Everywhere we look in today’s world it seems we are bombarded with stressful messages about the state of the world. So much of what we are reading or viewing is out of our control. What we can control though is what we choose to watch or listen to. If you have been finding yourself feeling more anxious, stressed or agitated than normal, observe what media you have been exposing yourself to. Follow these simple steps to start shifting your focus.
- Wake up and take a few moments to open your eyes, breathe and visualize or mediate briefly.
- Have a healthy breakfast and stretch or exercise if you have time before you check your phone, email or social media.
- Block sites that you notice trigger worry or agitation.
- Choose to avoid the news, focus instead on uplifting articles or stories they are just as real.
- At the end of the day turn off your phone, email and social media.
If you find your mind continues to race, your mood is angry you feel depressed or anxious for more than a few days seek professional help. Therapists like myself have a variety of techniques such as; thought work, hypnotherapy and mind/body techniques to help you resolve anxious or depressed moods. Very often clients I work with begin to feel better right away.
It is late at night and as you climb into bed much later than you had hoped you mentally review everything you have to do the next day. That list is full of things to do from your kids to your employer, your spouse, your family and even your pets but nowhere in there is You.
Does this sound familiar? You start to wonder why you are getting so short with everyone or spontaneously bursting into tears. Or maybe you find yourself hiding in the pantry shoving sweet or salty things quickly into your mouth or having that extra beer or glass of wine. Your migraines or backaches flair up or you just can’t seem to drag yourself out of bed.
Never fear, even a few minutes a day of You Time can dissolve that stress and resentment you might be carrying around. Here are a few quick ways to find some solace.
- Take a few extra minutes in the shower or bath and treat yourself to soap or shower gel with essential oils. Lavender is relaxing, citrus is refreshing, peppermint awakens your senses. Breathe in the fragrance of the essential oil you have chosen, close your eyes and experience what you feel. Where does your mind float off to? Just be with what ever comes up, no need to try and think or do anything.
- Find any patch of sun, take off your sunglasses and feel the sun on your face, your hands your fingers. Notice the sensation of the sun warming you. Breathe deeply and name any scent you are aware of, any sensations your body is feeling, anything you hear. Stay there quietly breathing for a few minutes.
- If you or a neighbour has a pet, quietly sit with that pet and feel the softness of their fur or feathers. Imagine breathing in time with them. Experience the exchange of energy between the two of you, do nothing.
- Leave your phone at home, office or in your bag. Find a park bench and simply sit and look at the blades of grass around you. Can you notice the textures and the colours? Are the blades all the same or slightly different? What colour are the flowers around you or the leaves on the trees? What sound does the wind flowing through the trees remind you of?
- Find a patch of dirt, your garden, a community garden a neighbours garden and pull some weeds just focussing on the act of your fingers gently pulling the weeds out of the earth. Inhale deeply paying attention to the rich scent of the earth. If you are able, plant flowers or vegetable and listen to the sound of the water as you moisten them.
- Find a tennis ball or other small ball and play catch against a wall. Feel the sensation of releasing the ball and closing your hand around it as you catch. Notice the sound of the ball hitting the pavement and the wall. Watch the ball bouncing towards the wall and back to you.
- Sit on a swing and just let your body remember the feeling of being free and floating and you swing back and forth. As you swing find a cloud in the sky and identify the shape that it is, what does that remind you of? What do the other clouds look like?
These are some simple, fast and effective ways to reconnect with yourself in your busy life and let you know that you are important. Just the process of being present for a short moment begins to dissolve your everyday stress.
Dr Kenneth Cooper, an American medical doctor and former airforce colonel revolutionized our understanding of heart disease prevention. In his book Aerobics (1968) he outlined how people who are sedentary or have diseased hearts, have a limited amount a vascularization ( blood flowing in and out) of our hearts. When those limited pathways are blocked our hearts cannot receive necessary blood flow and oxygen which often results in heart attacks and death.
Dr Cooper discovered that short sessions (20 minutes) of aerobic activity a few times a week actually increased the number of pathways blood could take in and out of our hearts so if one pathway was blocked there were still options availability. This discovery spawned the craze of aerobic dance, Jazzercize, Richard Simmons, leg warmers, headbands and millions of people who did not die because they now felt empowered to be healthier.
I taught aerobic dance in the 80’s and not only was it a blast it also felt awesome to be encouraging all sorts of people who had never exercised to take fate into their hands and be healthy.
