Keynote Speaker on Stress

3 Time Expansion Tips for Introverts

harried woman

Introverts often feel harried, trying to rush towards that time when they can kick back and relax, freed from all social – and other—obligation. This is especially true when the introvert works in a busy organization where much of what happens is not under the introvert’s control (unlike a writer, who can have the luxury of walking through the park while mentally designing the next chapter).

The same nervous system that makes us intuitive and sensitive, that can caution us appropriately to collect enough information before making a critical decision, can also make us susceptible to feelings of extreme time pressure.

 

How do successful introverts handle the “brain buzz” that results from feeling bombarded by too much stimulation all at once? Here are a few secrets:

 

Take frequent, small calming breaks
Meditative 5-minute breaks are particularly important when switching from one task to another, one topic to another. These breaks can consist of closing your eyes, breathing deeply, listening to a calming tone or voice or even taking a short walk, paying attention to everything you see along the way.

 

This helps to take your focus off the many ideas and challenges swirling around you, and grounds you in present time.

 

Don’t make up alarming stories about the future
The ability to pause and consider many options before taking action can be an introvert strength, but a full 90% of stress is not about what’s happening now; it’s about what we imagine might happen. That future stress is extremely energy-draining and can make you feel overwhelmed with problems, when in fact you are simply overwhelmed by your own imagination.

 

The future is up for grabs; anything you can imagine in detail right now about the future is probably wrong in at least some details. The consequences of today’s activities could have many outcomes. There’s a difference between being prepared and being overwhelmed.

 

Stop wallowing in the past
Once again, the introvert nervous system helps us store information readily that might be useful in avoiding future mistakes but we tend to overdo it when we engage in what is called “rumination”: the act of pondering the same issue over and over again, a little like chewing a cud.

 

Don’t obsess about the past, especially those times when you think you fell short of some standard. This can be a big energy drain, and keep you from finding the energy you need to move forward, or to take a risk.

 

Learn to stay in present time. Focus on what is here and now; go to the past consciously to retrieve important information, not reminders of past failures, and go to the future consciously to construct creative outcomes, not disaster scenarios. 

Not to do so is like putting a giant vacuum cleaner to your brain and sucking out loads of energy. Balancing the time you spend mentally in the past, present, and future is said, by Zimbardo and Boyd, researchers and authors of The Time Paradox, to be like being on a permanent vacation.

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Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

The Yin, Yang and Dopamine in Relationships

Some people like to linger until the very end of a party; others like to leave early.

Unfortunately, they frequently marry each other.

They may very well have met and been attracted to each other because of these opposite qualities: one represents tranquility, stability, and caution, the other one represents excitement, change, and risk-taking.

Neurophysiology now suggests that these outgoing partiers (extroverts) have brains that are more sensitive to dopamine, the so-called “reward chemical” that actually excites the brain about a potential reward. They have what is called high “reward sensitivity” and they actively seek that buzz in a variety of ways from external sources, including social contacts, risk-taking, even extreme sports.

Low external reward-seekers (introverts) can be uncomfortable and even exhausted by that much buzz. Does that mean they are dull people? By no means; the interior landscape of an introvert can be loaded with exciting concepts. The ability to pursue an activity for its own sake and not for its reward value can lead to being in a state of what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “flow,” in which one is so engaged in an activity that hours can pass pleasurably as if they were minutes. A person in a state of flow can find energy rise even as work continues.

Here are some questions* to answer to determine if you, a colleague or a partner are reward-oriented:

  • When I get something I want, I feel excited and energized.
  • When I want something, I usually go all out to get it.
  • When I see an opportunity for something I like, I get excited right away.
  • When good things happen to me, it affects me strongly.
Notice that all of these questions refer to something external to the person. Why would you ask these questions? To recognize that individual needs differ, and to make sure that you and those around you are having these needs met in order that everyone may contribute his or her best to the partnership, whether it is a professional one or a personal one.An introvert, less motivated by external rewards,  can feel pleasure in doing something for the sake of doing it, without necessarily being offered a reward. Some are even embarrassed by public recognition of an achievement they did “just for the fun of it.”

We need risk-taking, change, tranquility, and caution in all of life. Too much of one endangers the other, as Enron, the company whose reckless business practices forced it to file for bankruptcy in 2001, discovered after it repeatedly ignored the warnings of a cautious senior level manager, saying, “We don’t need cops.”

