Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Giving Negative Nancy the Boot

Giving Negative Nancy the Boot 

What you focus on becomes your reality. Our thoughts become our lives. Furthermore, we become our thoughts. Okay, now really let this idea soak into the brain.

I’m writing about this today because on Black Friday I took part in an online treasure hunt and trivia game to win prizes from an online store (who shall remain nameless because I couldn't get a hold of them for permission to publish their name). There were not too many people playing, just enough to create a fun competition. As time went on, I won a five-dollar gift certificate and a candle. I was so excited, because one, I love winning and two it rarely happens.

Everyone was having fun and cheering each other on, yet one person decided to make a comment that the shop owner had favorites and that there was not enough notice given to her, which is why she wasn’t winning any prizes. Negative Nancy, came in full force to blame others, feel sorry for herself and play the victim and throwing around a general nastiness. When suggestions were given to her (and yes, that would be from me) that she could sign up for a newsletter to get all the latest news she complained that no one posted a link to the newsletter. She couldn’t possibly take the responsibility to look it up herself like everyone else did; rather, she believed it was other’s responsibility to hold her hand. Therefore, it wasn’t her fault that she couldn’t receive the newsletter. Ultimately, and since no one else replied to her, she gave up and discontinued playing. 

The truth is that there was plenty of notice in several forms and the shop owner was playing by the rules she created. The truth is that Negative Nancy lives in a life of learned helplessness and entitlement. Her negativity has crippled her and the only way she can feel better is to spread her anger to others. Now at this point I will admit that I should not have responded to her, but being the Amazon of Truth that I like to think I am, I could not resist. My bad. 

What we often forget, myself included, is that our every thought, our self-talk and what we say out loud creates our present and our future. For example, how many times have you said or heard a friend say, “Life sucks”, only to feel depressed, angry and have run after run of bad luck? How many times have you walked into work thinking, “I hate my job” or “my boss sucks”, only to continuously have bad day after bad day? Ultimately, these thoughts are blaming others for your misfortunes, when you have the ability to improve your life with your thoughts. This even extends to how we view and think about ourselves. With thoughts like, "Ugh, I hate my thighs" or, "I'm so fat" one might drown their sorrows in food, or, find it difficult to get motivated to exercise. 

Often times I look at people who are positive and happy in their lives. Everything for them seems to come easily and naturally. I see that they do not blame others for their misfortunes. They talk positively and with gratitude for what they do have. They do not feel as like a victim, but rather that life is a gift and an adventure to which they look forward. Most of all, they choose to find the positive in every situation. 

Now, let me say this: We cannot stop our thoughts. The subconscious is constantly going. However, it is the conscious thoughts that we can recognize and alter. That is to say, that when we start to think negatively towards life, others and ourselves, stop for a moment. Observe that thought. Why did this come forward? How do we feel when we go to that dark place? Think about what kind of tone that will set for the rest of your day and if that is what you truly desire. My best guess, is that when people judge, condemn and criticize it is because people believe it will make them feel better. However, I can promise you that the opposite is true. 

The Negative Nancy Snub Challenge

Create five affirmations of what you want more of or less of in your life. Write, read and repeat them several times throughout the day every day for a week. The make note either to you yourself or written down of any changes that you experience.

For myself, “I am excited to experience the positive changes that life has in store for me”, or, “I experience a positive internship with mentors who want to help me succeed ”.  Find what works for you, stick with it and let me know about the changes that you see in you life as a result. You might start feeling softer toward yourself, excited about life, or you might begin to feel more confident than before. Don’t be afraid of the changes and don’t let the Negative Nancy’s in the world rain on your parade. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Finding Balance During the Holidays

Finding Balance During the Holidays

November 21, 2012

A few years ago my husband and I decided to take control of our holiday season. Between the two of us we had three families to visit. Each one living in complete opposite direction of the other. We also had several friends who were hosting. Add the fact that I worked during the holidays and wanted to host myself, the stress and worry was just way too much. We finally decided to take the holidays back in our own hands. So I wanted to share with you what helps us during this time. I hope it helps you as well. 

