What does latest Research say about Living with Stress? Learn about the 90:10 Rule

Daily Quote: The bottom line of the latest research on stress is summarized by Dr. Daniela Kaufer, ” I think the ultimate message of our research is an optimistic one. Stress can be something that makes you better, but it is a question of how much, how long and how you interpret or perceive it. Stress can be a very positive motivator for personal growth and memory development.

Reflection: In looking at stress from a different point of view we can be less afraid of it and gain control of the positive aspects of the concept. I think invoking Aristotle’s “golden mean” approach to living a balanced life serves as a positive and reasonable approach for how to live our lives where “stress” is a given reality. To paraphrase this great philosopher “too much of anything can cause imbalance and overwhelm the human system and upset the natural order of things.”

Self Coaching Challenge:

Stress can be a contributor to some deadly conditions like high blood pressure and heart disease, thus if left unabated it could lead to death. On the other handle it can be a source of stimulation to support  a a growth mindset and provides an opportunity to live a more exciting lifestyle. Your attitude is the key to making stress a positive or negative factor in your life. Stress affects us all differently so how we handle requires a customized plan. A plan that its foundation aims to create balance in your life. This assertion about stress is true depending on your mindset about what stress is and how it affects you. If you see, stress as a signal for living and a necessary part of the “yin and yang” of life you are on the right path.

So your challenge is to educate yourself on the topic of stress and then build an approach that can support stress as a normal condition to be handles in life.

1. How is stress impacting your life? Use some self-assessment tools to learn how it is now effecting you. See http://www.stress.org/workplace-stress/for more information

2. Choose some of the suggested behavioral tools and approaches outline in my past post on stress on how to develop new practices such as reframing, mindfulness and other beneficial practices to incorporate into your daily life. See– the wick post at  http://wp.me/pnKb1-21T

3. Learn to use the 90:10 rule for handling stress. View the following video on YouTube on the 90:10 Rule.

 

Daily Quote and Self-Coaching Challenge: Coping with Life Difficulties and Losses

A Self-Coaching “Smart-Step” approach to Coping with anxiety and difficult times

Daily Quote: ” When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves”.–Viktor Frankl 

Through out life we will encounter good and bad times. With the rapid pace of living  we all experience change as a way of life. Some of us learn to roll with the punches and find ways to get through our daily ups and downs. Others get “stuck” and have a difficult time functioning at an acceptable level. And still others find themselves anxious or increasingly depressed over a problem, concern, or worry for a long time. So we all react differently to change and try to find individual ways to cope. In my experience with clients, I have found some ways that are more effective than others to cope and push try to relief. Below I will provide two Self-Coaching tools that provide a practical framework and a mental set for dealing with these personal obstacles to live a life of constructive action. I suggest you write them down in your personal journal or on a 3x 5 index card so that when you find yourself on the edge or overwhelmed with worry and  insecure thinking, you read these tips to get you through the difficult situations you find yourself in. If necessary, read them over and over again, mantra like.

1.) I will let life be what it is. I won’t “make stuff up” too upset my balance and positive outlook. Sure there are obstacles and inconveniences but no awfulness and shoulds’ in life. Try using positive self-talk like the following: This too shall pass…it could have been much worst…this is inconvenient and unexpected so consciously  STOP. Take a deep BREATH. SMILE and Move ON. 
Sometimes, when the phone rings and the voice or message at the other end knocks you for a loop, you may feel shock, out of control or overwhelmed with what life has just delivered you. And yet you need to keep going on because sometimes there are no solutions or answers to life’s difficulties. Rather than reading these events as “awful” and “unsolvable”, a more constructive approach to terrible news is to notice and accept how you are feeling, if sad, be sad; if you start to cry just cry; if angry; be angry and then redirect your attention to something more useful. For example, find a tissue to wipe your tears, if you are standing sit-down, go for a long slow walk etc. Redirection physically can be a powerful constructive act.  Just remember this event as just a moment in life–not good or bad, just life.  Mentally reject the inner voice that tells you this is awful and you can’ go on. Don’t fight the fear or focus on it;  just notice it and accept it. Acknowledge these events are real, unwanted and  inconvenient obstacles that just need to be handled the best way you know how. With heighten emotions and unclear thinking about loss and fear driven thinking your insecurity and confusion will rise and you may find yourself slowed downed–but this is event is not the end of life or awful! What feels to be hopeless and overwhelming is only an emotional flooding created by this unexpected circumstance. Keep in mind your tool to STOP. Breath. Smile. Keep Moving and trust yourself to handle this situation.

