frustrated girl

A Crisis in Confidence

Now, more than ever, I try stay off Facebook as much as possible. I post my daily It’s My Life, Inc. contribution and stay in touch via Messenger, but I rarely scan through posts. The hate and misinformation on both sides shakes me to my core.

This past week I had a Facebook incident that left me dismayed. A friend posted something from a website. Instead of ignoring it, I looked up the website and found that the ownership was blocked. Unfortunately, I did not stop there, as I shared what I learned about the website on his post. The poster and another friend encouraged me to click the link which they found funny. I didn’t. It was hateful, not funny. I felt bad for seeing the post, researching it, sharing my input unsolicited, and learning that my friends found making fun of others delightful.

The whole incident was not a big deal, but for me it just intensified what I have been feeling. I am sad watching our country, families and friendships being pulled apart by polarizing politics. I am disheartened that so many people look to attack and discredit “the other” versus learning to understand and find common ground. I am losing hope that things will turn around and we will come together for the good of humanity.

Photo by Henrikke Due on Unsplash

Thankfully, I have two life rafts I hold on to which help me navigate these depressing times.

This is not the end

A while back I wrote about a movie quote, “Everything will be alright in the end so if it is not alright it is not the end.” This may be a simplistic look at life, but it also tends to be the reality. So many times, in my life and in the world, the tragedy being witnessed is not the end of the story. It may take days, weeks, months, or years, but eventually, things get better. I hold on to a glimmer of hope that this is the case now.

A short while back I ran across President Jimmy Carter’s Crisis of Confidence speech. The speech was given back in 1979 in the midst of the energy crisis. What surprised me was how many of the sentiments in the speech, relate to what I am experiencing now. The President said many things 40 years ago, that feel like they could be written about today. “I want to talk to you about a fundamental threat to human democracy.” “We can see this crisis [in confidence] in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation. The erosion in our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.” At the time, two-thirds of the people did not vote because they didn’t think it mattered. Many Americans thought the next five years would not be better than the last five years. I am sure that it felt like the end of America, and maybe it was a mark of its decline – all I know is that it did not end in 1980. Things continued.

Many sages over the centuries have said, “this too shall pass.” They are right. No matter if what we are experiencing personally or on a global level, it is not permanent. Holding hope and taking the right next step can help shift and move us all in a positive direction.

I have power over my experience

No matter what others are doing or what is happening on a global scale, I have the ability to adjust how I react. In my book, From Type A to Type Me, I mentioned how Nelson Mandela was treated poorly in prison but he “felt he would lose himself if he lost his love for his fellow man. The results: often the warden had to replace Mandela’s guards because, once they experienced his kindness, the guards could not be severe with Mandela.”  We can do this too.

We have the ability – and the responsibility – for our individual experience. Sometimes I need to remind myself to put on my big girl pants and take responsibility for my life. Blaming or trying to control the actions of others does not work. The only thing we can truly affect is ourselves, our thoughts, our words, and our actions. What helps me is to stop looking at others and to take personal responsibility for my experience.

When the reality of today gets you down, look at what you can control, stop blaming others, and know that this too shall pass. If you need any help or support during this time, reach out to me or others. Taking care of ourselves also means reaching out for help when we need it.

handling covid-19

Dealing with the Fear of Uncertainty

At an online work meeting the other day, management shared this graphic which was found on LinkedIn. The message is beautiful, but unfortunately the author of the graphic could not be found. The graphic is focused on the current pandemic, yet the message can be applied to our lives in general.

who do I choose to be during the Covid-19

Over the last month or so, if I am going to be absolutely honest, I have been wavering between the fear, learning and growth zones. Two weeks before our state announced official stay-at-home requirements, I fell into the fear zone. The unknown tends to send us into fear. In the States, fear transformed into lack of toilet paper – for whatever reason. Being in a hurricane zone, it was funny to watch how like myself, my neighbors prepared for the virus like we would a hurricane. We stockpiled water and food. I saw lines at the gas stations. Our fears from previous storms, made us act similar ways – even though surviving a tropical storm is very different than surviving a virus.

