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Frazzled to Free Blog

Insights to help busy women stop sacrificing their health and happiness to hectic schedules, and rediscover bigger, more fulfilling lives.

7 Ways to Survive Turbulence in the "River of Life" ... and Restore Peace and Balance

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If life is a river, then I have flowed gently along its banks. I have struggled against the current. I have been caught in its eddies. I have been hurled over the waterfall. And I have emerged to flow gently down the river once more.

How about you?

Immersed in the river of life, have you watched how events seem to flow with little effort, then comes unexpected turbulence – when rapids or even waterfalls seem to grip you?

At times we may have struggled against currents or whirlpools, feeling at the mercy of events beyond our control. Worries about the past or uncertainty about the future crowd our consciousness, challenging us to stay afloat. We struggle for balance. We may feel stalled out.

How can the feeling of peace and balance – a sense of flowing gently down life’s river - be restored?

Faced with problems and disturbances, we may simply freeze up. We can’t think and we can’t take action. Alternatively, we may grasp at straws, temporary solutions at best. Blame, anger or defeat can threaten to overwhelm us, blinding us to new opportunities. Fearful thoughts direct the mind where the ego wants to go – absorbed in rapids, eddies or waterfalls.

Answers are close by – they can be found within the heart.

Listening to our hearts, inner wisdom and inspiration can help us negotiate the rapids and flow peacefully down life’s river. At a deep level, we know this is possible: We have experienced joy and happiness emanating from the heart when it is nurtured by peace, acceptance and harmony.

How can we avoid becoming trapped in turbulent waters?  The answer lies in discovering fresh insights and new perspectives.

Insights provide the key to seeing beyond turbulence.

I have used the following approaches to help reconnect thoughts and emotions and generate new awareness, fresh insights and unique solutions to restore balance.

Spiritual Practice

Spiritual masters throughout the ages have written of forgiveness, love and peace. Their guidance and insights can be invaluable sources of inspiration. In quiet times, as well as during turbulence, we may seek divine intervention to move beyond or to take charge of a troublesome situation. Meditation can help focus attention, or help open up attention - withholding judgment. This type of mental exercise can promote beneficial physiological and psychological changes that help restore health and balance.

Movement Programs

A variety of well-established practices combine physical movement with contemplation and meditation. Examples include Tai Chi, several types of yoga and QiGong. These ancient spiritual practices are believed to open a heart connection, to allow intuition to flow freely and thus provide a counterbalance to an ego preoccupied with fear and uncertainty.

Celebration of Each Day

When we choose to see each new day as a fresh opportunity to break free of old, confining thoughts and feelings, we open ourselves to new ways of seeing, unlimited by the past or uncertainty of the future. Such a fresh perspective becomes a fountain for new health-promoting habits. As Goethe said, “Nothing is worth more than this day.”

Gratitude

Acknowledging our blessings can dramatically change how we view our situation. Being grateful for what we have, need not deny reality. Rather, we can learn to appreciate what we do have. Expressing gratitude lays the foundation for forgiveness.

Nature as a Teacher

Setting aside time to observe natural surroundings offers another channel of internal communication. Mountains, prairies, beaches, gardens, streams, forests, flowers, birds, sunsets and sunrises, moonlight, clouds and snowflakes– All can open the heart, when we are willing to listen.

Personal Journal

Expressing your emotions, thoughts, concerns, and wishes on the pages of your journal can open the door to fresh understanding. This is an opportune place to record your blessings and personal affirmations. Your journal can record each small victory, providing milestones of growth.

Companionship and Community

The loving, non-judgmental support of family, friends and communities is a foundation upon which to build new healthful habits. Changing old patterns that are no longer beneficial can be challenging, however the task can be simplified through unconditional love.

The above suggestions have helped me and can assist you with insights to return to balance, allowing your heart to guide you in the flow of life.

I would love to hear what approaches work best for you to restore peace and balance when you are caught in the turbulence.

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New! Launch of YouTube Channel

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To help solve chronic stress that busy women face, I just launched a YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/c/PatriciaARonzioMEd.

Each video is a “How To” in less than 3 minutes – “How to stop late night snacking without will power” – “How to break free of stressful negative self-talk” are examples.

Would love your feedback/comments on my YouTube channel!

Thank you!

 

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Stressed? A "Grown Up" Coloring Book Can Help!

