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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

Disclaimer and Privacy Policy

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

The Secret to Happiness

Everyone wants to be happy.  Just ask anyone “what do you want most in life” and they will more than likely answer, “to be happy”. What is this happiness craze all about anyway and how do we go about being happy?

My Personal Struggle with Happiness

I have found myself caught up in the happiness craze.  I have spent lots of energy in the form of either time or money in the pursuit of it.  Often times, I thought that buying another pair of shoes will bring me happiness.  Or maybe losing the 10lbs of weight that has been hanging around my hips will make me happy.  Or better yet, maybe the next relationship will do it.

I have to say that each of those achievements did bring me some happiness however it was a fleeting experience.  It lasted for only short period of time and before long, I was right back feeling the same way I was before I either purchased the item, lost the weight, or started the relationship.

My Father’s Wise Words

I have come to realize that the best lesson on how to become and stay happy was being delivered every single day by my dad when I was growing up.  Obviously, living at home allowed me to see how my dad was but I never equated his behaviour and daily habits to why he was such a happy man.  Well, not until recently.

My dad was a man that did a few things really, really well and consistently and I think it was his formula for his happiness.  First of all, he was grateful every day for things that were in his life.  Often he would say things like, “I sure am a lucky guy”!  Was he saying this because he had the latest sports car or because we  just moved into a new, upgraded home.  No.  My family lived very modestly so it wasn’t riches and possessions that he was referring to.  My dad just felt truly appreciative  for everything he had in his life even if they were simple and inexpensive.

My dad made a habit out of making the same choice every single day and he did it before he got up in the morning.  I remember him talking to me about this  when I was a young girl. I didn’t really understand what he was getting at then, however now I see the true power in it.

He told me that every morning, before he put his feet on the floor to start his day he made a conscious choice to be happy.  He said that we all have the power to choose how we will approach the upcoming day, either with positivity or negativity.  He said that he always chose the positive option because it made the day go easier for both himself and everyone else.  He also said that choosing to be positive does not guarantee the day will go well, however “it sure increases the chances that it will”.  And you can’t argue with that logic!

Choose to be Happy

My dad and how he lived his life has shown me that it isn’t success that brings happiness per se but that happiness brings success regardless of how you define it.  Following a few key daily habits like counting your blessings and consciously choosing happiness as a way of being can propel anyone towards a much happier life and none of these things cost money and we can all choose to do them starting right now.

Even when money was tight at home or problems arose, my dad always seemed to be happy and content.  I know now that he wasn’t acting or just seeming to be happy, he truly was happy because he did a few simple yet conscious things every day that propelled him towards genuine lasting happiness.

Until Next Time

Watch for my next blog where I will talk about what formal research is telling us about how to achieve happiness.  I will share more strategies that, if practiced daily can make a significant, noticeable and measurable impact on how truly happy you feel each and every day. And as always, 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? 

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

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

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