view from our home

When It Is Right

Earlier this year, we started a search for our new home. We had a pretty big laundry list of desirables. After some time searching, we found one that fit our bill. Right number of bedrooms. Extra storage. Close to the bus stop since we only had one car. Financially sound development. The only negative was that it needed some serious remodeling. The home had been a rental and was neglected for too long. We had done the remodel thing before, and honestly didn’t want to again. But we thought we could get a bargain due to the shape of the house.

We were wrong.

We paid for an inspection before making what we thought was a fair offer. The owner did not think so. For a month we played the offer/counter-offer game until we realized we were never going to agree on a price. Wasted time. Wasted energy. And wasted intuition. When I first saw the house, it didn’t feel right. I couldn’t say why but it was just off. But I tried to make it work. On paper it had what we wanted so I logically convinced myself that we should make an offer. I should have gone with my gut.

Or was this just a stalling tactic?

276You see, during the offer negotiation process we bought a second car. Because of this, when we resumed our search we could look in different locations as now being near public transportation was not as important. One property I saw listed for months was now in our consideration set. My realtor brought me to see it and on the spot, I arranged a viewing for the next day so my husband could come by. The house felt right to me. Just walking in I knew this was it. I knew I wanted to make an offer when I first stepped into the entrance. I had not seen the whole house and knew it was right. The day after my husband saw it, we made an offer and then accepted a reasonable counter offer in three days. From first viewing to down payment was one easy week. The home had everything we were looking for plus many extras that were phenomenal.

My intention for this article was to talk about following one’s intuition. But as this story played out there were many lessons.

Intuition: My intuition was right. In both homes I had immediate feelings – one positive, one negative. This was not logic, just a feeling. I did not consciously ask myself for an opinion. It was my gut telling me what felt like home. Learning to recognize and then act upon my intuition is still something I am working on. Sometimes I don’t recognize the feelings. Sometimes it is too scary to act upon what I feel. But in retrospect, my intuition has never steered me wrong.

Timing: For a while I beat myself up for not following my intuition about the first house and therefore having wasted so much time and energy on the wrong home. But could this process have been necessary? Could it be that we needed the time to purchase a second vehicle, so we could then open up our location search to consider the right home? Was there something we had to learn about patience and self-imposed deadlines? Sometimes obstacles, challenges, and wrong turns are not taking us off course, but are actually lining up the right thing.

Right Doesn’t Mean Easy: I started the idea for this post in July, when I thought we were going to close. Due to paperwork delays, our closing was pushed back and then pushed back further. Then the tropical storm hit. Then the earthquake in Mexico City caused further delays. Our goal was to be in our new home September 1. Instead we started renting our new home mid-September because we still hadn’t closed. What we expected to be a turnkey-just-walk-into-home, now had to be cleaned and repaired due to the storm. And then there were challenges getting utilities because we were not the official owner. It was not until mid-October that we finally closed and were settled in our home. It is still the perfect house for us and we are very blessed to be living here. But perfect and easy are not synonymous.

Do you know what it feels like to have a pop of intuition? Have you ever followed your intuition? Have you ever experienced the challenge of right-but-not-easy?

stress anxiety

Managing Anxiety

Obviously experiencing a tropical storm is a major life event. I learned much from the storm including how to manage anxiety after disaster.

During the tropical storm, we battled water leaking into the home for hours. We worried about not having safe drinking water or if the electricity would come back on. The loss of life and devastation of property was unnerving. I was feeling unbalanced and anxious for days afterwards. Until I happened to offer a woman a ride. She had lost everything in the storm. Her home. All her possessions. Yet she had good calm energy and a smile on her face. She focused on the blessing that her family was healthy and unharmed. What she experienced was so much worse than what I did, yet she acted as if it was just another normal day.

stress anxietyAfter meeting her I began to notice how those around me handled the aftermath. Those who focused on loss and devastation, reinforced and built up their anxiety. Those who focused on what they still had and on rebuilding and recovering, appeared happy and calm. Here are a few tips on how to move forward positively after shocking or disturbing events.

