Balancing Life’s Priorities

Over the years, I have come to realize that multi-tasking and taking on too many duties is a direct contributor to symptoms like increased heartbeat, fatigue, headaches, difficulty with concentration, nausea and sweating.  Many times, I mistakenly attributed these physical symptoms with anxiety when in fact they were symptoms of simply not prioritizing my life. I foolishly thought that because my life was running in all directions and I was feeling frazzled that there must be something wrong with me and most likely it was anxiety.

The Busier We Get, The Quicker We Lose Sight of Our Priorities

In actuality, as I became more and more trapped in the endless cycle of work, errands and other responsibilities, I lost sight of the things that were important to me: maintaining a good emotional state and a good quality of life.  I was so consumed with meeting everyone else’s needs and wishes that I did not give myself the time to check-in to make sure I was putting my energy on what was foremost for me.  Days, weeks, months and even years would pass by. All without me ensuring that I was focused on what was genuinely important to me.  This behaviour led to sleepless nights because I could not shut off my brain. Then during the day I felt debilitated by all that was still ahead of me to do.

Today, how do I stop myself from falling into this trap of feeling those out-of-control feelings? 

I surround myself predominately with people that support me, my priorities and my values.  I make sure I have relationships that inspire me and energize me rather than only demand energy from me and hold me back.

Also, and very importantly, I frequently evaluate where I spend my time. I do this in order to discover how I can find more time for my priorities.  I track where I am spending time in the areas of work, exercise, meals, time with loved ones, time spent on hobbies, sleep, meditation – everything and anything.  Then I step back. I look at how I can change the way I am spending my time to focus on my priorities.

Take Stock of Your Relationships

In addition, I take stock of my relationships.  Who do I want to make more time for? And who do I need to let go of to be able to thrive?  I have also become okay with not everyone supporting my core values and priorities.  I have found that when I think about my relationships, some people drain my energy and harm my sense of well-being. And when I realize that my priorities have shifted, I re-evaluate who I spend most of my time with.

By holding myself accountable for my priorities and making small changes to focus on what’s really important, I feel more confident, joyful and less anxious every day.   I also remember the old adage, we are only busy with the things that we say yes to.

Let’s Connect

How can you practice imagination today?  What in your life can you build an imaginary story around?  What’s stopping you from imagining – nothing!

And as always, I invite you to join in on the conversation on Facebook and Instagram 

To our Health and Wellbeing,

Karen

Panic Attacks

What Is a Panic Attack?

If you have ever experienced one then you can probably clearly explain the body sensation of an attack. Heart palpitations, sweating, trembling and shaking, feeling nausea and dizzy are what are most common to people.  What is equally scary however is the fear of losing control and even dying.

During the years of living with my anxiety, I had a number of panic attacks. Some worse than others and some forcing me to go to the hospital convinced that I was having a heart attack. What I found out later was that due to the intensity of the symptoms that a panic attack can bring on, they tend to mimic those of heart disease and breathing disorders and that it is common for people experiencing a panic attack to be convinced they are having a life-threatening issue.

What is annoying about panic attacks is that they can occur unexpectedly. Doesn’t matter if you start out feeling calm or anxious, the attack can occur regardless. And since they are so unpleasant to experience and very frightening, you end up becoming worried about having another panic attack.

Detecting The Onset of An Attack

Through my trial and error with panic attacks I discovered that having a plan, a way to respond when one came one was the best approach for me. It reduced my ongoing worry about getting another attack because I felt more confident that I could manage myself out of one and it also reduced the length of time that I was experiencing the symptoms of the attack. Here is what I found worked for me.

What Works For Me

Firstly, I just recognize that I am feeling afraid and starting to panic.  I found it is best to not ignore the symptoms and pretend they are not happening.  I also remind myself that I am not in danger.  Usually the thought of being in danger accompanies panic attacks.   I  found that reminding myself that I am safe is very useful.  How I do this is I look around and say to myself, “See, you are fine.  You are safe.  You are secure.”

