Monday, October 16, 2017

Time to refuel?

Author, speaker and workshop leader Arnie Kozak wisely once said, "Like trying to cut wood with a dull axe, trying to take care of others without taking care of the self first is a counterproductive strategy."

And yet ... and yet, don't we often try to do that? We see someone else in need of care, and we dive in, often letting go of our own self-care practices. This can be especially true of full-time caregivers, for whom time is an extremely precious commodity. It's so easy to not carve out time for yourself in those situations. But it truly is counterproductive.

We hear this every time we fly on an airplane, too: In case of emergency, put on your own oxygen mask before you put on someone else's. That's always a good reminder.

If you think self-care if selfish and that the above advice is wrong, just imagine trying to pour water from a pitcher that hasn't been refilled or trying to drive a car with an empty gas tank. We can't run on empty either. Something has to give.

Take time today to refuel or fill back up if you're feeling worn out, run down or depleted. It's OK. More than OK, it's essential!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Respond with love

I'm really torn. I want to be an informed citizen of my country—and of the world. And yet so much of the news is seriously disturbing—and involves events upon which I can have little to no impact. Of course, some of the things we hear in the news, we can influence or address. We can give aid to those affected by hurricanes, for example. But the rest? Not so much.

One Monday morning at my yoga class, our instructor urged us to simply bring those things we'd heard on the morning news that we found disturbing into our hearts and with deep breaths, feel our love enveloping the globe. That seemed a better response than allowing the news to spur negativity, anger, fear or hate on my part. It's so easy to go to a place of fear and anxiety—or to turn to blaming someone else.

We don't need more toxicity in the world. We don't need any more hate or anger or fear. So I'm going to try what my yoga instructor advised: Respond with love.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Question expectations

Last Monday I wrote about Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's book on surviving the grief of her husband's sudden death. In that same AARP The Magazine interview, she also addressed the topic of questioning expectations.

"Studies of 'affective forecasting'—our predictions of how we'll feel in the future—reveal that we often overestimate how long negative events will affect us. This was certainly true for me. Every time I tried to tell myself things would get better, a voice inside my head insisted they would not. It seemed clear that my children and I would never have another moment of pure joy again. Never. So, just as I had to banish 'sorry' from my vocabulary, I tried to eliminate 'never' and 'always' and replace them with 'sometimes' and 'lately.' 'I will always feel this awful' became 'I will sometimes feel this awful.' I also tried a cognitive behavioral therapy technique where you write down a belief that's causing you anguish and then disprove it. I wrote, 'I will never feel okay again.' Seeing those words forced me to realize that just that morning, someone had told a joke and I had laughed. If only for one minute, I'd already proven that sentence false."

This may sound simple, but it isn't. It is effective, however—and over time, you can train yourself to change your language and thus, change your negative thoughts into more realistic expectations. The extreme vocabulary becomes more tempered—and much closer to the truth.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Share your grief

Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, lost her husband to sudden death after only 11 years of marriage. Together with her psychologist friend, Adam Grant, she has written a book about grief and recovery. It's entitled Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.

In an interview with AARP The Magazine, Sandberg advises people who have faced a trauma such as the death of a loved one that they not isolate themselves.

Here's what she says: "You have to find ways to break the isolation. I found it very hard to tell people that I wanted to talk. It felt like I was imposing my sadness on them. When someone asked, 'How are you?' I kept saying, 'I'm fine,' and then people wouldn't ask me any questions. But I learned to say, 'I'm actually not doing that well.' One of the most common things about grief, about loss, about adversity, is silence. So what happens is, you go through this adversity or trauma, and then what piles on top of that is the isolation of no one talking about it."

Have you experienced this, too? Yes, it's pretty common that people in grief pull into themselves and isolate. I remember doing that after my divorce, too. However, Sandberg's advice is helpful. Isolation only prolongs the grief and makes you feel more alone than you already feel. If you are grieving something now, try Sandberg's advice. Be honest about where you're at in the process. Let friends and family help you. And if you know someone who's grieving, gently continue reaching out to them.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Be extravagant!

It's often been said that the deepest and most precious things in life cannot be seen or touched, and isn't that true? As Helen Keller said, "The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart." Although those we love are precious, what is deep and true and meaningful are the things that pass between us in those relationships. The looks, the shared moments, the deep conversations, the special touches.

Author and motivational speaker Leo Buscaglia put it this way: "Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around."

What that reminds me to do is to be generous and completely extravagant with my touch, my smiles, my kind words, the way I listen, my compliments and all kinds of random acts of care and kindness. If I stay focused on how grateful I am for all the precious gifts in my life, it will be easier for me to be extravagant with all the priceless and precious things that cannot be seen or touched.

Let your heart be filled with love—and be generous in spreading it around!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Let go of worry

There are many wise sayings and proverbs. The Chinese have left us with a fair share of them.

One of my favorite Chinese proverbs really speaks to me because I can spend too much of my time and energy in worry, a habit that seldom produces anything worthwhile for me. It does use up time that I'll never get back, however.

Here's the proverb: "That the birds of worry and care fly over your head, this you cannot change. But that they build nests in your hair, this you can prevent."

Do you like that one, too? Yes, worry and care will flit around us and fly over frequently. Let's try hard to let go of worry—and not let those worries and cares find a landing strip in our hair!

Thinking about our problems in order to find solutions is far different from worrying and stewing in the juices of our cares. Let's not confuse the two. Let go, let go, let go of worry.

Monday, October 2, 2017

It's a brand new month

We've just turned the calendar to a brand new month. What will the month of October hold for you? What does this season of the year mean to you?

For me, this particular October is absolutely jam-packed. Some of the things on my calendar represent wonderful times with family and friends. Other things are necessary tasks that must be done. Some are even heavy-duty commitments I need to fulfill.

However, the bottom line is that I absolutely love the fall season. I enjoy the vibrant and beautiful colors in which the trees are dressed this time of year. I love the crisp air and the mosquito-free days to walk in the woods. I really enjoy the Indian Summer we often experience here in the Midwest. I even like the more subdued colors of leaves that follow later in the fall.

And beyond that, I'm grateful to be alive. Grateful for family and friends. Grateful for health, home and safety. There is so much for which to be grateful.

What's on your gratitude list in this brand new month?