practicing yoga

A Bit of Self Care

I almost didn’t write a blog post this week, but then thought I would share what I am experiencing.

practicing yogaAfter a two-year hiatus, I started practicing yoga again. I love it. I enjoy it. It strengthens me. It helps be more flexible and centered. And, for those of you who do yoga, it can also be cleansing. After two months of dedicated practice, I am now experiencing a healing crisis. Basically, the yoga is doing such a great job helping me detox, that my body can’t keep up. My body can not release the toxins as quickly as needed. The result is a sort of a cold. Aches, pains, sneezing, and a host of other trying-to-detox symptoms.

At first, I thought I had a new food or environmental allergy. I tried to power through it. Then, with a friend’s help, I realized it was a healing crisis. Isn’t it wonderful to be able to label something so we can then deal with it? The first step to fixing issues is to step outside of the pain and look at things objectively. Once we can really understand what is happening and why, then we can address the problem and fix it.

The next step is to change our beliefs. At first, I resisted slowing down. Things are busy right now and I felt compelled to get everything done. But then I took the time to evaluate the responsibilities to which I committed myself. I looked at my to-do list and determined that no one was going to die if I didn’t take a day off. I changed my belief about what had to be done now and by me.

Finally, I granted myself permission to take care of myself in the way I was called. Friday was an afternoon writing for me, not for work. Saturday was my latest binge show (Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries), a nap, and the treat of a massage. Giving myself time and permission to heal has, you guessed it, helped me heal. The result is a clearer mindset and a healthier body.

We Type A’s, caregivers, and overachievers have a hard time with the concept of self-care. Taking care of ourselves is an afterthought, if a thought at all. We look at our to-do list and try to power through it. We feel obligated to perform at a certain level no matter how we feel. We are weighed down and allow ourselves to be defined and controlled by our assumed responsibilities.

What is overwhelming you right now? Take a moment to determine if it needs to be done, if it needs to be done now, and if it needs to be done by you. Release unnecessary obligations for now, or assign someone else to complete them, or release them all together. Then grant yourself a bit of self-care, whatever that means for you. To serve others we need to be at our best. Therefore, we have to ensure that we are the first person on our to-do list. Once you are consciously choosing your responsibilities and ensuring proper care for yourself, see if you aren’t happier, more productive, and healthier.


Give and Take

Recently I wrote about living for yourself versus living for others. A lot of people contacted me about how difficult this was for them. Some said being raised Christian, they were imbued with a mission of giving to others as an act of Christian sacrifice. Others asked how to receive when you are a natural “giver” not “taker” kind of person. I hope to give some tools and support to my fellow “givers” so they can learn to give without depleting themselves and hopefully also learn to receive.

Redefine Sacrifice: Sacrifice is defined as “the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim.” The question to ask is why is someone or something always more pressing than your needs? Yes, sometimes others have a more pressing need than yours. Say for instance your child breaks their arm – I think we could all agree that their medical needs are more pressing than your daily needs at that moment. But look at how often you view your needs as less than others. Is it a weekly occurrence? Daily? Hourly? The other definition of sacrifice is “a loss incurred in selling something below its value.” Are you selling yourself short? Are you continually devaluating yourself? Helping others and the occasional sacrifice are wonderful, but if it becomes your normal way of living you are negating your value as a fellow human being.

balanceGive Without Giving Yourself Totally Away: The key is to give to others without giving away yourselves. As a coach this was a very important concept to learn. Throughout the day I give to others, but I do so without giving away myself. I exist. I desire. I receive. And I am able to give to others. Giving does not mean disappearing into others’ needs. Just like we give presents to those who love, the gift of giving should be something outside of ourselves. It adds to their lives without taking away from our own.

Create Boundaries: Determine who you give to and when you give. We do not need to be paid back for things we freely provide, but we should also not feel like we are being taken advantage of. Give only when it feels good to you. You should feel better and more fulfilled after you give, not drained. Giving should be as Ghandi has been reported to say, selfish. If your giving feels as good if not better for you than the person you gave to, then it is worth it. And remember, if it feels bad when you are giving, what you are giving out has bad energy as well, no matter how well intentioned your actions.

Release the Guilt: Nothing in the world requires you to give to others. It is a choice. Release your guilt and sense of obligation. Cut the emotional cord you have to others. This emotion is what ties you to guilt giving. Whether you think that others will not like you or that it would make you a bad person if you don’t give, recognize that you are not given for authentic reasons. Give freely and from the heart. Release any sense of duty or compulsion.

Model How You Want Others to Be: Many of the mothers I work with feel compelled to sacrifice for their children. However, what does this sacrifice teach your children? As a constant giver, you are showing your children that they are not worth as much as others. Be a mentor and model the ideal behavior. Show your children how you can give while still existing and receiving.