2. Not every problem has a solution, and sometimes you have to just keep going and accept that maybe or maybe not an answer or understanding will appear. 
In time, some problems can be solved or understood. On the other hand, some problems will never be solved and you need to learn to live with this uncertainty and ambiguity of not knowing. Unfortunately, this is not easy to do, but begins with clear and positive thinking (3-1 rule of positivity) not with doubts, fears and negative thoughts. It is your irrational demand for answers and certainty in dealing with life’s problems and ambiguities that generate irrational thoughts, fretting behavior and other unhealthy symptoms such as nervousness, losing control, anxiety and feeling sick.

As you practice these new mental sets,  it helps to remind yourself of the countless problems and worries that have come and gone in your life. How many problems have you solved? One thousand? Ten thousand? or Hundred thousand? Many times you have faced problems and figured-out, how to survive these difficulties  by re-framing, re-strategizing, or over just letting time take its course. Right? Trust yourself and be more gentle and self compassionate because life difficulties eventually become part of your biography and you move on. Remember you have more fuel in the tank than you think you do.

Is Stress A Silent Killer? The choice is yours.

Weekly Quote: ” The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” William James

Stress has been labeled the “silent killer.” This is somewhat a misnomer. Stress can be a contributor to some deadly conditions like high blood pressure and heart disease, thus if left unabated it could lead to death. On the other handle it can be a source of stimulation to support  improved performance and provides an opportunity to live a more exciting and lifestyle. Your attitude is the key to making stress a positive or negative factor in your life. Stress effects us all differently so how we handle requires a customized plan. A plan that its foundation aims to create balance in your life. This assertion about stress is true depending on your mindset about what stress is and how it affects you. If you see, stress as a signal for living and a necessary part of the “yin and yang” of life you are on the right path.

On the other hand, if you see stress as bad or evil and a thing that needs to be controlled or eliminated maybe it is necessary to up-date your mental map, beliefs and outlook about the the benefits and risks of stress.  Recent research points out that those people who see stress as bad actually bring on more negative effects of stress. Stress does affect the body and mind on all levels – physical, mental and emotional and there is a difference between acute stress and ongoing chronic stress. Recent research has demonstrated that chronic stress elevates levels of glucocorticoid stress hormones, which suppresses the production of new neurons in the hippocampus, impairing memory. This is in addition to the effect that chronically elevated levels of stress hormones have on the entire body, such as increasing the risk of chronic obesity, heart disease and depression.

The bottom line on this latest research is summarized by Dr. Daniela Kaufer,  I think the ultimate message of our research is an optimistic one. Stress can be something that makes you better, but it is a question of how much, how long and how you interpret or perceive it. Stress can be a very positive motivator for personal growth and memory development.” Remember Aristotle’s “golden mean” approach to living a balanced life. To paraphrase this great philosopher “too much of anything can cause imbalance and overwhelm the human system and upset the natural order of things.”

While we all have different triggers that cause stress, there are ways that everyone can find to re-store balance and live a happy and satisfying life.

Whole Life Practices for balancing Stress and Recovery

Stress has the potential for many illnesses and ailments, if left unabated. When you’re stressed you’re in survival mode, which shuts down the non-essential functions until the issue passes.  The problem with chronic stress is those “non-essentials,” like the immune system, continue to be suppressed , therefore increasing your chances of getting sick. Here are some tips to help you deal with chronic stress.

Tip #1 – Learn the Recovery Model–REFRAMING YOUR PERCEPTION AND VIEW OF STRESS

Schedule Time Off

Work is a cause of routine stress according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Are you feeling on edge all the time when you think about your  job and work environment? Are you working long hours to try to increase productivity, but instead just end up feeling overworked? It’s important to schedule your time off first, even before factoring in time to get your things to do list completed. Without downtime to recoup, you won’t have time for exercise, you will be distracted by tension, anxiety and stress which will reduce your productivity.

Tip #2 – Keep a Reflection and Growth Diary

This diary is not for recording dreams. It’s for keeping track of how you’re sleeping – the amount, the quality and the time it takes to fall asleep. Sleep is one part of your day that is greatly affected by stress, which in turn can affect everything else. Monitoring sleep is a health awareness habit that can catch some of the first signs of stress.

Tip #3– Create Healthy Physical routines and workouts by running and walking.

