Tag Archives: Stress

6 Essential Tips to Develop a Stress Management Strategy

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By Brigitte Cutshall

Were you aware that chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of health issues?  Heart disease, cancer, stroke, lower respiratory disease, and accidents. Chronic stress can affect your brain, raise your blood pressure, and reduces your immunity and ability to heal.

At least 75% of doctor office visits are for stress-related complaints stemming from job stress.  It’s a $1 trillion per year “under the radar” health epidemic according to Peter Schnall, author of Unhealthy Work.

The cost to treat those with chronic diseases (from stress) is about 75% of the national health expenditures per the CDC. Chronic diseases cause 7 out of 10 deaths each year – but are preventable and treatable.

Chronic stress not only affects the physical aspects of your life such as health or general energy level, but it can affect job performance and personal relationships. For this reason, every person needs a stress management strategy, a way to focus on personal empowerment and feelings of “loss of control” in check.

Dealing with cancer twice and a brain tumor diagnosis confirmed that I can’t take anything for granted.  I want to be there for my family, watch my kids grow up and thrive. This reality made me stop, take a step back and evaluate my life, intentions and overall goals. Developing a stress management strategy was important. My curiosity also led me to become a certified health coach and health advocate.

Here are 6 essential tips I recommend to help you develop a stress management strategy: Continue reading

Intent.com: Why Forgiveness?

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It was almost 10 years later when one of our Intent staff writers realized she hadn’t dealt with a three year relationship that almost ended in marriage. Cliche? Maybe. But she had told herself it was over and that she needed to move on and that’s what she tried her best to do. But what does that look like in a real, tangible way? Almost a decade later, she was just learning of all the ways resentment, anger and grief were still impacting her physically, mentally and emotionally.

In the course of a lifetime, you will likely experience much more than just a relationship that doesn’t work out. Betrayal, disappointment and violence of all kinds may be part of your story and the idea of forgiveness or restoration seems painful and distant. So is it worth it? Is there something to offering forgiveness and focusing on gratitude? Continue reading

Smarter Surfing – How to be a More Mindful Internet User

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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

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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!

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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.

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