Our lives are filled to capacity. Technology has encouraged us to stay connected in every moment. We rarely allow ourselves time to think, to be, to experience, to dream. We can’t make any space to allow for new things in life because we have filled every moment with something.
A solution is to learn to intentionally NOT fill the daily schedule. Having time and making space creates the opportunity for spontaneity, wonder, new perspectives and an expanded view of life. Our best ideas come from the space we allow ourselves, not from the hurried, harried, filled-to-capacity day.
Everyone in my house will raise their eyebrows when they read this because I am the master of filling each moment. My life moves from checklist to to-do lists. I think it is this way partly because I run my own business (hear the rationalization?) and partly because I like being busy (more rationalization). But I am aware and do now make the commitment to be more intentional about how I use each moment.
It is truly our choice how we fill the moments of our lives. What if we were to intentionally build time into our currently filled-to-capacity day to step away from the busy-ness? What if we were more intentional about putting time into our day to breath, dream, invent, connect, consider, imagine and relate? To consistently do this, I know I will have to make some changes – here is what I commit to doing (perhaps they will inspire you to do the same or something similar):
- Rethink how I start the day. I commit to starting each day with what the great writer/speaker Robin Sharma calls the “holy hour” – 20 minutes of reading, 20 minutes of meditation/stillness, 20 minutes of exercise. Get up an hour earlier (this of course adds a few more moments to the day) and use that hour wisely to set the tone, direction and pace of the day. This time reminds me to create moments to connect with my world – to be inspired by reading, to get clarity through mediation and to feel healthy though exercise. I commit to starting my day with a “holy hour.”
- Add “exist time” to my to-do list. I’ll admit I am just working around my incessant need to have a to-do list, but since that is the way I manage my days, I’ll add an urgent-and-important topic of “exist time” to my to-do list. “Exist time” is time allocated to wander through the yard and see what is blooming (in FL there is always something blooming), time to chat with a neighbor, time for hobbies (for me it is more time cooking), or time for just being with the people who matter in my life. I know I’ll need to set the alarm; not to remind me to get back to work, but to remind me the “exist time” isn’t over yet – to stay in the moment – to enjoy it. I commit to creating “exist time” each day.
- Take mini NOW (mini memory vacation) breaks. Because much of my work, when not out with clients, is at my desk, I have great mementos of life all around my workspace – the hand carved Buddha statue that was a gift from my partner, the pictures of the kids and my new sons-in-laws, the mascot bobble head of the college I teach at, the watercolor paintings by my mother, the artwork and things we collected on our travels – all things that encourage (and even beg) me to take mini NOW breaks – mini memory vacations. These help me step out of the rush to be part of a thought, feeling or emotion. This encourages me to dream, reminisce and change the pace of the day. I commit to taking mini NOW moments.
Make space – this is the antidote to a life filled to capacity. Living out loud and living full out doesn’t mean running through life at breakneck speed. Instead, living boldly includes time to get focused, have some chill time and be part of mini mental breaks or NOW moments. Each is like a deep exhaled breath – the opportunity to allow new things in, connect to what is important and feel part of your amazing life.
Last week seemed to be Overwhelm Week with my clients. Several were excited for their coaching to work through work and life situations that made them feel completely overwhelmed. And with feeling overwhelmed comes paralysis – they become so aware of how overwhelmed they are, that their energy focuses on them, their problems, the volume and the helplessness, they then have no energy left to get things done (to eliminate the feeling of overwhelm). They are stuck. Nothing happens.
Though getting past overwhelm requires also getting organized and building priorities (what’s urgent, what’s important and what’s both), the key to its undoing is an understanding our personal energy. Here is what I share with my clients about energy and how energy is the gateway to staying organized and getting the important things in work and life done.
Energy is catabolic (diminishing and unproductive) or anabolic (growing and productive). Feeling overwhelmed naturally brings on our lowest level of energy (catabolic) – of feeling like a victim because the situation creating the feeling of being overwhelmed, owns us. We are at the effect of these events – it may be a demanding boss and work schedule; it may be a challenging home situation or a busy kids/household schedule; it may be worn out by caring for someone who is not well or trying to get yourself out of situation that needs changing (relationship, work, etc). The more we focus on how we feel in these events, the more we use our energy to focus on how bad our situation is. We are like a dog chasing its tail – the more we think about it, the worse we feel, so the more we think about it. This now uses up all of the energy needed to make changes – including getting organized, setting priorities and getting things done. We have to free ourselves from this catabolic energy in order to redirect our energy to being productive, or we will find our situation will never change.
