Ep 69: Pear trees in Tulsa

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You don’t know how much you’ve grown until you have to step up and do something useful. Here’s a little lesson about growth from two little pear trees in Tulsa, OK.

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Full transcript 👇

Ep 69: Pear Trees in Tulsa

I don’t think these trees are in Tulsa, but you get the idea. 😜

Hi. I’m Lori Miller and this is your Mental Health Moment.

The first house my husband and I lived in was in Tulsa, OK. It was a small house, just a smidge less than 1,000 square feet, but it had pretty much what we needed at the time as a young dual income, no kids couple.

There were a couple of floor to ceiling windows on the front of the house that let in some nice light. They were my favorite because they made the house feel bigger than it was. So I was always pulling the shades up.

While those windows were the house’s best feature, in the afternoon they were the absolute worst feature.

You see, the front part of the house faced the west, which means we got some brutal sun and heat in the afternoon — right in those windows. If you’ve experienced Midwest summer heat you know what I’m talking about.

The best shades and blinds were no match for the hellish heat waves coming through that glass. In the afternoon I felt like Woody in Toy Story under Sid’s magnifying glass. It was a real bear cooling that house in the summer.

When we first moved in, we noticed two, awkward young trees planted in the front yard.

Two non-fruit-bearing pear trees I was told.

I couldn’t imagine why you would not want pears from your pear tree. I’m guessing maybe the landlord didn’t want the mess from uncollected ripe fruit.

Anyway, these two little guys were planted about 20 feet apart from each other. They weren’t impressive in any way and to be honest, they were pretty scrawny.

They offered no protection from anything really, you couldn’t sit under them, and honestly they weren’t even that pretty. And apparently they weren’t going to even produce any pears.

But they did grow.

Pear trees in my Tulsa yard

Sadly, this is the only picture of the little pear trees from those days. There’s another little tree just 20 feet to the right. This picture was taken about year three or four. Check out me and my pickup truck! 

Not quickly mind you, but you could see some new growth every year. And they did withstand the weight of Oklahoma ice storms.

So while they were unimpressive and kind of useless in their non-fruit-bearing state, they were hardy.

They became such a part of our yard that honestly I didn’t notice them too much anymore.

I think one year we hung some Christmas ornaments from the branches but that’s about it.

But over time, their canopies did slowly start to fill in and they took on a healthy roundness.

We had lived there about seven years, and I had now taken on a healthy roundness of my own. I was pregnant with our son.

One afternoon I was so exhausted I remember laying down on the couch for just a few minutes. I realized that I should probably close the blinds before I fell asleep so I wouldn’t wake up in the blistering heat. But I was just too exhausted to get up again, so I drifted off.

I woke up about an hour later to hear the sounds of sweet birds singing in those two trees. I laid there on my pillow and peacefully watched the branches sway back and forth in the wind. It was all very nice and Little House on the Prairie.

And suddenly it hit me.

Holy cow, there’s SHADE coming in the window.

The sun was completely blocked! I wasn’t sweating or anything.

After all those years, the canopies of those two trees had finally grown together to form a complete block against the sun coming in those windows.

Our little trees had matured to the point that they were now… useful.

The process of slow, steady growth that we didn’t even really notice that much had ushered those trees into a new phase that didn’t even seem palatable seven years ago.

But just because we couldn’t see their growth or find their usefulness right away doesn’t mean that potential wasn’t there the whole time.

We’re all so super focused on getting where we want to go and finding our purpose and manifesting an abundant life and all that sexy stuff.

But that’s not the point of it all.

At all.

The point is in the growth.

Your growth through the process is what allows you to step into your usefulness and your purpose.

But good, solid growth takes a long time.

A long time. Those two trees didn’t have the experience or the structure to shade my house in those early years.

They had to wait years to build the root system and longevity to support bigger branches with more leaves and ultimately….shade.

Those trees had the simple task of relying on nature to provide the resources for growth. And it wasn’t overnight.

Growth isn’t always noticeable to you until you need it.

You don’t always realize how much you’ve learned and assimilated experiences until you have to call on that stuff in a pivotal moment.

Like those trees, you don’t realize that your canopy is growing because you’re busy just trying to keep things going.

And you don’t always see how the specific shape you’re taking on is going to be useful to anyone, until the opportunity presents itself.

I needed shade that day, and those trees were in a position to step up and provide that.

No one saw that coming.

Here’s the fortune cookie part of all this:

Growth can serve you and others around you if you trust the process.

Isn’t that the point of growth? Not to heap on yourself but to provide the cooling shade of wisdom and hope to those who need it? To others who are blinded by the heat waves coming into their life?

Maybe you look at your life and don’t think that anything you’ve been through serves a purpose.

Maybe you feel like those trees.

Someone hangs an ornament on you from time to time but honestly you just feel like you’re existing. You’re going through stuff, but why?

Nothing is wasted and every experience matters.

You are growing. And one day you will step into your true role and some of this just may make sense.

Until then, keep growing.

Check out one of the trees today! 👇

It looks like one of the trees didn’t make it, but look how big our little friend is now!

Pear trees today

You can catch episodes of Mental Health Moment by visiting mymentalhealthmoment.com. Don’t forget to subscribe to Mental Health Moment on Amazon Alexa, Apple podcast, Google podcast and Spotify. Just search for “Mental Health Moment with Lori Miller.”

