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Time For Your “Mind Gym” – How “Happy” Will You Make The Coming Year?


wishes for new yearHow many times have you heard the words “happy New Year” lately? Plenty of times, I bet. It’s become like people’s favorite automated expression at the cutoff point of a fresh new year. All attempt to portray what’s coming more brightly.

I’ve heard some people whining about the past year saying it was a horrible one; and they’re wondering whether coming times will be better, or not. They evaluate the year based on horrific events that perhaps negatively impacted their lives a whole lot. Others were more grateful for dominant pleasant occasions; and, for the New Year, have aligned similar expectations. Some minority remained ambivalent to the calendar change as indicative of any potential variations.

“Happy New Year” is, by no means, an empty phrase. We’re generally biased, I believe, to hope for the better days, to surpass any adverse craze, and to find happiness in different ways.

365 new days will constitute the continuation of your biography and are lining up for you in the unseen. We can safely call it all the year 2015. You can accept an extension of what you’ve already experienced so far, or rock the boat and innovate new days like you’ve never before seen.

Whatever your choice is, please remember that our built-in human nature is one designed to eventually conquer any turbulence. Perhaps hard times are part of living and do cause major disturbance, but none of us has the desire to remain long in guttered times. On the contrary, we’re always longing for happiness; and actively search for its permanence.

Keeping that in mind, “For the new year, it is not enough to wish for happier times. The deeper wish is to break free of any happiness confines.” ~ 3Ds

We may be starting off the New Year with certain limitations, but should we allow these to cause continuous frustrations? How determined are you to actually notice and create happier days and other thrilling celebrations?

I, personally, wish you’d remain dreaming bigger, laughing louder, loving deeper, standing taller, bouncing back from setbacks stronger, and moving in STRIDES happily longer…

Say “I” if you’re all in favor!!!

With Your Personal Coach

          Dania

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


optimism

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

Time For Your “Mind Gym” – What’s Your Happiness Thermostat Like?


Happiness

 

If you ask people around you about happiness, you’ll find it’s everybody’s main pursuit; and you may get responses that change day by day. When I become “this”, I’ll be content, they say. When I have “that”, life will be most ecstatic, they convey. People search for it through any path… through any way….

Then when “this” or “that” are reached, happiness will, in fact, be achieved; yet, to one’s dismay, being happy upon any accomplishment doesn’t last. Graduation, promotion, marriage, or even having the first child naturally stir up feelings that life is a blast. To our chagrin, the good feelings fade relatively fast. Even winning the lottery, with time, becomes a matter of fact.

If you scan your life course well, you may notice that happy feelings always faced interruption. A host of uninvited emotional guests can diligently work on happiness reduction. Surrounding circumstances may have their weird way of introducing unpleasant surprises and distractions.

I don’t mean to sound discouraging and make you doubt. I’m just trying to be real and aim at understanding life inside out. Happiness is just one feeling among some thousand other ones difficult to count. Not only is it contagious, it’s a temporary state; and the absence of misery by no means can ensure opening its floodgate.

“Our emotional states keep sliding for better or for worse. True strength lies in our ability to fast-forward negative emotions and the good ones to nourish and nurse” ~ 3Ds

Perhaps you’re often aware of your happiness thermostat, but simply forgot your power in gliding back and forth that continuum. In tough times, you can just throw yourself back into an energizing happy memory to regain equilibrium…

To remain forever happy amidst life’s ebbs and flows may just be a misconception, but guess what? We have a built in mechanism that strives to get those good feelings back despite some delay and without exception. All you have to do is speed it up with deliberate intention…

I’ll tell you another secret: do you know what’s better than just being happy and glad? It’s experiencing happiness after being sad. So you see? Being sad isn’t at all that bad….

One last thing: William Pharrell’s “Happy” song is only a press of a button away. Care to dance?

With Your Personal Coach

Dania

 

 

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


life boxing match

 

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” – What’s Your Most Important Project?


life project

Unless you’re roaming aimlessly in life and you have absolutely no interests, you’ll find yourself working, from time to time, on different projects. These can be long or short-term; straight forward or more complex. Each adds to your general life fulfillment one way or another and has its spill-over effects.

From earning a good education to getting your dream job to raising a family, you move in phases aiming at succeeding in each. Along the way, you prepare with minor baby targets to be there; and gradual adaptations to your changing situations ensure that these goals you reach.