In a similar way our own personal thought process can default to a well trodden path of negativity. It can be such a familiar pathway that we often actually just believe that is the way things are. Have you ever been presented with an opportunity and instantly a thought pops into your mind…..I’m not capable of that….I’m not smart enough..not enough people will like me…that is not for people like me…and on and on.
The beliefs we think about ourselves can be like that blocked artery in our heart. With no new thinking we slowly are starved of self love, confidence, joy, appreciation and hold ourselves back from doing the things we so badly want to do.
The great news is that just like a 20 minute dance break can strengthen your heart, taking time to observe our thinking and grow new pathways in our brain can unblock our lives.
Challenging and exploring new outside the box thinking literally helps the Neurons in our brains brave uncharted trails forging multiple new pathways to default to.
The most exciting and rewarding work I do is to Coach clients in discovering alternative options for their thinking. It is such a rewarding experience watching in the beginning a bit of a puzzled look which morphs into a glowing smile and a total change of body posture as they relax into their new mindset of possibilities.
I was walking with two of my favourite women the other day. Both of these women are intelligent, creative and outwardly attractive people. It was an illuminating moment for me as we were walking and each randomly brought up a physical feature that they were hyper aware of. This feature about their appearance was really bothering them and I could tell that they had been very focused on finding a solution to their “problem”. The interesting part of this experience was that I had never been aware nor could see the actual physical problem bothering them.
It made me wonder how much of our time and energy we bypass from a positive focus in our life to a feature of our appearance that we believe is holding us back. Yet what if no one else can see it?
I have certainly met both women and men who were holding themselves back in life until they…lost the weight…got into shape…got healthy….fixed some other aspect of their physical appearance
Our thought limitations so powerfully create this belief that we can’t achieve the things that we want until….that elusive situation comes to be.
What if the beliefs holding us back are not actually true? What if somewhere in our mind we created this false belief that we have rehearsed so many times it feels like part of who we are?
If you notice you are constantly criticizing yourself, or having a silent conversation around waiting to begin what you really want – after …… is resolved, life could be on hold because of a limiting belief. Now imagine yourself in the same situation free of the belief that was holding you back. How is your life?
The idea of limiting beliefs is old school Cognitive Behavioral Therapy developed by Dr. Aaron Beck. Today there are new pioneers like Byron Katie who have managed to put a new spin on old work.
In my practice I have had an incredible amount of success helping people break through and dissolve beliefs holding them back from living a rich and satisfying life. Watching beliefs dissolve is amazing, it is almost as if people can finally and freely breathe deeply.
One of the principles of natural horsemanship is to work your horse in short bursts outside of his comfort zone. The idea is that the familiar no longer stimulates his learning, so moving from familiar to unfamiliar and right back to familiar sandwiches new learning between something he is comfortable with. Slowly his training zone encompasses what used to be scary, so that new experience becomes familiar.
Think about this principle in your life. Remember when that new job, new sport or new experience gave you an anxious or excited feeling and now it has become routine.
When was the last time you pushed yourself a little bit to venture into uncharted territory. We are not talking about something that will blow your mind, just something that when you imagine it is slightly uncomfortable.
Imagine that experience, something you really want to do. Now imagine deciding it is too….something, too risky, too scary, too new. Close your eyes and scan your body after deciding not to do it. Do you feel relieved or disappointed? If you feel disappointed this is something you are ready to lean into.
How do you begin?
- Make a concrete decision to engage in the experience, even if it feels scary.
- Create a simple plan to prepare for the experience. What are the skills necessary to complete the experience?
- Break those skills down into small manageable steps.
- Create a realistic timeline by enlisting the help of someone with experience in this area. For example if you have always wanted to go ballroom dancing, ask an instructor to outline the process and time involved for learning one or two dances. Does it involve weekly lessons? How many hours of practice generally to prepare?
- Set a timeline based on your simple steps for your first experience. Ask someone who has already lived the experience to give you an idea of a realistic timeline.
- Start small and work your way up. By beginning with smaller experiences you build up your skills and confidence to handle the bigger experiences.
Live your life! It feels invigorating to push a little outside your comfort zone.
