How to Eliminate Stress from Your Life without Taking a Yoga Class or Changing Your Schedule in 10 Steps

parentHave you ever Googled “eliminate stress” only to find a long list of impossible tasks from people who obviously don’t have a job and aren’t married with kids?  My personal favorite ideas were to quit work (really… because last time I checked you work to earn money to care for your family and quitting work would add considerable stress to your life), have an open schedule (this is laughable as my schedule is almost entirely dictated by my kid’s activities), and avoid difficult people (yes, that is really possible when you work with difficult people all day long).  You already know that you need to reduce the stress in your life but having ridiculous suggestions about how to go about it only increases stress and gives you the impression that reducing stress in your very busy life is impossible.  It’s not.

Here are a few suggestions that been tested and proven to be effective by very busy people like you.

  1. Know where you are going.  As silly as it sounds, having goals for each area of your life actually reduces stress.  For instance, if your goal with your teenage son is to help him be a self-sufficient adult who is not stuck playing video games on your sofa at age 25 then you have a goal.  With that goal in mind he should be making his own meals, taking care of his own laundry, and working at a part-time job.  Doing this process for each area of your life makes decisions easier and less stressful.
  2. Stick to your plan.  Using the teenage son example you will undoubtedly be met with stiff resistance on his part as you enforce the new direction.  This is good.  As a parent your responsibility is to teach your child to become a functional adult it is not to be their friend (hopefully that will come much later).  By remembering your goal and sticking with it and serving out consequences for not following the plan, you will reduce more stress in the long run but not the short run.
  3. Set realistic expectations.  Just because you spent all day cleaning the floors of your house does not mean that anyone will even notice.  If you clean the floors expecting gratitude or praise then you are likely to be disappointed.  Instead, recognize that you like the floors clean and you are really cleaning them for yourself.
  4. Monitor your thoughts.  This is a biggie for most women as thoughts tend to run ramped and one strange phone call can leave you replaying it for hours if not days.  Give yourself the two times rule.  You are allowed to replay a conversation two times but any more than that you need to distract yourself and move on.  Think about it for a second, when was it ever productive to waste a bunch of time obsessing over something that you can’t change.
  5. Be your own best friend.  Your inner dialogue should be as kind to yourself as you are to your best friend.  Would you ever look at your best friend and call her “stupid” for making a mistake at work or call her “fat” for eating a piece of chocolate cake or call her “loser” for missing an appointment? Of course not!  So stop doing this to yourself.
  6. It’s ok to say “no”.  Mommy guilt runs strong and powerful especially when you are working and you know that your kids don’t have your undivided attention.  This means that some activities will conflict with work forcing you to say the dreaded “no” word.  It’s ok, you are not in this alone and it is good to teach your kids that they can’t get everything they want when they want it.  Remember the bigger picture.
  7. Don’t lie.  It is very tempting to play God and believe that you know what someone else is thinking and can make someone feel better by telling a little lie.  But lies have a strange way of catching up to you and creating much bigger problems and stress in the end.  So make a habit of being truthful even if it might hurt someone’s feelings.
  8. Set boundaries in your life.  Boundaries are like walls which are very useful after all who wants to watch you in the bathroom at work (ok, I admit that visualization was a bit over the top but highly effective).  Here are some practical stress reducing boundaries: don’t answer your phone when it rings, check email only three times a day, non-emergency communication gets an automatic 24 hour wait before responding, and limit social media stuff to once a day.
  9. Choose OCD behaviors wisely.  Some OCD tendencies are rather useful such as always putting your keys or purse in the exact same place every day.  This eliminates the mad dash to find things.  But some OCD behaviors are not useful such as needing to wash your hands 50 times a day or cleaning obsessively with bleach.  Get help for the behaviors that you need to change and embrace new habits that are time savers.
  10. Work on you, not everyone else.  In the end, you are only responsible for yourself. (Yes, there are those kids of yours but they are already responsible for some of their behaviors and most likely need more not less responsibility.)  When you take time to work on your own issues instead of pretending they don’t exist, you will find more energy.  After all, you can’t give what you don’t already have.

Reducing stress in your life does not have to be about taking a yoga class, changing you schedule, exercising more and eating healthy.  These are all external things, not internal things. And while these things certainly have their place, the best place to start is in your mind.

 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

 

Holiday Stress is coming to Town

Do you find yourself making a list and checking it twice?  Isn’t that Santa’s job?  With so much to do in such a short time it is easy to double book parties, forget the vanilla extract yet again, lose the address of your favorite client, and spend too much money all before noon today.  The Holidays are here and so is the added stress of more stuff, more money, more places to be, more people to see, and more pounds to gain.  But it doesn’t have to be this way.  Instead of making just another “to do” list, make yourself a different type of list establishing your limitations well in advance.  You can call it your Naughty List (what not to do) and Nice List (what to do).