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If you’re STILL wanting for more, you can find articles and videos about stress and mental health, by visiting my website at LoriMiller.me.

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Check out the best of Mental Health Moment

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Mental Health Moment on break

It’s summer, and my son is getting married this month! 💞❤

So I’m taking a short break from new episodes of Mental Health Moment.

I’ll return with NEW EPISODES on June 24.

Until then, here’s a few early episodes you may have missed!

 

Episode 2: Sticky note wins the day

 

 

 

Episode 3: Don’t stress exercise

 

 

 

Episode 4: Deep breathing isn’t just “take a deep breath”

 

 

 

Episode 5: Five things (and also 20 things) to reduce stress

 

 

 

Don’t forget to subscribe to hear future episodes of Mental Health Moment wherever you are! 

 

Get Mental Health Moment 🎧

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Thanks for listening!

I’d love to hear what you think!

  • Leave a note below or ask me a question in the comment section below.
  • Share this episode on Pinterest, Facebook, and LinkedIn .

Help spread the message about good mental health!

 

How to simplify your week to reduce stress

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“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” Steve Jobs

I’m not one to quote Steve Jobs too much. He was brilliant, no question. But I’m not sure he’s the model to follow for a low-stress life in the workplace.

He seemed to ooze complexity. At least that’s what it looked like from my judg-ey overstuffed reading chair and ottoman.

I think he was onto something here, though, in understanding how we can simplify one of our real stressors at work — our workload.

Simplifying your work helps you do work that matters

If we think about the Apple products we use, they are dead simple.

My iPhone requires almost no instruction. The apps on it reduce complicated processes down to one or two steps I can do while I’m in the bathroom. (Don’t judge me, you do it too. 🙃)

In spite of the challenges the smartphone era has brought us, it’s also made so many things in life easier.

  • Don’t you remember what it was like trying to find answers to life’s big questions on Yahoo using your two-inch-thick Compaq laptop?
  • Remember scribbling tasks in your Monticello-themed, double-binded Franklin Planner?
  • Have you forgotten just how complicated it was to take your own pulse by using two fingers on one hand?

This was the crazy world the iPhone entered back in that dark age.

Apples’ development team started with the simplest version of what they thought could work and built on it from there. I’m sure they had a veritable scroll of features they probably could have included in that first phone (known then sweetly as “iPhone”).

But we’d probably still be waiting for that first iPhone, clumsily walking around with two fingers on our carotids and using hash marks to count our 10,000 steps.

The ensuing versions of the iPhone — all the way to today’s iPhone XR — came about once humans started actually using the phone.

I mean, who knew one day we would rarely even use these things as a phone? Who saw that one coming? 🤷

Use an MVP to simplify your work

You business-minded folks may recognize this process as a principle called “Minimum Viable Product,” or MVP.

(Bear with me. The therapist is using a business principle to make a point here.)

Entrepreneur Eric Ries was the first to toss this definition of MVP around in his book, “The Lean Startup:”

A Minimum Viable Product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.

In regular-people speak:

  • Build the simplest version of your product that will let you learn how people use it,
  • Gather feedback from them while they’re using it, then
  • Add new features from what you learned.
  • And so on, and so on….

This can save you time and energy because you’re not trying to build the best product ever by just guessing what might work. That’s so old school.

  • MVP gives you a real-life lab to build a product that helps people solve the annoying problems in their lives.
  • MVP helps you see what really helps people, not just stuff you and your team think is cool.
  • People tend to celebrate and buy stuff that helps them solve problems.

Maybe you don’t build a tangible product per se.

(Actually you do! Your work is your product. Make work your product!)

Apply the MVP principle on this Monday to simplify the rest of this week

This frees you up to do the work that solves real problems and creates forward momentum.

I don’t know about you, but nothing stresses me out more than doing work that doesn’t matter.

Here’s a little MVP roadmap I made for you:

1. Create and plan a wicked simple baseline for what you want to accomplish this week

I’m showing my INFJ skin a bit here, but planning is essential to reduce stress at work. Sorry.

You have to create some buckets, even leaky ones, to capture your important work or you’ll just end up with a messy pile of pointless doo-doo on Friday.

I know that may fly in the face of your possibly more spontaneous nature, but spontaneity and joy are not mutually exclusive.

Don’t go crazy and overplan (see also: procrastination).

But do plan, please.

Give some thought ahead of time about how you want this week to end up.

  • What do you want to hold in your hand on Friday (besides a cold beer)?
  • What MVP product can you produce this week that you can then build on next week?
  • Put everything else on a “next release” list of some kind.

Be honest about what you can really do. This is an area where we create a lot of our own stress.

Our work eyes are sometimes bigger than our work stomachs, if you will. 😋

Create a workable plan that is do-able with the time and resources you have this week and focus the week on that.

2. Protect your plan by establishing boundaries around your work

I know what you’re thinking. That’s great and all, but what about when my boss runs in with a little project on fire, and I’m the one who’s supposed to put it out? 📝🔥

What happens to my well-crafted plan then, sister girlfriend?

In many cases, you can give your boss some options on how you put that fire out.

“Sorry this project is on fire, Susie. Take a deep breath. Here are a couple of things we could do. Which one do you like?”