To balance the yin and yang of introversion and extroversion, here are some suggestions.

  • Learn to be proud of who you are, even as you recognize others have the right to be proud of who they are.
  • Assert your own needs and recognize how to help other people in your presence meet their own needs.
  • Recognize and accept that some people need that external excitement to remain motivated; others need to avoid that external excitement in order to remain motivated.
  • Allow introvert employees and colleagues time to take in information and reflect on it before responding or acting.
The extrovert needs that buzz so let him or her have it: allow time and space for the extrovert to pursue that exciting activity (arrange separate transportation home from the party, if necessary), and try not to be a heavy anchor.The introvert absolutely requires a certain amount of quiet or solitude to remain psychologically healthy and to have a fulfilled life. Don’t urge him or her to be more sociable; help the person take time out to be reflective.

The combination of yin and yang, or introvert and extrovert, can be very powerful. Just think of Steve Jobs, the face of Apple, and Steve Wozniak, who single-handedly designed both the Apple I and Apple II computers in the late 1970s, contributing significantly to the microcomputer revolution.

*Susan Cain: Quiet: The Power of the Introvert in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

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Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

Pick yourself up, dust yourself off…

Making a mistake or doing something klutzy can make anyone uncomfortable. Some people are more uncomfortable than others, going home, pulling the covers over their heads, and trying to sleep, haunted over and over by pictures of the embarrassing incident. Others apologize lightly and gracefully, and then seem to roll on without any noticeable psychological damage.What makes the difference? Actually, several things do. Those who handle mistakes easily are:

  • more focused on a solution than on the event itself. Which is better? Repeating your apologies for having spilled ink on the carpet or searching immediately for a way to remove it, and taking responsibility for doing it?
  • looking forward to the future rather than obsessing over the past. Being haunted by past mistakes is a great way to get stuck and fear taking a step forward.
  • recognizing they’re really not the center of anyone’s universe, except their own. If you can forget it, others will, too. Hey, the world’s a busy place; why would anyone fixate on your little mistake?
  • less likely to emphasize blame when they or others make mistakes. Blame never solved anything; good problem-solving skills do.
  • more able to make other people around them comfortable. If you continue to act uncomfortable, embarrassed, even obsequious, you will make other people so uncomfortable they will avoid you – not because of the mistake but because uncomfortable people make others around them feel uncomfortable, too. Who needs that?

People are frequently most embarrassed with their own embarrassment.

Your true worth lies in how you handle a problem, not in how you react to it. I once had a printing company make a lulu of a mistake in a workbook I was having printed. They stayed open all night, redoing the job at their expense.

A friend later questioned why I continued to do business with this firm. The reason? They had shown me how they handled a mistake, taking responsibility and going immediately to a solution. I now knew how they behaved under stress. If I had chosen a new printing company, I would have no advance information about how they would handle a problem.

Being solution-oriented

  • helps people trust you
  • quiets other people’s discomfort

Expressing guilt and shame is a child’s way; searching for a solution and reassuring others you will do so is a confident adult’s way.

Then, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.

_______________________________________________________________________

Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

Two small steps towards speaking confidence

If you are one of those people who feels uncomfortable about speaking up in group settings, take heart. It is possible to learn to be a relaxed contributor.One of my early clients said, “Oh, I know what you’re going to say – just take a deep breath and force yourself.” Well, no, actually. That’s a little like telling someone the best way to learn to swim is to jump off the dock and hope some life-saving instincts kick in.

If you are an introvert (as I am), you have probably been blessed (or cursed) with an overly reactive nervous system. You may have learned, at an early age, to associate speaking up with fear – fear of confrontation, criticism, ridicule, or just simple blushing.

Unfortunately, we introverts learn those associations well: actually, too well.

There’s no longer a threat but the fear lingers, and lingers, and lingers, until it becomes a huge factor in not only silencing us, but in muddying our thinking. You can’t think clearly when you’re overcome by fear. My phrase, “Stress Makes You Stupid,” sums this all up.

So we may become anxious, confused onlookers in our lives instead of valued creative contributors.

If this sounds like you, here are two things you can do immediately to start changing that.

Get it straight!

Pay attention to your posture. Erect, proud posture looks and feels confident.