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How to find calm …. when meditation is too much of a stretch

It’s a busy day. There’s lots on the agenda but you are handling it. All of a sudden your smart phone dings – your doctor wants you to make an appointment to discuss the results of a baseline blood chemistry profile.

Anxious thoughts flood your brain:

•    Fear thoughts: I hope this doesn’t mean I have heart disease!
•    Judgmental thoughts: I should have done better with my eating and exercising!
•    Worry thoughts: If it’s serious, how will I handle my job and family responsibilities?

Anxious, you can feel your heart thumping in your chest and your blood pressure rising.

Meditation might help to calm the sympathetic nervous system….. but it’s too much of a leap to go from where you are – stressed and anxious - to inner quiet and calm. What else can you do?

Consider “grown up” coloring books

While it’s something you did as a child, coloring can be a powerful practice. Meditative, soothing, creative and focused on the present, coloring offers an opportunity to bridge the gap to calm anxious thoughts and supplement usual go-to stress relief practices.

Coloring detailed patterns to relieve stress

Coloring detailed patterns represents a rhythmic, repetitive action, which can be relaxing. Applying colors helps direct negative thinking to color pattern recognition – right brain domains.

A recent article in Art Therapy, reported that individuals who colored mandalas – meditative images – decreased their stress levels, compared to those who colored plain patterns or who doodled on a blank page.

Choose your favorite colored pencils and purchase a “grown up” coloring book from your craft or hobby store, or order online. And… who knows? By coloring to take care of stress, you may find yourself expanding into other forms of art and creativity!


Insight Builder

•    How does your mood change after you have colored a mandala?
•    How quickly can you move from anxious thinking to relaxation?

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Are You Caught in a Global Epidemic?

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No surprise that the World Health Organization has recognized chronic stress as a global epidemic. But what does this international, cross-cultural crisis actually look like?

Three faces of chronic stress

•    An interviewer asks a successful business person, “What are your favorite things to do when you're not at work?” Response…. “I don't understand the question.”

•    A holistic healthcare provider confirms exercising 10,000 steps and eating nutritiously almost every day to sustain good health. She then confides that she feels stressed most of the time and does not get enough sleep.

•    A software executive plans to take an annual beach vacation with her family, then decides she has too much to do. Her vacation becomes a “workcation” that combines a swimsuit, a beach towel and a laptop.

An indicator of chronic stress: “I’m okay”

When I asked an adult evening class how they ranked their stress levels, I got typical responses, such as “I’m so-so” or, “I’m doing alright.” In exploring this idea further, individuals realized they commuted 2 hours to work, they hated going home to repeated conflict, or they faced a troubling financial burden… Sounds like stress to me!

Situations such as the above often reflect emotional tugs and multiple responsibilities at home and at work. There is a common denominator underlying chronic stress: maladaptation.  In other words, this awesome body of ours can make physiological adjustments to keep us functioning in the face of stressful events.

So what if I’m stressed …. I’m handling it!

When unresolved stress goes on for months or years, the endocrine system, the immune system, the nervous system and other amazing systems communicate and interact with each other to compensate for real or perceived challenges. This imbalance takes a toll.

A further complication: Making unhealthy choices in response to stress, such as overeating, smoking, overindulging in alcohol or repeatedly losing your temper may be a red flag indicating stress may be harming long-term health and well-being.

Insight Builder

•    What changes in your body help you realize that you are stressed?
•    How rapidly can you become aware of these stress responses?
•    More importantly, what do you do to counter them to give yourself a little breathing room?

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Are You Surrounded by "Energy Drainers" or by "Rocket Boosters?"

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It’s been many years now since I went through my list of friends and acquaintances and culled the “energy drainers”.

People who were more interested in putting me down than building me up. Individuals who were unable to have a two-sided conversation where my opinion could be heard and respected. Relationships in which people tried to control or manipulate me, keep me small or insist I hear their complaints and gripes and agree with them. Long gone!

Friendships - sources of stress?
Our circle of friends may include just a couple of people, or it may include many more - chosen because of shared experiences, backgrounds and values, or expectations. Regardless of the numbers, optimizing a friendship network can help manage stress. In this context, it is useful to examine whether friends are energy drainers or rocket boosters. 

Energy drainers offer conditional friendships. “I will be your friend if you… listen to all my complaints.” Such individuals tend to ignore your feelings and preferences. They are insensitive to your progress and growth. It is uncomfortable to be around this person.