  1. Use the fire extinguisher. This will put the fire out immediately but it will also trash everything around us. It will resolve the problem immediately but we’ll spend two days cleaning up. This will delay all our other projects.
  2. Use the sweater slung over the back of my office chair to put out the fire. This will suffocate the fire and ruin my sweater, but it will most likely resolve the problem and preserve the working environment. We’ll need a minute to regroup, and I’ll need a long lunch to go buy another sweater. But we can get back on track today.

(Fire people are going to kill me on this one. It’s an analogy. If there’s an actual fire in your office, please be safe and follow your company’s fire safety plan.)

Of course there are plenty of unexpected things that pop up in the work week. But they don’t have to completely derail your work.

Unless they truly have to.

The best part about having a plan is how you can adjust it to meet changing needs.

But you can also protect it by offering other options besides you always having to set everything else aside.

And you still have a shot at maintaining momentum with your plan while getting credit for helping put out a fire, too.

3. Capture feedback to build your next version

In building an MVP, capturing feedback is what drives the best new version of the product.

Thoughtful and engaging feedback makes your work better.

If you work in a team format, you absolutely should be open to feedback. Unless you’re freakin’ Leonardo da Vinci, you need other perspectives to do great work.

Here’s the dealio with feedback, though.

You’re not necessarily required to convert that feedback into action items. And certainly not this week.

If the feedback is a game changer for where your work is headed right now, then be for real and change your plan.

But don’t feel like it’s always required. Put the feedback on your “next version” list and see how it may fit in later.

Put a little fence around your work and be your own gatekeeper.

This serves to focus your best cognitive energy on the feedback you can use now to do your best work this week.

4. Make it your task to understand how your work ties in to a larger goal

Why do you do the work at your job? I don’t mean to start you on an existential quest here, but really … why are you doing this work?

Part of an MVP is knowing that your work is accomplishing a specific outcome. You can touch it, define it and explain it.

Apple’s slogan for the first iPhone was “Apple reinvents the phone.”

Apple reinvents the phone - 2007 Macworld Steve Jobs introduces the iPhone

“Apple reinvents the phone” by Nobuyuki Hayashi is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Did the developers working then understand that? I hope so because they did reinvent the phone. They absolutely did.

This is where Steve Jobs’ focus on simplicity comes to bear. He was obviously great at painting a vision, not just for customers but for the people doing the work.

And it made all the difference.

Many leadership teams lack the skills to communicate business goals in simple ways.

How does Allison in accounting understand how her weekly report contributes to the company’s quarterly success? To her, it may be just a thing she does on Monday before lunch.

Yes, the burden of that understanding should really fall on Allison’s company.

But remember, the power to reduce stress is in our hands, not waiting for someone else to figure it out for us.

So Allison may have to ask that question of her boss or someone else at her company who’s in the know.

This is an excellent way to make sure the work you’re doing is needed.

If not, you can apply your efforts toward something that will.

Now what?

Companies who use the MVP approach have seen enormous, even overwhelming success. It allows them to put great work out there and let others help them refine it.

You can do the same in your workweek if you resolve to keep your stuff simple and workable.

  • Be honest with yourself and others about what you can do.
  • Don’t be afraid to set boundaries around your work.
  • Let others use their perspective and knowledge to inform your work and make it better.
  • Seek out the larger picture for yourself, and bring it back to your desk every day.

 


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Sometimes you need some encouragement right at the top of the day so you can stay focused on what will keep you energized and productive. 🌝

I’m excited to debut my Alexa skill, Mental Health Moment with Lori Miller.

It’s a little shot in the arm to start your day.

Every day I’ll talk about small ways you can inject a bit of sanity in your day.

If you have an Amazon Echo you can enable Mental Health Moment in the Alexa store. You can also download the Alexa app on your phone or tablet and enable the skill there.

Check out all the details on my Amazon skill page.

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Master your Monday to reduce stress

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Master Monday to reduce stress at work

One of the best ways to change your outlook on stress at work is to change how you look at Monday.

For whatever reason in our Gregorian calendar setup, we define Monday as the official start of a new week.

If the new work week started on Saturdays, we’d all hate Saturdays. Can you imagine hating Saturdays and feeling that dread on Friday night?

#DGIF (Dear God, It’s Friday) 🤣

Of course not. That would be weird.

We’ve conditioned ourselves to dread Monday, pure and simple.

Where’s the love for #TGIM?

Monday is the starting gate, the tone setter for the week. How you frame your attitude for this one day is the best indicator of how well the rest of your week goes.

If you master your Monday, you stand a chance to master the rest of the week.

Don’t get me wrong, you can always push the reset button if you have a crappy Monday. You just have to work a lot harder to get that Monday mojo back.

Starting your Mondays well is the key to the whole week.

How do you change your perspective on Monday?

Ask different questions about Monday

As a recap for all things mental health: your thoughts affect your feelings, which then affect the behaviors and actions you take.

Whatever you tell yourself about Monday will show up directly in how you live out this day.

This doesn’t mean you should become the Pollyanna who shouts “I  love Mondays and I don’t care who knows it!” when you walk in the door. Be positive, sure, but don’t annoy people, if you can help it.

Think about your morning. What questions did you ask yourself about how this day might go?

