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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

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

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

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

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

How to Shake Off a Bad Mood

Do you ever feel your bad mood is just impossible to shake off?  That it seems as if it has a grip on you and is out of your control?  Positive thinking and affirmations are just not working to move past this bad mood?

Why is this?  Why is it that sometime our moods are resistant to our positive thinking?

Well, there are two components to a mood.  Firstly, there is your thinking, which includes your mental images and self-talk. Secondly, there is your physiology.  By physiology, I do not just mean your posture, but your entire body.  These two components feed each other, and each strengthens the other.  It is like a back and forth relationship.This means that you have to change both your thinking and your physiology to get out of a bad mood

Why Does Positive Thinking Alone Sometimes Just Not Work?

I bet you have heard the saying that you just need to think positive thoughts to get out of a bad mood.  Many of us who want to have a positive outlook and truly believe in the benefits of being positive are spending a lot of time and energy attempting to think positive thoughts as a way to manage our moods.  So, we make sure that we imagine happy encounters, scenarios, outcomes and interactions.  And then we say to ourselves: “cheer up, look on the bright side, there is always a lesson in everything”.

Now if a fairly strong negative mood has a grip on us and it has lasted days or even just hours, then this positive thinking and self-talk is just not going to have much of an impact.  The reason is that the physiology of the mood is too powerful.

That is why, once we recognize that our positive thinking is not working, we often just give up. This allows the negative mood to just keep going.

However, when positive thinking alone is not working, it simply means that we are not going about it in the right way.

Get Physical

The quickest and easiest way to shake off a bad mood is to start with changing your physical body.  This opens up the pathway to have clearer and more positive thinking.   Once you have physically loosened things up, you can more easily deal with your thoughts.

Here is a checklist of things to check and change:

1. Posture:

Scan your body and check for tension.  Stretch out wherever you feel tension, whether it is in your back, shoulders, neck.  Make sure you are standing and sitting straight with shoulders back and head up.

2. Facial Tension:

Your face can hold a lot of tension, especially in the brow and jaw area.  Check on these places and see if you are holding tension there and if so, stretch it out.

3. Physical Movement:

Begin by sitting less and walking more.  So many of us spend considerable time sitting in our cars or in front of screens.  Our bodies are meant to be physically active however, our modern-day lifestyles do not support this.  Get up and move for a couple of minutes each hour.  Check your posture every hour or so to make sure you are not slumping or slouching.  If you use a computer every day, try standing more while you are on it and also take time to look away and stretch your eye muscles.  Sitting less will affect your mood.  Try it for a week or two and see the results for yourself.

4. Singing:

Wherever and whenever you feel comfortable, like when you are alone driving, or you are home alone, use the opportunity to sing.  Sing happy songs that have a lively rhythm and notice how your mood changes.  Songs that are associated with happy memories are the best to sing and will give you the extra boost of a positive memory to associate with.  The other benefit of singing aloud is that it blocks internal self-talk, and it is the inner self talk that is maintaining the negative mood.

5. Smile:

This is really a no-brainer.  Smiling is just a powerful outward and inward expression of positivity.  If you smile, chances are someone is going to smile back at you and that adds the benefit of you receiving the good feelings of the other person’s positivity.  Smiling also internally turns on so many positive brain receptors that it floods your body with positive chemicals.

Move Yourself into a Better Mood

These physical techniques for feeling good are useful tools and can be easily integrated into your daily life.  By changing your physicality you will soon notice that you feel better.  And when you feel better you will start to think more positively and the bad mood will disappear… and then things can start to be different.

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