Tag Archive: stress

Control yourself, Grasshopper – The People factor when it comes to stress

 

“It isn’t the work that’s an issue for me. There’s a lot of it, but I can handle it. It’s the people!” I remember saying that any number of times when I became a manager, suddenly thrust into being responsible for mess-ups that weren’t of my making. At least it seemed that way to my then naïve viewpoint.

Sure, I had my heroes – usually stoic men and women who could be calm through anything. I tried to emulate them, and some would say I did it well. But inside, I was often anything but stoic and calm.

I was a mess.

The “What if’s” were my constant companion. “What if Charlie doesn’t get done on time?” What if Louise doesn’t come into work again?” “What if the next person I hire is a closet sociopath?”

Yes. Things were very hairy inside me sometimes. Until I learnt a few “rules that kept me sane and balanced:

  1. Know who I truly have any control over. The only person I can control is me. That means that if I’m worrying over someone else, there’s probably something I’m not worrying over about me. When I hired that last person, what wasn’t I looking at that makes me worry about him now? And why? Now that I’ve hired him, what can I put in place for myself that would give me peace of mind?
  2. Be transparent. If I’m not truly calm and stoic inside, then don’t pretend I am. That only sets me up for a future heart-attack, and lets others think something about me and the situation that’s simply not true. I may talk myself into thinking I’m doing everyone a favor, but I’m not. Not that throwing a fit is the answer. It definitely isn’t. But neither is bottling things up.
  3. Be open. It always amazes me how things turn out when I remain open. All those times when I decided ahead of time that a particular result was inevitable were never great. But any time where I was able to remain open to what became available were really pretty good.

For me, it’s always the people who I stress over. But it doesn’t have to be. When I’m open and transparent, and stop trying to control what I can’t, life is a lot less stressful.

 

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Maryanne

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

 

Enlightenment always tastes of freedom

“Enlightenment” is a term I hear used a lot these days.  It’s often in the context of gaining some kind of spiritual excellence.

I do wonder about this: it comes close to smacking of superiority and so I’m suspicious of it. So, is this something real and something worth moving towards?

I think so.  The Buddha said that you will know enlightenment because it always tastes of freedom, just as you know the ocean because it tastes of salt. This implies that I achieve enlightenment every time I can flow with the process of life, without feeling triggered or reactive in any way.

Sometimes, I do feel that way. And, no doubt, you do too.

One thing for certain, then, is that when I’m anxious, or stressed, or lost in worry, I’m not in a state of enlightenment. I’m in an opposite kind of state: frozen in time, fighting off inner daemons.

I’ve been there too?  What about you?  If you’ve been in a place of anxious stress, were you able to find your way to a better place?  If not, you may find my online course Burning the Candle at Both Ends worthwhile.

It’s starting now.  Click here if you’re interested in learning about it.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

 

Stressing out again?

I’ve encountered a few personal issues lately that could, if I let them, stress me out. Dealt successfully with one yesterday, and dealing with the other today.

In the middle of all this, I recall a client asking me how she could help herself cope with a stressful living issue that she couldn’t immediately change. I am constantly learning from my clients, and thought I’d give what we jointly came up with a try.

What stresses me most is confrontation. I don’t like having someone’s finger pointed at me; I don’t like being judged and blamed. Hate it, in fact.

My immediate reaction is anger, even rage. And I don’t like feeling rage … I want the world and everyone in it to be fair, adult, and just.

Well, put that way, I can see that my desire is pure fantasy. Not that the real world is a dark place, but people – me included – can be unfair, dishonest in ways that fool even them, and definitely judgmental.

So, following the advice of that long ago collaboration, here’s what I did:

  • I acknowledged my pain – my worry, my anger and rage – as legitimate and real.  I do this because it’s easy for me to discount my own feelings.
  • Then, I deliberately altered my perspective by taking deep and anchoring breaths, and thinking about all the good things in my life. Those good things make anything else that happens seem a lot less focal.  This exercise effectively puts things into perspective for me – and that’s a good place to be.
  • And now I have a better chance of dealing with the latest issue – even-handedly and with good perspective.

No magic wand. No clever trick. Just self-acknowledgment, making space, and upping my perspective.

Marie Forleo – Stress

Burning the Candle?
If you’re someone who feels like you’re burning up and burning out – from too much ongoing stress, from too much responsibility and too little recognition, or simply from wanting to have everything done Now!, then you might be interested in my online programBURNING THE CANDLE AT BOTH ENDS.

Registration is now open for October. Check it out!

Quote of the Week

We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.
― David Mamet, Boston Marriage
Announcement
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co . Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist and Life Coach.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co.

 

Three steps to get your calm back during this stress-inducing, albeit joyful, season

holiday

This is a re-do of a blog I wrote a few years back, and thought it was worth sending out again.  This time of year is the hardest on many of us – we over-commit, over-indulge, and generally over-stretch ourselves, ending up stressed and not the greatest company to ourselves or anyone else.