  • What kind of mood will my boss be in?
  • How much longer until the end of the day?
  • How many impromptu meetings am I going to get roped into?
  • Why do we have staff meetings first thing on Monday? (my personal favorite)
  • How will I get through four more days of this?
  • When will Friday get here?

In order to change your perspective on Monday, you have to reframe your questions on Monday.

What can you ask yourself on this day that will focus your mind forward?

What will help you look for answers that will move you toward your goals instead of focusing on Mondays past? 🤔

  • How can I find my boss’ pain points this week and help take some pressure off?
  • What are the best things I can do today that will position me well for the rest of this week?
  • What opportunities do I have today to showcase my expertise to a captive audience?
  • Who on my team can I encourage today that may be struggling with their work?
  • When will Friday get here? (I’m not sure we can reframe this one. We just love Fridays! That’s okay!)

Try this flip flop exercise and see if it doesn’t empower you and give you a little hope for the rest of the week.

Look for things that will help you win today

🎩 Hat tip to a great group of ladies I was with last week who shared this strategy. While you’re enjoying your early morning coffee, list five things you can do today that will help you win.

For example:

  1. Making healthy eating choices
  2. Taking a walk at lunch
  3. Sharing an encouraging message with a coworker
  4. Checking in with your boss
  5. Getting that weekly report in before noon.

It’s so easy to let the urgent tasks drive your day before you barely get started. By lunchtime, you’re flailing your arms trying to figure out just how you got off track.

Knowing these five things ahead of time will help you pivot back to what’s important. Taking care of what’s important helps you feel some autonomy over your work and positions you to win.

If you can win today, you can win the rest of the week.

Give yourself a mental health moment

Most of the time we literally race from place to place. That’s how we live now.

If you’re a driving commuter, you most likely drove in the parking lot on two wheels, barely dodged fellow coworkers walking in, lurched into a parking space, piled all your bags on your shoulders (you really need a cart) and raced into the building.

Whoa, slow down turbo. 😫

You most likely just defied death at 80 mph on a busy highway and maybe even took some calls already.

Give yourself a few minutes in the car to reset your focus before you go in.

  • Take some deep breaths
  • Enjoy putting your favorite lipstick on
  • Watch a funny YouTube video
  • Listen to that one song that fires you up (my current one is “Never Give Up,” by Sia from the terrific movie, “Lion”), or
  • Review your “Five Things to Win Today” from this morning.

You get to have a few minutes to shift gears and focus on your best performance.

Athletes and performers do this all the time.

You will never see Tom Brady rush out of his expensive SUV right before the game starts and hit the field with Cinnabon bits still in his teeth.

No doubt he has a specific mental process that helps him stay focused, and I would imagine he has a ton of little refocus moments on game day.

Maybe he puts on his lipstick in the car, too. 💄

If you feel rushed and frazzled, people notice this the minute you walk in the door.

It’s all around you.

A well-placed mental health moment is an easy way to be that person who always brings the calm into Monday morning. Master this one skill and you can absolutely confound your coworkers.

Besides, feeling rushed and frazzled doesn’t help you feel resilient for the challenges that may come your way on this fine Monday morning.

You’ll spend at least 480 minutes at work today. Take a measly five of those minutes to set yourself up for success.

It’s all about you

Want a quick way to reduce your stress at work? Stop viewing Monday as the enemy. Look for ways to make Monday your ally in the workweek.

Monday can be your Winston Churchill, the wise, direct and purposeful elder statesman that helps you soldier through this week with wit and purpose. 💪 (Why are there no Churchill emojis??)

You’ll notice all of these tips have nothing to do with anyone else but you. Yes, you can have a good Monday in spite of your circumstances at work.

This particular ball is in your court.

How powerful is that?

Happy Monday!

Vacation is over, you’re back to work and stressed out

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Keep your stress free vacation feeling

Feeling stressed out at work is particularly noticeable right after the holidays.

You just came back from vacation and got used to getting good sleep. You finally feel a bit human again.

For a little while, anyway.

I heard someone say the other day that they felt so relaxed and back on top of things during their holiday vacation time.

Just one day back at work erased it all.

Yikes.

Has this already happened to you?

It doesn’t take long after coming back from vacation to feel the pressure again. It’s almost immediate.

How does that happen? There are several reasons, but here’s a big one.

We put too much pressure on ourselves to get it all done when we get back from vacation.

We way overestimate how much we can really do when we get back. We come back from vacation with plenty of vim and vigor and resolve that we’re going to get on top and stay there.

This is especially true after the New Year when we’re armed with resolutions.

In the back of our heads, we know quite well that we’ll have to play catch up on the very first day. But we feel amazing so we rise to the belief that we can get it all done. We ask ourselves why we were stressing all that before we left.

It’s great to be hopeful, I certainly don’t want to crush that. Setting that expectation to get it all done, however, is asking for failure.

And at the end of day one, we already feel defeated.

Most of our vacation mojo gets away from us like a red balloon in Paris. Here are a few things to consider.

Drop the idea of complete and getting it all done.

Except for projects that have a finite completion date, accept that you will never get to zero.

Never.

Sorry, but that’s just how work is now. The Industrial Revolution is over, and there’s no longer an end of the line.

Part of conquering stress in our modern workplace is losing the idea of finishing the last widget before you go home.

 

Your inbox will never get to zero.

