid of all distractions in the bedroom. Light from electronic devices, such as smartphones, tablets, television and computers stimulates the brain, cuts down on the production of melatonin that encourages REM sleep, and can mess up your body clock. Technology is a huge culprit in sleep-deprived individuals.
  • Exercise at least 20 to 30 minutes daily – but do it 5 or 6 hours before you’re ready to go to sleep. Daily exercise has been proven to both help you sleep and allow you to stay in REM sleep longer.

 

If you try these techniques and still have a problem getting adequate REM sleep, a visit to your doctor might be in order. There could be an underlying medical condition that needs attention. For most people, however, understanding the various stages of sleep and the things that typically interfere with REM sleep, and taking proactive steps to counter them usually works.

 

Now, go ahead and get some good ZZZZs.

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10 Biggest Daily Work Time-Wasters

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There are only so many hours in the day to get things done. Knowing this, sometimes does it seem like you’re constantly chasing down the clock, scrambling last-minute to finalize projects, gather your thoughts and make it home in one piece?
Could it be that you’re wasting precious time doing things that are unnecessary, low priority, out of sequence or simply the wrong things at the wrong time?

Here’s a look at some of the biggest daily wastes of time at work. See if you recognize your time-wasters among them.

Time-Waster #1: Checking texts and tweets

If you can’t bear to miss what could be important texts and tweets, you’re likely guilty of FOMO (fear of missing out). In reality, most of the instant messages, texts and tweets can wait for later. It’s all too easy to become hooked on checking, replying and checking again cycle. No wonder you can’t get anything done at work, home, school or elsewhere.

What to do: Only check texts and tweets on a pre-determined schedule. And don’t make that too often or you’ll defeat the purpose.

Time-Waster #2: Addicted to email

Email is a necessary part of doing business. It’s also the bane of productivity at the office, home business, on the road and so on. If you always have your email client open and notifications pop up on the taskbar or chime to let you know another email’s arrived, you’re engaging in highly unproductive behavior. Not only are you inclined to rush to that incoming email to see what it’s about, you’re also taking your concentration away from the task you’re engaged in.

That’s not conducive to good work habits. And it won’t win you any points with the boss – unless, of course, the email is an urgent one from your superior.

What to do: Set specific times to check emails, say at 9:00 a.m., Noon, and 3:00 p.m. Don’t be tempted to interrupt your schedule to peek. That’s defeating the purpose.

Time-Waster #3: Multitasking

You’re not a superpower. That means you don’t have the ability to perform multiple tasks simultaneously. Somehow, however, you’ve come to believe that you’re really good at juggling several things at once.

You’re not.

What to do: Prioritize your day, setting a specific time to accomplish each task. Work to complete one before beginning another. By focusing on one task at a time, you’ll train yourself to finish it in the allotted time. You’ll probably do a better job at it as well.

Time-Waster #4: Reacting, not acting

How much of your day is spent reacting to something others foist on you, interrupt you with or feel you have to comment about? If you’re always reacting, that robs you of time you could better spend taking action.

What to do: While you can’t stop all interruptions, you can figure out how to deal with them more effectively. Don’t answer the phone when you’re in the middle of a project. Let it go to voicemail. If someone asks you to help them, say you’ll be glad to when you’re finished with what you’re doing.

Time-Waster #5: Doing personal stuff

Everyone does it. That doesn’t mean tending to personal stuff when you’re supposed to be working isn’t a huge time suck. Hoping you can post to your social media or sneak some errands in before your boss notices is not the best strategy. And you’re more likely to extend the time than cut it short.

What to do: Use your lunch break to take care of personal matters, such as updating social media, gabbing with friends, etc. Let others know they can reach you during this time, not when you’re working.

Time-Waster #6: Endless surfing the Web

The Internet is a wonderful resource, but it’s also the perfect venue for wasting time. Not only can you get lost by following different links, the temptation to endlessly surf the Web is almost irresistible.

What to do: Here is a case where you really need to set limits. If you can’t engage in a quick peek when you’re researching something for work, set your surfing aside and indulge in it during lunch break or after work. At least finish what you’re working on now. Otherwise, the end of the day will arrive and you’ll have wasted it.

Time-Waster #7: Looking for things

Where did that report go? You know it was just here, but you can’t seem to find it in the pile on your desk. If your work area – or the area where you do work – is cluttered, scattered and messy, you are wasting time you can’t afford.

What to do: Spend 10 minutes at the end of the day to clear your desk. File what needs to be kept. Recycle or shred documents no longer needed. Make your workspace neat and tidy. This will add to your efficiency tomorrow and cut down on wasted time.

Time-Waster #8: Little breaks that go on forever

Stretching a coffee break into longer than necessary is another common time-wasting practice. That smoke you just have to have (even though you’ve promised yourself you’d quit) seems to take you away from the job far more often than it should. These constant little breaks are adding up to a lot of lost productivity. Not good.

What to do: While mini-breaks, as in, looking away from the computer or getting up to walk around every 15 minutes, are good, heading out for too many breaks is counter-productive. Cut them to mid-morning, lunch and mid-afternoon and you’ll find you’ve gained back some of that time you lost.

Time-Waster #9: Meetings that go nowhere

Who doesn’t hate unproductive meetings? The fact is that many meetings lack a solid agenda, meander without ever accomplishing their goal, degenerate into argument or reach no consensus.

What to do: Distribute an agenda prior to the meeting (if you’re the one calling it). If you’re an attendee/participant, encourage others to stick to the agenda. Most important, if a meeting isn’t necessary, elicit ideas and input another way, perhaps via email.

Time-Waster #10: Nonproductive in-between time

Your workday isn’t all alone-time at your desk. It’s comprised of meetings and phone calls and time in-between meetings. These windows of 15-30 minutes are often completely wasted.

What to do: Instead of doodling at your desk, using the time to check social media, emails and engage in other time-wasters, try to schedule meetings back-to-back. The time you save can then be grouped into a single block of time, possibly later in the day. That allows you uninterrupted time to actually get something done.

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6 Reasons to Love Routines

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With everything you have to do on a daily basis, it can sometimes get to be a bit too much. It doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO of a startup, a small business owner, a home-based entrepreneur trying to juggle kids and family and still tend to your company, everyone struggles to find balance and figure out effective ways to get things done.

Here’s where routines come in handy. In fact, instead of considering daily routines as something boring or to be avoided at all costs, routine should actually be your friend.

I know I’ve come to appreciate the value of routines. Here’s why:

 

Routines are comfortable

Like that outfit you automatically reach for in the closet because you can just be yourself in it, a routine that’s established offers comfort.

You don’t have to worry that it isn’t the right one or try to figure out which one to use. You’ve got it down, know the steps, what to do first and what follows after that.

Less worry, more comfort. How easy is that?

 

Routines are familiar

When faced with something strange, the natural tendency is to shy away, to wonder if this is perhaps out of your league, to procrastinate until a deadline or demand forces you to take action.

On the other hand, even when you know you’re likely to encounter moments requiring you to make a decision today, you can still rely on the familiarity routines provide.

Familiarity in routines is like a dear friend. You know what to expect. There are no surprises. When I’m on autopilot – especially first thing in the morning when I’m not quite fully awake – my familiar routine is a blessing.

 

Routines are easy

While some routines can become unnecessarily complicated, the best ones are simple and easy to follow.

Who wants to think too hard about which part of the routine requires additional steps before you can begin? What you want is the cleanest, most straightforward and basic routine to make doing it as easy as possible.

The key is to break the routine into small, easy-to-follow steps. This helps cement it in your memory and you can pull it out whenever you need it.

 

Routines offer security

A lot of times you don’t get to choose what you have to work on today. Your boss, teacher, parent, friend, neighbor, acquaintance or associate or someone else lays down the itinerary for you. More than likely, they also insist on a deadline.

Not knowing what’s coming when tends to make you a little insecure. Enter the security of your familiar, comfortable and easy routine. Nothing like going back to basics to reestablish calm and give you the sense that you do have control over what you do.

Whenever I feel things getting out of control, I take the time to indulge in one of my favorite routines. Mine is having a delicious latte. The whole process of anticipation, making it and sipping it never fails to make me feel great.

 

Routines help you get started

Pressure to complete multiple projects often results in an unwillingness to begin on any of them. It may seem like the more you have on your to-do list, the less inclined you are to get started.

The beauty of routines is that they serve as a neat primer to get your energy revved up. Consider a routine as the spark that ignites the gasoline to power the car or the fuel in the breakfast that nourishes your body and mind.