Isn’t it interesting how our fear – fear of the unknown, fear of loss, fear of others’ actions – makes us act in unhelpful ways? After leaving the hoarding phase, I noticed my tendency to use food (usually bad-for-me “comfort” food) and distraction (Candy Crush / Netflix) to make me feel better. If it did do anything to alleviate or dampen my fear, the affect was usually short-lived and often caused more issues than it solved. My unconscious mind thinks coffee, chocolate, and binge-watching are the easier, softer way to reduce my fear. All it really does is puts fear on a pause button, and then fear comes back with a vengeance once the pacifier is removed.

The seemingly easier, softer way is in the fear zone – sharing information (without fact checking), hoarding, blaming others, and drowning overthinking-brains in alcohol or carbs. Unfortunately, no matter what is going on, this does not work. What does work is when we can move into the learning or the growth zones.

These zones are full of acceptance, surrender, compassion, and conscious action. This is where we stop fighting reality and learn instead the power of accepting what is really going on. We surrender to the new reality and surrender our misguided belief that we can control the uncontrollable. We stop having pity-parties for ourselves and begin look to who we can help. Sometimes we are able to help in big ways as in the case of the front-line healthcare workers, sometimes it is an action like delivering food to shut-ins or those without work, and sometimes it just means picking up the phone and connecting with someone who needs to hear a friend’s voice.

The difference is that in the fear zone we are avoiding reality and believe we can control the uncontrollable. In the learning and growth zones, we accept reality and act on what is within our means to affect.

Take some time to review how you are handling this unprecedented situation. Which zone are you spending most of your time in? Don’t attack yourself for spending time in the fear zone; it happens as we are all human. Just use this review to consciously decide where you want to be and how you want to spend your time.

Hang in there. Share your success and struggles with us here.

we look at the smae moon but live in different worlds

I Do Not Like That Man. I Must Get to Know Him Better.

Amid all the hate speech on and offline, I thought this quote from Abraham Lincoln provides some sound advice. He is noted for saying, “I do not like that man. I must get to know him better.”

Isn’t it easy to see something we disagree with online and immediately dismiss the person who wrote it? Isn’t it easier to attack or discredit them than to be the bigger person and reach out to make a human connection?  I can’t tell you how many times I have spoken to someone who hated this group or that ethnicity, but when I said, “Isn’t your friend Sammy one of THEM?” their response is often, “Well he is different than the rest of THEM. I know him.” Knowing someone personally helps us to accept, understand, and even become friends with those of different cultures or backgrounds.

As the world becomes smaller and smaller, we are not able to isolate and insulate ourselves like in the past. It is time to come together as a global community and begin to understand those who are different than us in appearance, culture, or thinking. Here are a few ideas to make that happen.

Photo by Arie Wubben on Unsplash

Stop Lumping

One of the biggest culprits of bias is lumping people together by some label. All men, Mexicans, Republicans, or St. Louis Cardinal fans are horrible. Really?  Every single one of them? Our mind likes to label and name things because it helps us to recall information quickly. Yet in grouping people together, we are creating our own perception and judgment about people instead of seeing the unique individual. Look at yourself. What groups or labels could you be categorized by? What assumptions could people make about you if they only looked at a single aspect of you? What are they missing out about who you are if they only see one facet of you?

What Do You Value

When we label others, we are choosing to make some aspect of the person important above the rest. What does it say about you in how you choose to label?  What are you deciding is important? Nationality, gender, wealth? Why do you choose that element to judge others? When we prejudge people by one element of their being, we are saying more about our own fears than about the true character of the other person.

Second Chance

Let’s cut each other some slack. I would hate to be judged because of how I look or where I come from. I am guessing you feel the same, so why not extend the curtesy to others by not judging? Instead of judging and attacking, have the courage to reach out to someone who irritates you or someone who is different from you. Learn about them. Learn about their culture. Learn who they are as an individual. You may not become fast friends, but it will make moving around in the world easier.