So first, I want to wish you all a wonderful end of 2017, and beginning of 2018 – that you find some peace in the coming days, with much laughter and joy.

I also want to remind you of an old Cherokee story – if you’re finding yourself feeling the stress of the season.

It’s the story about 2 wolves. A grandfather was speaking with his grandson about the violence and cruelty in the world.  He likened it to two wolves fighting in our heart – one was angry and vengeful, the other was understanding and kind. The grandson asked which would win, and the grandfather replied – the one you feed.

I naturally overdo things, and I don’t need the excuse of the holiday season to do it.  In fact, I’ve been overdoing things for so long that my body finally gave out.  That was about 2 years ago. Over these past 2 years, I’ve had to learn to live differently – most of all, I’ve had to learn to listen to the signals of my body and to respect them.  In other words, I’ve stopped feeding one wolf and started feeding the other.

In Taking the Leap , Pema Chödrön writes about how people need more spiritual practice these days than ever before, because we really do live in a stressed-out world.  In fact, she goes on to suggest we extend our spiritual practice to include our communities in three ways. I’ve combined what she suggests we do for our communities with what I suggest we do for ourselves – because whatever we do for ourselves to strengthen our own spirits will eventually enrich and empower our communities. These all involve cultivating our own naturalness as human beings.

  • Natural Intelligence – when we know instinctively what to do, when we’re not caught up in hope and fear. When you catch yourself caught up, take a time-out: deep breaths in – down to your belly, completely filling your lungs; longer breaths out – letting the air out slowly, emptying your lungs completely. Do that 3 to 5 times.  Breathing out for longer then breathing in activates your calming system, and helps to bring you back into balance, and reconnected to your natural intelligence.
  • Natural Warmth – our ability to love, have empathy, a sense of humor, and to feel grateful – it has the power to heal relationships. Open your heart, once you’re back in balance, and make yourself available to everyone and everything around you. If you’re alone, get out. If you simply can’t get out, then find a way to connect – by phone, by internet – whatever way is available to you.
  • Natural Openness – mental spaciousness, giving our intelligence a chance to be able to tell us what it really knows. Pause. Do nothing for a few seconds or minutes, letting your mind take in your surroundings. Becoming truly sensitive to what there is to take in, right now.

Balance, openness, inner space.  All natural. All human.

If you’re interested in knowing more about natural human traits, you might be interested in Discover Your Natural Character, a workshop facilitated by myself and Jane Mactinger this coming February.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist and Life Coach.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

Burning the Candle at Both Ends

“My candle burns at both ends; It will not last the night; But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends— It gives a lovely light!”

That quote, from Edna St. Vincent Millay, eloquently sums up the allure of going all out till we drop. It’s addictive. It gives us such an intoxicating high. And yet, if we don’t stop, it will burn us out long before we want it to.How often in your day have you found yourself running on fumes?  Going till you drop, and then going some more. I did this all the time till I couldn’t any longer; and then I had to find a different way of living that could restore the health I’d ruined and allow me to continue to live with energy and purpose.  I did find it, and I’m offering what I discovered to you in my online program Burning the Candle at Both Ends.

Whether you join me  or chose to connect with another of the many great helpers available, I can say from experience that it’s possible to take back control over your mind, your life and your happiness. It’s possible to live the life you want without burning up or burning out.Learn more about Burning the Candle at Both Ends here.Now I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences, knowledge, opinions.  In the comments below, share one thing that you experienced as a mirror moment that changed your day, or even your life.

3-minute breathing space

Quote of the Week
Those candle flames were like the lives of men. So fragile. So deadly. Left alone, they lit and warmed. Let run rampant, they would destroy the very things they were meant to illuminate. Embryonic bonfires, each bearing a seed of destruction so potent it could tumble cities and dash kings to their knees.
― Brandon Sanderson, The Way of Kings

Announcements
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us. I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co

Lizard brain – how to make yours work for you

The Lizard brain is the oldest and, some argue, the most primitive part of our brain system. It’s something all vertebrates are born with; it’s our first warning system that acts up when anything we interpret as dangerous approaches us.

For all other animals with lizard brains, the danger they sense is as potentially real as they imagine.  Not so for us humans. Or at least, not for us humans who live in secure dwellings and eat at least one good meal a day. We don’t actually have a lot of things to be that afraid of, and yet, given the nature of our lizard brain, it will find something to tell us about.

When I think of mine, I do actually think of a lizard.  Often it’s tiny, albeit annoying.  Sometimes it’s a full-sized komodo dragon, and terrifying. Our lizard brain is always engaged when we’re stressed or anxious.

