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Anxiety and What to do Instead

Anxiety and What to do Instead

Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.

It can also describe a psychiatric condition, which is a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks. Medication is available to address this form of anxiety. This article does not address the psychiatric condition but instead addresses that worry and unease that we all feel at times.

There are several categories of anxiety.

1. About the past or the future.
This type of anxiety is about mentally leaving the present and dwelling on the past or the future. We can dwell on the past of what we could have done differently or how we could have avoided certain mistakes. Or how we could have done a better job of getting things done instead of procrastinating.

How often do you worry about the future whether it is next week or next year? Will we be able to take a vacation? Will the kids get good grades and be able to go to the college of their choice? Will there be enough money? Will we like the new neighbors that just moved in next door? Will we get along with the new employee? All these and many more anxiety provoking thoughts will resolve themselves in time. Worrying about them does nothing but rob us of peace of mind and joy in the present moment.

2. Confrontations and conversations.
I remember my mother thinking endlessly about what was said and how she might have said the wrong thing or something dumb. She would worry endlessly about her lack of communication skills. Most of the time this was a complete non-issue. Nobody paid much attention to how she expressed herself. It was all in her head.

Similarly we can fret endlessly about a difficult upcoming conversation. May be we want to ask our boss for a raise, or we have a performance review coming up. May be we are planning a confrontation with a friend who has hurt our feelings and we want to clear the air and let her know how it made us feel. We can fuss endlessly over what to say and how to say it, and chances are, in the end, it isn’t a big deal at all.

3. Duties and obligations of the day.
We can worry about all that needs to get done instead of focusing on the task at hand. Or we start one thing only to think of another task that needs to be done, start that one and after a day of starts and stops have nothing complete and a mess on our hands.

Enjoy the journey

So what shall we do instead? All through life we have goals and expectations. As we achieve certain goals, others come into view. It is easy to keep our eyes on the goal to the detriment of enjoying the present. Make time daily to appreciate the little things and have joy in your heart. Life is about the journey and we miss out on so much if we don’t play and put joy into every day. Create memories every day. Once the day is gone, the opportunity to appreciate and love the day is over. If a day is particularly stressful, just remember – this too shall pass.

And don’t despise the day where small things are happening. Everything starts small. Before we can walk or run we need to learn to crawl. When going to school, we start in first grade, not in high school. When learning to speak to groups we start with small groups and short speeches, before we are ever ready to talk for hours in front of hundreds of people. So enjoy the small first tentative steps in any new endeavor, not only the big successes that come later.

How and Why to Forgive

How and Why to Forgive

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Mahatma Gandhi

Forgiveness is something you can do whether the person you forgive is alive or not. Forgiveness is more about healing your heart than it is about the other person. And why should you forgive those who have harmed you? As Ann Landers often said, “hate is like an acid. It damages the vessel in which it is stored.” Below is a powerful story of forgiveness.

There are many stories of World War II Holocaust survivors who have been able to forgive their captors and tormentors. Here is one of those stories. It is the story of Corrie Ten Boom. Her family hid their Jewish neighbors in their home, were caught and sent to a concentration camp. She was the only survivor. After the war she traveled throughout Germany, giving talks on forgiveness. On one of those talks she came face-to-face with one of her cruel prison guards.

“I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.

“ ‘You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,’ he was saying, ‘I was a guard there.’ No, he did not remember me.

“ ‘But since that time,’ he went on, ‘I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein,’ again the hand came out—’will you forgive me?’

“And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

“It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

“For I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’

“I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.

“And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘… Help!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’

“And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.“

‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’

“For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then”.

 

Steps to Forgiveness

  1. Realize that the hatred you feel harms you and not your enemy. Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for it to kill your enemy.
  2. Stop being the victim. The best revenge is to live a successful and happy life. Surviving the harm caused by another person has made you stronger.
  3. Make a list of the strengths you have gained from the negative experience.
  4. Think about the kind and selfless people who have helped you in your time of need and what example they set for you.
  5. Give yourself time to heal. Nurture yourself.
  6. Writing down your negative experience may help – get it out of your head and onto paper.
  7. Stop telling your negative story. Negativity is depressing.
  8. Wish your enemy well. This creates cognitive dissonance and eventually it can neutralize your feelings about the other person.

 

Additional Resource

For additional information on the forgiveness process and the benefits to the forgiver check out the book “Forgiveness is a Choice – A Step-by-Step Process for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope” by Robert Enright.

 

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Rest and Renew: the Power of Restorative Yoga

By Guest Blogger, Wendy Cullitan, In the Write Zone

Much has been written about the power of the mind/body connection. As a yoga practitioner for 20 years and yoga teacher for eight, I know there’s truth to the benefit of moving the body and breathing in specific ways to help calm what yogis call Chitta Vritti or mind chatter. This chatter is constant, even though we are often unaware of it.

