Find yourself in a rut sometimes? Here are some steps to get out of it.Read More
While the holidays are an amazing time of year for most, it can also be stressful. Here are 7 things to let go of in order to stress less during the holiday season.Read More
Just say no...
As I’ve mentioned before, I totally agree with the idea that sometimes saying "no" is saying "yes" to yourself.
I’ve personally learned through my experiences that listening to what my body needs and not resisting it brings me so much more comfort and a greater sense of overall well-being.
Here’s a recent example…
I was pretty busy last week, working longer days than usual and juggling unforeseen circumstances. I have learned through the years that if I choose to work long days, it is only temporary as it is not sustainable for me to do so over a significant period of time. I pay attention to my own energy -- despite the fact that there are gurus who indicate that we have to work ourselves into the ground to be "successful."
Last Saturday, I allowed myself some downtime earlier in the day curled up with a hot yerba mate, a book and a blanket. My partner Lauren and I went for a walk with the dog, and then on to an early dinner. I was looking forward to some downtime at home and being in for the night on a chilly evening.
Then a text comes through: Hey, we’re at the bar (that is a couple blocks from my house). Come on down!
Ugh. First, the nebulous “we.” As an introvert, the thought of a) going to a loud, noisy bar when I needed downtime and b) making small talk and being “on” with people I don’t know sounded draining to me when I needed time to nourish and replenish.
Don’t get me wrong! I absolutely LOVE and welcome the spontaneous text as an invite to hang out: “Hey! Grabbing a bite; what are you doing?”
That being said, when I planned downtime after two weekends in a row where I either had company or was out of town (and expecting more company and travel soon), I had to respect my own desire to lay low.
If some people think I’m antisocial, that’s totally ok with me as I know that’s not true. What matters to me is that I consciously choose activities that are NOURISHING to me rather than DRAINING. This will be especially important as the holiday season is officially upon us. I have developed a (fun) habit of asking myself if an activity is NOURISHING to my soul before I say yes.
What are your thoughts on this? How do you incorporate self-care in the activities you choose?
Be sure to share your insights below as your input can help others as well!
We can all learn and grow from our past. Sometimes experiences have left us hurting in some way. Although it can be tough to forgive people who have hurt us, it is possible and in fact it is the healthy thing to do. Every day that you do not forgive, you are hurting yourself - and literally your own health. It reminds me of the saying that it is like drinking poison thinking it will harm the other person.
Of course the mind and body are connected and should not be separated. Many studies have shown that holding grudges is bad for both your mental health and physical health. When you continue to hold a grudge, it causes inflammation internally, keeping you tense and stressed. (It also makes you more likely to develop symptoms of depression or anxiety.) I have talked in previous articles about how high levels of cortisol from stress - chronically - are horrible for your physical health. Holding grudges will eventually manifest in the form of an illness. Your overall wellbeing improves once you let go of any resentment.
Forgiving also gives a sense of empowerment as once you forgive you step out of the victim role and mentality. Choose to not let the other person control you. In the words of Gandhi, "Nobody can hurt me without my permission." (I think Eleanor Roosevelt also said something similar. :))
So how is that grudge serving you? Make the decision to move forward. You'll feel so much better when you do.
What to do? Become aware of what you've learned from that situation, accept your feelings without judgment and consider how holding the resentment is affecting your life. Accept the past, make the decision to move forward, put it behind you and let go. Wish this person (or people) love and light and move on. It’s not personal…how people react is a reflection of their own inner workings. Although forgiving does not justify what anyone has done, people do the best they can with what they have and in their current state of consciousness. Treat yourself with love and compassion; do this for yourself and your health. Journal, meditate and do anything else you feel you need to do to release your feelings. Ask for a miracle. If you feel you need to reach out for professional help, contact a mental health provider, pastor, healer or other helping professional. Visualize the feeling of inner peace you'll feel once you let go. You can do this, I promise. :)
What are your next steps? Be sure to share your insights on the below as your input can help others as well!