Don’t Focus on What If: After the storm, we were very lucky. The power turned on quickly. Potable city water was not flowing, but we could order a water truck. We had our basic necessities, yet much of my mental space was occupied by worries that what we had would go away. I was concerned about how long it would take things to get back to normal. This focus on the “what if’s” increased my anxiety. When you find yourself obsessed with things which are not currently a reality, stop. Look at what is true in the very moment. It is helpful to plan for contingencies, but it is not helpful to focus and worry about things which may never materialize.

Don’t Focus on Loss: When we lose people and things that we love, it is important and necessary to mourn. What is not necessary is obsessing about our loss. After the storm, it became common practice for conversations to start with a laundry list of what was lost or damaged. These conversations often became a competition for who had it worse. But all this focus on loss subtracts from our lives. Instead take an inventory of all you do have. This stops the loss and refills you with hope and positivity.

Accept the New Normal: After the storm, streets, power and water were out. This was the new normal. Fighting this reality only caused pain. Things were not what they used to be. This is similar to releasing the what if’s. Whether it is worrying about may happen or wishing that things are different than they are, either way we are focused on an imagined version of reality. Step into the current moment, see things as they are and accept them as the new normal. Stop saying, “this shouldn’t have happened” or “this is unusual.” The truth is it did happen and perhaps it is rare but now that it happened it is the new normal. Acceptance of reality releases anxiety.

Take Action: Sitting around replaying the event only serves to keep you stuck. Take action. Large or small doesn’t matter. It is simply the act of physically moving that helps disrupt the feelings of anxiety. Taking action to help others has added benefits. Making even small efforts for others breaks us out of our pity party, helps us be grateful, and fills us with a sense of accomplishment.

Whether due to unusual weather or the senseless acts of others, we are faced frequently these days with major anxiety producing events. When these hit, remember to focus on reality not what if; to count your blessings not your losses; to accept a new reality; and to take some action, no matter how small, to get you moving forward again.

For more help with handling anxiety and stress, check out these online courses.

Marlboro Man

New Masculinity

While waiting for the next viewing at the Los Cabos International Film Festival, I overheard a couple talking. He said, “I’m sorry if I am not a real man. I don’t like sports. I respect women. And I don’t want to fight to prove myself.” I wanted to give him a hug. He is a real man. At least the type of real man I want to be around. Unfortunately, there was sadness in his words. Even though I would say he is more man than most, I could tell he felt like a failure, like the odd ball, as if he was not as worthy because he did not fit the stereotype of masculinity.

All of the recent sexual misconduct accusations are bringing to light what is expected in order to be a real man. A real man is supposed to objectify women. He is supposed to forcefully take what he wants. He is supposed to domineer and oppress. Throughout boardrooms and backrooms, men brag of their conquests to prove their virility through the abusing and minimizing women. In order for them to feel worthy, they need control and suppress women.

Marlboro ManThe stereotype we have created for men is not only the need to be misogynistic, but that they also need to be amazingly strong, resilient, and without feeling. Our films, media and society still promote and honor the tough silent man, that man without emotions and whose sole purpose and worth is to protect and provide. It is a lot to ask of someone; to be the savior who has to brush off any compassion and support. How many times are boys told “real men don’t cry” or to “toughen up”? When I look at the men involved in mass shootings, it is usually a man who has a history of violence against women. We did not teach him how to use words, so he uses guns. Talking about his emotions is weak, so he kills to stop the pain. This is not an excuse but an explanation. We as a society boxed men into a role and way of being that does not serve them or others.

In light of the accusations and mass shootings*, it is becoming more and more apparent that previous expectations of what a man is are changing. But to what? I read a terrific article by a gender specialist who explores the power struggle between men and women and how female empowerment is often seen as a loss for men. But it doesn’t have to be. The empowerment of women is also the freeing of men. Allowing them to define who they are and how they act; to release them from feeling the need to objectify and rule women to be strong; and to allow them to have feelings, express emotions, and be heard, not ostracized.

