Tag Archives: Stress

Seven Tips to Help You Find Peace in an Unpredictable World

We live in times of great uncertainty, and it is taking a toll on all of us. For many people, not knowing exactly what the future holds creates fear and anxiety and leaves them feeling depressed, desperate, and worried. I believe we weren’t meant to live life this way.

While we all must live with a certain amount of uncertainty, it is unhealthy to become so enmeshed in circumstances beyond our control that we lose ourselves in the grips of despair. It’s true that we can’t know what the future will hold, but I believe we can find peace and joy in the present moment by learning to tune into our own needs, by being generous and kind to our fellow man, and by—in our own small way—making the world a better and more beautiful place.

If uncertainty is undermining your sense of well-being, I promise that you can restore balance to your life and find happiness once again. Below are some of my favorite tips to help you face moments of uncertainty and find your way to a place of personal peace.

First, get comfortable with uncertainty. Change truly is the only constant we can rely upon. Therefore, make peace with uncertainty and the role it will inevitably play in your life. Practice managing your expectations so you’re not on a constant roller coaster ride of emotions with each new disappointment. And remind yourself that you have a choice in how you react to anything that happens to you.

Focus on what you can control. Sure, plenty of factors are out of your control, but you’ll go crazy if you constantly fixate on them. Instead, focus on things that are actually in your control. For example, you can’t control whether or not you will get that big promotion at work, but you CAN control how well you prepare for the interview. Apply this philosophy any time you find yourself worrying about the future. Ask, Can I directly control the outcome of this situation? If not, take a deep breath, and try to release the incessant thoughts of worry you are feeling.

Create a “best-odds” plan for managing your stress. Constant stress, fear, and anxiety are destructive to your health and distract you from living your best life. Therefore, it’s a good idea to make a realistic plan for dealing with these unhealthy emotions. Aim to get plenty of sleep each night, stay hydrated, and eat a balanced diet of healthy foods, including plenty of nutritious vegetables. Be mindful of your alcohol intake, and don’t overindulge in sugary drinks and sweets; they may temporarily make you feel good, but are destructive to your long-term health. Additionally, use all that nervous energy for good by exercising each day! Exercise diminishes stress like nothing else. So be sure to go for a walk, hit the gym, or attend a fun class to get active. You’ll be doing your body a favor, and working out those nervous jitters in a productive way.

Get present with meditation. When you worry about the past and future, you are living in uncertainty instead of focusing on the now. But practicing mindfulness gets you “out of your head” and guides your consciousness to the moment at hand. Consider adopting a meditation routine to help you gently reorient your focus to the present moment.

You don’t have to be an “expert” to meditate. Anyone can practice meditation and reap the benefits. Here is an easy routine that I like to do. If you are able, go somewhere quiet like a bathroom stall, and for sixty seconds, follow the breath in and out of your nose. That’s it. The best thing about this practice is that you can do it anywhere from the back of a cab to a crowded café. It’s a fast way to calm down when you feel uncertainty steering you toward unpleasant feelings. Try it whenever you sense your attention slipping to the past and the future—or any time you feel fear or worry creeping in. If you’d like a little more structure to your meditation routine, I recommend the Headspace app for guided meditation sequences.

Take social media breaks and curtail cable TV. If you give it your undivided attention, a constant stream of information about the state of the world will make you mad with worry. Therefore, take breaks from all the noise on your social media accounts and focus on your real life any time you need a mental health break. And if they upset you, turn off cable news shows and get out into the world to spend time with friends and family.

Avoid negative obsessors and overly anxious people: They really do affect your psyche! Entrepreneur and motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Think long and hard about who is in your inner circle. Are you surrounding yourself with positive, life-affirming people or with fearful pessimists? Try to spend most of your time with the former group—and you may just notice their sunny dispositions rubbing off on you.

