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: Focus on the Things You Desire

There is always the possibility that something could go wrong.  You can finally start that business you have been dreaming of but be fearful that it will not take off as you want.  You can have your eye on a certain position at work but be fearful that someone else is selected for that position.  I am not here to tell you that bad things do not happen – we all know that is not true.  What I am here to tell you is that focusing on our desired positive outcome is more productive than focusing on our fears on the things that could go wrong.  Focusing on the things that can go right will keep you moving toward your goal.  Focusing on the things you fear is more likely to get you to a place where you begin to doubt your goals.  And if there is enough doubt, you will lose your motivation to even try to reach your goals.  Losing motivation will cause you to become stagnant.  To be successful, you must focus on the positive and only the positive.  What will you do to change your mindset to only focus on the things you desire?

Procrastination: What are You Waiting For? – Part 1: Mental Exhaustion

I am going to speak for myself today but I am almost certain that I am speaking for a couple of other people also.  Many of us have such full schedules that just the thought of adding another task is exhausting.  Exhausting to the point where I put it off again and again and again – you get the picture. 

I believe that we often make goals with great intentions but sometimes the idea can be great but the actual implementation of the idea is a different story.  The same can be said for the things we have to do like making an appointment and essential things that must be done in day to day life.  Just the thought of doing these things can be mentally exhausting.  Often, procrastination gets us to a place where we put these things off and then we end up feeling bad about putting them off.  This puts us in a bad place mentally.  This can lead to feelings of guilt and anxiety about not getting things done and the list continuing to pile up. 

So how can we combat this? The first step would be to not allow ourselves to get mentally exhausted and overwhelmed in the first place.  Taking mental breaks by stepping outside, stretching, or taking a nap goes a long way in helping our brain slow down from racing with the millions of things that we need to do.  To help with procrastination that is due to mental exhaustion, break down your tasks so that they are not overwhelming.  A good friend of mine suggested selecting one or two things on your to-do list daily and literally schedule them into your day.  This actually worked for me once I realized that I was so mentally exhausted that just the thought of adding something else to my list was too overwhelming.  And the thought of the energy that would be needed to actually complete the task was even more overwhelming.  For me, using the alarms on my phone helped me to get things done at different times of the day to avoid feeling overwhelmed – the times I actually could do it.  Remember the goal is to be productive so take your tasks in small chunks to avoid being overwhelmed.  Hopefully, you will not become mentally exhausted if you break things down in a manageable way. 

Coming Up Tomorrow: Fear of Failure

Procrastination: What are You Waiting For?

Stalling.  Putting off.  Hesitating.

All of these words are synonyms of procrastination.  Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines procrastination as “to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done.  A lot of us procrastinate in some shape or form.  Sometimes it is as small as putting off cleaning the kitchen until your favorite TV show goes off.  Sometimes it is you putting off a major goal because the time is not right.  Whatever the reason for the procrastination, procrastination itself is one of the reasons why we often find ourselves in ruts – unable and unwilling to move forward with the goals and dreams we seek for ourselves.  This week we will be examining the reasons why we procrastinate and the steps we can take to overcome it.

Coming Up Tomorrow: Mental Exhaustion

Are You Making Resolutions or Commitments to Change?

By now, I am sure we have all seen the advertisements that come with the New Year.  It seems like there is an advertisement geared toward every resolution.  The fitness centers have their promotions for those who are trying to lose weight.  Weight Watchers and Nutrisystem have their promotions for those who desire to have a healthier diet.  And if your New Years’ resolution if to save money, deep discounts and bargains await those who will spend money but not feel bad because they took advantage of a big sale.

Because resolutions usually come about from people looking back on the previous year and wanting to make improvements, it should surprise no one that the top five resolutions are usually to exercise more, eat healthier, save money, become less stressed, and to lose weight.  There are others such as traveling more, improving relationships, or finding a new job; but those top five are usually consistently the top five.  No matter how many resolutions I make year after year, two resolutions are made every year.  One is to eat healthier and the other is to drink more water.  I have struggled with these two resolutions for several years and would normally give up on these resolutions within the first few weeks of the year.  I believe that these resolutions never led to real change because I never made a real commitment to change.  In essence, all I did was verbalize a wish.