You’ve heard of fight or flight syndrome, but did you know stress is what gives you the ability to do either in an undesirable situation? A rush of nerve chemicals and hormones help in survival, but when this state is prolonged it has the opposite effect. Keep stress in check and improve your overall health by taking flight. Bonus: exercise is a mood booster.

Tip #4 – Find your Relaxation and Recovery through understanding and practicing the PlusOne technique using mindfulness and relaxation processes daily.

The PlusOne technique teaches us that in order to live the largest life possible, we need to be able to block and protect our time and energy to work towards our priorities and goals. For example, you must create alone times and reflection points in your daily life to avoid being overwhelmed with just doing stuff. Creating extended periods of focus, provides time for relaxation and reflection providing more room for creativity, innovative and thoughtful actions.   It may take a little time to establish this new routine, but eventually you will see and feel the payoffs.

Simply thinking differently won’t get us to where we want to be, we also need to dedicate time, energy, engagement and focus to our goals for change that will end with big results! And using mindfulness and meditation can make you more aware of your body and mind connection. With focus on relaxation, meditation and strengthening, these activities will help you tap into the positive side of stress, called eustress.

Read more at http://www.pickthebrain.com/blog/14-timeless-ways-to-live-a-happy-life/#w5kBX6PugfYOyHxP.99

We all react to stress differently, and many people have discovered their own effective stress relievers on top of the general tips mentioned here. If I have missed an important tip that you use to reduce stress, please let us know a stress relief tip that has worked for you. By sharing we maybe able to stop this “silent killer”.

References and Resources:

http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=15644

http://www.livelifehappy.com/live-life-quotes/

http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2013/04/16/researchers-find-out-why-some-stress-is-good-for-you/

Formula for Peak Performing: Self 3 (Hardiness and Resilient thinking)

Formula for Peak Performing : Physical + Mental (thinking /feelings) + constructive action = Self 3 (hardy-resilient-constructive action self)

Life cycle:  Stuck——————-Surviving—————————Growing/learning (Mental Toughness )——————Peaking ( Self 3- Active Performer)

None of this is very useful information unless you know what to do about it and how to use it to your benefit and create a better selves. Mental Toughness (MT) is a very broad and complex topic involving the brain, neurology and psychological research, but where I would recommend starting by learning what the “hardy-resilient ” personality is.

Self 3  is broken down into four separate characteristics: Self-awareness, focused attention, integrated discovery learning, commitment to a constructive plan of action. These characteristics of Self 3 are based in an existential theory of personality and is defined as a person’s basic stance towards his or her place in the world.  ( Frankl 1954, Kobasa 1979; Dr. Rock 2010).

1. Self-Awareness (SA) is the ability to know ones strengths and weakness through experiences in life. SA means being observant and growing from involvement in life activities by involving  oneself in, rather than standing by and watching life pass you by.  It means being in touch with our true make-up (strengths/weaknesses). People with high emotional intelligence know that life will end and have a generalized sense of purpose that allows them to identify with and engage in meaningful activities, persons, and events to bring pleasure and happiness to their lives.

2. Reality and Control are the elements that allow you to think, feel and act as if one is competent and influential in making a difference (self-efficacy), rather than helpless, in the face of many difficult and high pressured situations and experiences in life. They lean-in to life because there was a time when they did not exist .  Persons with perspective and balance in their lives do not naively expect to determine all events and outcomes but rather perceive themselves as being able to make a difference in the world through their exercise of imagination, knowledge, skill and choice.

3. Challenge is the tendency to believe that change rather than stability is normal in life and that changes are interesting occurrences to grow from  rather than threats to security. So far from being reckless adventurers, persons with challenge are rather individuals with an openness to new experiences and a tolerance of ambiguity that enables them to be flexible in the face of change.”

In sum, the greater your levels of SA, Learning (commitment, control and challenge) when faced with a stressful situation, the greater your chances of performing well and doing so without a negative impact on your mental and physical health.

The catch here, is that a high level of self-awareness must be involved in order to assess these characteristics within yourself. This is called “metaknowledge” and is the ability to think about the way in which you are thinking.

The next time you are faced with a high pressure, stressful situation, read through that list of the three hardiness factors and ask yourself to what degree do feel commitment, control and challenge. If you’re coming up low in any of those categories, try to stop and focus on what behaviors you can control and then make the necessary changes.

New Poem–“Stuckness” by MW Hardwick

“STUCKNESS” …by MW Hardwick 

Being “stuck” or broken means not growing.

Giving up on things that matter—love for yourself and others  

Staying “stuck” is settling and playing life the safe way.