There are lots about this topic in books and over the internet – anything about stress is a big topic these days.  Martha Beck talks about it in Steering by Starlight.

The thing about our lizard brain is that it’s here to stay. So, we can either befriend it or not.  I don’t know about you, but when I don’t make friends with my lizard, it ends up ruling me. I’ve tried everything: from being “adult” and ignoring it because it’s non-sensical, to staying home, gorging on chips and ice cream, hoping I can mollify it. The only thing that works is if I acknowledge it, even appreciate what it does for me, then find a way to work with it.

Just like the real thing, our lizard brain is purely sensual. It’s responses are limited and automatic.  The minute we feel threatened – real or not – it jumps into action. So the only way to work with it is to see what it needs to be happy once again.

Seriously. I’ve talked about this before. For instance, let’s say I’m getting ready to speak somewhere.  This is an activity that can really get my lizard going. I start wondering if people will like my talk … whether I’ve got enough information … whether the topic is right or completely wrong.  The longer I wonder, the more wound up my lizard gets until it’s the only thing I can see.

When I see what’s happening, the first thing I do is get calm – it might be a walk, or lying down in a cool, dark place and breathing for a while.  Then in that calm place, I see what’s really bothering me, and address it directly.  And, in appreciation of my lizard for being so alert, I reward myself with something it likes – like a latte.

I’m not always so on top of things, but when I am, this works. Every time.

Now I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences, knowledge, opinions.  In the comments below, share one thing that you experienced as a mirror moment that changed your day, or even your life.

This newsletter is in three parts: the first part is my contribution; the second is a video I’ve found that relates to the topic in part 1; the third is a quote. I hope you enjoy the richness this brings to the topic of the week with all three parts.

Seth Godin – On overcoming the Lizard Brain

 Quote of the Week
The lizard brain only wants to eat and be safe. ― Seth Godin

Announcements
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us. I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co

The Schizoid Character Structure

schizoid

In the first part of the 20th century, Austrian Psychoanalist Wilhelm Reich developed a theory explaining how we respond both physically and emotionally to the challenges we meet in life, especially in early life.   For the past few weeks, I’ve introduced you, in broad terms, to Character Structures in general, and to the Masochist, or Endurer, and to the Oral.  This week I’ll introduce you to the Schizoid body and character type.

The Schizoid structure is disjointed: one shoulder higher than the other, for instance; the person who has this structure is often much stronger, physically, than they look.

The main issue with the Schizoid is early rejection.  This differs from feeling abandoned (like the Oral): the Oral knows her parents love her but have abandoned her; the Schizoid doesn’t know this and feels rejected by her caregivers. Alone and afraid in a world they never made.  As with the Oral, the parents of the Schizoid may have done something unawares that created this lack for their baby, and sometimes it’s overt – like when the baby is the product of a rape. Covert or overs, the end result is that the child has a felt sense of not being wanted, and not having a safe place in this new and scary world.

The Schizoid is inwardly anxious, and armors herself in a way that protects whatever she feels is being attacked in that moment; as a result, the schizoid will tend to pull inward, away from her extremeties. To the external world she shows a calm demeanor; while inwardly she is trembling.

At their best, the Schizoid person is the visionary, able to see beyond the every-day mundane to the bigger picture. Creative and well-grounded, she is connected to her surroundings in multiple ways. The only true multi-tasker.

The primary challenge for the Schizoid is to learn to love herself – and know she belongs.

Next week, I’ll introduce the Rigid character Type.  If you find this series interesting, and want to know more, I along with my friend and colleague Jane Mactinger will be holding a workshop on Character Structures in the near future.  Stay tuned for a date and time.

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

The fine art of letting go, and what that really means

What does it really mean to hang onto things and people and situations? We hear a lot about the virtue of letting go, but how often do you see that happen?

Not often! Because it’s a really tough thing to do. Letting go pretty much always means letting go of a belief – that something or someone is so important to us that losing it would be a disaster.  This belief may be connected to similar childhood beliefs – may even be connected to events in childhood that are still painful.  If so, then letting go is far from easy.

And yet, there’s a saying I’ve heard that goes something like “you become what you fight”. If you’ve ever witnessed someone close to you who is afraid of losing something and won’t let go, you know the truth of this first hand. We end up being alone because we fought loneliness.

So, if not letting go really means losing what we love, then what does letting go really mean? What it means is freedom. Freedom to move on, to enjoy what we have with no expectations, and to look forward to new adventures around the corner.  It doesn’t mean we won’t have our loved ones near for many more years – in fact, that’s more likely if we’ve let go of our need for them to stay . What it means is that they, and we, have no obligations that unnecessarily tie us down.

And that tastes of freedom.

Now I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences, knowledge, opinions.  In the comments below, share one thing that you experienced as a mirror moment that changed your day, or even your life.