Here are a few reasons why resolutions fail.

  1. You think it will be easy.  It is easy to make a statement in December that you will lose weight, save money, or in my case, eat healthier.  It sounds really good and deep down you intend to fulfill the resolution.  But then January 1 comes around and you realize that it is going to be a lot harder than you realized.  You suddenly realize that your resolution to save money means that you cannot go on that emotional shopping spree.  Or that it is going to be hard to fulfill the resolution of eating healthy if you still grab fast food at lunchtime every day.  When it gets hard, the easiest and most natural thing to do is to fall back into bad habits and that is what a lot of people do.
  2. You are not ready for the resolution. In the past, the only reason why eating healthier was a resolution of mine was because other people would tell me that I needed to eat healthier and I agreed.  I was serious when I made the resolution because I agreed that I needed to eat healthier but I was not ready to eat healthier; therefore, the resolution failed.  It wasn’t until I started feeling sluggish and realized I needed more energy that I began to make a conscious effort at fulfilling the resolution.  You cannot make a resolution because everyone else is making resolutions.  Your resolution has to be personal and important to your well-being. If you do not know why the resolution is important to fulfill, then it was doomed to fail before you made it.
  3. You are not ready for sustained change. This one may sting but it is true for many of us.  The harsh reality is that many resolutions fail because we made the resolution but we were never really ready to put in the work to make the change.  I can say that I want to eat healthier and may even know that that is what is best for my health, but I if don’t make the effort to seek out healthy places to eat for lunch or shop for healthy food to make for dinner, then I am not truly ready to eat healthily.   The fact that I know I need to make the change will lead me to make the resolution but my not being ready to make the change will keep me from fulfilling it.

So what can be done so that you are not just making a declaration of what you want to see in your life but are actually taking steps to make the change?

  1. Recruit Cheerleaders!  Cheerleaders are the people who will encourage and support you even when you slip back into old habits.  These are not the people who are on the sidelines waiting for you to slip up so that they can tell you that they knew that you were not going to succeed and then are almost gleeful that you proved them right.  I am talking about the people who will offer words of encouragement if they sense you starting to struggle a little.  Now, to recruit cheerleaders, you have to share your resolution with others.  This sounds simple but many people do not share their resolution because they do not want the whole world to be a witness if they are not successful.  For about two years I did not tell anyone about my desire to start a blog until I knew that I was truly ready to start it.  I did not want to start this blog out of obligation because I had talked so much about it and everyone was waiting on me to start it.  I began to let people know about the blog once I was sure that I was ready to start this blog and put in the work to keep it going.  Once you are ready to let the world know that you want to make a real change, recruit the most encouraging people in your circle to be your cheerleaders.
  2. Make adjustments to accommodate your change.  You have to make space in your life for the change.  For example, it sounds great to make a resolution to reduce stress by attending yoga classes but you have to make time in your busy schedule to attend the classes.  If you do not consciously make the extra time in your already busy schedule, you will become frustrated and not able to keep your resolution.  My resolution to eat healthier is only going to be successful if I make a conscious effort to put healthy items on my grocery list as opposed to the not so healthy items that I am accustomed to putting on my shopping list.  When making resolutions, consider what changes you have to make in your schedule, lifestyle, or even your budget.  Be mindful of the adjustments that need to be made to ensure that your resolutions lead to sustained change.
  3. Break down and be specific with your resolution.  A resolution can sometimes demand such a change in your lifestyle that it requires you to break down your anticipated change into little steps.  You may walk away feeling like a failure if you do not break your resolution into small, attainable steps. My resolution to eat healthier does not mean that suddenly on January 1 I will be eating healthy every night.  That is unrealistic since it is very difficult to change your entire diet overnight. I may have to start by eating healthy twice a week, then move up to five days a week, until I can make it into a daily habit.  Also, be sure to be specific with your resolution. Define what healthy means to you. Does healthy mean less meat? Or does healthy to you mean no meat? Does healthy mean more plant based food? When dealing with resolutions that require a lifestyle change, your resolution may have to be more specific and broken down into smaller goal

Most people make resolutions with the ultimate goal of keeping them.  I hope that this post will help you see why some resolutions may have not succeeded in the past and assist you with fulfilling this year’s resolutions. 

