We all know how worry feels. It is an uncomfortable feeling triggered by a thought of the worst-imagined outcome. This results in feeling uneasy, a belief of not being safe, and a fear of not being capable of handling the future.
That feeling of worry is prompted by a series of negative thoughts that then develop into gloomy mental images. Because, those worrying thoughts are focused on undesirable outcomes, there is a natural and frantic step into rapid problem solving that follows. The relentless scanning for answers in our neurology leaves us feeling overwhelmed, and if it lasts, we can experience fear and even panic.
Human beings have the outstanding ability to mentally rehearse future events. This ability to think ahead means that we can anticipate obstacles or problems that allow us to take appropriate pre-planned action. When this ability to think ahead is used in this manner, it is adaptive, productive, and highly-ecological for self and others.
However, when this ability is used to the extreme and it becomes focused on a relentless negative hypothetical scenario making that leaves one feeling anxious or apprehensive. Then it it can turn to be maladaptive and unproductive. The key is recognizing where and when you take on maladaptive future thinking. It is the first step in combating unnecessary and damaging worry.
Worry During COVID-19
It’s tough not to be worried during the current pandemic. And it’s even harder to be productive and positive each day while going through all of the uncertainty. Anxiousness and stress are dominating many people’s lives right now and distracting them from focusing on the generous current moment where life is truly lived. Having a strategy to handle worry when it shows up is a smart step forward towards peace and towards controlling how you are living your life right here, right now.
Here are 4 of the top tips for handling worry during COVID-19:
Imagine putting your worries in a box.
This is all about you controlling when and how you worry and to stop being a victim to your emotional state. To gain control over the feeling of worry, follow these easy and fun steps. Recognize that by implementing this method, you are allowing yourself to live worry-free for the majority of your day.
Step 1: Write down any worry that comes into your awareness on a piece of paper during the day. Be as specific about the feeling of worry as possible.
Step 2: Put the pieces of paper containing your worries into a designated worry box.
Step 3: Choose a time of day (preferably the same time each day and no longer than 30 minutes) to allow yourself to read each of your worries and to give them some attention.
Step 4: After you have read your worry it may no longer feel like a concern. If so, throw the worry in the garbage. If it still feels concerning, give yourself some time (around 5 minutes) to contemplate the worry. Put the worry back in the worry box if you feel that it needs more attention tomorrow.
Examine the thoughts that are triggering the worry
Recognize the extreme thinking that is fueling each worry that you have written down. More than likely the worry will be centered around an overestimation that everything will go badly or conversely an underestimation that things will go well. You most likely will have used words such as always, never, everything, everyone, all, no one, every or forever. You may have also used words such as can’t, won’t, shouldn’t, must, must not, or need to.
Next, ask yourself some challenging questions about each worry. Ask such questions such as: “how do I know for sure”, “what if something different happened”, “what are some facts that do not support my thinking.”
Re-write each worry
Rewrite each worry in a more positive and realistic way. Recognize the probability of the feared outcome is probably very low and so now focus on the more likely outcome. Focus on the result that is most desired by you, the one you truly want to become your reality.
Recognize what is outside of your control and then let it go
Worries that are adaptive are usually ones that can you can approach with meaningful, productive, actionable steps. For example, if you were worried about not making your flight on time tomorrow, you can take steps to reduce that worry by checking-in online, pre-arranging a taxi, packing the night before, and so on.
If the worry is unsolvable or outside of your control to fix, then it is best to accept the uncertainty. This is the wheelhouse for most chronic worriers and where they need to do most of their work.
Worrying is often an attempt to predict the future to prevent unpleasant surprises and to control outcomes. The problem is that it does not work, it never has and it never will. Worrying about all of the ways that things could go wrong does not make life more predictable, it just keeps you from enjoying the good times that are right in front of you now.
To read more about handling uncertainty during the current pandemic, watch for my next blog coming out soon.
If you are interested in how my proprietary coaching program Rewire Your mind® can help you step away from worry and into a more joy-filled life, sign up for a complimentary consultation on my website.
And as always, I invite you to join in on the conversation on Facebook and Instagram.
To Your Health and Wellbeing,
It was an honour to be chosen to be a co- panelist at this year’s Newmarket Chamber Women in Business Luncheon, along with Erin Cerenzia from Magna Neighbourhood Network and Jennifer Walker from Carruthers Financial. Both women had inspirational messages about corporate social responsibility and personal financial management. I led a discussion on living with anxiety and gave some insights and learnings from my own personal life experiences.
