Why You Can’t Stop Being So Crazy Busy

It’s no secret that being crazy busy week after week, month after month is one of the main contributors to anxiety.

Being too busy, and seeing no end in sight, is one of the biggest problems my clients need help with.

Most people try to solve this problem the wrong way. They try to become more organized, more efficient, more productive, better at time management, and better at multi-tasking.  They also cut back on sleep in order to get more done.

Any of this sound familiar?

And if they do figure out how to get the same number of things done in less time, then they fill up that extra time with more to do’s. Result: more stress and anxiety.

If doing too much is the problem, how can doing more be the answer? 

If you want to get to the root of this problem, I suggest you ask yourself some very important questions:

• What stops you from saying “no” to more things?

• Conversely, what keeps you saying “yes” to things?

• What stops you from drawing some boundaries?

• What stops you from making some downtime for yourself?

• How much choice do you have in being crazy busy? (Keep asking that one.)

• Have you tried sleeping more instead of less?

• If you had extra downtime, would you know what to do with it?

• Are you able to sit quietly and relax, if you wanted to?

• Does crazy busy get in the way of you really being present to the ones you love?

Payoff?

Perhaps the most important question to answer:

Is it possible you get benefits or a payoff from continuing to be so crazy busy?

Consider these common reasons why people perpetually stay busy (there are many other reasons as well)…

1. Discomfort with quiet time.
Some people feel so uneasy and just sitting idle with themselves – any distraction feels better than that anxiety and uneasiness.

In fact, scientific studies have shown that people would rather give themselves mild electrical shocks then spend 6 to 15 minutes alone with their thoughts.

2. Avoidance.
Crazy busyness helps you subconsciously avoid things you really don’t want to face. I’m talking about things like conflict, criticism, unhappiness, relationships and emotional intimacy, vulnerability, and fear of not being good enough. Avoiding all of that can definitely feel like a payoff.

3. Sense of importance.
Being busy gives you bragging rights. It has become a competition and a misplaced sign of success to be busier than the next guy.

Your Gravestone

What would you want inscribed on your gravestone? How about this:

She sure got a lot done!

Probably not. But crazy busy causes you to live your life in a way that puts the highest value on getting it all done.

What would you really like your gravestone to say? How would you like your loved ones to feel about the time you shared with them on this Earth?

That leads to the most important question… What’s one thing you can do today to help ensure that result?

Holiday Stress – Nothing Changes Until You Do

Here we go again – another busy holiday season.

If you are one of those are bracing yourself for a holiday season that leads to stress and anxiety, this article is just for you.

The stress of the holiday season is predictable…

• Stressful family relationships
• Too many holiday parties and other commitments
• Pressures for baking, cooking, decorating and hosting events
• Pressures for gift-giving, shopping
• Crowded stores and malls with long lines
• Added financial strain that can come with gift-giving

The commitments and pressures of the holidays don’t ever seem to change. In fact, you generally have little ability to change those external factors.

So, despite those anxiety-provoking stressors, do you want this holiday season to be different, maybe even more peaceful and enjoyable?

You can have that! But not by relying on those external factors to change. Rely on yourself.

Changing internal factors can change your experience of this holiday season.

But what can you change?

Lots of things….

How you think about the holiday pressures

o Do you think you have to do it all?
o Do you think everything needs to be perfect?

• How you respond to the holiday stressors

o How do you respond to those difficult family members?
o How do you respond to other people’s holiday expectations?

• The choices you make

o What will you say yes to?
o What will you say no to?
o What are your reasons for the choices you make?

• Permissions you give yourself

o Do you give yourself permission to decline an invitation?
o To change a holiday tradition so that it is easier on you?
o To do something nice for yourself?

Rethink traditions

Traditions are not a problem unless they’re a problem. If they cause unhappiness or anxiety, that’s a problem.

During the holidays we do lots of things on autopilot for the sake of tradition. Times change and that’s OK. Maybe it’s time for a new tradition, perhaps an even better one.

Some traditions you may love and want to keep. Others you may not love… so go ahead and either decline, or modify.

Transform obligations

Be powerful and make choices that work for you. Once you make a choice to do something because you want to do it (not “have to”), it ceases to be an obligation. Now it’s a choice.

