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Maintaining Your Sanity During Uncertain Rough Times


Maintaining Your sanity

It is already December and a new year is about to start. In ordinary times, this month is a festive season. A time for many happy occasions, gift exchange, more outings with family and friends especially those coming from abroad, and many other preparations. In ordinary times, this month is a time to experience some “eustress” (i.e. positive stress). In ordinary times, we had to make an effort to keep it all together and accommodate to more situational demands. We had to manage our time, expenditure, and resources during this very busy period.

Sadly, this December is not ordinary. We are witnessing a major crisis in Lebanon making it a time for great uncertainty. People are continuously on high alert to catch up with the day-to-day events. With eyes on the peoples’ revolution, the major political events, threats of dwindling resources and finances, inflation, the layoffs, the media’s focus on everything that could possibly be going wrong, etc.… Under these circumstances, how can you possibly make it through December with all that it requires? The ordinary eustress is changing to full blown psychological distress (at least for many who see it that way). People are oscillating between depressive and anxious states with increased vulnerability to the harmful consequences of excessive stress. So how can you maintain your sanity and cope with this extraordinary December and all its excessive demands?

The number one rule in stress management is to change or avoid any situation that stresses you out. If that’s not possible (like many external events occurring now), you can only change the way you’re reacting to the situation by either accepting it, or adapting to it. This, in turn, will require you to change your thoughts, and engage in different behaviors; thus, practicing resilience by regulating precipitating negative emotions that naturally surface during rough times. Maintaining psychological health requires an intention and active attempts to remain in charge. Doing nothing about it may lead one to lose grip. Here are few things to consider doing:

  1. Take care of yourself: Make sure you have the basics right: sleeping, eating, and staying hydrated. This, also, needs to be topped up with stress reduction activities like doing physical exercise, deep breathing, meditation, yoga, etc… Put yourself first before any other obligation; and “no!” that’s not being selfish. It’s just respecting yourself enough to give it what it deserves when it’s highly needed.
  2. Take breaks away from the “news” & social media: This relieves you from the pressure of continuously being bombarded with information that has potential to forecast gloom and doom of the current situation. Do a total digital detox for a whole day if you have to.
  3. Get busy working on a project: If your work is slow (or if you’re not employed to start with), have a “To Do Productivity List” of things you’ve procrastinated on doing before. Being productive will give you a great sense of achievement and is a good distraction away from the negative news. What’s even better is to focus on being useful by helping members in your community through their own difficulties. Resist the “freeze response” precipitating often from perceived stress.
  4. Take things a day at a time: Whenever you find yourself worrying about the future, STOP!! Be in charge of your thoughts. Worrying is an anxiety symptom. It doesn’t solve the problems you may face later. Work on finding solutions for the daily problems you may have in the “now”.
  5. Create good times to change your mood: Happiness is a temporary not eternal state. You have good reasons, now more than ever, to create moments throughout the day for such a boosting emotion. It could be by meeting with friends, doing fun activities, watching funny movies, or anything else that gives you pleasure. It creates a buffer for experienced stress.
  6. Listen to music: create two playlists to “mindfully” listen to depending on your mood: one relaxing music to listen to when you’re anxious; and another upbeat to listen to when you’re feeling low (dancing to this music amplifies the good psychological effects). Music is therapeutic as attested by scientific research.
  7. Unleash your creativity: One upside for moderate stress is that it boosts the brain’s creativity power. Think of ways to work around the current stressors. For instance, low finances can lead you to adopting new ways to economize (i.e. home baked items, handmade gifts, cheaper ways for entertainment, etc…).
  8. Cultivate gratitude and positivity: It is powerful to intensify practicing gratitude daily and focusing on the positives of negative situations as a way to adapt to things you can’t change.
  9. Be with supportive loving people: Reach out to people you love and vent out your concerns. Your support system is much needed in rough times. They need you too. Research repeatedly associates greater wellbeing with having a good social circle.
  10. Stay focused on balancing your days: Keep your internal thermostat in check socially and psychologically. Avoid extremes like “too much” of everything: isolation, excessive socializing, over/under working, over/under sleeping, over /under eating, etc…

These are but few guidelines to feel more in charge during this rough period in time when it’s supposed to be more festive. In fact, you can apply these throughout for better psychological health. When the going gets tougher, though, you need to be tougher in your attempts to remain in charge. And remember: “This too shall pass!”

Your Personal Coach

Dania

Time For Your “Mind Gym” – How Optimistic Are you?


