3 Ways to Sustain the Changes that You Have Made

So maybe you have overcome or are working on overcoming a flawed mindset and may have even overcome some barriers to change.  Now comes the hard part.  Maintaining the change that you have worked so hard to make.  This in of itself can be a monumental task.  Here are a few things that you can do to maintain your change.

  1. Reset if necessary.  It is almost inevitable that you will slip back into old habits.  Do not become discouraged.  You are more than capable of making whatever changes that you desire to make.  Remember this as you reset and continue those changed behaviors that you have already began to implement in order to reach your ultimate goal.  Try not to dwell on your setback.  Just move forward and try again.
  2. Anticipate challenging areas.  The best way to achieve success is to know where your challenges lie.  If you know that you always eat unhealthy foods for lunch when you are at work, pack you a healthier lunch so that you do not even have to be tempted to buy something unhealthy.  Or if your goal is to journal or meditate or anything else that requires time that you feel you currently don’t have, try to wake up earlier and do whatever your goal is before you begin your day.   The goal is to see what could possibly present a challenge and plan around it.
  3. Maintain positive attitude.  Let’s face it. Change is not easy – especially when whatever you are trying to change is something that has become a habit.  Stay positive.  Remember why you decided to make this change and keep that in mind as you maintain your changed behavior.  Try your best to be kind to yourself and be mindful of your self-talk.  You can make and maintain your desired change!

What would you add to this list? Comment below with what you has helped you sustain any changes you have made.

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4 Barriers to Lifestyle Changes and How to Overcome Them

In my previous post I discussed mindsets, now let us discuss some of the things people would like to change. Most of us have something that we want to change as it relates to our lifestyle. Some people want to eat better, some want to be able to sleep better some want to become less anxious or stressed, and others want to feel more satisfied. All these things go back to a change in lifestyle because all these things are connected.  Exercise and a better diet can lead to having a better mood. A better diet and more sleep can lead to less stress. Improving all these things can lead to improved mental health.

Leading a healthy lifestyle has so many benefits. There is absolutely nothing negative that can come from a healthy lifestyle. The benefits of a healthy lifestyle include a reduced risk of cancers and diabetes, improved memory, improved mood, improved cardiovascular health, among many other things.

Changing your lifestyle sounds easy but it can be particularly challenging. Let us briefly discuss some things that can be barriers to lifestyle changes.

  1. Not enough time. This is the first thing that is normally said when someone must incorporate something new in their lives. Between the responsibilities surrounding work, home, children, and so much more, finding time to implement anything new can be a challenge.
  2. Old habits die hard. If you have been doing something for many, many years and decide that you now want to change, it may not be as easy as you thought. What often happens is that change is easy in the beginning but once things get challenging, we often resort back to our old habits.
  3. Procrastination. The discomfort of the change in our routines and habits make us continue to procrastinate. Procrastination will have you talking about something forever but never moving forward.
  4. No motivation. Any kind of change is extremely difficult if you are not motivated. Lack of motivation to change your lifestyle will either have you not changing or not having sustained change even if you happen to change for a moment.

I do not want to spend a lot of time on barriers, but I think they barriers should be identified so that they can be recognized for what they are. You will be able more likely to make a sustained change if you can identify the things that will hold you back and make plans to combat those things. Now, let us talk about ways you can overcome those barriers.

Incorporate change into daily routine

Since the number one barrier is lack of time, try ways to make changes in your daily routine. It is hard to incorporate a major change like cooking healthy meals or starting an exercise regimen overnight. If the change you want to implement is your diet, start small. Purchase healthy foods at the grocery store or make healthy choices if you eat out. Or if you want to exercise more, instead of purchasing an expensive gym membership that you may then feel you have no time to use, try to incorporate more walking into your day. Park further away from the entrance to where you want to go or walk around while waiting for your child to finish their practice instead of sitting in your car. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, incorporate small changes into your daily routine.

Set small goals

 It is sometimes best to set small, attainable goals on your journey to change as opposed to making sweeping changes overnight that may not last.  This can be helpful when making a change such as eating healthier.  Instead of tossing out food from your old diet and buying all new food, you may want to consider slowly buying new food and incorporating your new, healthier food into your diet slowly.  Over time you can let your unhealthy food choices go and eat more of your healthy food choices until your entire diet is made up of your healthy food choice.  You may decide to eat healthy twice a week, the four times a week, before changing over to health food completely. 