Next, I choose to not fight the feeling.  This goes against all of my instinct.  I just say to myself, “Well, it looks like I am having a panic attack right now.”  Then, I allow myself to just accept the symptoms. I see the physical sensations that I am experiencing as a logical and expected response to whatever thoughts I am having that are causing the panic. My body is functioning exactly as it should, and I know that my thoughts are creating the physical response. I thank my body for being so well-built and responsive.  This is a nice twist to what I used to do which was to worry and struggle which actually made it worse.

I then remind myself that I have been through this before and it always ended.  I remember that my last panic attack and the one before that and the one before that all came to an end and so this one will also end.

Grounding Exercises 

And lastly and most importantly, I focus on something outside of myself.  I find that getting into the present moment and focusing on something that is in my sight I can stop my imagination from making up the future stories that are negative and which are probably triggering the panic in the first place.  I stop any thinking that is accompanied by “what if….” by turning my focus on something is actually happening right in front of me.  I then work with my body by relaxing it using breath work.  Relaxing the muscles of my jaw, neck, shoulders and back really help.  I also make sure I am not standing rigid with muscles tensed and that I am NOT holding my breath.

I have found that by following these simple steps I can start making myself feel better rather quickly when a panic attack comes on.  Sometime I have to do the steps a couple of times before I start to see any results.  The important thing is to keep doing them and not give up.

You’re Not Alone

Panic is a normal response to either a real or imagined situation.  If you are like me and it is your mind making up “what if…” stories that are triggering the panic, then give the steps that I use a try and see if you can shorten the length and number of attacks you are experiencing. And as always, I invite you to join in on the conversation on Facebook and Instagram 

To our health and wellbeing,

Karen

Anxiety vs Anxiety Disorder

Do you feel unsettled? Have you spent the night tossing and turning in your bed because you can’t sleep? Do you worry excessively? Are you feeling exceptionally stressed and rattled lately? Is something hindering you from functioning properly and being productive? If yes, then you are most likely experiencing anxiety.
There is nothing wrong with being anxious. Everyone gets anxious at some point in their lives, especially before big events. However, if your anxiety drags on for days and affects your daily living, then it is a problem.

What is Anxiety?

Many people use the word anxiety freely. But what really is it?
Anxiety is a strong emotion that is characterized by worrying, nervousness, and being uneasy because of something that is uncertain. How easy it is to define in words, but if you are the one experiencing the anxiety, you know it is not easy or simple.

The Fight or Flight Response

The strong emotion called anxiety is actually related to our fight or flight response. This means it is perfectly normal for a person to feel agitated, nervous, worried or experience difficulty sleeping – especially before a big event.
What is it exactly? It traces back to when man roamed the surface of the Earth endlessly to hunt for food and find a safe place to live. Our ancestors, being exposed to a life of endless running and endless hunting just to survive, developed the fight or
flight response. It is the body’s natural response to when we sense danger.
When our ancestors felt threatened, their bodies released several hormones like cortisol and adrenaline to help them prepare physically in case they needed to fight or run. Our body releases hormones that are meant to keep us physically, yet temporarily, well-equipped – like making our hearts beat faster for better blood circulation. These hormones also make us more alert to our surroundings. And once the threatening situation is out of the way, our bodies start to relax by releasing hormones that encourage muscle relaxation.
If you have experienced an adrenaline rush you must have felt how your whole body shook after the adventure. This normally happens as the body is relaxing the muscles.
Anxiety becomes a problem when it is overwhelming and constant. it may hamper everyday living by making it impossible to eat, sleep, concentrate, and even do our jobs. It is a disorder, a mental health diagnosis, when excessive and significant worry, apprehension and fear are present.

Anxiety Can Be Lethal in the Long Run

Although the symptoms of anxiety will not kill you, the long-term effects of living with stress hormones turned on can lead to life-threatening illnesses. The best thing that you can do for yourself, your family and those you love is to get help with how you manage your anxiety. Therapeutic approaches have proven to be extremely effective in generating life-long elimination of anxiety.

