Warning – For all you planners and schedulers, reading this article may shake you up, but also bring you freedom, joy, and exhilaration.
What am I going to suggest that you’ll find so radical? Simple! Let go. Let go of control and allow yourself to be swept away by the powerful ebbs and flows of life. Let go of planning and embrace not knowing what will happen next. Let go of productivity and be open to new ideas, opportunities, and spontaneous creativity.
Consider what you’re doing as you plan our day, week, year – you’re trying to gain some control over your life, and predict through planning how your life will move forward.
The truth is we have absolutely no idea what will happen in the next moment or if any of what we’ve planned will take place. We cannot predict the future with any degree of certainty, and the idea that we can make plans based on these precarious predictions is folly. We’ve not a clue what will happen today, much less the rest of the week or month.
What if we could predict each day, plan it exactly? Would this be a good thing? Having foresight means we would know what would happen each day, meaning not only would our days be absurdly boring, but we’d be stuck with no free will or freedom.
So, in reality, we don’t know what will happen, nor would we want to. We can attempt to make a plan, but those plans are not based on any true knowledge and are only an outline of what might occur, therefore, step-by-step planning may actually be a waste of time.
What might we consider doing instead of planning? How about embracing uncertainty and being open to change. Learn to let go of control and surf the ever-changing waves of life. Let unpredictability reign, let randomness be the force of your life, let spontaneity be the rule. Blasphemy you say! Not necessarily – next month’s article will include random thoughts based on experiments with letting go.
I failed at creating new habits repeatedly. Here’s what I did, and what most people do, as well:
Take on multiple habits at once. We have lots of things we want to change, so we try to change them all at once. Of course, this spreads our focus and energy thin, and we can’t give our entire focus to one habit. Habits are hard to change, and spreading yourself thin is a good way to make sure you fail.
Bite off more than you can chew. Whether you do one habit or many at a time, try to do as much with each habit as possible, so that it takes up a lot of energy and seems really hard. Don’t run for five minutes, try doing 30. That way it’ll be a big chunk of your day that will get pushed to tomorrow when other urgent things come up, it will take a lot of your physical and mental energy, and it’ll be something you dread doing because it’s so difficult.
Tackle habits you don’t enjoy. Because habits should be something you do for moral reasons – they’re good for you! And so it doesn’t matter if you hate them, and if you dread doing them after a while, because you’re going to be disciplined. That seldom works, so it’s a great strategy for failure.
Keep it a secret. Don’t tell anyone you’re changing your habit. That way, if you mess up, it won’t be embarrassing. This means that you secretly think you’re going to mess up, which is another excellent way to fail.
Jump right into it. Decide today to start running, and just do it. This way you are treating it as if it’s nothing, and not a big commitment. You don’t plan for obstacles, don’t set up a support system, don’t give yourself rewards, and treat the habit change as lightly as you do putting on your socks. And when you quit doing the habit, it will be no problem either.
Don’t motivate yourself. You don’t need motivation if you have discipline. Discipline is something you have or don’t have, but motivation is something you can actually do.
Give yourself plenty of opportunities to give up. Trying to eat healthy? Have your cupboards and fridge filled with junk food, and have it surround you at work, and go to restaurants filled with fried foods and sugary sweets. You’ll definitely have the discipline to ignore those.
The steps above are a sure-fire recipe for habit failure, and I recommend you try all of them if you’re looking to fail. Of course, if you’re looking to succeed, you might want to avoid them and possibly try the opposite.
Have you ever thought, “One day, I’m going to snap”? Between your kids, parents, and boss, as well as battling deadlines, traffic jams, and bills, the ordinary problems of life can mount up until your life seems out of control.
Stress is an integral part of life, however, uncontrolled stress reduces your quality of life and can actually be responsible for numerous health problems. According to the US Centers for Disease Control, more than half of all deaths between the ages of one and 65 result from stressful lifestyles. Additionally, it is estimated that 42.6% of adults over 18 experience adverse health effects from stress.
Your body responds to a stressor by pumping adrenaline and other hormones into the bloodstream. Your heart beats faster and your respiration rate increases. Digestion slows down. Your liver releases stored sugar and your heart pumps extra oxygen and blood to your muscles. Antibodies and clotting chemicals are produced and in under 10 seconds, your body is ready to fight or to flee. If there is no fighting or running away, the tension mounts, stress builds and eventually physical disorders can occur.
Daily hassles over a period of time actually have a greater chance of causing burnout or serious illness than do the major events of your life. How you deal with stress can strongly affect how physically and mentally healthy you are and how productive you are at home and at work.