Rocket boosters are very different: These friendships lift your spirit, encourage your goals, and validate your moods and ideas. They honor your path without holdback. Through active listening, they can help you discover creative insights.

Insight Builder
If friendships become more stressful than they are worth, know that you can choose differently. 

•    Do some of your friends leave you feeling emotionally drained?
•    What if you valued yourself so highly that you weeded out the energy drainers? How would your life change?
•    How might you end a draining friendship in a way that honors both you and that friend?

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Are you a Multi-Tasker? What is your Problem Solving Style?

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A lot of people describe themselves as “multi-taskers.”  Doing several tasks at the same time would seem to save precious currency: Time. But does the quality of the end product suffer? It depends. It seems to me that it boils down to questions of productivity and in some cases, safety.

Elementary schools in our school district hold annual science fairs. I find it stimulating to see how creative children can be when their ideas are supported. A study by a fifth grade girl was outstanding.

Her research question: Does text messaging interfere with safe driving by high school students. The way she approached this question was to have volunteers play a video game in which “drivers” avoided obstacles. Participants ran the course without distractions, and then they repeated the test while sending a scripted message on a hand held device to simulate multi-tasking.

What results would you have predicted?

The study found that teenage reaction times were 2-3 fold slower and the probability of “accidents” increased by more than 4 fold when multi-tasking. Granted, the study was limited to a small sample of high school students, nonetheless it confirms other reports of the dangers of texting while driving.

Rubenstein, Evans and Meyer reported as long ago as 2001 that simultaneously performing demanding tasks can reduce workers’ productivity by 40 percent or more.

Research in this area seems to indicate that individuals may be able to tackle two routine activities that do not require a lot of brain power and complete them reasonably well. However, for successful completion of important projects, "sequential tasking" may be the wiser choice.

In writing this blog, I give it most of my attention. When it’s done, I move on to the next task. Productivity and quality of work are not compromised when I also converse with my partner, track emails, and make myself a cup of tea. I think of myself as a "multi-tasker" even though I'm a "sequential tasker" when it comes down to it.

Do you consider yourself to be a multi-tasker or a sequential tasker? Have you assessed your productivity and the quality of final products or activities when multi-tasking or sequential tasking?

I’d love to hear your view on this issue.

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Stop Worrying and Stressing: The First Step?

A client sent me this insightful story [I am unable to give credit since there was no reference]:

“A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the ‘half empty or half full’ question. Instead, with a smile on her face she inquired, ‘How heavy is this glass of water?’ The answers called out ranged from 8oz to 20 oz.

She replied, ‘The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.’

She continued, ‘The stress and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them for a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.’ Always remember to put the glass down.”

She was inferring that worries are as important as we make them; they get heavier the longer we hold onto them. Does this match your experience?

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Remembering to “put the glass down” especially when worried is the hard part, isn’t it? Here are a couple of options:

Identify what you are worried about

Take an inventory of your current worries. Without bothering to prioritize them, record all your worries that bother you right now. For example: I am worried about ___, and the worst case scenario is ___; I am also worried about___, and the worst case scenario is___.

Then, consider this list of worries as thoughts that can be challenged, rather than as facts to be lived. Is the imagined worst case scenario real?

Block out a time to worry…. Then move on

To interrupt a worry cycle, designate a block of time today to worry about your concerns. At the end of the allotted time, say, “That’s enough!”, and move on with your life. You can always choose another small block of time devoted entirely to worrying. When the time is up, pull the plug on it.

Please share what have you found helpful to interrupt a worry cycle.

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Are Apps the Ultimate Stress Management/Life Enhancement Tools?

Does this scenario sound familiar?

You buy the newest health gadget that advertises weight loss through tracking exercise [10,000 steps a day] and eating a certain number of calories [calorie counting]. Sounds promising!

You’re no dummy! You’ve heard those claims before. Try to do two things at once and neither gets done well. So you decide to concentrate on one option – tracking your daily steps with a goal of reaching 10,000 per day.

You clip on the gadget and walk 10,000 steps on the first day – checking every so often to make sure you’re on target. Excitement builds. Second day… another perfect score! Third day … it’s a push, but you punch in those perfect 10,000 steps. Then life intrudes with schedule conflicts, responsibilities of home and work… Day 4, 5 and 6 go by, with no exercise at all. On day 7 how would you feel? Frustrated? Guilty? Ready to say you’ll pick it up again next week or next month?

