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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.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

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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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”?

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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

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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

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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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Mid-Week Reflections: How Bad Do You Want It?

Desire is defined as a strong feeling of wanting something or wishing for something to happen. For you to achieve a goal, you have to first have a strong desire to want to achieve it. The basic want to want to start a business will result in you only thinking about starting the business and possibly talking to others about it. An actual desire to reach your goal will have you researching various business plans and actually making steps toward starting your business. Desire will have you walking the walk and not just talking the talk. Wanting to achieve a goal is just a wish. The desire to achieve a goal will light a fire in you that burns so hot that you will not stop until you reach your goal. What do you really want today? Is it a burning desire or a just a wish that you mention to people every now and then? Focus on your desire and work hard to make it a reality.

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Be Kind to Yourself: Eliminating Negative Self-Talk

18 Mar 2005 — Young Woman Looking out the Window — Image by © LWA-Sharie Kennedy/Corbis

 “I am too old to start a new career.”

 “I won’t be selected for this new position, so I will not even apply.”

“I am not going to be able to maintain this new workout regimen, so I will not even start.”

Many of us have either thought or verbalized statements like these at some point.  These are the thoughts that we have when we are at the point where we have to make a decision and self-doubt begins to creep in. These are the thoughts that prevent you from living your dreams. These are also the thoughts that keep you living in your comfort zone when you have the potential to do so much more.  This was my story for a very long time.  I cannot even begin to tell you the many opportunities that have passed me by due to thoughts like these drowning out all of the positive thoughts and encouragement that I was receiving from those around me. 

I would often try my best to move forward although these thoughts were swirling around in my head, but it would be extremely difficult because one of two things would happen.  One thing that would happen would be that I would move forward with whatever I was hesitating to do but I would do it half-heartedly.  In other words, I would go through the motions but would not put much effort into it because I did not believe that I would be successful at it anyway.  The other thing that would happen is that I would sabotage myself by talking myself or overthinking myself out of the opportunity.  I would allow these thoughts to take over to the point where I would consciously make decisions that would all but guarantee that I would not be able to take advantage of the opportunity.

 I still sometimes battle with these types of thoughts but here are a few of the things that I do to stop them before they take over to the point where I miss opportunities.

1.Feelings Are Not Facts.  When you are feeling like you are not deserving of or should not pursue an opportunity, that feeling is very real to you at that moment.  The feeling is real to the point that you will debate on whether you should go after the opportunity that has presented itself.  Always remember that feelings are based on what you feel while facts are based on what is known to be true.  This sounds simplistic but it is easy to confuse the two.  At the age of 40 or 50, you may feel that it is too late for you to embark on an entirely new career or go back to school.  Yet our news feeds are filled with stories of 80 and 90-year-olds that have just received their high school diplomas or college degrees.  We always hear about people have overcome immeasurable odds to start families, businesses, and careers.  We see all of these examples and think how wonderful it is that these individuals accomplished these great feats but for some reason we allow our thoughts to make us think that we cannot accomplish things as great as this or greater.  I have often felt that I am too old for this, have too much going on for that, or am just not qualified to do the next thing.  And when someone would point to someone with a similar set of circumstances to mine and as an example of how I could do something, I would just dismiss them and just say, “Well, that is them.  I can’t do that.”  But the reality is that that statement reflected my feelings, not the facts.  Everyone has some set of circumstances that could make anything hard but if you have been blessed to see another day then you have another opportunity to do something different – despite how you feel.

2. Would You Say This to Your Child? We often have so many inner conversations with ourselves during the day that we do not realize how many of these thoughts are negative and downright mean.  My daughter, who is a junior in high school, came to me after not doing as well as she thought she should have done on her very first test in one of her AP classes.  She was so disappointed and was even contemplating dropping the class because she was finding it difficult to understand the material.  I went into full supportive parent mode as I told her that she was more than able to handle the class or she would not have been recommended for it.  Also, I reminded her that she cannot define her whole experience in the class based on the first test that was taken when she was still getting a feel for her teacher’s teaching style and testing style.  A few weeks prior I had changed positions at work and was having a challenging time adjusting since I had been in my previous position for several years.  Even though everyone at work was very encouraging as I got settled into my new role, I was my biggest critic.  I would have never said to my daughter those things that I was saying to myself.  To my daughter and others, I am very encouraging and supportive but I was degrading and harsh with my own thoughts.  Now that I have become more conscious of this, I try to filter my thoughts by asking myself if this thought is something I would say to someone I love or care about.  This normally helps me put a positive spin on a negative thought. 

3. Try Not to Overthink.  Overthinking is the death sentence of so many dreams and aspirations.  Before you can set a goal in your mind for any significant time, you are thinking about every single thing that could go wrong and one negative thought leads to the next negative thought.  I cannot begin to tell you the many books and ideas for books that never saw the light of day because I had more reasons why I should not pursue being an author than why I should just go for it.  The act of overthinking can paralyze you to the point where you cannot even visualize anything better for yourself.  I have learned that the best way to overcome overthinking is just to go for the thing that you are hesitating to do.  This is much easier said than done but sometimes you have to move forward despite the negative thoughts.  I almost did not start this blog because of my overthinking.  I had all sort of thoughts – What if nobody likes it? What if it is not good?  I have never done this, what if I do it all wrong? What if I cannot maintain it? With all of these thoughts going through my head, I published my first post.  It was not easy but I did it and I am proud of myself for doing it. And you will be proud of yourself for stepping out and starting something that you almost talked yourself out of.  Overthinking will keep you in your comfort zone and almost guarantee that you will be unable to move forward with any goals or dreams that you have for yourself.

The goal is to always strive to be a better version of yourself and sometimes that may mean stepping out of your comfort zone.  So many times we could get so much further if we just got out of our own way.  Hopefully, this post will assist you in eliminating those negative thoughts that hinder you from growing and accomplishing all that you are capable of. 

Comment below as to the different things that you do to combat negative self-talk.

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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.