Take Your Power Back in The Digital Age

Am I addicted to my technology? It’s a question I asked myself the other day. I noticed that I was never without at least one device in my hands. The next question was why is that? And what reaction was it causing in me?

A Social Norm Gone Too Far?

As a society, we are tied to our devices, night and day. When was the last time you saw someone without their phone in their hand? Chiropractors are reporting an elevated rate of patients with neck problems due to the constant head down posture brought on by screen time. Now add on the general stress level of the times we are living in. Life is moving faster than ever before in history. Expected response times to emails have gone down, from a couple of days a decade ago to a couple of minutes today.

Humans can only absorb so much stress before it boils over, turning into anxiety. So, it is vital to learn what your warning signs are and understand your triggers.

Keeping Up with the Social Media Jones’

After recognizing that I was addicted to my technology, I also came to realize that it was a potential anxiety trigger for me. I noticed that when I would look at social media sites I tended to feel ‘less than.’ These feelings quite naturally increased my anxiety.

Recent studies have shown that over fifty-five per cent of people have a negative reaction when looking at pictures of others online. These images evoke feelings of jealousy, envy, low self-esteem and competitiveness. There is also an expectation to keep up with the latest viral sensations and live news reports, to stay ‘in the know.’ This ability to access news about disasters and death twenty-four hours a day easily heightens anxiety.

Take A Break

The first step is admitting you have a problem; the second is doing something about it. I decided to change my behaviour regarding my device use. I implemented a digital-free block of time in my day. I chose mornings. Instead of immediately turning on my phone or computer, I now focus on planning, creativity and meditation. This change has allowed me to enter the day more slowly, with my intention clearly set. What I find now is that I am no longer just responding all day long. Instead, I control where and how I show up online.

I have also reduced my exposure to online news. I take some time during my day to log into a trusted news source and simply scan the headlines. This still gives me an overview of international, national and local news without feeling bombarded. If there is a headline that draws my attention, either I’ll read it in the moment, or bookmark it for a later time. These few changes have made a significant difference in my level of productivity, as well as reducing my feelings of nervousness and impending anxiety.

You Can Do It Too

Remember, you can turn off your devices. You can take a break. You can stop texting, emailing, responding, tweeting, constantly scrolling and checking. Focus your attention instead on being present with your family, friends, pets, and neighbours. Your mood and close relationships will thank you. How you manage your online experience can be different, as early as tomorrow.

I invite you to share positive ways that you handle technology in the comments. You can also join in the conversation on Facebook and Instagram for inspiration.

To our health and wellbeing,

Karen

Anxiety and Medication: What It Did, and Did Not Do for Me

Often I am asked what I think about anxiety medication, and if I believe it is the answer to eliminating anxiety. Whenever this happens, I always tell my story about what medication did and did not do for me.

Help When I Needed It

During the period of my life when I was suffering from chronic anxiety, unable to cut the cycle of fear and perceived danger everywhere, I turned to medication. Both my doctor and counselor at the time suggested that, based on my symptoms, medication was the only course of action that made sense for me:

  • The persistent ‘On’ position of my mind was putting pressure on my kidneys, heart and other organs.
  • My negative thinking was causing negative hormones like cortisol to flood my body, resulting in super-elevated heart rate and sleep deprivation.

The doctor told me how important it was not to underestimate the effects that chronic anxiety can have on one’s health; both short-term and long term.

My Anxiety “Aha” Moment: Time to Seek Treatment

The particular incident that led me to take anxiety medication was when I began to behave with obsessive tendencies. I was scheduled to go visit my daughter in the UK but the thought of the long flight was bringing on panic and claustrophobia. I was seriously considering not being able to endure the flight. And I was fretting about how I would hold my composure while confined on the plane. Flying had never been a problem for me before, however now my anxiety was taking that pleasure away from me. And the thought of not being able to see my daughter was too much for me to bear. I needed to do something.