Who have you met recently who has irritated you? Why was that? Are you making assumptions because of one element – nationality, ethnicity, culture? Try to be more open and welcoming this week. See if you don’t find more connection when you take the time to really meet and know those around you.

reaching out

The Importance of Connection & Service

December 25th many people around the United States and the world will be celebrating Christmas with family and friends. Those celebrating and those not, may also be suffering mentally or physically. Stress, depression, hopelessness, and illness appear to be becoming more prevalent.

In November the LA Times published a very depressing article about the decline of life expectancy in the United States. Yes, you read that right. Life expectancy in what used to be considered a major world power, is now declining. More concerning to me is why there is a decline. The article described how chronic stress is the root cause of the increase in illness and premature death.

Unfortunately, I don’t have suggestions to fix the employment and healthcare challenges which often lead to this stress. Instead I would like to explore how connection and service can help lessen our stress and improve our health.

Photo by Caroline Attwood on Unsplash

Connection

As our tools for communication – internet, social media – increase, our ability to connect with others often decreases. One reason is that we are having monologues versus dialogues. Our posts are desperate cries for someone to see and notice us. The result is not connection, but more isolation brought about by comparison, jealously, and self-pity. When the posts do appear to be dialogues, they are usually still monologues spouting us-vs-them diatribes.

The result is loneliness. We have 500 Facebook friends, and no real-world friends. All of our personal facts and figures, data to describe us, are available online, but no one knows or can see what is in our heart. We are in constant communication but have no real connection.

To reconnect with those around you, turn off your computer and meet someone face-to-face. Use your telephone as the verbal tool it was initially created for, instead of as an isolating computer game. Next, listen more than you talk. Ask questions and really hear the answers. When you do talk, talk from the heart. Share your whole truth, not a censored truth projecting what you think others will be impressed by or what you think is the acceptable norm. True connection is found in our fears and foibles, more than a sanitized version of the truth.

Service

Loneliness and hopelessness grow when we isolate and detach. Instead, get out of yourself and help another. Maybe that means volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, a soup kitchen, or a women’s shelter. Maybe it means simply talking to the lonely widow in your building. The service you do is not as important as getting out of yourself and thinking of others.

When we feel poorly, we often reach for comfort food, a glass of wine, or an illicit substance to make the pain go away. Those may help for a little while, but they don’t last – and they often have lasting negative side effects or repercussions. Helping another has more positive effects and results for others and us. It helps us get out of ourselves and our own self-pity. In supporting another, we gain hope as we often see solutions for others we could not see for ourselves. Giving to others is not only charity, but is also one of the most selfish things we can do because it always makes us feel better.

We may not have power to change the economy, our employer, or the healthcare system. We do, however, always have the power to change our reaction to our circumstances. Focusing on pain, fear and worries only increases pain, fear and worry. When we choose instead to get out of our self by making true connections and giving freely in service, we find real happiness, hope and joy returning to us.

Wishing you all a happy, hopefully, and healthy 2020!

holiday travel

How to Not Go Crazy Over the Holidays

For some, holidays can be one of the most stressful times of the year. Our schedule is filled with events and gatherings leaving us no free time. We rush around buying gifts, decorations, and food. We are constantly cleaning the house to have it ready for our guests. Some gatherings are not only filled with the stress of preparations and deadlines, but old family wounds and insecurities. At the end of the holiday season, we feel drained, tired, exhausted, and depleted. Previously I shared a few ways to make your holiday season work for you

For many of us though, we don’t just have the holidays going on. We may also be changing jobs, houses, or spouses. We may have a loved one in the hospital or be ill ourselves. Time and again, I see people who are usually juggling a few challenges at once. In working with many people in job transition, it breaks my heart to see how many of them not only have to deal with a sudden job loss but have other challenges as well. The holidays, job transition, moving, illness – these are all factors that add to our stress level. If you want to get an idea of where you are compared to others with the amount of stress you are currently experiencing, check out this quick survey.