Practicing yoga is one way to clear the mind and create more space within for creativity and productivity. As the saying goes, what “we pay attention to grows.” By participating in mindfulness activities, you can train your mind to shift from negative thoughts to positive ones, from fear to calm, from non-stop chatter to clarity.

Starting a yoga practice is easier said than done. That’s why I am sharing with you a simple, restorative yoga sequence to gently release tension in postures that allow the body to rest and revitalize.

You don’t need any special props, but if you have a yoga mat, use it; otherwise, dress comfortably and have two firm pillows and a timer nearby. Set up near a wall with

 

1. Begin in Child’s Pose.

Kneel on the floor. Touch your big toes together and sit on your heels, then separate your knees about as wide as your hips. If you can’t sit on your heels, place a pillow (or two) between your heels and your bottom.

Hold that position for 2 minutes. Take deep inhalations (listen for the sound of your breath, feel your belly expand like a Buddha belly) followed by slightly longer exhalations to release toxins in your body. Notice where you are holding on to tension (lower back is common) and visualize your exhalations traveling there. Notice what happens. Continue this type of breathing awareness for the next two poses as well.

 

2. Next up is Reclining Butterfly/Supta Baddha Konasana

This classic restorative posture stretches the inner groin, thighs and knees. It also helps reduce stress, mild depression and cramps. Click Supta Baddha Konasana to view details on how to set up and plan to rest for 5 minutes.

 

3. Now move into Legs Up the Wall Pose/Viparita Karani.

In order to more easily get into this pose, start off sitting sideways next to the wall with your feet on the floor. Place one hand at your low back, lean back and pivot your legs up the wall. Once your legs are against the wall, press your forearms into the ground to help move your bottom as close to the wall as possible. Lay on your back with your legs resting up the wall. The benefits to this pose include reduced backache and headache and is a wonderful antidote to insomnia.

Legs up the wall pose can be combined with the other poses if you have more time or done on it’s own if you are short on time. 2014JUN05 legsuptheWallPose

At first, aim to hold Viparita Karani for 2-5 minutes and build up to 10 minutes or longer. As soon as the weight of your legs becomes too much, roll to your side in the fetal position and rest for 8 deep inhalations and exhalations before doing the next pose.

 

4. Finally, sweet Savasana!

Every yoga class ends with this quintessential posture that allows the body and mind time to integrate what has shifted internally. Lie on your back. Close your eyes. Turn your palms face up. Take one deep inhalation through your nose and a long exhalation with your mouth open and sigh. Repeat three times. Then, let go of the pattern of your breath. Let your thoughts pass by like clouds in the sky. This is your time to completely relax in a state of deep relaxation. Stay for 5-10 minutes.

This sequence can be followed whenever you need to unwind! Let me know what you think.

 

About the Author: Wendy L. Cullitan, principal of Wordsmith Communications, is an award-winning writer, editor and marketing consultant. She graduated from Barnard College of Columbia University. Wendy finds balance in her life through an avid yoga practice that began in 1995. Her personal self-discovery prompted her to become a yoga teacher in order to share this meaningful, life-affirming practice with others. Wendy loves spending time upside down — which is why you will find her in a headstand or handstand every day. You can reach her via email at wordsmithcomm@gmail.com, via her blog In the Write Zone or visit her website at www.wordsmith-communications.net.

How to be ‘In the Zone’

How to be ‘In the Zone’

Being ‘in the zone’ is characterized by complete absorption in what one is doing. Other words for that state of complete absorption are ‘in the flow’, ‘being in the present’, ‘in the moment’, ‘on a roll’, ‘in the groove’, ‘on fire’, ‘in tune’, and ‘centered’.

I used to get in the zone when photographing events. One time I was photographing a kids’ soccer game and two boys collided in mid-air while going after the ball. A parent standing near me asked if I got that shot. I explained that often my finger works independent of my consciousness, so I might have gotten the shot. Sure enough when I reviewed the pictures that night, I got the shot perfectly as the two boys vied for the ball in mid-air. So I know how to be in the flow. But how do you get in the flow on purpose.

You hear about an athlete being in the zone. You also hear about a writer who talks about the words just pouring out of him and onto the page. So it can happen in athletics as well as in intellectual pursuits.

First of all, there is no flow in new activities. Flow happens when you’re not even trying, when you’re just doing it without consciously trying. That doesn’t happen until you’ve put in hundreds if not thousands of hours of practice. Flow kicks in when the subconscious takes over from the conscious mind. Other ways to get in the flow may be through meditation or through visualization.