Whether you make use of a routine to get up in the morning or go to bed at night – you might even refer to these as rituals — what you do before tackling a difficult or time-consuming project at work, or something you do before having an important conversation, routines are very good at helping you get started.

 

And sometimes we all need a little help doing that.

 

Routines serve as a transition or bridge

It’s a well-known fact that human beings can’t run flat-out for long periods of time. There are only so many all-nighters you can pull before your body gives out.

A routine makes transitioning from one state of energy, focus or concentration to another a little less jarring. It also helps to smooth the way from one task to the next by factoring in a buffer zone to refresh and regroup.

One of my favorite routines helps me do just that. It’s also good exercise. After working on a task for about an hour, I get up and walk downstairs, go outside to do something small in the garden (another familiar, comfortable and easy routine), or take a walk.

 

What are your favorite routines? Do you have some you use only in certain situations or that you find are more effective than others? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

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Can You Name Your Top 5 Goals?

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Chances are you want a lot more out of life. And you’re well aware that success requires ongoing effort, a plan and willingness to do what it takes.

So, why are you floundering? Or are you just confused, unclear or unmotivated?

When the thought occurs to you that you’re not where you want to be, the next question to ask yourself is, “What are my goals?”

This basic self-query is essential to achieving anything in life, whether it’s success in business or career, at home, school, in relationships, and in finding happiness and purpose.

Goals are the key.

With this in mind, can you name your top five?

If not, all is not lost. Here’s help to get you back on track.

 

What All Good Goals Have in Common

Goals are as plentiful as grains of sand on a beach. They’re also as unique. Your goal for achieving success at work is different from mine, from that of your friend and co-worker, the neighbor across the street, your best pal in high school.

Yet good goals have a few characteristics in common:

  • They’re meaningful, highly desirable to the individual.
  • They can be separated into smaller, specific goals for different parts of your life (such as career, relationships, health, self-fulfillment, hobbies, etc.).
  • They’re realistic.
  • They’re achievable.
  • They generate inner excitement.
  • They spark enthusiasm and drive to achieve them.

 

How to Understand What Really Matters

Everyone’s heard the story about the patient who learns she has only six months to live. What will she do with that remaining time? A lot gets clarified in a hurry when time is short.

Translate that to your situation – and that means putting yourself in the life and death scenario. Think about the people and dreams that are most important to you. Are you making progress toward doing what makes you most happy and fulfilled?

Suppose you always thought that having $100,000 in the bank would be a sign of success, that this was a worthwhile goal. Is the bank statement showing you’ve got $100,000 in your account a manifestation of what you believe is truly important in life?

Will it sustain you and bring you comfort over the next 180 days?

Granted, it’s painful to envision the end of your life. Yet this exercise may help you drill down to the essence of your values and beliefs. It may be easier to strip away the nonessential and hone in on goals that really do make a difference.

These will be the goals that are meaningful, can be broken into workable parts, are realistic, achievable, exciting and motivating.

 

Step-by-step Process to Achieving Goals

After you’ve completed your self-awareness analysis and gotten to the crux of what means most to you, you’re ready to begin work on goals.

Specifically, this is an eight-step process to achieving goals:

  1. Identify goals. Remember the various aspects of your life that matter? Take the time to write down goals that affect your career, attitude, health, relationships, financials and more.

 

  1. Prioritize goals. Assign a number to each, from most- to least-important. Do this for each category.

 

  1. Create sub-goals. While you have already identified primary goals, each of these need to have sub-goals that you create. A sub-goal is a goal that must be achieved before you can succeed in attaining the primary goal.

 

  1. Develop intermediate goals. Take each goal category and list what you feel you need to achieve in several timeframes: a month, six months, one year, five years and 10 years. Make these intermediate goals specific. Write them down.

 

  1. Do a present status assessment. Next, figure out where you are today relative to your goals. If you find that you’re far short of where you need to be, consider what you need to do to either change your circumstances or reconstruct your goals. This isn’t giving up on your goals. It’s revising them to acknowledge the constraints you’re experiencing while still giving you the opportunity to achieve them.

 

  1. Get used to achieving goals. You want to become familiar enough and comfortable with attaining goals. Once you succeed, instead of considering that you’re done, revise the goal again to the next level up. As you gain more self-confidence with continued goal achievement, you will experience continued growth.

 

  1. See yourself being successful. A crucial part of goal setting and achievement is actually visualizing yourself a success. Engage in a little daydreaming here to see how that success looks, sounds and feels.

 

  1. Set a timeline and plan. Having gone through steps one through eight, you’re not done yet. Now it’s time to put down a timeline and a specific plan in order to achieve each of your goals.

 

The more you go through this process, the easier it will become. After a while, it’s going to become second-nature. Instead of struggling to figure out where you’re going from here or not knowing what really matters, you’ll have an instinctive blueprint.

You may not end up with five top goals. You may have only three, or you could have 10. The number isn’t important. What matters is how these goals help you to live a vibrant and purposeful life.

If they don’t, are they really that important after all?

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Why Deep Breathing Helps Calm Anxiety

Photo by Max van den Oetelaar on Unsplash

 

As someone whose friends and family know I’ve endured some heartbreaking challenges and physical and emotional difficulties, I’m often asked how I cope with anxiety. They see my eternal optimism as at odds with the turmoil I’ve gone through in life and wonder what my secret is for dealing with a magnitude of life’s ups and downs. I tell them, quite simply, that it isn’t a secret, yet the most effective technique I’ve discovered to calm anxiety is deep breathing.

How and why does deep breathing work in calming anxiety? The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that about 40 million adults in America have an anxiety disorder, making anxiety this country’s most common mental illness. If deep breathing exercises can help, surely more people should add this technique to their anxiety-busting toolkit. While my anecdotal experiences may serve as peer advice, to further validate the benefits of deep breathing as an easy-to-use anxiety intervention, I combed research for some scientific answers and offer them here.

Deep Abdominal Breathing Reduces Anxiety and Stress

According to the American Institute of Stress, 20-30 minutes of deep breathing daily is effective in reducing both anxiety and stress. It has to be breathing deeply through the abdomen to produce the best results. What happens during deep abdominal breathing is that the oxygen breathed in stimulates the body’s parasympathetic nervous system. This, in turn, produces a feeling of calmness and body connectedness that diverts attention from stressful, anxious thoughts and quiets what’s going on in the mind.

Researchers Find Why Deep Breathing Induces Tranquility and Calm

Research published in Science uncovered what may be a likely reason why deep breathing is so successful in bringing about a sense of calmness and tranquility. In studies with mice, Stanford University researchers discovered that a neuronal subpopulation in the animals’ primary breathing rhythm generator projects directly to a center of the brain with a key role in “generalized alertness, attention, and stress.” This subgroup of neurons belongs to a cluster of neurons in the brainstem that controls breathing initiation. When scientists removed the neuronal subgroup from the brains of the mice, it did not affect breathing, yet the mice remained in a state of calm. Their calm behaviors increased while they spent less time in agitated or aroused states. Further research, they said, should explore mapping the full range of functions and emotions controlled by the breathing center.

Deep Breathing Turns Off Body’s Response to Stress

When you’re anxious and tense, the body automatically kicks in the stress response. This is known as the “fight or flight” syndrome and is the physiological reaction that occurs from the release of chemicals cortisol and adrenaline. Initially, the stress response helped man respond to external threats to his existence, like fire, flood, marauding wild animals, or an attack by members of rival clans. While not so applicable today, the body’s stress response still throttles up when it senses danger or a threat. Being aware of the danger when it suddenly appears helps us take preventive action to save lives. Yet when stress goes on indefinitely, and the stress response is constant or chronic, it wreaks incredible havoc on the body. Not only does anxiety increase, so do many health risks, such as obesity, heart disease, and digestive problems. Deep breathing, however, turns off the body’s natural stress response, allowing heart rate and blood pressure to decrease, the tension in muscles to relax, and promotes an overall resiliency build-up to better withstand life’s stressors and anxiety.

How Does Deep Breathing Affect Stress?

In a pilot study published in Neurological Sciences, researchers said their results point to the possibility that deep breathing has the capability of inducing mood and stress improvement effectively. The study utilized both self-reports and objective parameters. They noted that deep breathing, particularly as practiced during yoga and qigong, has long been perceived as beneficial to overall well-being. Research of yoga, the oldest known technique for relaxing, has found improvements of a “remarkable” nature in blood pressure, heart rate, body composition, motor abilities, respiratory function, cardiovascular function, and more. Also, researchers found positive effects in mood states, such as anxiety and perceived stress, including deep breathing’s effect on reducing tension anxiety.