I’d like to applaud the man in the theatre the other night. He is a real man, and the man I hope many men will allow themselves to become. To help the men in your life redefine and embrace a new role for men, check out the Good Men Project.

*Note: Many factors are involved in the recent shootings. What I express here is only one to be addressed.

sisyphus

A Break From Routine

Monotony. Dealing with the same challenges, the same tasks, the same routine day after day, week after week, can increase our stress levels.  We are Sisyphus trapped, more likely doomed, to experience the same thing again and again and again without finding success or relief. Redundancy without resolution in our daily work can dull our minds sending us into depression.

Can you relate?

I can.

sisyphusI had been in a bit of that negative groove this past August. Days were the same. The side work I do became monotonous and not challenging. Some personal situations were trying. Every day seemed like the last day. I was in a funk. Lidia helped me out of it.

Lidia is, of course, Tropical Storm Lidia who blew in to wake me up. After moving past the anxiety of the storm, what I noticed is that Lidia forced me out of my routine. Work stopped due to lack of internet. The personal squabbles that seemed important fell to the wayside. And most importantly I learned that doing physical labor, taking care of necessities, and helping others is, was, and ever will be what life is really about. In returning to the basics of survival – ensuring food, keeping clean, and repairing shelter – I returned to myself and who I truly am. Breaking out of routine, turning off the computer, and doing some honest physical labor switched off the negativity and brought me back to life.

You don’t need an extreme weather situation to get you out of your funk. Adding these few things to your week can help you break from routine and break free from the negativity of monotony.

Change It Up: Much of our life we are on autopilot. Do things a bit differently to break up the monotony. Take a different route home. Try a new food. Change the order of your daily tasks. See how the change of pace releases you.

Get Physical: So much of our current lifestyle is sedentary and cerebral. Get out of your head and away from the computer. Put your hands in the dirt. Take a walk. Cook. Create. In doing physical actions with your whole body, find relief from the negativity in your head.

Make It About Others: When we spend our days replaying our own challenges, we create a groove of negativity which is hard to break. By supporting others, we stop playing our sad story, breaking us free from its hold. Compassion towards others minimizes our own challenges.

Back to Basics: Much of our days are filled with worries we have created. – Why aren’t people “liking” my Facebook post? I can’t believe it has taken more than 48 hours for Amazon to deliver my iPhone. Why has Starbucks stopped service pumpkin lattes? – Stop. Take a moment to look at the core things that are really important in life. You have family and friends, a roof over your head, and nourishment. Being grateful for the small things can make a big difference.

Laugh and Love: When it comes down to it, laughing and loving are the most important aspects of life. Be sure you are getting – and giving – daily doses.

When your days feel heavy, boring, and redundant, try out these tips. By returning to what is real about life, you will find that the old boring routine holding you down has been reinvigorated.

The crown

Being Impartial

Netflix has many terrific shows lately. One of them is “The Crown” which is about Queen Elizabeth. A scene in the first season really struck me. It is a dialogue between Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary. Here is a condensed version:

Queen Elizabeth (QE): “It doesn’t feel right as head of state to do nothing.”  . . .

Queen Mary (QM): “To do nothing is the hardest job of all. . . to be impartial is not natural, not human. People will always want you to smile or agree or frown and the minute you do you will have declared a position. A point of view and that is the one thing as sovereign that you are not entitled to do. The less you do, the less you say, or agree or smile”

QE: “or think or feel or breathe or exist”

QM: “the better.”

QE: “Well that is fine for the sovereign, but where does that leave me?”

The crownThis scene, and much of the first two seasons, shows the conflict between a young woman learning who she is and to use her voice, versus the rules, regulations, and restrictions of her role. When I first saw this scene, my passion for empowerment came out and my reaction was that Queen Elizabeth has a right to her emotions. She has a right to her thoughts. She has a right to express herself. And she does. But I think there is another message in here.

This fictional conversation is also about the public’s desire to have her mirror their emotions and how difficult it is to be the impartial adult who does not get caught up in the unbridled emotions of the public. If you turn on the news or open Facebook, it is hard not to be consumed by the public’s desire to have you mirror their emotions, to agree with their point of view. Daily we are inundated by posts, memes, and commentaries designed, consciously or unconsciously, to inspire us to take a side. But is that the best choice?

