Tag Archives: Stress

Smarter Surfing – How to be a More Mindful Internet User


Only recently have we begun to come to terms with the way in which the Internet impacts our various cognitive thought processes. Have we become more scattered, superficial thinkers as a result of our over reliance on tech devices? Do they help or hinder our ability to get things done? The Internet may be the world’s most helpful productivity tool, but it also can be the most efficient way to waste an entire day (or more) if you aren’t on guard.

Today, our online personas exist in such a way that they profoundly impact our outer, “analog” appearance, thoughts and behaviors. We’re accustomed to constant high-speed internet access, and with so many opportunities for distraction lurking out there in the brightly colored and highly animated corners of the web, it is easy to fall victim to the lure of, well, anything other than work. More often than not, it only takes one quick click to move your mind from spreadsheets to salacious photos of former child celebrities.

They say that time is currency, as such it’s crucial to make good use of all the moments you spend sitting in front of a glowing screen. While it might be easy to assume that only work-from-home types or self-employed creatives could benefit from an article on mindful browsing, the reality of the fact is we could all use a little help focusing our online attentions. First, let’s talk email. Continue reading

Teens Discover Context and Compassion


I’m sitting at a café having miso-mushroom soup, processing my meeting with an inner city high school principal about expanding the Mindfulness and Cultural Development program next year. The pilot was so successful; she would like to see it reach the entire freshman class. “I want them to have a full 4 years of support from the pressures they are under!”

“I think they are heroes for just being able to pay attention to their teachers in this academically challenging program. Some of them are dealing with such intense problems at home and in their neighborhoods.” The sole school counselor, serving 550 students with everything from college applications to behavioral interventions, nods her assent.

An image flashes across my mind from earlier this month. A lanky sweet looking girl in a yellow and orange bikini roughly kneed and handcuffed by a burly Texan policeman. The infraction? Going to a pool party.

To be a teenager in an inner-city these days is to be faced with issues far more complicated than first loves or summer jobs at the ice cream shop.

There isn’t an easy answer to the complex social, cultural, economic, environmental, and physical problems that face this next generation. But, there is a potent and profound way to empower our young adults, a way to help them cultivate inner strength for outer stability.

That’s where this innovative program Mindfulness & Cultural Development comes in. With all the benefits of classical mindfulness training, students gain objectivity on the thought process and de-stress through focus and non-judgment. Then they cultivate one more skill, which may make all the difference. They look at their experience in a vast context of cultural and evolutionary development. It’s fun. It’s powerful. And it creates space for heart and compassion in spades.

How does “context” create compassion? Continue reading

Name It to Tame It

A Powerful Tip I read about in “Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain” by Dr. Dan Siegel

I was dropping off my 12 year old daughter to her 7th Grade retreat, and I could see that she was nervous. It was a 2-night trip with new classmates from her new school. She is not one who is keen on retreats – in fact, she generally doesn’t like sleep-overs and has never wanted to go to a sleep away camp. At the same time, she was excited with the discovery of independence at Middle School, and knew that the retreat was a great opportunity to make new friends.

I reminded her that when she is feeling anxious, the first step is to breathe. Pause. Take deep breaths. One. Two. Three. Let the air coming in help push the anxiety out. She didn’t smile exactly as I spoke, but I could see her slowing down with deeper breathes as she listened.

I added a new twist to the exercise – something I had just read about in Dr. Dan Siegel’s book, Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain.

“In the brain, naming an emotion can help calm it… Name it to Tame It.”

He explains:

“For all of us, as teenagers or adults, when intense emotions erupt in our minds, we need to learn to feel them and deal with them… Learning to deal with emotions means being aware of them and modifying them inside so that we can think clearly. Sometimes we can name it to tame it and help balance our brains emotional intensity by putting words to what we feel… There are even some brain studies that show how this naming process can activate the prefrontal cortex and calm the limbic amygdala!”

As Tara was away on her retreat, I found myself practicing the Name It To Tame It technique, and the effects were dramatic. When feeling stressed or upset, I would pause, breathe, recognize the sensations in my body, name the emotion (frustration, anger, anxiety), and continue.  In fact, in a particularly frustrating work situation, I named my feelings through my negotiations, and felt I was much more calm, clear headed and non-emotional.

Tara returned from her trip with a big smile and lots of stories about their adventures. She noted that there were moments when she felt alone and anxious, but she reassured me she took deep breaths, recognized her feelings, and proceeded.

Dr. Dan Siegel is a prolific author and presently a clinical professor of Psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine. Learn more about him at his website or purchase your own copy of Brainstorm: the Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain and let us know what you think!