Anne rose early every morning to make breakfast and lunch for her family, get the kids ready and off to school and then worked for eight hours as a customer service representative. After work she raced to pick up her kids at daycare and take them to soccer practice, swimming or karate. They ate in the car on the way there. During practice Anne rushed to do errands. Typically the family arrived home after 8:30 when she had to do laundry and get ready for the next day. On the weekends Anne took her mother shopping, sewed for extra money and tried to spend some time with her family.
Anne was having a hard time getting up, was feeling depressed and she and her husband were fighting a lot.
Jeremy worked for a large corporation and since it took over his old company the work pressures and targets had mounted significantly. He felt under pressure to perform, went in early, stayed late and was constantly on his phone or computer not wanting to miss opportunities for a sale. His partner felt like he was never present even when he was there. He started having chest pains and back aches. As this continued he realized he was getting increasingly short tempered and overly angry with his family.
When life pressures dictate unsustainable patters we fail to meet our own basic needs. The absence of our basic human needs very often results in emotional and physical symptoms.
Allow me to help you learn how to understand and meet your own needs so that you can enjoy a fulfilled life including positive relationships.
If you feel like you are not meeting your own needs, contact Jill.
It is no secret that technology is impacting our lives at rapid speed. In many ways technology is making your life easier but in some areas it is shifting the quality of our experience resulting in a palpable disconnection.
How many times of you seen people out to dinner where one or the other is on their phone?
The other day I drove past a mom , two young children on bikes laughing and their dad was walking and was on his phone. He was physically present for a valuable family experience yet he was completely disconnected from what was going on.
When we look into someone’s eyes and focus on them while talking, we signal to them that they matter, you are important and valuable to me is the message we convey. Unfortunately the allure of technology seems to shrinking the positive connecting experiences that people, family, friends, partners are having.
If you are a parent please consider that your child’s sense of value and worth is developing right now. That sense of self that they are developing will be with them for a lifetime. When you interact with them take time to focus on engaging with them and put down your devices.
For a husband or wife, give your partner time at the beginning, middle or end of them day when you focus on them for a conversation, a walk or another activity that is free of technology.
For a friend if you are meeting up, turn off your phone and enjoy being present in the experience of your friends.
Relationships grown stronger when we signal that we are engaged and interested, and they shrink when people are made to feel unimportant.
What is the magical ingredient that keeps people moving forward when their circumstances appears bleak? The answer is hope. Hope is the spark that ignites resilience in people. Whether they are struggling with a physical, emotional or spiritual challenge, the essence of hope keeps them moving forward.
I have seen these situations played out time and time again with clients who live with painful chronic conditions, serious family challenges and situations that have tested their faith. When they could easily have drifted down the easy path to depression, despair and helplessness, they instead chose a path of courage, hard work and discovery. Their hope is like a beacon that very often enables them to turn their situations around and create remarkable lives.
If you are struggling to find that spark, persevere and connect with someone like me, who will never give up encouraging you and working with you to discover the next possibility.
Recent studies have uncovered a link between childhood shyness and anxiety later in life .
These findings highlight the importance of helping our children increase their sense of self, understand their world of feelings and gain knowledge and experience managing their worry.
If you notice your child shying away from social activities like play dates or birthday parties, isolating themselves and other changes in their normal behaviour, they need help. Introduce them to a counsellor like myself who is trained in cognitive (conscious thinking mind) and mind/body ( subconscious feeling mind) techniques. Helping your child overcome their shyness can prevent them from suffering from future anxiety.
It’s approaching bedtime and you are starting to get nervous, worrying if you are going to be able to get to sleep. You check your phone for messages and a few last emails, finish watching the news and then get into bed. Your mind is racing and you are thinking about all of the important things that you have to do tomorrow and you need to be able to think. Throughout the night you keep looking at your clock counting the hours of sleep you can get if only you fall asleep now! In the morning you are tired, cranky and feeling less than resilient.
Does this sound like you?
A good night sleep I essential for allowing both your body and your mind to heal. Lack of sleep is correlated to decreased immunity, mood issues, poor concentration and relationship challenges.
Depriving humans of sleep is often used as an interrogation technique, a means of torture and “brainwashing”. It is very difficult to feel sharp, oriented and capable when you just want to cry because you are so exhausted.
After a short time of being in this cycle, not sleeping and the expectation of not sleeping can actually become a habit formed through repetition.
Through a combination of sleep hygiene, cognitive and mind body work we can release the pattern that has kept you awake and relearn a healthy process of going to sleep and sleeping well.