Photo by Tord Sollie on Unsplash

The survey can be helpful in realizing the actual extent of your stress, which is the first step to releasing that stress. Many of us accept stress as the new normal. We expect life to be tough. We persevere. We push through. We kill ourselves because we refuse to admit that it is too much. We lead depressing difficult lives because we don’t think there is another option. We think that it is normal to feel unhappy. But it does not need to be.

After being honest with ourselves that we do have stress, the next step is to recognize stress does not need to be “normal” and to see how our stress levels are affecting our joy, our health, and our relationships. How would our experience of life change if we were able to remove our stress? What would improve? Of course, we can not always remove the factors causing the stress. What we can do is change our reaction to the stress. We can change how we approach challenges. We can learn to live more joyfully no matter the difficult situations we are currently experiencing.

Stress does not need to negatively affect your life. Yes, challenges will happen. Life will throw us curveballs. What does not need to happen is to have a sense of powerlessness, victimhood, and anger adding more pain to difficult situations. You do have a choice in how much stress will affect you. To help, I offer a free online course to help you make time to look at your stress level and take the first steps to approaching things differently. Using these simple tools, you can begin to recognize and address your stress in a more positive way. You are also welcome to expand your ability to control your stress through some simple stress hacks and other stress programs offered.

Wishing you a joyous holiday season!

eeyore and friends

Emotional Contagion & the Holidays

Ah, the holidays. As we approach Thanksgiving in the United States, Christmas everywhere, and a plethora of holidays around the world, no doubt idyllic Norman Rockwell images pop into mind. Or maybe Norman has been replaced by the formulaic sentimentality of the Hallmark holiday movie industry. Either way, we are transported to visions of sugar plums, loving connection, and unconditional support wrapped up in a perfectly tied silk bow and served alongside steaming hot chocolate with two heart-shaped marshmallows.

And then we go home to our families.

Now don’t get all huffy my family of origin, I am referring to the Royal We family. Not any of you specifically.

When people get together, even people who love and care for each other, things are not always perfect. The reality of our lives is that we are all human and imperfect. We have bad moods. We have differing opinions. We have expectations which are hard to live up to. And it is gosh darn hard to maintain a joyful attitude all the time, especially if we have someone experiencing a Scrooge moment around us.

eeyore and friends wallpaper

But it is important that we try. I recently read an article which explores Emotional Contagion. Emotional Contagion is basically how, like we can catch a cold from those around us, we can also catch others’ emotions. Because humans mirror and mimic each other, one person’s bad mood can ruin the mood of everyone around them, and then everyone around those people.

What can be done?

First, don’t be “that guy.” Be aware of your own emotional state. What are you experiencing that you might unconsciously transmit to others? Clean up any Negative Nelly thinking before you hit the party circuit or share anything on social media. It may feel good to scream out the negativity, but if you knew it would not release you from your bad mood but instead spread the crud to others, would you still do it?

Next, watch out for “that guy.” It may be an Eeyore at work, crotchety Uncle Bill, or your best friend on a bad day. Doesn’t matter who it is. What is important is to keep your eyes open for someone who might be spreading holiday anti-cheer.

Once you have identified the ground zero of negativity you have two choices. First, try to help the poor soul. Usually the person experiencing a bad mood is not enjoying being grumpy any more than you enjoy being around them when they are grumpy. Empathize, distract, encourage, instill gratitude. Look to your toolbox of things that make you happy and see if any of them can break your friend out of their mood. Second, run away. If someone is in a funk and you are not able to help them escape it, get yourself a safe distance away so you don’t catch – and spread – what they are exuding.

During the holidays, and every day, decide if you want to spread cheer or negativity. Acknowledge your ability to make this a happier, better world by controlling your emotions and if/how you take on the emotions of others.