I am eternally grateful to my doctor and counsellor for their advice regarding medication. It got me out of my downward anxiety spiral, and set me back on the path to life. I believe it may have even saved my life. It had its place and it did what it was supposed to do, alleviating my anxiety in a crisis situation. Calming me down, it allowed me to reclaim control of my life.

What Medication Didn’t Do

However, what I have also learned after years of taking medication is that it masks the symptoms; but does not solve the issue that is causing the anxiety. Whatever was causing my negative thinking, the what-ifs, the should-have’s, the yeah-but’s, only got silenced for a little while. The root problem was still lingering deep in my unconscious mind, unseen and unknown to me. And when I decided to come off of my medication, the negative thinking showed up again, louder and more persistent this time. My behaviour became even more erratic and more panicked than before.

My Journey Away from Anxiety and Medication

This time, my journey away from anxiety led me to seek non-medical ways of dealing with both the physical and psychological symptoms of my anxiety. I discovered a host of methods that helped remove the negative thoughts, so that anxiety would no longer be triggered. There is an increasing amount of evidence that acknowledges the benefits non-medical techniques have when dealing with the symptoms of anxiety. Methods such as mindfulness, alternative health therapies and talk therapies are proving to be powerful movements in this area.

There are many complimentary paths out of anxiety. Medication has it place and it keeps many safe while they are in crisis, like it did for me. The good news is that it is not the only way. There are new and evolving therapies that can help you put your life back together, and give you long-lasting change in a holistic manner. They can help you experience a different life, one where anxiety is a memory, not a reality.

I invite you to share your experience with anxiety. You can also join in the conversation on Facebook and Instagram for inspiration.

To our health and wellbeing,

Karen

Get Past Your Fear of Change

My last blog discussed why people are afraid of change. Why they opt to stay stuck, rather than push forward toward a new version of themselves. Feelings of discomfort, uncertainty, fear of criticism or failure were the main culprits. Now that we recognize why we resist change so much, the next question is how do we get past those feelings and start moving forward differently?

I have had some major times in my life where I knew that I needed to change, and change BIG, in order to get out of the mess I was in and to get to some place better. But I was scared of making those changes. I didn’t jump into the sea of change right away. I dodged and darted, avoiding what my intuition was telling me for months, even years. It was only when my life got so unhappy and unbearable that I accepted the challenge to make changes. I highly recommend not waiting to embrace change until life gets overwhelming like I did. It leads to chaos, many sleepless nights, and unrelenting anxiety.

I realize that choosing to stay right where you are, doing exactly what you’ve been doing, can provide temporary relief. You won’t need to worry about all of the “what-if…” scenarios. You won’t have the unknown future staring you in the face. But, if you never embrace change, especially the changes you know deep in your heart you need to make, then you will never know what might have been. And isn’t that scarier than the fear of change?

I have listed below six steps that will help you face change more easily in your life.

Embrace Risk

If you spend your life playing it safe, sticking to what you know, then your future will simply replay your past. Your future will be predictable and repeating. If, however, you dream of better or different, then see the risk as something that will enhance  your life. This different perspective can be hugely motivating and exhilarating. It can even open up space for change in your life.

Establish a Strategy

All good plans need a strategy. A strategy will make you feel comfortable about the course that you have chosen. Being prepared is necessary for all success in life.

Seek Advice (From the Right People!)

Find someone who has made changes in their life, especially if they are similar changes (ie. career changes, relationship changes). Ask them specifically why they made the change, how they did it, and how it made them feel. And then for the big question – ask them what they would they have done differently?

Put Your Supports in Place

One of the best ways to overcome the fear of change is to surround yourself with cheerleaders. People that are positive, inspiring and empowering. Reduce your time with the naysayers and Negative Nellies. To be successful, positive reinforcement and people who are authentically excited to hear about your journey can go a long way.

For Goodness Sake Don’t Look Back!

You are using your energy to build a new reality, looking back at how things used to be, does not allow for that muscle to develop. Looking back leads to second guessing and feelings of uncertainty. Stay away from analyzing what was. Focus on the goal of what you want and what will be.

