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 Two)

Can you pinpoint exactly what causes you stress?  It could be one major thing, or it could be a combination of several things. Many of us would say our current state of affairs is causing us stress. The country is slowly beginning to open back up now, but for a while, we were all feeling disconnected from our families and communities.

People perceive stressors differently and people respond to stressors differently. People often pinpoint work, finances, health concerns, and family responsibilities as being major sources of stress.  Those are the major reasons people stress but let us peel away the layers and examine why these things are stressful.

Uncertainty. This is what was (and is) causing so much stress during our time of quarantining and isolation. We did not really know much. When was it going to end? How was it going to end? What would life look like when it ended? One question would always lead to another and the not knowing was extremely stressful. Suspense and foreboding are great when it comes to a movie or a novel, but not when it comes to our lives. COVID-19 has caused many people to lose their jobs or have their hours cut.  This could lead to a lot of uncertainty. An uncertain health report could lead to stress because of all the uncertainty. Stress due to uncertainty is related to us being uncomfortable with not having control over every aspect of our lives.

Being Overwhelmed. Many of us have a lot going on with work, children, our hobbies, etc. It is easy to become overwhelmed especially when it seems like there is always something to be done and something that needs attention. Becoming overwhelmed can happen in a multitude of settings. A sudden job loss, the death of a loved one, or even a positive life event like a marriage can be overwhelming. The feeling of being overwhelmed can become so intense that it will literally take your breath away.

Unrealistic expectations. Sometimes we become stressed mainly because of the stress that we put on ourselves. We sometimes hold ourselves to such high expectations that disappointment and frustration is the only outcome. When we overcommit ourselves or have unrealistic expectations for ourselves, stress is inevitable. A great example of this would be a parent who is trying to balance work life and family life. The expectation that you can give 100% both at work and at home is not inconceivable but can be a heavy burden to put on yourself.

Comment below some of the things that cause you stress.

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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: Feelings Are Not Facts

Feelings are defined as an emotional state or reaction.  They can describe how you may be feeling at a certain time but they do not always have to dictate your reality.  We sometimes struggle with our emotions being confused as facts.  For example, feeling a little down that you did not get selected for a position at work does not translate to you being an employee whose work is not valued.  Feeling like a failure for not being successful at a new diet does not make you a failure.  You have to be careful not to let your feelings take hold in your spirit to the point where you begin to really believe what you are thinking. Beware of allowing your feelings to determine how you see yourself and the way you begin think about yourself and your worth. Separating feelings from facts is vital to our self-esteem and our overall outlook on life. We have to practice positive self-talk to convince ourselves that the negative thoughts and feelings that we have taken as fact are not true. This has to be done on a daily basis to ensure that you do not succumb to feelings which can often be misleading. What feelings have you taken as facts lately? What positive self-talk will you utilize to prevent yourself from accepting those feelings as facts?

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Mid Week Reflection: Make “One Day” Today

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Have you ever had so many wonderful thoughts about all of the wonderful things you wanted to do but never actually did them?  Everything is going to be done “one day”, “someday”, or “one of these days”.  One day I am going to write a book. Someday I am going to make myself a priority.  One of these days I am going to start eating better.  If this is you, do not feel bad because this is me and several others also.  The problem with “one day” is that the days pass and you end up looking back and realizing that you have been saying the same thing for months, if not years.  I encourage you to just start.  Start today!  Whatever that thing is that you are itching to do but just waiting on the right time, start now. You may be wondering if it is really just that simple and the answer is yes. We sometimes overthink things by believing that the timing has to be just right or that certain things must be done before we can begin. But that is not true. Just start. Once you start you will find that a lot of things will just fall into place. Find one thing that you have been putting off and start today with baby steps or start by jumping in headfirst – but just start.  What will you start today?

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Surviving Survival Mode (Part 3)

So how can we begin to come out of survival mode? Here are a few tips.

Acknowledge that you are in survival mode. A person in survival mode can rarely put the mental energy into recognizing that they are in survival mode. I had to be completely out of survival mode to realize that I had been in it. Once you can acknowledge that you are in survival mode, things can begin to change.

Breathe. Breathing can be extremely beneficial as it allows you to slow down your thoughts and relax your body. Taking deep, cleansing breaths can give you the energy and the opportunity to see outside of the present moment.

Begin making plans.  As stated before, making plans is hard when you are in survival mode. Making plans and having something to look forward to can help because it will break the daily rut of just surviving until the next day.

Accept help.  If someone is genuinely offering you help, please take them up on it. Accepting help with just one thing could give you the moments you need to breathe and clear your head.

