Keeping Our Cool in These Stressful Times

At times such as these, our life is uncertain and each day we are exposed to additional information about the health of our world, communities and families. It is important that we resist reacting and instead we consciously choose to calmly respond.

What is Reacting?

While react and respond are similar words, they mean completely different things. Reacting in stressful times is instinctual and it comes from the unconscious mind. It is a process of operating on autopilot without any filtering. This is when you say things without thinking or you act without considering the ramifications of your behaviour.

What is Responding?

Responding on the other hand is more thoughtful and it involves exploring possible outcomes and thinking through options. It is when you take a step back and weigh the pros and cons of your choices. What would be best for yourself and others in the situation?

What kind of person would you rather be, especially at this stressful time? Would you rather be the type of person who creates a calm and happy environment for yourself and your family or would you prefer to be the kind of person who is a wild card, totally out of control and moving rapidly from one emotional state to another? The key to being calm and collected is to be mindfully present and have awareness of when you have been triggered.

How to Stay Mindfully Present Through Anxiety

So how do you become mindfully present when anxiety has yet again washed over you? The best way is to step back and create some distance, physically and energetically, between the trigger (the event) and yourself. Become the observer of your emotional state and be inquisitive as to why you are feeling that way. Refrain from judging how you feel and instead just accept it and observe it.

It is also good to take a few deep breaths as you allow the effects of the trigger to reduce or fade away. The fading could take a minute, an hour, a day or even a week. Every person and every situation are different. The gift of creating distance when you are triggered is the allowance for you to consciously choose how you are going to respond.

Be AWARE

Here is an acronym that I came up with to help myself and my clients in the moment when we are triggered, and we want to avoid reacting negatively. It is AWARE.

A – Awareness

Just recognize that you have been triggered. For example, you are listening to the news and the headline is about a negative prediction about the pandemic and it causes you to feel anxious.  This is also a good time to ask yourself, what is actually triggering you. Was it the event itself (the news headline) or was it related to your thinking around the event (the story you are telling yourself about the imagined outcome)?

W – Wait

This is where you give yourself time to breathe and create space. It could be shutting off the newsfeed, hanging up from the phone call, ending the conversation, walking away or any other means to create physical or energetic distance.

A – Accept

Here is where you make sure you accept your emotions and you do not judge them as bad.  Remember, a healthy adult feels all of their emotions. Tell yourself that it is ok to feel the negative emotions and that it is normal and appropriate.

R – Respond

This is the big step. Here is the fork in the road. Here lies your opportunity to choose the road that has the best overall outcome. This is where you ask yourself, what is my goal and how can I respond in such a way that supports my goal in the best manner? Evaluate each possible response as to whether it takes you closer or further away from your goal.

E – Energy

Now you move forward from a place of awareness that you can choose the best, healthiest and most empowered response for yourself and others.

Although responding instead of reacting is not easy initially it can become easier with practice.  It is unlikely to be responsive all of the time. However, decreasing the amount of time you are reactive and staying centered most of the time is a worthy enterprise. The faster you have awareness of when you are triggered, the faster you will be able to regulate yourself and get yourself back on track.

Let’s Connect

If you are curious as to how my coaching can assist you in developing your ability to respond instead of react and to keep your life moving forward even in stressful times, request a complimentary consultation.

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

To our Health and Wellbeing,

Karen

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You Can Escape Christmas Stress

Christmas is a prime time for feeling like everything is spiraling out of control. There is so much to get done in a relatively short period of time. Patience seems to be in short supply and nerves become frazzled. Everyone has a story about how much they have yet to get done before Christmas Eve – shopping, wrapping, decorating, visiting family and friends, attending Christmas concerts and parties. Then there are those pesky year-end work targets that hang over the celebrations and damped the mood like Scrooge.

When the pressure in our lives begins to build, like it does at Christmas, our minds can start to spin, and it becomes hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But the light is there and sometimes, all you need to do is shift a little to see it.  So, how does one actually “shift”? By escaping.

Escaping the Stress

Escaping can be a very helpful tool that can be easily incorporated into almost any busy schedule. It involves purposefully pulling yourself away from negative, overwhelming thoughts and providing yourself with an opportunity to take a mental break.

