Simple Tip for Stress Reduction

Growing up in Southern California, I had the wonderful experience of swimming in the ocean often. I love swimming in the ocean.  Vast and unpredictable, the ocean is full of tides whose pull I feel even when I don’t fully comprehend them. As a kid, I especially loved swimming out just beyond where the waves crest and crash to the shore to enjoy the lull of the rocking motion of the tides. I’d enjoy that lull so much, I’d often find I’d drifted far away from my family’s home base on the beach. When that happened, I’d remember what my father taught me: Don’t exhaust yourself swimming against the current. Just follow the natural rhythm of the waves in and let them bring you back to shore.

Similarly, in the midst of a stressful day, the same trick for navigating my way back to shore helps me navigate my way from stress to a more grounded center. But instead of following the rhythm of the ocean, I follow the rhythm of my own breath. Even in the pull of the strongest tides of stress, putting your attention on the natural rhythm of your breath for a moment or two will help you “ride the wave of your own breath” as Jon Kabat-Zinn says, bringing you back to the shore of centeredness in your own body so you can think clearly and act from a place of calm.

I invite you to take a moment to place your attention on your breath today. Just for that moment, feel and be focused on the natural rhythm of your breath as well as the rise and fall of your chest. This simple meditation takes just a moment to do, and it can help calm you in the midst of the stormiest sea of stress in your life.

Use Your Imagination

imagination quote

Previously, I challenged you to accentuate the positive, with one of the ways to do that being describing what you’d like to see happen. But sometimes that’s a challenge if you haven’t done that before. And it all starts with your imagination.

Every invention began in someone’s imagination. Someone wondered “what if…?” and started the process of creating something no one had created before simply by imagining. We can do the same thing with our lives. What do you want? More energy? Balance? Time for yourself? Imagine it and give it energy. Even if you’re concerned that you’ll never get it or think the likelihood of getting it is low, try it and see how it goes.

“Instead of imagining the best [outcome], many people are in fear and imagine all the things that can go wrong.” – Rhonda Byrne

Thoughts have energy just like words. And your imagination is your thoughts with pizazz. Too often we use our imaginations to give life to our fears. But I’d like to give you three steps to using your imagination to give life to your dreams and creating a better life:

1. Picture it. When he was starting out as a comic, Jim Carrey shares in a 2014 commencement address that he made a practice of imagining himself being successful every day. That practice, along with his tenacity, set the energy for his realizing his dreams. That practice is not something that only Jim Carrey can do. Whatever you want, sit for five minutes and imagine what it would be like if you had it. What images do you see? What colors come up? What sounds do you hear? If blocks or challenges come up, set them aside and continue.

2. Feel it. Now that you’ve pictured it, what feelings come up during your imaginings? Did you feel peaceful? Happy? Strong? Pay attention to the feelings that come up and hold onto them. The sights you picture are important, but feelings can energize those thoughts in a way that pictures alone cannot do.

“It’s not what you know, but how you feel about what you know, that motivates you.” – Unknown

3. Create it. Now that you’ve imagined it, set out to create it. Keep in mind the pictures you imagined and keep the feelings you imagined in your heart. Then plan small, realistic steps you can take to make it happen, keeping focused on what you imagined. It may not be everything you imagined—in fact, the outcome could surprise you because it could turn out to be even more than what you imagined. But you will have created something that shortly before had only been in your mind. And your life will be enriched because of it.

What can you imagine today to make your life more what you want it to be? Try it and see.


“The world is but a canvas to our imagination.” – Henry David Thoreau

Be Kind to Yourself

One of the best things about women is how supportive we can be. Whether it’s with family, coworkers, friends, or even perfect strangers sometimes, people come to us with challenges, and we offer words of comfort or encouragement to help them through. We offer this support freely with kindness and love, and people take it in, giving themselves a break and seeing options they didn’t before because of it.

Ironically enough, we don’t tend to offer the same kind of support to ourselves. In fact, we tend to be much harder on ourselves than we ever would be on others. Why is that? Why don’t we give ourselves at least the same support that we give others?

I first noticed this phenomenon personally when I went through my divorce. I said things silently to myself on a daily basis that I wouldn’t ever dream of saying to others once. It was pretty normal throughout the day for me to silently and repeatedly say things like “You’re such a failure” and “No one will ever love you again”. If I’d said those things out loud, I may have understood quickly how destructive they were at a time when I needed support more than anything else. But because they were in my head, they stayed quietly powerful, perpetuating the abuse I’d suffered in the marriage and undermining my healing. When I finally realized those were the thoughts running through my head, I worked to change them into more loving messages, and it made a huge difference in my recovery.