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What do you see if you were given the transparent water glass test (with half of it water)? Would you see the glass as half full, or half empty? Half filled with water and half filled with air? Would you suggest that the glass is twice as big as it should be? Or is it that you express being grateful you have a glass to start with and dismiss appraise? Are you at all a realist who describes it both ways?

To many psychologists, you’re said to be more of an optimist, or a pessimist depending on your answer for such a pop quiz. I wonder what your first spontaneous response is. Perhaps, at different moments, your mood will color what you say, but in general, we can train ourselves to have a default mode in responding to circumstances in certain ways. To be an optimist, you need to practice it, so they say.

At times, it requires tremendous effort to remain optimistic when tough times extend, don’t you think? Even the toughest people have their weak moments during which positivity wouldn’t easily blend with the negativity to dilute it, or even make it shrink. Unless you’re well trained, “tolerance” levels exert their toll and play a negative role on your soul.

At other times, when one forces optimism in all situations despite all signs, this can lead to faulty expectations and eventual aggravation. Surely optimistic people lead a happier healthier life with more solid resilience foundation; yet, to take it too far, and deny that “#%*^” is happening now, or can happen in the future is a misleading temptation.

I am not a pessimist, and contrary to what many think, neither am I a 100% optimist. I am a realist with a holistic view on matters who assesses both sides, but who eventually focuses on the upside. I can’t easily claim horrific matters don’t exist, but I focus on better outcomes as my guide. Realistic optimism remains my preferred ride…

“It is no use to deny it when things go all too crappy. Sit with it and understand it. Process it and embrace it. Get real; then do all you can to make yourself happy.” ~ 3Ds

Rather than sinking in the pile of “#%*^”, you need to seek a better view. Re-arrange the pile and stand on it to get yourself mounted. Realistic expectations and thoughtful consideration are needed to be more grounded. It is the only means to make disappointments less compounded.

Life is much more complicated than that simple glass of water test. And guess what? So are you if the contrary you try to attest. To fight gloom and doom with optimism will remain your contest.

Before I put my case to rest, I’d like you to fill that glass FULLY with water yourself and rise… Hold it high in the air, and throw a toast for all of us: Cheers for the best…

Your Personal Coach

Dania

You’re All Stressed Out? That’s Great News!!!


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It is quite a normal reaction if you’re surprised about what the title above suggests. We have been bombarded over the years with messages that “stress” is our enemy. Today, I have some “breaking news” for you – some “great” news. Stress has its upside. There’s an emerging trend in scientific research that explores how you can befriend your stress and use it to your advantage. Stress is not the real problem. The way you handle it, or think about it, as I will shortly expose, is the problem. Whether you’re an employee, manager, or have any other life role, in our current fast-paced times, overwhelm is common and can dominate our lives. What you’re about to read can be life changing. Use it to your advantage. Share it with your friends and fellow colleagues. Apply it as your new way of living; and allow the same effects to rub on those you interact with.

What Happens When You’re Stressed?

 

Stress has been defined in so many ways, but there’s a consensus that stress is a perceived threat or inability to cope with the demands of a situation. Stress has two components: a cognitive component (thought processes that evaluate circumstances as beyond one’s control) and a physiological response of heightened arousal mobilizing the body into action (i.e. the flight or fight response). Job related stress is the number one complaint in organizational settings. It can be due to too many deadlines, problems with coworkers, enforced multi-tasking, work overload, and the list goes on. What ensues, usually, is a negative evaluation of current circumstances (the cognitive component). Physically, the body is continuously flooded with stress hormones (i.e. cortisol and adrenaline), elevated blood pressure, increased heart-rate and perspiration, muscles more tensed, etc…. No wonder the body gets run down over time; and the dangers of being stressed-out become apparent in variety of symptoms.

There’s Danger in Stress (so we were told)

 

For years, I have been guilty, as many, who deliver stress management workshops warning about the dangers of stress. Most research cautioned of long term stress as having debilitating adverse effects medically and psychologically. The array of related medical illnesses can range from the simplest common cold to more serious diseases, including: heart disease, cholesterol, blood pressure, cancer, and other scary medical problems. Psychologically, stress is the fuel that feeds anxiety and depression to say the least. On hectic jobs, we’re supposed to be on a continuous mission: manage arising stress and work on prevention. No one would want to become victim of any of these negative stress effects, right? Stress management techniques mainly included exercise, deep breathing, meditation, seeking social support, time management, and activities like that. These are very helpful indeed. I always used the analogy of each of us being like a” pressure cooker” as we navigate our days and weeks. We need to make the time to blow-off some steam intermittently before we explode permanently. “Beware becoming all stressed out”, I warned. “Change whatever situation you have control over”, I encouraged, “and if you can’t do that, change your reaction to it”. Yes, I did touch on changing the way we look at uncontrollable situations as one helpful way to manage stress, but I didn’t know – back then – the great power this had on tipping stress perception into becoming a motivational source (not a destructive one). We fail to notice that stress can actually be a positive force – known as “eustress”; and that it excites us to be our best.