In a chaotic fast paced life-style, some people drift with the flow. They forget to pause, for a while, and assess whether or not they continue to grow. To their chagrin if they do, can realize they have been for a long time in a status quo. Nothing to look forward to each morning can be death in life and makes living something they can easily forgo.

The real deal in life is to live it as happily as you can. Only you can do that; and, it certainly is added joy if you shared the glee with others across your life span. To make it right, you’ve got to be the best version of yourself equipped with a “how to” manual project plan.

Are you like many who already know and inherently resolved that “the most important project you can ever work on is your own life and how you grow and evolve”? ~ 3Ds

It can overwhelm you to consider how many things you need to refine. Relax now… Pick one thing today, and for the coming few weeks vow to focus on doing one thing in that direction; and little targets assign. Day in, day out, all your resources in doing that align.

The snowball grows once you get it rolling. If you stay at it, that eventual make-over can be mind-blowing…

You yourself will be surprised at how easy and gratifying it all is. This is the one investment that will, eventually, lead you to smile with a grin…

So, when shall we begin? Planning starts just with a paper and pen….

And perhaps Your Personal Coach

Apres vous…

Dania

Time For Your “Mind Gym” – What’s Your Handy Conviction?


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You know how it’s like to be so stubborn in holding on to specific beliefs that guide much of what you do, or feel as you navigate your future direction? Those handy (or not) beliefs are so ingrained that you don’t question their validity. You leave them to influence your every move, your every thought, or your every upcoming decision.

These are what we call convictions. They’re pretty much like faith – in their positive implications – so blind to any alternative negative explanations. And they could really be limiting – in their negative sense – to how well you could thrive, prosper, be happy, or make constructive future predictions.

Those handy (or not) mental influences & internal feelings can be life changing for better, or for worse. They can nourish you like a nurse, or demolish you like a curse. Have you reflected on which in your mind & heart do you repeatedly rehearse?

Not so handy convictions can send you to gloom & doom. They keep you immobile like a baby forever staying in your mother’s womb. They’re like the tools you use to dig a grave for your dreams & lock them for good in a rotten tomb.

Handier convictions stretch your potentials deeper, wider, & higher. That much optimistic sense of total confidence that you can surmount all obstacles like a diligent fighter; To lighten up dark days & make them brighter; To dump off heavy burdens weighing you down & render them lighter…

Those convictions precede all euphoria, all achievements, & all breakthrough. They never come on their own in passing but are thoughts & feelings you habituate your mind & heart to attach to ….

“That voice in your head… That feeling in your heart … can be a handy or not conviction. Your default diction will surely influence your future prediction.” ~ 3Ds

Yes, do believe everything will be alright! Yes, be determined to transcend any plight! Yes, take “happiness” your destination on any trip or flight!!

Now …. Repeat after me: “Mountains will be the least I move…”

How about that for a new handy conviction? 🙂

Your Personal Coach

Dania

PS. I’ll be the first keynote speaker in Toastmasters Lebanon’s Annual Convention at AUB next Saturday march 22 starting at 9:30am. My topic will be “Mission Possible” which empowers attendees to face their fears. You can find tickets at librairie Antoine or follow this link: http://www.antoineticketing.com/Event_Other_Face_it_Ace_it__Toastmasters_Lebanon_1699

Time For Your “Mind Gym” – What’s Your Plan For The Holidays?


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Va Va Vaction is neaaaar!! Yo! Ho! Ho!! Aren’t you excited? Some time to catch your breath. A lot of time to spend with family & friends. Extra time to do something different. That sought after change away from your usual routines….

So how will you use whatever extra time you have on your hands? Any special plans? Go ahead… Interrupt your somewhat mundane long life story with a special mark that stands… What can you arrange doing with or without your fans?

I’m not referring to the usual “lunch it” here, or “dine it” there kind of outings you use as a treat. I’m not even referring to that long vacation you may aspire. I’d like you to consider unsual stuff you don’t normally do. Star gazing, playing with snow, walk in the woods, or throwing frisbee to name a few…. Simple, yet refreshing things you never had the time to before…

There is so much out there you could be leaving inexperienced and unexplored. I wonder what you’ve been postponing. I wonder what you’ve dreamed of doing just for a little while.

