Monthly Archive: September 2015

Stress- Is It Healthy or Unhealthy?

There isn’t a single person on planet Earth that doesn’t have stress. Stress is a normal part of life. However, there are times when stress becomes too much, becomes unhealthy, and requires intervention. But do you know when this time is? Can you tell when job stress goes from normal to unhealthy?

When I speak at seminars for employers and to employees, I use the following three tips to help my audience understand when normal stress turns unhealthy and intervention is needed.

1. Check your blood-pressure. Stress releases chemicals within our body. Short periods of stress may slightly elevate your pulse rate or blood pressure, but when long periods of stress leave you with hypertension, something is wrong!

2. Increase use in booze or use of drugs. Most people try to self-medicate pain and stress without realizing that is what they are doing. If you’ve noticed an increase in booze or that you’ve started using drugs or relying on prescription meds a little too much, you may be experience unhealthy levels of stress.

3. Bad attitude. Are you extra angry these days? Are you snapping at family, friends and other loved ones? If so, you may be experiencing way too much stress and find yourself taking it out on anyone and everyone.

Health.com has a great article on how stress also impacts your body. You can read it here: http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20642595,00.html

Want to know which one of my programs can help you? Check out all my programs here: http://thejoyofliving.co/programs/

Post-traumatic growth – how resilience can recharge your life

This is in honor of my friend and colleague Pat Comely  the other day and was reminded of her work with caregivers, and how critical that is; Pat helps caregivers build resilience into their lives after they begin to burn out.

Jane McGonigal talks about resilience in a unique way, arguing that games can do it for you. Games are her passion, and more importantly, she invented a game to help her battle depression when she was bed-ridden after a serious accident.

It’s a simple game, yet it worked so well for her that she put it out there for others and called it Superbetter. The response she received astonished and delighted her – from terminal cancer patients, people suffering from ALS, people who were in need of exactly this.

These players ended up feeling stronger and braver, better understood by their friends and family, and they even reported feeling happier even through many of them remained in pain.

The science behind what she and others experienced is called Post Traumatic Growth; it’s what happens to some people after experiencing a traumatic event who manage to use their trauma to get stronger and happier.

McGonigal looked at what trauma victims who grow through Post Traumatic Growth report and compared them to the 5 top regrets that the dying have.  They are pretty much directly opposite.

The 5 top regrets of the dying:

  • I wish I hadn’t worked so hard;
  • I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends;
  • I wish I’d let myself be happier;
  • I wish I’d had the courage to express my true self; and
  • I wish I’d lived a life true to my dreams instead of what others expected of me

5 top traits resulting from Post Traumatic Growth:

  • My priorities have changed, I’m not afraid to do what makes me happy;
  • I feel closer to my friends and family;
  • I understand myself better, I know who I really am now;
  • I have a new sense of meaning and purpose in my life; and
  • I’m better able to focus on my goals and dreams.

This is so encouraging! And it’s where resilience comes in. Resilience can be defined as a person’s ability to properly adapt to stress and adversity.  Scientists discovered that people who grow through experiencing trauma develop 4 specific kinds of resilience – physical, mental, emotional and social.

McGonigal suggested 4 kinds of activities anyone can do that, if done daily, can help us develop those resiliencies.

You can do all of them in less than 5 minutes.

  1. Either stand up and take 3 steps, or make fists and raise your arms above your head for 10 seconds. This creates physical resilience; the key is to move rather than stay still.
  2. Either snap your fingers 5 times, or count back by 7, starting at 100. This generates mental resilience because it demands focus, willpower and determination to complete the task, even though it’s really very small.
  3. Either find a window and look out, or find a window and look in (and if there aren’t any windows, google your favorite baby animals). This generates emotional resilience, provoking powerful positive emotions when they’re most needed. If we can experience 3 positive emotions to one negative one daily, our health dramatically improves.
  4. Either shake hands with someone, or send a message to a friend, gainingsocial resilience. We gain strength from our connection with friends, family and community, feeling grateful for those connections. Gratitude, especially when communicated by touch (like with a hand shake or hug), raises our levels of oxytocin, sometimes called the trust hormone.