Find a special way to make a difference. While you can’t solve all the problems in the world, you can do meaningful work to help others. I guarantee that you don’t have to look far to find someone or something in need. Serve meals at a soup kitchen, collect clothes and coats for underprivileged children, or raise money for a cause you believe in. Your service will give you the peace of knowing you can make an impact and be a force of positive change and progress. Just try it, and you will be amazed by how wonderful your meaningful contribution makes you feel.

Remember that while none of us can see into the future, you don’t have to let uncertainty overwhelm you or make you feel despair. If you can learn to embrace uncertainty as just another mystery in this journey called life, you may be surprised by the positive outcomes you never did foresee. For this reason, I believe in remaining optimistic about life and the future. You never know what new blessings could be just around the corner.

Seven Reasons to Become a Quitter in 2016 (and Why Ditching These Bad Habits Can Make This Your Happiest Year Yet)

Life is built on routines. It’s easy to go years—or even decades—without consciously assessing what’s working and what’s not. As a result, many of us are surrounded by people, obligations, objects, and habits that aren’t exactly making our lives better (far from it!). Well, no more. With a new year upon us, it’s the perfect time to take a fresh look at your daily existence—and drop all the dead weight that’s holding you back.

We tend to think of “quitting” as a bad thing, but the fact is, the things that used to fit well into your life may not be honoring who you are now. It’s very important to live on purpose, not by accident. So instead of piling even more responsibilities onto your plate in the form of overly ambitious New Year’s resolutions, resolve to become a quitter in 2016. Here are seven habits and behaviors you might want to consider leaving behind:

Quit making excuses about your health. Have you been meaning to lose a few pounds (for the last 10 years)? It’s so easy to bump exercise and healthy eating to the bottom of your to-do list. There are usually so many other tasks that seem more pressing: Get that report to the boss. Set up a time to get the car inspected. Make sure the kids get to cello lessons on time. Meanwhile, you tell yourself, I’ll start going to spin class next week. Problem is, “next week” never arrives.

If you don’t like the number you see on the scale, it’s time for the excuses to stop, regardless of how legitimate they are. And there’s a good reason for this tough love: Your weight isn’t just about your silhouette—it’s about your health, your energy level, and your confidence, too.

Quit burning the candle at both ends. Do you pack your days too full and get too little sleep in order to accomplish everything you want to? You may think you’re getting ahead, but in reality, you’re hurting your quality of life. There are more studies coming out each year that affirm the health benefits of getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night.

If you make taking care of yourself more of a priority, you’ll feel better about taking care of other people and have more energy throughout the day. Taking time for yourself isn’t selfish; it’s healthy and necessary. Whether you spend a day at the spa or simply take ten minutes to purchase and enjoy a cup of hot tea in the midst of running errands, investing in yourself will make you more resilient and will also reduce your stress and tension.

Quit spending so much time with people who don’t enrich your life. How many people do you regularly spend time with—even though you don’t really want to? You know the ones: Perhaps your sister-in-law constantly asks to get together, but spends the entire time criticizing everything from your clothes to your career to your parenting. Or maybe a certain frenemy peppers the conversation with backhanded compliments and one-upmanship, making you feel like your whole life has been one long series of bad decisions.

People with whom you feel obligated to spend time can suck up your energy and positive outlook, dragging down an otherwise great day or week. Often it’s impossible to back out of the relationship entirely, but there are things you can do to minimize its negative impact on your life. First, make sure you have set up clear boundaries. In some cases, people might not realize how bad they’re making you feel! And second, remember that you can gracefully say no to one social activity while accepting another, more positive one.

Quit saying yes to everything. Many of us have trouble saying no for a variety of reasons: We don’t want to let others down, we don’t want to be seen as weak, we’re afraid to refuse, etc. However, until you learn to say no when you need to, you’ll never be in the driver’s seat of your own life.