Look at a tree, a flower, a plant. Let your awareness rest upon it. How still they are, how deeply rooted in Being. Allow nature to teach you stillness. ~ Eckhart TolleRead More
As I've previously shared, one “a-ha” moment that I had several years ago was the notion that what you focus on expands. This also applies to language we use and words we speak.
When we first become mindful of our thoughts and language, it is easier to make some positive changes.
When we constantly complain or merely focus on what we perceive to be “wrong” in our lives, we will continue to see those things and attract the same.
This also goes with what we post on social media. What are we placing our energy on?
If you say things like “I’m so broke / unlucky / lonely ” (fill in the blank) it’s like you’re taking this on as a permanent label - a label that cannot be changed.
Psychologist Martin Seligman calls this type of thinking as “permanent pervasive,” which leans towards pessimism. These thoughts indicate we believe that this is how things are and we can’t change them. On a similar note, sociologist Corey Keyes found that “flourishers” have an “I can change” mindset.
Interestingly, Spanish even has its own differentiation of verb usage. For example, there is kind of a temporary “is” and a permanent “is.” (Personal side note and fun fact that you may not know: I have a BA in Spanish. :))
I know the statement above may be a harsh example (it didn’t even feel good to type it!), although I know there are negative tapes that sometimes play in our minds, and we give these limiting beliefs so much more power when we VERBALIZE them.
Labeling yourself can also bring on such as sense of shame.
Ultimately, we are asking the universe for what we believe. “And so it is.”
Be mindful of when you gossip. Surround yourself with positive people who are secure enough in themselves not to talk about others or put others down in order to feel better about themselves. Not to mention the law of karma…what we put out there comes right back to us.
If you have not yet read Don Miguel Ruiz’ The Four Agreements, do yourself a favor and do so. One of his “agreements” for life is to “be impeccable with your word.” This (along with the others) can be powerful and life changing.
So what are you focusing on with your language? On what circumstances do you place your energies?
Be mindful that there is always a ripple effect.
What have your experiences been in this area of being mindful of the language you use? Be sure to share them by posting a comment below. Your story can help others as well!
How’s it going?
I’ve really enjoyed hearing from folks who have been implementing some of the tips to reduce work stress!
I hear about work stress so often that I felt the need to do my part to help squash this epidemic (yes, I said epidemic!). :) So many people are working so much - and under high pressure - that their results are leading to feeling super drained after work, which runs into the quality of your personal life.
As previously mentioned, the high level of stress occurring CHRONICALLY causes wear and tear on our bodies and puts us at risk for illness. I review a ton of hospital medical records for my work at the Atlanta Regional Commission and the adverse health effects resulting from behavior, lifestyle and chronic stress are astounding. The prevalence of heart disease and hypertension (among other conditions) is though the roof. I don’t want this to be fear-based post or focus on that; what I would like to focus on is prevention and what we can do for ourselves to improve our overall well-being. With anything, we can make the decision to be responsible for ourselves and make healthy choices. That being said, here are a few more tips to reduce work stress:
~ Focus on what is going WELL and what you are grateful for. There are a lot of positives, and they will become apparent if you choose to look for them. When you find yourself down about your work, creating a list of these items will help you shift your perspective.
~ Honor your energy. Schedule the tasks that you feel take more focus and concentration during the times of the day when you feel you have the most energy. Schedule the lighter tasks during times when you generally feel less energetic. (As mentioned in other posts, of course do what you can to get to any root cause for low energy, too :). There is no need to fight or resist what you&rsquo ;re feeling as that can lead to feeling more drained and frustrated. You’ll find yourself more productive when you honor how your body feels.
~ Focus on one thing at a time. Yup, I know this is a tough one and I know that we’re always juggling multiple tasks. Give it a shot if you don’t do this already: block out a time for email only instead of responding to every email all day long as they come in. When you’re working on a project that requires focus, close all other windows if you’re working on a computer. I find that I’m more productive this way. Set a timer on your phone or computer and make an effort to focus in order to complete your project during that set period of time.