Research shows that in adults, a straight spine increases confidence, while “a slumped posture leads to more helpless behaviors,” writes Emma Seppala from the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford. Hunching or slouching can make you feel more stressed and more likely to give up in the face of challenge.

You don’t have to throw your shoulders back and assume the rigid posture we associate with the military. Instead, while sitting or standing, imagine a string coming from the front of your chest (just above the sternumand pulling gently upwards. At the same time, tuck your chin in just a bit and make sure your ears are directly over your shoulders.

You should feel relaxed and liberated, able to breathe more deeply and easily.

No huge risk-taking here, either: you can practice this skill by yourself, until it becomes automatic.

Slow down

Recently I went to a business meeting where attendees introduced themselves and their business. Almost without exception, they spoke too rapidly for anyone except the person sitting next to them to really understand what they were saying.

Nervous people are particularly apt to do this, as if they want to get the whole business of speaking publicly out of the way – fast.

You may know your name and the name of your business, but how is someone else supposed to decipher, “I’mJoanneBlowofDiversityEnterprisesandwehelppeople …mumble, mumble, mumble.”

If you saw the movie, The King’s Speech, you saw how King George VI, a lifelong stutterer, overcame his problem to give a moving speech to his people on the start of WWII. Using solemn music as a backdrop, he produced each word slowly and distinctly, giving what he was saying great importance.

You may not have powerful background music, but learn from this example.

To speak with authority, just spend a few minutes every day reading a paragraph or so aloud from the newspaper, a magazine, or a book. Notice your tendency to speed up.

Slowing down accomplishes two things: it makes what you’re saying seem more important, and it makes what you say memorable.

Isn’t that what you want for yourself? And you don’t have to be bold or dramatic to do it; just follow the above simple guidelines.

When you have mastered these two steps, you are well on your way to speaking comfortably in front of larger groups of people. Who knows where you will end up? Just start today.

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Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

A New Year, a New Life

January is the time of fresh starts, fresh ideas, and an urge to create a new, better life.Often, we start out with high hopes, only to sink by February 1 as if the balloon carrying our hopes had been punctured.We need a plan, a roadmap if you will, that we can follow, that will provide us with a vision, a plan, and benchmarks that help us say to ourselves, “Yes, I am moving towards what I desire.”

Here is my roadmap to creating a new, exciting life:

Calmness: Well-being is essential to calmness, the well-being that comes of being prepared to meet life. After all, if you were going to the Olympics, would you arrive sleep-deprived, stuffed with fattening, non-energy generating food, and expect to win a gold medal? Seriously?

And you will need calmness to proceed to the next step:

Clarity: A calm mind is essential to achieving clarity, and the ability to slow down, separate distraction from relaxation, and be alone with your thoughts is central to achieving clarity.

Meditation for an hour or so at a time is not necessary; clarity and calmness of mind can be achieved by becoming aware of the key points during your day when it is important to sit back, breathe, and think.

When switching tasks or moving from one environment to another (even from one room to another), train yourself to pause, let go of what you have just been doing or thinking, and reflect on what you will need for the next task or in the next environment.

Confidence: Not just a state of mind, confidence is a feeling that is associated with having a skill that meets the demands of the situation, and with knowing you have that skill. Peak performers in every area of life experience real stress before they perform. They rely on the automatic performance of well-practiced skills to see them through.

Whether your scary event is public speaking, ski jumping, forging terrific relationships, or selling your pet project, there is a plan that an expert has developed that can get you there.

Look for an expert who is willing to share step-by-step experience, not just hearty assurances that you are worthy or powerful. They’re out there, those experts.

Courage: Even with calmness, clarity, and confident skills, it can still feel a little frightening to push back at barriers. Believe it or not, courage too is a skill mastered by experts in risk-taking.
Truly brave people know that they will be anxious, and that they will suffer setbacks. A setback suggests that there is another path to get to where you want to go; failure suggests finality.The brave set out anyway, using the occasion of a setback to sit back, reflect, and find another way.Creation: Life is not just about rushing towards one goal; it is about reaching a goal only to have another one appear. This second goal will require you go through the same steps, in the same sequence: cultivate calmness, achieve clarity, master confident skills, and be brave enough to take the small risks to get you there.