If the above scenario sounds familiar you are not alone. Using technology as a tool to reach health and fitness goals, is like using yoga or meditation for stress relief. It only works when it’s used consistently.

These days there’s an app or gadget to track almost anything. Many are focused on losing weight through exercising more and eating less.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with tracking and if it works for you – keep tracking! But if tracking hasn’t solved your weight loss efforts …. read on….

Listening to those who love their handheld devices it seems that activity tracking provides useful, tangible information and an easy way to share successes or frustrations with others.

Funny thing though….Tracking is not what keeps us on track. Finding out where we’re blocked, our “Stress Points” is the key to staying on track with any activity. So it’s important to follow the clues to discover the sticking place.

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If you keep getting tripped up time and time again, here are suggestions:
1.    Becoming aware that you’re trapped in a loop – negative thoughts and automatic responses - is a very powerful first step.
2.    Resist the temptation to believe you are a failure because you stopped or could not keep up with the program.
3.    Can you see the real problem? What needs to change to prevent self-limiting feedback loops?
4.    Stay with the Stress Point, explore it completely, and mine it for new insights.
While it may be uncomfortable to identify and clear a stuck place, this is an opportunity to stay on track with your goals and dreams for what you want.

Apps surely have a place in the world of self-care. However, they are not a substitute for identifying and resolving the real problem – the Stress Point - and then finding sustainable, satisfying and enduring activities that you have identified as the best options.

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A Stress Reduction Back Up Plan

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After a day at work I love to bike along the trails near home to de-stress.  I use cycling to reflect on events of the day, gain insights and re-connect with nature.

After a particularly exhausting day, I donned helmet and gloves, jumped on the bike and started off. Click, Click, Click went the front wheel….. It sounded like a bearing needed to be replaced. I turned around and headed back home. Darn, I still needed to deal with accumulated stress. Rather than giving up on cycling, I grabbed Bob’s bike and took that for a spin (okay with him). Up the steep hill, across a deer haven meadow, over the dam and around the duck pond. I arrived back home feeling refreshed and clear-headed.

Do you rely on a specific activity to help you manage stress – such as zumba at the gym, biking, a dance class or swimming? Have you thought about what you will do if that activity is not open to you when you need it? When a class is cancelled, or when it’s too hot or cold outside? Not having Plan B in line the minute you need it might prolong your stress.

Do you have a back-up plan for your most important stress-buster activities? Will it be as effective as the activity it replaces? 

What “Plan B” strategies have been the most effective for the Holiday Season?

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Mindfulness Stress Relief - Lessons from a Cat

She walks along one side of the aisle, bracketed by basil, dill, and parsley, as I walk down the other. We glance at each other with that quick, subliminal inventory we use in chance meetings. “Healthy kitty, fur glistening.” “Busy shopper, winter gardener.”

Later we pass one another going in opposite directions. She had attended to cat priorities, and I, strolling toward checkout, push my cart full of kale, chard, lettuce, tomato and trays of fragrant herbs. What the heck, meeting twice means something. I kneel down and stretch out my hand.

Tabby accepts the gesture. She slowly walks over to me and brushes against my hand. I scratch her head gently between the ears. Purring softly Tabby lies at my side while I stroke her fur.

With a final pat I stand up and return to my cart. Tabby gets up, walks to the end aisle display and rubs against it indulgently, then stretches her body way out, about yard long, it seems.

Tabby decides to sit down on the walkway to groom herself for a couple of minutes – legs, paws, tummy and even her back. Satisfied, she gives a mighty yawn, lies down, rolls onto her back, limbs outstretched. Only the occasional twitching of her tail suggests she is still aware of her surroundings.

Totally relaxed. No expectations of me or passersby, the past or the future.

Happy to be where she is right now, enjoying every minute.

Thank you, Tabby, for the reminder!

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How Yoga can Overcome Stress at a Gym

Fotolia_30888006_XSI am rushing to yoga class – (yes! I really do see the irony). I’m rushing to arrive ahead of time and join the queue outside the mind/body studio waiting for the earlier class to finish.

Glowing students trickle out slowly, savoring the moment, as we stampede into the room to grab a spot on the floor. Forty-five of us are crammed into the small space… wait… two more people arrive and we make room for them…. Then more late arrivals enter. We squeeze together again. The room is small, the temperature is rising and sweat is already dripping off my body.