Let’s Connect

My personal journey away from a decade destroyed by anxiety is now my motivation to help others. You can read about my story or listen to my podcast (both can be found on my website). I explain how I discovered the miracle of neurolinguistics and belief-change modalities. My hope is that you find it inspiring and motivational so you can also turn away from anxiety disorder forever.I invite you to join in on the conversation on Facebook and Instagram 

To our health and wellbeing,

Karen

Why do we Self-Sabotage?

It has been a difficult start to 2019 for me.  

began the year doing all of the necessary things to ensure that I was starting off on the right foot – I set goals, I outlined strategies, I made detailed plans, and I landed on targets for both my personal and business life and yet…. for some reason, I have completely ignored my personal goals. I have been blocking myself from doing what it is that I want to do for my own health and well-being. My self-sabotaging behaviour, which has looked very much like shooting myself in my own foot, is preventing me from being my best, healthiest self.    

I am baffled as to why I am doing this kind of self-sabotage behaviour and I am also very interested and motivated to stop it. I know that one of the easiest ways to self-sabotage yourself is to NOT set clear, specific goals. Not having clarity or precision on where you are going allows you to convince yourself easily that your goal is not important. This however was not where I am letting myself down. I have clear and well-defined targets. So why am I not achieving them? After some reflection, I have come up with three reasons.  

I am doing too much 

I am realizing that I am doing too much as it relates to my commitments to others and therefore I am feeling like I am running on empty. I am putting myself last too often and when I have time for myself it consequently feels like a chore instead of something that is enjoyable and a well-deserved treat. 

I am over-blending 

When I am not working, I need to not work. When I am taking time off, I need to completely unplug, thus allowing myself the time and leisure to enjoy self-care. By taking up bits of time on my days off to fit in some work duties here and there, I am actually chewing into the opportunitfor me to explore what it is that I want to do for myself. What I want to do is not always obvious. Some days I want to go for a walk. Other days I want to visit a friend. Some days I want to go shopping or get myself to a yoga class. These decisions need to be fully explored and by jamming my off days with busy work at every opportunity, I am not giving myself the time to investigate.  

I am managing stuff that isn’t mine 

When I step outside of my own business and try to control things in other people’s lives, I start to feel disempowered. And rightfully so because outside of our own lives, I have no power to affect anything else. This activity is wasting my precious time and energy, and is leaving me depleted and not excited about doing anything for my own self-care.  

So with these revelations and the honest self-talk that comes with them,  I have decided to change my approach to my personal goals around self-care. I am going to set clear and consistent boundaries with others ensuring that I am preserving and protecting my energy and time. I am also going to begin to block off time and respect that it means that I am off of work completely. No more sneaking into my office to look at emails or complete a half-done article. And lastly, I am going to come back to my own business. I am going to focus only on things that are in my arena to manage – within my power to control like: my actions, my perspectives, and my attitudes. 

Are you self-sabotaging? Are you struggling with indulgences like procrastination, distraction, overwhelm? Can you realize that when we say we want something and we don’t make sure it happens we are only hurting ourselves and preventing our own greatness? 

You can also check out this great resource for more information watch the AHA Process to End Self Sabotage and learn how to stop self-sabotaging behavior.

I invite you to join in on the conversation on Facebook and Instagram 

To our health and wellbeing,

Karen

Are You Responding or Reacting?

Here is a question for you. In general, do you tend to respond or do you tend to react to life? At first you may say, “Aren’t they the same thing?” Actuallythey are not and how you perceive their difference can have a huge impact on how happy you areIt did for meOn my journey out of relentless anxiety, the above question about responding or reacting catapulted my transformation towards healing. 

My Journey 

When I started my journey out of anxiety, I was not even aware that every day I was choosing how I was thinking about my life. Wasn’t life just happening to me? I thought I was supposed to just respond to it in the best way I could? Wasn’t I just a helpless victim? I clearly saw my life as a random set of happenstances that I had to find a way to deal with the best I could. 

During my experience with transformational coaching, I began to see that my life was not a force outside of my control and by stepping up to the fact that I could always choose how I was going to respond to anything that was occurring, that I indeed had control of my life. In any situation, good or bad, I could always choose the most empowering response for myself. For the first time in my life, I felt both powerful and calm at the same time!  

