Take Micro-Breaks

In all the busyness and doingness of your day, stress and anxiety continually build up. Your mind and body need more breaks.

Try taking micro-breaks many times a day, perhaps even many times an hour. Micro-breaks can last for just 5-60 seconds at a time. You can try many different things on your micro-breaks.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:cloud-stencil

• Stand up and stretch
• Stare out a window
• Close your eyes
• Breathe in through your nose and out forcefully through your mouth
• Step outside and look at the clouds
• Give yourself a quick hand massage
• Drink a glass of water
• Visualize the best part of your last vacation
• Imagine a peaceful nature scene – by mountain, lake, river, forest

 

Here’s what NOT to do on your micro-breaks:to-do-buster-stencil-default

• Do not multi-task
• Do not use any electronics
• Do not look at your To Do List
• Do not make a mental To Do List
• Do not eat junk food
• Do not talk to someone else

4 Steps to the Perfect Holiday

perfectionismsign-stencilStriving to create the perfect holiday this season? Let me suggest a different approach.

Let’s start with 4 simple mantras:

Repeat after me:
1. There is no perfect holiday
2. There is no perfect holiday meal
3. There is no perfect gift
4. There is no perfect family

Permission to Let Go of Holiday Perfectionism

The theme here is to let yourself off the hook this holiday season. So many people (women especially) feel stress and pressure to create some idyllic holiday for their families.

Having a lovely, fun, enjoyable holiday is a great goal, but this goal goes awry when it leans to the extreme.

Everything really does NOT have to be perfect to enjoy the holiday season.

1. There is no perfect holiday

It seems so obvious but there is no such thing as a perfect holiday. Let go of the Norman Rockwell or the June Cleaver holiday. After all, they ARE fiction.

You (or others) may reminisce about “perfect holidays” of the past, but you are probably using selective memory. Since there is no such thing as a perfect holiday, there undoubtedly were imperfections but they are forgotten. In the big scope of things, they weren’t important enough to register in your memory.

The details are not as important as you think, and imperfections are expected and are forgettable.

2. There is no perfect holiday meal

The meal really isn’t the reason for the season, right? Then why do many of us focus so much on having the perfect meal? Sharing a meal can be a great time of community and connection. But it’s really the community and connection that matters.

Sure, having the favorite holiday dishes is fun. Could the holiday be fun without the cheesy crab puff appetizer or the chilled shrimp or 15 different kinds of cookies?

At my house, if the mashed potatoes are lumpy (i.e. not perfect) someone will complain. Complainers can turn a meal holiday into a drag if you let them. Don’t let them. Just expect a complaint, and then choose to not take it personally. Chalk it up to a predictable complaining complainer and nothing else. Then choose to let that roll off your back.

3. There is no perfect gift

giftswhite-dreamstimefree_3679200One of my clients created anxiety for herself starting in November, worrying about picking out the right gifts and spending excessive (and unhappy) time shopping for those “perfect gifts.”

She felt pressure to get it right, and guilty if she didn’t. Where is the joy in that? That kind of pressure and emphasis on the “perfect gift” deprives yourself of the joy of giving.

One way I’ve made gift-giving easier and more joyful for me is to request a specific gift list. My niece even sends me web links to items she likes, including size and color. My family knows that if they don’t provide a list, they may not get a gift. So…they give me lists!

I love the joy of easier shopping, and knowing I will be giving something they want. And if they need to return or exchange it, I give them the receipt and I don’t take it personally. All is well.

P.S. Don’t forget the most important person on your gift list: YOU! http://wellnesscounselingmilwaukee.com/gift-yourself/

4. There is no perfect family

familystickdrawing-dreamstimefree_4342789While holidays traditionally are family times, family dynamics often cause stress. You are not the only one who does not have a perfect family. Is there such a thing? The version of “perfect” that most of us dream of is probably not realistic.

You are who you are, and your family is what your family is. A “perfect” holiday or meal or gift isn’t going to change that. Finding some peace and acceptance of that allows more joy into your holiday. Resisting what is, or wishing your family was different, only creates more angst for you.