Comment below and tell me what you feel has been the barrier to you succeeding with resolutions in the past and what you will do differently in 2020.  Or if you are successful with keeping your resolutions, please share how you made that happen.

Welcome to The Serenity Room

January 17th.

According to Ellen Ciuczak and Ryan Miller’s November 12, 2019 article in USA Today, that is the day most people give up on their New Year’s Resolutions. That is not to say that many people do not stick to their resolutions and achieve the goals that they have set for themselves; that is just the date that most people who are unsuccessful fall back into their old habits.

If I am being honest, most of my resolutions over the years failed before January 17. But this year I was determined to join the ranks of people who have been successful with achieving their resolutions. My one and only resolution this year is to fulfill a resolution that has been a resolution for several years: to write for an audience. This blog is the first of many steps to achieve that goal.

I am Gayle Walker and I have been creatively writing since I was 12 years old. I have half-written several novels and middle-grade books that never saw the light of day for fear that they would not be good enough. I have had the idea for this blog for a couple of years but never started it for the same reason that I never finished a book: the fear that my blog would not be good enough or interesting enough to attract readers. And as cliche’ as this sounds, one morning I woke up and made the conscious decision to change the entire way that I thought about myself. As a social worker, I empower and encourage people daily. So why not go a step further and empower, encourage, and educate others through my love of writing? I realized that my writing is good enough and I am more than qualified to reach out to people to uplift their spirits and empower them to be greater than they may have ever imagined.

I envision The Serenity Room to be a place where you will be encouraged, motivated, and will hopefully come to the realization that you are not alone in many of the daily struggles that we all experience. Have you ever experienced an emotion so overwhelming that you did not even want to share how you felt with anyone because you just knew that they would not understand what you were feeling? Only to finally confide in a trusted person and realize that not only have they felt that way, but many others have also. Remember the relief you felt of knowing that you are not alone and others have felt this way too? I want The Serenity Room to start conversations that were once shied away from. I want you to read the posts published in this blog and either learn something or gain a firm reaffirmation of what you already knew or believed. I want you to realize that you are bigger and better than every negative thought that has taken up residence in your spirit.

As I stated earlier, I am a social worker and do not profess to be an expert in any topic that I will be posting about.  The majority of my posts will be on topics that are personal to me that I have researched for my self-growth. I hope that you will be empowered as I seek to empower myself.

As of now, I will be posting every other week about a wide range of topics. Some upcoming topics include standing in the way of your own success, the impact of negative self-talk, and being open to the change you claim you seek. One blog a month will be dedicated to either special needs families or families of first responders as my family includes both. Over the years, I have learned that a lot of things I go through as a mother of a child with special needs are similar to what other mothers experience, but some things are unique to families that have children with special needs. While the posts will be about the experiences of the families of special needs children or first responders, I hope you will still take the time to read the post to gain an understanding of the reality of others.

Between attracting an engaged audience, gaining exposure, and making a name for myself as an author and blogger, I will also like to eventually profile those individuals who have persevered against incredible odds. No matter what topic is being discussed, please feel free to make comments and suggestions either in the public forum or via email. In the end, my biggest goal is for The Serenity Room to grow into something bigger and better than I could have ever imagined.

For me, it all begins with this post. A post that I have been dreaming of posting for a very long time. This is my very first step to overcoming all of the things that has prevented me from doing this before today.

What is stopping you from doing that thing that you have been dreaming of doing for so long?

What will your first step be in 2020?