It seems that we all spend an enormous amount time trying to avoid what we feel. Every other commercial on TV or the Internet is designed to take us away from what is happening to us. Have a headache? Take this. Overwhelmed? Talk to your doctor about this new medication. Stressed? Get away to our great vacation destination. But everyone of these strategies are about avoiding what is happening to us. Although some avoidance can be a positive exercise, we can’t get away from everything that stresses us out. So, what are we supposed to do?
When we allow ourselves to pay attention to what is happening, both internally and externally, it gives us the ability to look at things in a new way. If we get curious about the sensations in our body, our thoughts and judgments going through our head, the emotions we feel, and the environment these all exit in, we can assess what is happening vs. just reacting to it. That pause, to key into ourselves, allows us to make decisions about what is needed in the moment.
One of the problems I often see is that we know what we need (to eat, to rest, to play, to be creative) but we deny ourselves these things because there are always more pressing things to do. We focus on the “to do” list and we become so enslaved to it that we put taking care of ourselves last on that list every time. We begin to glean our self-worth from how much me do and how productive we are. We wear our exhaustion like a badge of honor becoming “Human Doings” instead of “Human Beings.”
I still remember a time when most people worked from 9-5. When we arrived home, we did not engage in our work again until the next day. There was time for recreation, time for family, time of hobbies, time to just play with the kids and time to rest. But, our 21st century lives don’t work that way. We are expected to be available to our jobs nights, weekends, and holidays. There is no break because the workday never ends. And the things that are designed to keep us resilient get pushed aside.
As we continue to operate this way, is it any wonder that stress related illness is out of control? Our bodies can only take so much before they will let us know they are at the breaking point. Ignoring the signs can make us literally sick, or worse.
I believe that getting clear about what is happening to us is not just something helpful to do, but vital to our health, well-being, and ultimately our survival. It is not optional any more. We must cultivate things in our lives that gives us resiliency to combat the stress we encounter every day. Those things can include rest, creativity, music, meditation, yoga, sport, recreation, nature, pets, volunteerism, and activism. When we make time in our lives for the things that matter, that things that are difficult get better. It is a practice, like any other Mindfulness practice. But without it, the stress of our lives can overtake us and rob us of any joy in our lives, leaving us resentful and bitter.
It is so important. Make the time. It is not optional. Engage in it like your life depends on it, because it does!
Click the button to listen to the podcast of Wherever You Go, There is Stress on VoiceAmerica Business Chanel.
Terry Galler, MA, LPC
Are your thoughts keeping you up at night? Is your brain trying to run every possible, worst case scenario for you to be prepared for anything that might happen? If the answer is yes, you have fallen into the What If Trap!
We all want to be prepared for what may happen in our business lives. Strategic planning is an important part of any good business plan. However, if you are trying to perceive every roadblock or setback before it happens, not only is that exhausting, but could actually sabotage your ability to deal with things when they happen in real time.
Our brain has the ability to forward think. It can project thoughts into the future and play with options that might happen. The problem is that although are brain can travel to the future, our body can only be in the here and now. And when the brain and the body are disconnected, the emotion that is cultivated is anxiety. Every single time.
Instead of staying balanced and connected, we shift into an emotional type of thinking that sounds reasonable, but isn’t. Anxiety also shuts down the part of the brain we need to make good decisions, the frontal lobe, and without it, we are operating on all reaction and emotion. That is never a good place to operate from when you are trying to make decisions. So, what can you do?
First, we must recognize what is happening. Our body gives us clues that we often ignore. They are like an early warning system that lets us know we are no longer in the present moment, but heading into the What If Trap. We hold our breath, our heart rate increases, our chest and throat get tight. We may feel our hands and feet get cold while our face gets hot. These are all signs that we are in one of the three anxiety states: flight, fight, or freeze. Once this happens, our emotional brain starts freaking out, making interpretations that we are not ok, and everything will be bad!
Being aware increase the chances that you can reverse the process. Take a slow deep breath. One option is to breathe in deeply for the count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 2, and blow out slowly for a count of 6. The longer out breath helps to reset the central nervous system.