Whatever your personal goal for 2014 – increased exercise, decreased weight, better organization of clutter, more recognition of your abilities – having a roadmap will keep you on track to get there.

_______________________________________________________________________

Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

Choose Your Foods and Choose Your Moods

Personal note

Thanksgiving has just come upon us (and follows us around in the form of leftovers) with all its claims on our energy – shopping, food preparation, traveling, dealing with people we may not see very often (some of them difficult), and … oh, yes, overeating.

I started early this year by taking a brain-impaired friend to a restaurant for a full turkey dinner on Monday, while contemplating the upcoming full turkey dinner on Thursday. Luckily, we ate at noon, and while I went home feeling overstuffed and vaguely as if I had been force-fed, I rounded out the day with a large plate of sautéed kale followed by a cup of sliced peaches for Monday’s supper. At the end of the day, I had actually eaten a fairly well-balanced diet despite my midday excesses. More importantly, I had restored some balance to the way I felt, psychologically as well as physically.

Along the way I mused on how much I have learned about how our moods – those strange, seemingly unpredictable waves that surge over us – actually are related to what we take into our bodies.

Nobody wants to forgo the pleasures of the holiday season, in which one of the major emphases is food. We just need to be aware that overeating may make us sluggish, fretful, despondent, and even irritable, and that by making mindful choices we can fully enjoy the holiday.

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The Roadmap to Cherish
Is your Holiday Dream one of being cherished as you have always imagined? And so far, it hasn’t quite shaped up? You can now learn why, and more importantly how you can establish yourself as someone who is cherished by those around you – in your personal and professional life! Sign up for Lynette’s class  at Rediscovering U*: 
If you have not felt valued, nurtured, or treasured, this class offers a roadmap to reclaiming your dreams and provides the very real steps you can take to cherish yourself … and to teach others to cherish you.
When:  December 3, 2013  –   6:30 to 7:30 Networking  –   7:30 Program begins
Space is limited!  Register:  Click Here

*Rediscovering U offers women divorce education, support, and empowerment, and provides the tools for transformation and healing.

Choose Your Foods and Choose Your Moods

The holidays can be a time of moods that go up and down. It’s easy to assume that changing moods are the result of what happens to you, or worse yet, just something that comes over you without any explanation whatsoever. Wouldn’t you like to have a way to choose how you feel? A way that works fairly rapidly, despite external stress?

One way is to avoid automatic eating & drinking. Get off automatic pilot; instead, pause, think, and choose.

For example, coffee and sugar may rev up your nervous system. This is not the same as having energy. These foods may make you highly motivated to do something – but is it the right and the reasonable thing to do? And do you need a lot of energy – maybe nervous energy – to do what you’re doing? Some tasks call for long, slow-burning energy. Others call for calmness.

Here are some things you can select to help you choose more serene moods:

If you want slow-burning energy and calmness, try complex carbohydrates, such as milk or oatmeal. Whole grains such as oatmeal or bran muffins, especially in the morning, will give you slow-burning energy that will stay with you for several hours, and decrease your appetite for the fats, sugars, and salts that we all crave when we are under stress.

Try green tea, which has calming properties that outweigh the caffeine it contains by altering levels of the brain’s own anti-anxiety medication.

Nuts, with their protein content, are always a great and satisfying portable treat. They are especially good if you eat the non-greasy, unsalted kind. And they can keep you away from the donuts, cookies, and other sweets that call to you when you’re tired.

One nut in particular stands out: the pistachio. Who knew these nuts could actually calm you? The most recent finding is that these delicious nuts actually relax your blood vessels, lowering your blood pressure and helping you to feel calmer!

Foods that contain lots of Omega 3 (salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, walnuts) can reduce anxiety and even pain, due to an anti-inflammatory effect. Ground flaxseed, another food rich in Omega 3, can be sprinkled on cereal or put into biscuits or breads for additional delicious flavor.

And the great news here is that Omega 3 has been found to not only reduce, but to reverse the signs of aging!

All this, just for choosing the right foods!

See, when you recognize you have a choice, and deliberately choose what you put in your body, you are more in charge than you may have thought.

The Confident Introvert

Another myth I have encountered recently is that introverts are fine with no outside contact whatsoever. No, we enjoy contacts and stimulation that we get outside of our own nests; we just need to control how much we get all at one time.