One bonus from all this is, if daily practiced, these simple activities can increase our lifespan by 10 years.  She did the math, and if you’re interested, listen to her Ted Talk .

Resilience Art

Quote of the week

She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her away, she adjusted her sails.
– Elizabeth Edwards

 

Abuse At Work!

Do you work with abusive people? It’s very possible and probable. We don’t get into relationships with abusive people willingly (it usually happens for a variety of reasons) and we can’t select the people we work with, either. This is not to say that we are not working alongside, if not for, some very emotionally abusive people.

Do you know how to spot a workplace bully? If not, I’m putting some tips below.

According to a recent study, 72% of all people bully at work. But what is the difference between bullying (not that its right) and being downright abusive? If your co-workers or your boss are constantly slamming doors, being verbally rude and insulting or erupting in angry tirades, but then appear to act reasonably on the surface – abuse is being dealt out.

In fact, isolation is a form of workplace place abuse. If your boss or a coworker instigates malicious rumors and gossip, provides excessive work with unrealistic deadlines, shuns or ignores you in meetings, giving unwarranted, invalid or public criticism, blames without factual justification, swears and provides excessive micromanagement, the abusive actions and bullying are taking place!

I found a great free website that deals with bullying and abuse at work. It has quizzes and resources, which can be accessed here: http://www.workplacebullying.org/individuals/problem/being-bullied/ I can also help you discuss how to be proactive within your organization or company to prevent employees from abusing and bullying one another. Want to learn more about my workplace therapy programs? Please click here: http://thejoyofliving.co/

3 Signs You’re Depressed

You don’t have to sit in bed all day, wearing a worn out robe, to be depressed. There are many cases of “walking depression” among the general population. People tend to have a skewed view of depression, too. They think it causes you to sit in a dark room for hours on end without showering. While this can be true, the noted symptoms aren’t aligned with walking depression.

People who are truly depressed and functioning throughout life may not realize they are depressed because they are functioning throughout life. They may feel like they are going through the motions and faking it- when, in fact, they are walking around depressed.

Loss of interest is a sign of depression. Now, you may not love going to work everything – that doesn’t mean you’re depressed. But, let us say that you love to bake, and suddenly you don’t feel up to baking… well, this could be a sign. Not feeling engaged with activities you love to participate in can and may be a problem.

Anxiety is a sign of depression. Yes, anxiety can be its own diagnosis but it can also be a symptom of something bigger going on- like depression. Women tend to have more anxiety symptoms than man when it comes to depression. Men react differently. Research shows that in addition to irritability men may display symptoms not typically associated with depression, like escapist or risky behavior, substance abuse, or misplaced anger.

Emotional issues. Yes, if you’re happy and sad and then angry and then sad and then happy and then angry…. well, the fluctuation can be caused by depression. Don’t forget, depression does impact the chemicals within your brain and can cause issues when it comes to your emotions. You can be depressed without being in a state of flat sadness all of the time.

Interested in receiving more help and insight? Please contact me here: http://thejoyofliving.co/

Moving from “If Only” to “Next Time”

My friend Maggie lost someone she cared for recently.  When we talked, she couldn’t help but wonder what she could have done to help her loved one out more and if that would have made a difference.  She knew it was futile, and yet also so compelling.
It gave her a feeling of control over something out of her control.  It also let her escape for a moment from the pain and grief of her loss. Maggie was stuck in “If only”.

“If only” brings us to regret and self-disappointment. It uses up all our energy and leaves us feeling empty. In Arthur Gordon’s words from A Touch of Wonder.

The trouble with ‘if only’ is that it doesn’t change anything. It keeps the person facing the wrong way – backward instead of forward. It wastes time. In the end, if you let it become a habit, it can become a real roadblock – an excuse for not trying anymore.

If you find yourself repeating those two words, here are three things you can do to get unstuck:

  • Take a moment to appreciate the lesson.  The truth is that at the time, this was the best you could do.
  • Shift the focus from “if only” to “next time”.  “Next time” means learning from what happened and making an action plan for the future.
  • Finally, forgive yourself. Rather than being hard on yourself, give yourself a hug, acknowledge the hurt, and then move on.