Seize the opportunity now & spare yourself those I should’ve… I could’ve…. I must’ves… Such thoughts will attack you in no time. Routines will hit you in the face soon enough. They’re around the corner with their usual stuff…

“Those refreshing unusual little things you don’t always do may just be the inspiration changing your world view” ~3Ds

And don’t we all eventually detest monotony? Your chance is near. In fact it’s here….

The trick is just ask yourself more questions (just like a child). What are you curious about? What would the dreamer in you give as suggestions?

Then plan with a child’s heart! Turn those ideas into “supposed tos” now & start!!

Ah, pleaaaase, may I join…? After you dearest…

Va Va Vaboooom 🙂

Have a merry merry Christmas! 🙂

Your Personal Coach

Dania

Time for Your Mind Gym – How is it Like in Your Relationship?


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Pick any important relationship in your life & assess. How’s it like? It could be rocky, or smooth; filled with turmoil, flat-lining, or flaming with joy.

What do you think makes a difference? If you think hard about it, you’ll find that the “smooth” & “flowing with joy” relationships have agreements on core life values you share with the other.

If it’s your partner, friend, colleague, parent, sibling, or kid, you’re assessing your relationship with, you’ll realize that the more you’re like each other, the more you like each other.

Still, no two people are alike. And if you focus on your differences, you, surely, head that “rocky” road describing how your relationship is like. Rings a bell in any case?

If you really want to hold on to having them in your life, what are you to do if you were to smoothen the path both of you walk?

Examine the whole package. Acknowledge & accept the differences. Focus on your similarities & bring these to spotlight in your interactions.

“The proper cement building all relationships, is loudly appreciating the commonalities more than drawing attention to the differences.” ~3Ds

It’s been said that thriving relationships have a ratio of 5 positive interactions to each negative one, usually.

Perhaps it’s re-engineering time of how it’s like. Think hard. They have abundant material you can use as cement.

Start mixing: a trait here, a behavior there,  dash of love, & sprinkle all with understanding.

Happy “building”….

Happily ever after  🙂

Your Personal Coach

Dania

Work-Life Balance (before you go off edge)


ImageOne of the first things I do with my clients at the beginning of a “Coaching” contract is to examine their wheel of life (see picture up there). I consider it an “eye opener” to start the process of progress. It gives a bird’s eye view of the levels of satisfaction (from 0 to 10; with 10 being most satisfied) on their: Career, finances, health, friends and family, romance, personal growth, fun and recreation, and their physical environment. These identify life areas that are not working well and needing change to live life more fully. Great deficits in fulfillment in any one area can spill over to the rest; hence, negatively affecting general well-being. We cannot neglect any one area. Just as a house cannot be built on one pillar, so is life satisfaction. It’s a whole; and cannot be reliant on only one source.

The concept of work-life balance is common and implicitly warns people not to get too consumed in having a career at the expense of nourishing the rest of their life support systems. It is a known fact that most of the working force spends their entire day on the job. They become so busy making a living that they forget to live their lives.  Even non-working house-wives assume the career of a “full time mom” or a “full time house-wife” that they sometimes drift in the mundane neglecting vital life ingredients until they feel a huge void. If you give it some thought, each of us has multiple roles (especially the sandwiched generation): the true self, career role, son/daughter, parent, spouse, friend, community volunteer, etc…. The true self, sometimes, suffers the most. Every so often, competing and conflicting roles and priorities can be very difficult to handle. We become defocused and find ourselves thrown off balance suffering health problems, depression, poor performance, stress, strain, or complete burn-out.

It’s not so simple to balance it all, but at least we can be more aware of maximizing the use of our time. Time being the most valuable, yet limited, asset we have which once used cannot be retrieved. Life can easily slip us by; and if we’re not alert to how we’re investing our time, by the end of our path, we may find ourselves filled with regrets. Just imagine you’re at your “death bed” contemplating your life. What would you be saying? Scary thought to many, huh? So, how can you best balance before everything hits the fan?