This newsletter is in three parts: the first part is my contribution; the second is a video I’ve found that relates to the topic in part 1; the third is a quote. I hope you enjoy the richness this brings to the topic of the week with all three parts.

Isaac Lidsky – Letting Go

Quote of the Week
Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it. ― Ann Landers

Announcements
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us. I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co

When time seems not on our side

“I don’t have time for this” is a refrain I heard often from my mother. Now I say it. I don’t have time for a lot of things, and it isn’t because I’m impatient.  It’s because I try to fit too much into a day – like my mother did.

Some people are fantastic at calculating how much time something will take, but never those who never have enough time.  Those are most of the people I know.  We tend to underestimate everything – to such a degree that what we thought we could accomplish is hopelessly out of wack.

Why is this? Partly it’s because we are overly optimistic about our own abilities and the smooth running of the world.  Partly because our hopes take over instead of our objectivity. Partly because we simply have unrealistic expectations about life, especially about ourselves. Most of us are very hard on ourselves – inside us is a little diabolic dictator who mercilessly berates us whenever we fall short of her or his demands.

That inner dictator is this way, possibly because she is fuelled by fear.  Mine is. She shows up when I’m afraid I won’t be able to do what I promised; or when I’m afraid I’ll suck during a presentation.  So many things – and whenever that fear sneaks in, so does my mini dictator.

Time isn’t on my side when I try to do too much – or so it seems.  But when I stop to consider this a little deeper, I have to admit that the pain I go through whenever I’m driven like this is a strong motivator to stop doing it.  If being driven gave me pleasure, I probably wouldn’t stop.

The truth is that I’m discovering that time is on my side: I always have the time I need to do things that are really important, as long as I pay attention to what’s really important.

Time, it turns out, is a choice – my choice.

Now I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences, knowledge, opinions.  In the comments below, share one thing that you experienced as a mirror moment that changed your day, or even your life.

This newsletter is in three parts: the first part is my contribution; the second is a video I’ve found that relates to the topic in part 1; the third is a quote. I hope you enjoy the richness this brings to the topic of the week with all three parts.

Laura Vanderkam – Time is a choice

Quote of the Week
Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.’
― Lao Tzu

Announcements
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us. I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co

No time? How to reclaim it

How often have you said to yourself “What happened to the time? Where did it go?  I still have so much left to do!”  If it’s often, then you’re a lot like me. Every time I go away for more than a few days, the amount of stuff I have to get done before I go grows exponentially: I have to get the work I’d normally do the week I’m away done before I go; that office clean-up I’ve been planning for 6 months suddenly looms large in my mind; what about that sweater I began and never finished 2 years ago?  These things, reasonable or not, suddenly become imperatives, even if some rational part of me knows better.

My partner knows better than to argue and offer rational argument; he simply finds other things to completely occupy himself with while I go crazy and wear myself out needlessly.

It really is a compulsion, and as with all compulsions, sitting and thinking about it in an attempt to discover what’s really going on isn’t going to get me anywhere.  What’s needed is to take 10 or so minutes, and discover what my body has to tell me.  That’s right – my body.  It’s in our bodies that we store feelings and value sensations, and this compulsion is, for me, connected to my values and, possibly fears.

How do I do this? I do a body-scan, then sit quietly and meditate on what comes up for me. That’s all.  A body scan is a mindfulness technique where we breath into our body and be with whatever physical sensations come up.  We begin at our toes, then move up our legs, into the pelvic area, then up the torso to the shoulders, then from the finger tips up the arms, finally breathing into the neck, the face – jaws, mouth, nose and eyes, forehead and ears, the top and back of the head. By doing this, we not only become familiar with what is going on physically for us, we also get to know how those sensations are connected to our values and beliefs.  And for most of us, this is an unfamiliar feeling.

Here’s a real-life example from my own life: I’ll take my compulsion to multiply tasks before I leave for more than a few days.

While thinking about the impossible list of tasks on hand and my sense of urgency over getting them done, I scan my body.  I’m looking for discomfort and numbness.  When I discover these, I take note and continue my scan. In this case, I might notice a tightening at my solar plexus, a hardening at the back of my head, and a clenching of my back shoulders.

Now, for each sensation, I ask what it’s doing and how it’s helping me. For instance, if I breathe into my solar plexus and the tightening there, asking it why it’s there and how it’s helping me, it might respond with something like “I’m holding things together”, and “I’m helping by enforcing calm”.  This helps me understand that what’s really happening is panic, only what I’m feeling is tightening – tightening me up so that I can keep doing all those things on my list.  I’ve fooled myself into believing everything is A-OK.

The hardening at the back of my head and the clenching of my shoulders are similarly, helping me dull down the panic, so that I can finish everything.

Knowing this is the first essential step to changing this approach into something healthier and less driven. It isn’t the answer, but it is a huge start.

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

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