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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Mid Week Reflection: Think Positive Thoughts

Have you ever had a great idea and talked yourself out of going for it?  The negative thoughts of doubt and uncertainty are louder than the positive thoughts that would encourage you to keep striving for your goal.  For some reason, it is easier for some of us to listen to the discouraging thoughts and not to the thoughts that tell us that we can achieve our goal or dream. Controlling our thoughts is not easy but it is necessary to keep ourselves encouraged so that we can continue to move forward with achieving our goals.  Just as we watch the words that come out of our mouth, we must watch the thoughts that we allow to take hold in our minds. We must begin to push back against our negative thoughts.  We have to learn to challenge these thoughts.  If you begin to have thoughts that you are not strong enough to reach your goal, you counter it with the thought that you are strong and that you will reach your goal.  If you begin to have thoughts that you are not worthy enough to even dream as big as you dare to dream, counter it with the thought that you are as good and as talented as those who are already where you want to be.  I challenge you to counter those thoughts that bring you down into positive thoughts.  When you begin to think more positive thoughts will you begin to see more positive results.  What thoughts will you challenge today?

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Mid Week Reflection: Go Get It

Do you want more than what you have now? “More” looks different to different people. More, for some, means buying a bigger house. More, for others, means getting a better paying job. To get more, you have to do more. Sounds logical, doesn’t it? Many people want more without doing any extra than what they are doing right now. If the salary from your job is not allowing you the lifestyle that you desire, you should either find another job or create an additional stream of income. I have always wanted more but for so long, I was waiting for something to drop out of the sky and fall into my lap. I was missing the part where I had to do something extra to make it happen. Eventually, I realized that I had to do more to get more. The victory is sweeter when you have worked hard to get where you want to be. What extra thing are you going to do to get to the “better things”?

Procrastination: What are You Waiting For? – Part 3: Perfectionism

This can look a lot of different ways.  It can be you saying that everything needs to be perfect before you even began to work towards your goal.  This thinking makes you think that everything has to be perfectly aligned for you to begin working on your goal.  Or this thinking can make you feel that everything has to be perfect once you reach your goal. 

This type of thinking makes it hard for you to start your goal of, say, writing a book because you are unsure if you will complete the book.  Or even if you complete the book, what if nobody likes it?  What if you cannot get it published?   What if there is pressure to complete a second book?  You get the picture.  Perfectionism will keep you stuck because the perfect scenario that you have created in your head may never happen.  And there is no way you can predict how things will turn out once you begin. 

The key to getting past this type of procrastination is to change your mindset.  Just like with the fear of failure, this will not come easy at first but it can be done.  For starters, you must begin to believe that everything will work out for you.  If you never believe that things will end positively, then you will never begin.  Also, you must understand that everything will very rarely align perfectly.  And if it does, it is very unlikely that it is going to stay that way.  You must keep moving forward, even when things are not lining up the way you feel that they should. 

This was a challenge for me as I began this blog.  Understanding the commitment that it would take to start and sustain a blog, I felt like everything had to be in place in my life before I got started.  I felt this way for several months until I finally realized that I would never get started if I waited until the perfect time.  So I just started.  And I have continued even when circumstances made it difficult to continue.  Understanding that there may be setbacks along the way is key to realizing that not many things will be or remain perfect.  But you must keep moving forward – even if you are moving forward slowly. 

Procrastination: What are You Waiting For? – Part 2: Fear of Failure

I talk about the fear of failure a lot in The Serenity Room.  That is because it can be linked to so many different things as it relates to how we respond or not respond to different aspects of our lives.  As it relates to procrastination, the fear of not succeeding at a task keeps us from moving towards its completion.  For example, If you are tasked with putting together a presentation as part of a job interview, your fear of not doing well during the presentation could cause you to procrastinate with creating the presentation.  This could cause you to have to rush to put it together.  The job that could have been yours now may not be due to the procrastination that then leads you to create a sub-par presentation.  The fear of failure leads us to wait until the last minute which leads you to not do your best.  This can be seen in many areas of our lives.  The struggle to get started because of the fear of the results is a common one.

So how do you combat this fear of failure?  The simplified answer to this question is to change your way of thinking.  Yes, I already know that it is not that easy but that is the most basic way to combat the fear of failure.  You have to question your thoughts.  Doubt your doubts.  When you set your goals, you set it with the intent of succeeding. No one makes a goal that they intend to not achieve.  But somewhere along the way self-doubt, fear, and negative thinking come into play and all of a sudden you feel that you can no longer reach the goal that you have set for yourself.  Change the thoughts that cause you to fear that you will never be successful – challenge those thoughts and move through fear.  Think about why you started your journey.  Think about the joys of success.  Think about how much you can accomplish as you reach goal after goal after goal.  The sky is truly the limit if you face fear head-on.  And if you don’t reach your goal, step back and see what was done wrong.  Then make your adjustments and try again.  Whatever you do, do not give up.

Coming Up Tomorrow: Perfectionism

Mid-Week Reflection: What Would You Do if You Were Not Afraid?

This is such a great, thought-provoking question.  The question makes you really think about two things: what you are afraid of and what your true desires are.  If I had not been afraid that people would not favorably receive what I had to offer, I probably would have already published several books by now.  Fear keeps us from stepping out and taking the steps to make our dreams a reality.  Fear tells you that chasing your dream will take you into the realm of the unknown and that you need to stay where things are predictable (your comfort zone). 

Think about your biggest dreams and goals, even the ones that you feel are far-fetched, and think about what is stopping you from taking the first step.  After you have thought about what is stopping you, take that first step.  It does not matter if it is just a tiny step –  the point is that you need to take one.  Face your fears head-on by taking one step at a time.  What will your first step be?

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Mid-Week Reflection: Are You Limiting Yourself?

Sometimes we water down our goals to where, even when we achieve them, we have not reached our full potential.  The heights of our achievements are a direct result of the boundaries that we build for ourselves.  When you set a goal, are you setting your goal to your highest potential or are you limiting yourself to the walls that you have built?  We all have talents and attributes that could catapult us into achieving and surpassing our goals.  Sadly, we limit our goals to match the image of what we see as success.  But that image could be just the tip of the iceberg of what we could truly achieve if we tore down those walls that we have built for ourselves.   As cliché as it sounds, the sky is the limit when it comes to your goals.  Do not put limits on your dreams.  Dream big!!

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