Patience is a Virtue

Sometimes we want everything right away. Recognize that growth is an evolution, and it doesn’t happen overnight.

I have learned in my life that we are not dropped onto the perfect path. Sometimes we need to find our own way. The growth that comes from that journey and search can be the biggest reward ever. Combating the fear of change can be difficult. But don’t let that fear be the thing that holds you back from a life better than you could ever imagine.

I invite you to share your experience of overcoming the fear of change in the comments. You can also join in the conversation on Facebook and Instagram for inspiration.

To our health and wellbeing,

Karen

Fear of Change

We are only a few weeks away from the scariest of all nights of the year, Halloween. Although we joke and jest about Halloween, and the traditional acts of scaring others by dressing up as witches and warlocks, fear is not a joking matter for many. Fear is a real and daily demon.

Anxiety is intrinsically linked to our survival instincts. Giving it up seems inconceivable for many that suffer. Most people tell me they want to be less anxious, however when asked what they would like to do to change their anxiety, their response is, “But I hate change.”  What they are really saying is that they want the benefits of change, as long as they don’t have to make the actual changes. For them the fear of change is too great.

Change means that you have to do something new, amend your habits, develop new ways of thinking and create a new way of being. It’s about holding your own hand while you step into the unknown. There are no shortcuts or free passes.  The process requires that you get comfortable with being uncomfortable and with making sacrifices.

So why are we hardwired to be afraid of change even when we recognize that it would be good for us? Why do we fail at change over and over again?  And why do we procrastinate to make the changes that will lead us to a better, more fulfilled life?

Top Excuses that Prevent Change

Here are the top excuses I hear that keep people from moving forward with their lives:

I Will Be Uncomfortable

It is natural to fear discomfort.  It’s hardwired into us.  However, if you want change than you must recognize that you are already uncomfortable with your life, your health, your relationships, your career, or your finances. Moving towards a new way of living is simply about feeling uncomfortable in a different way, so you can get to where you truly want to be. Isn’t it more reasonable to opt for temporary uncomfortableness that will lead to positive changes versus being uncomfortable with a negative aspect of your being for the rest of your life?

I May Not Succeed

The fear of failure permeates all of our society in so many ways. It is wrapped up with feelings of embarrassment, humiliation, or awkwardness. Fear of failure keeps great ideas unfertilized and people stuck in routine and boredom. It takes courage to realize that this fear is irrational and to not bow to its pressure. Where would we be if Thomas Edison had succumbed to the fear of failure and did not attempt to invent the lightbulb over a thousand times! What great ideas are you backing away from because of your fear of failure?

It Takes Work

If you usually spend your life playing it safe and sticking within your comfort zone, you will miss all the possibilities of what could be. Risk enhances your life. However, taking risks involves effort. It takes effort to prepare for that new job interview, to learn that new skill, or to stop that unhealthy eating habit. Sometimes the biggest risk however, is making no effort to change your life at all.

Others May Criticize Me

Ignoring the criticism of others is a necessary skill to adopt, especially if you are serious about wanting to change your life. You must accept that others will laugh at you, criticize you and chastise you. The interesting fact is that the people who are doing the criticizing are often the ones who would rather sit on the sidelines. And they want you to sit on the sidelines with them. If you are serious about change, you will have to accept that comments, sometimes not nice ones, from others are inevitable.

I Don’t Know What The New Way Will Be Like

People are naturally afraid of anything that is new or different. It’s completely normal. When change feels overwhelming, it’s a good idea to recognize that there are many aspects of your life that are not changing. You will always have your trusted friends, family, abilities, talents etc. While one part of our life may be changing there are other parts that will be staying the same. Knowing this can be reassuring and may be just the foundation you need to step forward, towards your big vision.

Take a moment to honestly consider whether a fear of change is holding you back. Is there a happier, healthier, wealthier, calmer you out there waiting for you to take the necessary steps?  My next blog will address how you can overcome your fear of change so that you can truly experience how different your life can be.

