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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The disconnect in mental health

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The disconnect in mental health

I get to meet interesting people every day. You just can’t imagine what some have gone through.

To look at them, you would never know.

They may look good, smell good, and sound good. But they have faced ugly giants and still somehow find the courage to keep going.

What you must know is that mental health issues are about everyone, in every corner of life.

  • It affects the C-suite executive as much as the individual contributor.
  • It affects the privileged and the economically downtrodden.
  • It affects all of the diverse communities of race, gender, and religion where we live and work.
  • It affects the old, the middle aged, the “quarter aged” and the young.

While our focus as a nation and in our local communities is on opioid addiction, school shootings, suicide and other heartbreaking issues that absolutely require a focused and effective response, much of what we see as professionals is wrapped up in the everyday goings-on of life.

For whatever reason, it’s getting harder and harder for many of us to cope with the daily stress of life at home and at work.

  • Maybe it’s the phones,
  • Maybe it’s too much screen violence,
  • Maybe it’s our general disconnectedness,
  • Maybe it’s D: All of the Above.

But mental health isn’t just about issues. It’s about people who need support from people.

And we people are the only ones who can provide that support. It’s not just the responsibility of your local government, your schools, or your workplace’s HR department.

We all play a role in our society’s mental health issues.

You are the missing piece.

 

 

 

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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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Consistency wins the game

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Consistency is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

Wait, isn’t that the definition of insanity?

Walk with me.

Everyone chases results. You can get fired from your job if you don’t get results. Your doctor shakes her head when she sees the results of your annual exam. You’re on thin ice with your spouse if they’re not happy with your contributions to the marriage.

But few people chase the actual work day in and day out.

Why?

  • Because consistent effort, regardless of the result, is hard.
  • It’s frustrating when there’s little to show for your time.
  • And it can get boring.

As modern westerners, we don’t like hard, frustrating or boring.

And consistency is an exercise in humility. We lose our minds over big wins. We golf clap incremental milestones. So we gravitate to those grandiose efforts.

But here’s the rub: In order to see change in your life, you have to get in a rhythm with the consistent work that will get you where you want to be.

There’s no other way.

  • Do the work no one may notice to thrive in your job.
  • Make the hard dietary changes to lower your cholesterol and keep your heart healthy.
  • Serve your spouse’s needs every day to keep your marriage alive.

It’s Monday. Show up and punch the bag.

Monday Check Yourself: No one’s thinking about you

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It’s not what people think about you, it’s what you think they think about you.

But here’s the thing. No one’s thinking about you. Not like you think.

You worry what people might say if you step out into the spotlight a bit.

You focus on making everything perfect so people will think how great you are and how you never seem to mess up. (oh my!)

You get worked up wondering how people might be plotting “evil strategery” against you in their spare time.

All eyes up front: No one but you is thinking about that right now.

How much are you thinking about other people in this very moment? Yep. You’re thinking about yourself.

And that’s okay. So is everyone else.

We’re all worried about doing a good job at work and managing everything on our precariously-balanced plates without freaking out on those we care about. And we’re trying to look cool while doing it all.

All of us.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should go about committing dastardly deeds because you think no one’s paying attention to you. Simmer down, Dr. Evil.

But stop wasting your time — your most valuable commodity — wondering what others think about you.

It’s Monday. Go be you.