People who are masters at getting things done, staying organized and moving things forward are this way because they change how they look at their world. Eckhard Tolle shares in his book, A New Earth, that we should be in only one of these three awakened modalities: acceptance, enjoyment or enthusiasm. Notice that all of these are positive energies. The reason for this is as energy moves from negative to positive (from victim to acceptance) we start to see how to move past where we are. We now have energy to consider how we might be able to organize our space, our work or our emotions. We have the energy to start to prioritize what is around us to get in it in an order that can make things happen. We become unstuck, unfrozen untrapped, and uncaught (I know I made up a few words, but I liked the rhythm…). We move out of victim and into conscious and powerful performer. All this can happen by seeing that we are stuck and choosing to focus on opportunities to get unstuck instead of staying in victim or helpless mode.
In helping my clients, I find our starting point is reviewing the thoughts, feelings and behaviors that are present in victim energy, and the thoughts, feelings and behaviors that are in opportunity energy. Many times by seeing that both of these are choices in the same circumstances, those who are stuck can start to visualize a way out. They are encouraged because they can see what success looks like and feel empowered enough to work through the situations that are creating their victim thinking.
We can’t be victim and optimist at the same moment. So the more we shift our thinking out of victim to optimist, the more energy we have available to focus on solutions, opportunities and possibilities. We stop making our discontentment and feeling overwhelmed the center of our energy. We can then find ways to make things happen.
Achieving means getting things done. Go for the fuel source – the energy. It creates the power to wake up like the person in the Lunesta commercials – ready and raring to go – to face the world – to make the to-do list – to organize their space – to create the priorities – and to get things done.
I live in New York City which has been smacked with the worst winter in over three decades. However, if you reside in one of the few areas left that hasn’t been hit with record cold or sleet and snow –yes, I’m talking about you L.A. and Honolulu — no need to read any further. Then again, no matter which part of the country you happen to call home, you are most likely suffering from SAD, the inevitable seasonal affective disorder, also known as winter depression or lack-of-daylight blues. So it’s high time for some much-needed advice to help uplift our spirits. For this, I turned to Colin Christopher, a clinical hypnotherapist and author of the bestselling book, Success Through Manipulation: Subconscious Reactions That Will Make or Break You. Christopher, you see, contends that whether you are simply fed up with slogging through yet another round of slush, or just feeling down from time to time, there are ways to find positives to help you become Better Than Before — before springtime.
After all, even bears learn to cope with the cold — and so can we. To that end, here are Christopher’s tried and true techniques that work to reprogram our minds:
• Change the colors of your environment: Color plays a huge role in setting the mood. This time of year, because of a lack of sunlight, it’s best to surround yourself with vibrant bold colors that will lift your spirit and energize you. Think bright reds, oranges and yellows. Try to avoid grays, light blues and white. This can be as easy as painting a bright accent to a bedroom wall to adding small odds and ends that enhance your office or any other space.
• Pump up the Music: The sounds we hear have a direct correlation to how we feel. Athletes typically listen to high energy music to get them ready to compete, just like many people listen to soothing soft music to get them ready for bed. To boost your mood, listen to music that gets you moving and makes you feel good.
• Drink more water: Dehydration increases blood pressure which in turn increases stress and can quickly bring down your mood. Being hydrated is not only good for your overall health, but even one eight-ounce glass can quickly help raise your spirits.
• Think of happier times: Remembering a happy memory for 10-30 seconds can get you out of a rut. Maybe it’s when you got married or held your child for the first time, or something even simpler like a concert you went to or barbequing with friends and family.
• Look up: It sounds simple, but it works. Sit up or stand straight and lift your chin directly towards the ceiling, sky or other high point. This physical movement gives you clarity of thought and automatically makes you feel good. Enhance this simple technique by inhaling deeply from your diaphragm (stomach area), holding for three seconds and exhaling slowly through your lips and dropping your shoulders as you breathe out. Try reciting a statement like “I feel good” or “I feel strong and confident” as you exhale.
• Use your brain: If spending more time indoors, become mentally engaged in an activity. It can be something as simple as a crossword puzzle or board game. The key is mental stimulation in some capacity.
As they say, the, er, snow must go on, so it’s essential to find ways to keep your spirit alive through it all. Better Than Before believes that while ‘stuff’ happens in life, some of it, like the weather, is entirely out of our control. But if there is something we can do about it, we owe it to ourselves to try. The good news is that this week it’s supposed to be in the mid-forties around here. A veritable heat wave! Now we just have to make sure we can still fit into our bathing suits after all those hot chocolates and chicken pot pies.
I was nine years old when my father, Deepak Chopra, taught me to meditate. Meditation has become an invaluable tool in my life to help me stay calm, centered, and focused since then.
A vital part of meditation is breath. It is also an important aspect of yoga in wisdom traditions. We know through sciences that breath is a critical component of the cardiovascular system, supports our digestive and lymphatic systems and is a reflection of our nervous system.