A great party with lots of people may be very enjoyable for a confident introvert – for a limited time. We’re the ones who leave early when we’ve had enough stimulation, just as some people quit eating when they’ve had enough.

It’s not a reflection on the host. It’s a reflection of the fact that we recognize and pay attention to our inner needs, always a healthy way to live.

Find out more about The Confident Introvert: http://www.ConfidentIntrovert.com.

How to Avoid Holiday Stress Insanity

Personal note

I believe in indulging in the different pleasures that the changing seasons bring, but sometimes it’s difficult to keep up. Christmas trees and music have appeared in stores, even before I have put out my favorite autumn decorations: a figure of a red fox, surrounded by a display of colorful leaves.

Breathing deeply, I tell myself to slow down, enjoy what is here, and not let myself be  oppressed by the sense of being rushed.

This week’s article is about how to do just that.

How to Avoid Holiday Stress Insanity

Along with joy and a feeling of connectedness to others, the holidays bring a rise in stress. Although most people over 30 experience a rise in stress over the holidays, according to the American Psychological Association, women are most likely to experience a sharp increase (44%) in stress, versus a 30% rise for men, as the bulk of the shopping, decorating and food preparation tends to fall on women.

Women are much more likely to shoulder the work burden during family celebrations. During Thanksgiving, women are nearly twice as likely to report that they will cook (66 percent of women versus 35 percent of men), shop for food (52 percent of women versus 32 percent of men), and clean dirty dishes (70 percent of women, versus 41 percent of men).

Men, on the other hand, are nearly twice as likely as women to report that they will watch football. (26 percent of women versus 46 percent of men).” (Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2006/12/holiday-stress.pdf)

The same report found that women also find it harder to relax during the holiday season, and are more likely to fall into bad habits, such as overeating of comfort foods, in an attempt to handle that stress.

Start now with some of these tips to reduce the distress and increase the joy of the upcoming season. Here are some things to implement right now so that you can do just that:

Get ready for the Olympics!

Would you go to the Olympics sleep-deprived and bloated from eating foods that pleased you momentarily but didn’t provide the fuel necessary to do your best? And if you did, would you expect to win a medal?

Well, if you want to lead a happy life, you had better learn to prepare. Start with sleep: are you getting 7 to 8 hours every night? Not only do your immune system and memory suffer from sleep deprivation, but you will just plain be more irritable, even creating uncomfortable situations that wouldn’t have been born if you had been well-rested.

Create more happiness in your life:
No, not by doing more self-sacrificing things for others, hoping it will be reciprocal, but by taking time each day, preferably before bedtime, to think of three things that happened during the day that made you glad.
By doing this, you not only consolidate happy memories, to be recovered time and time again, but you prime your brain to look for things to be happy about.

Create more time:
Time, or a lack of it, was found to be one of the major holiday stressors. During the day, take a few short (under 5 minutes) breaks to come to your senses. Breathe deeply and slowly, and focus on what you need to do and in what order you need to do it. Trying to do two things (or more) at the same time makes you feel rushed and leaves you open to mistakes, which simply consume more time when you have to go back to correct them.
Believe it or not, you have more time than you think when you pause to calm yourself down. Only in calmness can you find clarity – of where you want to go and the best way to get there.

Stop rushing!
You can get so used to rushing that you don’t know you’re doing it. When you find yourself, head down, elbows out, going someplace at a run, stop and ask yourself, “What’s the prize I am competing for?” and “Is this the way to get it?”

Delegate, delegate, delegate:
Help your loved ones avoid helplessness; facilitate their completion of the tasks they believe are important to a happy holiday. Single out what they want, assure them they can do it, point them to supplies or resources, then stand back.
They’ll thank you later, when they realize they can re-create the warm sensations they associate with home.

By taking these simple steps right now, before the holidays hit full force, you can become resistant to stress, rather than having to deal with it when you’re in the middle of it, caught in a kind of stress whirlpool.

Next week I’ll be bringing you information about how to savor your favorite foods and not overdo it, even when other people press you to indulge.

***

These steps, and more, can be found in my audio self-coaching program, “30 Steps to Serenity,” a series of 30 short audio clips guiding you through life’s difficult and stressful situations. You can find it HERE.