Eustress (Positive Stress)

 

What happens when you have a deadline and you need to prepare, coordinate, lay the final touches, and then submit your work? You get all hyped-up to do those. The same thing happened as you studied for exams (if you remember), gave your first presentation, started a new job, got a promotion, and even when you were on vacations. Eustress produces increased energy and improves performance.  No wonder some adrenaline junkies seek it through a roller-coaster ride, or through watching horror movies. These short term buzzes have a good feel on both body and mind. What is less circulated, unfortunately, are the scientifically researched positive effects stress has in that respect. Did you know that eustress has protective health benefits on the body by enhancing immunity and speeding up recovery? You don’t hear such information often, do you? Stress, moreover, enables the brain to be more alert and uses its capabilities more efficiently. Memory and intelligence are, also, enhanced. At greater and even prolonged levels, stress produces mental toughness, better perspectives, a heightened sense of meaning, a sense of mastery, strengthened priorities, deeper relationships, heightened awareness, and greater appreciation of life. Very few would share the good news, right?

The Upside of Stress in General (More Scientific Findings)

 

Perhaps if you think about these positive effects well, you’ll find some real life examples. Your stressful life incidents made you grow; made you mature; made you change. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” it’s been said. You think about why things happened, and in retrospect, you may find a good reason (or more). This is exactly the kind of view many people adopt of stressful times. And, indeed, in a large representative sample in the U.S. of a long term study examining perceived life stress of nearly 186 million adults and their view on whether stress was harmful or healthy, and after 8 years follow up through public death records, researchers found that participants were at 43% increased risk of premature death if they reported experiencing a lot of stress and viewed that stress affects health badly. Those who reported experiencing high stress levels and had a better view about stress were less likely to die – even when compared to those who experienced relatively little stress levels. Kelly McGonigal – one leading health psychologist – suggests that if we stop believing stress is the enemy, we may actually live longer. Is this general upside view about stress applicable when narrowed down to the organizational setting? Yes, it is.

The Upside of Stress at the Work Place (when researched)

 

Shawn Achor from Harvard and Alia Crum from Yale teamed up and uncovered that most corporate training on stress seemed to unintentionally raise it. They experimented on some 380 managers by exposing them to a 3-minutes scientific video either showing the debilitating effects of stress, or the enhancing effects of it on both body and mind. The results were significant when the view on stress was rigged to its positive effects. Not only did these managers embrace their stress levels, their existing distress about it was diminished. When managers’ perceptions about stress were tipped more positively, they felt more productive and energetic (to name a few); moreover, they reported less physical symptoms typically associated with stress (e.g. headaches, fatigue, and backaches). In a follow up study, Achor and Crum, trained 200 managers to rethink stress positively and use it to their advantage at work. The process involved 3 steps: awareness of stress, finding the meaning behind being stressed, and then redirecting that energy to improve productivity and job satisfaction. The results of such training were even more dramatic than the first study. With more focused intent, these managers reported similar diminished distress, and an enhanced view about stress that raised their work effectiveness and improved their health. So how does the magic happen?

What’s Going On Exactly? (The Physiology Behind It)

 

Studies show that one physiological change resulting from the stress response is that one’s heart pounds faster to get more oxygen to the brain. In a similar vein, when one experiences happiness, joy, or courage, the heart pounds faster to prepare one for action, but a healthier cardiovascular profile is observed. The difference between either condition is that the stress response results in a decreased cardiac efficiency and constricts the heart’s vasculatures in preparation for damage or defeat. Such constriction is not reported in healthier more positive responses. The heart pumps more blood, alright, but the blood vessels remain relaxed. This is what’s known as physiological toughness that suggests that the physiological arousal facilitates better coping and enhances performance. Changes in how one perceives stressful situations results in changes in physiology. Not only that, one other component among other stress hormones released during the stress response is “oxytocin” (known as the “cuddle” or “bonding” hormone). Oxytocin is not only triggered upon intimate interactions, it’s, also, released during the stress response. It pushes the individual to seek human connection and talk about their problems. No wonder we turn to friends, colleagues, or others during hard times. We seek validation, acknowledgement, and support. Oxytocin release acts as a natural anti-inflammatory that dilates the arteries and regenerates heart cells; thus, facilitates healing from any stress-induced damage. This is what makes one resilient and bounce back from difficult times especially if they actually receive support from others. To sum it up: One new thought in your mind; one word from another can make all the difference.  Rings a bell?