I use breath constantly as a tool to calm down when I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed. And my daughters have also been taught to meditate to help them deal with stress at school. Your breathing is an expression of the activity of the mind. When we are settled, our breath slows down. When we are excited or anxious our breath gets faster.
There are a few simple breathing techniques you can try to help you stay calm and focused in a nerve-wracking moment. I go through a few of them in these guided meditations from The Chopra Well.
Ann Bruck, a trainer with Sports Club/LA explains that there are two different types of breathing when you are doing physical activity. There’s stimulating breath which aims to increase energy and alertness. You breathe in and out rapidly through your nose with your mouth closed for 15 seconds at a time. The other type is relaxed breath, where you inhale for a count of 1 and exhale for a count of 1. Then inhale for a count of 2 and exhale the same, until you reach a cycle of five. This will help calm your nervous system and bring your body back to balance.
What kind of breathing techniques do you use when you are working out? Do you have any meditations or exercises you use during the day to help you stay focused? I’d love if you shared in the comments below!
By Jan Bruce
I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge—ever. No matter what phase of my life or career. I hold ambition, drive, and resilience high on my list of values, without question. But I’ve also experienced first hand what it is to drive too hard, demand too much from myself and others. There is a sweet spot between ambition and anxiety, the point at which you operate optimally. You know what that feels like: the adrenalizing challenge of being spurred on, but not so much so that you’re weighed down by exhaustion.
This is an ongoing challenge for me, and for you, I presume: Knowing when and how to push harder—and to back off. The key isn’t to just get bigger, tougher, stronger, nor is to eradicate stress (good luck with that!). It’s to recalibrate and recharge, which are often overlooked or postponed, until it’s too late. In fact that is why I’m so passionate about the work I do at meQuilibrium—because I believe there is a formula for managing your response to the world out there and the thoughts in here.
Given how connected and driven people are (or feel they need to be) these days, making time to rest can feel like slamming on the breaks when you’re going 70 miles an hour. Moreover, as we “work” longer and longer hours, the idea of taking time off to rest and recharge can become increasingly daunting, especially if this time off serves as a total contrast to our normal routines.
I love vacation, and I make sure to take them—but I, too, know the dread of walking away from your email, your desk, knowing it’s all going to pile up in your absence. If you’ve ever needed a vacation from your vacation, then you know what I mean.
It’s tempting to think that a day spent lounging in sweatpants, eating whatever you want and watching back-to-back episodes of your favorite TV series is the perfect antidote to six days of non-stop business. But instead of following the “feast or famine” framework of rest and effort, I challenge you to think about one little thing you can do every day to ground and renew yourself.
Case in point: My brother regularly pulls 12- to 15-hour days at his work, and I can’t remember the last time he took more than two consecutive days off, let alone the last time he had a vacation. I was always baffled by this. How did he keep it going without an escape?
I finally understood his secret when I visited him one weekday and observed his daily routine: He’s fortunate to live in a beautiful rural area and makes a point of spending a few hours outside each morning, swimming, running or just enjoying the solitude. In those few hours, he gets the benefits that most of us associate with a vacation: time unplugged, outdoors, away from the demands of the day.
Here’s the kicker, though: He does this every day, and that’s why the rest of his busy, high-pressure life is sustainable. For him, normal life and vacation cease to function as the two binary options for how he spends his time. Because he has found a way to get the benefits of a little vacation every day, he’s not caught between the competing pressures of rest and effort.
Stop thinking about rest as the opposite of effort and start thinking about it as the foundation of effort. What can you do every day to build in a little more relaxation or pleasure, to draw you out of the moments that wind you up and leave you so tight you feel like you might snap? It could be as simple as indulging in a really good latte every morning or a walk with your dog. Find something energizing to come back to every day or every week to help you to recharge without forcing you to disengage. You’ll be well on your way to finding a more sustainable balance.
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Jan Bruce is the CEO and founder of meQuilibrium.com
by Becky Karush
Resilience is the key to bearing up under stress—not just for you, but for your kids, too. Their worries may seem innocuous enough, but you only have to think back to your own memories as a kid to know that childhood stresses are not just traumatic at the time, but can also affect you in the long run. Building resilience is the backbone of the meQuilibrium system—and resilience is not just a skill you can strengthen for yourself, but something you can teach your kids as well.
Take my friend Darcy, for example. She grew up in poverty in Boston. Her family wasn’t just going to the food pantry for a bag of groceries now and then; theirs was a “we own one bed and no one’s making it to college” kind of struggle. The odds were stacked against her, but Darcy had two amazing things going for her.