Always avoiding risks and protecting self with heavy metal—

Bracing against life’s un-certain ways and waves of change

Not thinking. It’s giving up ownership and control

Of to whoever or whatever is in front and all around you.

Stuckness is the death of self-respect.

Signaled by being sad when alone…

You avoid decisions… daydream about what could have been.

You talk a lot about what you’re going to do. But do nothing.

You lay awake at nights and sleepwalk by day…

Tightness rises in chest…and dark rings around the eyes tell the story

Little things preoccupy your thinking, irritability and anger become the usual.

It takes more time and energy to get going in the morn 

Liquor store guy becomes your best friend, visits are daily…

You are isolated ignoring family and friends

Satisfaction and happiness allude your consciousness

You find every day the same old, same old…talking about the same things day after day

Your sense of purpose — remains loss in thoughts of disaster

There seem to be no answers for this inner turmoil and chaos 

Then I awake from this fog and step by step find ways to let the sun in–

 I find focus by looking at my strengths and talents I can give to the world…

 I start moving slowly again and focus on things to be thankful for

My physical energy starts to charge up

as I grind to start doing rather than thinking…

I take my dark pieces and stump on them and out

And slowly, slowly a vision for a positive future appears.

Foggy and ghost like  I find one thing a day to be satisfied with—

an interaction, a sun rise and colorful yellow chickadee or  a colorful rose…nature is restorative…

Personal relationships reappear more peaceful and settled

 I find meaning in small pleasures—

a cup of coffee or juicy orange…

I focus and think clearly.

 I have the courage to face my fears.

 I offer compassion to others in need…

 I offer forgiveness to others easily.

 I am growing and developing.

 I sense the presence of a greater meaning in life or higher power.

 I have a regular meditative practice.

 I feel a sense of joy and peace when I am in the natural world.

 I feel a sense of gratitude for my life.

 I maintain a balance of saving and savoring the world.

 I invest time in making a difference to others or to the world.

 I know what I want to be remembered for…

Remembered for… Remembered for…

And look for and initiate external experience and activity — by knowing I have choices in life.

To do my life in my own way

And be who I am…. who I am…who I am…

And accept how I want to be remembered…by executing my power of purpose…

Live My —MEANING. LIVE LONGER, BETTER…

Longer, Better…LONGER BETTER…

Want to Improve Mental Toughness and Reduce Stress–Learn the Habit of the Relaxation Response


“The relaxation response is a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress… and the opposite of the fight or flight response.” Dr. Herbert Benson 

 

Other researchers define the relaxation response more generally. “The  body is no longer in perceived danger, and the autonomic nervous system functioning returns to normal. During this response, the body moves from a state of physiological arousal, including increased heart rate and blood pressure, slowed digestive functioning, decreased blood flow to the extremities, increased release of hormones like adrenalin and cortisol, and other responses preparing the body to fight or run, to a state of physiological relaxation, where blood pressure, heart rate, digestive functioning and hormonal levels return to their normal state. I f you suffer from chronic stress of arousal your body and mind are in a constant state of physiological arousal over perceived threats that are numerous and not life-threatening. The relaxation response can be induced through techniques such as relaxation, meditation and other stress-management techniques, found in a most helpful series of books by Dr. Jeffrey Brantley.

 

Self-Coaching Challenge:

Over the next 30 days make relaxation and mindfulness a part of your daily routine: Dr. Herbert Benson in his book The Stress Response provides the following tips for starting and combating destructive stress.

1.
Sit quietly in a comfortable position.

2.
Close your eyes.

3.
Deeply relax all your muscles,
beginning at your feet and progressing up to your face.
Keep them relaxed.

4.
Breathe through your nose.
Become aware of your breathing.
As you breathe out, say the word, “one”*,
silently to yourself. For example,
breathe in … out, “one”,- in .. out, “one”, etc.
Breathe easily and naturally.

5.
Continue for 10 to 20 minutes.
You may open your eyes to check the time, but do not use an alarm.
When you finish, sit quietly for several minutes,
at first with your eyes closed and later with your eyes opened.
Do not stand up for a few minutes.

6.
Do not worry about whether you are successful
in achieving a deep level of relaxation.
Maintain a passive attitude and permit relaxation to occur at its own pace.
When distracting thoughts occur,
try to ignore them by not dwelling upon them
and return to repeating “one.”

With practice, the response should come with little effort.
Practice the technique once or twice daily,
but not within two hours after any meal,
since the digestive processes seem to interfere with
the elicitation of the Relaxation Response.