Be aware however, that there are helpful and non-helpful forms of escaping. For example, taking a year-long trip to visit the Tibetan monasteries may not be a particularly cost conscious form of escaping. It may actually add more stress than the stress it is intended to lessen. Using drugs and alcohol when the going gets tough can be a tempting way to “forget your stresses”, however it carries health concerns with it and, for some, the dangers of addiction. The same applies to gambling. The point being that you need to find a positive way to escape that supports your lifestyle, values and goals.

So, if you are not about to jet off somewhere exotic, how can you practice escaping and still reap the physical and mental benefits of unplugging temporarily? Here are some ways to put into practice around the holiday season.

Watch a Feel-good Movie

I love to watch any movie that has a happy ending. It allows me to escape into a world of either fantasy or love-conquers-all. I forget, just for a few hours, about the housework, unanswered emails or the shopping that awaits me.

Go for a walk

I really love this one. I find that walking and allowing my mind to wander to be refreshing and calming. Upon return to my home or work, I am blessed with a new perspective. The issues that felt like hundred-pound weights only an hour before no longer carry the weight.

Meditation

Everyone knows the benefits of meditation when you are experiencing anxiousness, tension or are worried. Spending even a few minutes in meditation can restore your calm and inner peace.  And here is the cool thing – I have learnt to practice mediation wherever I am. I have incorporated it into my walks, when I am waiting in the doctor’s office or even while I am in my favourite coffee shop.

Comfort Food

Although this can easily become a negative escape tool, I just had to add it because I love it so much. When negative emotions arise, turning to delicious comfort food does provide me with a momentary boost. However, I do need to be aware of the negative health consequences if I practice too much.

Escapism can be a powerfully positive tool, allowing you to rest and recharge your mind and body, before facing up to life’s challenges. Think about the positive aspects of this practice especially at this particularly demanding time of year. Think of it as an early Christmas present for yourself.

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!

If you are curious about how my coaching services can help you access your greater, unlimited self and move you away from a life of anxiety, sign up for a complimentary consultation.

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

To our Health and Wellbeing,

Karen

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Reclaiming Leisure Time

A few days ago, I was listening to a local radio station and caught an interview with a mother and her young son. They were challenging each other to go the entire weekend without engaging in any screen time. The rules of the challenge were no cell phones, no tablets, no television, no email, and most importantly, no social media from Friday evening to Monday morning. Instead, they were to engage in reading, face-to-face conversations, playing board games, going for walks together etc. I found the interview to be delightful. The interaction between the mother and son was lively and full of well-intentioned kidding.

It left me wondering however, what would I have thought of the interview if I heard it 10 years earlier? I believe that ten or so years ago, I would have thought the idea of choosing to fill down time with reading or walking as a stretch or a challenge to be crazy or ridiculous. That led me to further wonder about what has happened to our leisure time in the last decade. Do we even have free time anymore?

Filling our Time with Social Media

It seems that any spare moments or idle time is filled with being on our phones either checking emails, posting photos to our Instagram accounts, logging onto Facebook or texting friends, family or colleagues. The shrinking of our leisure time has been largely influenced by the anxiety generated due to the global recession in 2008. We have become so devoted to our work and to getting ahead that we are willing to sacrifice our free time. Our busyness has actually become our obsession and it is making it more difficult to enjoy guilt-free downtime. The real shame is that downtime is so very important for our physical and mental health and wellbeing. Unplugging fully and completely and allowing our authentic selves to come forward is what we need to enjoy and contribute to our families and communities.

To add more pain to the problem, social media has become our primary outlet to show off to the world just how active and interesting we are even in our supposed free time. So, what has happened is that our free time has now become our second job! We spend so much time managing our image and feeding the pervasive mentality that being busy 24/7 is most desirable. We often forget about the benefits of real true downtime. So many people have told me that they are as anxious about managing their downtime as are about their regular, paying job.

Getting Back to the Way Weekends Used to be

Let’s not forget that weekends are supposed to be about enjoyment, relaxing and doing things without the sense of obligation or stress. How about getting back to weekends as they used to be years ago, days flowing naturally and enjoyment coming from being present in the moment fully and completely without our minds fretting to find the perfect posting photo.

I wonder how the mother and son weekend challenge went. More importantly, I wonder if they found a new way to be in leisure time together. I hope they discovered that stepping away from being connected to the outside world allowed them to enjoy being connected to each other and that making a memory was more fun and enjoyable than making a post.