Healthcare professionals and researchers have been studying stress for years: what it is, how it affects you, and how you can manage it. Research shows that in most cases, the solutions to stress-related problems can be found within the individual. With some individual effort and personal commitment, people can learn how to relieve the stress and tension that stands between them and a healthier, more satisfying life.
This time of year can be particularly stressful for many people. If you find that you are unable to manage your stress by yourself, seek the help of a qualified health care professional. A little coaching in stress reduction can literally save your life.
There is a form of depression (or alternatively, high anxiety) that is often seen during winter months and is in relation to holiday activities. It develops from such factors as unrealistic beliefs about what is expected from us, from financial and scheduling pressures, and often, for those people who are unable to share important holiday traditions with friends and family, from loneliness.
Every culture and religion observes special days during winter (such as Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year’s Eve). These occasions are marked by certain religious or secular ceremonies, decorations, food, parties, gift-giving, the sending of cards, etc.
These rituals hold special meaning to people. Often memories from childhood or the desire to please others happy play a large role in determining how people observe rituals from year to year.
Yet, the happiness of these traditions may be offset by tremendous stress. Sometimes people want so urgently to create (or re-create) a particular memory or vision of how they believe it all “should be” that they get lost in efforts that may overwhelm them.
For some, the anticipation of seeing people they love happy, entertaining friends and relatives, or giving gifts can be difficult to keep within sensible limits. Wanting to do things such as giving parties or gifts that are really beyond one’s financial means becomes anxiety-producing.
For some people, though, they might be very reluctant to admit it, but there can be internal pressure to out-do themselves (from one year to the next) in their food, decorating and gift-giving. Sometimes there may even develop a secret desire to out-do others, thus turning a joyful celebration into an occasion for competition.
Holidays usually bring out the best in people, but our desire for perfection can easily turn into anxiety, fear, sadness, and even resentment when we discover we cannot achieve all that we wish—or when doing so leads to exhaustion of energy and financial resources.
- Be honest and reasonable with yourself and others about your energy, scheduling and financial resources?
- Let others know that you might be alone on holidays, so they can invite you to join them?
- Speak up to others about making changes in your holiday routines?
Have you ever been associated with people who always bring you down? Their thoughts, emotional expression, energy level, negativity and cynical attitude impacts you and you feel down, depressed and less energetic.
Likewise, have you ever been around people who seem to elevate your mood and inspire you? The way they talk, the ideas they share, how they express their feelings, their enthusiastic energy level and positive attitude, lifts your spirits and you feel better. You feel uplifted and more energized.
When you wrap your moods and feelings around others, you have empowered them to influence, even control your own emotional life. Therefore, you may wish to pick and choose those people with whom you associate.
Even better, take responsibility for your own emotions and feelings. Become the gatekeeper of your own heart. Let negative people in only when you feel emotionally strong enough to personally balance their negative impact. Let positive people in all the time.
Better still, fill your thinking time with affirmations, conceptualizations, ideas, visualizations and memories that are personally enjoyable, positive, goal-directed, beneficial to those around you. Then you can emotionally afford to let everyone into your heart. You might even uplift them.
When two or more people share their joy and delight, the interaction can become sensational. Just like when two master tennis players play their best games with one another, the overall match is enjoyed by everyone. The quality of the match is more than the combination of individual play. The pleasure experienced by everyone is greater than the sum of the delight experienced by the two individual players. Such a phenomenon is called synergy.
The nature, quality and value of your life is created and determined by the nature, quality and value of your habitual thinking patterns. If you are unhappy with your situation or circumstance, begin changing it by first changing your thinking habits.
Practice filling your mind with affirmations and images of you functioning within your desired lifestyle. Write down your affirmations and imaginings, your hopes and dreams. Record them and listen to them regularly. Collect pictures of your desired outcomes. Put self-esteem affirmations on your mirror. Regularly, paint, draw or sculpt your visualizations.
The content of your daily thought determines your attitude, your emotional responses, your creativity and your view of yourself and your world. Is your thinking depressing or uplifting?
There’s a lot of hype out there about who and what is beautiful in men and woman. If we pay attention to the external standards, set by the airbrushed images in magazines or charismatic movie star looks, very few of us would brag about ourselves. In fact, most of us, on a bad day, can feel pretty discouraged. That’s because we’ve gotten stuck measuring ourselves against an impossible standard, instead of claiming our own best beauty.