I recently attended an educational session by two World champions of public speaking. They described the journey of public speaking as follows: in the beginning of your speaking career you are self-conscious and worried about your performance. Once you have some speaking engagements under your belt, you are no longer self-conscious and you worry about your message coming across. Lastly, when you have done quite a bit of public speaking you will enter a phase where you are in tune with your audience. You will have totally internalized your speech and it comes out with every idea in the right sequence and not memorized. Mark Twain called it “rehearsed spontaneity”. He would say, ‘It usually takes me three weeks to prepare a good spontaneous performance.’

So – how do you find this elusive flow? There are several things you can do.

  1. Find the right environment. May be if you are writing, you have a desk with flowers on it, or you have a favorite spot out in nature. If you are an athlete, you may do best on the ‘home court’ advantage. Your special space helps you get into the zone.
  2. Time of day. I once had a coaching client who could best give her complete focus to our sessions at 6 am. While that wasn’t my favorite time to work, it made such a big difference in her receptivity and ultimately her success that it was worth getting out of bed for.
  3. Music. There are many types of music that can help you get into the flow, music that tunes out distractions or helps while pursuing intellectual pursuits or while meditating. Experiment and see what works for you.
  4. Focus with intensity. In order to get into flow you have to be doing something you do well and love doing. You focus intensely and your subconscious takes over.
  5. Emotions. You can’t get into the flow when you’re anxious or afraid. On the other hand when you are passionate about something you have a greater chance of slipping into the zone.
  6. Mindfulness. It is a state of paying attention to the present. When you are mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance without judgment. Mindfulness means living in the moment.

Training your mind to intensely focus on a task is a key skill for excelling at anything. Being in the flow makes peak performance possible.

 

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How to Eat Healthy

How to eat healthy

The USDA periodically updates what healthy Americans should eat. USDA stands for United States Department of Agriculture. The USDA administers programs that provide services to farmers. So it is not some health and wellness or medical organization that tells us what we should eat, but instead an organization that supports farmers. In addition there is heavy involvement of lobbyists who support the various branches of agriculture and the food industry. So who won the lobbying wars?

 

USDA My Plate

USDA My Plate

Take a look at the “My Plate”. I’d say the dairy industry won this round’s top lobbying award. Dairy is protein, but instead of sharing nearly a quarter of the plate with fish, red meat, poultry, and legumes, Dairy gets its own section. And this is in spite of the many people who are lactose intolerant for whom dairy is not a healthy choice at all.

A similar controversy surrounded the previous food pyramid. For instance, the pyramid recommended two to three servings from the protein-rich group, but this was intended to be a maximum. The pyramid recommended two to four fruit servings, but this was intended to be the minimum. The previous food pyramid and the “My Plate” also say nothing about drinking water, which is important for good health.

 

Let’s look at food pyramids/eating guidelines from other cultures.

mediterranean food pyramidThe Mediterranean Diet Pyramid was created in conjunction with the World Health Organization. It, for example, relegates red meat into the ‘eat monthly’ category. It also shows the importance of drinking water and daily physical exercise. Note also that potatoes are grouped in with the grains/starches category, not under vegetables.

 

 

 

 

 

2014MAY15 JapanesePyramid

The Japanese Food Guide Spinning Top also shows the importance of water and exercise. It shows grains as the most consumed food, and fruits and dairy the least consumed with 2 servings each.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2014MAY15 EssensPyramideThe German Food Pyramid starts with lots of liquids; next are 5 portions of fruits and vegetables; then 5 portions of grains and potatoes; Milk and milk products daily; meat, sausage and eggs in moderation; fish regularly; high quality oils and fats; and avoid foods and drinks high in sugar and fats.

 

 

Clearly there are commonalities between the food guidelines, but there are also important differences. The Mediterranean and German food Pyramids are the only ones that point out to avoid sweets and other sugar-laden foods and drinks, whereas “My Plate” does not distinguish sugar-laden donuts and muffins from whole grain breads.

There are many other food pyramids and eating guidelines from other countries. There are also eating guidelines for specific dietary needs such as vegetarians, vegans and diabetics.

Among others I also found some humorous food pyramids. One German Food Pyramid consisted of Bratwurst, Pretzel, Beer, and eat all other foods sparingly!

Compare the eating guidelines to notice common themes and do your best to eat a healthy diet. Eat a variety of foods to get lots of nutrients and keep the portion sizes small, so as not to overeat.

 

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From Surviving to Thriving

From Surviving to Thriving

The first year of a transition is hardly a time for thriving. The first year after a divorce, the first year after the loss of a loved one, the first year after getting married or having a first child, the first year after a move or losing a job or retiring – these are all times of adjusting to a new reality. When we are hit with a major transition, we come into a time of instability. We may resort to surviving and making it from day-to-day until we get our bearings and relate to our new situations.