How territorial I become about my little space. The woman on my right is too close – As she practices a pose, her arm crosses my mat and wacks me on the thigh – she apologizes. The feet of another woman are inches from my face.

I try to settle onto the mat as the class begins but I feel distracted, uncomfortable and slightly claustrophobic.

The music begins. We move through yoga postures, breathe deeply, and follow the soothing voice of our yoga instructor. I marvel at how she can configure her body into so many flowing poses.

As the class progresses, I feel tensions lessen and melt into a peaceful, mental space. No judgments, simply an expansive state where everything is okay. I feel an enormous sense of love for the yoga students surrounding me. My heart expands.

I feel no separation – we are all one.

I would love to hear if you've had a similar experience in a yoga class.

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Stressed out or Burnout: Are they different? [Part II]

Fotolia_41184530_XSBurnout is the end product of a long gradual process and can occur at work or at home.

Are you at risk for burnout at work?
•    Do you feel overworked and undervalued, with little say in how your day goes?
•    Are job expectations unclear, and do they vary unpredictably?
•    Is your work monotonous? Or is it rush and rush, with one deadline after another?
•    Do you see an unending stream of crises, about which you have no control?
•    Are you using alcohol, smoking, drugs or eating as a way to cope?

Are you at risk for burnout at home?
•    Do you have enough quality sleep?
•    Do you have people you can rely on for emotional support?
•    Are you working too much, without time for relaxation, and eating right?
•    Do you have too many responsibilities, without enough help?

Reverse the downward spiral of burnout
Recognize the problem, and decide to take action to end burnout. An initial step in the healing process requires that you see the problem as real.
 
Find or rebuild your emotional support network with people you can rely on to hear you. People who support you unconditionally can be some of the most effective assistance in overcoming burnout.

Slow down, reevaluate commitments, and give yourself time for reflection and centering. Your support network can help you reframe the problem of not enough time to re-evaluating your priorities, not only the immediate ones for your job or your family, but also the long term direction you want your life to take.

Employ stress management techniques. Stress management can be a key to regain balance in your life. Please remember that the most effective approach to stress management addresses the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional aspects of wellness.

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Stressed out or Burnout: Are they different? [Part I]

                                       
Stress…We all know what this is, don’t we.  Whether it is happening today, or whether it happened last week, emotional stress seems to be part of the landscape. If intense stress has been going on for a while, we might admit to feeling “stressed out.” But when does stressed out become burnout?

Can we detect warning signs of burnout, before it’s too late?

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Stress differs from burnout.
Chronic stress – stress that goes on for months or even years - can exaggerate mood swings, leaving us short-tempered and hard to live with when our “hot buttons” are triggered. Chronic stress impacts how we deal with personal relationships, including spouse, partner, kids, parents, coworkers or even checkout clerks.

Stress keeps us awake at night with worries that don’t go away. It seems as though everything needs to be done at once. Tasks become hard to prioritize, and they all seem important. Often we respond by trying to do more, working harder, longer with the hope this effort will free up time.

Chronic stress harms health.
It increases women’s risks of diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, obesity, stroke, anxiety, depression and perhaps premature aging. It can worsen pain, and symptoms of fibromyalgia and IBS. The immune system takes a hit.

Burnout – a different beast from chronic stress.
Burnout is stress pushed to the limits. Burnout stands as the far end of the stress spectrum. It is so treacherous because women may reach the end of their endurance without consciously knowing it.

You may be experiencing burnout if:
o    Every day seems hopeless and problems seem insoluble – every day is a “bad” day
o    The sense of guilt and failure seem overwhelming
o    Motivation goes out the window
o    You feel helpless and used up. Dreams and hopes vanish
o    You feel detached and depressed. – “Who cares, what difference does it make?”

Burnout hurts
Women experiencing burnout do worse emotionally, financially and physically. Burnout is related to emotional eating, uncontrolled eating, pain and depression and women who are burned out are more at risk for illness and depression.

Are You at Risk for Burnout? [Part II] .... coming soon!

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First step to stress relief begins here (a three letter word)

stressrelaxdreamstimeextrasmall_24164286While waiting as my dear friend Julie got prepped for a follow-up procedure at the regional hospital, I struck up a conversation with two nurses. They were curious about what I do and I responded with my little coaching intro.

How wonderful, said Jane. You actually help women discover healthy lifestyles.
That’s part of it, I agreed.
You know, I’d like to work out, but…(she lowered her voice).. stress is killing me…There just isn’t enough time for me to handle it.
Ann chimed in, Patricia, if you could put a time extender in a bottle, you could sell a ton of it here.