What is beauty, really? It’s energy, energy that shows and shines through our physical presentation. So when we take good care of the body we’ve got, then we get more beautiful. And when we’re excited about our lives, and feel good in our bodies, then we’re – let’s face it – gorgeous.
Most of us have never really seen ourselves at our most beautiful, except in the eyes of people who love us – our family, our kids, our partners, our colleagues, our pastor. So we never see how great we look when we’re “lit up” with excitement, pride, passion and love. We never see how we glow after a good workout, or blossom when we’ve accomplished something, or sparkle after a really fabulous kiss. If we could see that, truly see it, we would know how gorgeous we really are.
How do we learn to recognize and feed the spark that makes us beautiful in a real-world definition? First and foremost, appreciate yourself for who you are and what you give in the world. Ask the people who love you the most to tell you what they love most about you – and breathe it in, deeply.
Then, assess what’s missing for you – where do you want to be healthier? What goals do you want to achieve? What support do you need to achieve them? Do you need a physical trainer or a nutritionist to energize your physical health? Do you need to see a dentist or doctor to ask questions about aging or ease concerns you’ve kept quiet about? Will cosmetic changes (new clothes or hairstyle) make a difference?
Stress is the worst barrier to looking and feeling as beautiful as we really are. If everything you’re doing already isn’t solving your stress problem, get some help. Schedule regular massages or spa visits to remind you to relax and take care of yourself. Hire a coach short-term or long-term to jumpstart your personal goals and break through blocks that are keeping you from loving your life.
And don’t give up. You deserve to shine, and know you’re shining, with the beauty that lights you up and brings you a life full of joy. Forget the movie stars – be your own star.
Anxiety, an emotional disorder many of us will encounter in our lifetime, can take on many forms including phobias, panic attacks, excessive worry, fear and paralyzing indecisiveness. The physical distress of anxiety can feel frightening, and often entrap you in a world of fear driven reactions and inadequate solutions.
When present, anxiety redefines you and inhibits the adaptable and creative ideas your brain and personality have the capacity to achieve. It is important to seek help from a mental health professional if anxiety frequently interferes with your life.
However, anxiety is also normal and unavoidable. It is the feeling of anticipation that tells us to either run (when in danger) or move towards the fear and discover what lies ahead.
Ambivalence, the feeling of uncertainty, or having simultaneous conflicting feelings asks us to confront our anxiety and make needed decisions. With an awareness of our feelings of ambivalence we become proactive in this uncertain and imperfect world with less anxiety.
In the workplace or in relationships ambivalence, can plague us. For example, you want to leave a boring job but the salary is good and the job market is tight, or the job is exciting but you’re away from your family too much.
Or when deciding on a life partner the ambivalent anxiety may say, “He’s a knight in shinning armor, but he has noticeable tarnish,” or “She’s a loving beauty but she’ll never be as daring as him,” or “He knows she wants a child but he doesn’t.” In these scenarios our anxiety asks us to learn that to move forward means accepting the reality of being unsure.
Facing ambivalence means you are willing to accept and deal with uncertainty, imperfection, compromised dreams, and potential disappointment.
Acceptance means deciding that ambivalence need not interfere with creating a plan or living with clarity. The person with the boring job decides to stay, do his best and become a more marketable employee. Scheduling family time becomes a valued pleasure enhancing personal achievement.
The loving beauty’s observance of her knight’s tarnish embraces his love and faithfulness, while he reinterprets her tameness as a needed influence. The ambivalent father can accept that love is often complicated and embrace the discomfort of his unwanted role.
Acceptance reduces ambivalent anxiety and frees us to make the productive decisions that create a rewarding life.
Anxiety is a normal part of life. It can even be useful in certain situations. However, anxiety is a prevalent problem for many people. According to the National Institutes of Health, about 40 million adult Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder in a given year. For these people, anxiety is a persistent problem that interferes with their daily activities, disrupts their relationships and negatively impacts on their enjoyment of life. Over time, left untreated, anxiety can lead to other problems and health concerns.
Anxiety disorders most often begin in childhood or adolescence, but can begin in adulthood. Anxiety produces a wide range of symptoms and comes in several different forms from generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, to post traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and a variety of phobias. Frequently, people will experience symptoms associated with more than one type of anxiety disorder. Additionally, a whopping 50 percent of people with an anxiety disorder also suffer from depression. Some of the symptoms of anxiety are:
Excessive worry over routine
activities like work or school
Sleep disturbance (frequent awakening, wake up tired, difficulty getting to sleep)
Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
Trembling or twitching
Muscle tension, headaches
Feeling weak or fatigued
Avoiding going out
Panic attacks (rapid heart beat, smothering or chocking sensation fear of going crazy, feeling of impending doom, loosing control, sweating, weak, dizzy, chest pain, tingling in the hands, trembling, shaking, nausea)
Anxiety symptoms are different for different people, however one symptom common to all anxiety disorders is the presence of an irrational fear that makes it difficult to carry out normal daily activities.
