Make a Life List

If you knew with complete certainty that you were going to take your last breath tomorrow, what would you do? Would you call all of your loved ones? Would you travel the globe? Would you spend some time thinking about everything you wish you had done in your life? We all have dreams and visions of what we will do “someday”. But, what is “someday?” The fact is, that most of us have no idea exactly what tomorrow will bring. The past is in the past and so the only guarantee is the here and now. Why not take the time to list everything that you’ve ever dreamed of accomplishing in your life? Randy Pausch, who became famous after his “Last Lecture,” knew with certainty that his life was coming to an end. He lived his life more fully in his forty-seven years than most of us live in our lifetimes. He made his life list and actively engaged in achieving the majority of the items on his list. He didn’t have “someday” like the majority of us do. I want you to think big on this list. Have you ever dreamed of scaling a fourteener? What about sailing around the Mediterranean Seas? At some point, you need to stop wishing and start living. Take some time this week to put this list together and then take the next step of acting on some of your wishes.

ACTION STEPS FOR THE WEEK:

1. Make your list

    Throw away all of your old lists. It’s time to bring life to a new list. Create a new list of everything you intend to achieve in this lifetime. Have fun with this list—dream big! You are your biggest obstacle when it comes to making it happen. You are the only one who can plan, research, and, ultimately, follow through on your dreams. 

2. Break it down

    Looking at this list and determining where you are in your life right now, select a couple of items that you would love to accomplish this year. Highlight them, and then start detailing a month-by-month plan to make it happen. Creating a realistic timeline and breaking down your tasks into smaller accomplishments will allow you to feel less overwhelmed.

3. Enlist support

    It is critical to surround yourself with people and resources who will help you stick to your goals. Do your homework, research the details and then, ask for help making these dreams your reality. Use your friends and family as accountability partners who will check in on your progress.

Standing in Your Own Power: How to Handle Stress with Dignity and Grace

Stress isn’t always the bad guy that it’s made out to be. The hormones created by stress can actually strengthen neural connections in our brain, and can help us be more productive and focused. Furthermore, stress motivates us to succeed and makes us more resilient.  But when stress strikes, most of us don’t think about its positive side-effects. Instead, we think……this really sucks. Something that differentiates the mediocre from the extraordinary is strength and resilience, and the way we manage stress is a great indication of those two qualities. When I come upon a stressful situation, my goal is to be as intentional as possible with my thoughts, and the way I perceive and process the circumstances. I ask myself these three questions to help me stand in my own power and handle stress with dignity…and sometimes even with a little grace.

1. What can I control here? And the answer is never people or circumstances. You are only in control of your own actions and your own response to a circumstance. Others are responsible for their actions and responses.

2. What can you do to smooth out the situation? When you react to a stressful situation in a way that positively influences others, you have the power to turn chaos into a learning experience, for you and others. Act authentically and consider the personalities involved. How can you guide things to a place where the situation can be diffused or resolved? And if you can’t, don’t stress about it. Refer to question #1 about control.

3. Where can I find acceptance? Sometimes there’s simply nothing we can do to influence a stressful situation. That’s where grace comes into play. Being able to recognize when efforts are futile and take a step back from the situation altogether is a true sign of strength and resilience. It’s not easy, but once you hone your ability to accept situations that you can’t change, you’ll find the most amazing sense of serenity…even in a world of chaos.

There are self-care techniques that can help us be mindful and intentional during stressful situations. Some are fitness, meditation, getting plenty of rest, and eating a well-rounded, nutritious diet, and being authentic and true to ourselves. Those who manage stress are not only more effective leaders, but they are also happier, healthier, and more productive. Start adding self-care practices into your daily routine, and try to be more mindful the next time you’re in a high-stress situation by asking yourself the questions above. You’ll be surprised at the contrast between how you respond instinctively versus how you respond after a moment of thought!

STRESS-REDUCING TIPS for SENIORS

Studies show that older adults are more prone to mental disorders than younger adults.

Usually, these include post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorders, and specific phobia or generalized anxiety disorders. If you have reached your golden years, and feel that your stress exposure is higher than normal, try these steps to relieve your stress and anxiety.