Don't over commit 
We are very much like circuit boards in this respect. Over committing goes hand in hand with overloading. Imagine each commitment we make lighting up on the board. Each light uses a certain amount of energy or stress. 1, 2, 3 commitments and we are feeling okay with that. We can handle that. However, 4,5,6 commitments and the lights start blinking, warning us of overload. Once that happens the joy of the holiday is gone. We are then, unable to focus on just being present. Only commit to what you can actually handle. Sit down and reflect on what is realistic for your personal life. At this moment you have permission to limit your obligations. You don't owe your holiday's to anyone. Accepting this alone will relieve a lot of stress. I can honestly say that my husband and I love every single holiday, once we took back our control. 

Be present 
Be sure to be in the moment.  If you forget something chances are nobody will miss it. Get out of your head. If you get an inkling that feelings of stress are starting to make you feel frazzled, stop what you are doing. Go outside, in a quiet space if possible and take a couple of deep breaths. It's even better if you can take your shoes off and stand with your bare feet on the ground. Standing with our feet on the ground instantly brings us back to center. Focusing on our breath does the same thing while pushing everything else out for a bit. 
You want to breathe from the diaphragm. Imagine your belly blowing up like a balloon on the inhale and concaving like your blowing out a candle slowly on the exhale. 

Be grateful 
I know this goes without saying. However, I can't tell you how many times I have gone to holiday gatherings, or have hosted one, and have not been Thanked. Even better, it is always a beautiful gesture to help with the clean up after everyone has finished eating. Again, I grew up in family where everyone pitched in. We never came to a house empty handed, we helped to set the table, and clean up afterwards. This will mean a world of joy to the host and hostess. Mind, you don't have to bring food. Wine or flowers or a beautiful candle are all appropriate gifts for the host. 

Self Care:
Note: you can include your kids in all of these. Getting them involved takes the stress off of you. 

Exercise- Even if it is just stretching. Anything that will restore you. Work out the stress. For some this may mean doing some yoga (my personal favorite) before going to someone's house. Or you can incorporate into your holiday traditions. As a child we would visit my aunt who lived in a beautiful mountain town. At some point during the day some of the adults would take a short walk, with kids trailing and playing in tow. It's a great way to clear the energy and the head during the day. 

 Sleep- You definitely want to make sure you are getting enough sleep. If you are not well rested you will not be at your best. This makes it easier to keep up with the day's activities. It also keeps the stress monster away.  

Water - This is probably your most underestimated tool for keeping you feeling balanced. Water nourishes our bodies and our brains. Our brains rely on water to function properly. From getting enough sleep to problem solving water is essential to our efficiency. During the holiday season there is so much to remember and water is key to memory function. One trick I use when I start feeling anxious about something is to breathe through my nose while drinking water (not guzzling) for a count of ten. I instantly feel relaxed.

Time management- For many people the holiday is just one more thing to add on top of an already busy schedule. This means that things can get out of control really fast. We all have used lists at some point. I imagine that many of us always take a list to the grocery store. I don't know of one mom who doesn't. Well, lists are not just for grocery shopping.To do lists, as well as, where you are going lists and when, will help you stay on track and keep overload at bay. Leave your house with plenty of time to spare so you don't feel panicked when you are on the road. 

Let It Go
At some point you have to remember to keep things in perspective. It's okay if you forget something. I have hosted Thanksgiving dinners where I actually forgot to make two of the dishes I had planned. You know what? Nobody even noticed and if they did they certainly didn't make mention. It's okay if you don't get complete everything. Got a run in you nylons? Take them off and throw them out. Haven't showered and guests are arriving? Laugh it off graciously and put them to work while you get prepared. Some one shows up early and you're cleaning the house? Hand them a feather duster and it will get done faster. Or you can leave it and sit down with a drink. Show up late? Make sure you bring flowers and a big big hug and a smile. And leave the drama at the door. 

Finally and most of all, the holiday does not have to be Leave it to Beaver, Martha Stewart Perfect. It can be what you want. If something doesn't go right laugh and don't fret, you'll have next year to do it over. By summer it won't even be a blip on your radar.  Ultimately, your in charge of your holiday. Slow it down and love every minute of it. 

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Life Surfing

Life Surfing 
November 20, 2012

This week I attended a Soroptomist meeting that was focused on teen esteem. Much of the focus was to bring awareness to teenage girls about the dangers of drug use, alcoholism, sex trafficking and sexual irresponsibility. It was amazing! Imagine a room full of 130+ girls and let out of school for a day to attend this conference. They were all very lovely and bursting with talent and potential. 

The general theme of the presentations revolved around how often feelings of loneliness, boredom, neglect and fear are the emotions that lead many teens to trouble. Furthermore, many youth do not have the resources or necessary support to encourage them through life’s changes. As I spent my time at the conference, I realized that learning how to effectively deal with change is one of the best skills that a teen could acquire when moving into adulthood. It is often a skill that many never acquire.

Life Surfing:  I liken change to the waves of the ocean. Change is something you can always count on and can never prevent. However, if you are not paying attention or if you don’t know how to stand up and balance yourself, that wave of change will knock you down. Although being knocked down is essential in learning how to get up, it is not a cycle that one wants to repeat. Otherwise, the next thing you know, life is swirling all around you. 

Waves of change should also not be taken personally. It is silly to think that a wave hits us out of spite. It doesn’t make sense to say “oh, that rude wave meant to hit me, it knocked me down on purpose”. Instead, we see a wave crashing and instantly understand that the wave is doing what waves do naturally. However, it is not natural for us to stay in one place while life moves forward. Yet, for some reason people are often resistant to change. 

At this point many of you are already feeling the pulling silent scream inside saying, “ I don’t want to change! It’s too scary!” However, I invite you to embrace change and ride those waves to the shore.

Surfing Lesson

Today, I challenge you to make the decision to learn how to surf. Create a written intention that reflects this new belief, such as:

I open my life to all the adventures that come with change.

I look forward to the next adventure that life has in store for me.

Think about some of the changes that are coming into your life or changes that you may be resistant toward. Look at that change and ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that can happen if I learn to surf this wave?”

Focus on one change that you want to make that will change your life for the better and break it down into manageable steps. For example, someone wanting to loose weight might want to start with making small healthy changes to their diet, such as, drinking an extra glass of water, adding an extra vegetable or reducing sugar. Then take another step such as parking farther away in the parking lots in order to get extra exercise.

By embracing change step by step you will achieve your goals sooner than you think. Accepting change will become easier than you imagined. Make a new standard for living this week and see what happens, before you know it you’ll be surfing like a pro.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

When You Can't Taste the Lemonade Through the Lemons

  November 6, 2012                  

 When you can't taste the lemonade through the lemons

Many of us are still struggling to recover from job loss. Many people are still facing job loss, or are just unable to find a job, seal the deal or just become motivated to try again after many rejections. Perhaps you are not in this category. Perhaps you are on disability and your situation is just getting you down. Whatever your reason for frustration and disappointment, the fact remains that sometimes it is just plain difficult to remain optimistic. It is at this moment when the forward momentum becomes threatened. 

It has always been my belief that life’s disappointments, I prefer to call them challenges, may in fact be preparation for something even more significant in our lives. This belief has the best chance of coming true when you make a demonstrated commitment to learn and grow from your present day circumstances. I know from experience that what I continue to put my focus on is often what I seem to get in life.  I have had my fair share of challenges in the last four months. Looking ahead I know there is more to come, it seems I have a slight addiction to challenge. However, the belief of  "challenges as preparation" is something I hold near and dear to my heart. I know that the purpose of it is to use what I've learned as a way to help others. To pay the lesson forward. 

So take heart and think about it. What challenge is calling you to action? What are you being invited to learn? What qualities of character will be strengthened or developed? 

 ~*~ Make it Happen Challenge ~*~
Choose one thing that you feel disappointed about, frustrated by, or fearful of and if there is more than one thing repeat this for each frustration. Now, ask yourself the following questions:

1. If this were happening to help strengthen a part of me, which part would it be?

2. What lesson can I learn from this experience?

3. How is facing this obstacle teaching me important skills that can be used to help others?