In some cases, anxiety is caused by a medical condition that needs to be treated. For this reason, if you think you have an anxiety disorder, the first person you should see is your family doctor. He or she can determine whether the symptoms you are experiencing are due to an anxiety disorder or another medical condition.
If your physician diagnoses an anxiety disorder, the next step is seeing a mental health professional as anxiety disorders are best treated with specific types of psychotherapy. The treatment depends on the problem and the person’s preference. When you find a mental health care professional that you’re satisfied with, the two of you will be working together to develop a plan to treat your anxiety disorder.
Treatments for anxiety disorders are extremely effective. It may be psychotherapy alone or a combination of psychotherapy and medication. With proper treatment, most people with anxiety disorders are able to overcome the anxiety and lead normal, fulfilling lives.
Sand tray therapy can be a meaningful addition to talk therapy and aid in working through many types of issues. Sand is considered familiar and non-threatening. Working in the sand involves the physical, the mental, and the spiritual. It is often used as a holistic tool for healing and personal growth.
The therapy involves the use of one or two large, rectangular trays, usually wooden, with blue-painted bottoms, and small tools for working in the sand. Typically, a large assortment of figures, ranging from mythological creatures to representatives of the feminine, masculine, youth, etc., is available for use. There may also be structures representing houses, churches, teepees, and ruins. Small trees, rocks, shells and other natural objects may be represented, as well.
Clients are invited to explore the sand and the figures. Some clients solely work with the sand manipulating the grains and designing shapes. Others arrange figures in the tray, creating a small three-dimensional world or a dynamic drama. There is no right or wrong way to use the sand tray. As the tray unfolds before him, the client will experience the sand and the figures tactically. It is thought that the inner self speaks to the hands as the sand tray develops, often revealing issues that are obscured by a complex thought process.
The therapist does not direct, interpret or analyze the work that is being done in the sand tray, nor manipulate the sand tray, creating an atmosphere of safety and acceptance for the work. The therapist listens to any comments, and validates the experience of the work.
The sand responds to the hands and to the mind. It allows for creation, destruction, and re-creation. Often times, experiences that have had no words, due to the early age of the memory or the intensity of the experience, become visible and tangible. The quiet, creative world of the sand tray also can help free the unconscious part of us to better understand our challenges, our strengths and ourselves.
In a recent article about an individual who was an energetic leader of a national organization, when asked if he and his wife planned to have children, he responded, “We are just too busy to have sex.” Is this a problem? Most experts would say, yes! While a relationship cannot survive on sex alone, a healthy sex life can nonetheless be an important ingredient of a meaningful relationship.
How do couples find themselves in a place where sex is very infrequent or not at all? Problems in a couple’s relationship outside the bedroom can impact the quality of their intimacy inside the bedroom. This is where couples therapy is definitely indicated. Other factors such as medications or health issues can be a factor. In such cases, a medical doctor can be of help.
Stress is capable of zapping a person’s desire for sex or ability to let go and enjoy it. The arrival of children in a home certainly makes an active sex life more of a challenge. Exhaustion can be the culprit. “It is a physical activity and we are just too tired at the end of the day.”
As a couples therapist I have found that many couples of this generation feel that if there is not an intense, almost irresistible desire, then it is pointless to go through the motions of having sex. Many experts would disagree.
The very act of having sex releases chemicals in the brain that result in feelings of contentment and closeness to one’s partner. In her book, For Better or For Worse, Tara Parker Pope points out research that indicates that when couples follow therapists’ advice to rekindle their sex life by being physically intimate regularly even if they don’t feel that enthused about it they often are surprised at how much they enjoy it.
It is a bit like exercise. You may not quite feel like it but you feel invigorated and glad you did afterwards. The sexual relationship is much more than just satisfying a desire. It is about communicating to a partner how much I value you and want to be close to you.
My experience has been that when a couple’s sex life has waned or disappeared, one partner or the other is dissatisfied even if they haven’t expressed it. Don’t allow this problem to go too long without being addressed. Find ways to get away from the children and the stress and reclaim this beautiful aspect of your relationship. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you don’t see this part of your relationship improving.