Why Can’t Work Be More Fun?

workFor many, work is a 4-letter word. Songs are written about how much we hate it. There are television shows that share how awful some jobs are. The source of our greatest complaints in life are either about our family or our work.

But what if instead of seeing work as a sentence, we saw it as an opportunity to do more of what we do best? What if we actually found work fun? Unthinkable! Impossible! Stop kidding around and get back to being serious – this is work we are talking about. Our “work ethic” says that work is supposed to be tough, challenging, complicated and demanding. What if we had it all wrong?

If we could use more of our talents and live more of our passions, we could raise the enjoyment, engagement and fun in our work. But most of us get pushed into work situations instead of intentionally choosing them. We think money matters most when it comes to work.

However, talk to those who are exceptional at what they do and love doing it and they will share that they used fun, engagement and impact as criteria for selecting work, a job or a career – not just money. After all, you choose what you will have to do each day. It seems reasonable to choose something that engages and inspires you, not one that will be a challenge to get out of bed for each morning.

Besides being a workplace and life coach, I am an adjunct professor for a college in South Florida. Most of my students have no idea of not only what they want from college, but what things they should be studying to be ready for life after college. They have not been taught how to look within themselves to see their unique abilities and passions, and how to review their world for the places that will let them do what they do best. They are setting themselves up for work that they won’t find fun, exciting and engaging. We are creating the next generations of those who will continue to write and sing about how bad work is and how we have to just put up with it until they get to come home – or die. Every moment of life is one worth living wisely and with intention. And if work uses the greatest number of the moments of our lives, isn’t it worth it to find a way to build fun AND impact into our work?

This makes me want to ask 2 questions:

  1. If you could realign to a field, job or position that would activate your greater talents and passions, what would it be and how could start to make the change?
  2. If you can’t make a job or career change because of your current situation or commitments, how can you look at what you do and find more things in the workplace that feed your spirit, soul, talents and passions?

Here are some examples.

Steve is an entrepreneur – his work is to evaluate business ideas in which to invest. His job is so much fun for him, he told me he can hardly stand it. He is excited and “on” every moment.

Marie waits tables – work is fun for her. She can’t wait to meet the next person, share stories and hear theirs. She takes on extra shifts, not for the money, but for the time with new people.

Bob is the CFO for a company. Month end is his favorite time of month as he reviews the performance of the company, prepares reports and makes presentations. For him, it doesn’t get better than this.

Tess is an administrative assistant. Though she is good at what she doe, it isn’t her favorite work. She is intensely creative so she asked to coordinate the office events and write the company newsletter. These raise the fun meter in her role.

We choose our level of happiness and fun. If it isn’t as we like it, we must change it. There are always things we can do to improve how we see the world, and what we do in it. As George Bernard Shaw shares, “Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it over to future generations.” Make the moments matter. Make the most of everything. Don’t wait for things to change, change them.

Love life. Love work. Have more fun. Make more fun. It is possible. It is up to each of us to make it happen.

Is Your Life A Super Highway or a Garden Path?

gardenSo many of us feel like our lives are a race – a dash. We are sprinting through the events of our lives to get them “all done.” We have amazing to-do lists; we are compelled to achieve and accomplish; society says this is how we get ahead. We pride ourselves on being so productive.

But what if, instead, the value of life were not in the dash and amount of things we do, but in the quality of life’s events – in the time we spend enjoying, connecting and becoming part of what we do? What if life were more like a garden path than a superhighway?

My dad was an amazing gardener. And the garden was the learning ground for so many lessons in life.  The greatest lesson I remember is the role of the garden path.

He explained that the garden path is designed to help us slow down and connect to the Earth, Mother Nature and the amazing flora around us. A path zigs and zags – it is never a straight line. The straight line pulls us to a destination; we feel obliged to keep moving – get someone where. The meandering garden path, on the other hand, encourages us to slow down and to spend time on each curve, connecting with and admiring each new view because at each bend in the path, the view is entirely different. There is so much more to see; there is so much more to be part of.

It is the same with life. With each new event in life, we see things differently. We learn. We appreciate. We participate more fully when we slow down and become more present.

Life on the straight path – on the superhighways – encourages us to move quickly; the garden path encourages us to slow down and connect with our amazing planet, nature and the beauty of our environment. We show up more to the moments of our lives. Life is fuller. Life is richer. Life is more amazing.

For my family, planning what was planted along the path was a labor of love. We would visit nursery after nursery, looking at plant size and colors (in all seasons), and sampling fragrances. The walk along the path was to be a full sensory experience – to hear the wind in the foliage, to see the colors in the flowers and leaves, to smell the scents and to touch the textures. Our gardens were outdoor masterpieces – works of art that were inspired by love and created for the benefit of all who would commit the time to come off of the highway and intentionally choose to walk instead of run, notice instead of ignore and share instead of take. Heaven.