Accountability partner

An accountability partner is someone who can ensure that you maintain the goals and commitments that are made when you are trying to change something.  Before you get an accountability partner, you need to ensure that this is someone who will be completely honest with you. You also need to ensure that you are ready to receive whatever feedback that the may give you.  The role of an accountability partner is to cheer you on when you are doing well but to also let you know if you start to slack off your commitments and goals.  Accountability partners can be great if you are looking to change and are willing to accept honest feedback.

Reward yourself

Rewarding yourself is a great way to stay motivated as you work to make a change in your lifestyle.  The caveat to this is to ensure that your reward is not detrimental to the change you are trying to make.  No matter what your goal is, it is okay to have a cheat day if that cheat day is not going to pull you back into your bad habits.  A good reward could be something such as binge-watching your favorite TV show, treating yourself to a night out or staycation, or allowing yourself a weekend morning where you can just sleep in. The point is to reward yourself for a job well done as you continue to make the changes that you want to make.

Be kind to yourself

Do not be hard on yourself if you have a setback.  Setbacks will inevitable happen especially if you are breaking a habit that you have had for an awfully long time.  If you have a setback, just get back on track and pick up where you fell off.  It is okay and no one is perfect.  Establishing a different lifestyle, even if it is a healthier lifestyle, can be hard to do so cut yourself a break.

So many things can be addressed when you say that you are going to change your lifestyle.  Lifestyle encompasses everything to your diet, your habits, your preferences, and even how active you are.  Changes to some of these will come easy while changes to the others will be a little more difficult.

Have you ever made a lifestyle change? Were you able to maintain it? Share what worked and what did not work for you.

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The 3 Types of Mindsets that Can Hinder Change

Your mindset can be one of the hardest things to change.  This is mainly due to the way that we arrive at our mindsets.  Mindsets are often formed because of our upbringing, culture, life experiences, and beliefs.  Mindsets tend to be deep seated and can often be a challenge to change.

I wanted to take a moment to discuss mindsets because you must be aware of the mindsets that you hold when considering how you respond (or not) to change.   Let us explore a few mindsets.

Optimistic vs. Pessimistic.  The optimist sees life through rose colored glasses.  Everything is good, and if something bad happens, the belief is that things will get better.  The pessimist believes that everything is always dark and bleak and if, by chance, something good does happen, they will believe that is a fluke.  When the subject of making any type of change comes up, it will take more effort for person with a pessimistic mindset because the first battle will be the negative outlook on the change.  You would have to get past this negative outlook before you could begin to take the steps to make the change.

Immediate success vs. Process.  This is one that I am currently working on.  The conflicting mindsets of a persons who wants overnight success versus the person that feels that everything is a process and success is attained one step at a time.  The good thing is that no matter what the desired change is, a person with each of these mindsets will try. The person with the mindset that everything is a process will be more likely to succeed as they will understand that setbacks and bad days are a part of the process of change.  The person who believes in overnight success will be more likely to quit at the first setback or if the change comes too slowly.

Hard work vs. Lucky break.  There are those who believe that success comes from hard work. These individuals understand that change is a process but that it also involved hard work.  Anything worth having normally involves some kind of hard work.  The person who feels like success only comes by the luck of the draw will not truly try to make a change.  If a half-hearted attempt at change is made and they fail, they will assume that the change was not meant for them.  I see this a lot when people speak of professional goals.  Some people believe in working hard to get the recognition needed to obtain a promotion.  Others believe that it is all about who you know, and skills and knowledge does not really matter.

Let us consider these mindsets in the context of change.  Can you really be successful with a diet if you believe all success should be immediate and that you will not have setbacks?  Can you realistically begin to work towards a dream or a goal if you believe that successful people are only successful because of who they know and not because of hard work?  Here are a few ways that you can change your mindset to see the change that you are working so hard for.

 

  1. Clarify what you want to change.  It is important that you know the why behind your need to change your mindset.  If you can identify the reason behind the change in mindset, the change is more likely to last.
  2. Make the decision to change.  This sounds like a lot like the first point but there is a slight difference.  The first point is speaking to knowing why you should change – this point is you deciding to change.  Many of us can know the benefits of a change and still not decide to make the change.  So, a definitive decision to make a change is necessary.
  3. Challenge your thoughts.  Any type of change can be hard and changing a mindset is no different.  When old thoughts that are connected to old habits begin to push their way in, it is imperative that you make a conscious effort to push back against those thoughts and focus on your new positive thoughts.
  4. Give yourself a break. Mindsets were not formed overnight, and they will be not be changed overnight.  Give yourself room to have a set back if you go slip to your old mindset and ways.  Just be conscious of this, reset, and move forward.
  5. Change actions.  Operate in the actions of your new mindset even if you are still working to completely change your mindset.  If you have determined that the change is your mindset is needed, begin to act as if your mindset is already changed.  It may feel unnatural at first, but you will eventually begin to walk in your new mindset and habits will begin to change.