Time extension, the antidote to stress?
These two women were obviously committed to high standards of patient care. That was readily apparent by how they assisted Julie. And they were hard workers. It was getting toward the end of their shift, with no let down.

Too often, the missing ingredient from the stress picture is….?
I considered the nurse’s comment about wanting a time extender, a solution in a bottle. Not surprising, after all, this is a hospital.
Yet it troubled me. In an institution focused entirely on diagnosis, treatment and recovery,  employees can believe that they don’t have time to care for their health.
What was missing here? Self-care. Ironic!

So where does stress relief begin?
It beings with Y-O-U.

Stuff happens, and you respond by being stressed out. Maybe not. Work with me on this:

Events, real or imagined, tickle your brain cells. They say, Okay, Ms Computer Brain. What’s next?
Neurons ask for directions.
And you Ms Computer Brain, can tell them where to go. Seriously.

This is so exciting:
You are in charge of how to respond to that neurological input. And that will be guided by your thoughts – beliefs, attitudes, biases—as well as by your physiology. Are you tired or refreshed? Blood sugar swinging up and down like a duck bobbing on big waves?
What can change? Your thoughts. And simple things such as getting enough sleep and eating right, for starters.

Stress relief is an essential ingredient of self-care. Little things-Getting another half hour of quality sleep, or tapering off the caffeinated soda. Recognizing that you are feeling stressed.  All are effective places to begin to put the You back into the equation.

I would love to hear how you are putting the You back in ......

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Stress Less: Get Rid of Mind Clutter!

I unload the groceries into the hallway and then it happens.

As though on cue, my brain begins a download like this:

•    Run the dishwasher
•    Send a quick e-mail
•    Forgot the mayonnaise

Rapid-fire thoughts like these jangle my nerves.

An antidote to idle mind chatter

Copy_of_leafinwaterdreamstimeextrasmall_7734147What is the opposite of this sort of silly mind chatter?

Maybe it's slowing down, hitting the pause button. When I do that, it's as though I step outside myself and look in. Does this ever happen to you?

Rather than giving mind chatter airtime, ask, “What is truly essential?”

Nope, no emergency, I don’t have to call 911. Nothing has to be done immediately – not even putting the frozen items in the freezer!

In fact, what I need after most shopping trips is a few minutes of quiet time.

Okay, Mind, you can talk away, but I am going to sit down in that comfy chair, take a deep breath, look out the window and enjoy the garden.

So, what has been your experience with mind chatter? I’d love to hear how you deal with it.

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Okay to be in a Funk?

dreamstime_xs_15244642Do you fight stress? Consider an alternative: Living with it for a while.

I was in a funk, plain and simple. It was that “darn, end of the day behind on everything feeling".

Okay, I knew it was deep because I wanted to go to the fridge and start rummaging for something to eat.  I did not feel like sorting out the whys/why not’s about those feelings. They simply plunked down beside me and refused to budge.

How about accepting the funk and letting myself switch off for awhile in front of the T.V.?

The following morning, I congratulated myself for not using food to numb out feelings. In exploring thoughts of the previous day, it was clear that a little upset had snowballed. Nothing was actually “wrong.” I had simply become preoccupied with negativity, "So much to do, I’m never going to be able to get it all done!”

It is possible to over-think stress sometimes.  Stress may actually be an important signal that your subconscious can sort through, given time.

I remembered the link between thinking traps and stress!

Have you been able to think yourself out of feeling overwhelmed and stressed?

Are there times when you gave yourself permission to simply live with the mood?

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No Time, Too Busy?


Fotolia_34052853_XSI had just come through a day of that “too busy, no time to…” experience. "So much to do…I’ll never get it done!”

I could feel anxiety tightening around me, constricting my breathing.  It was scary. Yet a part of my brain hit the pause button: “Wait a minute, there’s got to be another way.” Time stretched itself out, and slowed way, way down.

Pausing even for a second changes time from something rigid and confining, to something that is elastic and expansive. It felt like blowing up a toy balloon and turning it into a green giraffe. It is fun!

An additional bonus: Breaking free of the “no time” mindset unleashed new ideas.I suddenly saw options where none existed before: I do not really have to reschedule dinner plans. The report actually doesn't have to get there until the end of the week, and I can finish up tomorrow. Didn’t I do something similar a couple of years ago, maybe I can repurpose that.