You may have several HUNDRED emails when you get back from vacation.

Why would you waste your valuable time and newfound energy trying to handle every single email just so you can delete 80% of them? You’re going to get several hundred more by the end of the week!

Stop playing the professional version of “Stop Hitting Yourself.” Here’s a template for you to start your first day back from vacation.

  1. Filter your email inbox by name. Address the stuff from the people important to you. I would recommend starting with your boss’ name.
  2. Then, scan the subject lines of everything else for anything that looks intriguing or that describes a specific action they need from you.
  3. Leave your email app and start your actual work.
  4. If someone calls you because you didn’t answer their email, you can use step 1 to quickly find it.
  5. Wait for your email app to flag you (probably months from now) that your box is getting full and it’s time to delete some emails, according to your IT and compliance department’s schedules.
  6. If you miss something important from someone (like the person in step 4), you can coach them on how to use more directive subject lines to get your attention right away. Just sayin’…

No one ever died because they didn’t answer all their emails.

Please don’t die on this hill on your first day back.

Trying to answer or touch every single email is the quickest way to feeling super stressed because you are letting others drive your work day with their priorities.

Your to-do list will never be 100% complete.

I would assume you didn’t go to college just so you can spend your days completing a list of tasks. I think you want to do amazing work that will make you feel purposeful and create new opportunities for you, right?

You won’t do all that today, though.

You will not find that place where you can cross your arms over your chest and raise your glass to another satisfying episode of “My Completed Day at Work.”

That’s now how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

 

David Allen’s terrific book and methodology is called “Getting Things Done,” not “Getting All Things Done Today.”

Of course, you need a to-do list, but only to track and measure the work, not as a device to deliver stress and misery to yourself and others.

No matter what productivity system you use, your to-do list should include only the items that will move you and your team forward. (Side note: paying attention to your boss’ goals will move you and your team forward; that’s why you should check her emails first. 😉)

All else is a nice-to-have.

Be brutal about how much you can really accomplish today.

Include margin for things like:

  • interruptions,
  • daydream time,
  • lunch (yes, lunch) and
  • running to the bathroom from your New Year’s resolution to drink more water.

Set some boundaries for yourself.

Just because you are awesome at a hundred things doesn’t mean you should actually try to do a hundred awesome things. And certainly not today.

Pick just a few, squint your eyes and focus, and completely crush on your small list of priorities.

Staying an extra two hours on your first day back to get caught up on stuff that doesn’t matter is the easiest way back to how crappy you felt before your vacation.

Near the end of the day, check off the things you crushed, high five yourself, and move the rest to some other time.

Then grab your coat and hat and go the heck home.

Shock and awe your family with the return of the same happy, contented person they were with on your vacation.

You simply must develop a vacation sleep discipline.

How many times did you wake up on your vacation with that amazing rested feeling? You know what I’m talking about.

It’s that feeling where your chest doesn’t feel like a baby grand piano is sitting right on top of it and your gut feels calm and relaxed. (This is my experience, anyway. I may have said too much. 😂).

You’re less irritable, maybe even happy 😲, and it seems like you can focus on a dime. You may even feel like a completely different person.

That’s a problem.

You shouldn’t feel so stressed that vacation feels more like the real you.

That’s not going to help you feel purposeful and create new opportunities for yourself.

I know I harp on exercise as the closest thing to a magic pill for mental health and stress.

But sleep may have it trumped.

  • Sleep drives all your other actions, even how motivated you are to exercise.
  • Sleep powers your cognitive and critical thinking skills.
  • Sleep allows your brain to pressure wash all the toxins away.
  • Sleep affects your physical health.

You’re an educated professional. None of this is new to you.

We all know how important sleep is, and we all say we know we need to get more of it.

Hear ye, hear ye: Sleep is the best thing you can do to stop feeling stressed out and miserable at work.

It won’t change how many emails you get or how many fires your boss drops on you to put out at the last minute.

  • It may keep you from going off on a coworker who asks you an innocent question.
  • Or feeling completely overwhelmed and defeated by 10 a.m.

To keep that sleep mojo going from your vacation, you have to develop a specific discipline for sleep.

A discipline implies that you are in training. If you’re in training you have a plan so that you can accomplish a specific feat.

It’s not unreasonable to plan your whole day around training for sleep.

LeBron James reportedly gets 10-12 hours of sleep during the regular season.

You’re no different than LeBron James. He’s just more disciplined than you in a few key areas. That’s all.

Develop a plan for how you will get good rest every day and work that plan every day.

Now what?

These are pretty tactical steps you can take today to keep some of your vacation mojo going.

You spent the past year earning valuable PTO to give yourself a much-deserved break.

It’s up to you to change some things now to help you stay rested and feel a bit more in control.

 

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How to use exercise to battle holiday stress

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Use exercise to battle holiday stress - lorimiller.me

This may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it also can be the most challenging in terms of staying on track with the things that help make your life work.

Exercise, good nutrition, sleep and routine (see also: the components of the anxiety and depression toolkit) all suddenly find themselves beneath the trash heap of the merry and joyous eating season.

For me, the most tempting thing to do is give up exercise. I’m busy with added social events, and opportunities to spend time with others. I love that!

But after all that eating the last thing I want to do is move. Like, at all.

So that late day workout I swore allegiance to gives way to “just one” delicious buckeye and yummy barbeque sliders with friends.