You don’t have to be going through a huge life change or challenge to change your inner thoughts into more supportive messages. Today, I encourage you to be kind to yourself. Pay attention to your inner talk, and stop yourself when your messages are beating you up. Switch gears and talk to yourself as though you were talking to your best friend, and you’ll see the messages naturally become more positive. See what a difference it makes in your day.

speak kind words to yourself like you to do everyone else

Be Grateful for Everything

216-gratitude-melody-beattie-picture-quotesYears ago, I married a man I loved. I thought we’d live happily ever after, but instead, I found myself entangled in an emotionally abusive union that was destructive and painful. I somehow found the courage to leave and end the marriage, but in its wake I found myself heartbroken, devastated, and depressed.

As I struggled to recover, a dear friend gave me The Simple Abundance Journal and suggested I take up its challenge to write down 5 things I was grateful for each day.  A companion to the book Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach, the purpose behind the journal is to cultivate a grateful heart and find joy in the little things. I wasn’t finding joy in much at the time, so I figured it was worth a try. Honestly, I was so sad then that I struggled at first to find 5 things to be grateful for each day, and many of those early entries said things like “got through another day” and “cried less than yesterday”. But as I continued to heal, I continued the practice of writing down 5 things each day, and eventually it became easier to fill in those listings. And even though  it was a long road to recovery from that experience, that practice of daily gratitude helped me see light where it often felt like there was none.

I’m sure if you’d asked me in those days if I was grateful for that marriage, I would have stared at you blankly or maybe even thought you were crazy for asking. But now, I can honestly say I am grateful for that marriage. It wasn’t what I expected or planned, and it was a painful experience on many levels. But it taught me strength and faith I didn’t know that I had, and I learned a depth of love and support from family and friends I hadn’t experienced previously. Because of it, I have empathy for women who have found themselves in similar relationships, and I developed a sort of radar for people who have abusive tendencies so I can stay as far away as possible and not find myself in that kind of a relationship again. I may not have chosen that experience had I known then what I know now, but I’m truly grateful for what I learned from it all.

Be grateful for everything. Even the sad and terrible things that happen bring lessons and gifts with them, and gratitude is often the key to opening the door to them. It’s easy to be grateful for the good and happy things that happen to us, but gratitude is often needed most in times of pain and darkness. This week, try what I did and note 5 things each day you’re grateful for, and see if that practice helps you. I have a feeling it will.

 

Accentuate the Positive

If you think about the last time you didn’t like a movie, a meal, or something someone said, I bet you’ll recall it was fairly easy to identify what it was about it you didn’t like. It’s usually easy to pick out and even criticize what we don’t like about something or someone. And while it’s useful to identify why things don’t work so you can learn from them and/or avoid them in the future, getting caught up in criticizing can lead to a lot of negativity. I know there’ve been times when I’ve started to criticize in order to vent, only to find myself quickly in the midst of a Gripe Fest, with me ending up feeling more frustrated than relieved.

It’s easy to criticize. That’s why “everyone’s a critic”. What isn’t easy is keeping things positive. It takes a lot more energy to emphasize the positive. But how much more enriching would our interactions be if we ditched criticizing for a bit and accentuated the positive? That’s what I’m challenging you to try today. Not forever. Just today. We’ll call it a little experiment. Here’s three tricks you can try in your conversations that will help keep the energy around them upbeat and positive.

1. Look on the bright side. Try talking about the good in a situation before you talk about the bad and emphasizing it more. Maybe you liked the color of the bride’s maid dresses even if you didn’t like the style, or you appreciated your boss consulting you even though he completely disregarded your input. There’s always something positive to mention if you look for it. And even if there’s relatively little good to concentrate on compared to the bad, focusing your comments on that good will make a difference in keeping the energy around the issue positive.

2. Try describing what you’d like to see happen ahead of time instead of what you’re disappointed didn’t happen afterwards. This requires forethought, and sometimes a lot of specificity. And this can be incredibly difficult if you often think it should be obvious what that would be. But sometimes it’s the best way to realize what you’d like to see happen.

For example, if you ask your teenager to take out the trash but don’t specify when, you could find the odor smelling up your home. Or if you ask a coworker do a particular part of a project but don’t specify the software program you need it in, she could present you with a spreadsheet when you needed a Power Point presentation. It may seem like some of these things are “common sense”, but no one lives in your head—describing what the positive outcome will be, especially ahead of time, can get everyone on the same page and give you a more positive outcome.

3. Amplify good feelings. When you concentrate on the good, the energy of it can continue to grow and get bigger. If you’re having trouble feeling that kind of positive energy, follow the advice of author Rhonda Byrne in her book, “The Secret: The Power”: start listing all the things, people and happenings you love or have loved. You’ll find that as the list grows, your good feelings do too, and the positive feelings amplify.

Try accentuating the positive today and see how it goes. I’d bet that you’ll find you not only feel more positive, those positive feelings spread to others too!

