Oh, how I love spring! Here on the west coast, the daffodils and crocus have been out for several weeks, and the cherry blossoms and rhododendrons are starting to show their beauty. Many of us in spring get “spring fever” or a burst of energy; particularly if we’ve endured a long, cold winter. This time of year, I have to remind myself that I’m not 25 anymore and avoid taking on too many new obligations and activities even though I feel so alive! Perhaps you relate. Do you often take on alot of activities and obligations, and say “yes” because you’ve been asked and you think you should? I’ve been there and know what it feels like to lose your energy and not feel like doing much of anything. So how can you prevent yourself from taking on too much and then crashing?
Here are a few tips:
- Spend time in nature several times a week or more. Go for a walk, a hike, visit a garden, use all of your senses to take in the natural beauty. Bathe in forests. The Japanese have done longitudinal research to show that when we walk in forests, it reduces our heartrate, reduces our blood pressure and increases the number of natural killer cells our body produces (strengthens our immune system).
- Be aware of your energy and the people who “give” and “take” energy from you. Get clear on the people in your life who energize you and those who tend to sap your energy. Spend most of your time with those who energize you.
- Set healthy boundaries. Write a list of the things you enjoy doing. When people ask you to chair a committee or serve on the Executive of a group, be clear that this is what you enjoy doing rather than what you feel you SHOULD do. Living life following the “shoulds” is energy-draining and doesn’t bring out our “best sides”. For more strategies visit http://creativelivingcommunity.com/are-you-giving-too-much-2/
- Practice saying “no”. You may have been raised in a family where children and women were expected to do what they were asked and experienced the repercussions of NOT following the rules. … Start small. It’s like a muscle; the more you say “no”, the easier it becomes.
- Listen to and Trust in Your Body’s Wisdom. Our bodies always know the truth. There are a number of decision-making tools that enable us to get “out of our heads” and our logical left-brains, and tap into our bodies. Muscle testing is one way to determine whether we should say “yes” or “no”. One way to do this is to stand up straight, feel like you have a plumb line going from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. Then ask yourself the following: Is my name …? And state your real name. Your body should sway forward meaning “yes”. Then say to yourself Is my name John Doe? If that is not your name, your body should sway backwards. Now you have a baseline. Now ask yourself other questions such as Should I accept the position as President of this Club/organization?. When your body moves backwards it indicates “no”, forwards “yes”, and if it doesn’t move ask again. It may be that this decision won’t have strong impact on you either way. For additional examples see http://creativelivingcommunity.com/how-do-you-make-decisions/ .
I’d love to hear from you and invite you to try any or all of the strategies above and notice how they work for you.
Please share below strategies that you’ve found helpful in preventing you from taking on too much and then crashing.
Here’s to your health, happiness, fulfillment and inner peace!
As women, many of us have been socialized to always give to others first, and to put ourselves at the bottom of the list. We may have come to believe that we are selfish if and when we do something for ourselves, such as having a massage, going for a walk on our own, or taking time to journal each morning. Guilt and negative feelings often result from this. We may find it challenging to accept compliments and often deflect or make light of them.
If you are the one others typically come to for support, you may view asking for support as a weakness. You may worry that this will change how people see and value you. After all you are a strong, capable women who has all the answers. Don’t you?
When you constantly give and do for others without taking time for yourself what are the costs? Giving, in and of itself, is a good thing. We feel positive to be helping and supporting others; however if we are out of balance in our giving, over time we may become resentful and SOoo tired because we are giving to everyone else, and not taking time for and nourishing ourselves.
What if we as women recognized the importance of reaching out for and accepting support? What if every time someone gave us a compliment we were able to stay in our bodies, acknowledge and mindfully receive the positive message we were being given? What would that look and feel like?
What if we integrated regular self-care and nurturing into our lives such as regular walks in nature, yoga, journaling, regularly connecting with girl friends, and felt like we deserved this, and that it was essential to our overall health and well being. The reality is, doing so makes us much more responsive, less reactive, more fun to be around, and more present with those we care about.