I invite you to share your experience with worrying in the comments. You can also join in the conversation on Facebook and Instagram for inspiration.

To our health and wellbeing,

Karen

How Soft Eyes Can Reduce the Feelings of Anxiety

I have vivid memories of my many heightened experiences with anxiety. Triggered by an event (which many times was outside of my awareness), my relentless negative self-talk would start up and be something I could not stop. Typically, it was worries of a negative outcome, a perceived failure or an anticipated altercation with someone. Certainly the thought, I’m not good enough, was at the centre of most of my internal dialogue.

Interestingly enough, when I felt anxious, I took on behaviour as if a real predator was actually threatening me. My eyes would dart back and forth, desperately looking for the danger. I was acting as if a prowling lion was stalking toward me. I have now learned that this is a completely normal behavioural response to feelings of fear or anxiety. This behaviour is hardwired into us; the mind cannot tell the difference between being scared due to an actual predator, or from something imagined.

After years of trying to manage my anxiety, I discovered if I defocused my eyes while experiencing anxiety my emotions would calm down. A wonderful sense of connection would begin and my heart rate would start to slow. I soon began to defocus my eyes at work, when I was feeling anxious, or at home when things got overwhelming. It was a great take along when I was on long flights to reduce any sense of nervousness.

Technique for Reducing Anxiety: Defocusing Your Eyes

Here is all you need to know to start doing this technique yourself. Pick an object to focus on somewhere near you. It can be anything, like a chair or book. The size or shape of the object doesn’t matter.

Next, stare at the object with all of your concentration. While you are staring, take note of what happens to the muscles in your face and also to your breathing. Then, instead of staring at the object, start to “look” at it, while allowing yourself to notice the other objects in the room without looking directly at them, and while maintaining your gaze on the primary object. What do you notice about your tension and your breathing? They have decreased, haven’t they?

You can use this technique anytime you feel overwhelming emotions creeping up and certainly if you struggle with anxiety. You will soon see that you can reduce the negative feelings within your body, allowing you to behave and think differently. And isn’t that all that we are searching for? An easy and healthy way to feel differently now!

I invite you to share your experience with worrying in the comments. You can also join in the conversation on Facebook and Instagram for inspiration.

To our health and wellbeing,

Karen

Do Autumn Differently This Year

Autumn Is On The Way

Can you feel the change in the air? My mother always used to ask me this around this time of the year. And she was right. There is a shift in the air at this time of year. Somehow, it feels less intense outside, even though temperatures can still reach as high as they did at the peak of the summer. There is a coolness that catches you every once in a while.  Sleeping at night is easier. Windows can be open and we do not need to rely incessantly on our air conditioners. All of these signs point directly to the return of children to school and for us adults, the return to a more routine way of life. Even for those of us who either do not have children, or have children that are grown and done with the school system, the approach of autumn means a return to a way of life that is usually more stressed and more demanding. The long days of summer, with their “whatever” attitude, are starting to pack their bags and head to more southerly regions.

Do Autumn Differently This Year

For some, the return to the regular routine of life means the return to the familiar feelings of stress and anxiety. But what if we enter autumn differently this year, and avoid those unwanted feelings altogether? If you are game for this new approach, start with gaining awareness. Catch the feelings as they start to creep up on you. Notice where in your body you feel the tension. Is it in your neck? Your jaw? Maybe it’s in your stomach. Become aware of thoughts you are saying, either out loud or to yourself silently, that are negative, predict a pending doom, or a sense of overwhelm.

After you become aware, stop and congratulate yourself. Awareness is always the first step towards change. And now for some deep breathing. Amazingly, something as simple as deep breathing can help reduce stress and anxiety and calm you when you are feeling overwhelmed.

Find Time to Breathe Deeply

When we feel stressed, the body does what it is naturally designed to do, it goes into flight or fight mode. For some this results in an elevated heartbeat, tension in the body, or shallow breathing. The key is to change how the body reacts. The best way to do this is to change our breathing. When we feel better, we can think better.