7 Easy Tips to Replenish Your Energy

You manage many aspects of your life–your health, workload, household, finances, etc.–but it’s sometimes easy to overlook managing your own personal energy. Life’s pressures can often be draining, but being proactive about managing your energy can help you have enough stamina to get through those pressures without getting exhausted. When your car’s gas tank gauge is on Empty, you don’t keep driving till it’s all gone–you pull over and fill the tank. So instead of pushing your personal energy further when your tank is on Empty, try one of these tips to refill and replenish easily. 

1. Try happy news. When your energy is low, reading the daily news can bring you down further with its somber stories. As an alternative, try visiting the HuffPost Good News, a collection of positive news stories from the Huffington Post. With sections like Everyday Heroes, Community Kindness and more, you’ll find news stories that touch your heart, replenish your energy and give you hope for humanity. 

2. Look at beautiful things. Seeing beauty isn’t just pleasing to the eye, it’s a lovely way to fill up your energetic bucket. Try going for a scenic drive, visiting an art museum or gazing at lovely photos on Pinterest. Or, Google “amazing photos” and see what turns up to cheer you up.

Looking at beautiful things, like photos of the Grand Teton Mountains in Wyoming, is an effective way to full your energy bucket.
Looking at beautiful things, like photos of the Grand Teton Mountains in Wyoming, is an effective way to fill your energy bucket.

3. Drink more water. When your energy is low, your body gets stressed. Drinking plenty of water helps every system of your body run well, naturally increasing your energy. Water is also a fantastic energy conductor, moving out any unwanted energy you may have picked up with each glass of water you drink.

4. Eat foods that enliven you. Just like drinking water helps energize your body and enlivens your energy, so does eating live, non-processed foods. You’ll receive vitamins and antioxidentswith every bite, energizing the body and helping clearing it of pollutants while oxygenating the blood. If your energy is low, try eating:

      *Fresh, certified organic fruits & veggies, herbs, legumes, nuts & seeds

      *Antioxident rich foods (berries, tomatoes, etc.), or

      *Raw foods found at natural food stores or raw restaurants in your area. 

Organic vegetables and other foods help revitalize your energy. Photo by wellnesstoday.com.
Organic vegetables and other foods help revitalize your energy. Photo by wellnesstoday.com.

5. Listen to happy music. We all have songs that, for whatever reason, make our toes tap and put a smile on our faces. Make a playlist on your MP3 player called “happy songs” and play them when you’re having a rough moment. (Here’s one of my happy songs, Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al”, in case you want to borrow it.)

6. Watch funny programs. Laughing helps move energy through the body and lighten your mood. Try watching a funny movie, going to a comedy club, or checking out comedians on YouTube or Comedy Central such as Brian Regan or Jeff Dunham.

7. Engage in activities that make you happy. We all have things we do that make us happy, whether they are artistic pursuits, spending time with loved ones, volunteering, being in nature, etc. These activities make us come alive, replenishing our energy. Have a few in mind for those low-energy days.

Engaging in artistic or other activities that you enjoy is a wonderful way to replenish your energy when it's low. Photo by Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.
Engaging in artistic or other activities that you enjoy is a wonderful way to replenish your energy when it’s low. Photo by Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.

There’s no reason that filling your energy bucket should take away even more energy. Following these tips will fill your energy with ease.

2 Tips to Combat Energy Vampires

After you’ve recognizing an energy vampire, the next step is to learn how to deal with him/her. To ward off mythical vampires you need wooden stakes, holy water, and garlic, but to ward off energy vampires you need one thing: to stay centered.

vampire-bats

Energy vampires operate by keeping you off kilter. When you’re off kilter, you can’t think clearly and the vampire is in control of the interaction. If If you stay centered, you’re able to think clearly about what your options are and exercise them, keeping you in control of the encounter.

Here’s two tricks to keep you centered and in control:

1. Breathe.

It may sound simplistic, but breathing can be a hugely helpful tool to center your energy. Deep breaths oxygenate the blood and help keep energy moving, so you’re able to think more clearly. If you know you’re going to encounter one of those energy suckers, make some time to take a few deep breaths. If you find yourself in the middle of an encounter, remember to take three deep breaths to center your energy. It helps more than you can imagine!

2. Plan Ahead.

It’s hard to combat an energy vampire when you’re not at your full strength. Take care of yourself by getting enough sleep and staying hydrated. That way you’ll have more energy to deal with them. And plan some escape routes ahead of time when you’ll be in meetings or family gatherings with an energy vampire. For example, if you know your Aunt Mildred is an energy vampire but you have to see her for Grandma’s birthday dinner, plan to limit the time you interact with her, and have several polite but workable excuses on hand to disengage from her. (If all else fails, disengage by excusing yourself to use the restroom. No one can argue with the need for a bio break.)

Staying centered will help you better stay alert and energetic for encounters with energy vampires. Try these two tricks to help you combat their influence to stay energetic and strong.