My dad is no longer with us, but his love of gardening, plants and nature courses through the veins of all of my five siblings and me. Though we are also a family that can get comfortable on the superhighway – focused on achieving and doing – we always remember the valuable lesson of the garden path – I lesson I am glad to share. We know that there is more to life than a grand to-do list. Life was not designed for the dash; it was designed for the meandering walk along a great garden path, to appreciate and be part of the things along the way.

Here is one of Dad’s favorite garden poems that my siblings and I now keep posted on our fridges or computers – to remind us of what he used to regularly call to remind us: go out in the garden, life is beautiful there.

There’s peace within a garden,

A peace so deep and calm;

That when the heart is troubled,

It’s like a healing balm.


There’s life within a garden,

A life that still goes on,

Filling the empty places

When older plants have gone.


There’s glory in a garden,

At every time of year;

Spring, summer, autumn, winter

To fill the heart with cheer.


So ever tend your garden,

Its beauty to increase;

For in it you’ll find solace,

And in it, you’ll find peace.

Be intentional about your time with the gifts of our planet, that generously share themselves with those who take the time to notice.  Go out in the garden.

The World Is Not Against You: 3 Tips for Battling Depression

depressionA coaching client of mine lost her job – for the second time this year. Downsizing. Company problems. None of it had to do with her performance – which was exceptional. She received a glowing letter of recommendation from her CEO to help her land her next job. She asked, “Why is the world so against me? Why do bad things always happen to me?”

We all think this from time to time. We have great plans. They don’t work out. Someone we care about leaves. The person we want to spend time with can’t or won’t spend time with us. A storm damages our house, car or something that we value. Our company fails. We go bankrupt. We think the world has it out for us.

Then we look to see if we have been good – because, you know, it isn’t right or fair that bad things happen to good people. We feel that if we change, and become better, our lives will improve. Then another difficult life event happens and we are back to being depressed, challenged and upset. We, like my client, think the world has it out for us.

I used to think this when things until I heard something that changed my perspective. I was listening to a podcast about earthquakes. (Bear with me, this will make sense in a minute.) In the podcast, they were explaining why earthquakes happen – the movement of the tectonic plates deep within the earth. The earth is alive – the plates within the Earth are always moving. In short, the Earth does what is true to its nature – it brings the materials deep from the earth to the surface to regenerate and recharge itself. It isn’t spiteful or against us. It isn’t personal. Though we may be affected by an earthquake, it isn’t against us.

This helped me better understand life – it is as it is. We can choose to be disappointed, depressed, upset, bitter and hateful for what “happens to us” or we can see that life happens – it isn’t spiteful and the world isn’t against us. When we realize this, we can now focus our energy not to fight with it, feel victimized or be upset.

How can we remember to see that the world isn’t against us? Consider these:

    1. Remember: The only thing I can control is my response. We are small players in a big universe. We can’t control many of the things that affect our planet, country, state, neighborhood, house, family, work and health. We can, however, choose to show up present to each moment to see and understand what life is sharing with us – then choose the best response in the next moment, using all that we know. We can only control our response to the events of our lives – our thoughts, feelings and actions from the events; we can’t control the events.
    2. Ask: What are two opportunities that can come from this? Getting out of victim thinking and into an opportunity mindset is the key to thriving in our big wild world. By changing our focus from what is not right to seeing opportunities, we shift our energy from negative/victim (catabolic) to optimistic/opportunistic (anabolic). In this way, we can shift our energy from lack to one of power that can invent, create, solve, anticipate and appreciate.
    3. Ask: How will this help me show up bigger, truer, stronger, or more capable?  Developing the ability to see opportunities, regardless of what life sends us, enables us to handle the tough events in life with grace, optimism and courage; we see them as the opportunity to be better. I think we are hardwired to struggle – meaning we have the built-in capacity to be resilient and tenacious. This enables us to go head-to-head with the tough times to use them to become more aware of how capable we truly are.

Life is as it is. It doesn’t pick a fight with us; it isn’t against us. It delivers what it delivers. Our days would be happier if we could learn to see life as a friend and a teacher. It is a friend when it sends us beautiful days, success and opportunity; it is a teacher when it sends us pain, challenge and struggle. Both are for us. Both benefit us. We can use both to show the world how strong, capable, courageous and amazing we can be.

Better Than Before: Why are Adult Women Using ADHD Meds?