Did you know that to change a health behavior, we not only need knowledge, skills and motivation; we also need social support. That is, support from others to change a behavior and integrate it into our lives so it becomes a healthy habit. There is a lot of research to show that the more social support people have, the more preventive health actions they take.
When people give support we feel good inside. And when we receive support our bodies produce oxytocin, the bonding hormone. Research shows that oxytocin has a number of positive physical and psychological benefits from enhancing trust, self-esteem, optimism and feelings of mastery to reducing blood pressure, gut inflammation and stress.
I recently facilitated a workshop where I shared a model and positive actions women can take to embrace and learn from life transitions, and reduce the stress associated with major life changes. The need to share was huge, and just knowing that others were facing or had faced similar issues and challenges created openness, understanding and support within the group.
So how can you feel more comfortable asking for and accepting support from others? From my own journey and work with others, I find it easiest to take baby steps. Initially reach out and ask for support for something small. It could be asking a friend or colleague for a drive to an event during a particularly busy week, or asking your partner to do the dishes when you’ve prepared the dinner.
So the next time you’re feeling tired and would like some help, think of who you may reach out to and ask them for support. Notice how it feels. Often when we ask others for support, they feel honored that we did (as long as we don’t do this on a frequent and ongoing basis J).
I invite you to try reaching out and asking for support and notice how you feel and how others respond. I welcome your comments and shares below. Feel free to share this with others who you think might benefit.
“Social support means having friends and other people, including family, to turn to in times of need or crisis to give you a broader focus and positive self-image. Social support enhances quality of life and provides a buffer against adverse life events.” –https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/social-support
I invite you to ask yourself the question, What would I do if I had no fear? Notice what comes up. You may get a message “Leave my job.” “Leave my marriage.” “Start that business I’ve been wanting to for awhile.” If you get a message, then notice how your body feels when you receive it. Do you feel tension, or excitement about new possibilities? You may then ask yourself, What’s the worst thing that could happen if … I leave my job, leave my marriage, start that new business? Notice again what messages and feelings come up for you.
The Importance of Listening to Your Body’s Wisdom
What I know to be true from my own journey and work with clients around the world is that our body always knows the truth. When we stay in a job or relationship that no longer serves us, it takes a lot of energy. We are living out of alignment with what Buddha calls our “true self” wants; what we intuitively know is the best choice for us. I’ve made a number of “pros” and “cons” lists over the years based on my rational left-brain. However, the decisions I’ve made solely from using my logical left-brain, have not always been the right ones for me. The ones I’ve made by going inside and listening to my body have always been the “right” ones.
What happens when We Don’t Listen
One of the keys to Creative Living in my book Learning to Dance with Life is “Listen to and Trust in Your Body’s Wisdom”. There is increasing evidence of the negative impacts on our body of NOT listening to the messages it sends us. Dr. Gabor Mate, in his book When the Body Says No, provides case studies and research evidence linking stress with cancer and auto-immune disorders. Ruth Buczynski, licensed psychologist and President of the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM), wrote that the high stress of our complicated lives “can wreak havoc on our brain’s ability to control emotions, maintain focus and perform tasks”- http://www.nicabm.com/nicabmblog/the-brain-under-stress-using-mindfulness-to-regain-focus/). When we stay in jobs or relationships that are stressing us out, over time this leads to negative impacts on our health and also negatively affects our performance at work.
Tools to Enhance Body Awareness
In my work with clients I teach a number of tools and techniques to assist them to listen to and trust in their body’s wisdom. It takes some time and practice, however the benefits are amazing! Imagine being able to ask yourself about a decision you are challenged to make, and being able to go inside your body and “know” the truth/the best choice for you? Imagine being able to trust that the decision you are making will bring positive results to you, instead of deliberating for days and a number of sleepless nights over what to do?
A good place to start is with Body Scanning, a mindfulness technique from Eastern psychology. This practice cultivates the ability within you to live “in the present moment”. When you do a body scan, you take the time to notice and feel your body’s sensations. A good time to do this is in the morning on awakening. Rather than leaping out of bed and “hitting the ground running” make a conscious effort to quiet your mind and scan your body from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. Notice any tension or discomfort; breathe into these areas and consciously release and let of the tension. – See more at: http://creativelivingcommunity.com/how-you-can-find-peace-amidst-the-chaos-of-daily-life-work/
Another tool that I’ve found really helpful to “get out of my head” and “into my body” is Mindfulness Walking Meditation. When you do a mindfulness walking meditation outdoors, you feel the ground beneath your feet, the breeze against your face, and the cool air flowing through your nostrils down into your lungs. You smell the salt sea air or the aroma of lilacs, and you observe the scenery around you. Rather than spending your time constantly thinking about and processing all the things you have to do, you stay present and experience all of nature’s beautiful sights, smells, sounds and sensations.
My challenge to you
I encourage you to try one or both of the tools above. Begin with one and start incorporating it into your life on a daily basis. Notice how you feel in the moment and over time. I’d love to hear your experiences below with trying these tools. I invite you to share your own tools and techniques for listening to and trusting in your body’s wisdom and the results you’ve achieved from doing so. Feel free to share this post with others.
At a recent retreat, one of the commitments I made was to gift myself a mini-sabbatical. This meant taking Mondays and Fridays off through July and August to do what I wished, and to free myself from work-related activities. As an entrepreneur, I often don’t take large blocks of time off during the summer as it’s when I typically design new programs, write or make website changes. So a mini-sabbatical sounded like a good idea.
Last Monday, the first day of my mini-sabbatical, was easy as we had moved the day before and had not retired till close to 3 am, so it was easy to sleep in and to not work. The first Friday was more challenging. I was “pulled” to check my email and to start writing down the design for my new group coaching program. That said, I found a nearby yoga studio online and tried out my first yoga class there. Amazingly I connected with a woman after class who has a similar background to mine, and who may become a new friend.
The first question I’ve started to ask myself on awakening is What will I do to nurture myself today? To me nurturing involves: doing yoga, meditating, going for walks in nature, being by, in, or on water, connecting with family and friends in person and virtually, and cooking a special meal for my Sweetie and myself. What do you do to nurture yourself? My mantra for 2016 is I am open to possibility, and I repeat it once or twice daily. I also am increasingly listening to and trusting in the messages my body sends me. Here’s a process my clients and I have found useful in making decisions – http://creativelivingcommunity.com/how-do-you-make-decisions/.
So far on my mini-sabbatical I’ve noticed I feel more relaxed, more creative, more energized, lighter, and I’m finding that new like-minded people and opportunities are coming my way.
What would a mini-sabbatical look and feel like for you? Perhaps you’ve tried one before? I’d love to hear your thoughts below. Feel free to share this with a friend, colleague or family member.
A chameleon is a salamander that is able to change the color of its skin so it blends into an environment it enters. It does this to camouflage itself, and also to display aggressiveness toward other chameleons in certain situations.
For many years I was a chameleon. I entered environments and based on the signals I was picking up, initially unconsciously and later consciously, would change my behavior and way of reacting based on those signals. I’m not certain how I learned to do this. One thought is when I was younger and entered a new organization I would quickly notice all of the things that weren’t working within it, and would soon question why certain things were being done the way they were. Often I was told “Because we’ve always done it this way.” Perhaps you’ve experienced something similar. I wasn’t as diplomatic in my younger years as I am today, and after getting some negative reactions from my remarks, I learned to keep my thoughts to myself or to express them in a certain manner and to certain individuals based on the environment. However, that changed when I became a management consultant and was paid good money to go into environments, share my observations, and make recommendations for positive change.
For many years being a chameleon served me well. I can’t pinpoint exactly when my behavior changed, but I do recall a situation that stands out. While managing a large project in Pakistan a number of years ago, I recall meeting with the two Muslim women on my team, and a number of other Muslim women who were assisting in planning an upcoming workshop. One woman in particular was strong, assertive and articulate in expressing her thoughts. I was quite taken aback several days later during the workshop with a mixed group of men and women, how the strong, assertive, articulate woman was demure, unassertive and only expressed her thoughts when asked. It was like she was a different person! Over time, I’ve surmised that she behaved differently in a group of women compared to a mixed group, because that is how she had learned to survive. That was what she perceived was the appropriate and acceptable way to interact in the company of men.
Having had the opportunity to live and work in a number of countries and cultures around the world, I now have found that regardless of whom I’m speaking with, whether it is the Minister of a government department or a cleaner; a man or a woman, I am myself. I no longer react as a chameleon. I try in all situations to speak from my heart while at the same time respecting the dominant religious and cultural norms (e.g. wearing a headscarf in Afghanistan and wearing looser clothing that covers much of my body in Muslim countries). At this time in my life, being myself seems to be serving me well. I think it is interesting to notice how we react in new situations, and if our behavior changes, to explore what might be causing it to do so. It’s also interesting to notice whether our way of reacting has changed over time.
Are you a chameleon? Do you change your behavior in different situations? How is it serving you? If you haven’t thought about this, I invite you to reflect on and to notice how you react in a new social or environmental situation. I welcome your comments and reflections below.
In a previous post I shared the attributes of a Balanced and Mindful Leader, one being “Understands the importance of work/life balance and models it for others http://creativelivingcommunity.com/balanced-and-mindful-leadership-what-do-you-think/. So how can you integrate work-life balance into your own life and model it for others in the workplace?
Here are some suggestions:
- Count up the number of hours you typically work in a week. Is it more than 50? (Obviously sometimes)
- Make a commitment to reduce the number of hours you typically work weekly (choose a realistic number to begin with)
- Experiment with a work week when you reduce your hours. Then notice how you feel. You may wish to journal about it.
- Begin incorporating mindfulness practices into your personal life; e.g.
- on awakening while lying in bed do a body scan from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet noticing any tension, discomfort, heaviness. Breathe into those areas of tension, discomfort or heaviness and set the intention to release and let go of them.
- Start doing mindfulness walking meditations 3 times/week for 30 minutes each time.  Some of my clients do this at lunch hour. Others after work. Notice how you feel before, during and after. Is there a cumulative effect?
- Unplug at least 90 minutes before retiring and encourage your colleagues to do the same.
- At work, encourage people to take breaks
- Set clear expectations with your direct reports and colleagues related to NOT checking emails and answering texts on evenings and weekends. Share with them the importance of them taking time for themselves and their families
- Have short meetings (up to 60 minutes max) with clearly defined agendas, and expectations so people know why they’re there, how to prepare and the expected results.
- Encourage people to take lunch breaks
- Support people to take regular vacations and to NOT check their emails while on vacation (set up a buddy system so staff and managers can feel that the key aspects of their positions are being covered while they are away)
- Have yoga classes and/or a gym on site and participate in the classes/use the facilities yourself.
What two actions will you begin integrating into your life tomorrow? Please share those actions and any related comments below. Feel free to share this post with a friend, colleague or family member.
 A tool from Easter psychology that I have found extremely useful for getting “out of my head” and into my body is Mindfulness Walking Meditation. Mindfulness practices focus on the senses and feeling sensations and emotions in our bodies. When we do a mindfulness walking meditation we feel the ground beneath our feet, we feel the breeze against our face, we feel the cool air going from our nostrils down into our lungs. We smell the scent of salt or the aroma of lavender in the air and observe the scenery in front of us. We try to stay out of our minds and experience our senses. Rather than spend a walk in nature constantly thinking and processing all the things we have to do, instead we stay present and experience nature and all of its beautiful sights, smells, sounds and sensations.