You don’t have to chair every event, take on every project, host every party, participate in every activity, and accept every invitation. Remember, you—not your boss, your friend, or your child’s teacher—are in charge of your calendar. Right now, as 2016 is just beginning, decide ahead of time what’s most important to you and prioritize those things. Then you can feel okay about saying no to some of the rest.

Quit at least one bad habit. Maybe you’re always running late, or you’ve been overspending lately. Perhaps you tend to procrastinate on big projects until the last minute, or you stuff yourself with junk food when you’re stressed.

To start, pick one bad habit—something that causes you a lot of stress would be a good choice. Then design a game plan that will enable you to kick it once and for all. For instance, if you’re always dragging into work late, you might set out your clothes and pack your lunch the night before, wake up 15 minutes earlier, and refrain from turning on the TV until after you’re showered and dressed. You’ll probably find that in most instances, summoning the motivation to change and taking that first step are the hardest parts!

Quit looking “good enough.” Most of us will never be runway models, but that’s no reason to settle for a humdrum, forgettable appearance. Wearing clothes (or a haircut, or makeup) that are dated, not flattering, or “good enough” isn’t doing your self-image any favors. And like it or not, people really do judge a book by its cover. Don’t you want to make an impression that clearly communicates your drive, personality, and confidence?

Get clear on colors and styles that are most flattering for your age, coloring, and body type, and stick with those guidelines whenever you make a new purchase. You might also want to ask a trusted friend for honest advice. But if you want more personalized results, I recommend working with an image consultant whose trained eye can help you to look your absolute best.

Quit spending so much time inside. This year, make a resolution to get more fresh air. Take a walk, run, or bike ride a few times each week—or just sit in a local park or on your back porch while reading a book. Getting out of your office or living room will help you think about yourself and your life from a whole new perspective.

Spending time outside helps you clear your mind, makes you feel more energized, and improves your health. What’s more, doing even the most minimal exercise outdoors helps emphasize the need to drink more water and take care of your skin with sunscreen and moisturizer. And if you’re anything like me, seeing the beautiful pictures that only nature can paint will put you in a great mood for the whole day. It’s a totally different experience than sitting on the couch to watch a movie.
The beginning of a brand new year is the perfect time to reassess your life. Instead of adding more things to your 2016 to-do list, do yourself a favor and jettison what’s no longer working for you. When you get rid of habits, mindsets, and behaviors that are dragging you down, you’ll make room for new things that make you feel good and help you grow.

Six Positive Things to Do for Yourself This Holiday Season

This is known as the most wonderful time of the year—and for good reason! We all look forward to holiday events, traditions, gatherings, and more. But as you decorate your home, cook for your family, shop for your loved ones, and attend celebrations in your community, it can be easy to forget about something very important—yourself.

Instead of stretching yourself so thin that you’re running on fumes by New Year’s Eve, remember to give yourself the gift of kindness by spending time and energy on your own well-being throughout the coming weeks. When you nurture yourself physically, emotionally, and socially, you’ll be able to enjoy a holiday season that reflects your values while emphasizing gratitude and joy.

Here are six things I do for my own well-being and nourishment over the holidays. They help me to savor the season instead of feeling stressed—and I hope they can do the same for you!

Find peace before starting each day. Each morning, I spend a few quiet moments getting grounded and focusing on all of the goodness in my life. Before embarking on a busy day, it is so calming to breathe in and out as I consciously place my focus on all of the things I’m thankful for and remind myself of my priorities and values. I’ve found that this small investment of time can create a positive, peaceful mood that lasts all day.

Celebrate friendship with time together. The best gift we can give to our closest friends isn’t something that can be placed in a box and wrapped. That’s why I make sure to plan a lunch or event with my best friends that doesn’t include the pressure of exchanging gifts. Instead, we’re able to enjoy each other’s presence as we celebrate life and our friendship.