Lessons We Can Learn (On the Job)

 

What is widely known, by now, is that employees don’t just leave organizations. They leave bad managers. Wide scale surveys in organizational settings do point out that words of acknowledgment and praise are way more powerful on the job than any monetary reward. Linking it to my exposition above, these words transform the “meaning” of working hard, right?  You can be stuck with a manager who does not empathize. You may find yourself trapped and can’t quit because your options are limited, or costly. So what can you do? Re-assess: how can you make this situation work for you? Should you engage in an aggressive job hunt campaign to change things? Would it help to learn some effective communication techniques to deal with difficult negative people around you? Who can you resort to for support? What could be a more powerful motivating meaning you can give to your current “stuckness”?

And what if you were the manager who’s organizing the work of close to burn-out subordinates? That, too, can be over-whelming, but if you become more compassionate and caring, and use that oxytocin release to help them out, you’d be actually doing yourself a favor. Acts of kindness – as reported by many studies – strengthen your own resilience (not only that of others). If you top it up by enabling your subordinates to view their stress differently, it will lead them to peak performance. Support them become better at stress by changing their perceptions from “threat” to “challenge”; from being invaluable to highly contributing. Enable them chase better meaning of “overwork”, for instance, instead of just avoiding discomfort. Change their minds and this will change their whole bodily responses. Remember to do the same for yourself, ok?

That Earlier Ignored Stress- Buster

 

It’s not enough to take breaks to escape day-to-day stress by removing oneself temporarily from situations no matter how helpful these may seem. For all I know, some situations you can’t easily escape at all. Even if you return from a vacation, you’ll find nothing has changed. The real deal would be to target the evaluating thoughts of different stressful situations. Thoughts that determine situations as “threating” will evoke the typical stress response. On the contrary, thoughts that consider situations “challenging” will evoke the “having courage” response with all its ensuing positive effects. Courageous people firmly believe that they have the required capabilities to deal with circumstance they’re in. In their heads, they hear a voice yelling “I CAN do this”, “I AM in control”, etc…  Perhaps the word “stress” has been repeated often enough in this article to make you feel highly aroused already. How about we make proper use of para-linguistics (i.e. the power of words used on our emotions)? Let’s change the word “stress” to “all hyped-up”. My body is rising to help me be up to the challenge. It’s my opportunity to demonstrate toughness. I’d like to think of life as a boxing match. You’re not defeated if you’re knocked down. You’re only defeated if you refuse to get up…. Rise and fight again harder each time!! You CAN do it!!

Your Personal Coach

          Dania

Time For Your “Mind Gym” – How Do You Compensate?


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If you review the times you wanted something, but didn’t get, you may notice that you tried to, somehow, compensate. Consider, for instance, a failed relationship, a desired post on a job, or in vain attempts on any other pursuit. You looked for a substitute to help cope you tolerate.

The way we compensate, though, can serve us well, or not, if I may say. Some would sublimate to a higher cause, change their target, or figure out a new way. Others would resort to substance abuse, binge in comfort eating, or soothe their frustrated emotions by seeking solitude in a somewhat safe bay.

Have you considered how, earlier, you resorted to compensate? Do you find a pattern that would generally predominate? Or is it that when you scan those incidents well, you find that your style is flexible and between different constructive ways you oscillate?

Have you noticed, at times, how the clock continues ticking or flipping despite your attempts to digest your dashing hopes? Remaining in idle mode won’t change the bad news, and eventually you have to step into the uncertain and navigate new slopes as a better means to cope.

“The question isn’t how do you compensate if you fail; rather how “well” will you compensate? What will you eventually allow to prevail?” ~ 3Ds

It’s like you’re meant to be waging battles all the time; and even initiating new ones. A survivor mode entails that you seriously keep sticking to your guns….

Neve dwell on whether you’ll be defeated. when you’re tired, you can always a rest, just for a little while, then resume whatever you have uncompleted….

And you know what will make a difference next time? It’s pretending that you’re already a champion from the start…. Role play every day the “as if you’re already a winner” kind of part…

Every breath, every move, every step,…. Have a fighter un-subsiding kind of heart….

To compensate right, make the new worthy venture a state of art….