Breath Control (Slow, Deep Breathing) Can Decrease Anxiety

Research published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that slow, deep breathing can decrease anxiety by promoting changes that enhance autonomic, psychological, and cerebral flexibility through many mutual interactions. These include links between central nervous system activities that are related to emotional control, parasympathetic activity, and psychological well-being. The psychological and behavioral outputs resulting from these changes produce an increase in alertness, relaxation, vigor, comfort, and pleasantness and a decrease in anxiety, depression, anger, arousal, and confusion.

In a study published in Frontiers in Physiology, researchers Donald J. Noble and Shawn Hochman investigate the effect that sensory nerves around the chest play in deep breathing’s ability to relax the chest during exhalation, thereby triggering baroreceptors (another set of sensors) in arteries. Both sets of sensors, the researchers said, feed into the brainstem, and the resulting slow brain waves produce a state of relaxed alertness. The ideal is six breaths per minute, note researchers.

What if You’re Chronically Anxious?

If you suspect that you may have an anxiety disorder and deep breathing only works sometimes to help dampen the anxiety level you feel, you may benefit from seeking treatment from a doctor or mental health professional. Symptoms of chronic anxiety include, but are not limited to, exhaustion and fatigue, constantly worrying, sleep problems, decreased or increased appetite, digestion problems, difficulty concentrating, and lack of energy. There’s no shame involved in asking for help to learn how to overcome anxiety. While medication and talk therapy may be necessary as you work through how to effectively cope with anxiety, deep breathing and other therapies will likely also be incorporated into the healing plan.

*  *  *

This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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The Extraordinary Power of Perseverance

Photo by Aleksey Kuprikov on Unsplash

 

“Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.” – Winston Churchill

 

When someone is in recovery from substance abuse, addiction, major depression or other mental health disorder, or a medical condition resulting from surgery, an accident, or disease, they’ve got a lot of challenges to face. A hard truth to accept is that not all of those challenges will result in successful outcomes – at least, initially. But that should never dissuade a person from giving their best effort in all instances, for it is only through perseverance and diligence that dreams can be achieved.

Yet, it is also true that most people find that it’s just too easy to become disheartened when things don’t go as planned or anticipated. That is human nature. Frankly, it doesn’t matter if the individual is in recovery or not. Human beings are subject to making mistakes, having clouded judgment at times, often being overly emotional about things when making decisions, and a litany of other contributing factors.

The tendency may be to blame time and place or say that it is just bad luck when it comes to success. But that’s an excuse, a rationalization employed instead of owning up to the truth: We didn’t keep at it, or gave up too soon.

There are good reasons to get discouraged, to be sure. These include attempting a goal without being ready for it, insufficient training, lack of knowledge or experience, and fear of succeeding or failing.

However, that’s all the more ammunition to keep plugging away at plans, going step by step until there is an achievement, at least some measure of success, such as progress along the way that can serve as the reassurance of being on the right track. This serves as motivation when perhaps nothing else will. How else can we explain the success of others who, by all outward appearances, have nothing going for them and seem doomed to failure? Yet, it happens every day that individuals do achieve tremendous success, reach what appears to be lofty goals, perhaps because of or despite the disadvantaged backgrounds they come from or have overcome.

What about those of us who have nothing positive in our history to point to? What if we are convinced that we messed up everything we’ve ever attempted or that we’ve made more mistakes than wise decisions for a long time? We can blame it all on someone else, our preoccupation with making money, an obsessive focus on relationships, or one or more addictions. To the extent that we took our eye off the ball and let our lives slipped into such disarray, or that we ignored symptoms that were evident to others, there may be some valid basis to such explanation. But it is still not owning up to our responsibility for what’s happened. After all, no one forced us to drink or do drugs. No one made us the way we’ve become. We did that. Granted, we may have a biological marker that is a contributing factor, say, to alcoholism that runs back generations in the family. Yet there are thousands of individuals with such markers who do not become alcoholics, so that explanation isn’t universal.

Suffice to say that if we have a bleak history concerning success, it is time to change that. Start working today to achieve small successes. It is necessary to start somewhere. Be sure, however, to make these reasonable goals that have a realistic chance of success. And some things qualify in this area. Take, for example, the goal to treat ourselves better, to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, to eat regular and well-balanced meals, and get some type of physical exercise each day. These are not tough goals. They should be ones that we can do and be successful in the attempt.

Little accomplishments will begin to add up. Here’s how it works. When we are properly nourished, well-rested, and have increasing amounts of energy because we are getting physical exercise to jumpstart our system, there are multiple physical, emotional, and psychological benefits. There’s no reliance on substances for a jolt or to numb reality. Therefore, welcome the opportunity to live clear-headed and free of alcohol and drugs. This is the path of healing from addictions. This is also an example of taking the first steps in a personal path of recovery from any medical condition, disease, tragedy, or emotional disturbance or illness.

Be sure too to make use of the support and encouragement that’s readily available to us from our family members and loved ones. Only those who are committed to our recovery can offer the kind of unflagging support that’s so crucial to ongoing progress.

Knowing that we have allies in our corner will go a long way toward easing our mind and allaying some of the fears about tackling goals, especially difficult goals and those that require an expenditure of time. Everyone who ever started recovery began from uncertainty and fear. Not knowing the future can be truly frightening.

Know that it is possible to get through this with perseverance and determination. It may not always be easy. It probably won’t be. But it isn’t out of the question, either. Life is precious. It is also short. Isn’t it better to live with the hope and expectation of doing the best to be happy and productive and fulfilled? One of the most positive aspects of perseverance is that it is self-renewing. The more we persevere, the more we want to continue, and the clearer the goal or objective becomes. Should obstacles arise, having a strong commitment to perseverance can sometimes lead to the discovery of alternative ways to achieve desired goals or different paths to the result.

Be comforted that millions of individuals now in recovery have been down this road and have found hope, comfort, peace, happiness, and love. We can too, as long as we persevere, never give in, and never give up.

* * *

This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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Why Good Mental Health Is Important and How to Promote It

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It might seem self-evident, yet evidently everyone doesn’t recognize the importance of good mental health. Beyond the fact that maintaining good mental health is crucial to overall well-being, finding ways to promote it is equally beneficial. Even those who have a mental health disorder, such as depression or anxiety, or develop one coincident with substance use disorder, can take proactive measures to achieve good mental health. What is good mental health and what helps promote it? Here are some points to consider.

Mental Health Defined

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Mental health is an integral and essential component of health.” Furthermore, the WHO constitution states, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Being blessed with good mental health is also more than not having a mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, or anxiety. A mentally healthy person knows their capabilities, can cope with life’s normal stresses, work in a productive manner on a regular basis, and can contribute to the community. As a construct, good mental health is the foundation for effective functioning and well-being for both individuals and the communities where they live.

Promoting Mental Health

It takes action to promote good mental health. Promoting mental health encompasses various strategies, all with the aim of making a positive impact on mental health. These include programs and strategies to create living conditions and an environment supportive of mental health that allow people to both adopt and maintain healthier lifestyles. The range of available choices has the added benefit of increasing opportunities for everyone to experience the benefits of good mental health or improve their mental health.

Factors That Determine Mental Health

Mental health and mental health disorders are affected by multiple factors, just as is the case with illness and general health. Often these factors interact and include elements of a biological, social, and psychological nature.

Some of the clearest evidence, according to experts, is associated with various poverty indicators. Among them are low levels of education, inadequate housing, and low income. Risks to mental health for individuals and communities tend to increase as socioeconomic disadvantages increase and persist. In addition, disadvantaged individuals within communities are more vulnerable to mental health disorders. Some of this may be explained in part by other factors, such as rapid social change, risks of violence, having poor physical health, and feeling insecure and hopeless.

Good mental health is not possible without policies and an environment that respects and protects basic civil, cultural, political, and socio-economic rights. People must have the security and freedom of these rights to achieve and maintain good mental health.

Behavior and Mental Health

Certain mental, social, and behavioral health problems may interact with each other and intensify effects on a person’s behavior and well-being. Substance abuse, violence, and abuse against children and women are key examples, along with HIV/AIDS, anxiety, and depression. These problems tend to be more prevalent and difficult to cope with in conditions that include high unemployment, low income, stressful working conditions, gender discrimination, violations of human rights, unhealthy lifestyle, social exclusion, and limited education.