Another workout busted.

It creates a bit of a cycle, I’m afraid.

Exercise matters and it matters big time.

Focusing on exercise is one of the first things I mention to people struggling with anxiety and depression. It’s one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to affect your mental health.

And it’s a great place to start because everybody can absolutely do something.

Exercise has a direct effect on your mood, helps reduce anxious feelings, increases serotonin in the brain, which can help you sleep, and increases your resilience to stress, which I think we all agree can go through the roof this time of year.

The American Psychological Association has coined this the “exercise effect.” In fact, the APA is encouraging mental health providers to make sure they include exercise as part of their treatment plans.

I consider exercise really a non-negotiable.  Apparently, I’m a broken record on this one.

Yet even as the words are coming out of my mouth to my clients, I realize I am just as crafty in my excuses to duck out of it during the holidays.

So with all the added activity and pressure of the season, how do you make exercise work for you when you need it most?

Don’t stress it. Make some simple changes to ensure you do something and don’t just go to zero effort.

Do it when you have few legitimate obligations.

Don’t roll your eyes, but really, it’s true that exercising in the morning is a great solution. It’s not the easiest to get started, but you have a better shot of making it happen before the day breaks.

You really do.

Unless you have some graveyard-style job, you always have the option to get up a bit earlier.

You won’t die from it, I promise.

For the time crunched, this is really the best way to find extra time in your day. Everyone else (hopefully) is still asleep, and the world hasn’t started its vicious merry-go-round yet.

Then, you are done! Yes!

The whole day is in front of you, and you are mentally and physically poised to handle whatever the day may bring.

And when unexpected plans come up, you can just go and not feel guilty about not exercising yet again.

Focus on doing something every day.

It’s great to try to hit physical activity a certain number of times a week, but right now that kind of contained thinking may create too much anxiety for you.

That’s just one more thing to track during the busy season.

Don’t make it a formal thing.

Instead, break it down and focus on just doing something today.

Anything. It all adds up.

  • Take a walk.
  • Go for a bike ride.
  • Go ice skating.
  • Go for a quick swim.
  • Do some yard work (assuming your yard isn’t full of snow. If so, grab a shovel, my friend.)
  • Do some yoga.
  • Dance. I hear that’s a thing.
  • Try an at-home exercise program (there are a million of them streaming on Hulu, Roku, etc.)

When you’re done, high five yourself. You did it!

Then just do that again tomorrow. That’s it.

No pressure.

Me after my Monday morning workout. See how happy I am? 🙂

Pardner up.

There is power in leveraging others to help you with this. Having someone hold you accountable to exercise works because nobody wants to be the one who “no-shows” in the relationship.

I would suggest picking the person in your life who is not afraid to challenge you (in a good way, of course).

Set up time to exercise with someone else and simply don’t leave ’em hangin.’ Once you get together, you’ll have a good time, I’m sure.

Honestly, today I was so tired, it’s Monday, and it’s raining. I felt like these things gave me some very high moral ground to stay in bed.

But my husband and partner in all things life wouldn’t let me. He’s also a mental health practitioner so he gave me zero wiggle room on this.

I needed that.

And when I was tempted to slack off a bit during the workout, he was there to cheer me on.

Hopefully I did the same for him.

Don’t overthink it; just do it.

Of course, you may want to set good, hard goals for exercise in the new year, but you don’t have to wait for January.

That’s just another excuse to not take action right now.

It’s not a terrible time to start exercising if you haven’t been already.

Don’t go crazy or injure yourself.

Keep it simple.

Just get (or keep) moving during the holidays.

Sources:

http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/12/exercise.aspx

 

 

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Manage stress by living in the present

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Manage stress by living in the present

By default, we are all in the present, but not necessarily present, if that makes sense. This is where much of our stress rears its gnarly head.

We’re burdened with the constant pressure of what’s to come in a world that is almost exclusively forward focused. 

  • Create your own future!
  • Prepare for retirement!
  • Get ahead at work!
  • Develop a life plan!
  • Raise healthy and productive children!
  • Become the ____ you know you can be!
  • Get stuff done!
  • Be happy!
  • Change the world!

No pressure. 😳

What’s cool is that we have more opportunity now than at any other time in human history to actually accomplish these noble tasks. 

Previous generations didn’t have access to the technology and freedom that living today can bring. This particular age would have blown their minds.

To accomplish any one of these noble tasks would have been enough for them, let alone all of them at the same time.

We are in uncharted territory.

We scoot around, sometimes mindlessly, to try to take advantage of it all. We are so anxious to “get there.”

But once we get there, how then do we appreciate who we are in that moment and what we’ve already become?

Where are the master classes for that?

We just keep going to the next task, the next forward motion. ⏩

So many of our anxious and depressive thoughts stem from this constant focus on an ambiguous future moment.

These future moments can feel like a moving target. As we grow, change and develop new abilities, we decide we may want different things. 

So we may change and pivot.

Our future feels like it’s always “out there” because it is.

And even if you achieve all that you want, that future moment you aspire to will — one day — become your present moment.

Ah, the irony.

How will you even appreciate that moment? Have you thought about how you will mark and celebrate it?