Doesn’t this sounds like a class of Martial Art?

Bowing in awe before your new glorious start, your Personal Coach

Dania

Time For Your “Mind Gym” – Would You Rather Suffer, Or Just Be Pained?


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My earlier writings were about enhancing well-being, about facing challenges, about thriving not just surviving. Today, I feel I am addressing mere basics of surviving the insecurities surrounding living in Beirut (the new hub of random theft of lives).

Two consecutive car explosions in less than a week’s time took place ending so many precious lives at a time when we were to celebrate the beginning of a new year. Some of my closest friends lost their child (Mohammad Al Shaar) leaving them devastated, pained, & badly shaken…

Any one of us could have suffered the same fate…. The life of any other one we love could have been stolen just the same. Most of us, back here, feel the danger. Most of us feel the potential loss. Our survival with those we love is threatened at every second of the day….

As I empathize with the family of those deceased at both times, and as I recall my own earlier losses, one major blessing comes to mind. We are lucky that the intensity of all negative emotions (e.g. sadness, pain, anger,….), with time, wanes. Feelings don’t stay the same…

It’s been said that “time heals”. What it actually heals is the adverse emotions we feel. Think back of a time you went through a lot of distress. It could be months back or years. Unless you still suffer a major trauma, normally, you’ll notice that it doesn’t hurt as much & perhaps those negative emotions have disappeared.

What comes to mind now, also, are the stages that the terminally ill go through when facing imminent death. These are summarized by the acronym “DABDA”: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, & Acceptance. It is this last stage that brings again peace. What we resist persists; what we embrace gradually dissolves.

So how is this relevant to those insecure feelings that hover all over our lives during current times? It’s true we’re threatened. It’s true we could be terrified, angry, sad, pained, or depressed, but we’ll only bend; never break…. Our feelings will eventually change when we distract… So,

“Change the equation:

Pain + accepting = pain;

Pain + resisting = Suffering.

Pain is inevitable; Suffering is optional.” ~ 3Ds

No matter what happens. No matter what we lose. No matter what we face. We can finally choose to resume somewhat normal living despite the pain by remaining engaged. The alternative is to torment ourselves by staying locked in the vicious cycle of negative feelings & resist the idea that things happened.

I’ve seen so many people use their distress to ignite their thriving despite all insecurities. I’ve, also, seen pained people endlessly suffering.

What will be your choice in whatever you face?

Which equation with whatever feeling you have will you choose?

Your Personal Coach

  Dania

Time For Your “Mind Gym” – What Are You Hiding?


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Yes, you’re hiding something! & you know what? That’s okay. We all have private things (thoughts, stories, ideas, …) that we wouldn’t want to share. They could be dream-like nice fantasies; & they could be distressing memories, facts, or wounds that ignite your negative emotions when unleashed.

You may not be interested in playing “hide & seek” with what you hide. In fact, you may not want to seek to find what you’re hiding ever… That’s why you hide it to start with. But you know what? Whatever it is that you’re hiding comes to seek you every so often…. it remains there….

You can shove things under your memory carpet as you please. You can lock the doors to their accompanying emotions & throw the keys. And you can attempt to bury in the hollow their negative effects all you want to, but whatever you do, they’ll always find you & tease ….

They manifest themselves in multiple ways you don’t approve of, & seep out without your permission in no transient craze. It all stays; resulting in emotional eating, sleeping problem, and/or a bad habit that stays for long days…..

I often thought: “There are two types of wounds: Open wounds & closed ones. In human psyche, no closed wound is ever sealed tight enough.” ~ 3Ds

Some grow like a cyst causing so much pain. You leave it on its own hoping it heals. You put a plaster on it. You cover it up. You hide it. And it works sometimes to drain it out when it’s ready & ripe.

Still other cysts, & despite all attempts, just won’t recover. No attempt to hide & repair succeeds; & it all leaves you impaired with the manifestations compounding until you get scared.

Yes, open it up & dig for the roots. Get everything out & then slowly heal. What gets you cured is a surgical intervention. It may be unpleasant for a while, but is worth your intention….

It’s true you’ll get scarred, but aren’t we all… by far?

Can I tempt you to seek what you hide now? Come out, come out wherever you aaaaare…

Would you give your secret to just a trusted few? They’ll help you do the self-soothing later…

On your “Team” always: Your Personal Coach

          Dania

Time For Your Mind Gym – How Do You Deal With Bad News?