What mindset pattern or patterns do you fall into? What do you think can help you come out of it?

Join me next time where I will be discussing lifestyle changes.

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4 Barriers to Overcome to See Sustained Change

I have always believed that feelings of restlessness or discontent were signs that some sort of shift was about to occur. I have been feeling this a lot lately – in many areas of my life. From re-examining my personal goals to even my re-examining the direction of this blog, I have had a heightened level of anxiety whenever I considered the different levels of change that was needed for me to get to where I wanted to be. It was such an odd feeling. Wanting to do more but almost feeling stuck when it came to doing what needed to be done to see a significant change.

Change can be hard. For some, significant change can seem impossible. During this series on change we will be talking about different aspects of change and how we can overcome whatever may be preventing us from making significant change.  People seek to make one of several types of changes to include changes to their financial situation, changes in their jobs, changes in their diet, changes in their lifestyle, the list goes on and on.

Let us look at why making changes can be so hard for some people.

  1. Being afraid.  Oftentimes people desire changes but are apprehensive about how that change will look. Some of us take such comfort in what is known – our routines, our habits, our jobs – that we will stay where we are instead of changing. Snuggling in and getting comfortable in your comfortable zone will make real change virtually impossible. The unknown of how life will be once the change comes or being unsure if the change can be maintained can make some of us unable to take that first step towards change.
  2. No motivation – There are times when people may desire change but have no real desire to do what is necessary to make that change. Many things can contribute to the lack of motivation, but this lack of motivation can make it hard to move forward toward any type of meaningful change.
  3. No clear goals. It is extremely hard to get motivated to make a change if you have no clear goals. You may feel as if you want or even need to make a change but if you do not have a clear vision of what you want that change to look like then you will always feel like nothing is changing. Attempting change with no set goals will result in you always trying to change but always being disappointed because you do not have clear enough goal to know when have achieved it.
  4. Pride. There are times that you may need to make a change, but your pride keeps you from doing so. Not wanting to admit that change is needed can keep you from the change that you may so desperately need to change your life.

What other barriers would you add to this list?

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In the next few blog posts we will be talking about different things people often need to change. As we discuss and you determine whether they apply to you, keep these barriers to change in mind and check to see whether you are guilty of any of these. And if you find that you are guilty of some of these, do not be so hard on yourself. Just make the necessary adjustments and try again to make that change.

Join me next time as we discuss changing your mindset.

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Mid Week Reflection: Today is a New Day

Have you ever tried to work on a goal, and it felt like you could not shake the thoughts or habits of your past? This is me all day long. I can clearly establish a goal but thoughts of “you are too old to start this” or “you never complete anything you start” are whispering in the back of my mind as I work toward my goal. Some people can articulate a goal, work at it, and achieve that goal with no setbacks or barriers. Others must overcome many barriers. Here are some ways to help you push through when you come upon these barriers and setbacks.

  1. Get the lesson and move forward. Some of us are guilty of not moving forward because we are too busy looking back. The only good reason to look back is to get the lesson. You run the risk of being pulled back into past behaviors when you continually look back. Once you get the lesson, move forward and do not look back so you can achieve your goal.
  2. Stay focused. Setbacks are inevitable so it is vital that you remain focused. Remember why you set your goal and stay focused on that. Be intentional and remember the reason you set the goal in the first place.
  3. Let go. If you find that something is holding you back from reaching your goals, let it go. I would even go as far as to say let go of any person who is holding you back. Achieving your goal is bigger than any negative thought, person, or habit.  If the thought, person, or habit is not helping you make steps towards achieving your goal, them you need to let it go.
  4. Eliminate negative self-talk. We can sometimes be the cause of our own setbacks.  Our own thoughts can be our biggest enemy when we are trying to achieve a goal and do more for ourselves.  Be conscious of your thoughts.  Replace negative thoughts with positive ones as soon as a negative thought begins to push its way into your mind. This one takes practice but will make a world of difference once you master it. Check out my previous post on negative self-talk here.

Setbacks are normal when working towards a new goal so be gentle with yourself. Today is a new day where you can shake old thoughts and habits and establish new ones. Hopefully, these tips can help you conquer the obstacles that stand between you and your goal. What else would you add to this list?