Cost-Effective Interventions to Promote Good Mental Health

Promoting good mental health doesn’t require million-dollar budgets. Low-cost, cost-effective interventions can raise mental health on an individual and community level. The following effective evidence-based interventions can help promote good mental health:

  • Early childhood interventions
  • School mental health promotion activities
  • Community development programs
  • Support for children
  • Improved housing policies
  • Violence prevention programs
  • Empowerment of women, including mentoring programs
  • Elder social support
  • Workplace mental health interventions
  • Programs targeted for vulnerable groups

Good Mental Health Basics for Children at Home

Promoting good mental health in children involves a number of things that parents can do in the home.

Unconditional love

All children need unconditional love from their parents. This love, and the associated acceptance and security, are the foundation for a child’s good mental health. Children need to be reassured that parental love doesn’t depend on getting good grades, doing well in sports, or how they look. Another important point to stress is that childhood mistakes and defeats are common, and should be expected and accepted. When parents show their unconditional love, and their children know this exists no matter what happens, their self-confidence will grow.

Confidence and self-esteem

Parents can nurture their child’s confidence and self-esteem by praising their efforts, either for things they attempt for the first time or those that they do well. This encourages the child to learn new things and explore the unknown. Other ways for parents to build their child’s confidence and self-esteem include providing a safe play environment, active involvement in their activities, giving assurance, and smiling.

Set realistic goals for children that match their abilities and ambition. As they get older, they’ll be able to choose more challenging goals that test their abilities. Avoid being critical or sarcastic. Instead, give children a pep talk if they fail a test or lose a game. They need reassurance, not criticism.

Be honest, yet don’t make light of parental failures or disappointments. Knowing their parents are human and sometimes make mistakes helps children to grow. Encourage them to do their best and enjoy learning. Trying new activities helps children learn teamwork, build self-esteem, and develop new skills.

Guidance and discipline

Children also need to know that some actions and behaviors and actions are inappropriate and unacceptable, whether at home, school, or elsewhere. As primary authority figures, parents need to provide their children with appropriate guidance and discipline. In the family, make sure discipline is fair and consistent, not having different rules for the child’s other siblings.

Set a good example as well, since kids won’t adhere to rules if parents break them. Also, when the child does something wrong, talk about their inappropriate behavior, but don’t blame the child. Explain the reason for the discipline and potential consequences their actions may involve. Do not nag, threaten, or bribe, since children quickly ignore those tactics and they’re ineffective as well. Try not to lose control around your child. If you do, talk about what happened and apologize. Providing parental guidance and discipline is not for controlling children, but to give them the opportunity to learn self-control.

Safe and secure surroundings

Children should feel safe and secure at home, and not be fearful there. Yet, despite parents’ and caregivers’ best intentions, children do experience fear, anxiety, become secretive or withdraw during certain circumstances and situations. It’s important to remember that fear is a real emotion for children. Trying to determine the cause of the fear and doing something to correct it is necessary. Children may show signs of fear that include aggressiveness, extreme shyness, nervousness, and changes in eating or sleeping patterns. Moving to a new neighborhood or school, or another stressful event may trigger fears, and being ill can bring on fear over going back to school.

Play opportunities with other children

Children should have opportunities to play with other children, both inside and outside the home. Playtime, in addition to being fun, helps children learn to solve problems, be creative, learn new skills, and exercise self-control. Playing tag, jumping, and running helps them become mentally and physically healthy. If there aren’t kids in the neighborhood that are age-appropriate, look into a children’s program at a recreation or park center, community center, or at school.

Encouraging, supportive teachers and caretakers

Teachers and caretakers play an instrumental role in promoting a child’s good mental health. As such, they should be actively involved in the development of the child, offering encouragement and support that’s consistent.

Resiliency and Good Mental Health

Resiliency is all about emotional balance. Yet, being mentally and emotionally healthy doesn’t mean that people never experience hard times or painful situations. Disappointments, loss, and change are part of life and cause even the healthiest individuals to feel anxious, sad, or stressed.

When a person is resilient, he or she can bounce back from adversities like losing a job or going through a relationship breakup, illness, grief, sadness, or other setbacks. They recognize the reality of the circumstance and do what they must to restore emotional balance.

People can teach themselves to become more resilient and improve their mental health. Learning to recognize emotions prevents a person from becoming trapped in negativity, or falling into a state of anxiety or depression. A good support network of family, co-workers, friends, counselors, and therapists can also help during times of need.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), resiliency is not a trait. It does, however, involve thoughts, behaviors, and actions that anyone can learn and develop. They suggest the following 10 ways to help build resilience:

  1. Accept that change is a part of living.
  2. Make connections.
  3. Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems.
  4. Take decisive actions.
  5. Make progress toward goals.
  6. Look for opportunities for self-discovery.
  7. Nurture a positive self-view.
  8. Maintain a hopeful outlook.
  9. Take care of yourself.
  10. Keep things in perspective.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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Here’s What Loneliness Can Do To You During COVID-19

Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

 

“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

Loneliness is never easy to endure, yet during times of mandatory social isolation and distancing, such as millions of Americans are experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be particularly damaging. Among its many effects, loneliness can exacerbate and bring upon a host of mental and physical conditions.

Social Isolation and Loneliness May Increase Inflammation

A study by researchers at the University of Surrey and Brunel University London found a potential link between social isolation and loneliness and increased inflammation. Although they said the evidence they looked at suggests that social isolation and inflammation may be linked, the results were less clear for a direct link between loneliness and inflammation. Researchers said both are linked with different inflammatory markers and that more studies are necessary to further understanding of how social isolation and loneliness contribute to poorer health outcomes.

What we do know about the stay-in-place recommendations during the COVID-19 pandemic is that those who live alone, or who may be infirm or sick and isolated from family members, may feel loneliness and being cut off from social contact more deeply. Many who suffer from comorbid conditions, may also experience an increase in inflammation.

Gene Expression May be Changed Through Loneliness

University of Chicago researchers found that loneliness triggers changes in gene expression, specifically leukocytes, the immune system cells that are involved in protecting the body from viruses and bacteria. Researchers found that chronically lonely people have an increased expression of genes that are involved with inflammation and a decreased expression of genes involved in antiviral response. Not only was loneliness and gene expression predictable a year or so later, but both were also apparently reciprocal, each being able in time to propagate the other.

It will be interesting to see results of studies conducted after the coronavirus pandemic abates somewhat to learn whether loneliness and gene expression are, indeed, reciprocal as well as what further associations between the two can be confirmed.

People With Dementia are at Higher Risk for Loneliness

A 2016 report from Alzheimer’s Australia found that people suffering from dementia and their caregivers are “significantly more lonely” than the general public and that their experience levels of loneliness are similar. Both those with dementia and their caregivers have smaller social circles and tend to see outsiders less frequently, although those with dementia are at even greater risk for loneliness due to diminished social contacts.

Since many individuals suffering from dementia, whether in nursing homes or being cared for by family members in their own residences, are more prone to loneliness than those who are not afflicted with the debilitating condition. Couple dementia with COVID-19 and the loneliness experienced may become overwhelming.

Loneliness Makes Managing Stress More Difficult

The stress associated with being quarantined for having or coming into contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 is all too real for thousands of individuals. The stress of caring for a loved one or family member quarantined for the virus in no way diminishes personal stress being cooped up and responsible for caregiving during the homebound stay.

First-responders and healthcare professionals caring for seriously ill patients with COVID-19 is another prevalent situation today, one that causes an increase in stress levels and may precipitate a feeling of loneliness even during a time of intense workload. Finding ways to manage stress during this extraordinary and unprecedented worldwide phenomenon is much more difficult.

Besides the immediate stress, there’s also secondary traumatic stress that people experience, resulting in feelings of loneliness, guilt, exhaustion, fear, and withdrawal. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s important to actively seek out ways to cope with stress during COVID-19, taking good care of yourself, realizing that everyone responds differently to stress and to allow yourself time to recover after the direct threat is over.

Sleep Quality, Fatigue, Concentration and Indecisiveness Worsen With Loneliness

Research published in Lancet on the psychological impact of quarantine reported on a study that found of hospital staff who cared for or came into contact with those with SARS, being quarantined was itself most predictive of acute stress disorder. Furthermore, that same study found that quarantined individuals were more likely to report symptoms of irritability, indecisiveness, poor concentration, fatigue and exhaustion, and insomnia consistent with the loneliness and social isolation they felt during the quarantine.

Another study mentioned in the Lancet article cited the fact that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms were reported by hospital workers three years after quarantine, lending credence to the belief that loneliness and isolation can have long-lasting mental health consequences.