I hardly post anything about politics or “like” others’ posts because my comments and reactions are often misunderstood. I tend to see the gray, but people want me to choose a black or white stance on issues. Recently I had this happen on a personal not political topic. Two individuals I know are having a major conflict. I spoke to one individual with the hope of possibly deflating the issue. I thought we were making progress but at the end of the call he said, “I am glad you and my other friends agree with me.” I had not stated support for either “side” but he needed me to choose sides, specifically his side. When I did not, he stopped speaking to me. Being in the impartial gray is difficult for people to accept. In this case impartiality was the best choice, as neither side was 100% right and the negative energy around this conflict was something I did not want or need to take on.

The other reason I try to stay impartial is because once I state my opinion many people then label me as this or that.  It is sad how many times people I know or meet assume my political affiliation and because of this, I “must” believe this or that. Once impartiality is removed, we can become labeled – and therefore restricted and powerless. We become a hostage of the expectations of a specific label. Our opinions, or assumptions about our opinions, make us the other. Suddenly there is an us-versus-them conflict that can lead to larger problems. We lose our voice to the assumed beliefs of a specific group.

Throughout your day, notice the conversations you have. Whether politics or the drive into work, do people expect you to choose and state an opinion? What happens if you do? Do you feel trapped or labeled afterwards? If you stay impartial and objective, how do others react? What does being objective and impartial give you? You have a right to your thoughts, opinions, and emotions, but explore how staying in the impartial gray can provide you with power and peace.

stress awareness day

Handling the Top Stressors in Life

For a while now, besides helping entrepreneurs and busy professionals with stress reduction and finding success without the stress, I have been helping those who have recently been laid off. What I have found is teaching the best practices for job transition is easy. What is more challenging is helping new job seekers to manage the emotions that come with the transition.

Unfortunately, many people I work with have been with one company for twenty or thirty years. When they are laid off, there are a host of issues which arise. Like in a divorce, they are angry that they gave so much to something and are being seemingly thrown away. They are resentful for having given so much and not feeling respected and taken care of in return. Those who are a few years from retirement are stressed by having to re-write their game plan. Many have not had to seek a new position in decades and are overwhelmed by learning and executing a new process. Some are frozen by fear and consumed by the sadness of loss.

Job loss is one of the top stressors humans currently experience. It is difficult. And for a few clients in transition, job loss is not the only issue they are challenged by. Many also experience one or more of the other major stressors. They may also be going through a divorce. Some are challenged by their own or their loved one’s health crisis. Some have positive changes like moving or having a new baby, but these positive experiences still tax their mind and body.

stress awareness dayThe Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory has long been a rating system for our stress levels. Check it out and calculate your current score for the past year. I scored in the highest category – and they don’t even have points for going through a major weather disaster. How about you?

Calculating my stress level made me feel some immediate relief. I pride myself on the strides I have made in reducing the negative effects of stress in my own life. Knowing that I am at the top end of the scale helped me understand that I just needed to step up my stress reduction tools. My normal practices could not cut this intensity and I needed to supplement my practices with additional tools and habits. Just knowing this and implementing a new tool or two, has already allowed me to feel some relief.

The Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory is used to predict a “major health breakdown” in the next two years. I’ll add the caveat, that this will only happen if nothing is done to relieve the stress. November 1, 2017 is National Stress Awareness Day. Use this reminder as an opportunity to check-in with your own stress levels and to begin making changes in your life to reduce your stress.

One step you can take today is to gain instant access to the Making Time for Stress Relief online course. This free self-study course was designed to help you begin to make changes in your level of stress, even when you think you don’t have the time. In five to fifteen minutes a day, you can utilize tools to not only reduced the effects of stress when they occur but to begin reducing the long-term effects of stress.

None of us deserve to experience the long-term mental and physical effects of stress. Commit today to make a change in your life by Making Time for Stress Relief.