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Those bad news we receive…. eh, part of daily living…. Giving you one big blow or small in effect, but coming in bundles from everywhere. And you’re tempted to say: “Dear bad news, would you please slow down? I’m in the middle of something here….” Bad news can get you down, make you disoriented, or even stop you from normal living….

But if you stop in the middle of the road, you’re likely to be run over. It’s better if you planned the “pause” aside to assimilate, to digest, & to deal with those bad news. On the side…. not in the middle of the road…..

It certainly helps to have chunks of time to yourself to think things over, to experience your negative emotions, & to plan ahead what you will do (in light of the bad news). Meanwhile, one way to cope is to resume your normal living. Other people you’re committed to don’t have to pay the price with you & the whole worls doesn’t have to know – just a selected few.

In doing that, it’s a good idea to adopt the motto of “In the middle of my many obligations, I can’t depress about sad things any time. I’ll assign the right time for that at my earliest convenience.” ~ 3Ds

Then test yourself, challenge yourself, & stretch yourself to do what you think is impossible under your current state, or circumstance. There’s always time to sit on your own & resolve that “unfinished business”. MAKE the time for it if you need.

Only then, will you realize your true strength. Only then, will you realize your true potentials. Only then, will you be even more proud.

There’s a “mask” I call “alright pretense”. This is the time to wear it until you’re in solitude….

So go on …. smile to the world… In your privacy aside, you can face those bad news with no mask; & even give them a spank!!

Sob, or weep. Turn the page, & start over another day (with a smile)…. Then allow for those chunks of time as much as you need… On the side that is…

Need a tissue before I leave?

Your Personal Coach

Dania

Time for Your “Mind Gym” – What Brings You Down?


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Feeling up or down is part of your fabric. Your thoughts, behaviors, other people, & surrounding circumstances fuel your going up or down that emotional roller coaster.

Unless you’re the depressive type, I am sure you enjoy the more elated states. You see practically everything in rosy glasses. You feel alive.

When you’re feeling down, you see only the dark. Even your shadow leaves you. You get less productive. Life makes no sense.

And you may keep fluctuating between the two poles depending on the factors with greater influence (i.e. your thoughts, your behaviors, other people, or surrounding circumstances).

It’s okay if you do. It means you’re human. But it’s not okay to leave yourself in those down states way too long. They wear you out. They bring you totally down.

I always thought: “The only thing I’ll ever allow to bring me down is the elevator.” ~3Ds

Nothing has the power to keep you in the gutter if you don’t allow it. And by no means am I suggesting you live in denial that life gave you a blow.

But it makes a difference if you kept yourself in the low for long. Soon enough, you’ll realize the only way out is back up again.

Shoulders up, Chin up, repeat after me:

The only thing I’ll ever allow to bring me down is the elevator… or the stairs for that matter 🙂 🙂

Hit “REPLAY”!! Make it your new “Mantra” 🙂

Your Personal Coach

Dania

The Working Mothers’ Syndrome


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Is it the first time you hear about the “working mothers’ syndrome”? It’s probably new to many. I’ll explain about it below and give you some answers to frequently asked questions. The “Working Mothers’ Syndrome” is the frustration and its consequences experienced by working mothers who have to joggle between the multiple demands dictated by being a mother and having a career. It results in many negative physical and mental signs that exert their toll on the mothers’ daily functioning. Parenting is already a 24 hours job, so adding to it an external job with more working hours surely adds more stressors to handle. Being a parent and having a career at the same time results in conflicting demands that most parents (both fathers and mothers) have to accommodate for. Since ancient times, society handed down the parenting responsibility mainly to mothers; hence, those mothers who have a career usually carry a heavier load in making all ends meet. The working mothers’ syndrome afflicts mainly high achieving, driven, and ambitious women who want to perfect it all. These women multi-task well; and assume a conscientious responsibility in both roles (at home and on the job). This, however, does not come without a price. Their bodies, eventually, yell to take a break from all the commotion by giving them various signals to slow down.

How does the “Working Mothers’ Syndrome” manifest itself?

Usually it is detected by signs of chronic fatigue (adrenal fatigue) especially if the mother has to work long working hours on the job. She wakes up too tired to go to work and is drained already when she comes back home to continue running errands for the house and the kids. If the kids are very young, her duties are physically more taxing; and this makes the fatigue more pronounced sometimes resulting in burn-out. With excessive and continuous stress, her immunity is diminished and this renders her more susceptible to diseases. Sugar cravings to boost up her energy levels are very common; and depressive mood swings attack often. This is all topped up with overwhelming “guilt” feeling on having to miss out responding, in time, to the conflicting demands necessitated by each role. Stress levels keep rising and her coping mechanism to accommodate to the demands of both the job and the house dwindle with time. This puts the working mother at a high risk of serious chronic diseases (e.g. cholesterol problems, diabetes, heart conditions, etc….).