Those who are most at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic include those with compromised immune systems, underlying medical conditions, such as asthma, serious heart disease, obesity, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and liver disease. Older individuals and those confined to nursing homes or long-term care facilities are considered highly vulnerable to experiencing severe illness from coronavirus.

Loneliness Serves as a Contributing Factor in Substance Abuse

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the current COVID-19 pandemic may hit those with substance abuse “particularly hard.” In particular, those who regularly take opioids or have diagnosed opioid use disorder (OUD), or use methamphetamines, those who smoke tobacco, cannabis, or vape, can be at special risk for serious coronavirus complications to their lungs. Homelessness, being hospitalized and isolated or quarantined at home also elevate the risk of increased loneliness.

Furthermore, among the general public, even those not quarantined due to contracting the virus or caring for someone who has it, serious stress and caregiver fatigue may lead them to try coping with drugs or alcohol. An increase in impulsive behavior, engaging in risky activities as a coping mechanism to avoid painful feelings of loneliness, loss, financial devastation, and a diminished sense of hope for the future appears also increasingly tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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What We Are Learning About Ourselves From the COVID-19 Pandemic

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

 

Some say that life will never be the same again, that we’ll forever be haunted by the tragic loss of life, untold suffering, mental anguish, diminished economic prosperity, curtailment of basic human freedoms and so much more. On the other hand, what’s unfolding as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is a reawakened sense of life’s meaning and purpose, recognition of our hidden strengths, and willingness to tap into our core goodness and generosity. We are learning a lot about ourselves, which benefits everyone.

Learning to quickly adapt

There is no doubt that what America and the rest of the world are experiencing is a reality that no one could have anticipated. Despite the fact that some in the medical community and those who’ve extensively researched viruses and past pandemics provided warnings of collective ill-preparedness for any pandemic of the magnitude of COVID-19, most people went about their lives unconcerned about potential catastrophic and widespread illness and death.

Now, however, since there is a new reality forcing a reassessment of how to live everyday life while maintaining social distancing, businesses, factories, and public and private places closed, we’re learning to quickly adapt. Long-held habits changed overnight. Commutes evaporated, replaced by the recommendation to stay in place.

Rediscovering our humanity

While there are instances of hoarding, selfishness, greed, and isolated crime, most people in America are united in a common bond: We are facing the pandemic, doing what we must to survive, and pledging to work tirelessly to find solutions to universally-experienced problems. In the process, we’re rediscovering our humanity.

Adopting technology at an accelerated rate

From online business meetings to connecting in-person and live with family members, loved ones and friends, we’re adopting technology at an accelerated rate. Social media networks, long a technological tool for connection, are even more important during a time when people are inside for weeks at a time. Mobile and online ordering for curbside pickup of staples, food, meals, and medicines is rapidly becoming the go-to way for Americans to conveniently and safely get what they need on an immediate basis. There’s a measure of confidence in adopting technology for these purposes since it means we’re not going to starve, run out of toilet paper, or much-needed medicine. Telehealth is also ramping up, as medical practitioners and patients connect via secure and HIPAA-compliant portals to ensure necessary medical and mental health needs are professionally addressed.

Discovering we are resilient

No one knows when the threat of the COVID-19 virus will subside, or if it will resurface again, perhaps seasonally, or undergo mutations that could be even more deadly. There is an unwavering focus on developing effective treatment medications and vaccines to combat coronavirus. Dealing with such uncertainty calls into question our personal and collective ability to bounce back. Yet, in the face of the crisis, we have discovered just how resilient we are. We have strengths we took for granted, and courage that we didn’t know we possessed. Recognize that resilience is a strength that can be cultivated and can then serve as a reservoir to utilize as needed.

Repurposing factories, tools and processes to meet urgent medical needs

From the automakers to plastics-makers to tobacco companies and virtually every type of business with machinery, equipment, and the processes and know-how to jumpstart an entirely new model, we’re repurposing assembly lines, retooling equipment and revamping processes to meet the country’s most urgent medical needs. These include making ventilators, N95 and surgical masks, gowns, gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPEs) so desperately needed by front-line medical personnel, first responders, police officers, and others serving a citizenry affected with coronavirus.

Becoming more generous

Parents raising their children at home during this challenging time can impart invaluable lessons about the importance of generosity by serving as examples. Put together shelf-stable items such as canned goods, flour, and baking items, spices, condiments, packaged milk, and other staples and deliver them to the doorstep of someone who’s unable to get out and shop, or who may be ill, or is scrimping just to buy food. Americans are also showing their increasing generosity by donating money online, funding critical resources for disadvantaged individuals. In times of calamities and natural disasters, people in the United States have always stepped up to the challenge, yet the COVID-19 pandemic is proving just how generous this nation’s inhabitants can be.

Realizing life is precious

A recent story about a couple married 51 years, contracted the coronavirus and died within minutes of each other showcases how quickly life can be snuffed out. The two were in good health until the husband, aged 74, came down with a cough, developed breathing problems, had to be hospitalized, was diagnosed with COVID-19, and was intubated. His wife, aged 72, wracked by stress, became ill and her condition progressively worsened. When doctors told their son his dad didn’t have long to live, he took his mother to the hospital where she was tested, proved positive for coronavirus, and put the couple together in the same hospital room. She died within six minutes of her husband.

No matter how well you feel at the moment, follow CDC recommendations on the COVID-19 virus to take precautions and stay home, only venturing out with proper face mask, gloves, maintaining the minimum social distancing guidelines. Send one person to the store for food, instead of shopping together. The least contact with others outside the home as possible is the best practice.

While no one knows how long they’ll live, everyone can recognize how precious life is – every second of it.

Living in the moment

Now, more than ever, we’re keenly aware that this moment is what we have. This is what is real, the here and now. There’s less time spent dwelling on the past and no reason to engage in endless self-berating, constantly recycling negative and painful memories. We’re finding constructive things to do, making plans, and encouraging each other to enjoy today.

Reconnecting with family and loved ones

Granted, living in close proximity indoors takes its toll and familial arguments are unavoidable at times. Yet, even with the fact that staying inside is somewhat claustrophobic and emotions can be overwhelming in some instances, we’ve found ways to reconnect with family and loved ones – even those living in the same house. There’s more time to talk with each other at the kitchen table while doing chores in the yard and around the house, helping each other prepare meals, clean up, watch favorite shows and movies on TV. Communicating with family and loved ones honestly and lovingly at this time is more important than ever. For those suffering anxiety and depression, providing reassurance and support is crucial. Indeed, coping with anxiety now demands attention. Ensuring uninterrupted contact with that person’s therapist via phone, telehealth visits, email, instant messaging is another way to show your love and support.

Learning perspective

Things that once were annoying and stress-producing may now seem largely irrelevant. Personal peeves about a co-worker’s behavior or workplace habits are perhaps a distant memory. What siblings and family members argued about prior to COVID-19 have little bearing on what everyone is going through now. In essence, all Americans are learning perspective, as what is really important becomes abundantly clear: each other.

*  *  *

This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Why It’s Important to Your Mental Health to Deal Constructively With Self-Doubt

My Best Ways to Deal with Frustration

How to Keep Frustration from Blocking Your Goals

How to Start Making Plans When You’re Recovering From Depression

Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of Is You

To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.   

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my blog and more. I also invite you to like me on Facebook, follow me on LinkedIn,  TwitterInstagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest.

 


Finding Resilience in the Midst of Challenges

Photo from Picography

“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.” – David Brinkley

One thing is certain, and that is that each day presents new challenges. It isn’t the fact that challenges occur that is most important, however, but how well an individual is able to adapt and bounce back from setbacks and go on to face daily challenges. The secret is resilience, yet a little known fact is that it is possible to find and tap into a wellspring of resilience even in the midst of challenges.

Are You Up for Today’s Challenges?

A common misconception for many people is to wonder if we’re up for the challenges today brings. For some, the go-to course of action is to do anything and everything to avoid what is happening today. More specifically, to avoid what responsibilities should be attended to today. The difference between someone who acknowledges, accepts, and rises to meet the challenges and one who shirks, denies, ignores, or blatantly refuses to take action may well be their attitude.

The good news is that this is one area where proactive steps can be taken to turn a negative outlook into a more positive one, thereby improving outcomes regardless of the challenge at hand. Hence, going back to the reservoir of resilience can produce dramatic results.