Let’s look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:

2014APR17 Maslow_hierarchy_of_needs

When we are faced with a new reality we want to make sure the basic needs are met. Let’s take the reality of a divorce. The first year after divorce there are lots of changes for the woman: the family home may have to be sold; if she was not working she may need to reenter the workforce; childcare changes become necessary, moving to a new neighborhood may affect friends and school for the kids; the reduction of living on one income effects what the family can afford. It is easy to see how a divorce is a difficult transition. How about the opposite side of the coin – getting married. Here a myriad of decisions that were previously made alone that are now needing to be shared. Many marriages don’t make it through the first year: especially decisions about money provide much struggle: how much to save, what expenses are necessary and what can be done without. Many people come from different financial backgrounds and have different ideas about money management. All of these expectations have to be resolved or they will slowly fester.

I once worked for a company that said in their new employee orientation: Don’t quit in the first 6 months of your new job. It will get easier after that. So, regardless of the transition, there is a time of readjustment. Realize it and trust that it will get easier. But for it to get easier, we have to work at it. If it is a new job, we have to learn what is expected of us. If it is a new marriage we have to learn to work out our differences and disagreements. If it is a divorce, we have to adjust to the new reality.

Once the basic needs are attended to – the Physiological and Security needs on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – we can then address our higher level of needs and begin to thrive. We can begin to build new relationships and nurture existing relationships, which may have taken a back seat while we were building our new base. Self-esteem may come from a job or from volunteer work, contributing to the greater good. Lastly we become aware of our personal growth and we seek out opportunities to grow. This is when we make changes in our lives and we truly soar.

Jack Canfield (author of “The Success Principles” and “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books) has this to say about thriving: “Greater self-esteem produces greater success, and greater success produces more high self-esteem, so it keeps on spiraling up.”

 

Next Steps:

In order to produce greater self-esteem you need to produce success. One way to do that is to hire a coach who can help you with goal setting and achieving those goals. That success will feel great and you can build on that success with higher self-esteem.

 

Contact me:

Schedule a complimentary coaching consultation. See what changes for the better I can help you with. Call now: 847-913-3900.

 

Embrace Change

Embrace Change

It is that time of year: the drabness of winter gives way to spring; our nesting instinct kicks into high gear and we start our annual ritual of spring cleaning; The housing market churns and people start looking for new homes; senioritis, like an epidemic, hits students ready to graduate from high school, college seniors and their parents worry about the job market and if students will be able to find that first real job. May be there are changes in your job as well; a new supervisor; a job transfer or layoff; new rules in the office.

Change is everywhere we look. How do we deal with it – and how do we do it effectively? Let’s first look at what doesn’t help. We can dig our heals in and pretend we can stop the changes. We can yearn for what was and keep a blind eye to what is or will be.

What other options do we have? How do we embrace change?

Change is really only there for us to grow. When everything stays the same, many people get comfortable with the status quo. Change allows us to embrace something new, something we might have otherwise not even considered. Change brings opportunity to try new things.

Let’s take inspiration from the following quotes:

  • If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies. (unknown)
  • To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often. (Winston Churchill)
  • Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. (James Baldwin)
  • It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power. (Alan Cohen)

Step by step:

Psychologist Kurt Lewin came up with this model of change that can be adapted to the individual.

Start with a period of “unfreezing”. This is a time to look at the status quo as well as the changes that are upon you. What does the change involve? How is it different from what you do or have today? What do you like and dislike about the change? What do you like and dislike about what you have now? What opportunities does the change present? What can you learn from the change? Can you be a pioneer or change agent and be perceived as a leader instead of an obstructionist?

Step two in Kurt Lewin’s model of change is the “transition” period. This is where the change is implemented and the bugs are worked out. This can take some time. For example, if you are moving to a new house you have to get the current house ready for sale; you have to pack; you have to find a new home; you have to unpack and settle into the new home. There are many other little details that have to be attended to, before you can get comfortable in your new home. Similarly other transitions require many transition steps before you can settle into a new routine.

Step three is “refreeze”. Once you get the changes under control, it is time to establish new routines and new ways of doing things. It is time to settle into the new life.

Next Steps:

Rather than waiting for change to force itself on you, take a critical look at your life and determine where a change is in order. If your relationship with your spouse could be better, schedule a frank talk or suggest counseling; if you hate your commute, consider moving closer; if you hate your job, may be it is time to consider a change. Be proactive. Embrace change!

Contact me:

Schedule a complimentary coaching consultation. See what changes for the better I can help you with. Call now: 847-913-3900.

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