The Hard Truth 

And then one day I was told something by my coach which was initially upsetting however it was exactly what I needed to hear, “Karen”, she said, “your life, as it exists today, is the sum total of all of the conscious and unconscious decisions you have made to date.” What? I was responsible for my shitty life! It took some time for me to accept this notion of responsibility fully and completely and when I finally did, it was liberating. As a matter of fact, it is perhaps the single most liberating thing I have ever done. I was off the hook for playing the victim. Although I didn’t like where I had directed my life to at that point, the single act of taking responsibility was empowering.    

The Responsibility is Ours 

To take full responsibility for both our past and current experiences is indeed empowering because when we blame others or situations, we are giving our power away. And when we do that, we are saying that something outside of ourselves is causing a reaction within us. When we take ownership of our response, even when others are at fault or are wrong, we control both our behaviour and our life’s direction. 

Over the years since my experience with transformational coaching, I have made a clear switch in my thinking.  Negative stuff still does happen and it happens to all of us, however it is how we respond, and how we view the circumstances and conditions that makes the difference between happiness and no happiness.    

Are you ready for happiness to show up?  And are you ready to respond and not react?  If you are, learn more about how transformational coaching can move you from victim to controller of your life. 

I invite you to join in on the conversation on Facebook and Instagram 

To our health and wellbeing,

Karen

Evening Routine For Better Sleep and Reduced Anxiety

Following a consistent routine before bedtime not only helps keep our stress levels low – but also boosts mindfulness, productivity, and results in better overall sleep.  

In my last blog post, I discussed the importance of starting our day off right by practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness can be achieved by developing an acute awareness of our body and our surroundings with a sense of appreciation and calm.  In this blog, I will be examining how we can also end our day with mindfulness. By following a consistent and relaxing evening routine we will be able to get more of what we all crave – sleep. 

Stress Causes Insomnia  

Stress is one of the top reasons people experience insomnia. Remember – if you are struggling with insomnia you are not alone.  Around 30% of the adult population report that insomnia is a major factor in their life. It only takes one night of worry to see how stress directly impacts sleep.  The inability to mentally let go makes it difficult, if not impossible, to physically and mentally relax.  

Personally, when I experience worry or stress, getting sleep becomes a challenge. Missing sleep then creates more of what initially made sleep impossible – stress. This cycle can become quite debilitating and problematic – which is why developing a calming bedtime routine is so important.  It signals to our mind and our body that it is time to unwind and slow down. This can gently ease us into slumber – as opposed to trying to forcefully prod ourselves to sleep.  

A few relaxation techniques can be just what we need – especially when we are highly stressed and agitated. Below, I have outlined a few of my favourite bedtime rituals for mindful rest.  

Mindful Bedtime 

If you need to work in the evening, make sure you have some wind-down time before bed to avoid feeling tense. 

Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake, as this will make it harder to fall asleep. Instead, try drinking herbal teas, or a warm milky drink.  

It’s a good idea to have a warm bubble bath before bed, and not a heavy late-night meal or alcoholic nightcap –which can interfere with a sound sleep. This will in turn, lead to reduced anxiety the next day. 

Getting some fresh air and exercise may also help our body unwind. A stroll in the evening air, walking the dog, stretching, or yoga can help achieve the feelings of relaxation. 

Before Bed 

Before we tuck in, ensuring that our bedroom is a pleasant place to sleep in is vital – doing a quick tidy, even if its just putting things into piles can be especially helpful.  

Make a to-do list for the next day. This way, we can empty out our minds in readiness for sleep. 

It is also a good idea to lay out our clothes and pack a lunch so we are ready to go right away in the morning. All this preparation will undoubtedly help us relax and stop our minds from racing. 

Don’t listen to the news, or watch it less than an hour before bed. 

Ensure a calm sleeping environment, with no devices blinking and pinging to remind us of the stress of our work or social lives. And of course, we should try to avoid using electronic devices just before bedtime.  