Does the “Working Mothers’ Syndrome” differ in the Arab culture from that of the Western societies?

The “Working Mothers’ Syndrome” is quite prevalent around the world, as the division of gender roles has existed globally for a long time. The man is expected to be the “bread earner” and the woman is expected to attend to the family’s other needs mainly as a “caretaker”. Such expectations have put women under pressure if they aspired to deviate from the norm of being only a caretaker in the house. To pursue a career that either adds to the family income, or to merely enhance her self-worth, the working mother faces a big challenge in proving she can accommodate to all. The division of gender roles is more defined in the Arab culture, at a time when many women are picking up on the trend of establishing themselves outside the family context in line with Western societies. With fewer Arab men being open to assume household responsibilities to help – unlike the Western societies – Arab career seeking mothers are challenged even more to balance their lives with the added career role.

How can the working mother control the stressful effects on her personally?

A working mother needs to be clear that she wears several hats a day to suit the multiple roles she is involved in (a mother, a career woman, a wife, a daughter, a sister, etc…). The “super mom” notion is a heavy burden, as it is never too easy to balance it all – let alone perfect all roles. If she belonged to the “sandwiched generation” (i.e. being torn in responsibilities around aging parents and growing kids), having a career to top it up is even more taxing. She needs to be realistic that she cannot satisfy all ends impeccably. She already does too much. A working mother needs to intermittently recharge her batteries and de-stress by engaging in self-enhancing activities. This is the only way to remain sane, as giving, and productive. With no strength to hold it all, how else can she keep things together?

How can the working mother protect her children from the negative effects of the Syndrome?

As I mentioned, a working mother is already stressed out from handling too much. Many times that boiling stress spills over in dealing with the kids especially upon returning home from the job to carry on with her motherly duties. Having not seen their mom most of the day, the kids (especially at a younger age) become so clingy and demanding. They become like a shadow following their mom around the house. The mother is advised to create some space – before meeting her kids – to engage in some deep breathing exercise and shift her focus from “job mode” to that of the “house mode”. By giving her kids quality time, the working mother, by far, can make up for her absence compared to a stay-home mom who is just physically around. She needs to gently communicate with her kids her multiple responsibilities and her time availability specifically for them. She, also, needs to constantly remind herself that: “now I will be working on my long-term investment project (i.e. my kids). Before I know it, my kids will be on their own. Let me enjoy them as much as I can now.” A little positive self-talk can change her attitude and arm her a great deal against mounting frustration. And it’s true, at one point, the house will be empty and she has to deal with another challenge: the “empty nest syndrome” (i.e. kids growing up and leaving the house).

What are the effects on the partner?

A working mother would be really lucky if she had a supportive husband who understands how nourishing it is for his wife to have additional value outside the family context. In this case, the mother is better fulfilled; and this has positive effects on the dynamics between all family members (including her partner). When the mother is having an external job to boost the family income, not all husbands release their wives from all the household duties. The latter remain an obligation she carries on her shoulders; and this when the syndrome intensifies affecting everybody around the house. She would probably need to recruit any other family support to help her cope better. If she was working just to enhance her self-satisfaction (not for the added income) and her husband isn’t supportive and she feels burned out, she may need to re-assess the nature of her current job and whether she can find less taxing external duties. Whining about her inability to make all ends meet pushes the husband to suggest her quitting the job (especially if she did not need its income). The decision to work or not is, indeed, a tough one when family responsibilities are overwhelming. In both cases, there are costs entailed. Having the added career is physically taxing; not having one, is psychologically costly. It’s about setting priorities – at each stage in one’s life. Opting to balance to the best she can puts the working mother forever on the seesaw to meet her partner’s needs together with all her other duties.

Are there any more recommendations to handle the negative effects?

Most working women are, in fact, more productive than stay home moms. They become skilled at managing their time better. The negative effects, actually, kick in when the mother drifts endlessly in attending to others’ needs without stopping to “refuel”. She is to schedule short fun activities on her own every so often. By involving their husbands more with the kids, a working mother would surely allow herself some time to catch her breath. If that is not possible, she needs to delegate some of her duties to other family members. A “reality check” is much needed continuously whenever a working mother finds her tolerance levels peeking. Let her ask herself these questions:

–          Do I really need that external job? (Is it a priority?)

–          Am I better off shifting to a part-time job? (What are the opportunities out there?)