Naughty List.

  1. Overspending your budget just because…
  2. Being unrealistic about the amount of time an activity will take or a visit with family will last.
  3. Failing to communicate your plans with others so they can plan accordingly.
  4. Trying out a recipe out for the first time to bring to your office party.  The expectation that everything will go perfectly and it will taste fantastic is unrealistic.  Instead bring a dish that you already know works.
  5. Increasing your project load at home when you have less free time to complete it.  If you want to make new decorations, make them after the season for next year rather than now when time is already short.
  6. Overdoing the decorations, enough said.
  7. Overbuying for you.  That red sweater you wore last year is still good and you really don’t need a new one.
  8. Being a Scrooge.  Just because money is short doesn’t mean that you have to announce it to the world and remind everyone about your struggles.
  9. Calories unfortunately do count during the Holidays.  That piece of fudge is still the same amount of calories during the Holidays as it is in the summer.
  10. Feeling guilty.  No one can make you feel guilty unless you let them so except your limitations and set better boundaries.
  11. Minimizing the impact of a major life change over the past year.  Any major life change such as a death, divorce, marriage, birth of a child or move significantly changes the way the Holidays will be spent.  If you have had a change over the past year, acknowledge it and plan for the Holidays to reflect the change.
  12. Setting unreasonable expectations for yourself, your spouse, and your family.

Nice List.

  1. Take time out for yourself and rest during the Holidays.  Plan one day to be free from all commitments and enjoy the season.
  2. Reconnect with an old friend.
  3. Extend the free gift of forgiveness to someone in your life.
  4. Revisit the true meaning of the Holidays instead of the commercial meaning.
  5. Give a plant, some food, some time, or some expertise instead of another useless gift.  These gifts are far more valuable.
  6. Create a new tradition.  Instead of all the running around, plan to spend one day with just immediate family and stay in your P.J.’s all day watching old movies and playing games.
  7. Give the gift of humor and learn to laugh at yourself.  This is a great stress reliever.
  8. Before you go to a party set limits on the amount you will eat and drink.  Be reasonable, realistic, and practical about your temptations.
  9. Technology can be a wonderful thing.  Skype a family member that you can’t visit because of the distance.
  10. The older members of your family are likely to feel lonely during the Holidays so plan on extra time with them and patiently listen to them reliving the past.  This is a free gift that will mean far more than a material gift.
  11. Reach outside of your world and touch the lives of those less fortunate than you by volunteering to deliver meals, giving your lunch to the homeless person on the side of the road, providing a bike for a kid in need, or donating clothing that is unused.
  12. Pray.  Pray for your family, pray for your friends, pray for neighbors, pray for your co-workers, pray for your country, pray for those serving in the military, pray for those being persecuted, pray for those who are starving, pray for those who are dying, and most especially pray for those causing harm to others.  Prayer works.  Prayer lasts a long time.  Prayer creates peace.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

It’s the Most Lonely Time of the Year

As if feeling lonely isn’t bad enough by itself, add the Holidays to the mix and your loneliness becomes magnified.  Excitement is in the air during this time with extra stuff crowded the isles at most stores in all kinds of bright and cheerful colors screaming “buy me”.  The aroma of scented candles and flavored coffee permeates the air while the music is loud and joyful with new versions of familiar lyrics.  The traffic is busy at odd times during the day with more people on the road, in the airports, on the subway and at train stations.  Lights flash, decorations hung, Santa hats appear, and the excess of delicious food and drink dominate the atmosphere.

But no one else seems to be lonely.  One quick glance around you yields abundant laughter, smiles of delight on children’s faces, and embr­­aces of greeting.  Yet you find yourself feeling even more alienated, more alone, and more depressed as even acquaintances treat you more like Scrooge or the Grinch, a person to be avoided rather than included.  And realistically, you don’t even want to be included because then the expectation would be to put on a happy face and you just can’t fake it anymore.  So just how do you then survive the Holidays?

Perspective, perspective, perspective.  Everything is not what it seems.  The reality is that many are struggling this year financially, emotionally, physically, and even spiritually, they just don’t show it.  Your honesty about how you feel reminds them of their struggles which they are trying hard to forget.  But this reality still does not decrease your loneliness; in fact, it increases it because now the avoidance is intentional.  However, by understanding better their perspective, you in turn have the opportunity to be the compassionate person.  So instead of trying to survive yet another party, invite one person out for coffee and just talk.

Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries.  One of the causes of loneliness is a lack of appropriate boundaries.  How you ask?  Examine a playground for a moment.  Several studies have shown that a playground without a fence causes children to hover around the equipment.  In contrast, a playground with a fence frees the children to run away from the equipment yet still within the confines of the fence.  If the fence is too close to the equipment, the fence becomes part of the equipment and is climbed over.  Good boundaries are the same way; they exist but are neither too restrictive nor too distant to be effective.  Examine your boundaries.  Are you too restrictive about trying new friendships?  Do you lack boundaries for new friendships?  Either way, this simple concept could be creating unnecessary loneliness in your life.

Time, time, time.  If the cause of your loneliness is a death, divorce, or other significant life change within the last year, then you are still within the appropriate grieving period.  Anytime you endure a major life change, everything changes especially how you celebrate the Holidays.  This year will be different because your life change is making it different and you are most likely missing the good times of the past.  Even though your life change may have been a welcomed one there will still be things that you will miss.  Don’t try to deny it; rather recognize it and acknowledge it as part of the grieving process.  Then you can begin to look forward to creating a new tradition.

Surviving “the most lonely time of the year” is about keeping your perspective, establishing appropriate boundaries and giving yourself the gift of time to recover from major change.  Your loneliness may be here for a season, but it does not have to last after the season is done.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Acute Stress Disorder in Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit

Never thought of Peter Rabbit as having acute stress disorder but it definitely fits the profile.  This article nicely explains the symptoms and diagnosis.  Maybe you will see yourself or someone you know in this story.

Acute Stress Disorder in Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit.

via Acute Stress Disorder in Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Why Rest?

Extended Rest

Extended Rest (Photo credit: MikeVC)

For a musician, the symbol for rest on a sheet of music signals them to completely stop playing for an interval of time.  It is a period of silence that is sometimes used as a dramatic pause to draw attention to the next few stanzas, sometimes it is used as relief for the intensity of the previous stanzas, sometimes it is used when changing from one cord or instrument to another, and sometimes it is used to mark the beginning or the end of a piece.

There are several different symbols used in music to signify different periods of rest such as whole note rests, quarter note rests and eighth note rests.  Just as in music, we too have different periods and purposes of rest in our lives.  We need rest both mentally and physically in order to renew our strength, gain proper perspective on our circumstances, or prepare of a period of future intensity such as the birth of a baby, new job, new home or new relationship.

Daily Rest.  Our bodies are naturally designed for daily rest through sleep.  The amount of sleep depends on the individual, age, and circumstances of the day.  For instance, a growing newborn baby requires more sleep time than awake.  In contrast, an adult doing little physical labor may require less sleep then one engaged in daily physical labor.  When we lack sleep or lack good quality sleep, our mental and physical abilities are not at their best performance.

Weekly Rest.  However, we need more rest than our daily sleep requirement which is why one of the Ten Commandments is to honor the Sabbath.  The Sabbath is one day from sundown to sundown of complete rest, no working every week, giving praise and thanks to God.  Some celebrate this day on Saturday, some on Sunday, and some on other days of the week depending on their work schedule.  This is an essential period of rest because it rejuvenates our energy levels, aids in proper perspective of our lives, and recognizes our blessings come from God.

Yearly Rest.  But the Bible does not stop there.  There are seven other holidays commanded in the Old Testament that last for a period of seven days or one day.   Each holiday has a different purpose, significance and period of rest:

  • Passover, one day holiday reminds us of God’s deliverance from slavery;
  • Unleavened Bread, seven-day holiday reminds us that we leave the old life behind and enter a new life;
  • First Harvest, one day holiday reminds us of God’s provision for our daily needs;
  • Harvest (Pentecost), one day holiday shows joy and thanksgiving for the harvest;
  • Trumpets, one day holiday expressing joy and thanks for the new year;
  • Day of Atonement, one day holiday reminds us of our sinfulness and restores our fellowship with God;
  • Shelters, seven-day holiday renews our commitment to God, trusting in His guidance and protection.

These periods of rest are designed to be like the rest notes in a piece of music.  Each has a purpose and period of time designed to renew our strength, give thanks, restore our relationships, reflect on the past, and remember the goodness of God.

What are the holidays that you celebrate?  Are you using your vacation days every year and resting?  Are you taking out one day a week for complete rest?  Are you getting enough daily rest through sleep?  Our periods of rest as in a music sheet helps to mark the significant events of our lives, binds us together as a family and strengths our faith in God.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

The Stress of Moving: Setting Reasonable Expectations

Admittedly, the title of this article may cause you to respond with a “no duh” comment.  Having to pack up all of your belongings, sort and organize them, label boxes, hope that nothing breaks, and then unpack everything while trying to find a new home for your stuff is stressful enough.  Add to that whatever caused you to move in the first place: new job, new marriage, new house, new pet, more kids, divorce, foreclosure, loss of job, declining health, loss of a loved one, lifestyle change, change of schools, or expired rental agreement and you have a recipe for a full-blown panic attack.