Perfect Imperfection

The best holiday de-stressor is to let go of any conscious or subconscious pressure to create a picture-perfect holiday. Let it be what it will be. Look for the places you can find joy. And peace. Do your best to focus on what is really important to YOU. Do your best to let the rest roll off your back.

The “perfect” holiday is actually the one where you embrace and allow imperfection.

Fake It ‘Til You Make It

laughingoldman-stencilYour brain gets feedback from your face—so if you force yourself to smile, you may actually feel better. There’s lots of research showing that smiling (even fake smiling) actually causes a happier mood.

Anxiety and worry causes lots of frowning which creates tension in the face, neck and jaw. Smiling lightens things up as it takes less muscles to smile than to frown, plus smiling uses different muscles which reduces tension.

Learning from a Dog about Anxiety

cosmokarenMy friend Karen Gill (Personal Chef, Owner of Down to Earth Chef) went to special dog training classes with her rescue dog, Cosmo. Karen believes Cosmo had some bad experiences before being rescued and now he has anxiety. When Cosmo gets anxious, he barks a lot at many different things and gets himself agitated.

When Cosmo barks at something he sees outside the living room window, Karen says in a very calm tone: “Not your business, Cosmo.” Through this training, Cosmo has learned to turn away and goes back to his own business.

Keeping his attention on his own business helps Cosmo reduce his anxiety and stay calm.

Where is Your Attention?

Is your focus on you, your life, your desires/wants, your choices, what makes you happy?

Or do you focus more on others and what they think, what they want, what they’re doing, what they want you to do, what they think of you?

What You Can Learn from Cosmo

Focusing on yourself (your own business) really can help reduce anxiety.

When you focus too much on other people and other people’s business, some dangerous things can happen (all of which cause anxiety):

1. You can start comparing yourself to others, feeling not good enough, feeling like you’re not keeping up with the Joneses, or feeling bad about yourself.

2. You judge others more. She “shouldn’t” be doing that. He “should” be doing that. It’s easy to get caught up in what you think other people should or shouldn’t be doing. Then you can lose focus on yourself and doing what is right for you.

3. You can get caught up in the need to be right, which results in you using your precious energy to prove another is wrong. The need to be right creates black and white thinking, which usually causes upset and increases stress and anxiety because life is actually full of shades of gray.

4. You can get easily overwhelmed focusing on other people. Who made it your responsibility to get involved with their business? Do you have people in your life who try to lure you into their problems or their drama? People who want you to solve their problems for them?

5. You can get caught up in trying to control other people, or control situations. This always increases anxiety because it’s impossible!

“Not Your Business, Di”

Let me give you a personal example. When I went to my first Vipassana 10-day silent meditation course, I had a roommate who didn’t follow all the rules. She showered or napped during our designated meditation time. She closed the door when we were instructed to leave the door open, and disregarded many other rules.

I got quite upset about this. I was quite irritated and kept thinking:

Di Philippi, Wellness Counseling Milwaukee; Busy creates overwhelm and anxiety• “She should be following these rules!”
• “She shouldn’t be doing that!”
• “Why won’t she do this the “right” way?!?!”

I was very bothered. She was not. In fact, I don’t think she was upset at all.

My focusing on her business only got ME worked up. It only harmed ME.

Finally, I realized that my only business was to do my best with my own meditation and my own following of the rules. I had to remind myself “Not your business, Di.” Only then did my stress, anxiety, and upset subside. Then I could really do my best with my own meditation.

How to Be More Like Cosmo

Be aware of your thoughts and where you putting your attention. When your focus is more on YOU than on other people, you will feel calmer and have less stress and anxiety.

Ask yourself some questions:

• What is really my business in this situation? What isn’t my business?
• Am I worrying about what other are saying, doing, or thinking?
• Right now, is my thinking or talking about other people’s business causing me more or less anxiety?
• What is one thing I can do right now to stay focused on ME?