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!

If you are curious about how my coaching services can help you access your greater, unlimited self and move you away from a life of anxiety, sign up for a complimentary consultation.

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

To our Health and Wellbeing,

Karen

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Combating Low Self-Esteem

Do you ever wish you felt better about yourself? Would you say that you have low self-esteem? Do you feel like you are constantly bombarded by upsetting thoughts? Mostly about yourself and your inability to get anything done or even started? If you have a history with anxiety then the answers to these questions are most likely yes.

What is common amongst people with low self-esteem is that they are generally motivated to avoid disappointment as opposed to focused on achievement. As a result, they get locked in inaction.

This inaction is often rooted in perfectionism because perfectionism encourages you look at what is wrong and not at what is going well. Perfectionism is toxic. It holds back anyone who wants to make a positive impact on their life, family, community, and the world.

Low self-esteem and perfectionism both sound like this: “I can’t look for my ideal job because I don’t think I am good enough.” Or perhaps, “I can’t start online dating because I haven’t lost those last 10 pounds.”

Low self-esteem and perfectionism are rooted in conditional statements like: I can’t do/have/be “X” because I am not “Y”. 

And here is the illusion – often the “Y” is something that can never be satisfactorily reached.  This is a self-sabotaging way to approach life and it keeps you stuck in low self-esteem and not achieving what you want in your life. It keeps you from getting what it is that you want out of life. It also proves day in and day out that you are right about being not good enough.

Ask Yourself

Here are some questions to ask yourself. Are you ready to be proven wrong on your opinion that you need to be perfect to start anything? Have you given that opinion enough of your time and energy yet? What if I told you that you can be right OR happy, healthy and wealthy?

So instead of looking for what is missing and feeling bad about that, why don’t you let go of the delusion that you should (or could) have all of your ducks in a row and feel the freedom, energy and hope that this change in thinking can bring. Take this new energy and focus it on taking up endeavours that bring you a real sense of achievement and happiness. And then, enjoy the sense of positive self-esteem growing because it is no longer hooked on the belief that why start because it will never be perfect enough anyway.

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

 

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Life’s Ups and Downs

There are not many guarantees in life. However, here’s one – life will have both ups and downs.

The fallacy that some of us buy into is that the least amount of ‘downs’ is an assurance of a happy life.  But that is simply not true.  Life isn’t about the number of ups and downs a person experiences as much as it is about how smoothly we ride these inevitable hills and valleys.

Recognizing a Down Period in Your Life

Recently, I have been going through what I would label as a down period in my life.  Something that I was looking forward to happening has turned out to now be highly unlikely.  Initially, my reaction was one of sadness, frustration and even anger.  I felt ripped off and I convinced myself that I was the only person who ever had to experience such disappointing news.  I heard a lot of “poor me” self-talk going on in my head.

Change the Focus from that Specific Event to Your Life as a Whole

Once I caught myself doing this. I kicked myself in the butt.  I told myself to get out of the narrow focus that fixating on the disappointment creates.From that vantage point I saw nothing other than the down side.   I spent some time expanding my focus, pulling back and getting my perspective to be anchored in the middle ground of my life.

From this vantage point, I could see my life in its entirety, my past and my future and from that perspective I could then appreciate that this “change of plans” was just one of the many detours that my life has taken already or will likely take in the future.  It was no longer the pivotal moment that would define my entire life.  It was no longer the one event that would change everything.   And then something magical happened.  The event lost its negativity.  And I was able to start imagining how this event may open up new opportunities that I could not even conjure up right now.  How this “change in plans” may make my future life even better.

Our Ups and Downs Are the Spice of Life

These ups and downs in life is what gives our life colour, story, direction and even humour.  Imagine being on a teeter totter and you only stay in the up position, you never experience coming down and seeing the ride from that position.  You would lose so much of the ride’s excitement.  You would not experience the anticipation of going up again and being at the top.  What a dull and uneventful ride it would be!  Who would want to experience that?

So, the next time you or I are riding the down portion of our teeter totter life, let’s remember that, like being at the high point, the down point also won’t last forever.  And it is the experiencing of both extremes, the up and the down, that make the ride enjoyable.