Living with Anxiety
Some of the key points outlined in my talk were:
- Anxiety is our natural response to a perceived direct threat to our wellbeing. Whenever we sense a threat to our wellbeing our natural flight or fight response kicks in. This triggers our sympathetic nervous system and releases a cascade of hormones into our body such as adrenaline and epinephrine. These hormones cause a change in heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension and eyesight.
- Anxiety becomes a problem when our flight or fight response is triggered by cues that are not threatening at all – either physically or otherwise. This is called an imagined threat as opposed to a real threat. This is known a maladaptive anxiety.
- Maladaptive anxiety sets off “what if”, worse-case scenario thinking.
- Maladaptive anxiety can also trigger a core negative belief(s) that is based in our unconscious thinking about ourselves.
- This maladaptive anxiety is causing the same body response as adaptive anxiety that is caused by a real threat.
- One of the key differences between maladaptive and adaptive anxiety is that unlike adaptive anxiety, maladaptive is not founded in reality or truth. It is chronic and never ending.
- The key to reducing the experience of maladaptive anxiety and experiencing relief from the feeling of it in our body is to address the core negative beliefs that are deep in our unconscious thinking.
- Addressing these negative core beliefs can be done through a number of approaches, one of them being through the recognized somatic treatment offered by NLP.
If you are interested in knowing how my coaching can help you manage your emotional state so that you are experiencing more joy and less fear, sign up for a complimentary consultation.
To our Health and Wellbeing,
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.
How can you practice imagination today? What in your life can you build an imaginary story around? What’s stopping you from imagining – nothing!
To our Health and Wellbeing,
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.
To our Health and Wellbeing,
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,
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.
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,
What is Anxiety?
The Fight or Flight Response
Anxiety Can Be Lethal in the Long Run
To our health and wellbeing,
It has been a difficult start to 2019 for me.
I 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 opportunity for 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.
To our health and wellbeing,
Here is a question for you. In general, do you tend to respond or do you tend to react to life? At first you may say, “Aren’t they the same thing?” Actually, they are not and how you perceive their difference can have a huge impact on how happy you are. It did for me. On my journey out of relentless anxiety, the above question about responding or reacting catapulted my transformation towards healing.
When I started my journey out of anxiety, I was not even aware that every day I was choosing how I was thinking about my life. Wasn’t life just happening to me? I thought I was supposed to just respond to it in the best way I could? Wasn’t I just a helpless victim? I clearly saw my life as a random set of happenstances that I had to find a way to deal with the best I could.
During my experience with transformational coaching, I began to see that my life was not a force outside of my control and by stepping up to the fact that I could always choose how I was going to respond to anything that was occurring, that I indeed had control of my life. In any situation, good or bad, I could always choose the most empowering response for myself. For the first time in my life, I felt both powerful and calm at the same time!
The Hard Truth
And then one day I was told something by my coach which was initially upsetting however it was exactly what I needed to hear, “Karen”, she said, “your life, as it exists today, is the sum total of all of the conscious and unconscious decisions you have made to date.” What? I was responsible for my shitty life! It took some time for me to accept this notion of responsibility fully and completely and when I finally did, it was liberating. As a matter of fact, it is perhaps the single most liberating thing I have ever done. I was off the hook for playing the victim. Although I didn’t like where I had directed my life to at that point, the single act of taking responsibility was empowering.
The Responsibility is Ours
To take full responsibility for both our past and current experiences is indeed empowering because when we blame others or situations, we are giving our power away. And when we do that, we are saying that something outside of ourselves is causing a reaction within us. When we take ownership of our response, even when others are at fault or are wrong, we control both our behaviour and our life’s direction.
Over the years since my experience with transformational coaching, I have made a clear switch in my thinking. Negative stuff still does happen and it happens to all of us, however it is how we respond, and how we view the circumstances and conditions that makes the difference between happiness and no happiness.
Are you ready for happiness to show up? And are you ready to respond and not react? If you are, learn more about how transformational coaching can move you from victim to controller of your life.
To our health and wellbeing,
Karen Spencer, Life Coach and Practitioner is a legal Complementary Healthcare Provider, and not a licensed Medical Doctor, Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Masters in Family and Child Counseling (MFCC), or a Masters in Social Work (MSW). The client understands that the Practitioner is not providing psychological or medical advice and that any services provided should in no way replace sound treatment from a licensed healthcare provider.