Final note: Be sure to take care of yourself outside of work and remember that you teach people how to treat you. If you answer a work email that arrives at 10pm - unless you’re on call or it’s absolutely necessary for your job - then people will come to expect that from you. You don’t have to put other people’s priorities before yours or your well-being. The email can usually wait for a response until the next day. So I chose the tips from this series from a bigger list I created as I feel they are some of the most effective.
What other mechanisms do you have in place for self-care in the workplace? Please share your ideas by commenting below!
Want personalized support with this or other areas of your life? I'm here to HELP you! All you have to do is hit the contact link above to say hello and we'll set up a get acquainted call. :)
As promised, I’m following through on my “stress at work” series with a few more tips. I’m making this short and concise because I know you’re busy and again so you can have time to implement!
As one of the main concerns that I hear on a daily basis is feeling stress at work, whether the location is an office environment, at home or elsewhere. Given that most people have their plates full and seem to work long hours, self-care is especially critical for your health and well-being. The following are three more ways to decrease your stress level at work:
- Let go of what you cannot control. Remember that you have control over your own actions and behavior. You do not have control over other forces or over others’ behavior. And how other people react to you is their reality. Do your best to excel at what you can control and make a decision to let go of everything else.
- Get physical, especially if you work a desk job. Take short walks. Stretch. Get some fresh air. Research (and implement) desk yoga poses and stretches you can do. Making a conscious effort to do this will do get the oxygen flowing to your brain and also wonders for your mind, body and soul.
- Create uplifting self-care rituals throughout the day. Treat yourself to your favorite hot tea and use peppermint essential oil for a boost in focus and concentration. Some people listen to their favorite music. Make a list of “mood boosters” that you can pull out at any given moment at work so you have them handy when you feel you could use them.
Sometimes we forget about self-care and get in the same routines every day. When you make a conscious effort to decrease your stress level, you health and well-being will thank you!
Please feel free to share insights and next steps below!
To experience peace does not mean that your life is always blissful. It means that you are capable of tapping into a blissful state of mind amidst the normal chaos of a hectic life. ~ Jill Bolte Taylor
One of the main concerns that clients come to me with is being stressed out at work.
When we continually over-extend ourselves, it can lead to physical and mental exhaustion. We are expected to do more with less. When we sacrifice our own well-being, it creates a ripple effect that can lead to illness and compromised relationships with others.
I’ve compiled a list of tips to help with work stress. This is the first part of a series of three which I’m providing as a gift to you.
I’m breaking up the tips into a series for several reasons. We tend to have short attention spans these days and I know you’re busy. (It’s all about prioritizing though. :)) Another reason is so that you can have time to implement the ideas.
Note: Many of my clients, readers and followers do not work traditional 9 – 5 (or sometimes more like 7-7) jobs. The tips still apply, just tweak as you see fit!
1. TAKE BREAKS. Ok, it's in all caps because this is an important one. For some reason we have become a culture of eating lunch at our desks, or not eating lunch at all. Honor yourself and take a lunch break and / or smaller breaks through out the day. Schedule them in. Use a timer as a reminder to stop and breathe.
2. Remember what’s really important to you. Think of your values. Do you feel you constantly put work before your own life? Sit down and create a list of ways you can make changes, for example, committing to leaving work on time in order to honor your values.
3. Get to the root cause. I’m a big advocate for preventing stress, not just coping and managing. Do what you can to explore the root of what’s causing you stress and brainstorm solutions. Do you need to get to bed earlier to prevent irritability and sluggishness? Can you delegate? What are ways you can be more efficient? Could you utilize better communication when it comes to your needs?
I love to hear from you! Please be sure to comment blow to share your insights and self-care plan.
When we take care of our mental health, we can feel a great sense of overall well-being.Read More
A university student in graduate school recently contacted me (well, two actually contacted me and I had to go with the first!). She noted that she is taking a coaching training class and one of her assignments is to interview certified life coaches regarding the journey to become a life coach and various similar topics related to coaching. I was thrilled to know that she was excited to learn about coaching, the processes involved and the benefits that clients receive. The last two questions may be especially interesting for those who have ever wondered what it would be like to have your own coach. The grad student has given me permission to share our interview on blog. Thank you, E!