Here are a couple of things that work for me:

Enjoy a “Done” list

There are a million and one ways to keep a to-do list. You can track it in a sweet little app that classifies, tags and whatnot. Or write out a list on a steno pad and keep it on the fridge (old school, I know, but it works).

But what about a list that captures what you ACTUALLY did?

Do you feel anxious and annoyed when you see how many things are still left on your list at the end of the day? Where did the time go?

You immediately start plotting those things for tomorrow, giving short shrift to your little worker bee 🐝 tasks that buzzed around so hard for you today.

The things you did get done you relegate to a checkmark or a strikethrough. Or worse, tag them as “Completed” and watch them disappear from your list completely.

Don’t just look at the checkmarks or the line throughs on your list. Separate them and give them their own list. They deserve it!

Those are the things you got done! ☑️

The present moments that you engaged.

So now you know you have the ability to take advantage of your present moments!

Master today

Today is here, and you are apparently already awake and moving around. Nice job! 😎

What are the things you can do TODAY that will move you toward those future goals?

Focus on just those things, and shove the rest aside for now.

Don’t let the future steps, which don’t matter right now, encroach on your present.

If this day is particularly challenging, maybe you can just focus on what you need to do in the next HOUR.

What is the literal next step on your list? 👟

Don’t worry about this afternoon or where you’d still like to be at the end of this day.

Muster your energy and focus toward just this present moment and see where it goes.

Stop moving

Sounds simple, but in order to focus on the present, you may have to stop moving for a minute.

Do you have to go right on to that next thing? 🏃 Or can you take a minute to enjoy a little self-imposed buffer zone?

I like to daydream in these moments. It gives my brain a frickin’ break from all that analyzing and planning and lets me imagine myself doing something ridiculously fun.

Do this when it’s super inconvenient and you feel like you just can’t spare the time.

This is probably when you are feeling most stressed about the future.

The present IS your life. 

Right now, as it’s happening. 

Enjoying the present isn’t hard but it does require intention. There will always be something in the future calling you out of it.

Learn to engage it on your terms.

How do you enjoy your present moments?

 

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Six ways to get to know someone at work

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How to get to know someone at work

Work can be one of the loneliest places around, besides maybe bars and Tinder (I’ve heard 😜). 

We weren’t designed to sit right next to each other in a gray maze and never connect.

That’s weird. 

But it’s never too late to start getting to know someone you work with every day. Even if you’ve worked with them in mostly silence for five years, you can start a connection today.

And you may find it changes your outlook on your own work.

Does that strike a little fear in your freshly-caffeinated heart? 😱

Fear not

Just remember a few things:

1. Never assume someone doesn’t want to connect with you

Everyone desires connection with others in some way, even if they don’t let on.

It’s one of the top yearnings I hear from clients. There are really very few people in this world who “don’t like people.” That’s a cover for their own fear of reaching out and being rejected.

This is why taking your initiative to reach out to others is so valuable. If you start it, the likelihood of rejection for them is greatly diminished.

And there’s a good chance that someone who thinks you’re awesome has always wanted to connect with you, in particular.

So just know that.

2. Keep it simple

Simply ask a question about their weekend, or just comment on that old standby — the weather. 

Maybe that’s not deep enough for you. But remember, Gandalf,  you’re merely trying to open the door and get an exchange going.

The goal is not to become their best friend or hold hands while running through a tulip field together. 🌷 

Yes, you may find that over time, these light exchanges may eventually turn to slightly deeper matters.

But that’s not your point today.

Building off of these seemingly old-school conversations simply starts to develop a little trust.

3. Be curious, George

Even better, use your natural curiosity to ask questions about something you may already know that interests them. 

Do they have pictures of themselves dressed in fly fishing gear inside their cubicle? Ask them about that. 

I can almost guarantee you will start something, because I’m guessing you are likely not to know much about fly fishing. (That just seems like a very niche kind of thing.)

Watch them come alive and share something with you that they may have learned while fishing in a remote river somewhere. 

Don’t you do this when someone asks you about something you enjoy or have become an expert in? 

4. Listen to understand, not to reply

This means that when someone is talking to you, you’re not having a conversation inside your own head about what you’re going to say next. 

Even if it’s super valuable and super witty. Shut it down for a minute. 

You’re listening simply so that you can get more information about the other person. 

Here’s a fun trick: summarize and restate back to them what they just said to you. They’ll quickly tell you if you got it wrong. 😳

Next time you’ll be eager to pay more attention.

5. When you do share, try not to offer advice

It’s tempting to want to provide advice, especially if you’ve already been there. But you may not have earned this yet. 

Remember, you’re connecting and building rapport. 

And if you’re not careful, it can seem like you’re trying to top their experience.

We’ve all met “toppers.” These are conversation assassins who seem to invalidate your story while telling you how their experience was so much worse (or better). 😒

Don’t be a topper.

Simply offer this: 

“I went through something similar once. It wasn’t easy. Here’s what worked for me.”

Sharing from your own experience has the added benefit of them maybe developing some empathy for you, too.  

6. Compliment them about one thing they do really well at work

As far as I know, we’re still allowed to give compliments at work.

We are awesome at so many things that just come naturally to us, and it’s nice to hear that others notice it.

All the career literature says that being recognized for your good work is one of the main drivers for employee satisfaction. And employees may not be getting that recognition from their management, quoth the same career literature. 