Obligations are those things that you think you have to do. Stop shoulding on yourself

Transform obligations by thinking about them differently. Or at least think about them consciously and make conscious choices, rather than continue on autopilot.

Holiday stress…nothing changes until you do.

Why Are You So Hard On Yourself?

Are you your own worst critic?

What happens when you make a mistake? Are you hard on yourself? Blame yourself? Call yourself names?

What happened to “Love thy neighbor as thyself”? Why do we forget the love thyself part? Most of us are not comfortable with that. We feel selfish if we love ourselves. We give our neighbor the benefit of the doubt, but not ourselves.

Compassion and Self-Compassion

What is compassion? Sympathetic awareness of another’s distress together with a desire to alleviate it.

When your friends and loved ones are hurting or dealing with difficult situations or difficult emotions, compassion means offering them love and support and wishing them easier times. [Love thy neighbor]

What is self-compassion? Responding to yourself with the same kindness, care, and support that you would treat another person that you care about. [Love thyself

It’s so much easier to be objective with someone else. Most of us are overly self-critical. Why?

Internal name calling, negative self-image, and negative self-talk often come from things you experienced in the home you grew up in as a child.

The problem NOW is that thought patterns and beliefs which developed when you were a child feel like they are the truth after all these years of believing them. Just because they feel true does NOT mean they ARE in fact, true and accurate. Time to question them!!

Is Lack of Self-Compassion the Source of Your Anxiety?

Clients often come to my office unsure of why they are having so much anxiety. Many times, the source of anxiety is actually their own negative thoughts and beliefs about themselves:

* Worry about not being good enough
* Questioning whether they are doing enough
* Bothered by what they think other people think

Do any of these sound like you:

We spend way too much time thinking about all the ways we’re not good enough and not enough time acknowledging all the ways that we are perfect – just the way we are!

* The mom who runs herself ragged, worried about whether she is doing enough. Should she be doing more? Do other people think she should be doing more?

* The student whose self-esteem comes from grades and performance and how she ranks, worried about being a failure if she doesn’t get A’s on everything.

* The retiree who can’t allow herself to slow down, relax and enjoy retirement. She thinks she should be doing more, she should have a more important purpose in life, and should be busy all the time to prove it.

* The athlete whose self-value comes from whether or not she wins or loses. Winning and being THE best are only ways to show or validate that she is good enough.

Of course it causes a lot of anxiety to question yourself all the time, to wonder if you are doing enough, and therefore worry…are you a good enough person?

Why We Resist Self-Compassion

According to Kristin Neff, PhD, a leading researcher in the field, it’s the firm belief that being kind to yourself will undermine your motivation.

If I don’t push myself to succeed, I won’t reach my goals.
I’ll get lazy. I’ll be a failure.

Or so we tell ourselves. And most of us fear failure more than anything.

Research actually shows that people who are more self-compassionate tend to achieve more, be more courageous in the face of risk, and are more resilient because they do not give up. They keep trying because they can tolerate the occasional times of failure or mistakes, without deciding that these things mean they are a bad person.

“When we judge ourselves harshly…” notes Kristin, “we start to lose our self-confidence and become more afraid of failing.” It’s a vicious cycle.

It’s also common to hold a firm belief that self-compassion (a form of self-love) is selfish. It is not selfish. It is not narcissistic.

Research suggests the opposite. This is not a self-centered practice. Self-compassionate people are better able to take the perspective of others, and are perceived by others as connected and responsive and caring.

Give It A Try

All good comes from self-compassion. There is no downside. Include yourself in the circle of compassion that you probably extend to your loved ones automatically and naturally. You deserve it.

10 MORE Great Ways to Love Yourself

Last February I wrote about Loving Yourself and it was so popular I decided to add 10 more ways to love yourself this year….

Gifts that Say I Love You to Yourself

1. Rest. My Vipassana meditation teacher from Burma says (in his Burmese accent): “Take Rest, Take Rest, Take Rest.” Whether it be sleep or a 2 minute break, rest is a gift to yourself so…Take it!

2. Self-compassion. Are you harder on yourself than you are on everybody else? Stop beating yourself up. Treat yourself with the same kindness, care, and support that you would offer to another person that you care about.