You can also shift your thoughts. The brain cannot think inside and outside at the same time. When you refocus your attention away from your catastrophizing thoughts and put your full attention on something tangible in front of you, the brain must shift.
Put your full focus on something in your hands. Get curious about it. Describe it in as much detail as possible. Involve as many senses, sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, as you can. The more involved you are, the less you will be able to keep the What If thoughts going. Once you do, the body makes the shift as well and you will calm down.
This is a practice. The more you do it the better you will get at it. I know if sounds simple and it is! But it also works! So, give it a try. See if you can make the shift. Once you do, you will understand that this is where the control of a situation lies, not in thinking about everything that can go wrong!
If you want to learn more about what Innovative Mindful Solutions can do for your business, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Terry Galler, MA, LPC
Click the button to listen the What If Trap on Innovative Mindful Solutions VoiceAmerica Business!
I know the idea of Mindfulness sounds elusive. People often envision sitting crossed-legged on the floor, repeating “OMMMM” over and over, waiting for their mind to settle down. If you are like me, that process never worked! My brain is often too busy running down rabbit holes of thoughts that lead in a million directions at ninety miles an hour. Sound familiar?
For me, Mindfulness was like a miracle. It was less about stillness, and more about observation. I would often overreact to my thoughts, believing they were telling me the truth of a situation. Learning the concepts of Mindfulness, I came to understand that my thoughts are not always facts, but are filled with judgments and assumptions that are often wrong. Yet responding in that state could drive my emotions right off a cliff, leaving me in a place of stress all the time. It was exhausting!
Observing my own thoughts gave me space. It gave me perspective. And most importantly, it gave me time to assess whether this was a thought I needed to react to or not. It gave me choice. And in that choice, whether to react or not, gave me a freedom I did not know was possible.
I always loved the analogy of the subway car. I could imagine spray painting my thoughts on a shiny silver car. And when the doors of the car opened, I could decide to get on that thought train and ride, or step back on the platform and let those thoughts speed down the track into the dark. Since learning Mindfulness almost two decades ago, I ride that train a lot less, and have created more peace in my life. Even when times are overwhelming or stressful.
The great thing is this doesn’t require a lot of time. Just stop. Take a breath. Notice how you feel. Observe your thoughts. And then, decide what you want to do. I promise you, this simple exercise can create miracles for you too!
Terry Galler, MA, LPC
John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”
My plan was to start my brand-new radio show on VoiceAmerica on Monday, November 6th. This was something way out of my comfort zone. I worked hard with my producer, Winston Price, to learn how to assemble a meaningful show, talk to guests and create interesting content. I spent the last 8 weeks focused on getting the show ready. I was nervous and excited at the same time.
Sitting in the studio, headsets on, my guest and business partner, Annie Campbell, sitting across from me, we were ready to go. And then nothing happened. Crickets.
For some reason, despite the best efforts of two hard working engineers, they could not fix the problem. The show was not going to happen. At least tonight.
My show, Innovative Mindful Solutions, is focused on how to mindfully approach our thoughts and emotions that may sabotage our businesses and our lives. I believe that when we rigidly attach ourselves to a specific outcome, not only do we create more suffering for ourselves, but that attachment may keep us from seeing other viable options and possibilities. Mindfulness allows us to step back, observe the situation and ourselves as it is in THIS moment, not as we would wish it to be. The universe was presenting me a true test of my convictions. Would I practice what I preach or succumb to my disappointment? I realized I had a choice to make.
So, taking a deep breath, I smiled at two very concerned engineers. And Annie did as well. I thanked them for their hard work and diligence in trying to fix the problem and get us on the air. I could see the relief on their faces when I told them that I was grateful for their efforts. I knew they were expecting upset or angry. We decided to regroup and try again next week. I knew it would be ok.
And I realized John Lennon was right!
So, the do over of Innovative Mindful Solutions will be next Monday, November 13th at 4pm PST/ 7pm EST on the VoiceAmerica Business Channel. Join us and learn ways you can learn how to manage when things don’t go as planned!