How to Deal With Difficult or Unpleasant Tasks

Many people find that they steel themselves to tackle difficult or unpleasant tasks experienced on a more or less regular basis. Another common behavioral tendency is to shy away from anything unknown. Why is that? For one thing, people often feel at a loss as to how to deal with the situation, not having sufficient (in their estimation) experience or knowledge to take on the task with any degree of success. For another, they may be afraid – either that they’ll fail at it or that they’ll succeed. Success may mean yet more challenges, and they may not feel all that up to the job just now.

What If You Have Depression or Other Mental Health Disorder?

This can be especially true for anyone dealing with the difficulties inherent in coping with a mental health disorder, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and others. Often, in addition to the uncertainty and self-doubt the disorder creates, the individual feels ill-equipped to make sound decisions. There’s also likely a fear that a previously-used coping mechanism or method may be faulty.

Even so, consider the fact that there’s probably a wealth of lessons just beneath the surface of the various daily challenges encountered, whether one is dealing with a mental illness or any other daily challenge. By failing to pay heed to these lessons or automatically rejecting them as unworkable, too difficult, indicative of failure or not worth the effort, that does a huge disservice to the individual. By way of illustration, think of the last time paying attention to a truth that’s become apparent during the course of tackling a difficult challenge made a tremendous difference in the task outcome. By tapping into that residual memory, it’s not only possible to benefit from resilience but also to jumpstart it this time. The circumstances may be different, yet our inherent knowledge source remains constant.

Finding Resilience in the Midst of Challenges

As to actually being able to find resilience in the midst of these challenges, this is a skill that can be developed and built over time and with practice. It’s possible to somehow stumble on a way to discern what’s hidden beneath or train ourselves to find the good in everything that we do, whether it is a daily task or taking on something that seems complex, demanding and out of normal expertise.

What we’ll find is that we’ve got more going for us than we realized. There are strengths that we each possess that will serve us well, but only if we give ourselves the opportunity to put them to work.

Look at challenges that arise and figure out ways that to possibly tackle them, where to start looking for the solution, how to implement it, when, and where to ask for help or marshal resources.

The stronger the foundation of resilience is, the more strength and resilience there’ll be to utilize when something unexpected threatens to derail progress in working through challenges. Indeed, every action taken makes us stronger we get stronger – as long as we constantly strive to learn something from our efforts, successful immediately or not.

How This Works in Real Life

How does this work in real life? What is an example that we can all identify with? Suppose we’ve attempted a task and find that we run into a roadblock of considerable proportion? We’ve tackled something that really goes beyond our area of experience or knowledge and believe we can’t go any further. There are, however, ways to look at this. Granted, it could be marked as a failure. On the other hand, it is also possible to acknowledge what was learned in the process. That may well be that we have the strength to take on difficult challenges and not shy away from them, or we’ve learned when we need to step aside, possibly turn over the task to someone with more experience and/or follow by their side so as to learn how to do it ourselves.

What we can take from the experience is the fact that all of this adds to our residual body of resilience, knowledge, experience, and self-confidence. While total success may not have been achieved this time out, this should not deter us from tackling challenges again. In fact, we’ll likely find that we’re more hopeful than ever, given the fact that we’ve learned how to make use of our innate resilience to identify and pursue innovative and workable solutions to everyday challenges.

Suppose others are critical of our efforts? Those are neither true friends nor supporters of our goals. Keep attuned to giving challenges complete effort and focus, doing the best possible in the moment. What comes out of this is something profound in return, and that is a belief in our ability to succeed in the end. Remember, as humans, we learn when we act. The more we learn, the more we grow. The more we grow, the stronger our resilience reservoir becomes.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Why It’s Important to Your Mental Health to Deal Constructively With Self-Doubt

My Best Ways to Deal with Frustration

How to Keep Frustration from Blocking Your Goals

How to Start Making Plans When You’re Recovering From Depression

Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of Is You

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How To Stop Fear From Holding You Back During Troubling Times

Photo by Tobias Tullius on Unsplash

 

Living life in fear is no way to live, no matter what is going on in the world. Without a doubt, these are troubling times, filled with uncertainty, sadness, perhaps physical pain as well. Much of what has happened is out of anyone’s control. The new reality of social distancing, working from home, constant hand washing and finding innovative ways to stretch groceries, paper products and cleaning supplies is enough to produce anxiety in any sane individual. Yet, coming to grips with fear is essential. Instead of struggling with this powerful emotion and allowing it to grow, do something to stop it. Here’s how.

What Is Really Bothering You?

While this may be the last thing on a to-do list, it’s important to sit down and identify what is really bothering you now. Just answering “COVID-19” is too broad, yet putting this on paper is a good starting point.

Before diving in, however, make sure family or business duties or tasks are taken care of. They must take priority. Then, feel free to devote sufficient time to centering on what’s most fear-inducing.

It may help to do this exercise with eyes closed. Think about what went on today that may have produced fear. Did something someone said (in the home, on TV, during Internet browsing, reading the newspaper) allow that knot of fear to metastasize? Did it mean reticence about doing something or shying away from any personal contact (even at a distance)? Write down specifics, anything that comes to mind.

The list will vary from one person to the next, although there are some common threads people mention about what makes them afraid. These include:

  • I’m so fearful to be around other people, even with social distancing. What if I’m next to someone who’s got the coronavirus?
  • I’m afraid that I’ll never enjoy success again and, with so many millions of people sick and tens of thousands dying from this novel virus, I feel guilty even thinking of personal goal achievement.
  • Others probably think I’m a selfish person, so I’m reluctant to tell them what I’m thinking so they won’t judge me.
  • I’m afraid for our children. What kind of world will they live in? What happens if we get sick and can’t take care of them.
  • All I can feel is fear – about everything.

This May Seem Obvious, But When Did the Fear Begin?

To overcome fear, it’s important to pinpoint when it took over and began to handicap everyday living.

Some fears are universal, such as fear of abandonment, fear of being alone, fear about disease, dying and death. Indeed, some of what’s now identified as fear may trace back to a dysfunctional home, childhood trauma, economic disadvantage, school bullying, the presence of a physical or mental disability.

Recognize that uncovering when and where the fear started and then focusing on the fear itself is likely to be painful. Dwelling on fear is unpleasant at best, yet getting past fear requires going through this process.

Be Willing to Ask for Help

Identifying fear, when it began, and specifics about the fear will likely produce feelings of discomfort and frustration. That’s because there aren’t any solutions as to how to get past fear yet.

Outside help can prove beneficial here. Psychological counseling or therapy may be appropriate, or taking part in online discussion groups and self-help forums. Literature available online on the topic of overcoming fear is another good source for help.

Two other options for overcoming fear are meditation and prayer, both part of a spirituality practice.

Most people are reluctant to ask for help, yet resources are available and no one should feel any stigma about asking for assistance during these troubling times. Indeed, climbing out of the pit of fear may begin with taking these first steps toward a proactive solution.

What Are You Afraid Fear Will Prevent You From Doing?

When thinking about the future, assuming there will be restrictions on personal movement lifted, are you afraid to return to work? Does the idea of interacting with co-workers and supervisors create a rush of fear?

What if you’ve had the virus, or been in quarantine with family members who’ve had it, are you afraid you’ll get it again?

Are you afraid of ever getting physically close with another individual due to uncertainty over how long COVID-19 will be present, or if it will become seasonal and a pandemic that will recur?

The point about looking at what fear may prevent you from doing isn’t how daunting the list is. It is, however, instructive to see in black and white how self-limiting fear is to daily living. Everyone wants to get life back to normal, even if that normal looks quite different than what it once was. Fear, in this respect, can be a powerful motivator to unleash innovation, creativity, and finding new solutions to everyday problems and daily life.

Future Planning: Create Goals

This crisis will eventually subside and things will get back to some semblance of order. Heartening research from the University of Sydney found that if 80 percent of people practiced strong social distancing, COVID-19 could be curbed in 13 weeks. Be ready with goals to tackle once that happens. These may include personal goals that have taken a backseat to others, yet now they take on greater significance.

Whatever these goals may be, put them down on paper. This exercise provides ample material to work from in taking the next step to get past fear.

Construct Action Plans

Action plans are necessary to get moving on goals. Be sure to include a range of goals, some that are more quickly achievable, some that take a bit longer, and others that are long-term.

In the interim, prioritize self-care, since you’ll need to be healthy to resume normal living once the pandemic subsides. Even during self-distancing, it’s possible to ensure you’re taking good care of yourself, according to suggestions from Johns Hopkins mental health experts. The list includes exercise, which helps reduce stress, anxiety and depression while also benefitting physical health.