3. Schedule fun. Make a list of 20 things you think are fun. Then put them into your calendar and make your fun just as important (or even more important!) as all your other appointments.

4. Make a list and check it twice. Sit down and don’t get up until you’ve listed 10 things you love about yourself. If it’s very easy, then make it 20.

5. Let learning be enough. Forgive yourself for past mistakes or errors in judgment. Hindsight truly is 20/20 so take the lessons away from past mistakes and they will help you move forward. Self-forgiveness is the antidote to guilt, self-blame and self-criticism.

6. Stand up for yourself. Know that your needs and opinions matter. Be confident in asserting yourself and letting others know what is important to you. You’re worth it!

7. Practice being truly present. Learning how to be mindful adds more pleasure and meaning to life. Plus it reduces stress and anxiety. This is a continual practice. You don’t ever have to become an expert – you just need to keep practicing. Start with the intention to “be here now”… and practice.

8. Hang out with the best. Consciously choose to spend your precious time with people who lift you up, who treat you well, respect you, and accept you just the way you are.

9. Embrace this 4-letter word. H-E-L-P. Why do we think we are supposed to do everything on our own? Who made that rule? Asking for help is a sign of wisdom, not weakness. Help is what makes the world go around, and makes us feel connected. It is a gift knowing you don’t have to do it all alone.

10. Celebrate your successes. Acknowledge yourself for all accomplishments big and small. Writing them down in a success journal helps your brain to remember them and builds confidence. Read over your list regularly and see the proof in writing of how truly capable and amazing you are.

Secret Ways Technology Hurts Relationships

Most of you will know intuitively the types of problems that technology can cause in relationships. Your own experience has taught you this.

My experience with clients proves this also, and scientific research studies also confirm that technology has as many downsides as upsides when it comes to relationships.

Feeling Connected or Neglected?

I love visiting my daughter but we just don’t talk like we used to. I wonder why?

Smartphones and other portable devices often get in the way of face-to-face, meaningful interactions. How many times have you been sitting with someone, and then in the middle of conversation, they start using their cell phone for something?

Perhaps the email, text or phone call they just got is more important than you? Perhaps the job/career that is beckoning on the smartphone is more important than you? We have all felt this way.

And perhaps you have even fallen into the same trap yourself, and made other people feel that way when they are sitting with you. My husband called me on it the other day. It happens.

Even though we are sitting across from each other, technology enables the interruptions and attention to other priorities that prevents us from really being present. The body is present but the mind goes elsewhere, so it is difficult to feel real connection.

The iPhone Effect

Research studies show that smartphones actually change the interpersonal connection process (often referred to as the iPhone effect).

A famous 2014 study at Virginia Tech found that the mere presence of a smartphone made partners less likely to talk about their feelings.

The mere presence of a smartphone made connections less meaningful, and partners were less understanding of each other.

But here’s the kicker…

These negative consequences occurred even if the phone was not actually in use, but just sitting as an object in the background!

Does Your Partner Have Secrets?

Ever wonder what your partner is spending so much time doing on his or her phone?

The phone provides a private portal to private conversations and private activities. Passwords on phones send a message that there is something private to be kept hidden. Secrets.

Partners have always been able to keep secrets from each other, but the technology makes it so much easier, more tempting, and more prevalent. Even if no secrets are actually being kept, the phone itself and our phone habits present new worries about the possibility.

Here’s a common scenario I see with my clients:

tech-adultry-dreamstime_xs_13830684Partner #1 is texting very regularly with a “friend” of the opposite sex from the gym, or someplace where Partner #2 is not involved.

Partner #2 finds out about this and asks questions.

Partner #1 says this is an “innocent and appropriate friendship.”

But this “innocent” friendship starts to interfere in the partners’ relationship.

Partner #2 wonders about the appropriateness of the friendship.

Partner #1 starts to hide or delete text messages. Secrets.

Hiding often turns into lies. All of this leads to trust issues, and arguments.

If this is just an appropriate friendship, then why does Partner #1 continue with hiding, deleting texts, putting passwords on their phone? Because technology makes it so easy to do so.

Before the popularity of smartphones, Partner #1 would have had to make a phone call or setup a meeting with the “friend.”  Often, these steps probably would not have been taken. But the smartphone makes it so easy.