ADHD pillsI read with great interest the other day a story on the rising use of ADHD medication among women. While the new mantra for women is that to succeed they need to “lean in,” to be more assertive and seek greater authority at work and at home, the added pressures to do it all may be driving them to use these prescriptions to help them attain that superwoman status. Consider, if you will, the competition out there. We all know that classic A-Type tornado — the woman who gets up at 5 a.m., sprints to the gym, then showers, answers all e-mails, fixes her family a breakfast of flaxseed banana waffles with hot maple syrup and is ready to go the office as soon as she drives her four equally perfect children to school.

I must confess that when my kids were little, I too, thought I could be the perfect woman. But that notion didn’t last very long. Indeed, I recall rushing my older sons off to the bus, taking my little girl to nursery school, and even giving The Lawyer a ride to his office. An hour later, all missions accomplished, I, Wonder Woman, űber wife, returned to my office and started to write my column still with plenty of time left to meet my deadline. I sat back in the chair and let out a large self-satisfied sigh, thinking to myself: Who said you can’t have it—and, most important, do it—all? Just then the phone rang.

“Mrs. Michael,” stated the voice on the other end, “this is Mrs. Butters at the nursery school.” Pause. “You seem to have sent your daughter to school in her pajamas.” Bam!

Until recently, the regular evening (and/or lunchtime) calmative of choice for professional women was almost always a glass (or two, or three) of white wine. But nowadays, more and more women are turning to prescription medication to help them focus and become more productive. While virtually all of us in the health advice arena recommend other modalities such as healthier diets, sound fitness programs and meditation, for example, a pill, alas, seems so much easier! In fact, according to a report just released by Express Scripts based  on an analysis of prescription claims that was the latest and most comprehensive look at ADHD medication trends in the U.S., adult women’s use of ADHD medications has risen so far and fast that it far outnumbers those taken by adult men.

The report also finds achievement demands may be impacting increasingly younger women. Surprisingly, the number of females ages 19-25 on these medications is 27 percent higher than girls ages 4-18, countering trends seen in males, whose ADHD medication use drops sharply after age 18. Furthermore, the greatest surge in ADHD use has been in the adult population – climbing 53 percent overall and an alarming 84 percent for those ages 26-34.

“The rapid increase in adult use of these medications is striking, especially since there is very little research on how these treatments affect an older population,” says David Muzina, M.D., Express Scripts’ Vice President of Specialist Practice. “It signals a need to look more closely at how and why physicians prescribe these medications for adults, particularly women, who may turn to them, or experience symptoms of attention disorders, as a result of keeping up with the multiple demands on their time.”

Other findings from the research include:

• The percentage of boys ages 12-18 using ADHD drugs reached 9 percent in 2012, a nearly 18 percent increase from 2008.

• The southern region of the U.S. has the highest concentration of ADHD medication use, with South Carolina showing the greatest prevalence overall: 14 percent of 12-18 year olds there are on an ADHD drug treatment program.

• The prescribing of anti-psychotic treatments is exceptionally high among those treated for ADHD (12 percent vs. 4 percent of non-ADHD medication users); however, the number has been declining in recent years.

Continues Dr. Muzina: “While ADHD medications can be extremely beneficial, they can still be dangerous for patients with heart problems, and may cause serious interactions with other prescriptions, as well as conditions such as bipolar disorder.“

That is why, according to the doctor, these types of drugs require judicious prescribing. To that end, patients with ADHD can benefit from the expertise and experience provided through Express Scripts’ Neuroscience Therapeutic Resource Center®, where specialist pharmacists with advanced training in behavioral treatments oversee their care. These experienced clinical specialists are very familiar with the complex medication-related issues associated with ADHD and its treatments, are well equipped to recognize medication issues and can effectively counsel patients on the proper use of these drugs.

With ADHD medication abuse a growing problem, specialist pharmacists are also on the lookout for any indications of potential abuse. If this is suspected, Express Scripts’ Fraud, Waste and Abuse program can investigate and, when necessary, will refer the matter to the proper legal authorities.

The net-net is that ADHD medications should be carefully prescribed and monitored. While so far it is mostly through anecdotal reporting, it seems as if there is a growing concern throughout the U.S. that these drugs are frequently being liberally administered without the proper testing. There certainly are plenty of credible defenders of this surge in growth of their use, but the Express Scripts Report is certainly sobering support for those who are alarmed by the recent upward trend. To access the full report, please visit http://lab.express-scripts.com/prescription-drug-trends/turning-attention-adhd/.

3 Steps to Reload When You’re Filled to Capacity

capacityOur 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):

  1. 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.”
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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