First, she found a strong, supportive, and inspiring connection with a caring teacher. Second, no matter what downright awful situation hit her, she kept moving in the direction of her dreams, whether it was going to the library, getting into a private high school, or working in China as a financial analyst.
Darcy achieved all those things. During vacations at the private boarding school she attended on scholarship, she cleaned faculty members’ houses for extra cash, and one day she flipped through book on a psychology teacher’s shelf. She called up her roommate and best friend. “I found the word that describes my life!” she said. “It’s ‘rez-a-LEE-ance’!”
So she couldn’t pronounce it, perhaps—but she knew it because she had it. And so can you.
Teaching Kids Resilience
Given that stress is inevitable for all of us, a parent’s job is helping a child learn how to meet it. meQ’s Chief Science Officer Andrew Shatte says, resilience is the key to keeping ourselves strong in the face of stress. It’s a hands-on skill that affects how you and your kids deal with stress now—and later.
For younger children, Paul J. Donahue, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and author of Parenting Without Fear offers simple tips to help give kids a foundation for resilience; below are a few of our favorites.
1. Establish healthy sleep patterns. Nothing will throw a kid off like going to bed and getting up at irregular times. Setting a regular bedtime for every night of the week, not just weekdays, ensures that your child has a solid foundation of rest–without which resilience is going to be next to impossible.
2. De-structure playtime. When a kid’s days are scheduled to the minute, he loses the chance to learn to think for himself. Free play, which might include that uncomfortable feeling of having “nothing to do,” promotes independence, creativity, and confidence in children in ways that structured activities can’t.
3. Spend time outside. Being outdoors is literally used as therapy for kids who have suffered loss or trauma. Activities like climbing a tree or simply cloud-watching have a natural restorative effect that loosens the grip of stress on the body and helps kids return to the problem at hand refreshed.
4. Read more books together. Not only does reading together strengthen your bond with your child, it also begins to build her understanding of how the world works and how to move in it. Picture book characters can become role models and companions of a sort to guide a child through a hard moment.
(Read the complete list of Dr. Donahue’s tips.)
Showing Kids Resilience
Bottom line: You need to model resilience to foster it in your children. When you practice building up your own resilience, your children get to see what it looks like when a grown-up handles obstacles with grace, and even uses that stress energy as a catalyst for action.
Darcy’s first baby is due early in 2014. What a lucky kid that will be, to have a mom whose life got bigger, better, and more resilient with every hard time she faced.
Becky Karush is a writer and editor in New Hampshire specializing in healthy child development and child health care reform. Becky is also a writer for meQuilibrium.com, a website and app designed to help you manage stress.
The holiday season is typically seen as a happy time of year when stress, worries and anxiety magically give way to happiness, love and a sense of good will to all. While this is a nice thought, it is simple not a reality for most people. The holiday season is one of the most stressful over the year as people struggle to find the right gift, host the perfect party or create the best ever holiday season.
Top this off with having to interact with relatives and family that may you may not have the best relationship with and you definitely have a recipe for increasing, not decreasing, stress.
Stress can cause significant emotional as well as physiological responses. People under stress may have several of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty sleeping, relaxing, concentrating or focusing
- Exhaustion and fatigue
- Increased illnesses, rapid heartbeat, digestive problems
- Anxiety, irritability, atypical anger or irrational types of behaviors
- Feeling overwhelmed or experiencing racing thoughts
- Having difficulty staying positive
- Feeling lonely, unhappy, isolated o
Coping with stress can include both mental and physical options. These can include:
- Learning breathing techniques to allow you to take control of your physiological responses and relax. Yoga is terrific for this.
- Increase your physical activity in a structured exercise, walking or weight training program to boost energy levels and positive brain chemicals associated with exercise.
- Learning relation techniques such as progressive relation to enhance your ability to stay calm and to get to sleep.
- Make time every day to do something you enjoy. Make this a priority not sometime you do if you have time.
- Find someone to talk to that will help you manage your stress.
It is important to identify what is causing you to experience stress and then plan a way to minimize or eliminate that source of stress. To get started stop and reflect on what is happening that is causing you stress. Once you have identified the source you can then start to develop a plan to enhance your ability to cope, manage and thrive even in times of stress.
What causes you stress and what are the strategies or techniques that you use to cope and manage?
Sherry Gaba LCSW, Psychotherapist, Life, Love & Recovery Coach is featured Celebrity Rehab on VH1. Sherry is the author of “The Law of Sobriety” which uses the law of attraction to recover from any addiction. Please download your free E book “Filling The Empty Heart” and your “Are You a Love Addict Quiz?” at www.sherrygaba.com Contact Sherry for webinars, teleseminars, coaching packages and speaking engagements. Take Sherry’s quiz for a free eBook Filling the Empty Heart: 5 Keys to Transforming Love Addicti