Be a Mentor Not a Fixer: Find the balance between giving and doing for someone. If we tied our children’s shoes for them and never taught them how, they would grow up to be adults who could not handle this simple function of adulthood. This is the old adage of “give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he will never go hungry.” Allow the other to take responsibility for themselves and be there to teach and educate, not to do it for them. Sometimes it is hard to watch those who are struggling, but remember you had to learn on your own too. Challenges educate and build character – don’t make it too safe or easy as you may actually be doing them a disservice.

You Are the Only One Taking Care of You: You are the only one responsible for taking care of yourself – accept the responsibility. Just like charity begins at home. Giving starts with giving to yourself.

Replenish Yourself: Large or small, giving and caring for others can deplete us. Find ways to give to yourself to help you recharge. Flight attendants remind us to put on our oxygen mask before helping others. Be sure you are receiving adequate self-care before you give to others. This will ensure you are taken care of so you have something to give to others.

Stop Thinking All or Nothing: Release the notion that you can either be a giver or a taker. Sometimes you need help and sometimes I do. Focus on who needs the support at the moment and just make sure you get a turn. Or if it helps, wear the badge of giver – but be sure that one of the people you give to is yourself.

I hope these tips on giving have been helpful. Try a few out and let me know how is has shifted how and when you give.

finding a job

Is Today the Day to Start Your Dream?

Lately I have been helping a lot of people in job transition. After ten, fifteen, or even twenty years with the same company, doing the same role they now find themselves without work. In trying to find a new job and sometimes change careers, they usually go about it the same way. They look at the jobs available and then see how they can make their skills and experience fit what is available.  They feel frustrated, unsure, frightened, and desperate. Their self-esteem is diminished. They feel worthless and hope that finding a job will fill them again. They don’t know who they are without the job they used to have. They worry about replacing income and health care. They are sad and hollow.

And they are looking at the transition the wrong way.

finding a jobThey give their power to corporations and open positions. They ask. They beg. They try to fit themselves into existing roles. They hope to say the right things and be accepted by the hiring manager. And they never consider if they would be happy in their new position. It is like getting divorced and desperately trying to marry the next person you meet.

What they need to do is dream.

They have been gifted with an opportunity to create their next years. They have been jolted out of the convenient norm and given the opportunity to create something they are passionate about. They have been given a new lease on life. It warms my heart when I see clients come alive when I give them permission to explore their dreams. They all have a dream that has been haunting them, nagging at them, and with one word I help them allow it to become something they can consider. And all of a sudden it is a new game.

They bring up their passions. They bring up a unique talent. They describe their perfect life. They are energized. They are excited. They are confident. They are hopeful. It is so beautiful to watch.

Instead of trying to fit themselves into existing jobs, they begin to explore themselves. What do they want for the next phase of their life? Not just a job, but what do they want their life to look like. Do they still want to work sixty-hour weeks or are they ready for a bit more balance? Do they want to continue to commute or work virtually? Do they want their career to be primary or move their volunteer work center stage? They explore how their skills and previous experience can be used in an industry they are passionate about. They begin to create their lives.

Instead of trying to justify why they are good for role, we start to explore what they were created to do on this earth. By looking at their unique skills, passions, and values we uncover possible careers which are perfect for them. Instead of just earning a living, they begin imagining living their perfect life.

Are you stuck in a rut? Do you have a job which you do not enjoy? Is your heart ready for a change but your head is afraid? Take some time to uncover your skills and experience. Then determine your passions. What is it that you love and are attracted to? Next define your values. What is important to you? Then see how this information comes together. What opportunities do your skills, passions, and values create? This is not the space for any “yes, but.” Do this all with blue sky, white hat, open thinking. Once you have a few ideas, then ask “who could pay me to do this?” Explore who could benefit from your unique skills, passions, and values. Create a resume and personal brand to express what you uniquely offer. They pursue the companies who are looking for you.

And then be grateful for the amazing life you have been gifted.

Even in Paradise, Nothing’s Perfect

If you have been reading my posts or following me on Facebook, you have learned about my husband’s and my incredible journey to our new lives in Mexico. We are thrilled we took the risk and are enjoying reaping the rewards.

IMAG0502We are living in an amazing home with a pool which overlooks the Mar de Cortez and the famous Land’s End Arch. The coldest November evening has still been twenty to thirty degrees warmer than the high’s in our old home of Chicago. We have had some rain but the majority of days are sunny with tiny wispy white clouds. The local people here are amazing – friendly, warm and welcoming. Every meal is heavenly with fresh unprocessed foods and the right amount of spice. Every sunrise, sunset, and unexpected glance at the coast makes us feel blessed.

But nothing is perfect.

September’s heat and humidity gave both my husband and I a touch of heat stroke. We have experienced our first hurricane threat. Although we came down here for the laid-back culture, sometimes the no shows and delays can be frustrating. Finding certain products we need can be like a treasure hunt. Mail takes weeks to be delivered. And it is not just learning a new culture, we also experience challenges because we ourselves did not magically transform when we crossed the border. We brought with us all of our old limiting beliefs and personality struggles. We are living in paradise but our lives are not picture book perfect.

Does this mean you should not take a risk to have a better life? No!

Going after your dream life is well worth it. We are thrilled with our choice to move and know we have made the right decision coming down here. My point is simply making the move does not create an immediate Disney magical ending. It is the difference between living your life and having a life. On paper the life we have is perfect. In reality the life we live is challenging.

Having a life is the misconception that as soon as we have a new job, a new house, a new city, a new love, that our lives will be perfect and worry-free. The desire for perfectionism necessitates life to stop, to freeze-frame in that one perfect moment. A stopped life is no longer living. Perfection is an illusion. Life is ever changing. Life is ever evolving. Life is messy. When we expect perfectionism and the lack of challenges, we become depressed when faced by the reality of life. The truth of life is there are challenges – loss, change, betrayal, and the unknown.

To truly live means to face challenges – big and small – with our best selves. Are we centered? Are we reacting from clarity or raw emotion? Are we able to see the whole picture or just our victimization? Are we able to pick ourselves up after a difficulty? Are we able to be compassionate towards others struggling? Can we still love life when everything is not cookie-cutter perfect? Can we see each challenge as an opportunity to shine versus a disappointment to complain about?

We learn, grow, and share our gifts with the world not through the most perfect day ever, but by being our most perfect unique self no matter the circumstances. My challenge to you is to make this day, no matter what else is going on, the best it can be.

If you are looking to shed your desire for perfectionism and begin creating the beautiful life you want to live, join me in paradise this spring.

The Cost of Business as Usual

Most individuals in current business environments have the feeling of being chained to one’s desk for an inhuman amount of hours, running to endless meetings, and being bombarded by constant emails and calls. Many employees are doing the work of two or more people these days. Associates are being held accountable for unrealistic sales goals. Everything is a crisis. The result is stress. And a lot of it.

istock-18586699-monkey-computer_brick-16e5064d3378a14e0e4c2da08857efe03c04695e-s6-c30The irony is that the more hectic our day, the more stress we experience and the less productive we become. When we are stressed, our fight-or-flight system kicks in, the same unconscious system which takes over if we are in physical danger. All of our energy goes into our muscles to help us run or fight. Our digestive, reproductive, and immune systems are turned off. The longer we are stressed, the longer our basic systems are turned off causing ulcers and other digestive issues, along with a host of other physiological problems. The fight-or-flight system runs on autopilot so our cognitive mind is cloudy. Since our minds are constantly cloudy our work is slower, inefficient, and ineffective.

One great way to combat our daily stress is to disconnect from our fight-or-flight limbic brains and allow our normal bodily functions to return to normal. We can do this by simply taking a walk once or twice a day, or getting up from our desk every hour to do a few minutes of physical movement. Many employees can also find relief using meditation during the work day to help them disconnect from their reactionary stressed-based minds and reconnect with their effective, intuitive, calm cognitive minds.

Changing expectations about communication reaction time can also make a big difference. Many employees feel a prisoner of their electronics. When the communication pops up, they stop what they are doing, read the email, determine it is not urgent, and go back to the original project. When the next email pops up, the cycle repeats. The result is being constantly busy but getting nothing done. Working this way is an amazing waste of time and focus. Instead of constantly checking in with communications, turn off notifications for email, texts and social media, and instead carve out time slots during the day to check communications. This allows for better focus, more efficiency, and less stress.

When you do take a moment to look at the communications, open each only once and act upon it in that moment. Choose to either Do, Delegate, Delay, or Delete.

  • Do: Respond and complete the request in that moment.
  • Delegate: Is this the highest and best use of your time? Is there someone else you can delegate this to?  Is there an automated system you can put in place to handle a specific type of email?
  • Delay: If the email does not need to be handled right now, but it does need to be done by you, add a reminder to come back to it. Don’t just leave it in your inbox as you may then open it again in the future only to delay it again. Color code the email as a “future” and set up a follow-up reminder.
  • Delete: Does this need to be done at all? Is there really anything you need to address with it? If you find you are constantly deleting emails from certain sources, you may want to unsubscribe from the list or remove yourself from the project.

Adding in movement, disconnecting from the day, and shifting your relationship with communication, can help reduce some of your workplace stress leading to more productivity and increased wellness.