Floatation Therapy for Anxiety and Stress

If you’re as old as me, you may remember old TV commercials with the slogan “Calgon, take me away” as someone is floating along in a bubble bath. I loved that slogan. I could imagine all my stress floating away.

floatingawayIn 2016, floating now has a whole new meaning. Floatation therapy is an emerging relaxation treatment, with research supporting its effectiveness for stress, anxiety, sleeplessness, depression, muscle tension and more.

Float centers are popping up like hotcakes all over the US. We now have three in the metro Milwaukee area. I love floating and I float at A Better Me Spa in Menomonee Falls (more about my float experience below).

Your Senses Deserve a Break Today (R.E.S.T.)

Another old commercial slogan used to say “You deserve a break today.” What we all really need these days is to give our senses a break.

Our busy, 7*24, technology-filled world gives us constant stimulation of our senses of sight, sound, and touch. Constant sensory stimulation negatively affects the nervous system and contributes to anxiety.

Floating gives your nervous system 60 minutes of R.E.S.T. (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique), sometimes referred to as sensory deprivation. In the most positive way, floating creates a very peaceful, sensory-limited experience.

The Float Room

Your senses of sound, sight, and touch are calmed by a warm, quiet, dark floating environment. Some float centers have float tanks or pods, while others have float rooms (which I love).

float_poolA float room (I think of it as a float pool) is approximately 8 feet long * 5 feet wide. It holds about 10 inches of water with about 1000 lbs. of dissolved Epsom Salt, which enables you to float automatically. Epsom salt is made of magnesium which has many health benefits as well. 

Water is heated to an average skin temperature (93.5F) which reduces the sensation between body and water. All light and sound can be eliminated to allow your brain and body to relax completely. Often there is ambient light and/or relaxing music available if you prefer.

Backed by Scientific Research

In the 1970s, Peter Suedfeld and Roderick Borrie began to explore the therapeutic benefits of floating. A study in the late 1990s found that more than 90 percent of people experienced feelings of relaxation. A 2014 study found that twelve 45-minute float sessions over seven weeks reduced anxiety, stress, and depression.

brainwaves-theta-stateResearch suggests the effects of a one hour float session are equivalent to eight hours of sleep! Floating quiets your brainwaves from the active beta and alpha waves, to theta brainwaves which are more calming, meditative, and restorative. 

Brain imaging shows calming effects in the brain (the amygdala calms down – that’s the fight or flight part of the brain). Blood testing shows reduced levels of cortisol (one of the primary and problematic stress hormones).

In addition to all of the above findings which show how floating can be great to help reduce stress and anxiety, floating is also good for pain, muscles, blood pressure, circulation and more!

Check out this Time Magazine article about floating and find a lot more floating research HERE .

My Floating Experience

floatingabettermeI float at A Better Me Spa in Menomonee Falls, the only float center in the area which has float rooms.  There’s a very comfortable, private suite that includes a changing area, shower and the float pool itself.  

 

floatsuite

From the shower, you open a door and step right into the float pool. Lay down and you will automatically float because of all the Epsom salt. Adjust (or turn off) the lights and music, and float for 60 minutes.

During my first float, I found it “strangely relaxing.” Strange because it is such a unique experience, and also because I wouldn’t have expected it to be as relaxing as it actually is.

My husband said it was the most relaxing thing he ever did!

Finally, a break from all the stimuli, multi-tasking, to-do lists, and interruptions of a typical day! Permission to relax…

At first I found myself full of thoughts about the float itself: how do I move around and what is most comfortable, do I like the music or not, do I like the neck pillow or not, what am I supposed to do now, how many minutes have passed, etc…

After a short time, my brain slowed down and I reminded myself to relax. I focused on my breathing, let go of body tension, and became meditative. At the end of 60 minutes, a dim light goes on to signal completion. Then you step right into the shower. Ahhh… I felt amazingly relaxed.

Floating is like pressing a “Reset” button for both mind and body. Another calming, self-care tool to add to your wellness toolbox!