Here are some few guidelines to face the challenge:

  1. Fill in the wheel of life: Find out which life areas you’re very dissatisfied with and need your attention most. What can you improve? What are you willing to improve? (see? there’s a difference between “can” and “willing”). The first step to any change is awareness. It has been said that 50% of solving any problem lies in knowing what it is, so get clear on what’s not working for you. Then, start getting focused on taking serious gradual steps to implement changes. Things will never get resolved on their own.
  2. Set SMART Goals: Once you nail down the opportunities for improvement, set the baby steps to rectify. The acronym SMART for goals refers to Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timed. These ensure rectifying the dissatisfied areas and having a map for a clearer journey ahead. For instance, if you found that you are not so content on the area of family and friends perhaps for being over-worked on the job, specify that you need to “spend more quality time on the weekend with family or friends”. The way about it may be to arrange for gatherings, or more outings. Always get specific: “how”, “when”, “with whom”, “number of times”,…  and make sure it doesn’t conflict with others’ plans. Gather your SMART goals with the specifics on a sheet of paper and read it every morning.
  3. Manage your time: Make the best use of those 86,400 seconds each day. Managing how you spend your time can be the key to your productivity on all levels. Many claim they don’t have the time, for instance, to read (i.e. feed their personal growth), or generate more income (i.e. feed their finances). Well… that’s not very accurate. You can always make the time for important things. It’s just that you may not have taken a deep decision to actually commit to doing things of importance. Why would most people adopt a certain regimen as per their doctor’s advice when their life is threatened? Suddenly, you find them having extra time, right? Think hard of that wheel of life. What should you do to become happier? Incorporate it into your schedule. This is when the SMART goals’ sheet needs updating to specify “when” to get things done.
  4. Establish healthy rituals: It can be difficult sometimes to kick off new habits when you find out that these are needed to feed into better balance. Take exercise for example. To kick it off as a habit requires a lot of planning and self-discipline in the beginning. Most research suggests a period of at least 21 days to establish habits. This is when the neural pathways in the brain become strong enough to make the behavior automatic. The habit, then, becomes an addiction that you cannot easily do without. The constellation of healthy routines (e.g. sleeping patterns, eating right, social media use, responding to emails,..…) eventually provide structure and make a big difference in your life. Rituals and habits are automatic acts you don’t spend much mental effort on; thus, allow you to have more energy to spend on other worthy and effortful tasks. So, what healthy routines can you plan among your goals now?
  5. Use a journal: Be it for your personal, or professional life, having a journal to plan your days in line with your goals will provide the necessary structure, clarity, and commitment. It facilitates organizing your time and taking the necessary steps to balance your life. Journaling your “to do list” will enable you to become more realistic in what you can achieve in one day, throughout the week, or for the whole month. Avoid writing one “to do list”. The sight of it may be overwhelmingly scary that many end up procrastinating about it. A dated journal has the advantage of allocating your targets over a period of time while ensuring you take care of urgent matters first. Remember to remain flexible as you proceed throughout the days and shift what you couldn’t do on a specific day to a later time. Your journal will eventually reflect your productivity and help you keep things on track.
  6. Manage your stress: Keep an eye on your life stressors and take measures to reduce their effects. After all, too many stressors can throw you off edge all of a sudden. When faced with stressful situations, focus on changing either the situation, or your reaction. Changing the situation means you either alter it (e.g. change your job) or avoid it (e.g. take a different route while commuting to escape traffic). When changing the situation is not possible, you can only change the way you feel about it. You need to stop fretting about what’s bothering you and accept that it just is (e.g. a negative colleague working in the same office), or adapt to it (i.e. looking at the big picture of what truly matters). It’s important that you avoid bottling up any tension by using quick stress-busting techniques frequently; like: deep breathing, positive self-talk, music, seeking social support, etc…

These are only the basic steps when your aim is to have a more balanced life. To really work it out, you have to have a whole hearted intention to have a new mission. Writing things down and organizing your path is a pre-requisite to succeed in doing that. Research after research documents that those who thrive have clear well written goals. You can assess and revise these as you proceed. Finally, and to add new things into your routines, entails giving up some other things in place. Why don’t you start off by making a “don’t do list” to identify your life “time-wasters”? Then, continue to MAKE the time to do things of greater value to balance it all….

The Top 10 “Stress Busters”!


Stress….. Who hasn’t experienced it?  It’s the underlying fire-engine of much of our anxieties, depressed mood, and many physical ailments. We commonly use the term to imply negative psychological feelings or physical sensations. You’d say: “I am all stressed out!” to mean being off-balance or feeling unable to accommodate or cope well to your life circumstances. And you don’t have to get overwhelmed over one specific incident (e.g. loss of job, or a loved one) to feel the strain. The accumulation of daily stressors exerts its toll on our threshold of tolerance in general. This leads sometimes to “burn-out”. Stressors come in many forms like a hectic workload, difficulty in relationships, traffic jams, or endless multi-tasking of chores, to name a few. They compound to have negative effects on your health and performance with a drip, drip, drip effect that can push the best of us over the edge.