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Mid Week Reflection: Stepping Back to Move Forward

These past few months have been a struggle for me as it relates to me focusing on both my personal goals and my goals relating to this blog. I just could not get myself together enough to move forward with any of my goals and it was incredibly frustrating. Everything felt forced and nothing was seeming to come together. I eventually just stopped and decided to step back and, when I did, everything became crystal clear.  These are the things that I suggest that you do if you experience this feeling.

  1. Remember why you started. You can have a clearly defined goal that takes many detours before you achieve it. When you are in the middle of one of these detours, it is easy to lose sight of the goal or give up. Remembering why you started is imperative in these moments.
  2. Re-establish your goals. You may have to remind yourself of your goals or create new ones.  Refocus on what the end game was when you decided to begin your journey toward whatever goal you were trying to reach.
  3. Be honest with yourself.  A lesson learned during one of your detours may help you to realize that you need to adjust your plan.  And that is okay.  Make the adjustments and move toward achieving your goal.

Remember to not be too hard on yourself as you go through this process. You may find that stepping back is exactly what needed to be done to move you toward your goals.

Have you ever had to step back and re-revaluate?

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Mid Week Reflection: Your Day is Coming!

This is one of my favorite quotes.  The reason why I love this quote so much is that it shows that there is always hope – there is always a better day on the horizon.  This quote speaks to me on a couple of levels.  One level is the thought that there is always something positive on the horizon.  I am pretty sure that the caterpillar thought that his lot in life was to just always crawl around at this slow, slothful pace while everything was bustling all around him.  But one day he turns into a butterfly!  The sky is now the limit and he is free to go anywhere he please at whatever pace he chooses. The second level that this quote speaks to me concerns the notion of shedding the old you for a new you.  We all have had our caterpillar moments. Feeling low, desiring to do more, watching the world bustle around us while we slowly move along trying to figure everything out.  But then one day, you become a butterfly.  Just as the butterfly is not a new creature but a different version of the caterpillar; you are not a new person, but a different version of yourself.   This quote gives me great hope that, when things look dark or bleak or when life seems to be almost unbearable, there is always hope.  What has you down today?  Are you feeling that there is no hope? Just hold on, your day is coming.

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Managing Your Stress (Part Four)

Today is the final day of this series about stress and I wanted to end on a high note.  I hope to assist you with ways to help alleviate your stress. Please remember that, although stress is all around us, stress can be managed and there are quite a few things that you can do to manage your stress.  Hopefully one of these things can assist you on your quest to alleviate your stress.

1. Journaling.  Get some of those thoughts out of your head and on paper. Journaling can also help you notice patterns in your behavior and can help you with your self-reflection.

2. Exercising. Stress can be relieved through exercise because exercising produces endorphins which reduce your stress levels. Regular exercise can go a long way in your efforts to manage your stress.

3. Laughing.  Have you ever had a good, deep belly laugh that pulled you out of a bad mood? Laughter can take your mind off of your stressor while easing a lot of muscle tension.

4. Meditation.  Meditation allows you to get to such a deep place of relaxation that you are able to sort through all of your jumbled thoughts. Your anxiety may be eased if you are able to sort your thoughts and tackle them one at a time and not all at once.

5. Eat healthily. Eating foods high in nutrients can help improve your mood and energy which can reduce stress. Foods that are rich in Vitamin C, as well as some herbal supplements, can help to reduce stress.

6. Reading.  Reading allows you to escape your reality and enter someone else’s reality. This allows you to take your mind off of the things that are stressing you out and allow you to relax.  This temporary escape from your reality can keep you from being overwhelmed.

7. Slowing down your thoughts.  This may sound simple but it is one of the hardest things to do. Slowing down my thoughts has helped me greatly. Stress can sometimes come from the feeling of being overwhelmed and having to figure out everything at once. Slowing down your thoughts allows you to focus on one thing at a time.

8. Breathing deeply. Breathing deep breaths when stress threatens to overwhelm you helps to relax your body and relieve tensions. It also helps you with being able to clear your mind to the point where you can put your stressors in perspective.

9. Therapy.  If the stress that you are trying to manage feels that it is unmanageable, please consider getting help from a therapist. Excessive stress can be an indicator of other mental illnesses that need to be addressed by a professional.

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Please remember if the stress is so overwhelming that you just feel like nothing you do is helpful, please see a professional. Comment if there are some things that you have done to alleviate stress that was not included on this list.

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Managing Your Stress (Part Three)

So far in this series on stress management we have talked about myths/misconceptions, lesser-known symptoms of stress, and some common causes of stress. Today, I will be discussing the effects that stress has on your mental health. I wanted to give the effects of stress on your mental health a day of its own because it is just that important. It is sometimes hard to identify the effects that stress has on your mental health because it is not as obviously seen as physical symptoms. Sometimes these symptoms can sneak up on you and become a part of your being before you even realize that stress is what got you there. 