Write Down All Possible Silver Linings

Cats always land on their feet when they fall (even big, unexpected falls). When you are anxious or worried about a situation in your life, imagine you are the same way.  Tell yourself you will land on your feet – you will be okay in the big picture of life.

writing-stencilTo help you step back from the problem, sit down with a paper and pen and don’t get up until you have written down at least 3 possible silver linings that might possibly come out of the difficult situation. 

Three is minimum – more is better.

Example: if you have anxiety or worry about losing your job, what possible silver linings that might possibly come out of that? 

 

1. Maybe you’d be happy to be rid of stress from that overly stressful job…

2. Maybe you’d end up finding a job you like equally well or maybe even more.

3. Maybe it presents the chance to go back to school… maybe you’d decide to follow your dream of starting your own business…

Maybe…

What’s Up with the Adult Coloring Book Craze?

Mindfulness, Relaxation, and Stress Reduction! Good stuff!

coloringbook-stencilAdult coloring is actually a mindfulness-based activity that is good for quieting a busy mind, calming down, and refocusing.

The repetitive motion of coloring, the limited space of the page, and the small lines/shapes all help your mind to focus on doing one thing at a time – a relief in our multi-tasking world. I love books with patterns, which are especially helpful in creating a locus point around which thoughts can revolve and let go.

It may sound silly, but my clients consistently surprise themselves with how much they enjoy it. Try it!

Part 2: Stopping Crazy Busy

Last month in Part 1: Stopping Crazy Busy, I explained how Crazy Busy really comes from what you are THINKING.  That’s because what you DO is always a result of what you THINK.  Thoughts, conscious and/or subconscious always precede our actions and choices.

So the root cause of being continually Crazy Busy really comes from what you are thinking.

Scanning of a human brain by X-rays

We looked at a few of the most common inaccurate thought patterns that lead to Crazy Busy:

1. Busyness = Importance
2. More is better
3. Less is not good enough
4. Comparing yourself to the Joneses
[Did you miss Part 1: Stopping Crazy Busy?]

More Thoughts that Create Crazy Busy

5.  Doing nothing is a waste of time

In our culture, we have told ourselves that this is true because we are so uncomfortable with Stillness. We don’t know what it’s like to be with our selves.

Can you just stop reading this now for a full 30 seconds and close your eyes and be with yourself while you aren’t doing something?

We have created so many constant distractions that all of us now have brains with a cultural form of ADHD.  Even as I’m writing this I realize I am distracting myself to check my email, my phone, put on lip balm, take a drink of water, scratch a mosquito bite, and get a snack!

The antidote to this form of ADHD is to spend some time doing nothing.  Doing nothing is so valuable to your nervous system, your brain, your psyche, and your emotional state!  But for the most part, we have labelled doing nothing as a waste of time.

6.  THE MOST HARMFUL THOUGHT OF ALL:  I don’t have a choice

It’s easy to get caught up in thinking you “have to” do all of these things that make you so Crazy Busy.  Society makes you think that.  Your family makes you think that. Your kids make you think that. Your neighbor’s (the Joneses!) make you think that.

It is your life, not anyone else’s, and you always have a choice.  You will harm yourself every time you give up your own power with the belief that you don’t have a choice. 

It is your life, not anyone else’s, and YOU always have a choice! 

But YOU get to evaluate every possible choice and decide what YOU really want.  A choice to say YES to everything creates a consequence of Crazy Busy.  Is that what you really want?

As you choose among the bazillion things you could do with your time every single day:

• Don’t live unconsciously doing what you think everyone wants from you. 
• Don’t live unconsciously doing too much thinking you’re not good enough unless you do it all.
• Don’t live unconsciously thinking you cannot make choices to be happier and less chaotic.

Getting Off the Crazy Busy Bus

• (CBT) Cognitive Behavior Therapy

success_failure-signs-istock_000003986459xsmallYour own subconscious thoughts are like blind spots – you just can’t see them accurately. CBT gives you a process and an objective person to help you identify thoughts that actually cause you stress.  And more importantly, CBT is a process to help you train your brain to think differently.  CBT helps you see all of your choices.

 

• Choose carefully

Don’t give away your own power by telling yourself you don’t have a choice. 
Ask yourself what you really want. Make conscious, thoughtful choices which are loving to yourself.