So much to do…and it will get done!

Have you discovered ways to expand time and find breathing room?

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Cheesecake for Stress? Does Comfort Food Have a Place?


I am shopping for food, and feeling stressed out. I’m simply too tired to think about “managing stress,” especially when the solution is right in front of me.

There she is, sitting demurely in the pastry display case. There is my charmer, surrounded by custards and double layered chocolate cake. There must be slices of key lime pie somewhere, but I need not look any further… I am focused on the “Prima Donna”.
Yes, it’s that slice of cheesecake that sets my brain buzzing. You know…the thick, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth kind with raspberry sauce tastefully draped to enhance her looks.

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I’m at a crossroads:

Will I buy that delicious treat, knowing I can pick up a fork and eat it immediately after check out… (Why wait to go home?) Or will I pass by the pastry counter and pick up the organic vegetables and cans of Amy’s soup, the real purpose of this shopping trip?

This choice of indulging in a comfort food depends directly on how centered I feel at the “point of purchase” moment.

If I’m in touch with my inner self – body, mind, spirit and emotions – I understand that I have a choice: I can choose to eat the cheesecake, or not. Cheesecake is just an object behind a glass partition.

Here is another choice point:

If I do select to eat a comfort food, I might eat just one bite, slowly savoring its flavors, while reflecting on what’s bugging me. In this scenario, just possibly I will be able to satisfy a deeper hunger.

However, if I’m totally frazzled, I could eat the cheesecake on the dessert plate, and more. At this point cheesecake has transmuted to a detour around uncomfortable feelings. By eating the pastry, I am taking care of myself as well as I can, at this very second.

That's the thing about stress: The more I nourish my whole self, the more awake I feel and the less likely I am to use food to distance myself from my Inner Being. And I like feeling alive…

Back to the pastry cabinet. Yes, I bought the slice of cheesecake, and I picked up a fork and napkin at checkout, then sat at an outdoor table. As I nibbled my treat, I watched shoppers entering and leaving the natural food store, and something magical happened. I actually began to taste each bite. Watching the world go by pulled me out of the mood I was in. I was even able to put the half-eaten cheesecake back in the box and finish it after dinner.

Cheesecake anybody?

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How to Reduce Travel Stress

How many kinds of stress does travel bring up? Are you relieved to find your reserved seat on the plane, store your luggage in the overhead bin, and then plunk down – secure for the moment knowing you overcame all the obstacles of getting here.Fotolia_27748143_XS

Travel stress comes in a wide range of intensity. For me, sometimes it’s a little blip, but at other times it’s like a road bump.
 
First there is planning stress. There seems to be a voice in my head, pestering me with questions: Will I get a good deal on tickets? Will I find flights on the days I want to travel? Aisle or window seat? What about lodging -- can I find a reasonably priced hotel with a fitness center?

There is the departure stress: Heading to the airport, “did I’s” come up: Did I lock the front door? Did I bring my ticket? Did I take out the garbage?

At the destination, there is arrival stress: Delays with luggage, shuttles or cabs can be vexing, depending on my tolerance level.  Okay, I’ve reached the hotel room, and I want nothing more than to totally relax. Ah, there is the mini-bar. I open it to see what’s inside– a bar of chocolate, a bottle of wine, it’s tiny, really. And little packages of snacks. Tempting - but not today!

How to counteract travel stress? Here are ideas:

Planning stress. I pause for a minute to remember I’ve flown a million times before, and every time arrangements were made, destinations were reached, and here I am.

Departure stress. Buffer the anxious moments by giving myself extra time – before departure.   Pack the night before and use a departure check list. 

  • Dishwasher off - check!
  • AC set at 80 - check!
  • Garbage thrown out - check!
  • Laptop by the door - check!
  • Boarding pass - check!

Instead of pushing on to the airport, regardless of feeling tense, take 2 minutes for slow breathing .....arrive at the departure gate, more relaxed than before.

Arrival stress. Before reaching for a snack or pouring a drink, consider other options to de-stress, – A hot bath/shower? A short nap? Flick on the tube? Take a walk, go for a swim, or do a quick workout in the fitness center?

However, if snacks are what you need to de-stress, “Calories, shalories, I deserve a treat!” You are making a conscious choice, and hurray for being self-aware.

So, how do you manage travel stress? I’d love to hear about the ways that help you make travelling more enjoyable.

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