Each type requires its own set of action plans. Without a plan to follow, there’s no roadmap to pursue the goal. Another crucial part of action plans and goals is that they’ll likely need to undergo revision. Change is part of life, and goals deemed important now may be less of a priority going forward. Live life in the present, always doing your best while remaining true to yourself and your core beliefs.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Are You Lonely Tonight? How to Combat Loneliness

5 Tips to Banish Loneliness

How to Help Your Child Banish Loneliness

My Best Ways to Deal with Frustration

How to Keep Frustration from Blocking Your Goals

How to Manage Your Anger

How to Start Making Plans When You’re Recovering From Depression

10 Health Benefits of Daily Exercise

10 Ways Nature Helps Your Well-Being

Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of Is You

To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.   

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my blog and more. I also invite you to like me on Facebook, follow me on LinkedIn,  TwitterInstagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest.


Loneliness Erodes Your Mental Health – But You Can Get Past This Toxic Emotion

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“Loneliness is proof that your innate search for connection is intact.” – Martha Beck

Loneliness is one of the most miserable feelings to experience. Being alone, however, doesn’t necessarily mean a person is lonely. They may be, although they may be quite deliberate in wanting to be alone for a time, and have no negative effects from such solitude. It’s the protractedness and sense of isolation and desperation that can set in that seems to push loneliness to extremes, even potentially resulting in worsening mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety. Yet, for those who are suffering with loneliness and want to take proactive steps to get past this toxic emotion, there are some things they can do that can help.

WISDOM AND OTHER LONELINESS COPING STRATEGIES

A sobering statistic from the National Center for Health Studies reveals that, by 2029, more than 20 percent of the adult U.S. population will be age 65 and older. Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine sought to identify common loneliness characteristics of seniors in retirement or senior living facilities, as well as effective coping strategies to combat loneliness. With the increasing number of senior citizens moving into such facilities, it’s important to recognize that loneliness is considered as bad as smoking and obesity in curtailing longevity.

According to the researcher’s findings, the biggest risk factors for loneliness are losses associated with age, and poor social skills. Losing a sense of life purpose was mentioned by participants as another risk factor. Of course, loneliness is subjective, researchers said, and people feel the emotion differently.

Preventing loneliness or combating its presence, on the other hand, involves exploring interventions of wisdom and compassion. Researchers cited various studies on some of the effective loneliness coping mechanisms:

  • Engaging in activities with others. Finlay & Kobayashi (2018) identified poor health as sometimes providing social engagement opportunities with family, friends and caregivers considered valuable.
  • Keeping busy by yourself. Dragestet et al., 2015 found that occupying oneself was a help in combating loneliness.
  • Time for self-reflection and spiritual activities. Stanley et al., 2010, noted that there are benefits to being alone, chiefly that solitude affords time for self-reflection and conducting personally important spiritual activities.
  • Shared public spaces and communal activities help decrease loneliness. Li et al., 2018, said that acceptance and optimism, informal social support, and promoting independence and autonomy can help older Chinese immigrants enhance personal resilience.

GET  MOVING WITH ALMOST ANY KIND OF EXERCISE

A somewhat concerning finding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), garnered from data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System for the period 2015-2018, is that more than 15 percent of U.S. adults are physically inactive. Of course, inactivity levels vary by state, with Puerto Rico coming in highest at 47.7 percent, and Colorado lowest at 17.3 percent. Why is this important? The CDC says that inactive lifestyles are a factor in one in 10 premature deaths in this country. Guidelines for recommended amounts of physical activity call for about 150 minutes of brisk exercise weekly, which can be broken down into shorter periods of time, such as 25 minutes or a 30-minute walk five times in a week. Physical activity offers mental health benefits of improving mood, feeling and sleeping better, reducing certain cancer risk, and lowering risks for obesity and heart disease.

What kind of exercise should you take up to get started? Almost any exercise will do just fine, so perhaps begin with going out for a walk with the dog, riding a bike, or engaging in a brisk walk alone or with others. You mood, mind, and body will reap the benefits.

AEROBIC EXERCISE OFFERS COGNITIVE BENEFITS

While getting up and getting going often involves the ritual of drinking coffee, with the caffeine providing an energy jolt but also jumpstarting the mind, researchers from the University of Western Ontario found that a brief burst of aerobic exercise boosts working memory just as much as caffeine. Furthermore, the beneficial cognitive effects of the aerobic exercise were experienced during and following exercise, and after a short delay. The ability of caffeine to positively affect cognition and mood sometimes come with unwanted side effects during withdrawal: jitteriness, anxiety, headache, fatigue, decreased alertness and reduced contentedness. Aerobic exercise, on the other hand, has none of those side effects or withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, especially for those who may be anxious or otherwise unable to consume caffeine, engaging in aerobic exercise can help with safe and effective mood elevation and improvements in working memory. For someone who suffers from loneliness and yet doesn’t venture out much, aerobic exercise may be valuable as an intervention to get them in contact with people again.

TAKE UP JOURNALING

There’s something about the process of journaling, writing your thoughts down on paper, that serves as a catalyst to overcome loneliness. Besides resulting in a tangible document that’s accessible to review later, committing to journaling reinforces a sense of discipline, of sticking to a schedule and doing something proactive for your mental health. It’s for good reason that creative writing instructors encourage their students to take up journaling, since writing down felt emotions and capturing events as they happen often serve as starting points for future action. Whether that action turns out to be making small or significant lifestyle or behavior changes or spurs creativity in another endeavor, activity, hobby or pursuit, journaling is an important foundation for improving mental health.

How to get started is easy. Find something to write on or in, set aside time each day to jot down your thoughts, write without judgement and keep writing without stopping for the minutes you’ve allocated for this purpose. Remember that this is your journal, and doesn’t need to be shared with anyone else. So you needn’t worry about guarding your feelings. If you do have concerns that others may delve into your journal, lock it away. This isn’t about secrecy, however, but more about opening yourself up and voicing your daily thoughts, even venting, if that’s what it takes. Also be sure to detail the good things that occurred each day, how you felt when something pleasant or unexpected happened, the small successes you enjoyed, what you’re looking forward to tomorrow and so on.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Are You Lonely Tonight? How to Combat Loneliness

5 Tips to Banish Loneliness

How to Help Your Child Banish Loneliness

My Best Ways to Deal with Frustration

How to Keep Frustration from Blocking Your Goals

How to Manage Your Anger

How to Start Making Plans When You’re Recovering From Depression

10 Health Benefits of Daily Exercise

10 Ways Nature Helps Your Well-Being

Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of Is You

To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.   

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my blog and more. I also invite you to like me on Facebook, follow me on LinkedIn,  TwitterInstagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest.

 


Why It’s Important to Deal Constructively With Self-Doubt

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“I have self-doubt. I have insecurity. I have fear of failure… We all have self-doubt. You don’t deny it, but you also don’t capitulate to it. You embrace it.”—Kobe Bryant

 

Everyone, no matter who they are, inevitably experiences self-doubt. Reading through the biographies and autobiographies of some of the most accomplished, celebrated, famous, talented and intelligent people reveals that each one of them has had their moments of personal doubt. Not only did they wonder if they had what it takes, they worried whether they could persevere despite opposition and setbacks, without support and encouragement, even if they were physically capable of continuing.

Self-doubt isn’t an automatic determinant or precursor to declining mental health. Nor is it the killer of goals or success. Giving up is, however, on both accounts. The key point to remember here isn’t that you doubt yourself, because you will, but what you’ll do about it will make all the difference between being proactive with your mental health and allowing it to deteriorate through inattention.

The first step to dealing constructively with self-doubt involves recognition. If you recognize that what you’re feeling is doubt, you can begin to take proactive steps to overcome it. While each person will need to find what works best, here are some general tips to help get past the crippling paralysis that self-doubt can bring about.

AVOID SELF-DENIAL

It makes no sense to deny what you feel. As with any emotion, when you try to shove the present emotion or feeling aside, it only goes deeper. Instead, acknowledge that you have doubts about yourself and your abilities or capabilities. That’s the first step in getting past it.

ACCEPT SELF-DOUBT AS NORMAL

It probably seems like you’re alone in this experience, especially when you’re right in the thick of it. However, when you accept that self-doubt is normal, that it isn’t unique to you, and everyone has it, this can make the experience less discomforting.

NEVER WALLOW IN THE EMOTION

Never give in to self-doubt. If you do, you’ll never accomplish anything worthwhile. Your goals will slip away, you’ll become bitter and disillusioned, perhaps become depressed, and life will seem less hopeful and productive.