The Confident Introvert

Another myth I have encountered recently is that introverts are fine with no outside contact whatsoever. No, we enjoy contacts and stimulation that we get outside of our own nests; we just need to control how much we get all at one time.

A great party with lots of people may be very enjoyable for a confident introvert – for a limited time. We’re the ones who leave early when we’ve had enough stimulation, just as some people quit eating when they’ve had enough.

It’s not a reflection on the host. It’s a reflection of the fact that we recognize and pay attention to our inner needs, always a healthy way to live.

Find out more about The Confident Introvert: http://www.ConfidentIntrovert.com.

What’s in your bucket?

Personal note

In the last week, the air has been filled with swirling irregular shapes in orange, red, and yellow fluttering against a blue-gray sky. The wind whips these falling leaves into patterns that resemble small horizontal tornadoes, scudding across the pavement and finally piling up, ankle deep, on walkways, where they produce crisp, crunching sounds underfoot.

I love this time of year: a walk in the chilly air is followed by the bliss of entering a warm house, cheeks reddened and body tingling, hungry for spiced cider or hot chocolate.

Then pictures of convivial gatherings in cozy corners arise, only to be replaced by images of lists of things that need to be done before those convivial gatherings can actually be scheduled.

We need to consider trimming those lists before we even think of trimming the house or tree. That’s what this week’s article is all about.

(Note: One of the things I learned, as a Stress Solutions Expert who nevertheless had a heart attack, is that we need constant reminders of stress management strategies. Once isn’t enough. That’s why this week’s article is a repeat of the same advice I gave last year; we can all use a refresher course, including me.)

What’s in your bucket?

Icons of black cats with arched backs have disappeared from stores and magazines, replaced by turkeys in all stages, from on-the-hoof to lying down, legs in air wearing a golden brown crust. Can wreaths, holly and jolly fat men in red suits surrounded by elves be far behind?

Your memory bucket is filled with all kinds of associations with these icons, and every year you try to revive the pleasant ones – all of them. Not just for yourself, but for your loved ones, too. And your to-do list is overflowing.

Does this sound like you? Already fatigued, maybe even exhausted, as you contemplate the (anticipated) demands on you?

The hardest thing to do when faced with too much to do is this: pause, breathe, choose. Take the time to contemplate who you really are right now, and what would most bring you joy. Then do those things and throw the others out of your holiday bucket. Horrified at not fulfilling every “tradition” you have set up over the years? Here are some suggestions for, well, coming to your senses.

Enlist the aid of family members to select their favorite memories from the Holiday Bucket, and implement them as best they can. Why is it only your job?

Oppressed by the thought of selecting (and paying for) too many gifts? Anyone you know well enough to exchange gifts with is someone you know well enough to hold a frank conversation with – about finances, time, health and waste. (If you buy somebody a gift because it’s expected, will it really be used, or just add to the enormous pile of waste we seem to generate every year in the U.S.?) How about arranging a pleasant shared experience instead, such as going to hear a concert or see a show?

Do you think you must send out Christmas cards? Send New Year’s cards instead, connecting warmly with old friends and wishing them an inspired year. Your card (and wishes) won’t be lost in the stack on someone else’s mantel or desk. It may cheer someone up in the dark, cold days that typically follow Christmas.

Determined to decorate your home just like the magazines? But wait, first you have to clean it. Or do you? Elaborate decorations may delight the eye, but you can use the power of other senses to evoke warm and wonderful memories. A few candles contribute a warm, soft glow. A pan of mulling spices on the stove, pine-scented candles or spray evoke powerful memories. These tasks don’t take much effort, and in dim light, the house doesn’t have to be perfectly clean. No one will notice dust bunnies under furniture when they are soaking up the nostalgic atmosphere.

When you’re handling too many tasks, you may be feeling more and more irritable – hardly something your loved ones want to experience. Too, you’re setting yourself up for illness, either spoiling your holidays or leaving you with a crushing post-holiday let-down.

Christine Carter, Ph.D., with the Center for Greater Good, was given an assignment by a mentor – imagine you had been told you were going to die. What’s on your bucket list? She found to her surprise, that she gave up ambitious but unrealized projects to opt for the simplest of pleasures.

Read her article (at http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/raising_happiness/post/Living_life_fully/) and consider what you could give up and/or emphasize to make the coming season more memorable.