Don’t Regret Regret

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The #1 Way to Stay Positive

Life is hard. Add in depression, anxiety, and so forth and it becomes very hard to stay positive. And, there is something to staying positive. People who are more positive have better outcomes, they are healthier, they have long-lasting relationships. While staying positive can be very hard for anyone dealing with life and health issues, it still is possible with effort.

I am asked all the time, “how do I remain positive?” Well, it isn’t easy, but there is a single trick that will get you moving in the right direction. Positive affirmations. Now, don’t smirk or think about the Mr. Smiley skit on Saturday Night Live. Positive affirmations really do work!

Even Entrepreneur magazine is talking about the power of positive affirmations within the business world, so imagine how they can work in your personal life. According to the magazine, ” As any politician or advertiser knows, the more often you hear a message, the more likely you are to believe it. The same goes for messages about who you are and what you are capable of doing. By repeating positive affirmations with conviction several times each morning, you are training your brain to believe them.”

I encourage you to make small, simple changes. The smallest step forward can lead to an incredible journey. Even if you say “It will get better”, you are headed in a better direction!

Balance Into Stress

How to put balance back into stress

When I get stressed over something it has a habit of taking over.  I may be having a great day, and this one thing can take up my entire headspace. I’m like a terrier with a bone: examining it in every way; running through scenario after scenario; then back to the beginning and running it through all over again; and again.

Ask my closest friends – it drives them to comments.  It isn’t balanced, and what I truly know deep down is that it’s when I let it rest that the solution pops up. Never before.
I not the only person with this issue.

Here are some suggestions from Marie Forleo .

  • First, get it out of your head and out into the open.  It’s cathartic, and it’s the only way to stop the endless progression. Try writing it down, or schedule a time (very soon) to deal with it.  If you schedule a time, make it a specific time, like 15 minutes or half an hour. Set a timer and end the catharsis when the ringer goes.
  • See it in perspective.  Once it’s out in the open, the amazing thing is it immediately begins to shrink and blend in with everything else that’s happening.  Now is when you can begin to see how, if at all, it relates to all those other things.  Often it does in some way.
  • Decide how you can effectively deal with it. It isn’t always possible to completely deal with an issue, but at least you can determine that, and let it go, knowing that you did what you could.
  • Finally – and importantly, take a moment of self-appreciation.  Successfully and realistically dealing with stress gives us real personal power, and lightens our entire day.

Keeping all the balls in the air

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Quote of the Week
We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.
– David Mamet, Boston Marriage

Depression – It’s The Season

Starbucks is already selling its famous Pumpkin Space Latte. Halloween candy is on the grocery store shelves. Another two weeks and we are all drinking eggnog, right? Well, yes – the marketing folks in the food industry are selling their holiday goodies early and when the holiday season starts to arrive- so does the increased risk for depression!

The light changes during the holiday season and so does the temperature. Work might be busier for some people and many people are outside less. Oh, and then there is financial pressure to either host or travel to a Thanksgiving dinner and/or holiday event. Season change is exciting for many but, for others, it brings with a veil of worry, anxiety, sadness, and discomfort in the form of depressed or anxious moods, or, from some of you, seasonal depression.

There are ways to combat seasonal depression, such as;

Staying connected. We are indoors more during this season and start to feel isolated and alone. Skype friends, setup dinners and have people over, do whatever it takes to combat the depression and bad weather so you can still get together with your friends.

Be kind to yourself. Yes, to yourself. Don’t worry about what you need to get done that you start feeling sick and like you want to just lay in bed all day. Setup a special time each week to see a movie by yourself or treat yourself to a manicure or a nice meal. Celebrate yourself during the fall, too- don’t just work on a gift-giving list.

Use colored pens. OK, I know this sounds odd- but it works. If you change the color of your pen for three months (Oct. – Dec.), it will change your perspective. If you write in blue, try a deep purple or a dark orange. A small change in color can lift your mood. If you’re writing to write, and not signing legal docs, the color change is a welcomed breath of fresh air!

Want to work with me? Want to learn more? Please visit my services page here: http://thejoyofliving.co/programs/

Stress- What NOT To Eat!