 

Daily Quote, Reflection and Self Coaching Challenge: Mental Toughness and Your Belief in Yourself

Daily Quote: “If you believe in yourself and have the courage, the determination, the dedication, the drive, and if you are willing to sacrifice the little things in life and pay the price for the things that are worthwhile, it can be done.” V. Lombardi

 Reflection: When Coach Lombardi talks about “it” in the above quote I think he is referring to your dreams and goals in life. Although his focus and success was in professional football, there is know doubt that his commitment to excellence and winning provide many lessons on leadership. The X factor for him in the success of a leader was mental toughness. For him MT was the ultimate test of both the heart and the mind of a person in the face of challenges, pressure and stress. The key to success in stressful situations means facing your fears and pressure and “leaning-in” to be energized rather than becoming overwhelmed by the situation.

Self-Coaching Challenge:   Using the Stop, Identify, Reflect, then Act technique take the risk to tackle an ongoing problem in your life. The problem to work on is your choice–it could be a career issue surrounding a miserable boss, or your sense of non-engagement at work or a relationship issue with your partner or any other issue that you have been putting off or denying is draining energy and your sense of happiness. Some of you will need a little more structure or jump-start to get going so try this technique: Say it is a miserable job problem–imagine yourself in three different spaces, in each of which you can spend next year trying a job in which your passion and talents meet the needs of the world. What three jobs would you be excited to try? After this fantasy trip capture in your reflection and leadership journal the things that were different and exciting about these jobs, things that were about the same, and things that were worst. Now identify what you want to do and what is blocking you from getting started. Good Luck and keep us informed about your progress.  

Daily Quote and Challenge–STOP Irrational Thoughts that Block Your Personal Happiness.

 Quote : ” You can’t talk yourself out of what you think is right and rational and yet you can challenge irrational thoughts and choose not to operate or behave like they are true”. Changing behavior can change your thinking”. Coach Mark 

Irrational Ideas that Block Your Growth and Development  

  1. Need to be loved or approved by everyone–Give credit away and recognition will come
  2. Differences make people bad, evil or stupid–Not stupid just different. Differences widen your perspective and help update your mental maps.
  3. Life is awful when things are not like we want them to be. Not awful just inconvenient.
  4. It’s easier to avoid difficulties and self-responsibilities. Face difficulties or they get worst
  5. Happiness is caused externally–Happiness is determined internally by living our values
  6. The past is the all important determiner of the present and future. No, it is just on factor.
  7. One can’t admit mistakes or ask for help–Asking shows your strength for growing. Keep your focus on goals and honestly accept responsibility for mistakes and move on.
  8. One needs someone stronger to rely upon–Better to be interdependent. I depend on you and much as you depend on me. We don’t accomplishes anything important by just relying on others.
  9. One needs to control and protect others. Focus on others needs and respect their abilities to accomplish things. Be supportive by listening not controlling.
  10. Need to be competent in all aspects of life —Can’t be perfect. Do the best you can.

Adapted from Albert Ellis—Rational Emotive Therapy

Self-Coaching Exercise: Identify which Irrational Idea is true for you. Keep track daily through this weekend how this irrational belief and thinking affects your life. Develop a plan for changing your approach by identifying what you can do differently. Be more reflective by instituting a feedback loop by enlisting a trusted friend to check your thinking.

Self-Coaching Activity: Increasing Self-Awareness and Reducing Emotional Flare-ups

Activity for More Self-Awareness—Observing and reducing Emotional Flare-ups

Start with self-awareness. Observe and tune-in to feelings, and where you feel them in your body and name them.  Give yourself a couple of minutes for practice getting touch with level of emotional intensity and then practice the 10 second stress reduction response to lower you agitation , practice this deliberate observational process several times during the day when you feel uneasy and jot down in your journal your reflections and insights—who were you interacting with, what was the topic of conversations and why did this discussion bring forth such an emotional reaction.

Then, after a week of collecting this data ask yourself:  Do I have more control over these situations than I exercise? If so, “What I can do about it?” Take 30 minutes to do a self-brainstorm on solutions for these situations. Develop a plan to change your behavior and get feedback on how successful your change plan is working—what worked,Where did you fall short and get stuck? What can you do next time to be more successful?