The Confident Introvert

Another myth I have encountered recently is that introverts are fine with no outside contact whatsoever. No, we enjoy contacts and stimulation that we get outside of our own nests; we just need to control how much we get all at one time.

A great party with lots of people may be very enjoyable for a confident introvert – for a limited time. We’re the ones who leave early when we’ve had enough stimulation, just as some people quit eating when they’ve had enough.

It’s not a reflection on the host. It’s a reflection of the fact that we recognize and pay attention to our inner needs, always a healthy way to live.

Find out more about The Confident Introvert: http://www.ConfidentIntrovert.com.

Does persistence really pay off?

Personal note

I spent much of last week in California, mixing family time with business appointments.It was heavenly; on Saturday a dear friend and I went down to the Ferry Building in San Francisco and browsed the wares of the creative street merchants who were offering enchanting scarves, stunning jewelry, cuddly stuffed animals … and, well, also a lot of things neither of us would ever bring home.

Then we took the ferry to the charming bayside, terraced town of Sausalito, where we strolled, sauntered through even more creative shops, and feasted on fish tacos. Sailboats and kayaks dotted the bay, seemingly all going in the same direction, heading towards a hidden cove on the other side of Angel Island, we imagined.

The sky was clear and blue, the temperature was the kind you don’t even notice, because it’s neither too warm nor too cold, and we arrived home tired and at the same time refreshed.

The next day the city was visited by gray skies and an icy windstorm that prompted us to have an indoor picnic.

But the serenity and fun of the day before has continued to stay with me, even as I returned to my office, where I found enthusiastic messages about proposals I had put forth before I left. Everything was working for me even as I backed off for a bit.

Sometimes a break is all you can do to increase your productivity.

Does persistence really pay off?

We’ve heard these phrases all of our lives:

“Persistence pays off,” “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” and “Success comes the day after you give up.”  But are they really true? If you’re feeling tired, despondent and burned out, you may wonder just how long you have to persist before you achieve success.

I used to tell my clients that if you keep hitting your head against a stone wall, something’s bound to give. I wouldn’t count on it being the stone wall.

Here are some guidelines for engaging in what I call “enlightened persistence.”

Take breaks: Being persistent doesn’t mean continuously pursuing a goal. Program and take breaks: a few minutes each hour to stretch and relax; one day a week completely free from effort on a project that otherwise preoccupies you; a weekend per month when you get away from it all. Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is get away from your work.

Try different words: Are you trying to communicate ideas over and over again to the same people in the same words? If you need help and aren’t getting it, for example, you might switch from saying, wearily, “Do you suppose you could help me out with this?” to “I really need your help right now.”

Try different motivators: If you offer the same incentives (or disincentives) to the same person over and over, and don’t see any results, you need to back off and look at the situation … and at the person receiving the motivator.

One client was frustrated to find that her teenage daughter repeatedly violated the parents’ rules, even though the mother regularly punished the girl by grounding her. The fact that it didn’t work doesn’t mean the girl is incorrigible; it does mean that this was the wrong motivator for change in this person.

Try a different path: If you would like to be an enthusiastic member of a team, a friendly neighbor, an adventurous person who attracts similar companions, a success at selling a product you really believe in … whatever it is you want … maybe you’re trying with the wrong group of people, or in the wrong place.

Be willing to jettison things, people, and situations if you realize that you and they are not a good fit.

Continuing to persist in the face of failure sounds admirable, but without being willing to vary your behavior, you are setting yourself up for stress and its worst outcome, depression.

Enlighten yourself! To bring about change, you need to be willing to change.

The last and best words on inappropriate persistence were offered by Albert Einstein, who defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

The Confident Introvert

Another myth I have encountered recently is that introverts are fine with no outside contact whatsoever. No, we enjoy contacts and stimulation that we get outside of our own nests; we just need to control how much we get all at one time.

A great party with lots of people may be very enjoyable for a confident introvert – for a limited time. We’re the ones who leave early when we’ve had enough stimulation, just as some people quit eating when they’ve had enough.

It’s not a reflection on the host. It’s a reflection of the fact that we recognize and pay attention to our inner needs, always a healthy way to live.

Find out more about The Confident Introvert: http://www.ConfidentIntrovert.com.

What’s the difference between problem-solving and rumination?