I do spend alot of time talking about how to stay stress-free or find the right therapist to help you work on environmental issues that cause stress, anxiety, etc. It isn’t often that I talk about food. I’m no nutritionist. This said, I recently had a lady come to me because she was having panic attacks. They just started and I couldn’t find any environmental change that was a pivotal stressor for the cause behind the attacks. Then I noticed it…

A large coffee from Starbucks. Each and every session. Black coffee sipped throughout the session. When I asked her if this was her first one, she said ‘no’ without much thought. I then asked what she was eating. Well, it started with a pastry and coffee in the morning. Sugar and caffeine. Lunch was a redbull and often nothing else. Followed by a few Cokes and then a nightcap coffee, she had dinner – which usually had an element of sugar. Do you see where I am going with this? Sometimes the most obvious answers aren’t so obvious.

Her case is one in a million. It was the sugar and the caffeine that were contributing to her mental health issues. Most of the time, however, it is our environment or genetics that cause mental health issues. This said, I’ve done some research and I’ve pulled an article from The Huffington Post on the top foods that can contribute to stress levels.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/07/worst-foods-stress_n_2773760.html

Enjoy!

Gaia – We Are All Connected

Yesterday I walked through a small 1-acre park in the middle of miles of corn and alfalfa fields in central Nebraska.  It was filled with the sound of frogs, birds and insects, in the trees, ponds and grass of this small oasis, making me realize I hadn’t heard such fullness in the air for a very long time. Local people provided this oasis for local flora and fauna to fill.

James Lovelock believes that the Earth is really a lot of interconnected organisms and minerals that work with each other to generate and maintain the living environment that is the Earth. He calls this the Gaia Principle . The Gaia Principle shows that we are all intimately connected, and when anything is removed or changed, the whole is changed.

This means that whatever we do, we impact our natural environment; and in order to bring balance back into our lives, we need to pay attention to both our power and the power of every other life in the area – because it all contributes to determine what kind of place we live in, right down to the weather.  This is an ancient piece of aboriginal wisdom that still prevails.

I was inspired by an NPR Ted Talk hour August 29th [link to  ] where the idea of connection was discussed from a Nature viewpoint.  Here are some of the highlights:

Rewilding: allowing Nature to decide what plants and animals populate an area, and even more, building our communities with this as an essential part of the plan. George Monbiot talked about what happened when a few wolves were re-introduced into Yellowstone National Park: they literally altered the stream beds. The began to regulate the deer population, which changed the deer’s behavior, ultimately altering the growth of trees and grasses; which in turn encouraged an increase of beavers, further altering the environment and making it attractive to other species.

Pollination: Marla Spivak, a bee scientist, pointed out the absolute necessity of bees in pollinating the food we and other animals eat.  She personally burned down her lawn and let it go back to nature.  When her community protested, she put up a “pollinator habitat” sign and they left her alone. She may have even encouraged others to follow her example.

Sound: Bernie Krause spoke of “soundscapes” – linking sound to survival. He gave numerous examples of what happens when one seeming insignificant thing changes.  For instance, the complete disappearance of birds in an area of selective logging.

Breath Jan Poynter, a participant in Biosphere II, discovered how simply our breathing intimately connects us to everything around us in both time and space. The Biosphere they lived in and depended upon was altered because of their breath to the point that they needed outside intervention.  With each breath we take, we emit carbon dioxide, take in oxygen, altering the immediate temperature and humidity.  The food we eat is made partly from our breath, and the breath of other animals, and when we ingest it, we are in a certain real way, ingesting ourselves.

There is a lot we can do every day that is meaningful and immediately impacts our world for the better.  Here are a few:

Take a moment to be aware – Be aware of how we are connecting with our world simply through our breath; every time we take a breath, we are connecting interactively.

Actively connect with something or someone – our lives and well-being depend on the lives and well-being of all the plants and animals that live where we live.

Rewild the neighborhood – there are both little and big things we can do to encourage rewilding in our neighborhoods, from re-introducing native plant species to stopping logging and continued growth into natural habitats.

James Lovelock Explains Gaia on The Sacred
Balance with David Suzuki

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Nature Speaking

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