As I share this info, please feel free to contact me with any questions using the contact form above. Please share any comments or insights below as well. Specifically, I'd love to know: If you had a life coach, what is the number one topic that you feel would be a priority in order to address and bring about positive changes in your life?
- What led you to become a coach and or why did you select this specific field?
I worked in mental health and public health for many years. After being in a system that focused so much on what is wrong and sometimes merely treating symptoms, I decided to focus on prevention and helping people to move forward in order to truly FLOURISH in their lives. There are a lot of people who may not exactly need mental health treatment but instead may be not living to their full potential or living with purpose. Sometimes they may feel they are coasting through life or may feel like work has overtaken their lives. My clients learn to create a life that they love and feel great about. Of course, there is a time and a place for healing and mental health treatment, and the topic is something I am still passionate about. My focus in my practice with clients is positive mental health, happiness and overall well-being.
- What coaching training have you received? (certifications or continued education)
Just a few months after earning a Master’s degree, I enrolled in a certification program that is accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF). After completing the general coaching program, I went on to take further courses in group coaching, wellness coaching, and other programs. I’ve also received training on stress reduction and positive psychology, in addition to a host of other courses and seminars on personal growth and development. I am a lifelong learner, which I believe ultimately benefits my clients. I also received training years ago in several evidence-based programs that utilize goal setting and coaching techniques.
- What is your experience in coaching? (mostly in corporations or individual clients)
For my practice, I primarily work with individual clients (usually twenty and thirty-somethings). I also used to hold a part-time position with an agency in which I served as what is called a “care transitions coach.” Furthermore, I occasionally hold workshops in a group format and am currently leading a course called “Flourishing 101” at Emory Continuing Education.
- What would you say your style of coaching is?
I use a lot of open-ended questions. The underlying idea is that we all know what is best for ourselves. We all have our own answers, and sometimes we need to learn to trust ourselves. Clients usually work on a combination of personal and professional goals. I believe everything is connected. I take a holistic approach (looking at the whole person), because in order to truly flourish it is ideal to focus on mind, body and spirit.
- In your personal opinion, what is the most intriguing/ exciting aspect of coaching?
It is really exciting for me to see transformation, breakthroughs and growth. Clients make positive changes in their lives and sometimes feel a sense of reinvention. I’ve seen people take steps to start their own businesses, decrease anxiety, increase confidence and assertiveness, gain a greater sense of balance, excel in school, develop healthy habits, gain clarity on decisions or their vision in life, take massive action, add joy in their lives, and most of all get out of their own way. Someone may come to me stuck, overwhelmed or confused, and ultimately learn the tools they need to reduce stress, gain clarity and live an extraordinary life. Sometimes people come to me already knowing what they want in life, and they benefit from the encouragement to STRETCH themselves and push through the fear of getting out of their comfort zone. When we make a conscious effort to choose happiness, there is a ripple effect that spreads joy and positivity to others.
- Also, what do you think the most important aspect of coaching is? What do you try to provide for your clients?
I think it is important for clients to recognize their unique strengths, passions and interests, and to do whatever it is that makes them light up. It is not about what I think they should do, what someone else thinks they should do, or what society implies. Many people start to live a life because they think they should or what society dictates and end up miserable. It is important to follow your heart, your intuition and your gut. I provide an open, nonjudgmental space so that clients can feel comfortable sharing.
Please share any comments or insights below as well. Specifically, I'd love to know: If you worked with a life coach, what is the number one topic that you feel would be a priority in order to make positive changes in your life?
In my flourishing workshops and courses on happiness, I almost always cover the concept of FLOW.
It is a fact that people who have a high level of happiness and well-being experience FLOW on a regular basis.
So what do I mean by this? Basically, flow occurs when we are highly focused and engaged in an activity. It transpires when time seems to stand still because we are fully absorbed with what we are doing. It also happens when our greatest strengths and talents are in use in order to solve a challenge. The concept of “flow” is often featured as it relates to creativity.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychologist who has conducted numerous studies on flow, has noted that the primary elements of a flow state include:
- Intense focus and concentration
- A loss of self-consciousness
- A sense that one will be able to handle and respond to whatever occurs next
- A sense that time has passed more quickly or slowly than normal; and
- A belief that the experience is rewarding, regardless of the outcome
Csikszentmihalyi suggests that flow can occur in everyday life, particularly if we are clear on the goal first and if we are using our natural abilities. It can also deter anxiety and boredom. Some people engage in hobbies to experience the state of flow. Flow also occurs quite a bit at work (more often than not!). And even though flow is more often experienced in the workplace, people are more motivated with leisure activities over work. (Hmmmmm…)
Flow is similar to what athletes call being “in the zone.” The flow and the enjoyment does not come necessarily with what the activity is, but more in how it is done.
Note! Since flow occurs when we are using our strengths to solve a challenge, if the challenge at hand exceeds our perceived capabilities, we can become anxious. A balance must also exist in that if we're engaged in a “harmonious passion,” we are more likely to experience flow and well-being; however, if the passion is an “obsession,” we are less likely to experience flow.
I encourage you to determine what type of activities get you to experience a flow state. Then you can consciously choose to participate in activities that incorporate flow in order to boost their overall well-being. As flow continues to be focused on a larger scale, the overall well-being of individuals of all ages will continue to flourish to give a sense of hope, decrease stress and enhance wellness!
Love yourself first, and everything else falls in line. – Lucille Ball
Guided imagery and healing = an excellent form of self-care
By Nancie Vito, MPH, CHES
My clients often ask me for guidance on relaxation and stress reduction techniques, and I wanted to share one with you that has been in my toolbox for several years, since my days of leading workshops for people with chronic health conditions. Participants would absolutely love being "walked" through a peaceful country garden, for example.
Guided imagery is one of many different types of relaxation techniques that can produce a relaxation response. All relaxation techniques have a common goal: to produce physiological changes in the body order to lower blood pressure, decrease pain and reduce effects of stress or illness. Basically, with guided imagery, individuals visualize pleasant images in their mind in order to replace negative, stressful or unwanted thoughts and feelings. This process and “reprogramming” of the subconscious mind often results in an overall sense of calm. Imagery combines all senses, not only “seeing” or creating images in the mind, but truly feeling, smelling, etc. When we create images that we find pleasant in our “mind’s eye,” the process can also be meditative in nature since it goes deeper than the level of consciousness in which we operate in our daily activities. Memory is one example of a form of imagery. Dreams are also a good example of images being created in the mind, as the subconscious and unconscious are communicating with our conscious mind. (A main difference with guided imagery is that individuals are purposefully and consciously creating desired behaviors or situations in their mind.)
Individuals can learn guided imagery a self-directed exercise, with a “live” facilitator, or by using CDs, DVDs, MP3s, phone applications, and online programs. Fortunately, guided imagery is much more accessible in recent years that it once was.
Research has come a long way in developing evidence for the effects of guided imagery as in last few decades, as thousands of studies have shown guided imagery to have positive effects on cancer, depression, anxiety, pain, asthma, PTSD, chronic tension-type headaches, addictive behaviors, menopausal symptoms, and host of other conditions. It has been shown strengthen the immune system and even have positive effects on pregnancy. Some hospitals are starting to use it to help patients relax before surgery.
So here’s the deal: guided imagery can be beneficial for just about anyone and any situation where positive outcomes are desired. The bottom line of how it works? It helps to decrease stress as you can turn your focus towards something that is pleasing to you.
Some people use imagery to help make a personal goal a reality. This is also super duper helpful, for example, before public speaking. Really FEEL how you want to feel upon reaching the goal. The key to visualizing the desired outcome of a goal is to be sure to take action along with it. :)
SO…for positive outcomes for your health and overall well-being, this week why not check out some of the tools out there that are available to us online or via apps? Let me know how it goes by posting your insights below! I love to hear from my dear readers.
As I help people live a happy and fulfilled life, I feel strongly about mind-body connections and the need to look at “bigger picture.” If someone drinks a lot of sugary coffee drinks and feels anxious, or eats fast food for lunch and feels unmotivated in the afternoon, there just may be a connection.
Just sayin’ ;-)
So today I wanted to share some ways to boost your mental health by eating specific foods, and I will give a brief run-down of what each nutrient provides in the 2nd half of the article. Remember, the mind and body are inseparable!
Our mental health has an effect on our overall wellbeing, quality of life, cognition, and our decision-making abilities. One way to improve our mental health is to choose foods that are rich in key nutrients that promote both physical and mental health. Key nutrients can help increase the production of neurotransmitters in the brain, which in turn has an affect on how we feel.
First, here are a some general tips to keep in mind:
• High fiber and low fat is good for both your heart and your mood.
• Eating healthy snacks throughout the day (i.e., fruits, vegetables and whole grains) help to keep blood sugar level steady, which in turn can help prevent mood swings.
• Meals and snacks filled with sugar and refined flour cause blood sugar levels peak at drastic highs and lows, which may also cause moods, energy and concentration to fluctuate. Sugary foods and carbohydrates only provide a temporary boost in energy or mood.
• Fast, processed or fatty foods cause us to feel sluggish and sleepy.
A note about carbs: We crave carbohydrates when we feel stressed or anxious because they have a calming effect on us by increasing the production of serotonin in the brain. Pairing protein with carbohydrates can also increase serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, which can help a person become more alert. (It is the amino acids in protein that aid in the synthesis of neurotransmitters in the brain.) Moderation and quality of the carbs are key.
Although caffeine can boost mood, an excess of caffeine can cause irritability or sleeplessness. Caffeine, much like sugar, can provide a spike in energy but ultimately drop into fatigue.
Alcohol can also have a negative effect on mood and sleep patterns as it acts as a depressant.
Now for some specific examples of nutrients that have a positive association with mental health:
- OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS are as effective as antidepressants and can elevate mood, (particularly EPAs and DHAs). Foods rich in Omega 3s: oily fish, walnuts and flax seeds.
- B VITAMINS: Help with mood improvement. Vitamin B1 (thiamine) is necessary for maintaining energy as people who are deficient in B1 can feel irritable or depressed. Foods rich in B1: include legumes, seeds, and fortified grains. Vitamin B9 (folate): Aids in proper nerve function. Like deficiency in other B vitamins, people who lack sufficient folate may feel depressed, apathetic, and fatigued, sleep poorly or have trouble concentrating. Foods rich in folate: leafy greens, citrus fruits, legumes, meats, poultry fish and dairy. In addition to B1 and B9, B2 and B6 help with mood improvement.
- ANTIOXIDANTS: People who are depressed have oxidated stress in their brains, and antioxidants can help combat oxidated stress. Foods rich in antioxidants: blueberries, turmeric, ginger, spinach cherries and green tea.
- SELENIUM: Acts as an antioxidant; good for energy and anxiety. Selenium rich foods: beans, legumes, nuts, seats and lean meat.
- VITAMIN D: Positive effect on attention, mood, motivation, enthusiasm and alertness. Very few foods are rich in vitamin D; however, cod liver oil and certain types of fish (like salmon) rank at the top of the list.
- IRON: Apathy, depression, and tiring easily can be caused by lack of iron. Foods rich in iron: dark green leafy vegetables, meal, poultry and fish.
Other examples of nutrients mentioned in literature and research include zinc, magnesium, vitamin C and tryptophan. Probiotics are also great. There are mixed reviews on chocolate and mood, depending on which articles or studies you want to go with. :) Again, moderation is key. (I'll take a small piece of dark chocolate, please!)
Of course as your MD and do your research on GMOs, organics and mercury level in certain types of fish, etc. Limiting meat consumption – in general – can increase overall energy, alertness and positive mental health. Juicing, which provides phytonutrients and antioxidants is excellent for brain function and clarity. I personally love green juice!!
The key is to eat mindfully. And to remember to drink a ton of H2O.
If you're still with me here, you ROCK! Until next time, stay well!
I want to hear from you! What are some healthy foods and nutrients that keep you alert and mentally healthy?