And the line between appropriate and inappropriate friendships can get very blurry.

After That?

The availability of that instant connection with someone else also makes it easier to have an emotional affair .  It can even help facilitate logistics for a sexual affair.  Obviously, technology does not cause these things, but it is being used as a tool to make these things more accessible and easier and therefore more prevalent.

Technology and the internet at your fingertips, has also created the phenomenon called sexting, and increased the accessibility and prevalence of pornography.

All of these things affect the dynamics and communication within a relationship.  Technology  has created some new problems within relationships.

This makes it more important than ever for couples to connect and communicate face-to-face, and to talk about how technology may be impacting their lives and their relationship.

10 Great Ways to Love Yourself – Be Your Own Valentine

iloveme-stencilI talk a lot about loving yourself. Often times, my clients aren’t sure what that really means.

Selfish?

Many people resist the idea of loving yourself because it feels “selfish” and people have a lot of negative connotations about the word “selfish.”

Taking good care of yourself, valuing yourself, and giving yourself the respect you deserve is not selfish. It’s more like putting your own oxygen mask on first.

Gifts that Say I Love You to Yourself

1. Date Night with The Most Important Person in Your Life. (YOU!) Put one on the calendar right now and make it just as important (or more so!) as all your other appointments. Don’t cancel on yourself.

2. Be Thankful for Everything. One of the best ways to combat negative thinking, gratitude is a gift to yourself. It’s just about guaranteed to help you feel happier.

3. Take a Bath. People don’t take the time for a bath anymore. This is a gift of time and calming for your nervous system and muscles. Try this Ultrabath.

4. Accept That Some People Won’t Like You. So what? It’s inevitable. Put an end to people-pleasing and you will have more time and energy to do what pleases you.

5. Sleep. Is this the first think you cut out when your life gets inevitably busy? Your investment in sleep means you feel better, have a more positive attitude, and have more energy to take good care of yourself and your loved ones. Sleep equals more love all around!

6. Eat One Healthy Thing Each Day. Feeding yourself well is a concrete way to tell yourself that you are worth being treating well.

7. Let Yourself Off the Hook. Forgive yourself for past mistakes, choices, for not being perfect… in other words, for being a human being like everyone else. Holding on only harms yourself, while letting go will make you lighter, happier, and more loving of yourself and others.

8. Digital Detox. Constant connection can be exhausting. The other day I forgot my phone when I left home for yoga class followed by meeting a friend at a coffee shop. After momentary withdrawal symptoms, I found it so freeing. Take a little break.

valentine-bemyown-stencil9. See Yourself as an Innocent Child. Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to an innocent child (or loved one). The self-talk in your head can be so harsh. Strive to be nicer to yourself in your head.

10. Allow Yourself Some Down Time. I like to tell myself that I can do it all – I just can’t do it all at once! You deserve a break from all the “doing.” Allow yourself the gift of some space in your schedule.

BONUS:

Look in the Mirror. This can be the hardest one of all for some people. Look in the mirror and tell yourself out loud “I love you.” Keep looking at your unique and amazing self for 1 minute without looking away.

You are incredible and perfect exactly the way you are.

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?

50 Signs of Stress and Anxiety that May Surprise You

warningsign_istock_000004940205xsmallAll to often, we are unaware of how our stress is affecting us. Here are 50 signs to help you get a better understanding of how YOUR stress affects not only your health but also your life.