Stress can affect your mental health in several ways but here are just a few.

Anxiety. Constant stress can lead to anxiety, which is a feeling of fear or worry. Anxiety can affect your mental health if it begins to interfere with your daily routine. Unchecked anxiety can lead to a lack of concentration, racing thoughts, excessive worry, amongst other things that can have harmful effects on your psychological health.

Depression. Stress can break down all of your body’s defenses. It impacts your sleep, your ability to focus, as well as your mood to the point where you can begin to feel like you are not yourself. Depression is a feeling of being sad or just not interested in those things that used to interest you. Chronic stress can wear you down to the point where you can almost become numb to what is going on around you. This numbness can lead to depression.

Loneliness. Some things that cause you stress may be so personal that you do not feel like you can share them with anyone. As the thoughts begin to stress you and worry you, you may begin to feel lonely. The feelings of loneliness will keep you from reaching out to people to receive help. Keeping everything inside can lead to more feelings and loneliness and negatively impact your psychological health.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  If your stress is caused by a prolonged traumatic event that has occurred over a period of time or a single traumatic event, the impact of that stress can stay with you in the form of PTSD. We often think of PTSD when we think of soldiers who were in combat – but PTSD can also be a very real thing for those individuals who have been in abusive relationships, endured some type of abuse in their childhood, or have witnessed a traumatic event. PTSD is a very real disorder that can impact your mental health if not addressed.

Alcoholism or substance abuse.  Being consumed by stress can make you feel a variety of things – jittery, uncertain, anxious. A lot of people feel that these feelings are unbearable and all they want to do is ease the discomfort or numb the pain. For many, stress can lead to alcohol and substance abuse as a way to alleviate stress.

Comment below if you have either experienced these effects of stress or if you can add to the list of ways stress has affected your mental health.

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Managing Your Stress (Part One)

What causes you stress? Money? Your job? Family responsibilities?

And what physically happens to you when you begin to stress? Sweaty palms? Headaches? Chest pain?

Stress is defined as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension that results from adverse or very demanding circumstances. We all perceive stress differently but the reality is that stress can be very harmful to health if you do not manage it properly. Let me first dispel a few myths about stress.

  1. Only major symptoms need to be addressed.  Most of us are aware of the more prominent symptoms of stress such as high blood pressure and headaches, but there are other lesser-known symptoms that should alert us that something is not right. Stress can also cause you to have muscle spasms, skin itchiness/rashes, and a weakened immune system. All of these things are symptoms that should not be overlooked but often are due to us not being aware that they are indicators that our bodies are operating under a heightened level of stress.
  2. Stress is everywhere and cannot be avoided.  I used to believe this myth because my life was so stressful that it felt as if the stress could not be avoided. What I learned is that even if you feel that stress cannot be avoided, it can definitely be managed. The idea that stress is everywhere and just a part of life can lead to dangerous health consequences.
  3. No symptoms, no stress.  Some of us live in a constant state of stress. And just because we do not have the classic symptoms of stress, does not mean we are not stressed. Thinking that you are not stressed just because you do not have the classic symptoms of stress can be detrimental.

Many of us are aware of the more common ways that your body reacts to stress: tension headaches, back pain, chest pain, stomach issues, etc. But let’s talk about some of the lesser-known ways that stress can impact you.

  1. Hair loss/graying and skin issues. Stress can be a contributing factor to hair loss and premature graying. Skin issues such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne can be more severe if you are stressed.
  2. Immune health.  Stress causes your immune system to lose its effectiveness in fighting off antigens which could make you more likely to get sick.
  3. Excessive sleeping or insomnia.  When your body is under a high level of stress, it often tries to control that stress through rest. This could lead to you noticing that you are sleeping a lot. Or your stress can be so overwhelming that you may not be able to sleep, which could lead to insomnia.
  4. Memory loss.  When you are stressed and your mind is occupied by the thoughts that are stressing you out, you have a tendency not to remember things. Difficulty focusing can make you forget details and make it hard to concentrate.
  5. Racing thoughts.  If you are stressing about a particular issue that is causing you to worry, the stress can make your thoughts go down a rabbit hole. When this happens, your thoughts begin to run wild with each thought being more worrisome and stressful than the one before it.

Comment if you know of or have experienced any other lesser known symptoms of stress. Please join me tomorrow as I talk about the common causes of stress.

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