For instance, my friend Donna and I have a holiday tradition we fondly call the “Christmas Walk.” We meet in front of the tree at Rockefeller Center around 5:00 in the evening and watch the light show across the street at Saks, which repeats every 15 minutes. After we’ve enjoyed the display, we take a selfie in front of the tree (or ask someone to photograph us), and then start our walk. We check out holiday window displays and always enjoy shopping at Henri Bendel because of all the small gift items on the first floor. We end the evening at a fun restaurant. It doesn’t matter how cold or stormy it is…Donna and I take our “Christmas Walk” every year! It’s always a special treat and a great way to savor our friendship.

Make plans to pamper yourself. Especially during a time of year when our social calendars tend to be full, it’s important to schedule some quiet time for yourself. (And no, locking yourself in your house to catch up on laundry and cleaning doesn’t count!) I’m talking about something that you’ll find restful and rejuvenating—perhaps a massage, facial, or manicure/pedicure. Think of it as a holiday gift to your mind, body, and spirit!

Let yourself off the social hook occasionally. No matter how much you love your family and friends, too much social interaction can be taxing or overwhelming. When that happens, give yourself permission to (as my dear friend Rick says) “change the channel” for a few minutes. For instance, instead of forcing yourself to paste a polite smile on your face and make small talk for the third hour in a row at your extended family’s get-together, take a walk around the block or go into another room, close your eyes, and breathe for a minute. Or if you’re hosting guests for several days, leave the house for a few hours and see a movie. When you rejoin the festivities, I promise you’ll feel much fresher.

Give yourself the gift of good health. This time of year, I find that it’s easy to overindulge while neglecting healthy routines. So, plan ahead to make sure that your well-being doesn’t fall by the wayside. If you can give your body a rest from unhealthy food and liquor for a day before and after a big feast, that will be a real gift. (Personally, I’ve found that drinking green juices and lots of water is a big help in allowing my body to heal and rejuvenate.)

Maintaining your exercise routine is also very important at this time of year. I know I always feel so calm and peaceful after a workout, and I’m more energetic during the day. Even a long walk is effective if you can’t get to the gym! So clear some time on your schedule for physical activity, and don’t forget to pack that workout gear when you travel. Both of these strategies are great ways to ensure that you don’t have to face the dreaded “diet” in January.

Hydrate throughout the holidays. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, this last piece of advice won’t be new to you, but it is very important: Drink lots of water! (This is something we all tend to forget during the colder months.) Water keeps your organs and digestive system functioning properly and your skin looking radiant. It also gives you energy and can help stave off headaches caused by dehydration. I’m not saying you have to avoid tasty beverages altogether, but when you find yourself reaching for coffee, hot chocolate, or a cocktail, ask yourself if water might be a better choice. This time of year, I make sure to carry a bottle of water with me on all my errands.

While there is no “right” way to celebrate the holidays, taking care of ourselves is something we should all prioritize! So don’t (as I blogged about last year) overdo it—and do focus on honoring yourself. You have more control over how you feel during this hectic time of year than you may think! Here’s to a season that’s full of love, joy, peace, and friendship.

 

Caring for Yourself in the Midst of Stress

Everyone goes through rough spots in life—it’s an unfortunate but unavoidable fact. You might feel worried about an upcoming move, overwhelmed as you try to deal with an illness in your family, or anxious about a looming project at work. Maybe you’re simply worn down by the never-ending stress and relentlessly hectic pace of modern life.

I can sympathize. I’m going through a rough spot myself. Due to several different factors, I have been extremely busy over the past few months. When I’m under pressure, I become stressed (no surprise there, I imagine!) and feel “wired,” meaning that I go to sleep later at night and wake up early each morning. And, of course, because I’m perpetually tired, I tend to worry more about significant and insignificant things. Not a very healthy cycle to be caught in.

After one particularly crazy day, it occurred to me that I should take my own advice. I always urge my clients to take care of and honor themselves in all situations, but especially when life is chaotic. If you don’t focus on your own well-being when times are tough, you won’t have the mental, emotional, or physical energy you need to change external circumstances for the better, either.