It’s All About Technique

There is a proper technique to deep breathing. Find a place where you are comfortable, such as a chair or lying on your back. Make sure you are in a quiet place, free from distractions. Put one hand on your stomach and the other hand on your chest and take a deep, slow breath in through your nose. Notice the hand on your stomach rises. Now breathe out through pursed lips, just like you are blowing candles out on a birthday cake. Next, do a slow, full exhale. Do this for two to three minutes. Practise as much as you can and you will soon realize that you can encourage a sense of well-being whenever you need it.

So remember as we move into this new season; something as simple as breathing differently can result in feeling differently instantly.

I invite you to share your experience with worrying in the comments. You can also join in the conversation on Facebook and Instagram for inspiration.

To our health and wellbeing,

Karen

Fall Back into Routine to Reduce Anxiety

It’s that time of year when we get back into our routines, whether it be work, exercise, eating or school, after enjoying a couple months sabbatical. Even if you don’t have children returning to school, September symbolizes a fresh start. For many people, work and school are sources of high stress and continuous anxiety. And, since ignoring them is not a practical solution, why not implement some simple and effective lifestyle habits that can greatly reduce the anxiety that may arise from daily circumstances.

In this newsletter edition, you will receive 5 effective anxiety-reducing strategies that you can start implementing right away.

Strategy 1: Make Sure Your Diet is Balanced

A poor diet deprives your body of the important nutrients it needs to function optimally. Maintaining a poor diet for an extended period of time forces the body to compensate by raising the stress-hormone cortisol. Chronic high-stress levels can wreak havoc on overall health and wellbeing. So it’s important to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet consisting of protein, fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats.

Drinking enough water daily in order to stay hydrated, and limiting or avoiding alcohol and caffeine will also help relieve anxiety. Complex carbohydrates metabolize slowly, and therefore help maintain a more even blood sugar level, creating a calmer feeling.

If you cannot commit to eating a balanced meal every day, have a supply of meal replacement bars or shakes available as an alternative.

Strategy 2: Get Physical

There are two amazing benefits from being physically active. First, it releases endorphins immediately into the body. Endorphins are the feel-good hormones that long distance runners enjoy and promote.  Any level of physical activity can start the release of endorphins meaning you do not need to be a marathon runner to get the benefits. Consider what you can commit to daily to get our body moving. Maybe it’s a walk, or a bike ride, or a short visit to the local gym. Whatever you can do to get moving will make you feel better and less stressed.

Secondly, exercise takes your focus off of whatever is stressing you out. Switching your attention to something else gives your brain a chance to take a break. You may be surprised at the perspective that comes from not thinking about your problem!

Strategy 3: Sleep Baby!

There is not enough good to say about the powerful effects of sleep. We live in a sleep-deprived society, due to our fast-paced and demanding lifestyles. And sleep deprivation is a sure fire way to generate a bad mood and feed our anxious feelings. Moreover, a lack of sleep can throw off cortisol rhythms and mix up the body’s circadian clock. Anyone who has flown internationally can relate to how difficult it is to feel good when your internal time clock is out of whack.

Aim for at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night to minimize anxiety. If you are having trouble getting to or staying asleep try taking some of the natural sleep aids available at your local drug store.

Strategy 4: Set a Daily Routine

One of the best ways to avoid feeling anxious is to develop a daily routine and a to-do list. Start with a morning routine which ensures that you wake up early enough to get everything done that you need to before heading off to work or school. Waking up late is a guaranteed way to start your day with anxiety.

Many people get anxious because their schedule is either too rushed or sporadic, and there is no time for themselves within their daily activities. There should be enough time within your morning routine to either read a bit, do some exercise and/or enjoy a nutritious breakfast. Starting your day in a calm, relaxed way will set it up for success.

Strategy 5: Meditation

Meditation is more than just sitting with your eyes closed. It is the practice of training your mind to let thoughts come and go without fixating on any thought in particular. It takes practice and as with all good habits, it takes some time to develop. Be patient with yourself and encourage yourself to keep at it.