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

It’s All In Your Imagination

Sitting in my home office and looking outside my window onto the street below I see the neighbourhood children playing. The boys are practicing their basketball skills, each imagining that they are the next Kawhi Leonard. A group of younger girls are kneeling down together as they draw a colourful game of hopscotch on the sidewalk with chalk.  Farther down the street I can see a lemonade stand being attended to by a bunch of cheerful want-to-be entrepreneurs.

Remember When We Were Children?

Taking all of this in has made me wonder, when did I stop using my imagination and why? When was the last time I imagined that I was the “star” player, an artist, or even a successful entrepreneur?

As we grow up and move into our teenage and then adult years, we begin to stop “pretending”. We begin to believe that we need to take life seriously. Many of us get repeated messaging from adults like, “get your head out of the clouds”, “quit dreaming” or “act serious”.

Imagination is a Gift

This move away from using our imagination does us a disservice in the long run for it is our imagination that keeps life interesting. It is in our imagination where new ideas flourish, we solve our problems in unique ways, and where we develop our self-confidence. Imagining ourselves successfully facing a job interview or nailing a work presentation, or even imaging ourselves enjoying a first date wires our brain with the necessary neurology to execute that act exactly as desired.

Actively using our imagination also turns on positive, super-charged chemicals in our brains and we get an immediate lift in how we feel in the moment. And the more we run the imaginary events over and over again in our brain, the better and more positive and confident we feel and the probability of the positive result actually occurring goes up exponentially. And isn’t it better to live in an imaginary world of positivity than rooted in fear or anxiety?

This gift that we have of imagination is just that, a gift for it is what separates us humans from most other forms of life on this planet. No other animal has the ability to garner imagination. Only us humans can look forward, plan, and “see” our imagined future from where we stand today.

We must stop assuming that imagination is only for children.  It is for anyone who wants to set goals, achieve results, or generally become happier in life.

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

Happiness Habits

In my latest blog, I wrote about how my dad chose to approach each day and how those choices, done consistently, granted him a truly happy life. Simple things like feeling and expressing appreciation every day for things and people in his life and consciously choosing to approach each day positively were how he shaped his life.

Consistency is Key

So you are probably wondering – what exactly are some other actions that you can do every day that will bring you happiness.

Research has shown that if you follow some simple, fairly mundane, and repetitive tasks day after day you can experience a significant shift towards a happier life. These are simple tasks, that if you do them persistently over a long enough period of time, you will get the results you are looking for.

The question that I would like to pose now is what other areas of your life will benefit from you being an overall happier person? Could you see your eating habits improving? How about your exercise routine? Think about your financial habits around savings or paying bills on time. Could they improve if you felt happier? Personal development, learning, and relationships – couldn’t they all be impacted positively?

What I am about to share with you are some actions that have come out of happiness research and that have shown that if you faithfully practice them for 3 weeks in a row they will become a happiness habit of yours. You will be rewiring your brain to see the world in a different way and as a result, you will become a happier person overall.

5 Behaviours That Lead to Happiness Habits

1. Make More Time for Friends

Meaningful friendships nourish us because they validate who we are and reflect back to us our worth. Good friends appreciate us and ensure that we feel supported. Make time for these connections.

2. Practice Savouring the Moment

Staying focused and centred on the present moment and finding the beauty and generosity in every situation is powerful and transformative. Keep your attention off of what has happened in the past or the concerns of the future and see what riches are in front of you right now.

3. Engage in Meaningful Activities

Find what is important to you and contribute to it. Are you motivated by the environment, social issues, safety for children or the elderly, animal rights…. It does not matter what your passion is but what does matter for you and the world is that you contribute to it with your talents.

4. Practice Forgiveness

Forgiveness is transformative. Finding a way to forgive can re-energize your life and can open up space for you to feel happiness in its place.

5. Do the Simple Act of Giving

Practicing random acts of kinds can lift up anyone’s spirits. It holds the power to make someone’s day with simple, small, selfless acts.  Seeing someone else smile due to something that you did in the moment can inject your day with a boost of happiness that can last for a long time.

You probably already know and may even be practicing your own list of happiness habits and maybe the above suggestions can be added to it. Do these simple things consistently, every day and in time you might be feeling a whole lot better – you might be a happier version of yourself.  Then you are free to enjoy how everything in your life is working out for the better as well.

And as always, 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