 

I had occasion to explore this issue myself this week, when I discovered that somehow my utility company had switched the account number and name on the bill it sends to my home each month.

Confidently and proudly paying my bills online on the first of each month, I simply looked at the amount due, punched in the numbers, and sent the payments off, mentally dusting off my hands after a chore well done. Little did I know I was sending that amount of money into limbo.

Reality hit me when I got a notice on my door saying the power was going to be cut off due to nonpayment of bill. The fact that a dear friend was due to arrive shortly for a week-long visit – possibly a visit without hot showers – didn’t help my sense of panic.

Ridiculous as it may seem, proving that you didn’t call the power company and set up an account in someone else’s name for your home address is not easy. Getting evidence that electronic payments were made to the company, and on time, is not so easy, either.

It took several deep breaths and a search through some files to start getting at what had happened; it took several more calls to bring the matter to the attention of people who could actually do something about it. Even after I had organized my thoughts and taken the first steps towards a solution, I still found myself incredulously going over this crazy mishap.

Rumination involves going over a problem again and again. Perhaps we are searching desperately for a solution, and think going over and over the circumstances will produce a solution. Maybe we are rehearsing our version of the event in order to tell someone else, later, of the horror we have gone through.

As psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky explains in her great book The How of Happiness:

“Overthinking ushers in a host of adverse consequences: It sustains or worsens sadness, fosters negatively biased thinking, impairs a person’s ability to solve problems, saps motivation, and interferes with concentration and initiative. Moreover, although people have a strong sense that they are gaining insight into themselves and their problems during their ruminations, this is rarely the case. What they do gain is a distorted, pessimistic perspective on their lives.”

Problem-solving involves a goal-oriented activity in which you pause, take a deep breath, map out the logical steps to take, and then take them

Here are the steps to get you out of rumination and into problem-solving:

Keep your eye on the goal: Think that’s easy? When you are frustrated, your goal may have shifted from reaching your objective to getting rid of your bottled-up frustration. This can lead to venting emotionally to an innocent person who could even be trying to help you.

Solution: Go to a quiet place and punch a pillow for a bit while you come to your senses and remember what you were after in the first place.

Map out the steps to take: What information do you need, and where can you get it? Perhaps you must have a paper trail, as I did, to help solve the problem. If the evidence involves a format at which you’re not skilled – I’m not a computer expert – search your memory banks for someone who is, and ask for help.

Who do you know who will be supportive, informative, or whatever you need?

Solution: Take several deep breaths to get back to being logical; then map out your steps.

Mind the gap: There will be times when you have set things in motion, such as asking for information or help, and there is a time gap until you get that help.

Bulletin here: You don’t have to keep thinking about the problem during this time period! It isn’t going to disappear (don’t you wish it would) if you don’t keep going over it. It’s just hibernating until time for the next action step.

Solution: go to your “base camp.”

Set up a base camp: A base camp is something to which you can retreat in order to rest and refresh yourself before another foray into the wilderness that is life.

Think back over all the good things, no matter how small, that have happened that day. In my case, the same utility company, on the same day, sent a repairman for a scheduled tune up of my furnace. (The left hand apparently didn’t know what the right hand was doing.) He left his phone number in case I needed his volunteer help in the future changing the filters. I will need help, and I will gratefully use that number.

My doctor’s appointment at 8 a.m. that day yielded amazingly good results: low cholesterol and low blood pressure (ok, that changed a little by 3 p.m., when the notice arrived). I could rejoice, and even gloat, as I looked at the printed results.

Amazingly good things had happened on which I could focus. It was still hard to tear my attention away from the problem, but I did it by connecting with supportive friends and focusing on the creative work I do, not my sad story.

The problem will be solved within the next few days. Hot showers will continue.

Life will go on, filled with its triumphs and frustrations. When those frustrations show up again, as they inevitably will, it’s a good idea to have a format to follow.

The Confident Introvert

“What are they afraid of?” my department manager used to ask after meetings in which a number of department members sat, silent and resentful, while he was unaware that his habit of springing surprise agenda items and asking for an immediate decision was very upsetting to these talented, educated introverts. Understanding, appreciating and utilizing the skills of introversion are foreign ideas to some – even to introverts. Now you can read about it in
The Confident Introvert.
Order now at http://www.ConfidentIntrovert.com

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