Some final thoughts on coming out of survival mode.

This is not your lot in life.  If you identify with being in survival mode, take solace in the fact that you do not have to continue operating in survival mode.  You can get out and stay out. 

Move forward.  When you finally make your way out of survival mode, do not look back.  Keep moving forward, continuing to do those things that worked to get you out of survival mode.

Plan. Plan. Plan.  Always have something to look forward to.  Whether it is having brunch with a friend or planning some alone time for yourself, give yourself something to look forward to.

Survival mode is easy to get into but can sometimes be difficult to get out of. Try not to be too hard on yourself as you go through this process.  Comment below if you have ever been in survival mode and what it looked like for you.  If you were able to get out of survival mode, share how you were able to do that.

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Surviving Survival Mode (Part 2)

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What are some of the signs that you are in survival mode?

Not Being Able to Plan Ahead.  Being in survival mode makes it extremely difficult to see beyond the present moment. If you are lucky you can plan for the next day, but a few days or even a week ahead is virtually impossible.

The unexpected and unplanned causes a meltdown.  To be able to halfway maintain your sanity in survival mode, everything must fall perfectly into place. Any unexpected request or slight change of plans could cause one to become upset because there is only enough mental energy for the things you have planned.

Shy away from major decisions. In survival mode you only have the mental energy to get through the day. Having to make major decisions in survival mode is almost impossible. The mental strength needed to think about something major is just not there.  When making a major decision in survival mode, you either (1) run the risk of making a decision that you hopefully do not end up regretting later or (2) you procrastinate and do not decide at all. Honestly, neither option is good.

Days go by in a blur.  In survival mode the only thing that you are really trying to do is make it to the next day. Because of this, the days begin to blend to where something that happened a month ago can feel like it happened yesterday. Your concept of time is blurred, and you are only focusing on what is going on right now.

You are always tired.  Even if you think you are getting enough sleep, your brain is in overdrive because it is just trying to make it from doing today. Being in survival mode is exhausting!

Tomorrow we will be discussing getting out and staying out of Survival Mode.

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Surviving Survival Mode (Part 1)

What is survival mode?

As someone who has had the experience of living in survival mode for a significant period of time, I would define survival mode as being present in the current moment and only having the mental energy to make it to the next moment.  This week we will be discussing survival mode – what it looks like and how to get out.

Let us explore a few ways that people end up in survival mode.

Traumatic life event. Unexpected life events, like the sudden death of a loved one or a life-changing diagnosis, can put you into a space where all you can do is just make it through the day. Some people can get through life-changing events while maintaining a sense of normalcy.  Others go into a lower level of functioning and begin operating at a level that is just enough to get them through the day.

Financial Distress.  Layoffs, furloughs, and unemployment have pretty much defined these COVID-19 times. The thought that you will not be able to provide for your family can be terrifying. The stress and fear associated with being in financial distress coupled with the desperate need to provide for your family could get you to the point where you begin living day-to-day with no real direction.

Being overwhelmed.  This is what put me and so many others in survival mode. Having so many daily responsibilities that could lead to becoming overwhelmed with life, we run the risk of getting not being connected to anything other than the things that need our immediate attention.

Many other things can put you in survival mode, but these are a few of the main ones. Tomorrow we are going to discuss how you can tell that you are in survival mode and how you can get out.

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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: Surround Yourself with Positive People

Have you ever witnessed two people hang around each other for so long that they begin to act like each other? They pick up each other’s mannerisms, habits, and even each other’s tones. It happens when you spend a considerable amount of time with somebody. So if you understand that you take on the characteristics of those who you spend a great deal of your time with, doesn’t it make sense that you should want to spend your time with the people who want the absolute best for you? The Debbie Downers of the world that only seek to rain on your parade can affect you just as much as the people who want to see you do well. Their negativity, doubt, and lack of confidence in you and your ability to reach your dreams will eventually affect you if you are not careful.  You may begin to lack confidence in yourself and water down your dreams because of their inability to see your full potential.  Surround yourself with people who believe in you as much, if not more, as you believe in yourself.  Surround yourself with people who will continue to cheer you on during those times where you may feel discouraged and unsure of yourself.  Surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you and challenge you to be your very best.  You will go further when your circle consists of those who genuinely want to see you succeed.  Their positivity will rub off on you and sustain you through the tough days. Think about those that are the closest to you.  Do they cheer you on or do they doubt you?  Are they encouraging or are your setbacks proof to them that you need to abandon your dreams?  I challenge you to evaluate your inner circle and make sure that those around you are positive, supportive and push you to be the best you can be.

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