 No wonder we are advised repeatedly to blow off steam and engage in stress reduction activities. There are many ways to release all the stress pent up inside. Here are the top ten “stress busters” I often share with my clients. They’re more like armory techniques that you can use in combination, alternation, or adopt just few favorites. Stop and take stock as many as you can daily or over short time intervals:

  1. Deep breathing: One of the surest ways to decrease excessive physical and mental tension. Have a few minutes of focused attention on breathing slowly and deeply in and out (i.e. how you inhale and exhale). Breathe deeply at least 10 times while affirming to yourself that you are relaxing each time. One very deep breath can specifically help in situations that push you to a screaming-fit reactively. The old adage of counting to 10 as you deeply breathe relaxes you and can save you regrettable spontaneous reactions.
  2. Pray: If you’re the religious type, just pray. Praying is equivalent to drilling your psyche with hope. It shifts your attention to things getting better and away from feeling helpless. You can always decorate your thoughts with faith; it never goes out of fashion. Prayer is another form of positive affirmations that recruits the beyond immediate human power potentials.
  3. Listen to music, sing, & dance: Music is therapy, so it’s been said. Choose the type you like and indulge in listening for some time. In your mind dance your worries away. It really helps if you actually danced in front of the mirror especially if you chose to sing along as loud as you can. You’ll be laughing at how crazy you can get; and that’s far better than others judging you display any uncontrolled burst-outs.
  4. Exercise: Kick it off as a habit well ingrained in your system; and don’t give the often shared excuse that you need some company to do that. You can be the best company there is. You’ll get to resolve many mental issues during an hour of sustained physical activity. Moreover, your body releases the stress hormones necessary for your physical health topped by the “happy mood” neurotransmitters. That one hour could just be your “happiness” alternative medication.
  5. Connect with others: Resort to your social support system. Connect with friends, family, or anyone who is both a positive person and a good listener. It’s been said: “A problem shared is a problem halved”. Be careful not to drive close ones away by whining too much. Hire a life coach, or seek a psychotherapist if you have too much to say. At least they’re paid to support you until you clear things out in your mind.
  6. Manage your time: Much stress can be self-induced because of time mismanagement. Feelings of overwhelm can ensue when you’re in a race against time to have things done. Prioritize what you do. List your activities in terms of urgent and important (or valuable). Time wasted doing trivial things is time taken away from your life, so chose wisely. Work smarter, not harder. And if you write a “to do list”, use a pencil (not a pen) to remain flexible as you re-assess while you’re proceeding on it.
  7. Humor can heal: You know that smiling is good, but laughter is even better. Seek someone (a friend) who makes you laugh. He or she not available????  Get a funny movie and watch it. Want a quicker fix???? Stretch your lips in a wide smile and bite on a pencil for a while. This maneuver sends signals to your brain that you’re happy. Eventually you will be :).
  8. Back to nature: Going out in the sunshine or connecting with nature are enjoyable activities that provide you with energy, fresh air, and a global outlook at the world. It expands your focus to greater things in life. Just what you need to dissociate and look at the bigger picture. 
  9. Accept what you can’t change: you can get aggravated at your inability to change some things or people around you. Accept these, let go, and focus on what you have control over instead. Save your energy to what you can do for yourself and examine your alternatives. Fighting, resisting, and forcing things are energy zapping reactions.
  10. Day dream or plan a holiday: In your mind’s eye, day dream of what seems to be impossible. Guide yourself into a pleasant mental journey elsewhere. Think of the things you’d want to do, have, or be. This distraction can direct your attention on finding solutions instead of ruminating over suffering. It helps if you actually plan a vacation and be serious about its execution. The vacation can be a temporary escape to clear your body and mind, or to reward your self for milestones well accomplished.

The above are strategies to help you combat stressors, but listed on this page will do you no good if you don’t decide whole heartedly to adopt and commit to practicing your choice. There are more stress busters you can resort to, like: owning a pet, taking an aromatherapy bath, playing like a child (or with a child), learning to say “no”, etc…. The list of things that can work out well for you continues, so make sure to get some “ME” time every now and then. We need to keep those stress levels in check before they spiral out of proportion and necessitate more costly rectifications on all levels….

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