Self-Coaching: “Structure with Process” model and 3 A’s for Personal Development

Self-Coaching is all about reaching and fulfilling your potential, by uncovering strengths and blind spots that block fulfillment of meaning and purpose in life. It requires the hard work of self-awareness, setting goals in critical life spaces and living a more deeply committed and connected life based on values, beliefs and constructive action.” MWH  

Self-Coaching requires a more open and flexible way of thinking and acting which means more living on purpose and trust of self and others. Sure, life can have difficulties and is sometimes be unfair but not jumping-in with both feet can leave us “sleep walking” and on automatic pilot which leads to boredom, loneliness, and an unproductive life rather than a spontaneous and open life.

Some will feel this is a reckless way to live, but that’s only because they have so little trust in their ability to respond to life from a source other than control and narrow mental maps. But once you step out of control’s grip and realize a whole new world of excitement and adventure is awaiting you; you have crossed the Rubicon for living a meaningful and self-directed life. Yet in order to live this self-direct life will require new learning and hard work. The core of this new approach is based on what I call the 3A’s of personal change and development.

It begins with the three A’s of change–awareness, acceptance and action—

  • Awareness. In order to dismantle insecurity, you must first be aware of how it manifests itself in your life. Insecurity speaks in the form of doubts, fears, and negatives. These are tip-offs to insecurity and it pays to be on the lookout for this type of thinking. The power question to answer for this first A is –Know yourself–Clearly seeing who you are and what you feel and do. Know Yourself gives you the “what” – when you Know Yourself, you know who you are, your strengths and challenges, you know what you are doing, what you want, and what to change.Emotions are relevant data, and knowing yourself allows you the freedom to accurately collect information that will help you answer these two essential power questions:
  • Acceptance. Changing your attitude and challenging fears and insecurity will often cause some discomfort. You may feel unsure, intimidated, or anxious. It’s important that you’re willing to accept some degree of discomfort if you’re going to break the habit of insecurity. Just keep in mind that it’s not at all unusual for change to feel initially uncomfortable. This isn’t because change is bad, it’s only because insecurity likes to cling to the tried and true “status quo.”
  • Action. Choose to change! You can think about changing your attitude. You can think about being more open, resilient and more adaptable, but unless you actually change your thoughts and attitudes, you’re just spinning wheels.

There’s no doubt that some people are more adaptable and resilient, when it comes to life’s challenges, while others are challenged by the simplest break in their routine. The underlying variable that determines whether you are adaptable or not is your level of insecurity. What is insecurity? Insecurity is a learned habit of vulnerability. Let me explain. Insecurity is an inevitable by-product of living in an imperfect world. Since no one grows up in a perfect world, no one gets to escape illness, suffering, frustration, and so on. To some extent, we all have insecurity–it’s part of the human condition. Simply stated, insecurity is the anticipation of vulnerability.

Depending on your baseline level of insecurity, too much change can bring on feelings of vulnerability, loss of control, stress, tension, anxiety, or even a depressed mood. Since, we all have some degree of insecurity and fear, we most likely have had the experience of being overwhelmed with painful and challenging situations: your spouse is abuse and does not respect you, you did not win the sale, your boss is all about self-promotion and not rewarding you for good work , you need knee a breast biopsy, your mother called and she needs money, your just loss your license for a DWI–when bad things take over your daily living , even the most resilient can be brought to their knees. The longer that such a struggle persists, the more depleted you feel—physically as well as emotionally. The depleting effects of stress are felt not only emotionally, but also physically. Your perception of reality can be altered by brain chemistry and thinking not by the overwhelming circumstances of your life, but by your interpretation of these circumstances.

This is a critical point—it’s not life that depletes us, it’s how we interpret and react to our lives! Sure it’s hard to manage bad times, but I have a friend who maintains a posture of resilience and optimism in spite of the agonizing ordeal of chemotherapy. And yet I have patients who become distraught if their five-year-old isn’t invited to a birthday party. Bottom line: the ability to tolerate change is directly proportional to your degree of insecurity and to your attitude. Here’s why.
If you are easily challenged by life and find yourself stuck, you need to recognize the importance of actively choosing to break the habit of insecure thinking and perception. Just because you have a emotional reactions to life’s difficult problems does not mean you have to remain in this downward spiral and depression about life. You can choose to do something about how you handle your life and your challenges. 

Self-Coaching Experiment: Renewal through Reflection vs Autopilot Living.

Are you stuck and living on autopilot?

The Solution: Renewal and Reflect– Being focused and present in the “here and now” requires regular attention to our internal lives–what are our dreams and hopes and how do internal systems  such as self-talk and physical alertness or energy impact our stuckness or inaction? . One important way to renew from 21 Century always on and hurry sickness is to take a weekend break or ” recovery”. For example,  you might experiment with turning off  TV’s, radios  and all other technology gadgets in your live. When we take a break, we gain recovery time, replenish or energy reserves and gain insights about what activities play a part our busyness and stress in life. This recovery time provides the opportunity to focus on what is important in our daily living and what are time wasters and distractions.

