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.]]>
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!
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.]]>
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.]]>
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.]]>
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?]]>
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?]]>
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.]]>
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?]]>
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.]]>
I 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.]]>
Burnout 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 burnoutRecognize 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.]]>
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?
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.]]>
While 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.]]>
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
What is the opposite of this sort of silly mind chatter?]]>
Do 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!”]]>
I 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!]]>
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.
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.]]>
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.
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:]]>