1. Frequent headaches, jaw clenching or pain
2. Gritting, grinding teeth
3. Stuttering or stammering
4. Tremors, trembling of lips, hands
5. Neck ache, back pain, muscle spasms
6. Light headedness, faintness, dizziness
7. Ringing, buzzing or “popping sounds
8. Frequent blushing, sweating
9. Cold or sweaty hands, feet
10. Dry mouth, problems swallowing
11. Frequent colds, infections, herpes sores
12. Rashes, itching, hives, “goose bumps”
13. Unexplained or frequent “allergy” attacks
14. Heartburn, stomach pain, nausea
15. Excess belching, flatulence
16. Constipation, diarrhea
17. Difficulty breathing, sighing
18. Sudden attacks of panic
19. Chest pain, palpitations
20. Frequent urination
21. Poor sexual desire or performance
22. Excess anxiety, worry, guilt, nervousness
23. Increased anger, frustration, hostility
24. Depression, frequent or wild mood swings
25. Increased or decreased appetite
26. Insomnia, nightmares, disturbing dreams
27. Difficulty concentrating, racing thoughts
28. Trouble learning new information
29. Forgetfulness, disorganization, confusion
30. Difficulty in making decisions
31. Feeling overloaded or overwhelmed
32. Frequent crying spells or suicidal thoughts
33. Feelings of loneliness or worthlessness
34. Little interest in appearance, punctuality
35. Nervous habits, fidgeting, feet tapping
36. Increased frustration, irritability, edginess
37. Overreaction to petty annoyances
38. Increased number of minor accidents
39. Obsessive or compulsive behavior
40. Reduced work efficiency or productivity
41. Lies or excuses to cover up poor work
42. Rapid or mumbled speech
43. Excessive defensiveness or suspiciousness
44. Problems in communication, sharing
45. Social withdrawal and isolation
46. Constant tiredness, weakness, fatigue
47. Frequent use of over-the-counter drugs
48. Weight gain or loss without diet
49. Increased smoking, alcohol or drug use
50. Excessive gambling or impulse buying
(Source: stresstop.com)

Learn more about stress here!

The Hugging Meditation by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh

huggingfriends-stencil“You can practice hugging meditation with a friend, a child, your parents, or even a tree. To practice, first bow to each other and recognize each other’s presence. Then, enjoy three deep, conscious breaths to bring yourself fully into the present moment.

Next, open your arms and begin hugging, holding each other for three in-and out-breaths.

  • With the first breath, become aware that you are present in this very moment and feel happy.
  • With the second breath, become aware that the other person is present in this moment and feels happy as well.
  • With the third breath, become aware that you are here together, right now, on this Earth. We can feel deep gratitude and happiness for our togetherness.

Finally, release the other person and bow to each other to show your thanks.”

Loving and Connection Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Last month I invited you to make February the LOVE month for yourself. Did you accept the invitation? If not, you can always start now! Click here if you missed the article.

This month let’s explore how loving and connecting with others helps reduce stress and anxiety, and how it impacts your health.

Oxytocin: Why You Want It

Oxytocin is the hormone of love and bonding. It helps us to feel trust and connection. It helps us to empathize and be caring and generous with others.

Oxytocin is also extremely effective at lowering cortisol (your body’s main stress chemical) and therefore can help lower the effects of stress and anxiety. The more oxytocin, the better able you are to handle life’s stressors.

Other benefits of oxytocin:

• stimulates dopamine (the feel-good hormone) and serotonin, for elevated mood
• balances out your nervous system and builds the parasympathetic nervous system which reduces anxiety
• decreases feelings of loneliness
• increases self-esteem
• reduces depression
• reduces fear and PTSD
• improves digestion
• builds the immune system
• decreases pain and inflammation

Oxytocin quite likely plays a role in why pet owners heal more quickly from illness, why couples live longer than singles, and why support groups work for people with addictions and chronic diseases.

Connect More to Get More Oxytocin

Your amazing body naturally produces oxytocin when you feel loved and connected. Here are some ways to get that feeling:

• hugsdiwithcat
• touch
• massage
• cuddling, even with a stuffed animal
• laughter
• connecting with others
• petting your cat/dog
• showing compassion
• random acts of kindness
• helping others in need
• not only giving, but receiving and letting love in
• accepting help from someone
• relaxation practices that help you feel connected to the world/people/animals around you

When we allow ourselves to connect with others in these ways, both people benefit from a boost of oxytocin!

huggingguys-stencilHug More to Reduce Stress

We have long known that human touch is calming and triggers the body’s relaxation response. Modern scientific research about oxytocin helps explain what our ancestors knew instinctively.

Hugs are a great way to increase oxytocin and activate the parasympathetic nervous system to reduce stress and anxiety.

Virginia Satir, a famous family therapist said: “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”

How many hugs a day do you give and get?

The average hug is under 10 seconds long. It doesn’t take long, so be proactive in looking for ways to increase your hugs per day, per week, per month.

Connect More = More Oxytocin = Less Stress and Anxiety