When we lose touch with our core of interacting face to face and eyeball to eyeball we lose a chance for real connections based on attention and intimacy. Our perspective and positive connections decrease because of our removal mentally and physically from others. We gain back our perspective by turning off outside distractions and by letting our intuitive voice guide us.

Sometimes we are open to renewal because our energy is at low levels or stress is reaching a breaking point. When crises drop into our lives, we are forced to stop, challenge our thinking and actions and reflect on our next course of action . At times when things seem to be going smoothly, we may not sense the need at all. The truth is it is better to be proactive in understanding how we live are lives rather than waiting for outside events to happen to get our attention.

Taking a complete “blackout from TV and all other media may seem a bit extreme and strange, yet it can help us regain our balance and focus in life. So, how do we go about this renewal or recovery approach?

How to Renew and Recover

When we’re disconnected and not available to others we begin to disengage in personal connections and opportunities to really let others know we care. In order to know people, we have to listen to their stories. We live in an age when we rarely have the time to fully listen to and hear each other’s stories. So, we live on impressions and assumptions. We’re busy people, after all, and we want our friendships easy and stress-free.

Commit to go without media or technology gadgets for 24 hours! No cell phone, computer, laptop, Kindle, TV or radio for 24 hours—call it a “recovery holiday”

A break from techno-busyness forces us to confront core questions about life. “Do I see friends more often?” “Do I really know their stories?” “Am I accessible to those I love?” Where am I going with my life? Am I making the difference in the world I hoped to do?

In the morning, get up a little earlier. Before you get involved in anything, just sit quietly for ten minutes and take three deep breaths. Breath one–just be present. Breath two–develop a grateful for…list. Breath three–focus on your mission and purpose in life purpose. Breath four-smile. Breath five clear you mind. Breath six. twinkle your eyes.   Then envision your next 24 hours. Picture the activities of the day without outside interference and have to dos…no cutting the lawn, listening to baseball game or emailing friends. Picture the potential “Aha moments”—times where you will have face time with people.

Maybe choose one friend (or a colleague) and get to know their story. Throughout the day, look for Aha or purposeful moments—opportunities to connect with people through a question, a kind word, an extended hand. In these moments, ask people what they are truly excited about, passionate about, a recent vacation or Holiday that was exciting or special for them—and listen.

What is the mood of these purpose moments? My hunch is that you’ll sense the mood that most of us yearn for—someone in our lives who “gets us.” We want someone to push the pause button on technology and listen to our stories. We’re hungry for deep connection.

The essence of renewal was captured clearly by Gardner in a book entitled Self-Renewal: “Exchanging stories is like making love. It is mutual. It is intimate. It takes patience, devotion, sensitivity, subtlety, skill, engagement—and it teaches those qualities too.”

Renewal of our operating personal operating systems is powerful. It slows us down. It teaches us that patience, devotion, sensitivity, subtlety, skill and sharing are fundamental qualities to finding meaning in a harried and stressed out world.

By all means have fun with this renewal experiment and as usual share your stories with us so we can learn the benefits of this “recover weekend”.

New Poem: A Memorable and Painful Day in Spring April,15th 2013…

Memories…Poem by MW Hardwick

This is a day in Spring
like any day, a mixture of hope and possibilities

Then you hear the news
Calm and peaceful rhythm the day

Is broken between this world

and the next… In a moment or phone call

Your life is changed forever

This is not
the time of acceptance.

This is not
the age of tolerance…

Forget the pain and news in Boston,
and the CNN blah, blah, blah,
and the smoke of those bombs.