Picture yourself watching cars on a busy highway rushing past, and you have to take notice of every license plate. That would be exhausting and impossible. Now, what if you could stand there, ignore the cars, and instead focus on something in the distance. Maybe a sunset or a beautiful, magnificent tree. That would be much more calming, wouldn’t it? Meditation is an amazing skill to use when you have anxiety. As your anxious thoughts about yesterday, tomorrow, five years from now race in and out of your mind, being able to slow down your thoughts and focus on a calming image greatly reduces the level of anxiousness. Training your mind to be in the present is vital to managing anxiety.

For more discussion on anxiety, what it is, why we feel anxiousness and how it can be managed, please click on the links to either of my blogs below.

Log onto my website at www.itcanbedifferent.ca and download a free tool called Focus and Peace. This audio file will teach you how to overcome anxiousness instantly.

Come and see me at the Empowering Women to Succeed Conference on September 25th. Go to http://empoweringwomentosucceed.com/conference2018 and book your complimentary 30-minute session.

My New Favorite List – A List of Accomplishments!

August is here already

Did you wake up last week like, “How has over half of the year already passed?” Did you have a bit of a panic regarding all the things you wanted to accomplish in 2018 that don’t seem to be hitting the finish line? Well, I did.  I have big plans for this year, which is very exciting and sometimes frightening. I live however, by the mantra, if you don’t have a goal, you can be certain you won’t achieve it. So, why not put it out there? Put that dream, accomplishment, or achievement on a piece of paper (yes, I’m still old school) and go for it.

I often think of hockey players and wonder if they could stay motivated and driven to play their very best if they were just shooting and passing the puck around. What if there was no net, no goal, no point to be earned? Once you stick that net on the ice, there is a whole new motivation. So, my goalie net is my to do list.

And now for a confession. I love, love, love crossing things off my list! I love the feel of the big black sharpie (yes, I use a sharpie!) making a thick, black horizontal line across the page. I also love the sense of accomplishment and completion when this is done. I’ll let you in on a little secret … sometimes, I put things on my list I’ve already completed just so I can cross them off. Wow, that was huge for me to admit!

It’s the Journey, Not the Destination that is Important

The other day I was thinking about my lists, and where I’ve gotten with them so far this year and I had an epiphany. I had totally forgotten that it is about the journey and not the destination. I hadn’t taken any time to celebrate what I had already completed.  I had simply dismissed my accomplishments. I had written them off, forgotten about them.  I wasn’t feeling gratitude for what had already transpired. And then I remembered, if I want more black sharpie lines on my many lists I need to STOP focusing on what is next, and START feeling appreciative for what I’ve already done. I needed to remind myself that gratitude is the strongest form of sustaining momentum and flow.

List of Accomplishments

Now I am attempting to balance the attention I give to upcoming duties, tasks, goals and the things that I’ve already succeeded at. How? I decided to start a list of my accomplishments! Instead of drawing a thick, black line through what I’ve completed, so that it is blacked out and unable to be seen, I transfer this item to a new, fresh list posted on my wall. My list of accomplishments. And then I take time everyday to look at this list and feel grateful for having the energy, ability, attention, intention and dedication to accomplish it all. This has made a huge difference in how I feel most of the time.

So instead of feeling panic about the fact that over half of the year has passed by, I feel masterful, talented and confident that in the upcoming months I will add more and more items to my new favourite list.

I still make ‘to do’ lists at a ridiculous rate, and I still love doing so, but my accomplishment list has also made it into my heart.  I see the power that it can have in moving me forward. Just as energy brings about more energy, I like to think that accomplishments brings about more accomplishments.

 

What have you accomplished this year that you can celebrate?  It doesn’t matter if it’s big or small, I would love to hear from you in the comments below!

 

I invite you to share your experience with worrying in the comments. You can also join in the conversation on Facebook and Instagram for inspiration.

To our health and wellbeing,

Karen