• Single task

It is a myth that the brain likes to multitask. Switching back and forth makes us tired, less efficient and more error-prone. When you do one thing at a time and get rid of distractions, you will actually feel less busy.

• Distinguish between important and urgent

Stephen Covey teaches this principle. Some things are important, and some things are urgent.  Know the difference.

Sleep and self-care are important.

Our phones and instant messaging create the illusion that everything is urgent.

• Believe in yourself

You are good enough. You know enough and you have enough. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone else. You don’t have to say yes to all the things that other people want you to do.

Stopping Crazy Busy

New York City, United States - May 10, 2012: Large group of taxis on 7th Avenue at Times Square in rush hour. Vast number of vehicles hit the streets and avenues of Manhattan every day. Almost half of cars are yellow taxis (well recognized city icon). Taxis are operated by private companies, licensed by the NYC Taxi Commission.

Almost everyone I know complains of being “Crazy Busy.”  These days being Crazy Busy is almost like a status symbol… if you’re not Crazy Busy then something must be wrong.

I’m talking here about chronic Crazy Busy, not the busy that comes and goes because of unusual life circumstances.

With chronic Crazy Busy, I think the real problem is that you don’t think that you have a choice – it’s something that just “is the way it is.”  It feels out of your control which causes continual stress and anxiety.

Really…why are you so Crazy Busy? 

Do external circumstances and other people’s needs or schedules create YOUR Crazy Busy?  Do you have a hard time saying no?  Did you forget that you have choices?

Let’s look at the deeper reasons why we end up so Crazy Busy stressed.

A Doing Problem or A Thinking Problem?

The truth is that what you DO is always a result of what you THINK.  So the root cause of being continually Crazy Busy really comes from what you are thinking. 

Here are some of the inaccurate thinking patterns that keep the Crazy Busy cycle going…

1.  Busyness = Importance

If you’re busy going, going, going and doing lots of things, it can make your day feel more important:  I have important things to do!  Day after day, it can make your life feel more important.  Therefore, it’s easy to get caught up in thinking that in order to be valuable or important, you need to constantly be busy. 

This is a very subconscious thought pattern.  So your first reaction may be:  That’s not me – I don’t think that way.  I invite you to sit quietly and consider it more deeply…is it possible that you subconsciously think that being Crazy Busy doing a lot of things says something about your value?

2.  More is better

In our “super-size it” culture, if something is good then more of it is even better.  Why is DOING MORE actually better? Did you ever stop to think about it?  Could it be possible that doing less might actually be better?

3.  Less is not good enough

Never enough, conceptual words on blackboard

Obviously, this is the cousin of “more is better.”  If you buy into the belief that more is better, then you are stuck with this problem: if you don’t keep doing more and staying Crazy Busy, then you are just not doing good enough. 

Feeling not good enough is one of the downfalls of The Human Condition.  At one time or another, most of us feel we’re just not good enough:  I’m not a good enough parent, wife, husband, employee, friend, or maybe just not a good enough person.  I’m just not enough.

Feeling not good enough is a trick of the mind.  It’s not true. There is no one to judge whether you are good enough except you.  And you are probably your own worst critic.

4.  Comparing yourself to the Joneses

It used to be that comparing yourself to the Joneses meant comparing material possessions. These days the comparison is more about who is more Crazy Busy.

This comparison is really related to the thought of not being good enough above. There is no need to compare yourself or judge yourself.  Your neighbors are probably comparing themselves to you!

And That’s Not All

There are so many thinking problems associated with Crazy Busy, that I can’t cover them all here. 

Check out next month’s newsletter for Part 2 of Stopping Crazy Busy, featuring:

• THE #1 most harmful inaccurate thought

• How to change your inaccurate thoughts about Crazy Busy

• Other practical ways to Get off the Crazy Busy Bus

A-Z Guide to Finding Your Inner Zen

greatideaCheck out M Magazine’s A-Z Guide to Finding Your Inner Zen.

I was one of the experts interviewed by M Magazine (page 48) for this recent article.