Make sure the bedroom is as dark apossible, with no LED display lights, as these will interfere with sleep patterns.  

What bedtime routines do you use to quiet yourself? 

I invite you to join in on the conversation on Facebook and Instagram 

To our health and wellbeing,

Karen

Mindfulness Techniques for Mindful Mornings

Have you ever wondered what mindfulness really is? And why is it all of a sudden so popular?  In our speedy, technology-jammed society the need to find peace and calm has emerged.  The West has decided to look to the East for the solution to this issue. And what we found were practices called mindfulness that have endured for over 3,000 year.  We started to explore these ancient practices back in the ‘60s with the hippie movement.  Then in the ‘70s and ‘80s came the ‘New Age Movement’ which brought mindfulness into the mainstream.  What we have learned over the last fifty years is that modern medicine does not answer all of our questions about health and vitality. And that a lot of those questions can be solved with mindful techniques.

For me, mindfulness is about meditation.  If you follow me, you know that I have had a journey over many decades with anxiety. Like many, my anxiety affected not only my mind but my body and spirit as well.  My personal answer to anxiety came when I sought out solutions that dealt with my unconscious, repetitive thought patterns.  That treatment pulled me out of the dark pit of endless rumination and worry.  In order to maintain my sense of overall calm and control, I turn to a daily meditation practice.  It slows down my mind, replenishes my body, and my soul feels in tune with my higher purpose.

More Than Just Meditation

I have come to realize that mindfulness however, is any practice or approach that slows life down. One that enables you to focus on the present, and makes you aware of everything in the now.  It is about bringing your attention away from the past, regretting or rewriting your history. And prevents you from worrying about the future.  It turns your focus to the here and now.  And in that state of being, in the beautiful present moment, you can feel connected to all things but concerned about nothing.  It is amazingly paradoxical.

So what would be a good way to start the day mindfully?  After some research and a lot of trial and error, I have come up with some helpful hints.  With the intention of full disclosure, I will say that I am still working towards implementing these habits into my daily routine and not to the point of where I have mastered them.

Mindfulness Techniques

  1. To set up your day mindfully, do not leave the house in the morning hungry.  The nagging feeling of hunger will draw your attention away from the present moment.
  2. With the goal now to have breakfast, it is important to work time into your morning to prepare it. There are a lot of things you can do the night before to make this job a lot easier.  Soaking oats the night before, or preparing a breakfast sandwich, which just needs warmed up, are good options.
  3. Set a place at the table to eat your breakfast free from distractions like TV, radio, phone, tablet or computer. Take the time to eat the food slowly. Taste the different flavours and savour the moment.  Eating on the run is bad for both digestion and mental state.  It is also good to know that slow release foods like oatmeal can help you stay calm and energised throughout the morning.
  4. And lastly, clear the table before your leave. That way you avoid mess anxiety when you get home.

I am growing into my mindful mornings habits, after years of running out the door without regard or respect to how I was setting myself up for a day of feeling chased and frazzled.  How do you start your day?  Are you setting yourself up for a day of centeredness?  I invite you to join in the conversation on Facebook and Instagram.

To our health and wellbeing,

Karen

Being Rather Than Doing

What are you doing? And what did you do yesterday? What are you going to do tomorrow? Sound familiar? If it does, it’s because we are so used to emphasizing doing rather than being. As a result we put ourselves under constant pressure to meet the demands and the expectations of others. Most of us live in the “doing” mode all day long. The doing mode is what pushes us to strive to reach our goals, to get things off of our To Do List, to answer a hundred emails per day. It is what propels us forward. However, if we are in it all of the time, it can lead us towards stress, overwhelm and anxiety.

One way to conquer the anxiety associated with doing is to simply learn to do one thing at a time. This means learning to focus on the current moment. Rather than worrying about what hasn’t gotten done or what needs to be done next.

There are some mindfulness techniques associated with focusing on the now that can make a big difference in getting yourself to the being mode instead of constantly living in the doing mode.