It is no wonder why moving is so stressful and it should be stressful.  Yes, you read right, moving should be stressful.  One of the many contributing factors to increased stress and anxiety is unrealistic expectations.  Unrealistic expectations that the move will go smoothly, that everything you currently have will fit neatly into your new space, that everything will work properly, that you will have all of the boxes unpacked in a few days, or that your new space needs to look perfect before someone visits.  These expectations are unrealistic and add to your moving stress.  So what do you do?  Try these suggestions.

Set reasonable goals.  Before you move, establish a timeline for competing of getting settled into your new space.  For instance, if you have a one-bedroom apartment, it may take you a month to get fully settled into your space but if you have a four-bedroom home, it may take you six months to get fully settled into your space.  Take into account any additional changes, such as new job, relationship, or town and add an additional month for each major change.  This is a far more realistic goal.

Set reasonable boundaries.  You do not need to have a house-warming party within ten days of having moved into your space.  This is far too much stress to put yourself through and may cause you to crash if you try to achieve it.  Be kind to yourself and the people around you and set your house-warming party up following your goal month.  Allow others to help by bringing over a meal or helping to unpack some boxes while not allowing you to feel guilty for accepting help.  There is nothing wrong with needed and receiving help.

Set reasonable breaks.  One of the Ten Commandments is to take a Sabbath every week.  This is especially true when enduring major life changes.  The temptation is to work through the day of rest to get it all done but this is actually counter-productive as it leaves you sapped of your energy on the working days.  It also makes you a bit snappy, irritable, short-tempered, and overwhelmed.  Twenty-four hours of rest once a week is not too much and you will feel refreshed for the rest of the week.

Yes, moving is stressful but how you handle moving will determine your level of stress.  By setting reasonable goals, boundaries and breaks, you can reduce not eliminate the intensity of your stress and be more productive at the same time.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Conquering a move and the excess baggage of life

There is nothing quite like moving to remind you just how much stuff you have in the hidden corners of your home.  Things seem to procreate over time and that one small pile of papers to review on your desk now has another pile on the dining room table and yet another in the kitchen.   The task of sorting, organizing and purging can be overwhelming and might even provoke a disagreement or two with your spouse.

While moving is frustrating and is listed amongst the top life stressors, it can also be a time of purging your life from all of the excess stuff that has gathered.  The benefit of purging is a feeling of freedom from the responsibility to care for the stuff.  Oddly enough, our lives can become just as cluttered with excess activities, friendships, responsibilities or commitments and it too can use a good cleansing every now and then.  However, you must have a plan to attack either the stuff or the excess in your life.

Essential items.  The first items to identify in your move or your life are the essentials.  These are the things you need daily and cannot live without.  In a move it may be your toiletries, a favorite pot, a book you are reading or your computer.  In life it may be a hug from your kids, spending time in God’s word, exercise or a favorite hobby.  Whatever it is put these items aside knowing that they are the most essential items you have.

Keepsake items.  Next comes the items that you love and want to keep but are not essential.  These are the things that you would miss if they were lost, would like to pass on to a family member, or deeply regret not having in the future.  In a move it may be your photo albums, a wedding dress, books, china, or a collection of baseball cards.  In life it may be an annual family reunion, a date with your children or spouse, a convention, or a commitment to work with the homeless.  The trick is keeping your keepsake items to a minimum as not to be adding too much to your plate after the essential items are established.  If you are not sure it is a keepsake, move on.

Throw-away items.  Now you are ready for the throw-away items which should be easier to identify once the essential and keepsake items are already sorted.  These are the items that you can really do without and drain your energy.  In a move it may be old tablecloths that you have not used in a while, old clothes that have not been worn in years, or old newspapers that are collecting dust.  In life it may be a charity that you are no longer passionate about, a hobby that you have lost interest in, or a friend that is more draining than helpful.  Don’t think too hard about these items, if your first instinct is to get rid of it than do it.

Repeat again and again.  Finally you are ready for the last step which is to repeat the first three steps over and over until everything is sorted.  Nothing should be left without a final decision as to which category it belongs.  In a move as in life it is important to analyze the things you are holding onto and examine them to see if your interests have changed.  As you get older, it is natural to have changing interests and your house as your life should reflect the change.

A move is time-consuming but it is helpful to sort through all of the stuff that you have accumulated over the years.  Your life likewise accumulates responsibilities and commitments that may no longer reflect your interests.  Taking the time to purge your home and life of the excess items will free you to spend more time with the things that really matter and ultimately decrease your stress.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.