Deep breathing meditation –  Meditation is one of the most effective ways to relieve stress and anxiety. Actually, it helps you relax your body and mind and manage any nail-biting situation that presents in your way.

On top of that, meditation exercises are so easy to perform. The main goal is to shift all your focus to your breathing, which can keep any negative energy and thoughts at bay.

All you have to do is sit comfortably with an erect back position, breathe in slowly through your nose, and breathe out through your mouth, as simple as that.

Food – It may come as a surprise that the food you eat plays an important role in your mood swings, as well as your stress level.

A healthy diet program can help your body cope with stress-induced physiological changes. Beyond that, your adrenaline level is triggered by your blood sugar levels. Therefore, a diet rich in sugar can result in abnormal stress.

Whenever you feel like reaching for a sugary snack, opt for plain foods with a high nutritional value, such as fruits and veggies. Incorporate more fish into your diet, as the high doses of omega 3 fatty acids can lower your stress level.

Music – If you feel anxious and stressed, take a moment to relax and listen to some music. Music is literally the food of the soul. It helps calm your nerves and reduces the level of cortisol – the body’s main stress hormone.

Furthermore, it can reduce your high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. To alleviate stress, try some relaxing nature sounds, like ocean waves, or the sound of a bird or tree. Close your eyes, relax every muscle in your body, and imagine you are sitting in a peaceful place where the beauty of nature surrounds you.

Social activities – senior citizens who do not take part in social activities could become more susceptible to isolation, loneliness, and depression.

Isolating yourself from your friends, family, and relatives can cause your stress level to soar and make you feel lonely and depressed. However, maintaining your social relationships, and participating in social events is likely to bolster your mental well-being.

In case you live in a retirement residence, join a book club, or a fitness class. This not only has various social advantages but can boost your physical health as well.

OPEN YOURSELF TO POSSIBILITIES

I believe it is basic human nature to want to grow as individuals. I believe, at some level, everyone wants to learn more about themselves, grow emotionally and continue to expand their beliefs. Through growth and change, sprouts fulfillment. Of course, the majority of us would like this all to happen overnight. Nothing ‘life-changing’ happens easily or without a long-term commitment to the process. What are you willing to do in order to become the person you want to become? What sacrifices are you willing to make? Would you be willing to observe yourself from an outside perspective? All you really need is the desire, openness, and consistency to move forward in your life. Sometimes just the recognition of feeling frustrated or stressed may be a sign to open yourself up to new possibilities.  A client of mine had a great life but was constantly unhappy. She was involved in a wonderful relationship, had a job she enjoyed, was very active outside of work, but she woke up every day preparing for the worst. Not until she stepped away from herself and really examined what role her attitude and behavior were playing, was she able to bring the joy back into her life. She needed to push aside beliefs that were holding her back and choose new ones that were more empowering. You can continue going through your life “settling”, or you can become your biggest advocate and take control of your life and the destination.

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ACTION STEPS TO TAKE:

1. Be open to new ways

    If you continue doing things, the same things that aren’t working, you will continue to get the same results. Don’t limit yourself to only one philosophy. Be willing to add a little variety to your routine. Drive to work a different way. Ask an unfamiliar colleague out to lunch. Sign up for a class that sparks your interest.

2. Take small actions

    To get what you want in life, you need to take small actions on a consistent basis. Break down your overwhelming goal into smaller, manageable steps. If you are seeking more “me” time, set aside 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes at night. You can increase your time as you go. Be patient to this process. The end result is worth the initial work.

3. Incorporate gratitude 

   Set aside time every day to express gratitude in your life. Being grateful for what you do have, keeps you grounded and in the moment. The intention of gratitude will keep you focused on the larger picture. List 5 things daily that you were grateful for that day.

What to Do When You Feel Invisible

When you find yourself in any situation where you feel invisible, ask yourself what has happened, and what you are really feeling: left out at social gatherings like parties or family get-togethers? Not paid attention to when you speak, or having your opinions discounted? Isolated because of your age? Excluded by your married friends because you are alone? Ignored for gender reasons, particularly if you are a woman?

These are different kinds of invisibility, so try not to let them blend into each other. Only when you understand what you’re feeling, can you find a solution. Here are a few steps that may help.

Step 1: Take responsibility. It’s too easy to blame others, and that never works. Even the people who are closest to you aren’t responsible for how you feel. By taking responsibility, you can completely turn your perspective around. “My kids never call anymore” can be turned into “I’m glad my kids don’t feel burdened by me.”

Step 2: Look at your situation objectively. Most of us get wrapped up in our own emotions, and when you feel resentful, alone or anxious, you are too vulnerable to do what you need to do. Try looking at your situation as if it’s not happening to you but to a friend who has asked you for advice.

Step 3: First, sit down with a pencil and paper and make a list of situations where you feel invisible. At parties? At home? With friends? At restaurants? With younger people? With couples? With your family? At work? Now make three columns. The first column will include things you really want to change. The second will include things you want to change but feel slightly less urgent about. The third is the place for things that it would be nice to change but that aren’t crucial or don’t need to be addressed right this second. Now, insert each of the situations into the proper column.

Step 4: Wait a day or two, and then return to your list to check if you still agree with the priorities you set down. It also helps, at this point, to consult a confidant. Don’t pick a friend or family member who will try to dismiss your problem and tell you that everything’s fine. (They will secretly think you are trying to guilt-trip them). Also, avoid people who are in the habit of telling others what they want to hear. The best choice is someone who has experienced the same situation that you are in and has successfully found a solution.

Step 5: Make an action plan for each of your columns. This is necessary even if column #3 doesn’t feel like a pressing issue. The point of this step is to exercise your imagination. The more ideas you can devise, the freer you can be from getting stuck. Write down as many creative solutions as you can think of. Take your time. There’s no deadline, and you can return to this step over a few days, if that’s what it takes. Feel free to brainstorm with other people, making sure that they realize your intention isn’t to lean on them, but to arrive at your own independent solution.

Here are a few examples that may help jump-start the process. For instance:

Symptom: Neglected at parties.

Solutions: Simple behavioral changes are usually what’s needed, as follows:

Come prepared with topics, such as the most recent news stories.

Keep standing: Sitting down means that you are avoiding contact. Use a tried-and-true tactic: Walk up to someone, introduce yourself and ask them what they do for a living.

Eavesdrop on conversations, and if you hear one that’s interesting, walk up and say, “What you’re talking about really interests me. Can I join you?” Move from room to room, looking around with an interested gaze. When you meet someone’s eyes, smile. If they smile back, walk up and engage. If you feel sorry for yourself as the evening goes on, leave. You have better ways to fill your time, and parties aren’t for you.

Symptom: Not paid attention to by family.

Solutions: A little analysis is needed here. This symptom is frequently a variation of familiarity breeds neglect. You have allowed yourself to be put into a box. Other family members react in one of two ways: They leave you in your box because it’s the easiest thing to do, or they leave you in your box because they assume you like being there. If you complain about feeling neglected, then complaining becomes your box.

The solution is to approach someone in your family whom you trust, tell them how left out you feel and ask how you are viewed by the family. In other words, discover which box you have been placed in. Once you have a reasonable answer, you can begin to change their perception. If you are seen, for example, as quiet, accepting, unobtrusive and useful only when others need something from you, turn the tables. Start talking, speak up for yourself and ask others to help you for a change.

Symptom: Friends no longer seem close.

Solutions: Friendships start to fray for two reasons: The first is that you and your friend are no longer in the same place. One or the other has moved on, which happens. The second is that a hidden grievance has been simmering and eventually created a rupture.

Both of these things can be corrected, but it takes both of you to do that. So you need to have a candid discussion. Choose a comfortable time and place. Don’t bring up your hurt or resentful feelings while you are having them. Once you sit down, state the problem clearly and then immediately ask for feedback: “I don’t think we’re as close as we used to be. How do you feel?” That’s an intimate question, and the other person will usually be startled. But you will be fine as long as you avoid the big turnoffs that kill an honest discussion, which are (1) making a speech right off the bat (2) blaming the other person (3) whining or acting victimized and, (4) showing that you don’t actually care about your friend’s point of view.

You must avoid these mistakes, and if your friend resorts to these discussion-killers, walk away as soon as you are able. You’ve tapped into some kind of resentment or defensiveness that is blocking a solution. But, don’t give up. Returning tactfully to the issue will often work, because your friend has had time to think.

Your aim is to establish whether the two of you are moving apart, or if there is an unresolved issue. Once this has been determined, and you both agree, that’s enough progress for one meeting. Now go home and decide if you want to get on the same page and move in a new direction together, or if the underlying issue can be worked through. I’ve only described the start of how to renew a flagging friendship, but it’s these initial steps that are the most important.

Feeling invisible is a condition you can change with time, effort and creativity. You deserve to be noticed, cared for and valued. All you need to do is to learn the tactics that make these expectations become a reality.


Be in the Moment!

It is too easy to get consumed by the daily tasks of being a mom, running a business, taking care of the home, organizing meals, and losing touch with the here and now. It’s easy to find yourself planning out the many other things on your to-do list while you are spending time with your kids. This can cause one to lose the moment. Time goes by so quickly, and in a flash, the many moments that make up “life” are gone. There will always be work to do, always chores to finish, deadlines and responsibilities to live up to. However, moments with your children, friends or family will have a much more lasting impression on everyone if you are fully present. Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring, so be conscious of the moment you are in, breathe it in and savor the experience for what it is.

TAKE ACTION!

1. Out of sight – out of mind

This week try to be aware of the moment for what it is. Keep work at work, and when you are home, really enjoy the time with your loved ones. Play just for the sake of playing. Realize that your work will get done when you designate time for work, at the office. Schedule time to just “be” and put work issues out of your mind, even if for just a short moment.

2. Be in the moment

Say the phrase “Be in the moment” when you find yourself thinking of other things. When playing with your children, enjoying alone time with a significant other, taking a walk, just “be” and relish what you are doing. The more you practice this week, the more natural it will become in your life.

3. Have fun!

Being in the moment will take on a life of its own. Try to bring fun back into everything you do. The more you balance work and play, the more productive and aware you will be in everything you do.

4. Prioritize

This week focus on prioritizing your time. It is easier to “be in the moment” when you know everything else will get done.  Plan your week so you have enough allotted time for work, work-related issues, and play. That way you can fully enjoy each of them knowing the rest won’t be pushed aside.

Silence Your Fears and Begin Succeeding!!

Most of you live life with certain goals or dreams—whether it’s that big house or getting that promotion or being a good friend—there are things you want to achieve in your lifetime, to make your life more fulfilling and meaningful.

But how many of you are actively pursuing those dreams? Do you let them linger in the back of your mind, hoping that one day you’ll finally go after them? Is fear of failure something that’s holding you back?

Well, it’s time to stop fearing failure. Silence your inner critic and start chasing your dreams!

Here are 5 tips to help you come face-to-face with your fears and tell them, boldly…You will not stand in my way today.

  1. Define your failure. What does it mean for you to “fail?” Never trying? Giving up earlier than you had hoped? Not getting the outcome you expected… in a specific time frame? It may not seem obvious, but until you define specifically what failure means to you, it will stand as a barrier to your success.
  2. Distinguish what is a real vs. a perceived threat. Fear is a response to our body’s need to survive dangerous situations. Real threats are dangerous to our survival. For instance, fear of getting caught in the middle of gang fight, where you could get seriously injured, is a real threat whereas fear of competing in a half marathon is an imagined threat. The feeling of fear may be real, but more often than not, the actual threat is not and it hinders your ability to move forward.
  3. Set “approach” targets vs. “avoidance” targets. Approach targets involve achieving a certain outcome whereas avoidance targets involve avoiding specific end results. For instance, “I am going to the gym to stay strong and fit” vs. “I am going to the gym to avoid heart disease and bone loss.” Approach targets set you up for a positive affirmation, whereas avoidance targets have been shown to lead to anxiety, decreased self-confidence and personal control, and less satisfaction while pursuing targets. Think about this as focusing on what you do want rather than what you don’t.
  4. Be flexible with the outcome. Those who adjust their targets and desired outcome to changing circumstances report better mental health and well-being. You can keep your eye on a positive outcome, but be open to changing your targets as necessary—some just require flexibility.
  5. Believing you will prevail. Our fear of failure is often less about our ability to execute, and more about the consequences if we don’t achieve our targets. Consequences may include feelings of embarrassment or inadequacy, losing influence, or disappointing others. However, we can change this by identifying which consequences we’re most afraid of, and then building skills to help manage those consequences. Ultimately, it’s not about wishing for a specific, positive outcome, but about feeling confident that we can handle the consequences that come along with our actions.

Managing fear and accepting the consequences of failure are important to personal growth and transformation. No one succeeds all the time. As Winston Churchill famously said, “Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Persevering in the face of fear is what it means to be strong. Persevering after success has been achieved, though, is what makes you magical.

Emotional Eating

STOP THE NEGATIVE SELF-TALK

One of the worst patterns a dieter can fall into is negative self-talk – the inner voice that tells you you’ll never reach your goal, you deserve a chocolate bar because you’ve had a hard day, you’ve already blown your diet so you might as well order the cheesecake, and so on.

If you’re a victim of negative thinking, a little cognitive reordering may be just the ticket for you. This type of intervention involves identifying your sabotaging thoughts, questioning their validity, and then taking positive action to change things.

Maybe you can identify with someone who constantly thinks, “I’ve always been heavy, I’ll always be heavy. I’ve tried a million diets, and they just don’t work for me.” Rather than writing off any possibility of success, you are far better off questioning why past diets have not worked for you and thinking about alternative approaches to weight loss.

First off, you might want to review all the diets you’ve tried to see if they failed because they were unreasonable to begin with. If it turns out that they were extreme (no carbs, no fat, no sugar) or bizarre (cabbage soup morning, noon, and night), you can respond to your inner antagonist by saying, “Maybe if I use a healthy, realistic, and sustainable approach, I will reach my goals.” If you feel you’re already making informed food choices, you might consider focusing on exercise as your primary weight-loss tool, along with sound eating. Or, if emotional eating is standing in your way, perhaps you should redirect your efforts towards working through the issues that lead you to self-medicate with food, so you’re in a better mindset to address your weight issues.

Whatever your situation may be, the important thing is to take those negative thoughts and turn them into positive action. The single most important ingredient for successful weight loss is to believe in yourself and set forth with a can-do attitude. Are you ready to try this new approach?

Ridding Your Life of Baggage

This is by far my favorite time of year. You can feel the chill in the air, see the beauty of the leaves changing color and witness God‘s magic. As the leaves fall from the comfort of the trees, new leaves will be reborn next spring. This is the perfect time to take a look at your own life — which areas need to be buried and reborn with a fresh perspective. Are there aspects of yourself that you would rather move away from? Are there parts of your life that you would like to create a clean slate? What part of your life would you dream of comparing to the falling of the leaves?

You would be able to let go of everything draining and consuming in your life and replace it with fresh, full-of-life energy. Why not let go of all tasks, people and responsibilities that deplete you, and replace them with those things that fill you up and bring you joy. You can, once again, wait until next year, next week, or next month, to get started, or you can begin today. As fall comes and goes every year, you, too, can take advantage once a year of ridding your life of toxic baggage and replacing it with what excites you and fulfills you.

Steps to take action:

1. Let it go

Which parts of your life are taxing and all-consuming? Divide your life into sections if it makes it easier; career, family, relationships, etc…What can you let go of?  If something in your life creates more negativity and stress than feel-good energy, you might want to consider letting it go.

2. Your priorities

What do you value above all else in your life? Family…career…health and well-being? Make a list from the most important to the least important. How is your time currently being spent? Is your time going toward activities and responsibilities that are not high on your priority list? Maybe it is time to take a closer look at where you are putting your energy. Over-extending yourself, due to not prioritizing, only depletes you of the energy you need for the things that fulfill you. Do not be afraid to ask others for help, so you don’t take on more than you can handle. Over-extending yourself affects you and everyone in your life, in a negative way.  If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t have what you need to take care of others.

3. Have fun!

When making changes in your life, it can become all-consuming. It is important to create “fun” time or “me” time amidst all the craziness. Schedule it in like any other appointment or commitment. You need time to relax and wind down. Make this a priority this week. This time is crucial in rejuvenating yourself to continue forward.

5 Ways to Let Go of Past Hurts

 

The only way you can accept new joy and happiness into your life is to make space for it. If your heart is filled full-up with pain and hurt, how can you be open to anything new?

1. Make the decision to let it go.

Things don’t disappear on their own. You need to make the commitment to “let it go.” If you don’t make this conscious choice up-front, you could end up self-sabotaging any effort to move on from this past hurt.

Making the decision to let it go also means accepting you have a choice to let it go. To stop reliving the past pain, to stop going over the details of the story in your head every time you think of the other person (after you finish step 2 below).

2. Express your pain — and your responsibility.

Express the pain the hurt made you feel, whether it’s directly to the other person, or through just getting it out of your system (like venting to a friend, or writing in a journal, or writing a letter you never send to the other person). Get it all out of your system at once. Doing so will also help you understand what — specifically — your hurt is about.

We don’t live in a world of black and whites, even when sometimes it feels like we do. While you may not have had the same amount of responsibility for the hurt you experienced, there may have been a part of the hurt that you are also partially responsible for. What could you have done differently next time? Are you an active participant in your own life, or simply a hopeless victim? Will you let your pain become your identity? Or are you someone deeper and more complex than that??

3. Stop being the victim and blaming others.

Being the victim feels good — it’s like being on the winning team of you against the world. But guess what? The world largely doesn’t care, so you need to get over yourself. Yes, you’re special. Yes, your feelings matter. But don’t confuse with “your feelings matter” to “your feelings should override all else, and nothing else matters.” Your feelings are just one part of this large thing we call life, which is all interwoven and complex. And messy.

In every moment, you have that choice — to continue to feel bad about another person’s actions, or to start feeling good. You need to take responsibility for your own happiness, and not put such power into the hands of another person. Why would you let the person who hurt you — in the past — have such power, right here, right now?

No amount of rumination of analyses have ever fixed a relationship problem. Never. Not in the entirety of the world’s history. So why choose to engage in so much thought and devote so much energy to a person who you feel has wronged you?

4. Focus on the present — the here and now — and joy.

Now it’s time to let go. Let go of the past, and stop reliving it. Stop telling yourself that story where the protagonist — you — is forever the victim of this other person’s horrible actions. You can’t undo the past, all you can do is to make today the best day of your life.

When you focus on the here and now, you have less time to think about the past. When the past memories creep into your consciousness (as they are bound to do from time to time), acknowledge them for a moment. And then bring yourself gently back into the present moment. Some people find it easier to do this with a conscious cue, such as saying to yourself, “It’s alright. That was the past, and now I’m focused on my own happiness and doing _______________.”

Remember, if we crowd our brains — and lives — with hurt feelings, there’s little room for anything positive. It’s a choice you’re making to continue to feel the hurt, rather than welcoming joy back into your life.

5. Forgive them — and yourself.

We may not have to forget another person’s bad behaviors, but virtually everybody deserves our forgiveness. Sometimes we get stuck in our pain and our stubbornness, we can’t even imagine forgiveness. But forgiveness isn’t saying, “I agree with what you did.” Instead, it’s saying, “I don’t agree with what you did, but I forgive you anyway.”

Forgiveness isn’t a sign of weakness. Instead, it’s simply saying, “I’m a good person. You’re a good person. You did something that hurt me. But I want to move forward in my life and welcome joy back into it. I can’t do that fully until I let this go.”

Forgiveness is a way of tangibly letting something go. It’s also a way of empathizing with the other person, and trying to see things from their point of view.

And forgiving yourself may be an important part of this step as well, as sometimes we may end up blaming ourselves for the situation or hurt. While we indeed may have had some part to play in the hurt (see step 2), there’s no reason you need to keep beating yourself up over it. If you can’t forgive yourself, how will you be able to live in future peace and happiness?