In this blog post, I would like to share a few taking-care-of-myself strategies that have been helpful to me the past few weeks, and that you can put into practice to help you make it through the next rough spot in your life, too.

Realize that things will get better. When you’re in the midst of a tough time, it’s easy to believe that things will never change. But sooner or later, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. No matter how you feel right now, the truth is that you won’t be stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed for the rest of your life. Think back on past obstacles you’ve overcome to give yourself motivation to press on, and ask a trusted friend or family member to help you put your current struggle into perspective. This last strategy is particularly effective because not only will sharing your burden help to lighten it; the other person might be able to help you think of solutions you were unable to see on your own.

Hydrate. Drinking water might seem a little odd a first glance, but it’s actually one of the best things you can do to keep yourself looking and feeling good when you’re under stress. Staying hydrated helps you stay energized, ensures that your body operates optimally, and can even improve the appearance of your skin (a welcome gift when you’re worried and tired!).  Personally, I drink a quart of water every morning, and I carry a bottle with me throughout the day.

Exercise. Working out is often the last thing you want to do when life is tough. (Flopping onto the couch probably sounds a lot more attractive!) But the truth is, even a little bit of physical activity can work wonders in terms of how you feel. Exercise makes you feel more capable mentally and physically. It can help you sleep better, reduce feelings of stress, and even relieve symptoms of depression as effectively as medication. In other words, a half-hour at the gym or a walk around the block is one of the best decisions you can make. That’s why, no matter how busy or unmotivated I am, I commit to working out at least two days a week.

Give yourself credit. When you’re upset or worried about one aspect of your life, those feelings can easily spill over into your general attitude and outlook. You start looking at your whole life through a negative lens, and if you’re anything like me, you start to focus on the mistakes you’ve made and the things you could have done better. If that sounds familiar, stop! Think of one, or two, or ten or twenty things you’ve done well in the recent past and give yourself credit for accomplishing them. Remember, nobody is even remotely close to perfect. Don’t make a tough situation even worse by remaining your own worst critic.

Prioritize. Especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, it’s tempting to fixate on each shiny ball that rolls past instead of directing your energy and attention to the problem at hand. When your efforts are scattered, though, nothing gets done and you end up feeling even more frazzled than you did at first. Remember, you can focus only on one or two big goals at a time, no matter how adept you are at multitasking. As you work through the next rough spot in your life, sit down and decide what is most important to you. If spending time with your family is at the top of your list, for example, put them first and consciously make sure that other things remain on the back burner.

Say no. Many of us have trouble saying no for a variety of reasons: We don’t want to let others down, we don’t want to be seen as weak, we’re afraid to refuse, etc. However, until you learn to say no when you need to, you’ll never be in the driver’s seat of your own life, and it will be more difficult to steer yourself out of draining, stressful situations. Realize that you don’t have to do it all—nor should you. You don’t have to make every decision, supervise every person’s schedule, chair every event, host every party, and come to the rescue every time something goes wrong. Again, decide ahead of time what’s most important to you and prioritize those things. Then you can feel okay about saying no to some of the rest and focus on working toward your own well-being.

Take time for yourself. Whether the current demands on your energy and time are coming from your family, your job, your friends, your finances, or something else, it’s important to “get away” every so often—literally or at least metaphorically. To make sure that you don’t become too drained and burned out, do something for yourself. Maybe it’s sitting down to enjoy a cup of coffee in the midst of running errands, locking the bathroom door and taking a bubble bath, reading a motivational book during your lunch break, or going on a walk through the park. When you unwind and take a breather, your perspective will stay clearer and your stress will be more manageable.

In the end, you can’t avoid going through rough times in life, but you can decide how to respond to them. Remember that your own health and sanity are paramount, and most of all, have confidence that the sun will emerge from behind the clouds soon!