STIFLE THAT HYPERCRITICAL INNER VOICE

When you’re worried you won’t measure up, that you’ll fail at the prospective task or endeavor or not be able to meet the challenge you’ve set for yourself, you’re engaging in the futile act of listening to your harsh inner voice and endlessly worrying about self-criticism. You know, the one that’s always warning you to be cautious, reminds you that your ideas aren’t the best, and laughs at your attempts to succeed. Stop and think, though. Did that hypercritical inner voice ever do you any favors when you listened to it? Can’t think of one, can you? So, tell yourself that you know better than that annoying, and utterly wrong, inner critic. That’s another positive step to deal constructively with self-doubt.

REMIND YOURSELF OF PAST SUCCESS

Now is a good time to recall that you’ve had doubts before and were able to rise above them. You found solutions and techniques that worked then and you will do so again. Reminding yourself of past success in similar situations is a great motivator when you encounter something that makes you question whether you have what it takes this time.

LEARN TO IDENTIFY SELF-DOUBT TRIGGERS

When self-doubt cropped up in the past, what were the triggers that you recall occurring? Raising self-awareness about self-doubt helps you understand what’s at the heart of the emotion, so you can reassure yourself that most of it is fear-based and not grounded in reality.

ENVISION A POSITIVE OUTCOME

While it might be tough to do right now, concentrate on a positive outcome. In fact, be hopeful of one. The dynamic of what happens here is that by capitalizing on your strengths and working to overcome your weaknesses, you’ll position yourself for success. This will occur despite the presence of self-doubt.

SEE THIS AS A GROWTH OPPORTUNITY

Granted, it doesn’t seem like it at first glance. Could it be that something you’re worried about is holding you back? Yet, look past your fears and regard self-doubt as an opportunity to grow. This current situation where you feel such anxiety and doubt didn’t happen without some warning. Were you as prepared as you could be? Does this show you that planning, practice and lining up resources is perhaps a better way to push past self-doubt?

FORGET WHAT OTHERS THINK

It’s understandable that everyone has opinions, yet not all of them are in sync with yours. However, the culture of sameness, where only certain ideas and sometimes only the opinions of certain people are entertained is not helpful to productivity, let alone trying to overcome self-doubt. You don’t want this for yourself or your future, so forget what others think. At the very least, don’t put too much credence into their criticism. You need to own your future. That means thinking for yourself and having the self-confidence to know that you’ll make good decisions.

EMBRACE SELF-DOUBT TO ENRICH LIFE 

Perhaps the simplest and most effective advice regarding self-doubt and your mental health is to embrace the emotion. By learning to embrace self-doubt and allowing yourself the experience of overcoming it, you will enrich your life in ways that may today seem unimaginable.

For example, once you’ve realized that you can overcome self-doubt, you’re no longer troubled by fears of failure. You recognize that you may stumble, yet you’ll learn valuable lessons in the process, emerging stronger than before, able to see past obstacles, ignore unwarranted criticism and the enmity of others. A pattern of success makes for greater self-esteem and self-confidence, both of which are integral in good mental health. While you cannot predict when things may go awry, you know that you’re fully capable of weathering the challenges that life presents. That’s another sign that you’ve dealt constructively with self-doubt.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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How to Keep Frustration from Blocking Your Goals

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10 Ways Nature Helps Your Well-Being

To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.   

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my blog and more. I also invite you to like me on Facebook, follow me on LinkedIn,  TwitterInstagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest.


How to Effectively Solve Problems Without Sleepless Nights

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“People who believe a problem can be solved tend to get busy solving it.” – William Raspberry

 

When problems require solving and you’re fresh out of ideas, there’s no need to endure sleepless nights filled with anxiety over the situation. What can help, however, is making use of time-proven problem-solving techniques that anyone can use.

WRITE IT DOWN

So you don’t have to think about it all night. How many times have you tossed and turned throughout the night, endlessly replaying in your mind different reasons why you have to get this problem solved? Worse, when you have the problem pressing this way, it’s tough to drift off to sleep. Besides the problem itself, you worry that you’ll forget you have to tend to it. This puts into motion the non-stop cycle of ruminating about the problem, waking from a fitful sleep to wonder if you’ve forgotten about the problem, to beating yourself up over not already solving the problem, to other extraneous problems that may be exacerbated or arise from the unsolved problem.

No wonder you can’t sleep. In addition to not sleeping well, the next morning’s no better when it comes to having a clear head with which to attempt to resolve the problem. Indeed, you’re right back where you started: big problem, no solution.

A handy technique is to write down everything you can about the problem, including what it is, how it started, what you may have done to cause it or make it worse, what other solutions you may have attempted that didn’t work, and what you believe you need to find a solution.

PAMPER YOURSELF BEFORE BED

While pampering yourself before going to bed at night may be the last thing that comes to mind, it should be one of the first. What’s happened already is nothing you can change right now. On the other hand, what you most definitely can do is give yourself good self-care in the form of a relaxing bath, having a laugh with family and loved ones, reading something enjoyable, meditating, going for a walk in nature, watching the sunset, listening to soothing music, even eating a meal you prepare with love.

When you indulge in self-pampering, think of it as a much-needed and well-deserved opportunity to be proactive for your overall health and well-being. It very much is that, and so much more. The nature of self-care, which is the essence of pampering, provides healing balm to body, mind and soul. It is reassuring, comforting, uplifting and enriching.

It’s also free, readily available, and easy to do. Amazingly, many a solution occurs while you’re in the middle of such pampering. It’s almost as if by magic. How can this be? When you’re mind isn’t so obsessed with a particular problem to solve, it allows creativity to flow, and from that wellspring is where problem solving arises.

VISUALIZE A PROBLEM

And let your subconscious do the work. A 2016 study published in Frontiers in Psychology refers to this as the incubation effect, which occurs after setting aside the problem and allowing the mind to process seemingly novel solutions that occur as intuitive insights. Most of us never think about how powerful an ally our subconscious really is. Yet, a fascinating thing happens when we let our bodies rest that has as much to do with revitalizing the mind as it does allowing the body to replenish energy. We do, however, need to give our brain the raw materials with which to work. Not that the mind won’t circle back to what’s yet unsolved, but giving it a little nudge is like having your homework assignment written out already so you know what needs attention.

The best way I’ve found to get a handle on a creative solution to a problem is to visualize the problem before going to bed, knowing that I’m much more likely to wake up with a solution or approach to try tomorrow. The visualization of the problem, along with writing the problem done, are what jumpstarts my subconscious into problem-solving mode. That frees me from the tortuous sifting and discarding of do this or don’t do that I’d otherwise engage in throughout what should be my sleeping hours.

Researchers at the University of Lancaster studied the ability of study participants to solve problems after getting eight hours of sleep and their findings pinpoint the value of sleep to allow your brain access to the vast amounts of knowledge it holds. Tapping into those useful bits of information and putting disparate items together often is the result. They referred to this as most likely occurring do to spreading activation.

TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY

Another tip I’ve found helpful is to remind myself that tomorrow is another day. Perhaps I was overworked or too distracted or pulled in too many directions today to tackle the problem presented. Maybe I wasn’t tasked with finding the solution to the problem until late in the day or got the assignment on my way home from work, school, or elsewhere. There’s certainly nothing like a last-minute problem to solve to ruin a night’s sleep.

It’s also happened to me that I’ve exhausted a list of potential solutions to the problem and they were either insufficient, didn’t work as well as I’d hoped, weren’t appropriate to the situation, worked somewhat but then failed, or some other combination that resulted in the problem still needing to be solved. Also, problems often become compounded, with the initial problem morphing into an even bigger one, or the problem you started to solve became unrecognizable beneath competing ones.

When this occurs, instead of giving up and telling your boss, spouse, friend, teacher, loved one or family member that you can’t solve the problem, give yourself the night off and remember that you’ll have another opportunity tomorrow to revisit the problem. You’ll be fresh and likely have a clearer head to perhaps see the problem in a different light.

A slightly different spin on the fact that tomorrow is another day is the recommendation to enlist others in a brainstorming session to solve the problem. When you’ve got allies looking at potential solutions, you may be surprised at how quickly novel approaches arise. In fact, advice from top problem-solving solutions organizations includes brainstorming as one of the effective ways to find your way past problems.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Related Posts:

My Best Ways to Deal with Frustration

How to Keep Frustration from Blocking Your Goals

10 Health Benefits of Daily Exercise

10 Ways to Express Gratitude

10 Ways Nature Helps Your Well-Being

To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.  

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my blog and more. I also invite you to like me on Facebook, follow me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest.