MINDSET MATTERS: Breaking Busy ~ The Art of Stress Management Through Slowing Down

MINDSET MATTERS: Breaking Busy ~ The Art of Stress Management Through Slowing Down

 

I don’t care how busy I am I will always make time for what’s important to me.

~ Kevin Hart

 

My Dear Friends,

I am writing this blog as a letter to you ~ a love letter, if you will allow me to say that ~ because I want you to read it as if I am speaking to you as someone who cares deeply about you.  Because I do! Even if we’ve never met. Because you are a human being, I care deeply about you!  I am worried that you are so busy you are not enjoying life!

I am increasingly having the feeling that society is suffering from an epidemic of being busy!

Now, don’t get me wrong, in general I don’t have a problem with people being busy. But, I’m seeing that Americans in particular are taking the idea of busy to new levels.  As an American, I would like to proudly say that we are a high-achieving people. The problem is that our high-achieving nature is making us ill!

Okay – I know I lost some of you there… but, stick with me.  I’m NOT saying that having high standards of achievement is making us ill. What I AM saying is that breakneck pace at which we go after those high standards of achievement is making us ill.

Additionally, many of my friends and neighbors are achieving high standards of being busy just for the sake of being busy. On this score I want to share three crucial points of wisdom:

  • BUSY is not necessarily PRODUCTIVE!
  • Taking time for SELF-CARE is NOT lazy!
  • Being too busy = STRESS = ILLNESS

I chose the Kevin Hart quote at the top of this post because in it he talks about making time for what is important.  My question for you, my dear, sweet friend, is:

“Are you important?”

 Are you important enough to yourself that you will take time out of your busy schedule for self-nurture???

 

WHO COMES FIRST?

          I wrote an earlier blog for moms Want To Be a Supermom? Take Good Care of Yourself! about how to use the airline analogy of putting the oxygen mask on yourself first. The airlines want you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first (in case of emergency) so that you don’t pass out before you can put the oxygen on your children and others who need help. Likewise, if a mom allows herself some self-care, it helps her to be a better mom because she’s not exhausted and stressed-out.

Honestly, this analogy is important for anyone who has a care-taking role for others. Whether you are a teacher, a nurse, a manager, a parent, an adult child who  cares for an elderly parent, etc. etc. you NEED to take care of yourself first!

That does not mean that you are going to the spa or the golf-course every weekend in lieu of taking your kids to baseball or gymnastics.  It means that you CAN take an amount of time that you specify (and perhaps work out with your spouse or partner if need be) for self-care on a daily, weekly, monthly and even yearly basis.

Give yourself a little care first and you will be able to give others a lot of care on a regular basis!

 Here’s an exercise for you to try out. Make a list of things you can do for your self-care:

I’ll get you started with ideas

  • Go to yoga and/ or take a walk or leisurely bike ride 1x to 3x per week.
  • Play golf or tennis or engage in another activity with friends 1x per week.
  • Have a “date night” with your spouse 1x week.
  • Have a night out with friends 1x to 2x per month.
  • ___________________________________________________________
  • ___________________________________________________________
  • ___________________________________________________________

Keep the list going!

 

TAKE A DAILY TIME INVENTORY

Another good way to figure out how to break busy is to take a look at how you spend your time. One of the very first sessions I do with my Peaceful Living Wellness coaching clients is to have them write out a detailed list of what they do with their time. I have them complete one list for weekdays and one for weekends.  It helps us figure out how they are spending their time AND if the way they are spending their time is serving them.

Here are some things that I found when I did this exercise myself:

  • I was spending so much time volunteering for my kids’ schools and organizations that it was almost a full-time job! Volunteering is a wonderful thing & it absolutely feeds my soul to help others in that way. But, volunteering so much that I was not taking care of myself or my business was causing a problem!
  • I was spending a lot of time vegging out in front of the television in the morning and in the evening. Vegging out in front of the TV is something that can actually be good for you in small doses. 30 minutes to an hour to give your brain a break is really okay. But, how I was watching the morning news and starting my day with negativity and noise was not a good choice. And for those of you who veg out for several hours in front of the TV every night, it’s really not serving you as well as reading or listening to something enriching, meditating, doing yoga, cuddling with &/ or reading to your kiddos, etc. will.
  • I was allowing myself to fall down the rabbit hole of SOCIAL MEDIA for too many hours. Even though my social media use was often sporadic ~ 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there ~ when I completed my detailed inventory it ended up being a lot of hours over the course of the day and the week! Again, social media is something that can serve us well. For business-owners it’s a must. For others, the social connection is very uplifting. But, when your time spent on social media adds up, when it gives you FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), when it makes you feel bad about yourself because you are comparing your life to the lives of others, or when it is exposing you to the negativity of others, it is NOT serving you well.

What I found for myself, and what my clients find, after doing this exercise, is that there is a lot of time we all waste on things that are not helping to make us happier healthier people!

Use this exercise to help you figure out what you are doing that is NOT contributing to your feeling relaxed and happy.

 

TRY TO DO THIS! NOT THAT!

  • Spend 10 – 15 minutes meditating by cutting 10 – 15 minutes off your social media time.
  • Spend an hour-and-half weekly going to yoga by carpooling for your kids’ soccer, gymnastics, etc. etc.
  • Spend an hour reading (or listening to a good book) by cutting out an hour of TV time.
  • Spend an hour taking a warm, relaxing bath at night by asking your partner to do the dishes and/ or put the kids to bed. Trade off nights with this if need be.

You get the picture! Fill in your own ideas. Once you get going I bet you will find that there are a ton of DO THIS ideas on your list!

 

Go to it Peaceful Living Warriors! Find your inner peace and healthy life by BREAKING BUSY!  I know you can do it! And if you need support in your quest to Break Busy, reach out to me! We can schedule a breakthrough coaching session in which I can support and motivate you! I’m here for you friend.

Love & Light,

Jen

Want more easy, helpful tips on how to break busy? Check out my blog “Are You Addicted to Being Busy?”

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Finding Cherries in a World That Can Seem Like the Pits 3: Our Crazy World

Finding Cherries in a World That Can Seem Like the Pits 3: Our Crazy World

I’ll be honest with you. This one is tough for me sometimes. One of the things I’m grateful for in respect to having given-up my academic career is that I don’t have to constantly stay aware of everything that’s going on in politics (my former career was as a lecturer in political science and legal sociology). That said, I still think it’s important to be an informed citizen, so I do keep up on most current events. And yes, that is really frustrating and sometimes overwhelmingly sad.

Here in the United States we are in the aftermath of yet another mass shooting and tragic loss of lives.  Manh of our local schools here in Charleston, South Carolina (including our neighborhood schools where my children and my teen clients attend) were put on lockdown last week because of shooting and bomb threats to the schools. The kids were scared and feeling very out of control of their own safety.

Tips for Keeping Your Peace of Mind

1. Try to follow negative news with some positive news.

There are actually lots of really cool things going on and good people doing good things in the world today. Okay, I admit sometimes I just go to Buzzfeed and look at the funny cat videos but, there are some really good “Good News” sites out there!!

Just google “good news stories” and you’ll find tons of websites that cover only uplifting and positive news stories. Try to find some that you like. One of my favs is Huffingtonpost.com/good-news.

2. Make sure you don’t go to bed after having just watched negative news.  

Try to read a fun book, watch a funny show, or have an affirming conversation with your partner before you lay your head down. And if you do lay down and find your mind full of stressful or disturbing images, try to bring in happy and uplifting images instead.

I was telling one of my friends the other day how her posts on Facebook helped me get some disturbing images out of my mind. She posts pictures from the farm animal rescue she runs and pictures of her two sweet boys having fun. This weekend she posted pictures of her boys delivering toys to a toy drive for homeless children. Having those images to concentrate on helped me to calm my mind and drift off to sleep.

3. Be in a place of gratitude.

Sometimes this is easier said than done, but even if you’re feeling really down and overwhelmed, I bet you can find something to be grateful for. The roof over your head, the green grass, maybe it’s a flower growing between the cracks of a sidewalk. Maybe, it’s merely your two feet on the ground. Finding something small to be grateful for will raise your happy hormones and help you to feel better a little bit at a time.

On that note, I am truly grateful for all those who have loved and supported me in my business and my life over these past few years! And I am grateful for those of you post and respond to my blogs. The blogs truly are meant to be conversation starters AND HOPEFULLY they will help us to create a community dedicated to supporting one-another in health, happiness and peaceful living.

What tips and strategies do you have to share with us for finding the cherries among the pits?

Do you have any particular “pits” that I or the community can help you find your cherries for?

Next Week ~ join me for my travel-blog journey to Jekyll Island, Georgia! What a beautiful place for a solitary or couples getaway!

Love & Light,

Jen

Friendship Blog Part 2: Where to Find Your Support Tribe

Friendship Blog Part 2: Where to Find Your Support Tribe

In my first blog on friendship I talked about how having friends is important for stress-management but for some people the idea of making new friends can be stressful. For some, meeting new people may be easy, but forging long-lasting friendships may be confusing. For others, overcoming social anxiety can be their biggest challenge.

I gave a quick overview of these things in my “How to Create Your Support Tribe” blog last week. This week I am deepening the conversation to give more details about where to find new friends to add to your support tribe!

WHERE TO FIND FRIENDS

This can be a truly perplexing topic for adults. Most of us are no longer in school where we were forced together with a finite group of people to choose from. Some people forge friendships in the work place but in many jobs, more than casual relationships can be problematic. Stay at home parents and those who work from home can have a particularly challenging time meeting people because they are often alone.

Be a Joiner!

Finding a group of people with whom you have something in common is a really good way to make friends. Joining groups also gives you something to do while you are getting to know new people. This is something that introverts find particularly helpful. If you have a book to discuss, it gives you something to say.  If you are hiking or kayaking it gives you something to do while talking. Here are some different ways to find groups to join:

  • Meetup.com: This website has groups with every interest under the sun! And, if you don’t find a group already in your area, you can start one up! If you build it, they will come.

 

  • Book Groups: Go to your local book store and inquire about groups. This is something you can also find on Meetup.com. Start one for kids through the PTA/PTO at your children’s schools if there isn’t one already. Join it with your kids if there is one. Goodreads.com also has online book groups specified for different genres. Pick one or more and create an online community for yourself.

 

  • Politics: Join the political club in your area that matches your political affiliation. Again, these will most likely be like-minded people

 

  • Find a Church, Synagogue or Spiritual Center: This is most challenging of course for those who are not religious. So I will focus on them. There are “fellowships” even for Atheists and Humanists. I personally attend a Unitarian Universalist Fellowships where a rather large part of the congregation is Atheist or Humanist. And while I personally am very spiritual and follow multiple religious teachings, I fit in quite well there. You can also try Unity Churches, Buddhist Sanghas, or Hindu Satsangs. But, if this is just complete anathema to you, then ignore this one.

 

  • Classes & Activities: Classes are another place to meet people who have similar interests to you. Check through your local Community College, Community Parks & Recreation Division, or Adult Education program: they are chock full of classes in everything from advanced physics to dance to photography. If you are into art, see if the local galleries have classes. If you are into music, go to the local music store, I’ve never seen one that doesn’t offer classes.

 

  • Join a Sports Team or Activity Group: Ok, I am not an athlete. I’m a yogini. So for me, going to a local yoga studio is a good way to meet people. I do know a lot of people who join sports teams and make great friends – everything from adult softball to basketball to bowling. I even have some friends in Denver who are in a kickball league! That sounds like so much fun!!! But gyms & yoga/ Pilates studios can also be good places to meet people.

One thing to remember about gyms and yoga/ pilates classes is that individuals can truly stay in their own worlds in both environments. People wear headphones at the gym and silence is encouraged at many yoga studios. So I recommend chatting when you can (maybe the locker room) or going to community gatherings hosted by the gym or studio. Many yoga studios have Kirtan concerts and other community events where talking and even dancing are encouraged.

AN EXTROVERT WITH NO FRIENDS?

Even as an extrovert I have twice found myself in situations where finding friends was extremely challenging. And now that I’m moving from the west coast to the east coast, to a city where I know absolutely no-one, I may be encountering that situation again. That can give even a super extrovert such as myself a bit of anxiety! ACK!

A  School Without Friends:

The first time I found myself friend-challenged, shall we say, was in graduate school. I know, I talk a lot about the stress of graduate school. But that’s because it was sucky!!! And not having friends was a part of why it was so stressful. In many school situations an extrovert can find at least a few friends. But in my graduate program it took me a couple of years to find some people I could truly connect with. My program was highly competitive and the students in my cohort took that competitive nature to heart. I was also feeling very insecure and thus was probably repelling people just with my insecure energy.

Additionally, while I tried to keep in contact with my friends from my home-town. It proved to be really tough to do so. My work schedule, between being a student and a teaching and research assistant, was overwhelming and beyond time-consuming. I also got into a huge fight via email with one of my best friends in my hometown and stopped going home on a regular basis.

A Mom, A Job & A Town With No Friends:

The second situation occurred not much later in life – I call the entire period of my life from 25 to 35 “The Dark Ages!”.Just when I had finally forged some nice friendships in my graduate program and the surrounding community, I got married and we moved several hours away (as did many of my grad-school friends).  I was in my first faculty position teaching at a major university, but I was an adjunct lecturer, as opposed to a tenure-track professor. Thus I was caught in a no-man’s land of sorts; I was part of a department, but most of my colleagues did not see me as such. I wasn’t invited to faculty meetings. I rarely crossed paths with other lecturers. AND, I lived over an hour from campus. So as soon as I was done teaching I would head home in order to beat the Southern California traffic.

Soon after starting my new teaching job I also got pregnant. Now one would think that having a baby would be a great way to make friends. This is true to a certain extent, especially for an extrovert. I met a nice couple in my water aerobics class at the gym and my husband and I met a nice couple in our child birth class (but they lived 40 minutes from us). Yet the area of Southern California in which we lived was a little challenging for us. We found that we didn’t have a lot in common with the people in our community: religious, educational and political differences (and of course, those are the things you don’t want to talk about in polite company, right?). So when I tried joining a couple of mommy groups it was definitely challenging. That said, I did make a couple of friends in those groups, one of whom I’m still very close with today.

Having the baby also furthered my alienation with my colleagues at the university. Most of the women faculty members in the department did not have children. Moreover, children or not, tenure-track faculty members were so dedicated to their jobs that socializing and swapping kid stories was just not on their agenda. Coincidentally, there were women in the mommy groups that had a really hard time understanding why I would work. Being a stay-at-home mom was the only way to be a good mother in their eyes – and yes, they did say this to me!

What to do? Become a joiner!

There I was stuck in-between two worlds: career woman & mommy. And I had very few friends. It was really lonely! So I started to join things. First, because the area in which we were living was a very church-centered community I started church shopping. As a person who supports same-sex marriage, is pro-choice and practices yoga, this can be a challenge! But with the help of my mother I finally found a small Lutheran church with a pastor who is my age and a growing group of young families in the congregation. It was at this church I forged what have become life-long friendships. 

The other thing I did was I started a National Organization for Women (NOW) chapter in my area. This was a lot of work, but it was also fun. I met some amazing young women from the local university. And I forged another life-long friendship with one of the women who worked for the state chapter. Thank goodness for Facebook! I get to keep in touch with all of these wonderful women even though we live miles & miles apart!

Moving Again…

At this point in my life, online groups were just starting to appear, so I didn’t join any Meetups or Yahoo groups. But now, because these online resources are so prevalent, I have used Meetup on several occasions to make new friends. When we moved to San Diego I was all over Meetup! I’ve also learned how to reach out to other women and tell them I think it would be fun to hang out – moms from the school, baseball moms, women I meet through my business, women from church, etc..

Here are a few things I like to say to extend new friendships beyond the “group” setting

  •         I like you! We should have coffee or lunch sometime!
  •         Let’s get the kids together for a play date. Do you guys have time in the next couple of weeks?
  •         We should talk about working together. Let’s have lunch.
  •         Wow, your business is really cool (or what you do is really interesting). Would you like to have coffee or lunch sometime? I’d love to hear more about it!

 

Finally: Be “the starter”:

In my experience, I have found that many people just do not make overtures like the ones mentioned above. Well, maybe in business they do. But not so often in personal life. This may be a regional thing. Southern Californians, in my opinion, are really nice when you get to know them, but they’re not necessarily overtly friendly. If you find yourself in a place where you have a lot of acquaintances, but few friends, you may need to be “the conversation starter.” Use the phrases above, or your own, and reach out to people who you like! The best way to make friends is to be one!

Please leave comments! I would love to hear what you have to say about friendship!

What friendship challenges do you have?

What friendship challenges have you had in the past?

How did you overcome them?

What are your favorite friendship-making conversation starters?

Thanks for reading & commenting!

 

Love, Light & Namaste!

Jen

Just Breathe

Just Breathe

In last week’s blog about resiliency, my last tip for improving your resiliency was to breathe.

Deep breathing elicits the relaxation response and facilitates an even exchange of oxygen to carbon dioxide (source).

In turn, these phenomena both reduce the heart rate and stabilize blood pressure. They also will bring about a deep sense of relaxation of both mind and body.

Try these breathing techniques & see how you feel:

Graduated Breath: 3 – 5 breaths each round.

Round 1

Inhale into your front rib cage.

Allow your heart-center to shine upwards. Feel the front of your ribcage expand and open.

Feel your heart opening as you breath in oxygen.

If you would like to set an intention or start an affirming mantra, this is a good time to do so.

Round 2

Inhale into your full ribcage.

Allow your entire ribcage to expand with the inhalation and gently contract with the exhalation.

Feel a sense of relaxation coming into your body. Bring your attention to your shoulders and allow them to soften on each exhalation.

Round 3

This time, inhale all the way into your diaphragm.

The ribcage still expands and fills with air.

But now, the diaphragm, that belt of muscle that runs all the way around your body right under the ribcage also expands with the inhalation and gently contracts with the exhalation.

Continue with your affirming mantra.

Continue to mentally coax your shoulders and now your back to soften and relax.

Round 4

Draw your inhalations all the way down into the belly. The ribcage is still expanding and contracting.

The diaphragm is still expanding and contracting.

Allow your belly to shine. The ancient yogis say that the belly is the center of our life force.

Allow your life force to open with the breath.

Round 5

Finally, allow your breath to fill your entire torso.

Your ribs expand.

Your diaphragm expands.

Your belly expands and your lower back expands.

Concentrate on the slow expansion and contraction of your muscles and bones. Feel the sense of calm that comes with each breath.

Connect your mind and your body and feel your entire torso, neck, hips and maybe even your entire body relax and let go of lingering tensions.

Continue with your mantra if you are using one with this practice.

Graduated Breath with Counting: 3 to 5 breaths each round.

Start with inhalations all the way into your belly. They need to be shallow at first.

Round 1

Inhale counting to 3; Exhale counting to 4.

Round 2

Inhale counting to 4; Exhale counting to 5

Round 3

Inhale counting to 5; Exhale counting to 6.

At this point either reverse the count back to inhale 4 and then 3 OR continue on until you are inhaling to 9 and exhaling to 10.

Opposite Nostril Breathing: As many rounds as you like.

Preparation

Take your index finger and thumb of your non-dominant hand and make a “U.”

Step 1

Place your index finger lightly on the outside of your nostril along the side of your nose. Close off the air.

Inhale through the open nostril.

Step 2

Place your thumb gently over the open nostril, along the side of your nose, closing it off.

Release the index finger, opening the nostril that was closed.

Exhale through the open nostril.

Step 3

Inhale on that same side.

Step 4

Close off that side of the nose with the index finger; Open the thumb from the other nostril and exhale.

Step 5

Inhale on that same side that you just opened. Repeat the pattern at least 5 times.

Try it out!

These are just three of many different deep breathing techniques to try.

Tune in to future blogs and vlogs for more!

Remember, in yoga, we call it “Breath Work” because it’s a practice.

If you don’t elicit a relaxation response your first couple of times using a technique, keep practicing and keep trying different techniques.

The more you practice Breath Work, the deeper your mind-body connection and the deeper your relaxation will be.

Let me know how these work for you!

If you have other techniques that you love, share them in the comments for others to try out!

We’re a Peaceful Living Community filled with Love and Compassion. So please, share on…

With Love & Gratitude!

Jen

Meditation For Monkey Minds

Meditation For Monkey Minds

Meditation Anywhere

 

As a yoga and meditation teacher I have heard the same thing for years from my clients – “I can’t meditate! My mind won’t turn off!” And quite truthfully I thought the same thing myself for decades. I thought that I was the only yoga student that truly could not meditate. I would go into classes and see all the people sitting in lotus pose, eyes closed, hand and fingers in all sorts of mudras (yogic hand positions). I too would assume the yogic meditation position as we waited for class to start. But I was a fraud!!! My mind was skipping all over the place! Even in Savasana (Corpse Pose) I would feel relaxed, but my mind was nowhere close to “clear” as my instructor had urged. I would listen to my breath, I would chant Om’s, I would try and try to clear my mind… but alas, I still had “Monkey Mind”… (more…)

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