So you can totally boost someone’s day with one positive observation about their work.

You’ve now taken a simple connection and created more positivity in your sphere of influence.

Look at you being an agent of change!

Let’s get it started in here

We can’t always rely on instant rapport to drive how we connect at work. Connection doesn’t just happen.

In many cases it may require an intentional action that starts with you. 

If you’ve struggled to connect with others, know that it’s not a character flaw to beat yourself up with. 

Connection is a skill that can be learned and developed.

Just find simple ways to reach out and look for common interests.

Find a touch point that you can both share, and let it evolve from there.

What about you?

Have you struggled with making a connection at work? Share in the comments!

 

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How to deal with drag in your life

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What's creating drag in your life?

Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you work, or how much you strive to do better, you’re just having a hard time getting forward movement?

The wheels are certainly spinning. The engine’s running and everything seems in order. But if you’re honest, you’re not making the gains you want.

And now your shoes are smoking and wearing down from all that effort.

You’re getting some drag.

In the aerodynamic world, drag is an element that resists and fights the force of flight. Thanks to gravity, staying on the ground is the default state.

Taking flight requires the pilot to have significant skills in overcoming that drag and knowing how to work with it to get past it.

I think there is also probably a lot of math involved in flying.

Three things can create friction and drag in your own journey. See how many are true for you.

 

Your reluctance to process the past.

You may have suffered terrible abuse, trauma or fractured relationships.

Pain in your past can definitely create drag, or stop you outright, if you don’t take the time to process the events and try to derive some meaning from them.

It won’t fix the past, but processing that pain can help you understand how it’s affected you.

Please know that painful events take a significant amount of your time, energy and commitment to deal with. Healing doesn’t just happen, and certainly not without your permission.

The good news is you can use your past as fuel to push back against the forces resisting your flight.

But did you know your past successes can also create drag? It’s easy to rely on what you’ve always done, what’s always worked for you.

For many of us, when presented with a challenge, we immediately spring into action with what’s gotten us results before. I like to call this “doing a ‘File, Save As…'”

But no two challenges are exactly alike. A new challenge may require that you develop the humility to learn new skills, especially if you want to grow and push past that experience.

Relying on what you’ve always done may have you doing doughnuts on the runway, or it may just keep you grounded.

Your reliance on comforting distractions. 

We have a bajillion ways to put something off or escape our anxieties right at our fingertips. We don’t even have to try hard to find a rabbit trail.

We spend so much time on things that aren’t terrible, really. They make us feel good and maybe they help us learn something. Yet they offer no real path toward our goals.

It’s great to be informed about the world, but if reading the news takes time away from writing that article for your blog, maybe not. It’s cool to watch what’s trending on Netflix, but four episodes in and it’s after midnight, well, now you’ve lost the chance to get your good sleep on.

And we all now know the total drag social media can be. Have you ever tried to scroll through a piece of paper? Yeah, you might be on your phone too much.

But distractions go beyond the obvious things, like news, Netflix and social media.

Seemingly worthy efforts can get us to look at something else that’s bright and shiny.

In his book, “Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done,” Jon Acuff refers to these as noble obstacles, “a virtuous-sounding reason for not working toward a finish.”

  • Spending all your time designing business cards, brochures and a website for your new business instead of getting leads and referrals.
  • Devouring books and podcasts on how to write books and podcasts instead of actually, you know, writing books and podcasts.
  • Creating a beautiful, perfectly-row-spaced project planning spreadsheet with a trendy font (and that prints perfectly in .8 margins) instead of starting the first task in the project.
  • Browsing Psychology Today profiles ad nauseum looking for a therapist instead of actually calling one (just throwing that out there).

These are distractions at their very finest because they produce something tangible, and convince us that we’re moving forward.

You’re focusing too much on yourself. 

Therapy can become narcissistic if you let it.

Obviously in therapy the goal is to improve yourself and change things about your life. It’s exciting to discover what’s been holding you back. And it’s fun to watch other people realize their a-ha moment, where just a little bit of their life now makes more sense.

But there’s a point where too much focus on you means you’re missing things about others. Your experiences may make you uniquely qualified to help someone around you, right now, even in your wounded state.

Serving others in your family, at your job, or in your community takes you outside yourself a little bit and creates connection.

You don’t have to build someone an entire house. You can serve others in all kinds of small ways.

  • Offer an ear to a stressed out coworker.
  • Volunteer for just one event at your church.
  • Ask your barista how their day is going so far.
  • Pack a lunch for your spouse before they head out for work so they don’t have to (I’m going to hear about this one).

Taking time for others as you’re working through your own struggles can give you a new perspective. And in order to grow and change, you have to keep challenging your perspectives.

Moving forward can sometimes feel impossible when you see the size of the machine you’re trying to get off the ground.

Don’t be afraid to tackle the areas that may be keeping you from getting off the runway.

Always be learnin’:

More than you may ever want to know about aerodynamic drag:
https://www.grc.nasa.gov/www/k-12/airplane/drag1.html

Here’s some recent research on helping others:
https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/December-2016/How-Helping-Others-Can-Help-You

Jon Acuff’s very fine book on how to finish things and his very fine blog:
https://www.amazon.com/Finish-Give-Yourself-Gift-Done-ebook/dp/B01N4VVT1Z
https://acuff.me/blog/

 

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