This is the time
of remembering those loss
and the senseless violence of man against man

People are hungry for reasons
and one kind word of love and cry for peace
from an eight year old… Makes Us Stop and Reflect

On who we are …and how do we show more love and caring

Wake –up America to our gifts and realize…

Life is not about war, guns and violence…

We live to serve others and make a difference…

So when are we going to start…start…start…

Self-Coaching Tip #6: Overcoming Self Doubt by Relaxing and Mindfulness

Overcoming Self-Doubts and the Critic Within

Daily Quote: 

” Mindfulness and Centering involves simple keeping your attention in the present moment, without judging it as happy or sad, good or bad. It encourages living each moment – even painful ones – as fully and as mindfully as possible. Mindfulness is more than a relaxation technique; it is an attitude toward living. It is a way of calmly and consciously observing and accepting whatever is happening, moment to moment…This may sound simple enough, but our restless, judging minds make it surprisingly difficult. As a restless monkey jumps from branch to branch, our minds jump from thought to thought”. See more at: http://www.ocdrecoverycenters.com/about/prot_meditation.html

Reflection:  I can see that there is tremendous benefit in choosing to let go of fear, judgment, expectations and stress. When we choose this course, we have the opportunity to be present in the “here and now” and in turn we are empathic, more centered and more peaceful. We have more energy and vitality for life because we are no longer resisting this moment but embracing it for what it is. When we are present, we are in a better place to think clearly, be in touch with our feelings, and make more informed rational choices in life.

We can learn to let go and be more aware and centered by:

1. Choosing to be more mindful and present in the moment and less on automatic pilot or “sleep walking through” life.

2. Becoming aware of the self-talk in regards to the past and the future.

3. Using 10 Minute Stress Relaxation and Recovery Response.   Just breathe and relax your body, smile and clear your mind and say “this is what it is, now what”.

4. Accept and trust that you can handle what is happening in the “here and now”

5. Choosing to do the right thing at that moment of truth.

6. Use positive self-talk like “ I am willing and can let go by just doing what I need to do now.

7. Use deliberative practice of relaxation responses which are great for centering and keeping you focus.

8. Practice taking Smart-steps to give your rational side to gain control over impulses and other stupid and primitive actions.

Self-Coaching: Exercise on Work-Life Balance

Coaching Session #4: Practicing Work-Life Balance  

Challenge Assignment: Pick 1 fun activity for you and your significant other to do during next week. Discuss it and put it on your calendar.              

Experimenting with the concept of Self-Renewal and Recovery: Using and practicing how to put more fun back into the “quality” of your work and family life is powerful exercise for putting back more work life balance into your daily living. 

Oftentimes, during busy weeks stress and tension rise and we leave little time for recovery and just plain fun. As you look ahead to next  week, take time to pick one fun activity you can do with other people. Maybe it’s going with friends to a museum, attending a neighborhood get-together, or seeing a movie with your significant other. Once you’ve decided on the what, who what, where, and when, put it on the calendar.

 Why is this challenge Important? Social and 1 to 1 activities are critical for our emotional and relationship health! When we connect with other people, it helps lower our stress level and even boosts our immune system. In fact, studies find that people who have strong social connections  and activities are happier even in old age, regardless of their physical health.

Weekly Self-Coaching Exercise: Overcome Feeling Down by Focusing on Strengths and Increasing Mental Toughness

Focus on Strengths and Achievements 

Make a list of your strengths and life accomplishments. You may not give yourself credit for all that you have achieved in your life. Making a list of your strengths and accomplishments will help you become more aware of these successes and beef up your mental toughness needed to overcome negative thinking. It will also help change the focus of your self thoughts from negative ones to positive ones and increases your ability to handle tough things life can throw at you. You can do this exercise again and again, whenever you notice your self confidence or mental toughness is slipping away. Get a big sheet of paper and a pen you feel comfortable with. Draw a T or two columns on  the blank page, set the timer for 10 minutes (or as long as you’d like). Spend the time writing your strengths in one column and  accomplishments in the second column. You could never have a paper long enough or enough time to write them all. Nothing is too big or too small to go on this list. See example below:  Continue reading “Weekly Self-Coaching Exercise: Overcome Feeling Down by Focusing on Strengths and Increasing Mental Toughness”

Embracing Recovery: Stress Reduction Exercise #1

10 Minute Recovery Exercise–Breathe, Release and Recover Timeout

Identify where stress has come to rest in your body, acknowledge the tension in your body or your mind. Now take 10 minutes for the following recovery exercise where you embrace a timeout by releasing of all tension throughout your mind and body.

Directions: Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart and solidly planted on the ground. Your arms should be loose at your sides, and your body should feel relaxed but balanced and strong.

Now lean forward from your hips and let your upper body hang down toward the ground, with your arms loose and fingertips dangling toward the floor.

Breathe deeply and relax your body incrementally so that your fingers come closer and closer to the floor and your hips soften and release your torso.

Close your eyes and visualize your body being completely relaxed.

To come up without straining your back, remember to roll up slowly, one vertebra at a time, your head coming up last. Stand upright, relaxed, with your hands at your side. This is a good exercise for releasing tension.