–          What can I do to make my life easier?

–          Who can support me? And who can I delegate some of my duties to?

–          How can I re-charge my batteries and attend to my bodily needs?

–          How can I give my kids quality time instead of just being there?

Remember working mothers out there: Parenting is one of those most difficult jobs on earth. A job, you can never easily quit. Your kids, however, will grow up and help you with time. They will be proud to have had a mother who had a career while attending to their needs. Perfection is unattainable. Just opt at balancing to the best you can without forgetting your own physical needs.

Am I Having the Worst Feeling or What?


In my line of practice, I usually work on transforming feelings of distress to those of empowerment. My clients come with different baggage, problems, and challenges. They all, however, share one commonality: A perception that they’re experiencing the “worst feeling” of all times. And it’s true. It’s all relevant to one’s character or situation. As our dialogue proceeds, and as they describe those “worst feelings”, I find myself oscillating between acknowledging how difficult these are on one hand, and aiming at alleviating their pain, on another. Respecting their decision to confide and share their deepest emotions always, my mind’s eye reaches out for the “greener side” of their life landscape. I need to help them shift their perception as they process all their negative emotions.

 As I listen to their experiences, my mind speaks before I can think; yells if I may. Sometimes my reasoning slips out loud in an instant. At other times, I direct our dialogue to support them reach more helpful conclusion. Here are some scenarios they voice out as “worst feelings”; and how my automatic “hunt” goes like for a more empowering stance to alleviate their predicaments every time: 

–          I’m having that worst “feeling of being all alone; I don’t have any good company!”

My mind yells: “Yes, honey, being alone is a terrible feeling; solitude can be bliss, if you think about it. Some people are yearning to be left alone. Do their own thing. No responsibilities attached to anyone else; no one telling them what to do; no one holding them from using their full potentials. If you can’t enjoy your own company, how do you expect anyone to enjoy yours? How can you better use your time to self-entertain and be happy with the only person you’re forever stuck with: YOU?”

–          I’m having the worst ”feeling of being all alone even in the company of others”

My mind yells: “Aha!! Here’s someone who is on a different wavelength from those all around. That’s the perfect chance to check for their uniqueness. I bet they’re the “deeper” type.  Let me tell you this gorgeous: You may just be affiliating with the wrong crowd. Where can you find your type? Let’s check how you’re like and examine your options. Maybe you need to go on a “search” for those of your kind…. Expand your “network” is your next step ….

–          I’m having that worst “feeling of having no choice!”

My mind yells: “Are you serious, sugar? You always have a choice; what you actually “do” may be different. You daily choose what to eat, dress like, or do, … Choosing “not to do” remains a choice. And if you’re driven into a situation by force, the way you react to it remains your choice. Perhaps it’s just that your choice in that specific situation has difficult repercussions. You can deal with it if you’re really determined, don’t you now? Just don’t generalize feeling powerless to all else in your life. Keep choosing to have the right attitude at all times.”

–          I’m having that worst “feeling of having been stabbed in the back!!”

My mind yells: “oh sweetheart, this is how you learn who’s friend and who’s foe. You’ll find those people who’ll love you and support you just as you will find those whose whole life purpose may be that of bringing you down. Give a listening ear to your internal detectors. You knew it all along; you just weren’t paying attention. Learn from it and move on….”

–          I’m having this worst “feeling of being changed into a person I’m not”

My mind yells: “oh my, oh my…. Why would you easily allow that angel? Where’s your strength of character? Right, it’s not that solid…. Perhaps we need to toughen that base as a start. You can’t possibly be comfortable living in your own skin if you let others define who you really are. It would never be your core, would it?”

–          I’m having this worst “feeling of being so incomplete, so not up to the expectations, so imperfect…”

My mind yells: “Good God, how I wished we could all be complete at some point during our life-time. Engage in downward comparison, precious. That old adage: “things could be worse” comes in quite handy in this case. Examine those less fortunate. You’re probably comparing yourself with those who you think have it all. You don’t truly know what they’re struggling with in their lives, minds, or hearts. They may just be similarly striving for perfection; and are in fact dealing with their own @#/!#@. Perfection is too far-fetched, dear, but at least it keeps us busy working on it.”

–          I’m having the worst “feeling of having lost a dear one in my life”

My heart sinks…..

My mind stops yelling….

I empathize….

I become all heart……..

Could this be the worst feeling of all, I wonder? They’ll have to form an alliance with “time”…. I’ll be their spiritual crutches …… then… I’ll be watching them grow…..

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