Do One Thing at a Time

This is a winning strategy to keep your attention focused on being in the present. To do this, become aware of when your mind wanders away from what you are currently doing; and instead focuses on something else you should be doing. Or what you didn’t get done yesterday. Lately, I’ve started to close my internet browser and other applications when I’m working on a text document. Aside from the anxiety notifications and other windows can create when they ping, concentrating on one task fully has increased my productivity.

Start each Day with Stillness

Adopting a morning ritual that encourages your mind to be still and focused on the now as soon as you wake up will, over time, train your mind to stay centred and avoid racing toward the multitude of things that you want to get done during the day. This allows the day to be started with calmness and focus as opposed to anxiety and mind-spinning worry.

Here is how I like to do this. First of all, I decide to stay under the blankets for an extra five minutes after I wake up instead of jumping out of bed and getting into the flow of the work day. That is my first good decision for the day. Next, I lie on my back and close my eyes. I notice where in my body I may have tension, aches or anxiety. Then I place my attention on that place in my body and I allow myself to feel whatever is going on there. Sometimes it helps if I put my hand on the place where I am feeling the anxiety or pain.

Next, I exaggerate the feeling allowing my mind to focus on it. Then I relax. I tense up again, and really feel the feeling. Then I relax again.

Then I imagine a butterfly net coming along and sweeping over my head and down my body. All of my tense, difficult feelings are swept up in the net and are taken away.

Then, I breathe deeply in and out, five times.

After this is complete I calmly pull back the blanket and I get on with my day.

A Better Way

Learning to be, rather than caught up in doing all of the time has been a game changer for me and my health. How do you retreat from the pressure of accomplishment and responding? Do you practice mindfulness so you can enjoy the sweetness of the present moment? I invite you to join in the conversation on Facebook and Instagram.

To our health and wellbeing,

Karen

Social Anxiety

Anxiety can show up in many forms. One of these is the intense feelings of nervousness and uncertainty that can occur when meeting new people or going into social situations. This is known as social anxiety. If you are someone who deals with social anxiety, you should know you are not alone. Almost everyone experiences some sort of shyness or introversion when meeting someone new or being in a crowd of people. It’s a natural response to feel somewhat apprehensive. And one that is hardwired into us as a protection mechanism. However, sometimes those feelings can become overwhelming, even debilitating, causing people to stop living their lives to the fullest. It may even impair their ability to do their jobs, go to school, interact with neighbours or take positive actions towards their general wellbeing, like seeing their doctor or dentist.

What Lies Behind Social Anxiety

In many of my previous blogs, I’ve talked quite openly about dealing with anxiety for most of my life. Although my anxiety was intense and frequent, I never experienced social anxiety. My personal experience with anxiety showed up as intense worry about my future. It wasn’t until I was able to get help in identifying and removing my unhealthy unconscious limiting beliefs about my future that my anxiety was actually eliminated. I can however say with much

confidence that a similar approach of dealing with unconscious limiting beliefs would work well with social anxiety.

Underneath the exterior behaviour that usually accompanies social anxiety such as sweating, blushing, and the inability to speak is most likely an internal dialogue of thoughts like; I will look stupid, I will be laughed at, or I am unsafe. Most social anxiety comes from being hurt in the past, either through bullying or teasing. It is in those intense negative experiences that people make decisions (usually unconsciously) that either they deserved what happened because there is something wrong with them, or that being with all other people is actually dangerous.

It Can be Overcome

If you have social anxiety, you may find yourself avoiding going out with friends, applying for jobs or dating. Joining social clubs is totally out of the question. Sometimes people with social anxiety live online, as that feels so much safer. Having a connection online to either people or groups is a good start; however, it cannot replace the benefits of face-to-face connection.

The good news is that social anxiety is understood now more than ever. The anxiousness does not need to be hidden, and admitting to the struggle with social situations is so much more accepted.

Do you struggle with social anxiety? How do you manage your social anxiety? Are you willing to open up to the idea that there could be unconscious limiting beliefs that are holding you back from engaging fully with others? I invite you to join in the conversation on Facebook and Instagram.

To our health and wellbeing,

Karen